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Grilling a Steak With Charcoal versus Gas? What Fires You Up?

Grilling a Steak: Charcoal versus Gas?

Charcoal Grill may infuses a smokier flavor to grilled food.

Charcoal Grills Use Either Briquettes or Hardwood Lump Charcoal. Produces a Smokier Flavor to Gas Grilled Food.

This question is similar to the Grilling versus Barbecue issue we recently wrote about. This one however, albeit an age old question like that of direct versus indirect cooking, may not have quite as clear of an answer. Excuse the pun, but it really is a matter of “taste” or personal preference when grilling a steak. There is, however, evidence that will help shed some light.

The Charcoal “Flavor” Debate

Although debatable, charcoal purists will claim that the use of the common briquette produces better tasting grilled foods most of the time. This is not to say that some things taste any worse, it is just that some claim that things don’t taste any different. Or at least some foods, that is. “Good Housekeeping” magazine recently did a blind taste test and uncovered that most folks could not tell the difference between hamburgers or skinless chicken breasts cooked over gas or charcoal.

Grilling a steak. Charcoal or Propane Gas Grill?

Does steak taste better when grilled over charcoal or on a gas grill?

However, it was found that people could tell the difference with a steak. The conclusion was that the longer you grill something the more the flavor of the fire gets into the food. The mechanism involved here is the smoke. Charcoal, even though it is just smoldering, produces smoke.

The Ease of Gas Grilling

Gas grills use a clean fuel that does not really produce smoke in and of itself. Although some

Does gas grilling produce a better final product? Fast....yes. What about that smoky flavor?

Does gas grilling produce a better final product? Fast….yes. What about that smoky flavor?

Manufacturers will claim that their patented vaporization barriers produce smoke from dripping grease, most folks don’t want the taste of burning grease in their food. The kind of smoke that improves the flavor of food is the kind you get from real smoke, from an intended source.

It’s All About the Smoke – Good Smoke

To get that highly desired smoke flavor, you can add smoker chips in a box to produce smoke. However, in order to pass that flavor to the food you need to saturate the wood chips, (there are numerous species available) in water first in order to produce the desired smoke. Some gas grill manufacturers have designed their grills with a built-in wood smoker box drawer.

A woodsmoking box used to infuse smoke flavor into grilled food.

A wood smoke box is used to infuse smoke into foods and can be used in both charcoal and gas grills.

Since charcoal produces some smoke and heat the two are mixed together. As the food absorbs the heat it also takes in the flavor of the smoke. So if you are a bit of purist and really like to draw out the full flavor of food, particularly things like a good steak cooked over an open flame, then you need to use charcoal.

However it is important to ensure that the smoke you are getting from the charcoal is “good” smoke. There is some weird and unnatural stuff out there so be careful. Commercial charcoals with special additives for easy lighting and cheap charcoals made from petroleum based sawdust and a binding agent do not exactly have the best flavor producing smoke.

There are many wood smoke chip choices out there.

There are many wood smoke chip choices out there. From the traditional mesquite or hickory to those infused with “extra” flavor.

You want to use a good quality charcoal or mix your charcoal with chunks of good hardwood. Or you can buy hardwood lump charcoal that is actually make from real pieces of wood and not just sawdust. It is also very important to maintain a clean grill!. Build-up of ashes, burned up grease and other stuff will make the smoke produced leave a strange and undesirable flavor on foods.

Hardwood Lump Charcoal is a great alternative to  petroleum based briquettes.

Hardwood Lump Charcoal is a great alternative to petroleum based briquettes. Natural, and easy to light.

So in this light, if you choose to use cheap self-lighting charcoal in a dirty, rusted grill then we’d suggest going with gas. If however you are serious about the flavor of grilled foods and are willing to put the effort into the art of charcoal cooking, then a good charcoal grill might just be what you need.


What are your thoughts? What Fires YOU Up? We welcome your comments, healthy debate, and the inevitable disagreement. Leave a reply or comment. It’s OK. Bring it on!

