Nothing says summer like a cookout with friends and family, but it’s hard to have a cookout without a grill. And these days, shopping for a grill is a little more complicated than simply choosing between gas and charcoal. Today, you have to choose between gas, charcoal, and pellet grills.
Each type of grill has its advantages and drawbacks. Some are better for the chef on a budget, while others are flashier but more expensive. Of course, you’ll have to consider what you want out of a grill – for that smoky barbecue flavor, charcoal and wood pellet grills reign supreme, while gas grills are popular for their ease of use and cleanup. Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of each type of grill.
First up, we have the old standby, charcoal. Charcoal grills come in a variety of styles, shapes, and sizes, including kettle grills, brazier grills, barrel grills, cart grills, and portable grills. Using one is as easy as filling it up with charcoal and setting it on fire. You have a lot of control over how much heat you want to create – just build your fire larger or smaller. Food cooked on a charcoal grill typically has a tasty smoked flavor that many people enjoy.
However, charcoal grills are dirty and messy to use. You have to dispose of the charcoal ashes after you’re done grilling. It can take a long time to get a charcoal grill hot enough to cook on – 20 or 30 minutes. And you have to keep buying charcoal or wood chips and lighter fluid to use it; that said, charcoal and lighter fluid are affordable and you can pick up a small charcoal grill for about $30, so charcoal is a good option for budget shoppers.
Wood Pellet Grills
Wood pellet grills have a hopper on one side that feeds food-grade wood pellets into a burn tray in the bottom of the grill body. A wood pellet grill smokes and grills meat at the same time, and can be used as a smoker to grill meat low and slow for hours on end, but you can also turn it up higher to grill meat quickly. It gives meat a delicious smoky flavor, and the automated hopper fills the burn tray with pellets as needed, so it’s very set-it-and-forget-it. You can buy wood pellet grills with free delivery and assembly from your favorite home store.
However, it might be harder to find the food-grade wood pellets to burn in your pellet grill. You may need to order them online, or at least call the home store before you go to make sure they’re in stock. Pellet grills can be expensive, especially buying the pellets, so they might not be a great entry-level grill or a good grill for someone on a budget.
Gas grills are typically cart-style grills, but come in other shapes, as well. Some use bottled propane, while others use natural gas. However, natural gas grills have to be connected to your home gas line, so you can’t move them around like you can a grill connected to a propane bottle.
It’s easier to get started cooking on a gas grill than on a charcoal grill – you can just turn on the flame and it’s ready to cook. There’s also minimal cleanup, like there is with wood pellet and charcoal grills, since there’s no ash to dispose of. All you need to do is clean grease and burnt food off the grill itself.
Gas grills are more expensive than charcoal grills to buy, and you have to buy bottled propane for them, which can be more expensive than buying charcoal, so they might not be the best option for shoppers on a budget. On the other hand, though, a single tank of propane can last a long time, and much of the cost of buying one is a deposit on the tank itself. It’s easy to find fuel for gas grills – just about every gas station, grocery store, big box store, and home store sells tanks of propane.
If you’re in the market for a new grill, you have a choice to make between gas, wood pellets, and charcoal. Consider whether you want your meat to have the smoky taste of charcoal or wood, or whether you’d prefer the ease and simplicity of turning on a gas grill. If you can’t make up your mind, you may be able to find a grill that accommodates both gas and charcoal, so you can make barbecue however you happen to want it at that moment.