assortment of meats over grill top fire

Charcoal vs. Gas: Benefits and Characteristics of Each for BBQ

The debate over charcoal vs. gas for BBQ has raged on in the backyard since both existed. Proponents of gas will argue that it is;

  • Easier
  • Less messy
  • It doesn’t require any special skills to operate.

Proponents of charcoal will argue that with a little more effort comes better flavor and perfectly crispy skin. Here are some benefits and characteristics of each to help you make your decision.

Benefits and Characteristics of Charcoal:

More Flavor

Charcoal helps to add an authentic smoky flavor to your food because it burns hotter than gas. When you cook over charcoal, the juices from the meat drip down onto the hot coals and vaporize into smoke that flavors your food.

More Control

Cooking with charcoal allows you to control the heat in your grill. The more unlit coals on the top, the hotter your grill will be. A good tip for cooking with charcoal is to use fewer hot coals and more cool ones at first. You can always add more as needed.

Environmentally Friendly

Charcoal produces about 50% less CO₂ than gas when burned (according to a study by Kingspan Group PLC); this makes it an environmentally-friendly option that reduces greenhouse gases. Using charcoal also reduces landfill waste because you can reuse leftover ash from previous cookouts.

Better Crispy Skin

The intense heat of a charcoal fire helps create the perfect, crispy skin on the chicken and steak when done correctly. If grilling is one of your favorite ways to cook, then you’ll want to consider cooking over charcoal.

Better Skin Texture and Flavor

With a gas grill, the flame is on one side; this means that it doesn’t have direct contact with the meat while cooking, resulting in flabby or soft skin. You may also notice charred black smudges from flare-ups when you’re grilling something fatty like ribs over charcoal versus just a nice crispy skin when you’re grilling over gas.

Benefits and Characteristics of Gas:

Easier to Use

No charcoal lighter fluid or starter cubes are needed. All you have to do is turn the knob on your propane tank, ignite it with a match and wait for your grill to preheat before cooking.


Once you finish grilling over gas, just let your grill cool down so that all ashes fall into the ash catcher, and then clean it out after cooking. Charcoal grills require more maintenance because ashes can fall through the grill and onto your patio.

More Consistent Results

Gas tends to produce more even heat than charcoal. This means you won’t have charred or undercooked spots on your food; this is especially important when cooking significant cuts of meat like whole chickens, so they cook evenly from edge to edge without burning up in a flare-up.

Doesn’t Require Any Special Skills

No need to learn how to start a charcoal fire or preheat your grill; all you do is turn the knob on the propane tank, light it up with a match, and wait for it to heat up.

In conclusion, if you’re more of a beginner, then gas is probably the better option for you. However, if flavor and crispy skin are your priorities when cooking BBQ or any other meal on a grill, charcoal might be the way to go.

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