Luscious Grilled Pears With Havarti Recipe

Grilled Pears with Havarti, Almonds, Honey and Heaven

grilledpears4Grilled pears are a great complement to grilled pork, sausages and even some seafood such as sea bass, tuna steak and lobster tails. They’re even better when served with ice cream or frozen yogurt for dessert. The smokiness of the grill highlights pears’ natural sweetness. In addition to grilled pears as a dessert, this incredible fruit can be served somewhat like a side dish, dare we say, a vegetable, when grilled with melted, creamy Havarti cheese!

Grilled Pears: Ingredients

  • 6 fresh, ripe pears, Bartlett, D’Anjou or Bosc
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) coarsely chopped almonds
  • 1 tbsp (15 ml) canola oil
  • 7 oz (200 g) Canadian Havarti, sliced
  • OPTIONAL: honey or maple syrup

Grilled Pears: Preparation (Instructions)grilledpears2

1.  Preheat grill to medium.
2.  Cut pears in half and remove core.
3.  Brush them with canola oil so they do not stick.
4.  Cook on grill with cut sides face down for 3–4 minutes.
5.  Turn cut sides face up, fill cavity with brown sugar and half the almonds, then garnish with Havarti and the remaining almonds.
6.  Let melt, then serve hot with drizzled honey as a topping.

Note: If you enjoy spices, add a pinch of ground cinnamon or nutmeg along with the brown sugar.

Cheese alternatives: Canadian Swiss, Cheddar, Mozzarella, Gouda.
What are your thoughts? What Fires YOU Up? We welcome your comments, healthy debate, and the inevitable disagreement. Leave a reply or comment. It’s OK. Bring it on!

What Fires You Up? Grilling vs BBQ

Smoke that steak! Grilling vs BBQ?

Smoke that steak! Grilling vs BBQ

What Fires You Up? Grilling vs BBQ

We would be remiss if we did not address the age old debate regarding the differences between Grilling and Barbecue. We are not making a stand in support of one over the other, as members of the GrillJunkie™ team practice and enjoy both techniques.

Besides, taking sides would only infuriate the purists on both sides of the camp, leading to utter chaos and the first signs of the Apocalypse! In fact, rumor has it that this debate may have played some role in the destructive tension between the Hatfield and the McCoy clans….but until proven it will remain just that….a rumor.

At GrillJunkie™ we yield to our motto, “What Fires You Up!” and let the discussion ensue. So let’s fire up both the Grill and BBQ smoker simultaneously, put the ammunition down, grab a beer and dig into the debate.

Most people often use the terms barbecue, barbeque or BBQ when referring to foods that are grilled, but barbecuing and grilling are two very different processes. For purposes of clarity we will use the term Barbecue to refer to all three of the “B” words, while Grilling will be referred to as, well, Grilling.


Barbecuing is what many call the “low and slow” method referring to foods cooked with a long, slow process, using indirect and low-heat generated by smoldering hardwood, logs, wood chips, or a combination of all three that smoke-cook the food. The fuel and heat source are separated from the cooking chamber, but the cooking chamber contains enough heat to slowly but safely cook the food over a long period of time resulting in unmistakable and incomparable aroma, texture and taste.

BBQ smokers are ideal for the low and slow cooking method

BBQ smokers are designed for the low and slow cooking method

Along with low heat, the cooking chamber fills with smoke, providing the food with its characteristically deep, earthy and smoky flavor, which varies depending on the species or type of wood that is used for the fuel.  Most barbecue “pitmasters” use a choice and mixture of logs, chunks and chips of hardwood, fruit wood and nut wood. Examples include oak, hickory, mesquite, cedar, cherry, apple, and pecan among other woods.

If that wasn’t enough some folks take it further by adding extra flavor depth by soaking the wood in whiskey, wine or other brews.

There are many wood smoke chip choices out there.

There are many wood smoke chip choices out there. From the traditional mesquite or hickory to those infused with “extra” flavor.

