There are those who swear by the charcoal grill. Charcoal, they claim, is the only true way to barbecue, as it provides the quintessential smoky barbecue flavor and texture. Of course, charcoal isn't the only way to grill these days. Electric, wood and gas grills are becoming increasingly prominent in backyards everywhere.

Differences exist between all of the different kinds of grills. These can range from effects on the food itself to the price of the grill. Some may even claim a "signature" they gain from one particular kind of grill. Ultimately, the debate usually boils down to the top dogs: gas vs. charcoal grills. Which one is better? What advantages does one have over the other? Let's find out, starting with what many consider the most important aspect of the grill: flavor.

Flavor   Many claim they can't tell a difference between charcoal and gas grilled barbecue meats. While it is mostly a matter of personal preference as far as taste and flavor are concerned, it is difficult to say that gas grills produce a different flavor than charcoal grills. The most important factor to a charcoal grill is the amount of smoke the grill produces as opposed to a gas grill. The charcoal faithful often will judge their meat by this criterion. The signature "smoky" effect that comes from a charcoal grill, however, does not do much to change the flavor of quickly cooked meats like hamburgers and hot dogs. The extra production of smoke will likely only change the flavor of long-cooked meats such as steak and ribs.

Utility and Space   One of the significant advantages gas grills commonly enjoy over charcoal grills is their available accessories and features. Gas grills often have additional side burners, rotisserie burners, tool racks and other helpful add-ons to assist your barbecuing process. Charcoal grills sometimes offer these features, but it is not as common. However, charcoal grills are typically smaller than gas grills. Many gas grills can be over 60 inches wide, and can occupy a lot of space. Some charcoal grills can be hefty as well, but you're much more likely to find an extremely portable charcoal grill. If you are looking for a grill you can bring along in the truck, charcoal grills are your best bet.

Convenience and Price   Anyone who has ever cooked with a charcoal grill knows it can be quite the hassle, and can get messy easily if you're not careful. Charcoal briquettes are dirty, but not difficult to manage. While a propane tank is heavy, you rarely have to deal with residue of any sort when cooking on a gas grill. Gas grills also have the price advantage as far as the fuel source is concerned. One propane tank will last a while, but you can burn through a bag of charcoal quickly. You may pay less initially for a charcoal grill, but the overall cost advantage goes to the gas grill.

In the end, both grills have their advantages. Gas grills will cost you less over time and typically have more utility and features than charcoal grills. However   and this is important   you will never be able to convince a charcoal grill enthusiast that a gas grill will produce the same flavor, and they're right. Charcoal's smoky flavor on long-roast barbecue meats can't be replicated by any other kind of grill. If you're willing to sacrifice a little convenience for that signature flavor, charcoal grills may be for you, but a gas grill should suit the needs of most backyard chefs.

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