Cooking on the Grill: Should You Use Charcoal or Gas?

Cooking on the grill is one of the great activities a guy can engage in, especially during the summer. Cooking over fire brings out one’s inner caveman, harkening back to a time when humans lived by hunting and then roasting meat over a fire. But for the modern caveman, one of the most burning questions is: charcoal or gas? The two methods have a couple of major differences.

Charcoal or Gas: The Taste of Cooking on the Grill

When using charcoal or gas, the first difference is taste. Charcoal renders a more authentic, smoky flavor to the meat, whether you’re doing direct grilling for sausages, ribs, or chicken breasts, or indirect smoking, such as pork shoulder or beef brisket. For the backyard grilling aficionado, the smoky flavor, especially when you add soaked wood chips, makes charcoal the preferred source for heat every time.

Charcoal makes dinner more like the experience of early humans. Eating meat that had been kissed by fire after a long, hard day of chasing down and killing dinner is a pleasure.

Heat Control: Gas or Charcoal?

The second difference for backyard grilling is heat control. Controlling heat and cooking time with charcoal is something of an art. You can only get an approximation of temperature when you soak the charcoal with lighter fluid and set it alight. You have to pay more attention to the meat, using a thermometer and keeping note of how your meat looks and smells.

With gas, on the other hand, control of temperature and cooking time is a breeze, as something made with modern technology should be. Outside ambient temperature can affect the temperature of the fire, no matter what it says on the dial. A grill with three burners allows you to cook a full meal all at the same time. You can put meats on a hot setting, veggies on a medium setting, and food warm on an even lower setting.

But there’s one last thing. As far as cleaning, the gas grill is the winner. Unlike a charcoal grill, there is no ash left over to clean up. But the bottom line for cooking on the grill is taste over convenience.