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Comparing Gas and Charcoal Grills

The choice of charcoal vs. gas grill hinges on a variety of factors.

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Gas grills are a popular choice because they take less time to heat up and give you more precise control over the flame and, thus, the cooking temperature. One consumer who posted a gas grill review on Amazon reports that his Char-Griller Grillin' Pro 3001 reached 500 degrees in two minutes on a windy, blustery day and reached 675 in a mere eight minutes. If you expect to cook a quick meal on a charcoal grill, think again. Gas grills also come with features such as side burners, warming racks, and utensil hooks to make preparing food easier. The cleanup is simpler too: All you need do is turn off the grill and clean the grate. With a charcoal grill, you must dispose of the ash and old charcoal (without getting it all over) and give the coals time to properly burn out.

On the other hand, gas grills usually take up more space than charcoal barbecues and many grillers claim the flavor is just not the same. Grills that use charcoal (or briquettes) as fuel impart an authentic grilled flavor that's undetectable with gas grills. Another advantage to charcoal vs. gas grills is they cost less up front, although experts say buying charcoal is pricier in the long run than filling a propane tank every couple of months.

Ease of Use.

Whichever way you cut it, charcoal grills are more complicated than the gas variety. With the latter, all you have to do is make sure there's fuel in the tank, turn on the burner, wait a few minutes, and you're good to go. Charcoal grills require you to pile up the lump charcoal or briquettes, get them to ignite (this can be tricky), wait a good 20 minutes, then scatter the fuel. Still, some demand more effort than others.

The word "easy" shows up again and again in reviews of the Char-Griller Wrangler 2123, our top pick among low-cost charcoal grills. Backyard cooks posting reviews on Walmart.com say it's easy to add coals, cook, and clean up using the removable ash pan. Many users also report that the grill is easy to assemble. The Weber One-Touch Gold 22.5 also draws favorable comments in reviews for easy cooking and cleanup compared with other charcoal models. Consumers rave about the One-Touch cleaning system, which allows ashes and charcoal to fall into a removable pan with a flick of a switch. One user posting on Amazon calls the Weber the epitome of simplicity and declares the ash catcher a marked improvement over older models. Users also like the second handle, which allows the lid to be clamped on for added safety and convenience, a feature missing in the smaller, cheaper Weber One-Touch Silver (an 18.5-inch model that starts at $59, Amazon).

While it's generally not difficult to use or clean gas grills vs. charcoal grills, some models can be tough to assemble. Several users posting reviews on Amazon have found the Char-Griller 3001 difficult to put together, with poor instructions, although others seem baffled by such complaints. Consumers note that the cooking grate is three separate pieces, which makes for easier cleaning. The Brinkmann Grill King is easy to cook with and clean, according to a review by the Good Housekeeping Research Institute. The Char-Broil Two-Burner Gas Grill garners a few complaints regarding assembly in reviews on Amazon. Consumers call the instructions confusing and unhelpful.

by Raechel Conover (Google+ Profile)

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