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Grill Debate: Gas vs. Charcoal

Which kind of grill is suited to your needs? Here, the pros and cons of each method.

By Steven Raichlen
Charcoal grillMichele Gastl

Charcoal Grill


  • Less expensive than a gas grill, from $50 to $450.
  • Deep, smoky flavor.
  • Creates a hotter flame, which can be great for searing meat like steak.
  • Offers the thrill of playing with fire.


  • Coals must be lit with a chimney starter or lighter fluid.
  • Heat can be challenging to control.
  • Coals must be replenished every hour or so.
  • Ashes and grease must be cleaned up.

Gas Grill


  • Heat is even and consistent.
  • A propane tank can provide fuel for 16 to 20 hours.
  • Gas is easily turned on with a knob.
  • No ashes and minimal grease to clean up.


  • Larger investment, from $139 to $5,000 and up.
  • Some models are slow to preheat, so food can take longer to cook.
  • Wood chips must be added separately, in a smoker box or a homemade packet.
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Quick Tip

Aluminum foil and plastic wrap in a drawer

The flan can be baked up to 3 days in advance; refrigerate, loosely covered with plastic wrap. Unmold just before serving.