Charcoal vs Gas vs Electric


The debate over charcoal versus gas can get pretty heated, is known to cause bad blood between friends and grillers and continues to create conversations on which makes you the best griller. No one fights over the electric grill but we are about to change that. The simplest thing you need to know is that what it really comes down to is a matter of personal taste, flavour and convenience.

Here is the best way to think about this barbecuing and flavour problem: the more convenient a grill is the less smoke flavour it produces, end of discussion. This is the case with an electric grill which is the easiest to use but doesn't have that real fire flavour that people really search for (but we have tips to get around that), while hardwood fires impart the best flavours, they can be the hardest to deal with and on the flipside who doesn’t love a gas grill that lights up quickly? The real question you have to ask yourself is, do you want a fast and easy meal, or are you looking for something more? The answer to that enigmatic question will be the path of least resistance to your next grilled meal and barbecue purchase.

Hardcore grillers and barbecue cooks treat barbecuing much more like a passion and a religion than just an average summertime way to cook a meal. We want everyone to feel like a grill master and we want to set your fears at ease about charcoal (which really isn't that complicated and with practice can be just a reliable as using a gas grill) or gas or electric grills. Its as easy as just asking one of our pros at any of our Barbecue World locations the next time you come in and you’ll have a plethora of gas, charcoals and briquette options to choose from or better yet let a professional school you at our Barbecue U Classes in Whitby or Kanata.

Barbecue World

Here is the thing, when most people think of barbecued food they usually always associate it with that authentic smoky, off the fire taste of grilled food which when cooking is strongest with the original heat source for humankind, wood. As you move to electric grills, there is very little of this flavour left and may be also a deciding factor in a purchase for that exact reason, however if you talk to Jon or another of our pros we will help you find a way around that. In fact, many electric grills are criticized that they don’t add anything to the taste of foods aside from your seasoning, but we have a new product that will totally change that for good (you’ll have to check our next blog post to find out more). However, reality is that the simplicity of simply flipping a switch and grilling can't be beaten and in today’s busy world; it’s a big factor in how families cook, what they cook and when. We all want to be grill masters but Monday nights are hell with kids, homework and whatever else we can fit into our evenings before we pass out from exhaustion. No one should grill exhausted.

Alas this brings us to our next point of contention: taste. When it comes to the hotly debated subject of taste, many studies have been done to see which imparts the best/most taste into the meat being prepared. This has been done with charcoal and gas grills many times and the taste usually being measured was something every Canadian loves on his or her grill: burgers and steak. We won’t bore you with the quantitative information (unless you really want to some sleeping material) but we found one major and distinct difference…No one could taste the difference between the charcoal or gas flavours when it came to the hamburgers, but they could certainly tell the difference with the steak that was cooked and how it tasted. The charcoal grilled steak had a much more distinct smoke flavour profile that jumped out in your mouth. And as we covered in How To Take The Headache Out Of Smoking Chips and Chunks if you’re going to be cooking larger meats, especially ones that benefit from slow cooking and you want impart a deep smoke flavour, charcoal is really the only way for you to go for you to get the best smoke flavours in your food.

Now you are at the purchase stage and there are a few things one needs to consider before grilling that burger or steak and I think the first one is going to be space and then safety. Space is always going to be a consideration for you when you decide what kind of grill is right for you. The biggest question to ask yourself and consider is: where the grill is going to sit? It breaks down to this:

  • A small patio, balcony or covered area is not the ideal place for a large charcoal grill and in certain or most cases when it comes to balconies grilling isn’t permitted. This is perfect for electric grills.
  • Electric grills don’t produce any flare-ups and are safer in smaller areas and also permitted on balconies.
  • Gas grills however do produce flare-ups and need to be positioned far away from any structure to avoid pesky things like house fires.
  • And lastly, good old-fashioned charcoal, charcoal can be started with an electric starter and can therefore, be used with virtually no open flame which may make it ok for grilling on a balcony.

Your next point of consideration is cooking and your personal art of grilling. One thing to consider here is how you plan to grill. If you want to say come home from a long day of work at the office and throw a couple of steaks or chicken breasts on the grill with virtually no hassle, then go for an electric or gas grill since these might be what you are looking for and are very user friendly. They have two really good pros they heat much faster and have the convenience of a cooking appliance, the con is that that smoky taste is going to be subtle versus in your face (but we have the solution in the  A-MAZE-N smoker box) . Charcoal takes a bit more time and care and is not always so user friendly but we can take the un out of unfriendly in the classes we offer. You will get all that smoky goodness and we will show you how to be a pro.

Barbecue U Classes - Barbecue World

Finally, there is the issue of cost. And it breaks down to this: gas grills are generally (with a few exceptions) more expensive than electric or charcoal grills; with charcoal being the cheapest of your three options. If you don't want to spend a lot of money then charcoal might be the answer and our pros at the Barbecue U Classes will gladly show you how to master your charcoal grilling techniques. The small caveat is that charcoal is a more expensive cooking method. Electric needs you to plug it in and will always work. If you fancy having yourself a family cookout consider this one thing; you can easily spend more on charcoal while gas might cost much less per cookout (especially when you factor in the food to person ratio). Sadly, charcoal won't save you money in the long run even if the taste profile it offers outweighs the price point, so think about the long-term investment as well as the immediate purchase before you get your next grill. Come in and talk with any of our pros and we will gladly help you make the right choice for anything you need to appease your inner griller.