With the weather warming up just in time for the long weekend, you might be thinking about upgrading your barbecue. But before you choose your new grill, you’ll need to pick a side: gas or charcoal.
Charcoal might be known for delivering the deliciously, smoky flavours that people expect from a barbecue. But gas grills also have their upsides.
From quick ignition to easy cleaning, we’ve rounded up five reasons why going for gas over coal could be the one of the best decisions you make this summer.
Plus, keep scrolling to see the latest gas barbecues out of the Which? test lab.
With your gas canister attached, all it takes is the push of a button to ignite your grill and within ten minutes it will be at cooking temperature.
Lighting a charcoal barbecue however, is a manual process that takes time. As well as needing bags of charcoal and firelighters, you'll need the knowledge of how best to arrange your coals. You should then expect to wait at least 20 minutes for the coals to be covered in a layer of white ash before you can start cooking.
Plus, if you run out of fuel halfway through, it takes minutes to replace the gas canister whereas with charcoal, you’ll be starting from scratch.
Lots of gas barbecues come with an array of extra features, including side burners for heating pots and pans - perfect if you want to whip up a sauce to add to your barbecue feast. Or, if you're short on space, keep the side burner covered and use it as a shelf for resting utensils or condiments.
Other useful features you might find on gas barbecues include:
The burners will likely have variable temperature dials so you can adjust the gas flow to change the temperature of the grill. This is most useful for when you're cooking batches of different foods in one sitting. For example, steak needs short bursts of high heat, but chicken should be grilled for longer on a medium heat.
On some models, you can even get individual burners so you can cook at different temperatures depending on which side of the grill you’re using. It’s also more economical to cook for one or two people as you can just light the one burner rather than the whole cooking area.
Cleaning your BBQ after use is everyone’s least favourite part, but keeping your grill clean is not only vital to cooking delicious-tasting food but it will also make it last longer.
In January 2022 we surveyed 2,682 UK barbecue owners and found that rusting away to the point of being unusable was the most common barbecue fault. But basic cleaning and maintenance can help you avoid this.
Gas barbecues luckily require minimal cleaning compared to charcoal and there’s no ash to dispose of. They will also cool down more quickly after use so you can deal with it sooner.
No barbecue is good for the environment.
However, charcoal barbecues are much less efficient and also give off more smoke compared to gas models.
According to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), while UK air quality has improved significantly over the past few decades, the burning of solid fuels (such as coal and wood) in our homes is the largest contributor of harmful particulate-matter (PM) emissions. This is because when coal is burned, it releases harmful pollutants, such as small particles known as PM2.5. These tiny particles can be easily inhaled and can enter the bloodstream.
Gas barbecues are still one of the worst in terms of the amount of CO2 emissions they emit but you can limit the impact by turning it off straight after use, or even between cooking. With charcoal, it takes longer to reach cooking temperature and then cool down again, so it continues to give off emissions even after cooking. Plus, if you're only cooking a couple of sausages, you'll still have to use a whole bag of coal.
Much of the wood used for charcoal also comes from unsustainable sources as it’s cheaper for the consumer.
On top of this, when charcoal is manufactured into briquettes, wood by-products and other additives are added which prevents them being recyclable after you’re finished with them.
If you still choose to cook with coal, try to use charcoal that is made with 100% renewable sources or FSC approved woods.
Some gas barbecues come with vaporiser bars which are designed to direct grease and drippings away from the burner tubes to prevent flare-ups. An extra benefit is that they also infuse smoky goodness into your food.
However, even the best gas barbecue will struggle to compete with the smoky, chargrilled flavour that charcoal provides.
You can experiment with sauces and marinades to try to impart some more authentic flavour into your food so you don’t miss out.
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