Charcoal Grill vs. Gas Grill: Which is Best for You
Sixty-six percent of American outdoor grillers have gas grills, and it's easy to see why: Just flip a switch, adjust a few knobs, and dinner is seared and served.
If you own your home, think about converting your grill for a natural gas line. It's better for the environment and is cheaper than propane. Plus, you'll rarely risk running out of gas mid-barbecue. Trust us -- it happens. Call your hardware store or the grill's manufacturer for a simple converter kit that might require a wrench at most. Possible costs include extending the natural gas line to reach your grill. (Tip: When buying your grill, ask to have it converted for a natural gas line -- most stores and manufacturers will do so at no extra cost.)
Most gas grills are fueled by propane tanks. The average tank holds 20 pounds of fuel and has about 25 hours of average use, which you can track on its gauge. A gas tank keeps your grill mobile.
Safety first! Always uncover a gas grill before preheating to release any gas that may have collected underneath.
Smart move. Turn off a burner to create a space for indirect heat.
Competitive cooks wouldn't be caught dead near a gas grill -- they believe charcoal lends a smokiness and caramelization that gas can't match. So if you're a fanatic for flavor and don't mind tending to your grill (charcoal can be a bit unpredictable), you've met your match.
What kind of charcoal should I buy?
Burns out quicker
How do I light charcoal?
1) Fill a chimney starter with charcoal.
2) Loosely stuff crumpled newspaper underneath the mounted grate.
3) Light the newspaper from several directions.
4) Wait 20 minutes, then dump the lit coals into the grill.
How much charcoal do I need?
Depends on what you're grilling and for how long. Start with a charcoal chimney load of lump charcoal or briquettes, ranging from 80 to 100 pieces, to fuel a standard 22 1/2-inch kettle grill. If you don't have a chimney starter, fill the grill roughly one-third of the way.
How do I grill over charcoal?
Controlling the heat is easy after a little practice. Anything that takes less than 20 minutes to cook (burgers and steaks) should be grilled over direct heat. Foods like ribs and potatoes, which take longer to cook, need to be finished over indirect heat, so that they can continue to cook without burning.
How do I arrange the charcoal?
Bank your coals against one side of your grill to create an area for direct heat; the side with fewer coals will contribute indirect heat.
If the heat's too hot...
1) Use long-handled grill tongs or a fire poker to scatter the coals.
2) Close the bottom vents partway to starve the coals of oxygen.
3) Move the food to a cooler part of the cooking grate.
If the heat's too low...
1) Use grill tongs or a fire poker to bank or stack the coals.
2) Open the vents to allow more oxygen to flow through.
3) Light more charcoal in a chimney starter and dump it in when ready.
READ THIS BEFORE YOU BUY
Pick the right size for your space. Jot down dimensions before shopping, so you can pick the largest grill to fit the space. Grills should be parked on nonflammable surfaces, such as concrete or stone, and in spaces where smoke won't be a nuisance (i.e., not near an open window, where it will stink up the house!).
Give the grill a test-drive. Shake it up, wheel it around, tilt it from side to side, kick the tires. The sturdier the grill, the more likely it will heat properly, and last.
Choose a pricier name brand over a cheaper store brand -- but not for the reasons you think. Name brands are more likely to come with customer service, warranties and replacement parts. Cheaper store brands can switch manufacturers at any time. (Translation: no parts and labor support.)