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When it comes to grilling season, people from all over like to showcase their barbecue chops with recipes sure to delight. And for many of these home chefs, the key to a successful recipe is the type of grill you use. But what are the pros and cons of each fuel? Let’s talk about the major difference between the two most recognized grill types: gas versus charcoal.

Consistent & Convenient: Gas

Let’s start with gas grills! Most gas barbecue grills come in two different types of fuel: propane or natural gas. Most propane grills are ready to connect to a portable tank of some kind like a refillable 20lb 5-gallon propane tank or even smaller types like the familiar green Coleman disposable propane cylinders. Natural gas can also be referred to as “house gas” where you have a dedicated valve on the exterior of your home where a hose can attach too.  This eliminates the worry of your tank running out of fuel but typically limits the grill’s location and movement.*

Gas grills have the benefit of a quick start-up and ease of temperature control, perfect for a weeknight meal. It is easy to set up different zones for searing and finishing meats like steak, pork, and chicken, or using one of the many available accessories like a griddle or rotisserie to keep all aspects of your dinner cooking outdoors! Like cheesesteaks with grilled veggies, freshly grilled pizzas, and maybe even a roasted pineapple for tacos al pastor

Primal Fuel: Charcoal

Now onto charcoal! Similar to gas, there are different versions of charcoal. Most commonly seen are two types: natural lump charcoal and charcoal briquettes. Lump charcoal is whole wood pieces that have been carbonized over a long, slow burn process. The pieces will be less uniform but will have a cleaner burn and impart the flavor of the wood source into your food. It also has a larger temperature range. Average temperatures can be between 200°-1000° depending on the brand and size of charcoal chunks. Charcoal briquettes will give you a uniform shape and burn, but may contain additives like lighter fluid, sawdust, binding agents, and more. Whether you are grilling on a Weber Kettle, or in your ceramic smoker, we recommend using lump charcoal for the best results.

Charcoal adds a depth of flavor that cooking on gas lacks, and this flavor can be customized by adding different flavored wood chips or chunks for extra smoke. This opens up a whole new style of cooking where you can smoke cuts like brisket and pork shoulder. Many ceramic charcoal grills can be set up for long smokes overnight, or for baking things like pizza, bread, and even cakes! Charcoal grills can take longer to get up to the right temperature and can take some time to learn air flow adjustment, but this labor of love is evident in the flavor, texture, and possibilities.

How do I decide?

Both fuel types have their advantages, so how do you decide which fuel type makes sense for your outdoor space? Let’s start by asking the most important question: what do you want to cook? Take some time to think about not just what you make now, but what you are interested in for the future! If you know you want a grill that can handle a large crowd but also a Monday family dinner, a gas grill like the Broil King Baron 490 Pro is a great option. Looking to master your family’s brisket recipe? Or maybe be the Thanksgiving hero with smoked turkey? Try a Big Green Egg!

But what if you want it all? You aren’t alone! Many grill owners have one of each to keep their options open. Companies like Challenger Designs can even make custom outdoor-rated grill carts that can house a gas grill head and a charcoal grill in one system. 

The world of barbecue is constantly evolving, and we are excited to see more how it grows. While we’ve only addressed two fuel types in this post, we offer other barbecues such as pellet smoker grills and electric grill options. Whether you are looking for cooking tips, replacement parts, or designing your dream outdoor space, our team at Sutter Home & Hearth is ready to help answer your questions. Contact us today!