Charcoal Vs Propane The Great Grilling Debate

Charcoal Vs Propane The Great Grilling Debate

If you’re a griller of any level, you have a preference for the type of fuel you burn to cook your meals. There are two camps that are common in the world of grilling and barbecuing. You’re either a Gas Guy or a Charcoal Guy. What’s the difference? Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons for each.

Propane/Natural Gas Grills


Ready for cooking almost instantly

No cleanup of ashes

No charcoal to purchase or light

Clean burning, no smoke or odor

Doesn’t impart a flavor to your food


Doesn’t impart flavor to your food. While this can be a pro, many BBQ and grilling enthusiasts enjoy the smoky goodness that hardwood charcoal can add to their meats

Propane tanks are unreliable. You may have enough fuel to finish cooking, you may not. A gauge will help alleviate some of this problem

Propane can be dangerous. If you’re not keeping a close eye on the condition of your tanks, you could be in for a disaster

You have to lug around a 25lb canister anytime you want to move your grill to a different location

Not well suited for low temperature cooking

This is not an exhaustive list by any standard, just some of the more common pros and cons involved with using Propane as your primary fuel source. Many a fine meal has been created with the assistance of propane and natural gas.



Imparts a flavor to all foods cooked with it. You can supplement your charcoal with hardwoods to further enhance flavor

High temps are a snap with charcoal

Maintaining a lower, longer cook time is possible with charcoal by simply positioning your food away from the heat source

You get the “authentic” experience of cooking over hot coals


Takes longer to get coals up to temperature for cooking

Ash cleanup and disposal

You can’t easily regulate your temps by simply dialing down the flame

You have to keep charcoal on hand at all times for impromptu grilling sessions

While I mentioned charcoal is more “authentic” that’s really subjective. Gas grills have been around long enough now that it’s more a matter of preference than it is anything else. You can create delicious meals with either method, and in the end it all comes down to what you are more comfortable with using in your endeavors.

Just a final word on either method of cooking. No matter which fuel source you prefer, the key to creating great BBQ and grilled foods is technique. Take your time and study the methods you are using. Look to the friends and family who are skilled in the art of BBQ’ing for advice on how to improve your process. As with anything you undertake, grilling and BBQ’ing expertise is earned through trial and error. Learn from your mistakes, and you’ll find yourself at the top of the grilling world before you know it.