We’re not going to waste your time. You know why you’re here. It’s grilling season, and it’s time for that age old debate about what kind of grill is the best. You know the contenders: charcoal and propane, going head-to-head in an eternal battle for supremacy. One of them has to come out on top, and today we’re here to determine exactly who wins what may be the single most important philosophical debate in the history of all mankind.
Today, we’re going to judge each kind of grill on its merits and its detriments. In order to give both contenders a fair shake, we’re going to critically go over every pro and con we’ve got. Make no mistake, there will be a clear winner here today. We’re not going to throw our hands up and say “you should make your own decision!” as a way to avoid coming down on a clear winner. You’re free to choose whatever you like, of course, but there’s a definite victor here, and we’re going to find out what it is together.
Charcoal – The Gray Beauty
In this corner, we have the classic, the original, the traditional champion of the backyard! Charcoal cookers are the most common kind you’ll find, and it’s not hard to see why. These are the more inexpensive of the models, but don’t let that fool you. Burning charcoal produces heat and a little smoke, and can be utilized with an open top or a covering lid. The latter utilizes the smoking of the coals to add a light smoky flavor to the food. In fact, most charcoal cookers are designed around smoking the food, though the effect depends a lot on what kind and brand of charcoal you use.
The main advantages over gas models are that it can produce a more complex flavor thanks to the smoke and that they tend to be less expensive, but there are a few downsides. For one, you have to be more attentive to the actual cooking process, as you can see here. It requires more skill to produce good food with one of these. It’s also harder to control the temperature with a charcoal grill, and the cleanup process is more involved. On top of cleaning the grating of debris, you’ll also have to deal with a lot of ashes in the aftermath. The tradeoff is that they tend to be smaller and easier to transport, should you ever need to.
Propane – A Clean Burn
Gas grills are powerhouses of the craft. They utilize propane (and propane accessories) to produce a clean burning, consistent flame that cooks your food with extreme efficiency. In fact, the efficiency of a gas burner is its most powerful selling point. Put simply, they’re easier to use, easier to clean up, easier to fire up, and all around just easier than their competition, as you can see at https://www.bobvila.com/articles/gas-vs-charcoal-grills/. The sacrifice, of course, is flavor. While gas grills can cook your food efficiently, it lacks the ability to infuse complex flavors like charcoal ones can due to the lack of smoke from a clean propane burn.
The other downside is the price. They tend to be a lot more expensive overall than charcoal cookers, and propane canisters are more expensive than charcoal. Maintaining and using a propane cooker is going to be more of a hit to the wallet, but the efficiency you get in return is unmatched by a simpler charcoal grill. Plus, they tend to be larger and allow for a much higher amount of food to be cooked at once.
And the Winner Is…
We know, this is something of a shock to us too. But it turns out that the best kind of grill by all our metrics is neither charcoal nor propane, it’s the pellet burner. These marvels of cookout innovation are everything we love about both of its competitors with almost none of the downsides. Instead of burning coals or gas, these use wood pellets that are stored in a special chamber that feeds them into a fire pot. Fans and vents fill the whole cooking chamber with controlled heat and, most importantly, smoke. The smoky flavors infuse everything you put in it.
Put simply, the flavor is downright unbeatable. It’s said that the pellet model is more like an outdoor oven than it is a traditional grill. Personally, we think that this is an unfair comparison, as the pellet burner is so much more versatile than a traditional oven. Most models, such as Watson’s pellet grill, can cook, bake, braise, and grill with equal ease. This dark horse in the whole debate is the absolute and clear winner. If you’ve never had the pleasure of trying one out, and you’re looking to up your cookout game, you owe it to yourself to pick one up.