How To Decide On A Natural Gas Grill Or Charcoal Grill by Mary Hanna

The question is do you use a Natural Gas Grill or a Charcoal Grill for your next barbeque. The great American Barbecue is a wonderful way to bring family and friends together on a pleasant sunny afternoon for good eats and good company. Just for fun, there are six ways to spell BBQ in the English Language; all six have been used here-see if you can spot them all and how many times we used them.
As you know there are BBQ purists that think sizzling up a few steaks on a grill is not real unless it is done on a charcoal grill. Then there are those that feel their sizzled steaks or burgers are just as good if not better on a red hot Natural Gas grill. Over the years there have been many heated debates about which grill is better, Natural Gas or charcoal. Some of the differences affect the length of cooking time, taste of the food being cooked and how to clean up the mess afterward. The bottom line is that the differences between the grills are safety, flavor, cost and convenience. Here we will concentrate on Charcoal and Natural Gas grills. If you want to learn more about Smoker grills go to

The number one and biggest difference between a Charcoal and a Natural Gas Barbeque Grill is a biggie, and that is the cost. The Charcoal Grill will be your most inexpensive grill by far. You can purchase one of these grills for as little as thirty dollars if you look to a small Hibachi type model, which is perfect for someone with no backyard or very limited space. Of course, with all consumer goods, charcoal grills can be found upwards of $400.00 but that is for the very serious aficionado of charcoal grilling. A middle ground price for a Charcoal Grill will run about $75.00-$125.00 and are considered a good quality for the money with lasting ability.

Now Natural Gas barbecues are another whole ball of wax. You can spend upwards of $14,000.00 on an ~all the bells and whistles~ Natural Gas grill. No, that is not the norm. From your Home Improvement store you can find a very functional Natural Gas Grill for about three hundred dollars that will last for some time. This will depend on how it is treated. If it is out in the elements get a cover, if you live in a very humid area, rust will eventually get it so you may want to spend a little more money more to combat that factor. The cost of Natural Gas Bar-BQ grills will go up with each feature added. Natural Gas Grills come with huge grates sizes, four or five burners, side tables and/or burners, warmer ovens, even small refrigerators. The more down to earth models which can be very good quality will range from $400.00 to $1,500.00. These will have some of the better features like side burners but certainly not a refrigerator. According to the care you provide they can last from 12 to 15 years.

The next issue to address is the size of the grill you will need for your cooking efforts. If you are only using it for small parties or for the family on weekends, you don’t have to go all out and buy a grill that will Bar-B-Que twenty pounds of meat and potatoes at one time. It is possible to find a good grill to fit your grilling style at a very good price.

Convenience, for some is the most important aspect of the entire grilling world. And, for the ultimate in convenience, the Natural Gas Grill tops the Charcoal Grill by far. Natural Gas Grills have push button starters for an instant fire (you still have to heat it up). You can grill for much longer periods of times without having to replenish the fuel. The ability to raise and lower the heat gives you the option of controlling the temperature of the foods being grilled. You will never have to worry about the wind since the heating comes from below and they heat more evenly over the surface grates. Clean up is virtually a snap since it only requires you to heat the grates and scrape with a wire brush. The one disadvantage is if you run out of gas. If you do not have an extra tank your grill will cool quickly and the Bar-BQ will be a disaster.

These are things you should think about when deciding which BBQ you will purchase. With all of the conveniences mentioned above for Natural Gas Grills. Charcoal grills have a few deficits. It will take at least 30 minutes to heat the charcoal to the required temperature. The ash residue left by the charcoal will have to be cleaned out and thrown away. You do not have the option of burning off the leftover bits of meat left on the grate so you will have to clean it yourself with a bit of good old fashion elbow grease. And because you do not have the ability to regulate the temperature, you will have to rotate the food to find hot spots and then to cold spots for proper and thorough cooking.

For some, this little bit of extra work is acceptable in order to get that genuine Barbeque flavor for their steaks on a grill, burgers or ribs that they swear Natural Gas Grills don’t provide. Charcoal Grills simply do not have the ease of Natural Gas Grills when cooking a Bar-B-Que, but for serious BBQ artists it’s the ritual that counts. When you are thinking of buying a new Barbecue, think of how you want to do your cookouts. If you love to come home from work and throw something on the ~Barbie~, for a quick meal then Natural Gas Grill is the grill for you. However, if you only Bar-BQ on the weekends and you love the procedures of the real cookout experience buy a quality Charcoal Grill. There is really nothing about Charcoal Grills that is more convenient than with Natural Gas grills, but convenience is not everything and many people argue that the ritual associated with charcoal grills is simply part of having a Barbeque.

The last thing to consider and this is a big one, is safety. There are many schools of thoughts on this aspect. Some say that more accidents happen with Charcoal Grills but more serious accidents happen with Natural Gas Grills. Consider these factors and use them in your judgment as to whether you will buy a Natural Gas Grill or a Charcoal Grill. Charcoal Grills being so much lighter then the Gas Grills it is easier to tip them over. Using starter fluid is always dangerous and this is where most injuries occur with Charcoal Grills. Never, ever use starter fluid on the charcoal after the coals have been lit, you risk burning yourself and your food will taste like starter fluid and not barbeque. There is a greater risk of a flare up with charcoal but that by no means says it will not happen with Natural Gas Grills. Common sense tells you that you should keep both of them away from structures that can ignite. For the greatest safety when using a Charcoal Grill verses a Natural Gas Grill is to buy pre-soaked briquettes which need no starter fluid at all.

With a Natural Gas Grill you will not have to use starter fluid but you must be very attentive to the manufactures instructions. Little things like leaving the gas on too long before you hit the ignition button could be very dangerous. Heed the manufactures requirements for maintenance especially for hoses and the gas container, for leaks.

Safety is the utmost priority when it comes to all grills. Don’t drink and barbecue, wait until after the cooking to imbibe. Watch the children when the grills are lit, keep them far way from the hot grills. By just using a little common sense you should prevent all accidents from happening whether you have a Natural Gas Grill or a Charcoal Grill.

Last but not least, is the forever debate about flavor and this should be one of your considerations when buying a grill. Many BBQ chefs swear by the smoky flavor of the Charcoal Grill when cooking their steaks on a grill and would cook on none other. But on the other side of the coin many gas grillers say that there is no difference. There is a little truth in both of their statements. There was a blind study done where people where asked to taste two hamburgers, one from the Natural Gas Grill and one from the Charcoal Grill. None of them tasted a difference in the hamburgers but when it came to steaks on a grill, the juicy, smoky flavor from the Charcoal Grill won every time. To combat this, some manufactures of Natural Gas Grills have added flavor bars made out of ceramic to give the meat a more genuine BBQ flavor. The theory is that the bars catch the fat dripping from the meat and vaporizes it giving off a more smoky taste.

All of this information will by no means end the debate. If you can, buy a Natural Gas Grill and a Charcoal Grill giving you both options for your Bar-B-Que. If you purchase a small Charcoal Grill it will be portable to take on vacations or to a neighbor’s house for overflow cooking. Whether you buy a Natural Gas Grill or a Charcoal Grill we wish you a happy Bar-BQ in your backyard or on your next picnic. For answers to the spelling of Barbeque and how many and different ways we used it, email us at

Copyright © Mary Hanna, All Rights Reserved.

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About the Author

Mary Hanna grows produce year round in Central Florida where she developed an appreciation of how Gas and Charcoal Grilling preserved their natural flavors and nutrients. Learn from her at , and