What kind of grilling do you plan on doing, and where? Once you know the answer to these questions and know your grilling options, you’ll know how to make the perfect BBQ grill buying decision.
Charcoal - A (Messy) Classic
The charcoal grill is a time-honored, traditional BBQ choice. When you want a long-lasting heat with lots of smoke flavor, you get out the charcoal.
Charcoal grills get much hotter than gas grills. The fire can get as hot as 500 degrees Fahrenheit, but that’s not a benefit when it comes to barbecuing. The perfect barbequed meat is cooked for a long time at a lower heat, usually no more than 225 degrees. However, it’s hard to control the heat of a charcoal fire, so you won’t always be cooking at the optimal temperature.
Another negative aspect of a charcoal grill is that it can get dirty quickly, leaving behind lots of ash that has to be cleaned up. The coals must be stacked well inside the grill, and you’ve got to catch them on fire once you’re ready to cook.
Charcoal grills are best used in a controlled environment, and they’re good for big gatherings when you need a hot, sustained fire to cook a lot of food. They also come in small sizes, and can be ideal for camping when you don’t want to cook over the open fire.
Gas - Easy to Clean (But Not to Transport)
Gas grills are very easy to use. Essentially, you flip a switch to turn them on and in a few minutes you’re ready to cook. Gas is much cleaner to work with than charcoal. If you get a smoker box, you can even add wood chips to give food that smoky taste. Among gas grills, natural gas burns a little cleaner than propane.
However, gas grills don’t create as much smoke as old-fashioned charcoal. With charcoal, the meat drippings land on charcoal and create extra steam during cooking, an effect that doesn’t happen so well with gas grills.
Because you need the gas to cook with, gas grills aren’t always easy to transport. Lugging a gas grill around can be a bit of a chore because you’ll need to bring a gas tank or make arrangements to have access to a gas line.
Electric - Portable, But Slow-Going
An electric grill will heat up quickly, and it really is a no-fuss grilling option. You don't need charcoal, you don’t need a gas line, and you don’t need to light anything to get it to work. The beauty of electric grills is that they can be used virtually anywhere -- even in public areas where gas and charcoal grilling is not allowed. There’s much less mess with an electric grill, and it can even be used indoors in times of bad weather.
Electric grills don’t generate a lot of heat, however, and take a long time to really get going. This can make food take longer to cook. With an electric grill you won’t notice that grilled, smoky flavor that makes BBQ taste so good.
Because electric grills can go anywhere, they’re great in tailgating.