Grilling with propane (and propane accessories) is looked down upon by many BBQ enthusiasts, as it doesn’t impart any flavor onto the meat in the same way that charcoal does. But after speaking to chefs around the country, we’ve found some who valiantly defend the use of propane.
It's convenient, like a 7-Eleven
If this article were the big board on Family Feud, the No. 1 survey answer would be: “It’s quick and easy!” All the experts we spoke to love charcoal. But on the flipside, it’s so easy to start a propane grill, you can do it with a beer in your hand, and that alone is a pretty good defense of propane. Plus, lighting charcoal is a huge pain in the neck. Also, grilling with gas is much more straightforward for basic weeknight grilling -- it's quick to set-up and quick to clean-up.
If you’re a weekend grill warrior and your days are filled with other activities, the time saved using a propane grill is beneficial. You just light it and wait for the temp to rise versus building a fire and keeping a watchful eye on it.
Propane is great if you want an “easy-going cookout.” Charcoal is not a set it and forget it type deal. There’s no loading of the grill or meticulously organizing coals and wood to evenly create hot zones. Plus, during the cooking process, it’s much easier to adjust your temperature as needed without having to poke the embers (and probably singe your favorite shirt in the process!).
Heat zones make grilling a snap
If you’re going to make the effort to grill, you’re probably wanting to whip up a few different proteins and vegetables. Propane grilling makes this a snap. It’s harder to control heat levels with charcoal, but with propane you can cook a whole meal on the grill. Higher heat on one side for grilling burgers, steaks or hot dogs, and lower heat on the other for buns or veggies like asparagus, eggplant and zucchini.
Vegetables are extremely propane-friendly
Just make sure there’s no flame on the vegetables as they’re grilling or they’ll get a bad taste and burn marks. Position them at ten o’clock and then switch them over to two o’clock and you’ll have perfect x’s on your vegetables.
Plus, the smoky flavors imparted by charcoal aren’t always welcome. While it’s harder to develop smoky flavor profiles you get from wood on a propane grill, that same smokiness can also be a disadvantage by overpowering certain foods that are more delicate, like seafood or vegetables.
Smoking is still an option
There’s a way to get smoky flavors from a propane grill. Many of the newer grills have smoke boxes that allow you to put in wood chips that create flavorful smoke. So you can actually smoke, say, a pork shoulder on your propane grill. It’s not optimal, but you can get good smoke flavor into the meat.
For those without a new propane grill, you can always take hickory or cherry wood chips and wrap them in aluminum foil,” he recommended. Poke a couple of holes in the top, and they’ll smolder on the grill to fill it with smoke, achieving that desired extra flavor element followed by a two-second clean-up. No big deal, as you were headed back to the grill for seconds regardless.
Need a new grill, take advantage of tax-free weekend. Contact The Fireplace Shop and Grill Center at West Sport in Sudbury, MA for more information.