Should I Buy A Charcoal Or Gas Barbecue Grill?

Which barbecue grill delivers the best flavour? Is it charcoal or gas?

To be honest, the jury’s out on this one. Many folks believe that the smoke from the charcoal adds to the flavour of the food but the official word in this is that it’s not true.

The smoke that adds the flavour is that created by the fat dripping onto the coals and then being burned off. Since that fat is the same whether cooking on charcoal then the argument goes that the flavour must be the same.

My own view is that the bi-products of burning gas are heat, light, carbon dioxide and water and bi-products of burning charcoal are exactly the same + smoke so how charcoal can fail to influence the flavour I don’t know. Whether that subtle difference in flavour is actually better of course is another matter.

The same logic applies to wood chips

When smoking. If the smoke generated by wood chips didn’t add any flavour, why do it?

Anyway, if we move away from the flavour debate there are two fundamental differences when considering on charcoal or gas.

Preparation Time

Charcoal takes longer to get up to temperature. You’ve also got to give it time to settle into a grey ash and heat rather than the initial period of black coals and flames. So patience is required but if you’re like me it’s all part of the cooking experience.

This Charcoal Is Not Ready To Cook On

Gas is much more instant, literally flick a switch as you’re off. The one caveat I would make to this though is that gas BBQ manufacturers use a variety of ways to stop flare ups during the cooking process and one of the traditional ways to do this is by using lava bricks. The principle here is that the burner heats the lava bricks and it’s the bricks that radiate the heat that cooks the food so you’ve got to allow a small amount of time to heat up the lava bricks – I work on about 5 or 10 minutes.

Do you fancy charcoal but want to reduce the preparation time? Get a kamado like a Big Green Egg . The manufacturers claim that the Egg despite being a charcoal grill is ready to cook on in 10 minutes. I bought one to check this out and I’d argue that it’s better to leave it another 5 minutes but in principle it makes for an almost instant switch on charcoal BBQ.

So a kamado takes the timing issue away from the charcoal or gas debate but there's still the mess and not least the expense of buying a ceramic barbecue in the first place.

Other manufacturers of Kamado barbecues include:-

Grill Dome
Dragon Fire
Kamado Joe

Image Og A Big Green Egg

Clean Up

Gas barbecues are technically more developed than charcoal units and this means that clean up is more important to protect it’s capability for future use. For sure charcoal is more dirty but it’s a very simple process that’s been used for thousands of years and for this reason there’s “nothing to go wrong” I’m not trying to say that a gas BBQ is like a computer but small factors like this make the difference between when it comes to the tidy up at the end of a cookout – something that I hate.

So to conclude the charcoal or gas debate, it’s a balance, no one can say that gas is better than charcoal or vice versa, it really is a matter of the practicalities and personal preference. If however you’ve decided that gas is for you then the next decision is whether to go for natural gas or LPG.


Because of the mechanical superiority of the gas barbecue it’s fair to say that a gas grill is slightly more expensive than a charcoal one. Depending on the construction materials used however, this differential can vary, Click Here to explore and you'll quickly start to understand the variations.

See Also:-

Barbecue Smokers
Barbeque Grills
Grill Islands
Barbecue Accessories
BBQ Furniture And Garden Accessories
Charcoal Smokers
Electric Smokers
Gas Smokers Guide

Page Updated May 2012

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