By Sue Baldani
How do you BBQ? Are you a charcoal fan or a gas griller? Apparently, there are two very different schools of thought on the way to cook meat and other foods in the great outdoors. Of course, there’s always the campfire option as well, but I’m talking about what most of us do on nice days in our own backyards.
For convenience, a gas grill is easier and faster, and just about anyone can use one. Charcoal, on the other hand, needs a somewhat skilled hand to get it going, and it does take a while for those black briquettes to turn gray and hot enough to actually cook food. And then, you have to carefully dispose of those used coals after waiting for hours for them to cool down. Otherwise, if you dump them in a pile of grass or leaves, you’ll have one of those previously mentioned campfires. That may be fine for toasting marshmallows, but neither your neighbors nor your local fire department are going to be happy about your unintentional bonfire.
Also, if you only grill once in a while and want to make a quick meal on the grill after work, then gas is faster. However, if you like having outdoors parties and don’t mind prepping ahead of time, then charcoal may be for you.
For taste, most diehard BBQ masters insist you need charcoal for that authentic smoky flavor that only comes from wood. Since charcoal is made from wood, they say it’s essential to use. Although, you can always add wood chips to a gas grill to get some of this flavor as well.
Preference also seems to depend on the food being grilled. Most people agree that hamburgers and hot dogs taste fine on both grills, but many others insist that steaks grilled over charcoal cannot be beat. Also, if you are grilling larger pieces of meat like a whole chicken that benefit from slow roasting, charcoal will give that stronger smoky flavor every time.
Gas grills are more expensive up front than many charcoal grills, and propane isn’t cheap either. Hooking it up to a natural gas line is usually the best bet, since it’s economical and you don’t have to worry about running out of propane in the middle of a party. But, you can’t pack them up and take them to the park or beach. Charcoal grills can hit the road with you.
When deciding on the type of grill, you also have to consider where you live. If you have a small patio in an apartment building, the smoke billowing from a charcoal fire and into other units may not be the best way to make friends with your neighbors, and it may be against the rules as well. It’s also not safe, but then neither is a gas grill, which can flare up. All grills should be a safe distance from any structure, and if that can’t be done, an electric grill can be used as a last resort. But let’s face it, that’s not really grilling.
Written for The Country Register – published across the United States and Canada.