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Pro Tips: Charcoal vs Gas Grilling

Is one better than the other? Read on and find out!
By The Food in My Beard

Imagine this scene, if you will.

You are outside on a sunny afternoon. You have a beer in one hand and a spatula in the other. You can hear friends’ laughter mix in perfect stereo with your favorite song coming out of the speakers. The smell of seared meats and veggies wafts past your nose.

Things can't get any better. Who wouldn't be loving this party?

Then that one friend you didn’t really want to invite sidles up next to you and starts a diatribe about how chicken comes out so much better on a charcoal grill. He doesn't even know why you bother with that gas grill of yours. You might as well be cooking on a cast iron grill pan!

This kind of debate can really kill my buzz, and believe it or not, it has actually happened to me on more than one occasion! Don’t get me wrong, I will talk and even debate about food and anything food-related all day and night. The problem here: The true effect on taste with gas vs. charcoal is trivial. I don’t understand why so much energy is spent talking about it!


It’s not that each method doesn't have its pros and cons. Cooking on a gas grill gives you precise temperature control and convenience. Come home from work and you can be eating a burger in a half hour flat!


With charcoal, you can get super high temperatures, which are perfect for searing food and getting that nice blackened crust associated with grilling. The thing I like best about charcoal, though, is the ritual involved and the fun of setting up your heat zones just right.


To be honest, I like having both types of grills around depending on what kind of day I am having and which I feel like using. On the 4th of July, my dad actually brings out both grills running a dual setup; searing the steaks over the hot coals, then finishing them on the gas grill.


The real reason the debate is moot is when it comes down to it – the taste is the same. People say they can taste the difference, but if a chef cooked two identical pieces of meat the same way on both grills, 9 out of 10 people would have no idea which was which. Unless of course they used lighter fluid to light the coals – then of course it would taste like lighter fluid!


Therefore, a much more important element than coal or gas is having someone cooking who knows that they are doing! Good thing Tablespoon has TONS of grilling recipes!


Back to that cookout. If your friend says that chicken comes out so much better on his grill that has a hardwood smoker in it, try and get invited over – because in this game of rock paper scissor, wood beats charcoal and gas hands down. But that’s a whole ‘nother article.


Happy grilling!


Dan Whalen lives in an apartment and is having grilling withdrawals. He has been blogging for over 5 years at The Food in My Beard; check Dan's Tablespoon profile often to try his recipes with creative international spins!