Charcoal or Gas: Which cooks better?

I’m gearing up for that oh so annual 4th of July picnic at the Phlosphr household. I have a large gas Webber Grill and a smaller charcoal circular grill for those who like that taste instead.

My question is this: Which cooks better? Taste aside, what type of grill cooks the best! Gas or Charcoal. Factors to think about:

Time on the grill.
which is healthier
personal appeal
I’m a gas man myself because I think it cooks a little more evenly and slightly quicker.

I have tweleve 20oz ultra lean Tenderloin steaks already marinating in the fridge. Every year I marinate these bad boys for a week. When you cut into them you see why. It’s like Butta for lack of a better word.

So Anyone have the Dope on Charcoal or Gas…Whats the best?

I don’t think there’s any objective factual answer here because ‘best’ is a rather personal thing; I prefer charcoal because it seems to imbue a more ‘charred’ taste to the meat and on a couple of occasions I have had gas barbecued food that was coated with a fine layer of soot.
But I’m a bit of a ‘back-to-nature’ sort of guy, so my choice is hardly surprising.

depends on what you are cooking and how you like to cooked. For me, I grill thick steaks and I like them red in the middle and juicy. To do this, you need a grill capable of 600 degress F to cook and sear quickly…600 degrees F is a lot hotter than charcoal gets.

Taste aside? But you list flavor as a factor? :confused:

Anyway, this is certainly a debatable issue. I like the flavor from charcoal (although I don’t know if I could really tell the difference in a blind taste test) but I have a gas grill because:

[li]No wait time, you can fire up the grill and go without advance planning[/li][li]Easy to set the temperature[/li][li]Can change the temperature while cooking[/li][li]Just replace the gas tank once in a while, nothing else to buy or store (like charcoal & lighter fluid)[/li][li]No cleanup[/li][/ul]

There is no difference in health; there is evidence that charred meat contains carcinogens but it doesn’t matter if it was charred by gas or charcoal.

BTW you may be interested in this article by food chemist Robert Wolke. He says

Charcoal can get much hotter than 600F.

Me too Boo I like my steak the same way.
Mangetout - I like to consider myself in much the same way, but I think back-to-nature can mean a lot of things. Too bad your so far away…Culinary prowess will be thick at our BBQ, and as I know you enjoy a good morsel, it’d be good to have your 2 ¢.
Plus we’ll have a lot of really good Beer. I ordered a keg of a Quebec Beer called Unibroue Maudite Very good!

Cookingwithgas - is that your native American name? Like Dances with Wolves? :slight_smile:

I never heard of such a thing as Marinating more than 24 hours, until a friend of mine from South America brought up some Argentinian Beef. Marinated for 5 days and slow cooked for (I’m not sure how long) it melted in your mouth. The marinade recipe comes from him…Trust me. It works!

Sorry about the taste aside thing… OOPS!

So what’s his marinade recipe [B[Phlosphr**? I’ve gotten the same long marinade advice from a friend who is a chef and I’ve started vacuum marinading since TLL and I bought a food saver. I do it overnite rather than the half hour it says and so far it’s giving the effect of several days soaking.

As for the OP not all grills are created equal. barbecuing is done over lower heat with more emphasis on smoking. Grilling is done on extremely high heat. I never had any luck with kettle type charcoal grilles like the Weber smokey joe and prefer a flat bottom design for charcoal.

In the end I prefer gas for convenience. When it’s 112º in the afternoon I don’t want the pre-heat and cool down time a gas grill takes.

I’ve got a nice grill with 35,000 BTUs which IMO is just adequate for proper grilling. It has a steel plate over the burners to even out heat and give a lot of smoke from dripping juices so it gets a lot of the charcoal effect. It’s got two warming racks and a side burner so I don’t even have to heat up the kitchen in the summer.

Oh the recipe: I’ll share because I wouldn’t want to keep this steak from anyone.

