Last Updated on July 13, 2022
As the weather heats up, most people can’t wait to get their backyard grill ready to go. If this is the year to replace that portable camping grill or upgrade the backyard BBQ for your summer holiday pool party, you may be feeling overwhelmed by your choices.
As any grill master can tell you: Steaks, burgers, marinated chicken, and veggie kabobs are only as good as the grill they’re cooked on. This also includes the fuel used to prepare these items. Experienced outdoor chefs may have a set preference for fuel, but if you’re new to grilling or looking to expand your BBQing horizons, it’s worth looking into the advantages of each grill type.
Gas Grill VS Electric Grill Overview
Using either a natural gas hookup or a propane fuel tank, gas grills are considered by many grillmasters to be the old veterans of the backyard BBQ. Outdoor chefs confidently consider gas grills to be dependable and portable. These grills give users the ability to pack propane tanks on camping getaways or trips to the stadium for tailgating.
However, using propane can be tricky. There is the possibility that the tank may leak, creating a serious vehicle hazard. Dedicated gas grillers may opt for a more permanent solution by choosing to run a gas line instead, but doing this makes the grill immobile and limits your choices for mobile grilling spots.
The newest addition to grilling options is the electric grill. These convenient backyard appliances have quickly become popular for a variety of reasons, including their portability. Additionally, the fact that they use electricity instead of charcoal makes them a healthier option because there is less potential for any carcinogens in the air to interact with your food.
The experience of grilling on electric grills is a bit different from the traditional poolside grilling you know and love. These grills need to be plugged into an outlet to function, which can limit mobility, but not as much as gas grills with gas lines.
Electric grills are unique because they can be small enough to fit on a kitchen countertop or large enough to become permanent fixtures in an outdoor kitchen. Generally, they’re more affordable than their gas-fueled counterparts, they’re more convenient to use, and can still give you some amazingly tasty food.
Mostly, balcony grillers love the electric grill because they produce less smoke than other grill types. The lack of open flame makes them a terrific choice for those living in apartments or condos because they’re safer to use.
Gas Grill Overview
Photo by Napoleon Grills (@napoleonproducts)
Gas grills are exceptionally simple to use and easy to clean. The gas fuel is usually convenient and easy to find, you can find a true BBQ flavor from these grills while benefiting from all the neat features that gas grills have to offer.
The convenience of gas grilling is pretty straightforward. Really, all you have to do on most models is hit the ignitor and adjust your burners. Within minutes, you’ll have your burners to the proper temperature and you can toss dinner onto the grates to start cooking.
Gas grills are more than capable of handling your Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day staples like hot dogs and hamburgers. However, if you have more elaborate ideas, rest assured that gas grills can easily handle more complicated orders like steaks, bacon, kabobs, fish, and even pizza or mashed potatoes with a little bit of knowledge and accessories.
Things to Consider
When buying a gas grill, look for the following:
- Grate Quality: Good grates are essential for your grilling experience. The best ones are made of cast-iron to retain heat and are coated with porcelain or other enamel. This gives you all the benefits that cast-iron has to offer without the hassle of normal cast-iron upkeep. The surface stays hot and the temperature is well-controlled without you having to meticulously clean and dry everything after cooking.
- Electric Ignition: An electronic ignitor is key for a gas grill. Not only are they easier and more reliable than a push-button piezo-style ignitor, but they’re also much safer.
- Long Burner Warranties: Since your grill burners are the one thing on your grill that you replace the most frequently, you’ll want to find a grill manufacturer that puts warranties on their burners. Some manufacturers warranty their burners for up to 10 years, which is an excellent value.
Burners: Things to Know
Gas grills have at least two burners, and the nicer or larger grills can have 6-8. These burners come in a variety of shapes and sizes for different uses to accommodate a variety of foods. They can be made of cast-iron, ceramic, brass, but most commonly they’re made of stainless steel.
Just like a gas stove, each burner has outlets for propane or natural gas to stream through. The gas is ignited as it streams through the burner and can easily be adjusted using the burner controls on the front of the grill. This gives the user complete control over cooking temperature. Having more control over the grill temperature allows steaks to be seared to the perfect blue rare at higher temperatures or cook ribs low and slow at a lower setting.
