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Charcoal or gas? The Great Grill Debate continues even today, and each species of griller -- the charcoal species and the gas species -- has persuasive arguments at his or her barbecue sauce-stained fingertips.
A grilling purist might typically insist that an old-fashioned charcoal grill is the only route to achieving true charbroiled bliss; there's simply no substitute for the superior flavor yielded by the old-school, briquette-and-lighter-fluid system. Sure, charcoal grilling takes more time to set up and cook your grub, but the hassle is easily outweighed by the pleasure of spending time outside, tending to the coals, and watching them reach their deep amber glow -- not to mention the rich, smoky food that's the end result.
Of course, this sort of rhapsodizing will probably cause a fit of eye-rolling and impatient toe-tapping among your typical gas grill advocate. For the time-challenged among us there's a faster, more convenient option of outdoor cooking: the gas grill. Requiring only the quick flip of a gas switch and a simple knob turn to control temperatures, gas grill cooking calls for less maintenance and less (although certainly still some) attention. There's no fire to tend or constantly varying temperature to worry about. What about taste? Gas grillers maintain that with the right preparation, the end product is just as mouthwatering.
The direction you choose will naturally depend on what criteria you find most important. The following guide is designed to help you make an educated decision when deciding which type of grill is best for you.
So which is better? Which one to choose? Some families ultimately purchase both. In the end, there may never be an answer to the Great Grill Debate -- it comes down to space, lifestyle, time, and flavor. But rest assured we can all agree on one thing: Whether the burgers and chicken you're serving were cooked on a charcoal or gas grill, it is vitally important to wear a chef's hat and "Grill Sergeant" apron.
Originally published on LHJ.com, May 2008.