BBQ Grill: Why it’s So Loved & The Types of Fuel to Choose

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  May 31, 2022

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A barbecue grill is a device for cooking food by applying heat directly from below. There are several varieties of such grills, with most falling into one of two categories: gas-fueled and charcoal. There is great debate over the merits of charcoal or gas for use as the cooking method between barbecue grillers.

Barbecue (also barbeque, BBQ and barby/barbies) is a cooking method and apparatus. While there is a vast degree of variation and overlap in terminology and method surrounding this form of cooking, the generally accepted difference between barbecue and grilling is in the cooking time and type of heat used: grilling is generally done “hot and fast” over direct heat from low-smoke fuels (with the flame contacting the meat itself), while barbecuing is usually done “low and slow” over indirect heat from high-smoke fuels (with the flame not contacting the meat directly). The term as a noun can refer to the meat or to the cooking apparatus itself (the “barbecue grill” or simply “barbecue”). The term ‘barbecued’ is used as an adjective and refers to foods cooked by this method. The term is also used as a verb for the act of cooking food in this manner. Barbecuing is usually done in an outdoor environment by smoking the meat over wood or charcoal. Restaurant barbecue may be cooked in large brick or metal ovens specifically designed for that purpose. Barbecuing has numerous regional variations in many parts of the world.

How do I choose the best fuel type for my needs?

There are two reasons why you should choose the right type of fuel.

  • First, it is necessary to make sure what type of grill is allowed where you live. There may be limitations on what kind of fire you can make.
  • Second, you need to analyze such issues as convenience, and how a particular type of fuel impacts the food’s flavor.

Charcoal

Are charcoal grills allowed where you live? If so, there are some upsides and downsides to this type of fuel:

Charcoal grills offer great flavor, especially in smoked food. These grills are also unlikely to malfunction and are exceptionally durable for the relatively low prices you pay for them.

However, they require a lot of interaction in the form of temperature control and air vent adjusting.

Gas

Speed and convenience are the two greatest advantages of grills that run on gas (propane or natural gas). Just turn a burner knob and 10-15 minutes later you can start cooking. The food is characterized by very good flavor, but it can’t compare to charcoal.

There are two versions of gas grills and it’s good to be able to tell their upsides and downsides.

Propane grills are great in terms of mobility, especially if you want to cook away from home.

Natural gas grills, on the other hand, are characterized by lack of mobility but constant access to fuel, so you don’t have to worry about running out of gas halfway through cooking.

In certain places regulations prohibit keeping gas tanks, which is something to check out before you buy.

Pellets

If this is the first time you have ever come across this type of grill, its biggest advantage is the digital controller that monitors the entire cooking process.

All you have to do is refill the pellet tank, set your desired temperature using the controller, and start the grill. After about 12 minutes you can start cooking without worrying about anything.

The system will make sure to add pellets to the furnace at the right moment, thus maintaining a fixed temperature.

Read more about the differences between wood pellets vs. charcoal vs. wood chips vs. wood chunks here

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.