Choosing A Grill: Gas vs. Charcoal Grills (+ Options for Every Budget!)

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The grill is the heart of any grilling set up! But with so many options out there, it’s hard to know what is the best grill to buy. Figuring out how to choose a gas grill or how to choose a charcoal grill can be overwhelming, so…we’ve done all the research for you! Read on to learn all about the key differences between a charcoal grill vs gas grill, plus tons of recommendations for what is the best grill to buy for any budget!

Weber Genesis II gas grill shown on deck. In the background, a blossoming tree and a house with beige siding.
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The grill is the heart of any grilling set up. But…with so many options out there, it’s hard to know what is the best grill to buy. Maybe you’re looking for a gas grill fit for hosting backyard barbecues. Maybe you want a charcoal grill to achieve that crave-worthy, built-in smoky char flavor. Or maybe you are on the hunt for the best portable charcoal grill for your cozy apartment patio. It can be an overwhelming decision, with a lot of different factors to consider. If you can relate, you’re in the right place – consider this post your go-to guide for choosing the perfect grill for you.

Let’s Get Started! Charcoal Grills vs. Gas Grills – Which is Best?

In the world of grilling, there’s plenty of debate surrounding the pros & cons of a charcoal grill vs. gas grill. Which is better? The truth is both are great in their own way. Determining what is the best grill to buy really depends on what you’re looking for. There are plenty of things to consider between a charcoal grill vs gas grill when deciding which grill to choose.

CHARCOAL GRILLS. A classic choice! Charcoal grills run on charcoal briquettes or natural lump charcoal. They tend to be a little less expensive & have more modest features, but they get the job done. There’s a reason why diehard grillers swear by charcoal grilling!

While they may take a bit longer to light & preheat, charcoal grills have the ability to get very hot. Plus, the smoke from the charcoal adds an extra layer of smoky-charred goodness to whatever is on the grill. Charcoal grills also tend to be smaller, making them great for any space – whether you are grilling in a spacious backyard or cozy apartment.

GAS GRILLS. Gas grills are fueled by gas propane tanks, which are easily found & refilled at most local convenience or hardware stores. They can come in a range of sizes, but tend to be larger compared to a charcoal grill.

In my opinion, gas grills are perfect for beginners. With less variables than charcoal, grilling on a gas grill is typically much more approachable. While they tend to be a bit more expensive, many models have built-in temperature gauges & lighting functions (no fuss!). Most importantly, they deliver really consistent heat, & they are easy to control & manage. When compared to charcoal grills, gas grills heat up really quickly – the perfect companion for weeknight cooking!

Gas Grills: the Best Gas Grill – Weber Genesis II!

If you’re wondering how to choose a gas grill or what is the best grill to buy, look no further than the Weber Genesis II, the tried & true gas grill we use here at the PWWB House. After grilling on our Weber Genesis II for the past 6 summers, I couldn’t love it more.

Reasons to love the Weber Genesis II:

  • It has 3 powerful burners that heat up quickly and evenly- perfect for weeknight cooking!
  • The grates are made from enameled cast iron, which retains heat very well & is very easy to care for.
  • Its ‘sear station’ is a burner dedicated to high temperatures. It is great for adding that addictive grilled char to foods quickly (note: this feature is only on the 335 models!).
  • Features 513 square inches of grilling space = plenty of space! In fact, you could cook about 20 burgers at a time.
  • Its construction is seriously sturdy! The Weber Genesis II is very easy to move around your grilling space. You can handle it without worry that it’ll tip over (or fall apart!).
  • Plus, it comes with an awesome warranty! All Weber grills come with a 5-year warranty, so long as you register your grill.

It is on the pricier end of the spectrum, but if taken care of well, the Weber Genesis II will last a long time. If you’re in a position where you have a decent amount of space for a grill & are comfortable investing in a grill you can have for the next 10+ years, I highly recommend it!

Gas Grills: the Best Small Space & Budget-Friendly Option – Char-Broil Classic 360:

After scouring the internet for a great gas grill that fits any budget, you can’t go wrong with the Char-Broil Classic 360. While I do not personally own this grill, it has the functionality you want in a gas grill & countless rave reviews, especially considering its reasonable price tag. (As I was researching, I couldn’t help but think, “gosh I wish I knew about this grill when we were renters!”) With 3 burners, this grill has enough space & power to cook for a crowd, but its overall size is perfect for small spaces, like a small patio off your house or apartment.

Reasons to love the Char-Broil Classic 360:

  • Its lid is made from porcelain-coated steel, which helps it stand up to any weather conditions.
  • Its grates are porcelain-coated, which prevents sticking & makes them super easy to care for.
  • Features 360 square inches of cooking space! This cooking space allows you to cook about 13 burgers at a time!
  • At its small size, the fact that it still has three burners is a huge win, especially when you need to use 2-zone grilling.

If you’re looking for a great starter gas grill, this is the one for you!

Charcoal Grills – How to Choose a Charcoal Grill

While I think grilling with gas is 1000% suitable for most everyday grilling needs, there’s a reason why serious grillers live & die by charcoal: it has the ability to get very hot, & its smoke adds an extra layer of addictively smoky-charred goodness to whatever you’re grilling.

