Charcoal grills, though not the most popular in the United States, are the most lauded by grilling aficionados. Cooking with Natural Gas or Propane provides no additional flavors, but charcoal cooking infuses food with a wide array of delicious flavors from the charcoal and woods used. With a wide range of sizes and styles, anyone can find a charcoal grill suitable to their needs. They are low maintenance, usually requiring little more than a pan, some charcoal, and a metal grate for cooking. It's no wonder charcoal grilling dates back hundreds of years.
With so many different charcoal grill styles, it's easy to find the perfect grill for your needs. There are round, square, and rectangular grills. Most grills come with lids. Many are equipped with heat control vents to provide greater cooking control and air flow. The majority of charcoal grills will fall into the following categories: Brazier Grill, Pellet Grill, Square Charcoal Grill, Hibachi (Shichirin) Grill, Kettle Grill, Cart, Barrel, Ceramic Cooker, Tandoor Oven, and Portable Charcoal.
Either charcoal briquettes, or all-natural lump charcoal are used as the fuel source in charcoal grills. And you can put actual wood over the coals for additional flavoring! As the charcoal burns it transforms into embers. The embers radiate the heat necessary to cook the food. Avid grillers will contend as to what charcoal works best. Charcoal briquette users like the uniformity in charcoal size, burn rate, heat creation, and the overall quality of charcoal briquettes. If the cooking environment is consistent, the chef can better gauge the preparation of their foods. While all-natural lump coal may not always offer these benefits, enthusiasts of lump coal highlight the subtle smoky aromas the lump coal gives off, which can infuse into the food, as well as high heat production, and the lack of binders and fillers, the material used to hold the charcoal dust together that is found in briquettes. Placing wood chips over the coal can provide additional flavoring to your food.
Many people prefer charcoal grills to gas grills simply because parts for charcoal grills are easier to replace. Whereas gas grills have valves and gas lines (venturi tubes), which can sometimes become clogged with food residue or insect nests, charcoal grills have none of that. Replacing parts of a charcoal grill really only goes as far as replacing the cooking grid, or the charcoal grate.
While charcoal grills may be convenient and easy to use, there are certain drawbacks to cooking with charcoal. It's much dirtier than gas, even before you start to cook. Those charcoal bags are coated with fine black charcoal powder. And the ashes left over can be a pain to dispose of. For instance, many parks and urban areas restrict fire ashes from being thrown into the trash. Charcoal can also be much more expensive costing upwards of $5.00USD per cookout just for the fuel. Another drawback is that some claim charcoal takes longer, but that's really only in the preparation. While a gas grill heats up much more quickly, charcoal burns hotter and can cook the food much quicker. The time difference comes at the outset. Charcoal usually takes about 15-20 minutes to warm up. There are also environmental impacts to grilling. Cooking for an hour with charcoal releases almost twice as many emissions into the air as gas grilling (11 pounds of carbon dioxide compared to 5.6 lbs). The pure lump charcoal, which does not contain fillers or binders, releases fewer emissions than most standard charcoals. Also, cancer-causing carcinogens have been found in foods cooked over charcoal, especially when the foods have been overcooked.
Charcoal grills are the preferred choice for grilling aficionados. With so many different ways to cook or smoke your food, many prefer the wide range of options charcoal grills offer compared to gas grills. Sure, it might take a little bit longer to get the temperature just right, but in the end, with more robust flavors bursting from your food, it'll be well worth the wait.