Spend ten minutes browsing BBQs on Amazon and you’ll soon come to realise that there are more products than you can shake a stick at.
However, no matter if you decide to go with a portable BBQ that you can take camping with you, or something larger and more stationary for your patio, the main thing you need to decide on is whether you’ll go with a classic charcoal BBQ, an electric model, or a gas-powered one.
Each of these types of BBQ brings something to the table, and each also has its flaws. So, we decided to compare them for food taste, ease of use, ease of maintenance, and some other factors to make things a little clearer, and let you know what you are in for with each one.
As you can see from this and many other tweets, you are far from alone in wanting to know the answer-
Gas or charcoal? https://t.co/pA9gBA1UZd
— Food & Wine (@foodandwine) May 25, 2021
Comparing different types of BBQs for taste
Just to be clear, when we are discussing taste here, we are talking about that classic smokey BBQ flavour and not just the general taste of the food, as that would largely rely on the ingredients used and the person manning the grill.
With this in mind, it has to be said that the clear winners in this department are charcoal BBQs. Second, to only dedicated smokers for that delicious chargrilled flavour, charcoal BBQs will deliver deliciously seared and smoked steaks, chops, ribs, and more, with relative ease.
It is possible to get that smokey taste from cooking on a gas BBQ, however, the results won’t be quite up to the same standard and you will probably have to use a BBQ accessory like a smoker box, adding an extra level of complication to the process. here’s another method you can use with a gas grill–
Electric BBQs aren’t best known for adding smokey flavour to food, although, again there are products out there that can reproduce to some degree the taste you get from a charcoal model. We are of course talking about smoker boxes (for the easy, less effective route), or pre-smoking the meat in a smoker before cooking it on an electric grill. The latter will of course mean having access to a smoker, but it will yield the best results.
How do charcoal grills, gas bbq, and electric BBQs compare for ease of use?
For most people, how easy it is to set up, and operate, a certain type of BBQ can play a big part in their purchasing decision. With this in mind, we thought we’d compare the three main types for ease of use here.
With their ‘plug-in and play’ designs, electric BBQs have to get my vote as the easiest to use out of the three. These products usually have very few controls, and even the ones that do have their fair share of buttons are usually pre-programmed so that you don’t even have to work out cooking times. Just check out this excellent product from tefal below. We have reviewed this particular grill in-depth in our best indoor BBQ article.
Gas BBQ grills, are also relatively easy to operate and give you a lot of control over the heat, but you do require a fuel source like a propane tank or be able to connect to your mains gas supply, and this means connecting a regulator too. Thankfully, these tasks are not overly complicated and shouldncook’t cause anyone too much hassle.
Charcoal grills are a little trickier to ignite, requiring fuel or fire-lighters, and you do have to learn how to work the charcoal to get the best cooking results, but they are still not what I would consider difficult things to master. Still, out of the three, they are probably the hardest to regulate cooking temperatures on.
Comparing the levels of maintenance needed for charcoal, electric, and gas BBQs
It doesn’t matter which type of BBQ you buy, none of them will last too long if you don’t take care of them, but some require more maintenance than others. it can also be a sneaky way to get around the covid-related no gathering rules 😉 ( I’m kidding).
There are rumours circulating that I had a BBQ last night. This is false information.
My dad was round conducting maintenance to the BBQ, testing the grill.
Others were in the garden enjoying a socially distanced burger.
At no point did the two interact.
This was not a BBQ. https://t.co/JXMMTpBD9z
— Curtiss Wilson (@CurtissWilson) June 9, 2020
I would say the easiest type to maintain is a charcoal BBQ. I say this because there are no electrical wires or gas pipes, tubes, or regulators to deal with and this allows you to simply remove the coals and give the BBQ a good blast down with a pressure washer and a decent BBQ brush after use. You’ll need to keep an eye out for rust and maybe reapply paint or galvanized coating from time to time too.
Electric BBQs tend to be the least robust type when it comes to their casing, and so you often have to be careful when handling or storing them to prevent dints and cracks. Other than that, there isn’t much to take care of on a regular basis other than keeping it clean.
Having said that, there are other things that might need replacing such as fuses and wires as the grill gets older, and most people don’t really know how to deal with these problems. So, it’ll be either a trip to a professional to fix it or buy a new BBQ.
Because of all the different components, there is actually a fair bit of maintenance required to keep a gas BBQ in good, and safe, working condition. For example, the regulator that connects to either a propane tank or your mains supply, and needs its own maintenance to make sure it is sealing properly and not leaking. Then there the burners themselves, and the dials to keep in good condition, and if you haven’t used your gas grill for a while, be very careful-
Happy #FirstDayofSpring! We’re ready…you’re ready…but is your BBQ ready? If it’s been hibernating for the winter, make sure it’s clean and tuned-up before you fire it up! Here are some helpful BBQ maintenance tips for you: https://t.co/GBHrNdDRTL #OntarioBeef pic.twitter.com/RHbuK0J3PI
— Ontario Beef (@OntarioBeef) March 20, 2019
After comparing the three main kinds of BBQ, for taste, ease of use and maintenance, I would summarise like this-
Charcoal BBQs are the best for giving you that traditional flame-grilled feel and effortlessly adding a smokey flavour and aroma to your food. Maintaining one of these grills is fairly simple, but they are the most difficult to get started and also take some skill to produce great cooking results. I think the effort spent learning is worth it though.
Gas BBQs reign supreme for instant heat and control over the cooking temperatures. With just the turn of a dial you can set things just how you want, and they also give you the option to turn off the heat instantly. There is more maintenance required with gas BBQs than some other types, but they are pretty easy to use, and you can get a good sear on the meat without too much practice.
The hardest type to get a smokey flavour with, but not impossible, electric BBQs are the weakest in that department. However, they are the easiest to operate, with some modern electric grills having preset modes for cooking different types of food such as fish, steaks, etc. Day to day maintenance is quite easy, with just wiping down the grill and emptying the grease tray to take care of. However, if anything goes wrong with the machine’s inner workings, you’ll probably have to go to see a professional.