Gas vs charcoal grill: tips to help you choose

Weighing up the pros and cons of a gas vs charcoal grill can be tough – but not with our handy guide

gas vs charcoal grill: family garden
(Image credit: Maskot/Getty Images)

There's one key decision to make when investing in a new outdoor cooking appliance – gas vs charcoal grill? If you're not sure which is best for you, you've come to the right place. 

It can be super confusing knowing which kind of grill to choose, especially with so many on the market. And picking between gas and charcoal models doesn't just impact the fuel you use – it also makes a difference to everything else, from how easy your BBQ will be to clean, to the taste of your freshly-grilled food.

To help you choose the best BBQ for your plot, we've rounded up the pros and cons of each. And don't forget that whichever fuel you choose, you'll need to pick a BBQ that has a big enough grill to feed your family, has the storage and side tables you need, and is also a size that you can store away during the winter.

Choose between gas vs charcoal grills with our list of pros and cons

We've rounded up all the info you need to choose the type of grill for you and get your BBQ area just right this summer.

Charcoal BBQs

There are lots of different types of charcoal grills to choose from – 'you can pick from a small portable grill right through to large, double-walled, insulated barbecues,' says Dan Cooper, Head Grill Master at Weber

Food cooked over charcoal can be smoky, chargrilled, and super tasty. Charcoal BBQs also tend to be cheaper than gas and it's easy to find the fuel you need. 

But, you'll need to know the tips and tricks of how to cook on a charcoal BBQ to get the delicious results you're after – and it can be tricky for inexperienced grillers.

This is because they take a while to get up to temperature, and it can be difficult at first to adjust the heat to your liking. It can be done though: as Dan explains, you can control the temperature with the air vents that control the amount of air let into your barbecue. 'The more air entering, the hotter it becomes.'

Another downside is all that ash, which can be a hassle to clean up.

Weber charcoal bbq

(Image credit: Weber)

Positives of charcoal BBQs

  • Smoky, chargrilled flavor to anything you cook
  • Reaches a higher maximum temperature than gas
  • Generally cheaper than gas BBQs
  • No need to buy or handle gas canisters

Downsides of charcoal BBQs

  • Can be difficult to light
  • Takes much longer to reach cooking temperature than gas
  • Less control over temperature than gas
  • Much harder to clean – although our guide on how to clean a BBQ is full of useful tips

Gas BBQs

If you like to be in control, then a gas BBQ is for you. They're easy to light, reach the right temperature for cooking quickly, and you can adjust the heat whenever you need to. Although there are plenty of portable models, gas grills are also popular for sleek built-in BBQ designs, as part of a smart outdoor kitchen.

The best gas BBQs are also easier to clean than charcoal. What's more, 'cooking on gas does not mean you have to sacrifice on flavor compared to charcoal grilling, as long as you have the correct grates and cooking equipment,' says Dan at Weber.

'Opting for a gas barbecue with cast-iron cooking grates helps to create fantastic residual heat, so whether you're cooking some juicy steaks or vegetable dishes, your food will get that wonderful coloration from the high-heat surface.' Also, look for models with stainless steel flavorizer bars that sit underneath the cooking grate. 'These catch drippings and juices from the food you're cooking, to create that authentic smoky, barbecued flavor that is so well-loved.'

However, gas grills tend to be more expensive than the back-to-basics charcoal designs.

weber gas grill

The Genesis gas BBQs from Weber are perfect for easy outdoor cooking

(Image credit: Weber)

Benefits of gas BBQs

  • Easy to light thanks to automatic ignition
  • Reaches optimum cooking temperature quickly
  • Often comes with extra features like griddles and side burners
  • Temperature is easy to adjust
  • Easier to clean

Downsides of gas BBQs

  • Usually more expensive than charcoal BBQs
  • Generally bulkier than gas BBQs and need more room to store
  • You'll need to source gas canisters
  • You won't always get the same smoky flavor as with charcoal on all gas BBQ designs
Laura Crombie

Laura has been writing about homes and gardens for 17 years. She joined Real Homes magazine in 2015 as Deputy Editor and then become Editor before taking on her current position as Content Director for brands including Country Homes & Interiors, 25 Beautiful Homes, Period Living and Style at Home. She's currently redesigning the garden of her 1960s home in Worcestershire and will eventually reinstate the swimming pool that's currently filled with mud! Outside of homes, she's a TV presenter for QVC.

With contributions from