This debate could go on forever. I watched a show where the same food was cooked on a good gas grill and on a charcoal grill. Some people actually prefered the flavor imparted by the gas grill. Others said charcoal all the way. There were some that liked both equally. Suprizingly, when blind taste tests were done, several of those who swore by charcoal actually picked the gas cooked food. The same was true of the "I prefer a Gas Grill" camp. Both were very suprized.
I think that many people, and I'm not acusing anyone here, make decisions based on what somebody told them, rather than from personal experience. I know that I thought my Mom, and my Dad both made the best spaghetti sauce on the planet, until I moved away and was able to experience something completely different.
As with all cooking that I do, I did some experimenting. The results of those experiments suprized me. I found that if I dry-pan-fried a steak, and then hit it with a propane torch flame (temerature is much hotter than with either gas or charcoal), I could not duplicate that grilled flavor I so love. So the idea that "the high temperature of charcoal" flavors the meat is just wrong. What I did find was that smoke deposition on the meat created the grilled flavor. The main smoke flavor of grilled foods is fat dripping onto something very hot, and burning. Of course, if wood is added, that changes the flavor dramatically as there are other flavors in wood smoke that deposit on the meat surface.
I also found that I could use a table-top gas grill and achieve the exact same flavor as I got with my Webber Kettle, by regulating the flame and allowing the fat to drip freely on the smoking element (folded steel over the flame).
As for convenience, I still prefer my charcoal grill as it allows me greater variety. And it's super easy to clean the cooking grate. I have the Weber charcoal holders and use briquettes or natural wood, as lump charcoal is difficult to find around here. And yes, I do use lighter fluid. In fact, I use a lot of lighter fluid. It burns off completely in about ten minutes, and my grill is blazing hot. If I want a cooler temperature, I simple adjust the vents to partially starve the fire, and move the holders away from each other. Not only is this fast, but the hot fire turns any substances on the grate to ash, which I simply brush off before placing the food on it. It's like a self-cleaning oven every time I light the thing.
I like both, but prefer charcoal, mainly because I know how to cook with it. But I own a home, with a yard, and a garage. I have lots of woods around and so don't have to worry about space so much. I completely understand the preferences for gas grills, especially if one lives in an apartment, or condo, where yardspace is either severly limited, or non-existant.
And yes, with charcoal, when I'm done cooking, I simply place the tight fitting cover on the Webber Kettle and close the vents. It takes about twenty minutes to completely cook, less in the rain or winter. The fire starves so quickly that there is for all practical purposes, the same amount of charcoal left as when I shut the vents. I usually get at least three meals from one load of charcoal briquettes, usually four.
I say that there is room enough for both types of grills, and both work equally well, if you learn to use them properly.
Ease of use, speed, versatility, niether gas nor charcoal is really better, just different. Learn to use whichever you prefer, and enjoy great food.
Seeeeeeya; Goodweed of the North
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