Facts of the “burning” (grill) question: propane vs. charcoal

grll prpaneDinnertime at my house over the summer months gets dramatically easier, because much of the cooking is done via the grill, so it means I can pass along some duties to my husband who proudly takes the roll of “Captain BBQ”!

We’ve always owned a propane grill and never, ever go the route of charcoal or (perish the thought!) lighter fluid!  (EEK!)

To me, the propane choice seems like a no-brainer, but is it really? 

Take a look at the facts:

  • Overall, propane grilling creates a smaller carbon footprint than charcoal grilling, by about a third.  (win: propane)
  • Charcoal comes from renewable resources, but propane does not.  It comes from non-renewable fossil fuels. (win: charcoal)
  • Carbon monoxide levels from charcoal grilling can be as high as 105 times as much as propane grilling.  (BIG win: propane)
  • The “burn time” for propane is much less than charcoal.  It only needs to be “on” when you need it.  Charcoal must burn until coals are hot and then you need to wait until it burns out before the cycle is done, and it creates gasses all the while.  (win: propane)grll chrcoal
  • Charcoal often travels a far, far distance (and creates extra emissions) before it even reaches your grill, but “not so” with propane… it’s most likely local. Plus, producing charcoal creates even more emissions than actually burning it!  (win: propane)
  • Lighter fluid for charcoal is a petroleum distillate that emits volatile organic compounds (VOCs) when burned.  (win: propane)

So, I’d say we’ve been making the right decision, especially with that last VOC issue!  But just remember that what you toss on the grill matters too – preferably local organic meats and veggies!  And when it’s time for clean-up, baking soda and warm water does wonders too!

Now, fire up that grill and let’s get the cookout underway! (I’ll be right over!…)

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5 thoughts on “Facts of the “burning” (grill) question: propane vs. charcoal

  1. Thanks for this. I’ve been a charcoal man my whole life, thinking it tastes better, but lately I’ve had great success on my brother in law’s gas grill. I think the technology has improved and the gas taste doesn’t seem to be a problem anymore. So I decided before I read this that it’s time to go gas and scrap the charcoal. A couple of more points:

    Even if propane has to travel as far as charcoal, the ratio of energy used to transport to energy released at the grill has go to be better for propane.

    In addition to charcoal needing to burn a while before being used, you have to use a large pile of charcoal every time you cook to reach the right temp, even if you only cook a single chicken breast. With gas you can run just one burner for a short time and save even more.

    And if you’ve just got to use charcoal, never use lighter fluid. You can still taste it on your food, use a charcoal chimney and two crumpled sheets of newspaper.

  2. Acording to the TED websight in the third world charcoal production and use is hurting woman and families. Inhailing cooking fuels is causing respitory illness. Seems alternative fuels are being pursued.

  3. Great post and break down. I’ve been using propane grills recently, but I’ve definitely used a good amount of charcoal in the past and know plenty of friends that do. Need to steer them away from it.

    The lighter fluid thing is definitely pretty scary too (although probably should have guess that anything that flammable is chock full of VOCs).
    .-= dinesh´s last blog ..Get to Know Your Local Farmer without moving from your computer =-.

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