1/2 cup Olive Oil
1 cup Red Wine (Chiante)
1/4 cup wine vinegar
(5) 6 inch rosemary sticks - chop each stick in half and temporarily embed them in the steak
1 tbs sea salt
2 tbs ground pepper
1 diced onion
1/8 cup chopped oregano
3 finely chopped garlic cloves.
1 fine chopped Pineapple

Then I usually throw some cayenne and a tab of honey in for good measure. It tastes like heaven. Well a mix of heaven and Montreal Brisket…so good.

let me rephrase…the temperature of a gas grill (not the $150 ones) can get well over 600 degrees F…a charcoal grill cannot. At least this is what I was told at Barbacues Galore where I bought my grill. Plus, you have a lot more control of that heat. You can have one side of the grill hot and the other side cool. There is a difference in gas grills too. the cheaper ones don’t get as hot and you’ll be replacing the parts every couple of years. If you see a lot of yellow flame, it is time for a new burner. Even big name like Weber aren’t what steak lovers should buy because they are slow cookers. If you get a gas grill, spend a little extra on one that has cast iron burners, cast iron briquette racks, and porcelean cooking grates.
To go back to my steak example. Let’s say you have a one inch thick steak you want to cook on a good gas grill. You’d cook it two minutes at 600 degrees to sear, then you’d sear the other side for two minutes. Then you’d drop the temp down to 400 degrees and continue cooking 4 minutes per side. That’s it, twelve minutes of cooking time.

the worst thing about gas is when you run out of propane half way through cooking. It never runs out while the grill is heating up…only after you’ve started cooking

Actually, I disagree with that. I’ve cooked on some charcoal in the past that was so hot it was painful for me just to put the meat on the grill. I’ve never run into that before, even with a quality gas grill on set to “core of the sun”. I would easily believe the temp was well over 600.

My .02 - Charcoal kicks ass.

Folks talking about the temperature…I own a Webber and have for at least 5 years. they have a thermometer built right into them. I’ve seen it cranked to say 500 degrees. I’m not sure where you are getting the 600 degree mark. Do you mean inside the coals? Or what. Because even when I’m cooking full throttle high for extended periods i.e turkey or steamship round, it still only gets to like 550…

Nope, just a phrase that I think originated back in the 40’s. Cooking is a hobby of mine, though no longer my main one. “Now you’re cooking with gas” is kind of like “hitting on all cylinders.” I’m not sure exactly how the phrase originated, maybe it compared gas cooking to cooking on a wood-burning stove. BTW inside the house, I have a gas cooktop and electric ovens–best of both worlds.

You will not that Dr. Wolke says slow cooking is how you get the tenderness. To make this really scientific, you should have four groups of meat, two marinated and two not. Then cook one marinated piece and one unmarinated piece over slow heat, and other two pieces over fast heat. Then you have a double blind taste test of the four pieces to determine which is most tender. I’d bet on the slow-cooked meat, regardless of marinade. Your marinade recipe sounds pretty typical, except for the pineapple, so it probably adds a lot of flavor but mimimal tenderness.

I go with gas. Simple ease of use.

When I’m out and about for a portable BBQ, charcoal.

I do like the charcoal taste better, but it’s more of a pain with lighting, waiting, and cleanup.

BTW CookingWithGas, the pineapple, in addition to adding a great flavor, also brings enzymes similar to those in papaya that help break down the meat fibers, so it dos help in the tenderness. Not quite as much as straight papaya, but pretty good none the less.


Since this is about cooking, I’ll move it to Cafe Society for you.

Off to Cafe Society.

DrMatrix - GQ Moderator

I have a Cook On brand which I got at Barbecue’s Galore. The thermometer is built on the hood…probably the same place yours is…max’s out at 600 but it gets hotter than that. Takes about 10 minutes to heat up to 600.

one other thing about gas grills…you need to be a rocket scientist to put them together. It’s worth the extra money to pay someone to do it for you. The best piece of advice I can give you is build it upside down…

Between charcoal and gas, my preference is charcoal. Every time. Not briquettes, but Southwestern mesquite lumpwood charcoal.

Your salesman lied. :smiley: Imagine that.

Using mesquite charcoal, I’ve seen temps upward of 800°F, measured on a meat thermometer that goes to 11… er, strike that… it goes to 900°.
If you’ll forgive a slight hijack…
My very favorite heat source is wood. Neither gas nor charcoal come close to a seasoned oak (or grape, or apricot, or pepper) wood fire, in my opinion.

I used (and broke :smack: ) that meat thermometer measuring an oak fire. The needle wrapped way past 900°, I’m guessing that it was near 1200° or so. Doing this stretched the spring in the thermometer, now it reads 30° high.