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Charcoal or gas?

Posted on Tuesday, July 8, 2014 at 11:29 am

Which way do you fuel your fire?  

Charcoal – The oldest cooking fuel source: basically, rekindle a piece of wood that has already been burned. Throw in some hardwood chips or sawdust to tweak the outcome.  

According to “Barbeque – The History of Barbeque,” the first designer of charcoal briquettes was Ellsworth B. A. Zwoyer of Pennsylvania. The U.S. Patent Office holds one of his drawings of charcoal briquettes that dates back to 1897. The idea later caught on after World War I, when the Zwoyer Fuel Company built charcoal briquette manufacturing plants in Buffalo, New York and Fall River, Mass.



Adds the smoke that is the quintessential grilling flavor

Hotter flame sears meat quickly, creating a caramelized exterior

Easier to create direct- and indirect-cooking areas

Vary wood, charcoal hardwood chips to mix-and-match flavor


Requires time to fire up grill

 More likely to have hot or cold spots

More difficult to regulate cooking temperature

Fire dies down during longer cooking times

Charcoal takes up more space and bag runs out quicker than gas

Fuel more expensive – at 30 briquettes per pound of food, a 20 lbs bag of charcoal would cook about 10 one-pound meals. A two pack of 20 lbs.-bags is $9.88 at Home Depot.

No push-button igniter


Gas – bottled flammable gas is ready at an instant, long lasting and clean. Quick and easy, it doesn’t burn down until it runs out.

According to LazyMan Manufacturing, the gas grill, as we recognize it, is a 1950s offshoot of an early commercial kitchen product, the BROILBURGER. The Chicago Combustion Company, started in 1932 by Louis McGlaughlin, adapted the restaurant design into a portable model in 1954. The iconic tank came from the propane take that plumbers used for their torches. In 1959, an AP model LazyMan grill sold for $131.25.  Comparatively, a T-bone, by most sources, would have cost a dollar a pound.



Quick, easy setup

Adjustable flame

No ashes to deal with

Fuel is easier to store

No lighter fluid

Clean-burning flame allows natural flavors to shine

Easier to master

A tank of propane will cook for about 15 hours and make about 30 meals


 Lacks smoky taste

More difficult to smoke with wood chips

Statistically more dangerous

Trips to fill or exchange propane bottles

Grill more expensive, tend not to last as long

 Flame configuration limited by burner style

Little warning if low on fuel


What you say

Readers respond to what fuels their fire

Kristi Michelle Appleton Jernigan: Charcoal is by far better! The food tastes better, and it’s fast and easy, and safer for cooking! We use the briquettes that already have lighter fluid on them. I just don’t like the hassle of keeping a full propane tank, and as far as their safety is concerned, I would have to goggle the incidents of accidents with both, and also the affect they both have on the environment? Seems to me the food just tastes better, and putting a match to an invisible gas as opposed to charcoal makes me nervous! Lol I’ve cooked with both, yet, I just like charcoal better!

Matthew Jackson Parsley: propane. Taste the meat, not the heat.

Michael Daniel: I have a char-griller. It has propane and charcoal. I added a smoker to it as well. Fuel depends on what’s to be cooked, and how fast. Slow and low cooking. Or hot and fast. I plan on adding a rotisserie later. I have had this grill for 5 years.

Amanda Prosser: Charcoal.

Steven Coyle: Charcoal. I use match light black and red bag the best I’ve found. Food actually taste like its been grilled.

Sherry Johnson: Charcoal!! So much flavor!! Use lighter fluid! ! Sometimes I use hickory sticks!!

Jennifer Goin: I like charcoal. It’s better.

Alicia Witham: Charcoal!

Cherl Boswell: Charcoal, the food has a totally different taste. My grills have always been charcoal.

Angela Leonhardt Waring: Charcoal isn’t bad as long as you don’t use chemicals to light it!

Bryan Walker: Rib-eye and charcoal of course it gives it such a better taste.

Melinda Diane Harmon: Charcoal

Pat Cude: We’re doing rib-eyes on charcoal. Have a happy Fourth.

Sally Singles: Charcoal

Sarah Renee McPeak: Charcoal!!!!! NY strip. Rib-eye. T-bone.

Brad Lynn: Charcoal. …. NY strip…

Catrinna Vancroft: Propane, only because it’s a ‘tiny’ bit better health wise and rib-eye, of course.

Courtney Baltz: Charcoal tastes best.

_ _ _ _ _

Top 10 July Grilling and Recipe Tips:

from  Coffee County Central High School culinary arts teacher Becki Louden

1.       Try to get the thickest cut steaks you can 1½ to 2 inches. The rib-eyes, porterhouses, T-bones, strip steaks, and cuts from the tenderloin are the most tender and flavorful cuts.

2.       Purchase prime (usually only available in restaurants) or choice with lots of fat marbling for flavor.

3.       Salt your steaks on both sides an hour or two before grilling and place them back in the refrigerator.

4.       To get a dark flavorful crust with an inside that is tender, juicy and bold with flavor it is best to have two temperatures on a grill. On the low side (charcoal leveled out) you will slow cook the meat until it is all the same color on the inside turning often for uniformity. You want to get the interior cooked to 110-115 F with the lid closed. Then it’s time to place the steaks on the hot side (charcoal piled up) of the grill to cook the exterior on high heat to get with the lid open. Blot dry the surface of the meat with a paper towel so it can cook faster.

5.       Allow beef to warm before placing on grill.

6.       Check the surface every minute or so and place the meat back down on a different grates. We want grill marks but in different spots. Wait about three minutes and then flip using tongs when the color is dark and even.

7.       After you turn it, hit the top side of the meat with pepper.

8.       Always keep the vent on the lid of the grill open for venting or your food will turn out sooty.

9.       When you are grilling kabobs be sure you do not bunch up your meat chunks or the middle will not get done. Leave about 1 inch between each piece. Vegetables will take less time and you can take them off when they are nicely caramelized.

10.     When grilling meat or shrimp it’s a good idea to use two skewers instead of one so they are easy to turn also be sure you soak your wooden skewers in water (or another liquid to impart some flavor to the skewers). The skewers can soak anywhere from 30 minutes to 24 hours.


**To find out how long to grill your food MyRecipes has a great website to find the right time and temperature for grilling at


** has some wonderful patriotic recipe ideas. Below is a website that is very helpful and the recipes are in the categories of 4th of July Main dishes, barbeque and grilling, salads and desserts. At