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Q-talk *ON TOPIC ONLY* QUALITY ON TOPIC discussion of Backyard BBQ, grilling, equipment and outdoor cookin' . ** Other cooking techniques are welcomed for when your cookin' in the kitchen. Post your hints, tips, tricks & techniques, success, failures, but stay on topic and watch for that hijacking.

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Old 01-08-2013, 11:31 AM   #1
Take a breath!

Join Date: 06-08-12
Location: Sacramento CA
Default Gas vs. Charcoal for high heat grilling

SERIOUSLY... can you guys REALLY tell the difference in the finished product?? I have decided to finally be honest with myself... I LOVE the convenience of gas for high heat grilling, and CANNOT tell the difference with end result. I use Grill Grates on my Weber Genesis, and they KICK BUTT!! For food that takes < 20 minutes, I just don't see how a bed of hot coals is gonna enhance the flavor one bit... just curious to see what you guys HONESTLY think. Let the (flaming) begin
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Old 01-08-2013, 11:32 AM   #2
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Yes I can. Taste is different.

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Old 01-08-2013, 11:37 AM   #3
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Join Date: 01-06-13
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Definitely can tell a difference in taste. Additionally, it doesn't take any longer to get high heat with the ceramic cookers than it does with gas.
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Old 01-08-2013, 11:37 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Sauced! View Post
Yes I can. Taste is different.

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Curious to know how you would describe "different"...

I can get my grill grates up to 700 degrees with no problems (even hotter if I want)...

On a steak for example, I get the same "crust" I would get on my Kettle... and I just don't see how sitting over coals for 15 minutes is gonna change the flavor.
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Old 01-08-2013, 11:38 AM   #5
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In my opinion,nothing beats that kiss of smoke,even just a quick hit.Personally,I don't own a gas grill.My coals get hot enough to sear a rare steak,plus I get a charred flavor you can't match with a gas rig.But,like I said,it's just my opinion.
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Old 01-08-2013, 11:39 AM   #6
somebody shut me the fark up.

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Location: Oklahoma

I prefer the flavor of charcoal too.
When I'm in a hurry I use the gaser.

edited to add..
favorite flavor but takes the longest... wood fire
second favorite...charcoal
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Old 01-08-2013, 11:47 AM   #7
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No comparison. Charcoal all the way. Unless invited to someone elses house and that's how they cook, I will not eat anything gassed any more.
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Old 01-08-2013, 12:00 PM   #8
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I generally do a reverse sear method on HH grilled meat.

I keep the hot coals on one side of my OTG and put in a couple of small wood peices on the coals. I put the meat on the grate on the cool side of the kettle. After a couple of minutes, I move the steaks, or whatever, over the hot coal bed.

For smaller items, like burgers and hot dogs, I often put then right on over the hot coal bed.

The gentle smoke flavor is great and my wife and I feel it makes the food taste better.


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Old 01-08-2013, 12:04 PM   #9
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I can tell a difference in the taste, but not a really dramatic one. My favorite is cooked over wood, but I'll eat the heck out of a steak grilled on gas, too. A lot of the flavor comes from the smoke from the fat dripping down on the heat source, anyway. I use the gasser a good bit on weeknights.

PS- I would much, much rather have a gas-grilled steak as one cooked over charcoal lit with lighter fluid.
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Old 01-08-2013, 12:10 PM   #10
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Join Date: 01-16-12
Location: Winfield, IL

I have gassers, charcoal grills and smokers (mostly but not exclusively Weber equipment.)

I have not done a side by side taste test to determine the benefits of charcoal vs. propane (or natural gas.) I would need to do that to assert that food tastes better cooked over charcoal. I do have the feeling that food benefits from charcoal but have no proof.

Likewise I'm convinced that a charcoal smoker like the WSM is far superior to a propane or electric smoker, but again I have no proof. I have heard claims that a stick burner or traditional pit is better as well. :shrug:

There is pleasure to be gained from cooking over wood or charcoal fire that adds to the total experience if not the flavor. I would not discount that aspect as it is an important part of the total. Would you go to a Greek restaurant that served Saganaki that was lit in the kitchen and brought out to the table after the flames subsided? It would taste the same, right.

