When it comes to grilling, every backyard expert has an opinion on which fuel is best. Ask enough people, however, and you’ll soon learn that there is truly not a definitive answer. Whether it’s natural gas, charcoal or a propane grill, each method has its loyal legion. It’s an argument almost as old as time.
Charcoal aficionados will tell you there’s no way they’d ever cook with gas. Propane and gas cookers scoff at the perception of wasted effort by charcoal grillers. The truth is, both are right. There’s no right or wrong way to cook with fire, just different methods.
Charcoal grillers rest their argument on one main principle: the increased taste from the smoke that charcoal imparts on the meat. Meat drippings are also vaporized and re-introduced to the meat’s surface when hitting flame; something that doesn’t happen with natural gas or propane.
Those that prefer cooking with a different fuel point to a couple big differences between charcoal grilling and gas or propane grilling. Controlling the heat of a charcoal grill presents something of a learning curve. It can be done, but it takes time to master 2-zone grilling and dial in the dampers to control the flame just right. Do that, and you’ll have a fire that burns hotter than propane or natural gas.
It’s also important to perfect the technique of getting the coals going. Relying on starter fluid to get a stack of briquets going can be tricky. Use too much fluid, and your food will develop an unpleasant taste.
Grilling with propane may not impart the same flavor profile as a charcoal grill, but it offers a number of other advantages that some grillers go for.
Propane grilling is a much quicker process for a number of reasons. It gets hotter quicker, allowing you to spend less time tending the grill. It’s also much easier to control heat levels accurately.
Propane grills offer a bit more portability than natural gas grills and therefore are a bit more popular. Propane grills come with more features like side burners.
Natural Gas Grilling
While natural gas grills are not as common, it’s becoming more and more popular. Matters of convenience, cost and environmental impact lead many homeowners to install natural gas grills in their backyard.
Natural gas grills are typically attached to a fixed gas line that’s installed by a professional. Portability is not a factor with natural gas grills. Since a natural gas grill has an always-on, always-accessible fuel source, however, it offers a distinct advantage over propane grills, which run off tanks that need to be refilled. Natural gas grills can also be used to cook over a large area, just like propane, giving both gasses an advantage over charcoal.