Some added bonuses of grilling with charcoal: charcoal grills tend to be very budget-friendly & they are great for any sized space, whether you’re grilling in a spacious backyard or on a cozy apartment patio. Here are a few solid options to consider when you’re thinking about how to choose a charcoal grill.

Charcoal Grills: The Best Charcoal Grill (Option #1) – Weber Original 22-Inch Kettle

We own & love the Weber Original 22-Inch Kettle Grill, which just so happens to be one of the most highly regarded charcoal grills out there. At 22” it doesn’t take up too much space, but it’s large enough for almost anything you could think to throw on the grill. It’s designed for optimal airflow, so your grill will hold its temperature really well.

Reasons to love the Weber Original 22-Inch Kettle Charcoal Grill:

  • It has high-quality construction, plus comes with a 10-year warranty on the bowl & lid.
  • It has an easy one-touch cleaning damper on the bottom for draining charcoal ash.
  • The cooking space measures a total of 363 square inches. This means you can easily cook about 13 burgers at a time!
  • It’s so iconic! It’s been around ever since Weber was founded & has stood the test of time (for good reason!).

Charcoal Grills: The Best Charcoal Grill (Option #2) – The Solo Stove Grill

Gearing up for the 2021 grilling season, I was also really excited to add the Solo Stove Grill to our set up. (ICYMI, we’re BIG fans of all things Solo Stove here at the PWWB House!) After grilling with it a number of times, I can’t recommend it more highly!

Designed with a goal of eliminating all of the hassle from charcoal grilling, what sets the Solo Stove Grill apart is its 360º Airflow Design, which creates a cooking environment that you don’t have to mess with. Because air flows through the grill so well, the charcoal lights faster & maintains steady temperature longer.

Reasons to love the Solo Stove Grill:

  • Solo Stove’s brilliant 360º Airflow Design makes it easy to light the charcoal, which gets hot faster & holds a steady temperature longer. You can enjoy the amazing flavor & experience of charcoal grilling without any of the pain points & fuss that traditionally comes along with it.
  • It’s very easy to clean! The grill has an easily removable ash pan, charcoal grate, and cooking grate, making clean up a really simple job.
  • Like other Solo Stove products, the grill is totally portable. If you’re a camper or RV-er, this is the grill for you!

Charcoal Grills: Best for Budget & Small Spaces – Weber Smokey Joe

Before buying our 22-inch kettle grill, the Weber Smokey Joe 14-inch Portable Grill was our go-to charcoal grill ever since Chris & I first shared an apartment. It’s essentially the little brother to the Weber Original 22″ Kettle. It has the same dual-damper system (which helps avoid disasters like the first time I tried to cook steaks for Chris’ birthday!). It is the very best portable charcoal grill I know of!

These tailgate-sized grills are perfect for apartment dwelling (or tailgates, obviously!!). You can store your grill inside when you’re not using it, then easily move it outside once it’s time to fire it up.

Reasons to love the Weber Smokey Joe 14-Inch Portable Grill:

  • Its dual-damper & charcoal grate provides excellent airflow, especially for a small grill. 
  • Convenient size! At 14”, it is big enough to allow you to grill for a few people but can easily be stored away when not in use. It’s also super easy to transport – you can throw it in the car for a trip to your favorite summer spot or ballpark! It is seriously the best portable charcoal grill you can find.
  • Since it is 14” in diameter, you can grill about 5-7 hamburger patties at one time!
  • & just like the other Webers, you get a 10-year warranty on the bowl & lid.

Wrapping Up!

When it comes to deciding what is the best grill to buy, first decide between a charcoal grill vs. a gas grill, next think about the features you want in a grill, and look for good quality of construction. I hope that these picks help make your choice a bit easier. Whether you decide charcoal grill vs. gas grill – you really can’t go wrong!

Jess of Plays Well With Butter stands on a deck in front of a stainless steel Weber Genesis II propane grill. In the background, a blossoming tree & a house with beige siding.

Ready to Hit the Grill?

If this all still feels new to you, I encourage you to head over to Grilling 101, a compliation of tips & tricks for all of the grilling basics – everything from how to light your grill to how to clean your grill.

All this talk about grilling have you feelin’ ready to hit the grill? Me too! Be sure to check out this post for my 15 go-to marinades you need this grilling season. At our house, a good marinade is at the heart of grilling season. I’m positive these marinades will be on repeat at your house this summer! For even more grilled goodness, be sure to check out all of our Grilling & Smoking recipes.

& lastly! Be sure to give @playswellwithbutter a follow on Instagram – I’ll be teaching you how to grill up some goodness all summer long, & we have so much fun on Instagram!

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Hi there, I'm Jess!

If there’s 1 thing to know about me, it’s this: I am head-over-heels in love with food. I’m on a mission to make weeknight cooking flavorful, fast, & fun for other foodies, & PWWB is where I share foolproof recipes that deliver major flavor with minimal effort. Other true loves: pretty shoes, puppies, Grey’s Anatomy, & my cozy kitchen in Minneapolis, MN.

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