Gas or Charcoal BBQ Grill: Which Should You Get?

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With summer fast approaching, BBQ season will soon be in full swing. If you're looking to up your grilling game, take full advantage of the season's deals on gas and charcoal grills. Before you take the leap into the world of home BBQ and buy yourself a new gas or charcoal grill, there are a few things you should consider, and a few facts you should know.

Start by asking yourself these questions to help you determine if you want to be cooking over a gas BBQ grill or a charcoal BBQ grill:

  • How much do I want to pay?

Charcoal grills are considerably less expensive than the heavy duty gas models. If you don't want to spend hundreds of dollars on a new grill, or if you want to try your grill-thumb out before you splurge, opt for a less expensive charcoal model. They can start as low as $15 for the most basic model. Gas grills will cost you several hundred dollars with the higher end models priced at well over $1,000. On top of the initial cost, gas grills also require you to constantly refill the gas tank, tacking on an extra hundred dollars every year depending on how often you plan to grill. Charcoal is comparatively inexpensive, and can be purchased at most major supermarkets.

  • How many people will I be grilling for?

Not only do gas grills provide a larger cooking space, they are also faster to ignite, and can keep heat for an almost endless amount of time. If you're planning on grilling for large groups of people and you don't want to constantly have to refill charcoal and replenish the grill grate, gas may be the right choice for you. Charcoal can be frustrating and time consuming, and will limit the amount of food you can grill at once.

  • Do I want that charcoal taste?

There is no arguing that food prepared on charcoal grills have a much different taste that the food prepared on gas grills. That traditional, smoky BBQ flavor is easily obtainable through a well-prepped charcoal grill. Not only will your taste buds be satisfied, but you will also smell that great BBQ the whole way through. Food prepared on a gas grill still tastes great, but has a much cleaner, less-traditional BBQ flavor.

  • How difficult to I want the clean-up process to be?

You know that moment in the infomercial when the frustrated woman struggles with an awful mess? The screen freezes in black and white, as she buries her face in her palm and makes woebegone eyes at the camera. That's the kind of clean up you could be in store for with a charcoal grill. It is very hard to clean the mess after all the BBQ has been prepared. You have to wait for the charcoal to cool, dispose of it safely and properly, and then go through the regular maintenance of scrubbing the grill grates. Gas grills only require the last step of scrubbing, allowing you to ditch the rest of the BBQ blues.

  • Do I want instant gratification?

Another thing to consider before you take the BBQ plunge is how much prep time you want to put into your grilling. If you want to drop your keys, grab some steaks and get grilling, charcoal is definitely not the way for you. It can take up to 30 minutes to let the charcoals achieve the appropriate cooking temperature. Gas grills just require a few turns of a knob and a quick click of the ignition.

  • Will wind disrupt my grill time?

Charcoal grills are great for the summer, but if the wind is out in any way, a charcoal grill won't want to play. Gas grills are wind-proof, and can withstand any sort of climate change during your cookout; minus a blizzard, of course.

  • Where will I make my purchase?

If you're ready to throw down serious cash for your grill, you can visit a specialty BBQ store. You will get the expert advice and opinion you wouldn't get anywhere else, but you will probably only have the highest end models to choose from. Sporting goods and department stores are also a good choice, but they will have a much more limited selection. If you're looking to make a quick purchase before a small summer BBQ, there's no real harm in buying that grill from the summer section of the grocery store.

Once you've found the answer to these BBQ questions, you should have an idea of what grill will work best for you. Whatever route you take, whether it's the good old, traditional, charcoal BBQ grill, or the stainless-steel, gas BBQ grill behemoth, don't forget the sides, the suds and the sun!

Last Updated: July 22, 2011
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About Chanti Burnette Chanti was a freelance writer for IdealHomeGarden.com.

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