The Great Grill Debate: Gas Or Charcoal?

In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s Memorial Day. That means overblown, low-quality movies that will earn more in a weekend than some small countries will in a decade and — most importantly — it’s grilling season. Alas, despite decades of debate, countless technological advances and several attempts by Presidents Clinton, Carter and Bush to bring resolution to the matter, there still remains a great divide in this nation between those who swear by charcoal and those who are cooking with gas.

As someone raised a charcoal purist, I recall fondly the rewarding sensation of a successful start to the fire; of dutifully tending the embers to distribute heat evenly (or unevenly if you’ve got burgers on one side and slower-cooking ribs on the other); of the savage thrill of the occasional flare-up.

I also remember having to plan my entire day around the grill, knowing it would take time to get the coals ready for cooking and that it would take an eternity afterward until they were ready for cleaning up. And of course there were the mid-bbq trips to 7-11 to get more charcoal, and the general mess of handling and storing charcoal.

Now as a dweller in the urban ant farm, I’ve fallen deeply in love with my portable gas grill. It’s tiny propane containers are cheap, widely available and anything but messy. I can grill at whim because it only takes a short time to get the beast up to speed. And the only clean-up is brushing down the grill before the next feast.

In the end, it’s ultimately just about the experience of standing outside over a piping hot grill as various meats and veg get tastier by the second. Yes, I occasionally miss the five-foot-tall column of fire that can only happen when your brother does the old lighter fluid grenade trick, but I don’t miss having to explain to the fire department when the neighbors complain.

What about you? Where do you come down on this question?