Grillmaster's Guide to Charcoal vs Propane

If your vacation home has an amazing outdoor space, why not add a great amenity for travelers who love to cook outdoors? A great grill is a huge perk for a vacation home, but how do you pick the right one?

Whether you are a seasoned grilling enthusiast or an amateur looking to beef up your grilling skills, there are a variety of grills available for all needs and budgets. The hard part is deciding which one will work best for your vacation rental. One of the most important decisions to make when choosing a grill is deciding on its fuel source. Charcoal, gas or combinations of both are the most popular choices for backyard barbecuing. 

Charcoal vs. Gas

If you go with the convenience of propane, or natural gas grilling, one of the main benefits is that the cooking area begins heating almost immediately upon ignition. Gas grills will provide your desired temperature for the entire cook and also allow you to change temperature as needed with the turn of a knob for finishing foods or keeping them warm. Burning clean, gas grills are both convenient and efficient, but charcoal grill lovers will argue that they lack in the flavor department. 

Charcoal grills on the on the other hand have a passionate following. Grilling with charcoal often provides additional flavor, which is very appealing to both backyard gourmets and hot dog-eating kids alike. Along with additional flavor, charcoal does provide a very stable and consistent cooking temperature, which is quite desirable. Unfortunately, charcoal grilling does have its drawbacks. Charcoal is messy, for one. It can be quite difficult to light and requires some maintenance if you want to cook on it for long periods of time.

 

My top picks for Gas Grills:

Weber Genesis E-330

If you’re looking for a sturdy grill that is versatile and can handle large amounts of food, look no further than the Weber Genesis E-330 gas grill. The Genesis E-330 is one of the most popular gas grills nowadays.

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Its three-burner grill is built well and famous for its reliability as a workhorse in the gas grill category. Featuring a searing station, this extra burner helps heat up the grill more quickly and provides enough power to reach high temperatures for searing steaks, chicken and other meats.

The Weber Genesis gas grill brings a legacy of grilling excellence with it, but its high price can be searing to the wallet. If you’re a grilling enthusiast and see a Weber Genesis available for use at your vacation rental property, it is certainly grounds for excitement.


Cuisinart CGG-200 All-Foods Tabletop Propane Gas Grill

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At times, a portable grill becomes a better option for the versatility of your grilling needs. One of the best portable gas grills on the market these days is the Cuisinart CGG-200 All-Foods Propane Gas Grill. Compact and relatively small, this portable gas grill is ideal foroutdoor use and fits on most tabletops.

The burner delivers up to 12,000 BTU and heats up the grill within minutes.  The grill features a twist-start ignition system for convenience. The Cuisinart grill is great for grilling a fresh catch with a view of the ocean or for tailgating before a concert or sporting event.


My top picks for Charcoal Grills:

Char-Griller Kamado Kooker Charcoal Barbecue Grill and Smoker

The unusual egg-shaped Char-Griller Kamado Kooker may not look like your regular charcoal barbecue grill and smoker, but it’s received rave reviews from lots of users. 

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Kamado style cooking is a traditional cooking method using clay ovens to help retain heat. The charcoal-fueled Kamado Kooker is designed and constructed to be lighter, more durable, easier to use and more affordable than traditionalceramic Kamados. The cooker’s insulation provides maximum heat while using minimum amounts of charcoal. Because airflow is minimized, foods cooked in the Kamado Kooker are juicier and tastier than those cooked on ordinary grills.

The learning curve on a Kamado Kooker, however, is steeper than with other grills.  You use hardwood lump charcoal verses the popular charcoal briquettes.  Lighter fluid is a big no-no for Kamado Kookers, so the hardwood lump charcoal needs to be lit with a fire starter or via a different method.  Heat control can be quite steady for long periods of time, but the opening and shutting of the top and bottom air vents takes a little getting used to. On the positive side, though, even the most basic meal cooked on a ceramic Kamado Kooker brings a taste and flavor you will be hard pressed to duplicate with any other cooling method. 

 

Weber One-Touch Gold Kettle Grill

Weber charcoal grills are recognized as being some of the best grills around in terms of performance and durability. The Weber Kettle Charcoal Grill has been around for over 50 years. While it retains the kettle grill’s basic design and functionality, the “One-Touch” line features a number of improvements, most notably a one-touch cleaning system that makes cleaning charcoal ashes easy and quick.

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Built solid with quality construction, the Weber One-Touch Gold charcoal grill will last for many years.  Its superior features make it one of the top choices in grills these days. Charcoal briquettes and lighter fluid for this grill can be found at virtually any grocery or hardware store.  Cooking over hardwood lump charcoal can provide an additional treat for your taste buds, adding additional flavor and a smoky taste.


My top pick for Combination Grill:

Char-Broil Combination Charcoal Grill and Gas Grill

If you can’t decide whether you should get a gas grill or a charcoal one, the Char-Broil Combination Charcoal Grill and GasGrill could be a great solution. This hybrid gas and charcoal grill is a two-in-one unit with a 3-burner gas grill on one side and a charcoal grill on the other so you can use either at the same time.

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With a combination grill, you have the option to grill your food over charcoal for a unique smoky flavor, or use the gas grill for speed and convenience. Either way, your food will cook quickly and evenly.

Regardless of if you prefer the convenience of cooking with gas, or the unmistakable flavor of cooking over charcoal, grilling is usually done with friends and family. Just because you are on vacation, it does not mean that you need to go without the smells, tastes, flavors and camaraderie of getting together and cooking on the grill…and the fun memories that go with it.


Paul Sidoriak is a long time foodie who will try to cook just about anything outside, and on the grill.  His website GrillingMontana.com showcases some of his culinary successes and failures, often from the grill.  If he is not cooking on the Big Green Egg, you can probably find him fly-fishing near his home in Western Montana.  He would be honored if you follow him on Facebook and Twitter.