Which BBQ is best gas or charcoal?

Weber Master Touch lifestyle

The debate over whether to choose charcoal or go for gas is the most heated topic in barbecuing, with the disagreement fuelled by stalwart supporters on each side. The main argument that people can’t seem to settle is flavour vs ease of use, but more about each of those later…

Here we will examine Cost, Cooking Styles, Flavour and Ease of Use for both Charcoal and Gas BBQs.

So draw your battlelines folks, as the barbecue team at Gates Garden Centre examine the pros and cons of Gas Barbecues and Charcoal Barbecues to suggest which might be the best fit for your outdoor cooking needs.


Probably the first thing to mention is the price disparity between gas and charcoal barbecues.

Charcoal barbecues can be cheaper to buy, since they are constructed more simply with:

  1. A bowl to hold charcoal
  2. A cooking grate to cook food on
  3. A lid to keep the keep flavour in

A good quality entry-level barbecue such as the Koopman Portable Kettle Barbecue, priced at just £49.99, is a great example of on-the-go grilling and comes finished in three colours to suit your style. This will be large enough to feed several people and is handy to take to the beach, camping, or even as a table-top barbecue in the garden.

A great quality durable larger barbecue such as the 47cm Weber Compact Kettle Charcoal Barbecue can be bought for well under £100. But don’t be fooled by its low price. A high-quality, weatherproof charcoal barbecue of this type will last for years, thanks to its porcelain-enamel finished body. It also comes with great features such as an ash catcher to aid clean-up plus top and bottom-vents to regulate airflow to the coals. This barbecue would be perfect for compact spaces, terraces and balconies.

An even more richly-featured charcoal barbecue like the Weber Master-Touch GBS C-5750 Charcoal Barbecue costs less than £300. This type of barbecue would suit those who:

  1. Are catering for medium-sized groups
  2. Have a little more space in their garden
  3. Want to explore the whole range of food that can be prepared on a barbecue
  4. Want to use the different barbecue cooking techniques available, from direct to indirect cooking, smoking, low-and-slow cooking, grilling and searing
Portable Kettle, Compact Kettle, Master-Touch
Weber Spirit II E-210 GBS
Gas Barbecue

A gas barbecue has more working parts in it which produce the flame, such as a gas hose, regulator, burners, individual gas controllers and an ignition system. A high-quality gas barbecue that will last for years costs from around £500., for example the Weber Spirit II E-210 GBS Gas Barbecue. This comes packed-full with features, which allows the user to explore the different foods and cooking methods available on a barbecue.

When it comes to running costs, gas and charcoal barbecues can cost a similar amount of money to use.

Cooking styles

A range of cooking methods can be achieved on both gas and charcoal barbecues. Both are capable of cooking directly and indirectly.

Direct heat is when food is cooked directly over a heat source so the food is cooked on a strong heat, for less than 15 minutes. For instance, flame-grilling burgers and sausages on either a gas or charcoal barbecue. Searing delicious and flavoursome grill marks onto steaks requires even higher temperatures and for a long time this was only possible on a charcoal barbecue, since charcoal burns at a higher heat than gas. However, many of the newer Weber Genesis barbecues now feature a sear zone, which is perfect for reaching the higher temperatures needed to sear delicious caramalised grill lines onto steaks using a gas barbecue.

Weber Summit Charcoal Grill direct
Weber Summit Charcoal Grill indirect

Indirect cooking uses the barbecue like a traditional oven and is used for food which will take longer than 30 minutes to cook on a lower heat. On a charcoal barbecue this can be achieved by

  1. Moving coals to the edge of the barbecue
  2. Placing the food in the centre

It is possible to indirectly cook food on a gas barbecue by

  1. Turning off one or more of the burners
  2. Placing the food above the unlit burner(s)
  3. Leaving the other burners alight and closing the lid of the barbecue

On both charcoal and gas, this method will circulate heat around the food to cook it slowly.


Flavour is a subject that charcoal enthusiasts champion, claiming that it is impossible to reproduce the authentic characteristically smoky taste of food slowly grilled over hot coals. They may be correct, but in fact scientific research has found that it is not just the smoke of the coals burning which produces the smoky flavour, but also the fats, oils, sugars and proteins dripping from the food and sizzling on the hot coals which produces the smoke which imparts flavour to the food.