The various fuel types have their uses and appeal and the wise cook will learn their characteristics so they may take advantage of them.

When I'm preparing dinner on the grill, I frequently grill my vegetables and that may take all of the space on the grill, requiring that I finish at least some of them before the meat goes on. What I've been doing lately is to put the gasser on low and warm the meat before putting it on the fire. (Think reverse sear.) Then the vegetables go on a cast iron pan on the gasser while the meat cooks. I did this recently with lamb chops and it worked great. It takes more skill than I possess to do all of this on one charcoal kettle.

If I'm just going to grill a couple vegetables, I fire up the gasser to do that rather than take the time to light charcoal.

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Old 01-08-2013, 12:18 PM   #11
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OK... so it appears that the majority believe there is a difference, even if it is just a subtle difference...

That leads me to ask a few more questions then...

1) Why do high-end restaurants, that can afford the best of "setups", grill over gas?

2) I have done my fair share of charcoal grilling over the years... and I get just as many "this food is great" comments whether I cook on gas or charcoal... in fact my last steak cook was done over gas, and was probably some of the best tasting steak I have ever done.

3) When grilling w/ high heat... it seems everyone claims they can taste a touch of smoke... I don't think that smokey taste if coming from fuel source, but rather fat dripping?? Not sure, but I think. If I am correct, I get the SAME smoky taste using Grill Grates on my Genesis.
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Old 01-08-2013, 12:20 PM   #12
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I've done a side to side with a Ribeye cooked on my Gas Grill (a BBQ-Galore Turbo model) vs one cooked on the BGE.

Basically, the steaks were seared for about 2 minutes on each side, then heat was turned down, and they were cooked to medium. Maybe a total of ~10 minutes cook time, IIRC.

The charcoal made a slight difference in the taste, which I wasn't expecting for a relatively short cook. I really thought that there wouldn't be any difference.

I prefer the charcoal taste. But, the one cooked on my gas grill was damn good too.

So yes, there is a difference in my hands, but it was slight. And both steaks were good.
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Old 01-08-2013, 12:30 PM   #13
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I had a Weber Gasser once, it was a Birthday present from a lady friend, I traded it for a model 1100 Remington and a Bull calf without ever firing it up. Having eaten a few steaks and other fare cooked on a Gasser I can tell the difference gas imparts no flavor. First choice for High Heat is a Mesquite fire, then Lump followed by Briquettes. You aint lives until your had fresh mountain oysters cooked over a Mesquite branding fire.
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Old 01-08-2013, 12:42 PM   #14
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I can definitely taste the difference and prefer charcoal. That being said, we sometimes use our gasser for a real quick cooks like chicken breasts for lunch. Nothing beats charcoal or open flame though, especially when you're reverse searing and adding an excellent smoke flavor.


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Old 01-08-2013, 12:55 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by rwalters View Post
OK... so it appears that the majority believe there is a difference, even if it is just a subtle difference...

That leads me to ask a few more questions then...

1) Why do high-end restaurants, that can afford the best of "setups", grill over gas?
Convenience and practicality over "best setup" A lot of restaurants use gas grills because they just have to light the gas and it is good for the night. If they want to keep a high temperature wood/charcoal grill, they will have to get the grill going much earlier and continuously feed it throughout the day to make it to closing.

Then at closing with a gas grill you just shut her down where a wood/charcoal grill it will take a longer time to ensure that the grill is no safe to leave unattended over night unless they pull all the coals out and extinguish them another way.

Add in clean up, where they can hit the grill with a nice wire brush/grill brick and then pull the drip tray vs having to do the above and also clean up coals (hot or extinguished) and ash.

There is a restaurant in Va Beach, VA called Fire and Vine. The concept is all woodburning appliance w/ a great selection of wine. Woodburning pizza oven, wood burning stove/oven, wood burning grill. The smell when you walk into that restaurant is amazing. However the amount of work they have to do to get the fires started as well as the clean up is much more labor intensive vs a normal kitchen with gas appliances.
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