Experts, aficionados, and enthusiasts alike have all weighed in with an opinion on the frequently asked barbecuing and grilling question: Which is the better choice, a charcoal grill or a gas grill? Unfortunately, there’s no definitive answer; what may be better for one cook differs significantly from the best choice for another, and both types of grill have benefits and disadvantages.
It’s difficult to regulate the heat with a charcoal grill, and setting it up and taking it down can be time consuming and messy, but it imparts a flavor that can’t be duplicated with a gas grill. Gas grills are quicker and more convenient, and it’s far easier to regulate the heat with them. Both, however, are perfectly suitable for either grilling — which uses high temperature to cook food quickly, or barbecuing — a low-heat, indirect, slow-cooking method.
Whether you opt for gas or charcoal, there are certain features the grill should offer: A charcoal grill should rest on sturdy, non-wobbly legs, have a solid cooking grate and a tight-fitting lid with a heatproof handle, and vents for regulating heat and controlling smoking. Some models offer rotating grates, which make adjusting your food for direct or indirect cooking far easier; and many come with ash catchers underneath.
A gas grill, too, should be sturdily constructed, with a thick firebox and a tight-fitting lid. Look for an easy-to-read propane gauge, which helps to avoid the unpleasant surprise of running out of fuel at a crucial moment. A good gas grill also comes with push-button ignition, separate heating zones, and adjustable controls for each zone. Some of the more elaborate grills offer a number of features for greater convenience, such as two levels for direct or indirect cooking, a sturdy side table to hold tools or basting sauces, and a built-in thermometer.