The choice of wood or fuel differs due to a combination of personal choice and the cut of meat to be barbecued. A rack of ribs, for example, will be barbecued differently than roast pork, whole pig, chicken, brisket or sausage links. The best temperature for barbecuing is between 200°F and 300°F. If the temperature rises above 300°F, you are getting into warmer grilling territory.

Interestingly, in British usage, barbecuing refers to a fast cooking process directly over high heat, while grilling refers to cooking under a source of direct, high heat—known in the United States and Canada as broiling.


Grilling refers to foods that are cooked faster and more directly over high heat, usually typified by a “high and dry” method or, in some circles, “hot and fast.” The fuel Grilling a steak directly over high high. Quick sear, caramelized color and great flavor!and heat sources are not separated from the cooking chamber thus providing for an environment that provides for high heat. Grilling temperatures typically reach 500°F or more, but any temperature above 300°F is considered a grilling temperature. The high heat of grilling quickly sears the surface of meat, creating a flavorful, caramelized browned crust.

Grilling fuels typically are separated into three categories; gas, charcoal or wood. (See our Charcoal versus Gas blog for that topic.) Gas fuels include propane or natural gas whereas charcoal can include the common bag of charcoal briquettes which are nothing more than petroleum-based nastiness kept together with sawdust that requires a highly flammable and offensive smelling gas product. Henry Ford invented charcoal, yes, but I don’t think it was his original intention for it to be used mostly as a food cooking source!

Hardwood Lump Charcoal is a great alternative to petroleum based briquettes.

Hardwood Lump Charcoal is a great alternative to petroleum based briquettes. Natural, and easy to light.

Real charcoal includes actual charred lump hardwood not dissimilar to that used in barbecuing. Again, the difference is not so much the source of heat as it is the temperature of the heat, the proximity to the food being cooked, and the purpose of the smoke. When it comes to adding smoke flavor to grilled foods, hardwood lump charcoal is a good source, as well as wood chips. Wood chips can be soaked in water, placed in an aerated foil pack, or wood-smoke box and placed on or under the grill grates that when heated release a good deal of meat-flavoring smoke. Some gas grills even come with a convenient wood smoking drawer.

A quick way to remember the difference is as follows:

  • Barbecue  = Low and Slow
  • Grilling = High and Dry

So, What Fires You Up? Grilling or Barbecue?

What Fires You Up?

What Fires You Up?

Whichever you choose, grilling vs BBQ, let us know and ……..enjoy and cherish your time with family and friends.

What are your thoughts? What Fires You Up? We welcome your comments, healthy debate, and the inevitable disagreement. Leave a reply or comment. It’s OK. Bring it on!

About GrillJunkie – Grilling Bloggers with an Addiction to Grilling, BBQ, Burgers and Blogging!

If you consider yourself a GrillJunkie, Welcome! We are Grilling Bloggers with an Addiction to Grilling, BBQ, Burgers and Blogging!

GrillJunkie OvalBlackWelcome to the GrillJunkie™ website and grilling blog, where Your Addiction is Our Addiction! What Fires You Up?

We are Grilling and BBQ addicts and grilling bloggers who celebrate our passion by sharing recipes, tips and techniques, “how-to’s”, discussing, if not arguing, about the difference between grilling and barbecue or cooking with charcoal versus gas, as well as sauces and rubs, hot sauces, event reviews and so much more!

Right up there with Baseball, Football and Mom’s Apple Pie. Grilling is a top American pastime. There’s nothing quite like the aroma of a steak or burger fired up on the grill, or the luscious and smoky taste of a rack of ribs or a brisket that’s been slowly cooked and smoked for the past 24 hours until it falls off the bone, that tells the neighborhood about your grilling expertise, kingship and  overall awesomeness. Our grilling blog, which is written by our great team of grilling bloggers, who are always grilling and testing new recipes and burger recipes, will help increase your already awesome awesomeness!

We Love Grilling, BBQ and Burgers!!

So join us, and interact with us, as we blog, explore, share and learn about the great practice and pastime of Grilling, BBQ, creating and firing up new Burger recipes and spending time with family and friends. Fire it Up!