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Gas Vs. Charcoal Grills:
Who Wins the "Great Barbeque Debate"?

By Vanessa Kirkland

The debate over which grill is better - gas or charcoal - may not induce as many passionate and polarized opinions as the upcoming presidential campaign, but for outdoor cooking enthusiasts it comes pretty close. Die-hard grilling aficionados swear by the flavor and process of cooking with charcoal grills. But with the majority of new grill purchases being gas models, there are obviously fans in that camp, too.

So which grill wins the debate? Let's look at the arguments for both. The case for gas or charcoal seems to be divided along three main points:

  • Convenience
  • Cost
  • Taste

The convenience argument... and the winner is:  The Gas Grill!!

The clear winner in this category is the gas grill. Most models feature push-button ignitions, a consistent, steady heat source that's ready to go within minutes, excellent temperature control, and easy cleanup.

But convenience isn't necessarily a deciding factor for all grill shoppers. Charcoal enthusiasts say it's the ritual - piling up the charcoal, lighting it, tending the fire, and manually adjusting cooking temperatures by moving food from hotter spots to cooler ones - that makes outdoor cooking worth the effort. They feel that trading the process of the backyard barbeque for the push-button convenience of a gas grill is missing the point.

The cost argument... and the winner is:   The Charcoal Grill!!

If cost is the most important deciding factor for you, you'll likely want to look at charcoal grills. They cost considerably less than gas, with basic models ranging from about $30 to $100. If you add features like additional burners and side tables, you can count on something like a $300 to $400 range.

Most gas grills - excluding portable and table-top models - are on the expensive side, ranging anywhere from $300 to $1500, and more for higher end models such as built-ins and smoker/grill combinations.

The taste argument... and the winner is:  DISPUTED TIE!!

Weber Genesis Flavorizer Bars

Though some barbeque fans swear they can't tell the difference between food cooked on gas grills and food cooked on charcoal, the charcoal purists insist otherwise. According to them, the flavor that is infused from the smoke of charcoal briquettes or wood coals is what distinguishes an outdoor feast from a standard kitchen meal.

In an effort to address the taste issue, some gas grill manufacturers have built models that add ceramic flavor bars, patented by Weber. These bars catch grease drippings and vaporize them into a humid smoke that infuses more flavor into what's being cooked. A popular brand that uses this flavor bar feature is the Weber Genesis series.

So who's the winner in this category? The jury is still out on this argument, and it probably always will be. Taste is such an individual decision; you may just have to try both grills and see for yourself.

For those who still can't decide...  BUY BOTH!!

Charbroil combination charcoal gas grill

As you can see, there are pros and cons to owning a gas grill, just as there are advantages and disadvantages to owning a charcoal model.

Still aren't sure which one is right for you? Do what many families have done in recent years - they buy both! If you truly enjoy outdoor cooking, it makes sense to own two models that you use for different purposes. For example, you can use the gas grill for cooking quick barbeque meals during the week, and break out the charcoal grill for when you want to take your time on the weekend.

There are a couple of options available to you if you want to own both a gas and a charcoal grill. There's the obvious one: buy both grills. But if you have a little bigger budget or you're limited on patio space, check the Char-Broil Combination Gas/Charcoal Grill. Essentially, it's two grills in one, the left side exclusively gas and the right side exclusively charcoal.  Sweet!!

So what will it be - gas, charcoal, or both? In the end, the decision comes down to your lifestyle and what features work best for you and your family.

About the Author: Vanessa Kirkland is successful freelance writer and outdoor cooking enthusiast.

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