Check the warranty of the burners on the grill before you buy the grill. These may need to be replaced every two years with heavy use.
Some gas grill models include infrared burners. These infrared burners are ideal for distributing heat evenly across your cooking surface. They easily intensify the heat used to sear steaks, seafood, or chops, sealing the juices into your meats.
One of the biggest benefits of a gas grill is being completely in charge of how hot it gets. This kind of control gives users a way to manipulate cooking time that infuses flavor into ribs, chicken, and steak.
Often, prepackaged foods like kabobs or stuffed chicken come with cooking instructions. If these directions call for searing the meat for 2 minutes on each side then lowering the temperature to medium heat, how do you know what temperatures to use? Good gas grills let you manage the flame just like on a stove with temperature labels clearly marked from low temperatures all the way up to searing.
What is Indirect Heat?
Cooking larger cuts of meat on indirect heat refers to cooking your food while it is not positioned directly over a burner or flame. Indirect grilling is a lot like baking in that it’s the hot air that does the cooking, not the actual heat source.
Grillmasters use this cooking method when recognizing that sensitive meats could dry out if cooked on direct heat. Indirect heat is a perfect way to cook the inside of your food without charring the outside over a direct flame. Most chefs prefer this method when cooking food that has been marinated because it gives the meat an opportunity to seal itself and the marinade inside.
Sizes to Consider
Gas grill sizes vary. When choosing the size of your grill, the best idea is to ask yourself what you will be using it for primarily. Do you have a larger family that requires at least a dozen burgers to be cooked regularly or will you be grilling up one or two steaks for you and a loved one? Let this thought dictate the size of the grill you choose.
Electric Grill Overview
Photo by Coyote Outdoor Living (@coyoteoutdoor)
The original George Foreman electric grill hit the market in the early 2000s and transformed the way Americans approached grilling forever. Since its original inception, the electric grill has become a staple in a modern-day kitchen, allowing anyone with a kitchen countertop to grill all year round, not just in the nice weather of summertime.
Which grill you choose has a lot to do with your grilling needs and the space you have to work with. Electric grills are a terrific option for people who love to grill but have limited space in which to do it. Perfect for apartment or condo occupants with limited outdoor space, an electric grill is ideal because it’s perfectly safe to use indoors and without all the annoyance of setting up charcoal grills.
Most electric grills are ready for cooking in just a few minutes.
The authentic flavoring from other grill types is replaced by the speed in which your food is ready to eat with an electric grill. They heat up quickly and cook food just as fast as a stove.
Cutting the Fat: The Healthy Options of Electric Grills
Companies claim that the clamshell-style of most electric grills contributes to “melting” the fat from cuts of beef, catching it into a container or drip tray positioned at the bottom of the grill plate. The George Foreman Grill claims to cut fat by up to as much as 80%.
Electric grills get very hot very quickly but, generally, the fuel cost of an electric grill is pretty low. You don’t have to go out of your way to find charcoal to burn or pick up a propane tank from a local store. Just plug the grill into an outlet and you’re ready to go. It’s an easy way to lower your carbon footprint if you’re looking to grill with environmental sustainability in mind.
If you’re using these grills outdoors, it’s important to remember they aren’t built to survive extreme outdoor temperatures or weather. You’ll always want to ensure that your grill is protected from severe weather and is meant for outdoor use. Keep it away from pools and puddles so there are no concerns about safety.
Sizes to Consider
Electric grills are available in a variety of sizes that easily fit onto indoor kitchen countertops or larger models that can become the centerpiece of your outdoor kitchen. The smaller ones, or personal-size, grills cook 1-2 servings at a time with larger options available for big families. There are also models on the market that are capable of handling up to 15 servings at one time.
Cooking Surfaces and Clean Up
Most electric grill plates are made of nonstick materials like ceramic. They heat up quickly, cool down fast, and clean-up is a snap. Many plates are removable so all you have to do is take them off the grill once they’re cool to the touch and use soap and water to get rid of any stubborn messes left over from the cooking process.
