July 5, 2013
I’M SURE THIS WILL NOT INSPIRE ANY ARGUMENTS: Grilling Over Gas Is Objectively, Scientifically Better Than Grilling Over Charcoal.
Look, I like cooking on charcoal too — it has one indisputable advantage over gas: It gets much hotter. Glowing coals are at a temperature of about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit; while gas burns at around 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit, there’s very little radiant heat from the flames.
And radiant heat is what’s really cooking your food on a grill. That’s why gas grills use some sort of surface to create radiation, whether it’s lava rocks or ceramic plates or the “Flavorizer Bars” on my Weber. These surfaces are heated by the gas flame, creating the radiant heat generated naturally by charcoal.
Charcoal purists will try and tell you that their preferred fuel leads to better flavor. This is, well, nonsense.
Your food doesn’t know what’s creating the heat below it, and once charcoal is hot, there aren’t any aromatic compounds left in the coals. According to the food science bible Modernist Cuisine, “Carbon is carbon; as it burns, it imparts no flavor of its own to the food being grilled.”
The characteristic flavor of grilled food comes from the drippings, not the fuel. When those drippings hit the heat source below, the oils, sugars, and proteins burst into smoke and flame. That heat creates new complex molecules that rise in the smoke and warm air to coat the food you’re grilling. Nothing in that process relies on charcoal.
Read the whole thing. The main reason I grill over gas is that it’s a lot more convenient.