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Gas Vs. Charcoal Grills: Discover the Differences

WriterAubrey McShan
11 min read
Gas Vs. Charcoal Grills: Discover the Differences

What better way to enjoy the outdoors and bring people together than tossing a few juicy hot dogs on the burners? From burgers dripping with flavor to the smell of steak floating through the air, there's nothing quite like manning your outdoor grill.

But how do you know which grill you need? In this guide, we'll help you learn the difference between a gas grill vs charcoal grill!

Key Takeaways

Gas vs. Charcoal Grills: Key Differences

When it comes to gas or charcoal grills, one isn't necessarily superior to the other. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. To help you decide which grill is right for you, we've summarized the core differences between each type:

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Comparing Charcoal Grills & Gas Grills
Category Charcoal Grills Gas Grills
Price Charcoal grills are less expensive than gas grills. You can purchase a solid charcoal grill for less than $100. Gas grills tend to be pricier. Most of them retail anywhere from $200-$700.
Heat-Up Time It can take anywhere from 25-30 minutes for a charcoal grill to reach a medium heat. Gas grills are much more convenient, as they heat up in less than 10 minutes.
Flavor Charcoal grills can add a robust, smoky flavor to your meats. Gas grills have a cleaner fuel source that doesn't impart flavor to food.
Fuel Charcoal grills burn charcoal, wood, or burner bars. Gas grills exclusively use either propane tanks or connect to natural gas lines.
Cleaning Charcoal grills require more frequent cleaning. You have to clean the bars and dump the ashes after every use. You can clean a gas grill less frequently with monthly maintenance like wiping the bars and emptying the grease trap.
Portability There is a wider selection of portable charcoal grills compared to portable gas grills. It is much less convenient to move a gas grill, as it tends to be heftier than a charcoal grill.

While a gas grill lights up instantly, charcoal grills add a smoky flavor to your meats. But it all comes down to finding what works best for you.

Expert Tip:

Some grill masters choose to go all-in and buy both a gas grill and a charcoal grill. Gas grills excel at preparing dinner quickly. But charcoal grills are perfect for special events to slow-roast those savory meats.


Due to their more complex components, gas grills tend to be more expensive than charcoal grills. However, the cost of fuel is another important factor when deciding between the two. Both propane and charcoal can be or get expensive.

Expert Tip:

Keep a few tanks of propane or a stash of charcoal on hand so you don't have to run out to the store before lighting up your grill.

Aerial view of diverse friends grilling barbecue outdoors

Heat-Up Time

Charcoal Grills
  • Charcoal grills are better for slow roasting.
  • Charcoal grills require 25-30 minutes to reach a medium heat.
  • Charcoal grills are more involved and tend to demand more of your attention.
  • You'll need to wait until the charcoal turns a white-gray ashy color before you throw your meat on the grill.
  • Be sure to double-check the temperature on your charcoal grill with a thermometer.
Gas Grills
  • If you tend to get 'hangry' waiting for your food, you may want to opt for a gas grill!
  • In 5-10 minutes, gas grills can reach temperatures of up to 700°F.
  • Igniting a gas grill is as simple as turning a few knobs and shutting the lid to let it preheat.
  • Most gas grills already have a temperature control built-in feature available.
  • They allow you to get a good sear on your meats

Expert Tip:

No matter what grill you decide on, you can use the heat-up time to prep your meat, vegetables, and sauces and look forward to a delicious meal ahead.


  • Charcoal grills have the upper hand when it comes to imparting a smokey flavor to your meats. You can use flavored charcoal ranging from hickory to cherry to add depth and smokiness to your barbecue!
  • Gas grills won't impart a smokey flavor to your meats, so be sure to flavor your food with tons of marinades, spices, and seasoning.

Expert Tip:

If you own a gas grill but still want the option of fall-off-the-bone meats, consider purchasing a smoker. You can turn your gas grill into a “smoker” by buying a smoker box and placing your wood chips inside.


  • Charcoal grills can use burner bars, coals, or wood.
  • Gas grills can use either propane tanks or a natural gas line (which must be hooked up by a professional).
Group of friends having a party outdoors. Focus on a barbecue grill with food


Charcoal Grills
  • Charcoal grills are usually messier than gas grills.
  • They typically demand more time when you have to clean the ash off the grill and grill gates.
  • You need to deep clean your charcoal grill at the start and end of the grilling season to prevent rust buildup.
Gas Grills
  • Gas grills are easier to clean compared to charcoal grills.
  • You'll still need to clean the grill gates, drip pan, and flavorizer bars after each use.
  • Expect to deep clean your gas grill one to two times a year, and every few months with regular use.


  • Standard charcoal grills are inherently more portable than gas grills. They also offer an easier setup experience.
  • Unless you use a moving truck or travel trailer, your gas grill should stay in one place.

Expert Tip:

Portable models specifically designed to take camping or elsewhere are available for each type of grill.

What Are the Best Foods to Cook on Gas vs Charcoal Grills?

While both types of grills are suitable for all sorts of meats and sides, each grill might cook foods you love differently based on convenience or flavor preferences.

  • Charcoal Grills: You can grill lean cuts of beef, chicken, and turkey on a charcoal grill. Grilling with charcoal produces a nice crust and juicy meat with extra flavor.
  • Gas Grills: If you want to cook seafood, fruits, and vegetables without an overpowering smokey flavor, choose a gas grill.

Have Fun Out There!

Break out your apron, and get to grilling! You've learned everything you should consider regarding the differences between a gas grill and a charcoal grill. Think about what factors or features are the most important for your outdoor grilling game before you go out and buy either.

Ready to plan your next backyard cookout with family and friends? Head on over to our outdoor grills shop to stock up on everything you need to be your own grill master!