Some electric grills come with different, interchangeable plates. Swap them out to create the grill marks that everyone is familiar with on burgers and steaks or use a flat plate to grill up eggs, bacon, and ham for breakfast.
The typical electric grill is available in one of two styles: The clamshell contact surface and the open grill. Clamshell-style grills open and close on a hinge situated behind the grill plates, much like a clamshell. This style utilizes the lid of the grill to aid in the cooking process.
The open electric grill uses a single heating element to simulate outdoor grilling on a surface that’s suitable for indoor or outdoor use. Often larger models of this type of grill can be found handling the load in busy restaurants or in outdoor kitchens. Similar larger models exist to smoke turkeys, chickens, and ribs using electricity.
Ease of Use
Most beginning grillmasters love outdoor electric grills because they’re so easy to use. There are smaller versions available that are considered portable and are great for tailgating or food trucks if you bring a generator or have other access to electricity.
Get to know your grill before it heats up by reading all the instructions, directions, and user manuals that the manufacturer includes with it. Often, these grills are considered “plug-and-play” because all you have to do is plug the grill in, switch it on, and it starts heating up.
Usually, electric grills have a temperature gauge or control dial to regulate the temperature. From there, all it takes is getting a good feel for the grill.
Typically, the grill should preheat for approximately 15 minutes prior to starting your cooking process. If you’re planning on grilling something at a lower temperature, or the food you’re cooking is more delicate, the preheating time is usually reduced. As an example: If your plan involves slow-cooking some pork shoulder, your electric grill probably only needs to be preheated for 10 minutes to avoid overheating the grill and damaging the meat. If you’re planning on searing a steak to perfection, you’ll want to wait longer for the grill to fully preheat.
The time it takes to preheat the grill may depend on the grill model as well. Some electric grills may include features that speed up the process of preheating the plates and older models may take longer than the newer ones. Always use a meat thermometer to determine your food’s level of “doneness.”
Gas Grills and Electric Grills Go Head to Head
For veteran grillmasters, the gas grill has long been considered as far superior and much more popular than the highly-respected electric grill. It’s because of this that most home grillers prefer using gas grills over electric models, but it’s important to remember that each grill type does have advantages over the others. Buyers should choose the grill they want to purchase based on their specific needs and preferences.
In terms of size, electric grills are relatively similar. Gas is the most popular but with gas, grillers face the risk of leaks, fires, or even explosions if not monitored properly. Additionally, gas grills often require a propane tank change unless it has a natural gas line hook-up. Electric grills are much simpler.
Both grill types are fairly easy to maintain, but clamshell electric grills face some challenges when you’re trying to clean them. Gas grills generally offer more features like shelving, side burners, or even rotisserie kits that regular users may enjoy more. These features are very beneficial to outdoor cooking but gas grills have the limitation of staying outdoors for safety purposes where electric grills can be brought inside and used on a kitchen countertop, a dining room table, or in a garage.
When it comes to the taste and flavor of food, gas grills always create a better flavor and texture of meat when compared to electric grills due to their ability to retain heat better and their stronger flames.
So Which One is Better?
Think about how much space you’ll have to work with, what foods you’ll be cooking regularly, and what fuel options you’re comfortable working with. Another factor that you might want to consider is any local laws and how they govern the use of something like propane or natural gas.
Living in smaller condos or apartments may hinder your ability to use a gas grill due to safety constraints. If this is an obstacle then electric grills are really the only option you have.
If you’re a BBQ lover who intends to treat friends and family to the charred flavors of the beloved weekend or holiday cookout, you may find that hard to achieve with an electric grill as these grills work very similar to stovetop grill pans with the fat and seasoning ending up in the drippings. For this type of cookout, you’ll want to look for a gas grill.
The Bottom Line
Because of the options available, you might feel overwhelmed when trying to decide which type of grill to purchase, but by staying focused on how you intend to use your grill and what spaces you’re planning on grilling in, you can make this purchase confidently.
At the end of the day, if you’re looking for healthier options, an electric grill is an excellent choice. However, if you’re looking for a more authentic grilling experience, a gas grill can easily meet all of your expectations.
Whichever you choose, there are great recipes online for both grills styles to cook up some of your favorite foods for your friends and family.