Buying Guide

Assembly and Setup
A man assembles a new charcoal grill.

When you first get your grill, you'll need to take some time to set it up properly. If you're looking for fast setup, a charcoal grill will keep things easy, as you don't need to connect a propane tank or natural gas line. In most cases, a charcoal grill can be up and running in about half an hour.


Your gas grill will likely take a couple of hours to setup. However, your setup time will be reduced each time you grill since you won't have to worry about getting your charcoal hot before you cook.


Winner: Charcoal 

Heat-Up Times and Maximum Temperatures
A closed grill cover displays a temperature gauge.

Heat-Up Times:

If you're choosing between a gas or charcoal grill for weeknight meals and easy cookouts with your family, heat-up times might be important to you. Gas grills take about 10 minutes to heat up, meaning you can turn on the grill and it will get to a very high temperature in a matter of minutes.


With charcoal, you'll either need to use a chimney starter or get your coals hot in the bottom of the grill. On average, this is going to take roughly 30 minutes. If fast heat-up times matter to you, a gas grill is a must-have.


Winner: Gas


Maximum Temperatures:  

High-heat cooking is important for many, and if you want to turn out tasty steaks, chicken and perfectly seared veggies in minutes, you need a grill that has ample power. While different models will vary in terms of heat output, your average gas grill can easily hit the 600-degree mark in just a few minutes. Some models can go considerably higher.


The same temperature range is possible with charcoal grills. Remember that if you do choose charcoal and you want a precise temperature, you may need to invest in a grill thermometer or gauge since they're often not part of the housing like on a gas grill.


Winner: Tie

Overall Flavor
Meat and vegetables are cooked on a charcoal grill.

Everybody knows that grilled food is delicious, but do charcoal and gas grills give you the same flavor, or is one a clear winner in this category? Unfortunately, the answer isn't so simple.


Some people prefer the taste of charcoal grills since they do add a little something extra to your food. For many, the flavor profile of grilled food is all about the kind of charcoal used. Others will claim gas is the clear winner since it better preserves the natural flavor of each dish.


When it comes to the flavor of a gas vs charcoal grill, it is solely a matter of preference.


Winner: Tie

Health Considerations
A gas grill with a propane tank.

Being concerned about your overall health and how it relates to your cooking techniques is important. Many wonder about charcoal vs gas grill health issues. 


While gas may be a slightly cleaner fuel type in general, you can mitigate the health impacts of charcoal grills by using natural briquettes. You'll also want to forego the lighter fluid.


With that in mind, you can choose between a charcoal grill vs gas grill using other criteria and worry less about your health.


Winner: Tie

Cleanup and Maintenance
A person cleans a grill grate.

Cleanup:

When it comes to cleanup, gas is the clear grill king since all you really need to do is wipe down your grill grates when you're done. 


With a charcoal grill, you'll need to remove and dispose of the ashes after you're done You'll also need to clean the grates like on a gas grill. If you love the flavor of charcoal though, a few extra minutes of cleanup time can be minutes well spent.


Winner: Gas


Maintenance:

Both gas and charcoal grills require routine maintenance, so you can't escape it completely no matter which model you choose. 


With a gas grill, you'll likely spend a little more time on maintenance overall since you'll need to check your propane tank or gas line regularly. You'll also need to clean your grill grates, drip pan and flavor bars after each use.


With a charcoal grill, emptying the charcoal ashes takes priority. You'll need to clean your grates as well, and once in a while, give your empty grill a thorough wipe-down. In general, a charcoal grill requires less time spent on regular maintenance because it's a simple device with a fully consumable fuel source.


Winner: Charcoal 

When making a choice between charcoal vs propane or natural gas grills, know that they are both great options for your backyard. There's no definitive winner when comparing the two options. For most people, it all boils down to preference and what you're familiar with.


Gas grills might have the slight edge when it comes to day-to-day convenience, but some people love the flavor of charcoal. With similar cleanup times, maximum temperatures and maintenance, you can't go wrong with either type of grill.