Gas VS Charcoal, it seems to be an on-going battle – Gas is convenient, charcoal gives you a smokey flavour, gas BBQ’s are more expensive, Charcoal cooks faster…..
For those who love their charcoal BBQ like the Weber Original Kettle cooking on a gas BBQ is equivalent to cooking on a gas stove in the kitchen, and why WOULD you buy a gas BBQ they are just so expensive.
So, let’s take a quick look at the two.
- For a *good one* you are looking at $500 +
- Gas cooks those fast cooking foods well
- It is difficult to trap smoke if you want a smoky flavour
- The temperature is very easy to set and to maintain
- Fire up/cool down time is 5 to 10 minutes
- Cleaning – all you need is a wipe over and to empty the grease trap now and then
- For an entry level BBQ, you are looking under $500
- Great for slow cooking foods
- It smokes well, so is perfect for that smoky BBQ flavour
- Temperature control requires both patience and constant attention
- Fire up/cool down time is about 30 minutes
- Cleaning, you need to dispose of the ash and regularly clean the bars
Flavour – when it comes to cooking those *fast cooking* foods such as burgers or sausages, cooking on gas is the same as cooked on charcoal – you couldn’t tell the difference. When it comes to slow-cooked foods, legs of lamb, whole chickens etc. that take longer to cook, at a slower temperature – charcoal is the winner. It produces more smoke which gives you are more flavoursome result – it gives you flavour from the drippings from your food, it’s those little sizzles, pops and flare-ups from dripping food onto the burning coals that give off an aromatic taste which lands right back on your food.
Smoking – when wood smoulders it gives off compounds that become a vapour – it’s this smoke-filled vapour that makes its way to your meat which leaves behind a smoky flavour in the form of a dark brown residue. To get smoke on a charcoal BBQ, you just chuck some wood onto the coals, with a gas BBQ you need to place it in a foil packet and place it below the burners close to the flames. To get the smoke to really do its job, you need to keep your meat and your smoke source in a chamber that’s open enough to allow combustion of the wood. Getting a nice smoky flavour into your meat with a gas BBQ is difficult
Temperature – maximum and minimum temperatures charcoal wins. The heat your charcoal BBQ gives out depends on your placement of the coals and how much you burn. Charcoal sears faster and hotter than gas, but searing isn’t everything, most of the foods you cook don’t require an extremely high temperature.
Heat Management – gas BBQ’s do more of the heating through conduction via the grills while charcoal BBQ’s cook more via radiation. When you close the lid on a charcoal BBQ, you are cutting its oxygen and reducing the flame – and your temperature. With a gas BBQ when you close the lid you are trapping the heat and increasing the temperature inside. Gas BBQ’s constructed from stainless steel with internal heat deflectors work more efficiently than single-walled BBQs with an aluminium construction. This makes a huge difference when you are trying to sear a piece of meat.
Temperature Control – controlling the temperature on a charcoal BBQ is hard – the way you stack your coal affects the heat, the oxygen supply – what vents to open when, how windy it is, all affect the burn and therefore the temperature inside, and if you plan to cook for a few hours you need to monitor or top up the coal. Gas BBQ’s have none of these issues, get your burners set to the right levels, check your temperature is right and walk away – it will stay consistent. This *set and forget* convenience is great for ribs and large pieces of meat.
A great gas BBQ is the Weber Spirit E210, compact and always ready to go, it’s the perfect entry level BBQ for the first time BBQ chef.