Settle the Propane vs Charcoal Grill Debate

Propane vs Charcoal Grill

Some debates become part of the day to day lives of people involved in the respective fields. The equivalent to the Cola wars in the grilling world is the debate of Propane vs Charcoal Grills. While the traditional ones swear by their charcoal grills, the modernists stand behind the propane grills. Yet, the modernists relish the authentic smoky taste of the charcoal grills and the believers in tradition envy the convenience of the modern day propane grills. So which one is better?

Here’s a look at both types through some common features.

Feature 1: Space Taken

One of the key deciding factors is the space availability that you have for setting up and storing the grill when not in use. Having a huge backyard, this may not be much of a consideration. But, in a place cramped for space, this may be very important.

Propane Grills: These have a lot of features packed in a compact manner, hence do not take up much space, especially for storage. While setting up, however, if you use a lot of accessories like side racks, hangers etc. the space taken might increase.

Charcoal Grills: These, on the other hand, are bulky to accommodate charcoal grates, air vents, and other dampers, chimney stack etc. Most of these features are essential for the functioning of the charcoal grills and hence will be there throughout storage and usage.

Feature 2: Learning Curve

Once you bring home a grill, you do not want to spend all your time learning how to use it. While some time for familiarization is fine, anybody would like their recent purchase to be operational as soon as possible.

Propane Grills: The biggest advantage of the propane grills is the ease of using them. These grills have a number of knobs that allow them to be started and stopped easily.

Charcoal Grills: Charcoal grills, on the other hand, take some time getting used to. Starting a charcoal fire can be slightly tricky and needs practice getting used to starting one.

Feature 3: Temperature Control

Propane Grill

As much as starting the grill is important, what is more, important is to ensure the correct temperatures for cooking. A higher than the desired temperature may lead to burnt meat and a lower temperature would result in undercooked meat.

Propane Grills: A propane grill typically comes equipped with knobs and dials for temperature control, ensuring a much easier mechanism for controlling the temperature while cooking.

Charcoal Grills: Once you have learned how to light a charcoal fire, next is learning how to maintain the correct temperature, which is typically done by adjusting air vents. An incorrect adjustment may lead to wrong temperatures and a not so pleasant taste.

Feature 4: Reaching High Temperatures

All said and done, the primary reason for using grills is to reach high temperatures, as high as 9000 F sometimes like for Searing. These high temperatures and the cooking methods afforded by them is one of the primary reasons people prefer grilling over every day cooking.

Propane Grills: Most of the propane grills work with much lower heat and typically in the range of 2000 F to 3000 F. With a few enhancements, these can work up to 5000 F.

Charcoal Grills: The whole point of putting in so much effort behind starting charcoal fires and controlling temperature is the extremely high temperatures that can be reached by the charcoal grills. A charcoal grill can consistently work on the higher temperature of 9000 F and more, making it excellent for searing.

Feature 5: Taste

The one thing you are looking for when looking out for a grill is the taste. Whatever else may matter, this is one parameter that cannot be overlooked. But how you want your grilled meat and vegetables to taste – smoky or juicy – is a matter of personal choice.

Propane Grills: The primary fuel, i.e. propane, does not produce much smoke during cooking and hence the dominant smoky taste will surely be missing here.

Charcoal Grills: These grills are preferred especially because of the dominant smoky taste everyone is looking for in grilled food. The charcoal used as fire produces a lot of smoke before burning completely giving the taste.

Final Recount

As seen above, some of the factors are subjective, still, if go with the majority opinion and without attaching weights to the features, this is how both the contenders fare

Propane Grills: 3/5

Charcoal Grills: 2/5

Final Verdict

As with most debates, there is no clear winner in this one. For someone preferring the convenience and smaller size, the propane grills become the obvious choice. But for a traditional experience and taste, nothing beats the charcoal grills. There are options like the Weber grills available that improve on factors like space and ease of use, making the charcoal grills go up to 4/5 from the current 2/5.

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