Are you barbecurious? The heated debate between gas vs. charcoal


Barbecuing is an ancient sport in which women have traditionally been excluded. However, I encourage women everywhere to reclaim your tongs and educate yourself on the tips and tricks of this fun and delicious summer activity.

The only thing you really need to host a barbecue – is a barbecue; and while they all come in a range of styles, colours and designs – they all cook meat. The most important question to consider when buying your barbecue is the old age question of gas vs. charcoal and I’m going to help you decide which team you should join.

If convenience, functionality and safety are your priorities, I recommend a gas barbecue. Forget the fiddling with kindling, all you need is a match, some gas, and you’re cooking with gas. Within minutes you’ve got yourself a sizzling hot grill. The evenly distributed heat means you can cook a number of steaks (or tofu) with predictably excellent results – as long as you don’t get too carried away pouring drinks or entertaining your guests. Another real advantage is the ability to adjust the heat to ensure that your fussier guests can have their steak cooked right through without it burning. Gas barbecues are also pretty easy to clean, it’s really just a matter of scouring your hotplates and grill plates with a wire-brush, no need to take everything apart and empty it (as one would a charcoal barbecue). Whether you have a party of people or a family weeknight dinner, cooking with gas is an excellent option.

So after all that gushing about gas, what could a charcoal barbecue possibly offer? Yes, a charcoal barbecue is a lot more work. Every time you need to stock it with coal, wood, fire lighters or weird artificial heating beads. Yes, you need a huge amount of patience and perseverance to turn that flicker into a flame. Yes, you need to give it all your attention and time, and you are at the mercy of unpredictable wild flames. But, with the right amount of TLC you will have some of the most succulent and deliciously smoky meat of your life plus the pride and satisfaction of conquering the elements in a one on one battle.

If convenience was the only factor at play, we probably wouldn’t be hosting a barbecue in the first place; we would throw our steaks in the microwave, eat them, then continue on with a very depressing and mundane day. Flavour, fun and impressing our friends and family are the reasons we attempt macarons and Thai curries instead of packet mixes. While the first few times, negotiating a charcoal barbecue can result in some seriously crispy black fish, with a little bit of time and practice it becomes much easier to master the art.

The real draw card in charcoal barbecues is that unmistakable smokiness. Whether you want that smoky wood smell to waft in the air and cause your guests to salivate and your neighbours to weep with envy, or whether you love that taste that attaches itself to everything, be it sirloin, sausage or cob of corn, everything gets kissed with that sweet lick of the flame. For the real master barbecuer there is also a range of flavoured wood chips available, such as hickory, maple or oak to give your ribeye a richer, stronger flavour. The unpredictability of the charcoal barbecue gives the event a real sense of the theatrical; it provides entertainment and activity as well as all the right smells and sizzles. From here, there are many exciting places to go; the sky’s the limit with cage-roasted Portuguese chicken, pig on a spit, Turkish shish kebabs and Brazilian churrasco.

There’s a reason why gas and charcoal barbecue models are equally popular, and you will encounter some serious devotees of both. Once you’ve decided whether you want to invest in a gas or charcoal barbecue, then comes the really hard part, deciding what you’re going to put on it.

For more information on barbecue models for your backyard, check out our BBQ section on Complete Home. And to go with it, make sure you design your backyard for entertaining with our outdoor living design section. For any of you who are scared of barbecues, maybe check our appliance section for some tamer products.