5 reasons to stop being a coal snob and try a gas barbecue
Banish the briquettes
Aaand let me stop you there. Before you roll your eyes and start angrily writing in the comments about how coal is the only worthy fuel for an outdoor grill, consider for a second that you might just be wrong. You might be giving those dirty black charcoal lumps a bit too much credit when it comes to the glory of barbecued food.
I was, like you, once a believer that coal was the only fuel worth considering. And then I bought a gas barbecue and my life has been turned around. Here are five ways I think gas wins out over coal.
Coal makes absolutely no difference to the flavour of your food
Science has proven time and time again that the signature taste of barbecued food comes from fat rendering and dripping out of your meat before hitting a hot surface and evaporating back up through the food. This happens on coal barbecues, sure, but it also happens on gas barbies that have lava rocks or hot metal bars under the grill – which is most of them. I was sceptical, but having lived with my little Weber for 18 months I can confirm that the food comes out tasting just as it would on a grill powered by your great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandmother's garden trees.
Gas means I've used my barbecue a lot more
My gas barbecue takes approximately 10 minutes to get up to full grilling temperature. Getting it started is a piece of cake: you just turn on the gas supply at the bottle, whack all the burner knobs up to full and press the ignition button. Once it's up to about 250-300C you simply open the lid, wince at the impressive amount of heat pouring into your eyeballs and then give the grills a quick scrub with a metal brush.
That's just perfect, isn't it? All ready in 10 minutes.
It's so quick and easy to use that I'll use the barbecue for quick bacon sandwiches when I'm working from home. There's no way I'd have started a coal barbie for anything less than a full-on party with my two friends.
Also, because my barbecue sits right outside the door from my kitchen to my garden, I often use it just to cook evening meals. It's convenient! In the 18 months I've had my barbecue, I'd guess I've used it about 50 times. That's a lot of delicious barbecued grub.
You can do the low and slow thing
Because gas barbecues can hold a set temperature without any intervention from your meddling mitts, they're perfect for long cooks. Last Boxing Day I woke up at 7am, fired up the Weber and whacked on a giant piece of brisket. Then I got dressed, apologised to any neighbours who saw a naked man making fire and went for a walk with my family.
Seven hours later, my piece of brisket was cooked to perfection and served alongside my girlfriend's superb macaroni cheese. You can do this on a coal barbecue, but you'd have to spend most of the time maintaining temperature and fussing over the barbecue like a needy stepchild.
You can still smoke
I know there are hordes of coal barbecuists who love being able to whack on some woodchips to smoke their meats. But rejoice! You can still do this on a gas barbecue. I've bought a little metal box that you can fill with woodchips to get the same effect. Simply soak your chosen woodchips (preferably with a flavour chosen to match your meat) then bung the box under your grill. It'll then smoke away while you cook.
It's cleaner and less hassle
I'm not saying that gas barbecues don't need cleaning, but you need to scrub it a darn sight less regularly than you do a coal barbecue, which needs emptying after every use. That is, unless you want moisture to sit in the ash pile and start eating away at the metal. Gas barbecues tend to have disposable drip trays at the bottom which make disposing of the collected fat a painless affair, and the other surfaces are easy to wipe down with a degreaser once or twice a year.
So there you have it – I've converted to gas cooking in the past year or so. But what do you prefer? Let us know in the comments!