Now you can add some delicious smoky flavour using a gas barbecue too:

  • Most Weber gas barbecues come supplied with Flavorizer Bars which catch the food drips and sizzle to produce smoke and this can impart a smoky taste to food. However, as charcoal burns at a hotter temperature than a gas flame can typically reach, the smoky flavour will not be as pronounced as can be achieved with a charcoal barbecue
  • Soaked wood chips, such as the Weber Hickory Wood chips for Barbecue Smoking can also be used on any barbecue to ramp up the delicious smoky flavour of food
  • On a gas barbecue, soaked wood chips can be added to a Weber Universal Smoker Box to release smoke during the cook and add a delicious, aromatic, smoky flavour
Flavorizer Bars, Hickory Chips, Smokebox

Ease of use

There are many reasons why gas barbecues are more straightforward to use than charcoal barbecues:

  1. A gas barbecue is generally quicker to start and warm-up than a charcoal barbecue since ignition is immediate. A Weber RapidFire Chimney Starter and Weber Lighter Cubes will significantly aid the lighting process on a charcoal barbecue. For more handy hints and advice on the easiest way to light a charcoal barbecue read our post on this topic here.
  2. It is easier to regulate the heat with gas than with charcoal since all you need to do is spin the knobs. On a charcoal barbecue you can open or close the vents or add/remove charcoal to alter temperature, but adding more charcoal may take around 15 minutes to produce more heat as you need to wait for it to heat up
  3. It is easy to quickly create different cooking zones across the grate with gas, so you can sear in one place, whilst finishing in another
  4. It is easier to attain an even heat across the grate with gas than with charcoal. Lumpwood in particular can radiate heat unevenly as the pieces are irregular sizes. A more even charcoal heat can be achieved across the bed by using briquettes
  5. A gas barbecue is normally less messy than a charcoal barbecue as charcoal users must get used to handling charcoal, managing flames and clearing messy ash after a cooking session
  6. Gas can burn for longer than charcoal. Using briquettes rather than lumpwood charcoal can extend the cooking time on a charcoal barbecue to around 2-3 hours from around 30-45 minutes with lumpwood charcoal. Nevertheless, gas will still outlast charcoal
  7. Gas barbecues typically have more grill space, often with a warming shelf included too
  8. Most Weber Gas barbecues also feature additional space underneath the cooking area for storing barbecue tools and accessories which can be handy.  This can either be an open cart design, such as with the Weber Spirit II E-310 GBS Gas Grill Barbecue or a cabinet design with either one or two doors such as on the Weber Genesis E-325S Gas Barbecue
  9. Gas barbecues normally have side tables for conveniently prepping and serving food and in some cases a side burner for heating sauces or sautéing veggies
  10. A point against gas barbecues, is that flare-ups can be a problem as fats and juices drip from the cooking food into the gas jets which over time can clog them up. Flare-ups are mitigated to some extent by the addition of Flavorizer Bars to Weber Barbecues
Weber Spirit II E-310 Gas Barbecue
Open cart design of the Weber
Spirit II E-310 Gas Barbecue
Weber Genesis E-325S Gas Barbecue
Cabinet design of the Weber Genesis
E-325S Gas Barbecue


So in summary, which should you choose, gas or charcoal?

The answer comes down to what sort of barbecuer you are. When it comes to cooking food outside, both gas and charcoal barbecues deliver, and can both be fun and easy to cook with. A gas barbecue won’t be as smoky as a charcoal barbecue in most cases unless you are adding flavour by other means. For thinner cuts of meat, the reduction in smokiness probably won’t be noticeable, it is the thicker cuts which absorb more flavour which will be noticeably less smoky.

When to choose Gas:

If you:

  • Have a busy, hectic lifestyle and don’t have much time to devote to barbecueing
  • Would like a convenient and easy-to-manage barbecue experience
  • Want to cook outdoors where the party is, rather than situated away from your guests with a smoky barbecue
  • Want to have more time to spend entertaining guests, rather than managing flames
  • Wish to experience most of the different cooking techniques available on a barbecue
  • Want to use additional accessories and grillware from both the Weber Gourmet Barbecue System (GBS) and Weber Crafted ranges to explore foods you didn’t think possible to achieve on a barbecue

Then a gas barbecue is more suited to you.

food cooking on the Weber Genesis E-325S Gas Barbecue
Food cooking on the Weber
Genesis E-325S Gas Barbecue

When to choose Charcoal:

If you:

  • Are more of a foodie and really value exploring the authentic smoky flavour-possibilities available on a barbecue
  • Want to experiment with low-and-slow cooking and smoking food
  • Have a little more time available to you
  • Don’t mind spending a little time getting messy and managing the flames
  • Aren’t daunted by the thought of cleaning up ash after your cook

Then a charcoal barbecue is recommended for you

If you choose a model from the Weber Master-Touch series of charcoal barbecues, You will still be able to use grillware and accessories from the Weber GBS range to extend the types of food you can cook.

Food cooking on the 57cm Weber Master-Touch GBS E-5750 Charcoal Barbecue
Food cooking on the 57cm Weber Master-Touch GBS E-5750 Charcoal Barbecue

Whatever type of barbecue you like, Gates Garden Centre has plenty of gas barbecues and charcoal barbecues to suit your needs. If you have any questions about the range of BBQ grills we stock, just give our barbecue team a call on 01664 454309 with any queries you have, or visit us in-store.

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