4+ Reasons to Choose Between a Charcoal or Propane Grill

Choosing between a charcoal or propane grill involves price, flavor, cooking methods, and cleanup. Charcoal offers smoky taste, while propane provides convenience and moist meat.

charcoal or propane grill

Charcoal vs. propane? Come barbecue season; this question stirs up much argument and debate between grill fanatics. As a newbie to grilling, I was open to purchasing a charcoal or propane grill. I set out to find the reasons you would choose a charcoal or propane grill before deciding which one to buy.

Some reasons you would choose a charcoal grill over a propane grill, or vice versa, are price, the flavor profile you want to achieve, the cooking methods you want to use, and the cooking time of each. Other reasons would be how much temperature control you want and ease of cleanup.

There is nothing like a relaxing Sunday afternoon spent outside with family and friends, enjoying meat cooked over a fire. While the company and atmosphere are important, the star attraction is the food! 

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When considering the price of a charcoal grill vs. the price of a propane one, you have to consider the initial investment of the actual grill and how much it costs to use and maintain.

Propane grills are more expensive than charcoal grills. You can get a basic, entry-level small charcoal grill for as little as $30. A small, basic propane grill will cost roughly $100.

While gas costs more than charcoal, gas will go a longer way. You will need more charcoal to cook the same amount of food as you would need if you use propane.


This is the million-dollar question. Does food taste better when barbecued on a charcoal or propane grill? This does depend on personal preference. 

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Food cooked on a charcoal grill will have a wonderful smoky flavor that barbecued meat is renowned for. When fat and marinade drip off the meat and onto the charcoal, it vaporizes, and that flavorful smoke is absorbed back into the food that is cooking on the grill, packing in even more fantastic flavor.

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Meat cooked on a propane grill will be moist and tender. This is because the fat and marinade from meat cooked on a propane grill will fall onto the metal or ceramic slab that covers the flames; this steam results in succulent and juicy meat. 

Start-Up And Temperature Control 

All it takes is a push of the ignition button and a turn of the dial to start your propane grill. The grill preheats quickly. Controlling the temperature is also easy, and no guesswork is required; all you do is turn the dial up or down. 

Cooking on a propane grill will allow you to cook a wider variety of foods, from red meats to fish, fruit, and vegetables. This is because you have more control over the temperature of a propane grill so that you can cook on lower heat. Also, it is better to barbecue certain foods like fish on a propane grill so that a smoky charcoal flavor does not overpower it. 

It takes longer to start up a charcoal grill and then for it to settle to a perfect cooking temperature. Once heated through, you must constantly monitor the charcoal, maintaining the correct temperature. Charcoal reaches a far higher temperature than propane, which is great for searing.

Clean Up And Maintenance

When barbecuing on a propane grill, there are no ashes or soot, making cleanup easy. When the grill is cool enough, empty the drip pan and wipe down the grill with a cloth or brush.

Cleaning a charcoal grill requires more elbow grease. Once cool, you must empty the ashes before scrubbing the grill clean.

Charcoal grills are robust and, apart from cleaning after use, require little to no maintenance. 

You must ensure your propane grill is adequately covered to protect it from the elements. Every so often, you should deep clean your propane grill. This entails removing and cleaning the grates, cleaning around the burner, and washing out the drip pan. It is also essential to check for gas leaks. 

What Is Better Charcoal Grill Or Propane?

This comes down to preference and what you will be grilling. For many, spending more time lighting the fire, getting the charcoal to the perfect temperature, and then cleaning up after grilling is all worth it for that delicious smoky flavor of barbecued meat.

If you want a more convenient option and enjoy succulent pieces of meat or fish and veggies, then a propane grill would be a better choice.

Which Is Healthier, Charcoal Or Gas Grill?

Grilling over propane is healthier than grilling over charcoal. This is because propane contains fewer carcinogens, believed to increase the risk of certain cancers. 

PHAs are created when the fat from meat falls onto the charcoal and mixes with the smoke. PHAs are a carcinogen. These PHAs then absorb into the meat. Furthermore, charcoal burns much hotter than propane, and as a result, meat chars at this scorching temperature, which creates heterocyclic amines (HCAs), a type of carcinogen.

Is It Cheaper To Grill With Propane Or Charcoal?

Charcoal burns quicker than gas, so you will need a lot more charcoal than you would propane. For example, 20 pounds of charcoal will give you three grilling sessions, while a 20-pound cylinder of propane will provide you with at least 25 grilling sessions.

Final Thoughts

Laid-back summer days are made complete with a backyard barbecue. Before choosing whether to go for a charcoal grill or a propane one, consider what you will be throwing on the barbecue and how much time you want to spend preparing the grill and cleaning up.

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