A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling, passed on from his father and grandfather to him.
Doug is a hardcore barbeque enthusiast and connoisseur. While he spends most of his time on editing and research,
he sometimes moonlights as a product tester for particularly interesting things he comes across.
If you have a gas grill, then you must be wondering whether or not it is possible to add charcoal to the grill as an alternative source of heat. In any case, nearly every griller wants that distinct smoky flavor only available with charcoal grills.
No doubt, cooking food on a gas grill is more convenient, but the results do not match that of a charcoal grill. A gas grill makes it possible to grill your favorite BBQ dishes quickly but it does not offer that smoky taste that you may be looking for.
With that said, this post covers the big question – can you put charcoal in a gas grill? Well, let’s find out…
1. Is it possible to add charcoal to a gas grill?
Nothing is impossible in the culinary world. You can add charcoal to your gas grill and cook delicious, lip-smacking recipes every weekend. However, it all depends on the type of gas grill you are using. Some gas grills come equipped with a charcoal tray that allows you to place coal over the burners while other grills do not have this option.
Charcoal trays come as an add-on option that allows you to load charcoal in a gas grill. The tray use’s the grill’s auto-ignition system or burner system, meaning you don’t have to use lighter fluid to ignite the charcoal. This takes away the hassle of lighting the charcoal and it helps preserve the smoky flavor of your dish.
As your food cooks, the charcoal will fall into a drip pan integrated below the grill for fast and easy clean-ups. The pan is easy to remove and in most cases, it does not require extra tools to remove the remaining ash from the grill.
If your gas grill does not have a charcoal tray, then you shouldn’t even consider putting charcoal as this will damage the expensive components of the grill. Most modern grills can only handle the heat from the built-in burners rather than charcoal.
Besides, gas grills come equipped with extremely delicate parts, meaning adding charcoal might damage these components and you may have to replace them or buy a new grill altogether.
To be on the safe side, find out from the manufacturer whether your gas grill comes with a charcoal tray and if you can buy one separately. If not, you may have to buy a smoker tube or a smoker box to create smoke on your gas grill.
2. Is it cheaper to grill with charcoal rather than gas?
If the taste or flavor of your BBQ dish is a priority, then you are likely to opt for traditional charcoal grilling over natural gas or propane. Another reason why you would want to put charcoal in a gas grill is probably the associated costs.
On the face of it, grilling with charcoal might seem cheaper than using a gas grill. However, nothing could be further from the truth. While a gas grill is costlier to buy, it is far more economical to run compared to a charcoal grill.
In essence, a full load of charcoal will only last for 3 cookouts while a similar amount of gas will give your more than 20 cookouts. If you do the math, it is easy to see that grilling with gas is more economical.
If you intend to add charcoal to your gas grill, you have to invest in a dual-fuel grill that comes with a charcoal basket or tray. Such grills are not only expensive to buy but also costly to maintain. With this in mind, it is a good idea to buy a smoker box or tube to obtain the smoky flavor you want instead of adding charcoal to your gas grill.
3. Why you shouldn’t put charcoal in a gas grill?
As much as it is possible to put charcoal in a gas grill, doing so will likely do more harm than good. Here are a few reasons why you shouldn’t put charcoal in a gas grill.
One of the biggest problems of adding charcoal to a gas grill is clogging. Ashes, tiny bits of burnt charcoal, and debris can clog the vents and airways of your gas grill. If left in that state, you may need to repair your gas grill in the end.
- Irreversible Damage
As you probably know by now, most modern gas grills are very delicate. They come equipped with components that can only handle the heat from gas burners rather than charcoal. Considering this, putting charcoal in your gas grill may cause irreversible damage, and you may have to replace these parts or buy a new grill.
- Health Reasons
Studies show that grilling over charcoal is somewhat unhealthy compared to grilling using gas. Charcoal flames are extremely hot and they are likely to char your food subsequently forming unhealthy chemicals like heterocyclic amines. These chemicals increase the risk of developing cancer.
- Troublesome Cleanups
Grilling with charcoal can be fun only until it is time to clean up the grill. You have to contend with clogged ashes and stuck charcoal debris to keep your gas grill in perfect condition and avoid unnecessary repairs.
- Difficult to ignite
Igniting charcoal is a cumbersome process that most grillers do not want to go through. This is particularly true if your grill does not have an auto-ignition system. You will have to use lighter fluid, a chimney starter, or a heat gun.
Final Thoughts: Charcoal in a Gas Grill
You can always get that smoky flavor without necessarily adding charcoal to your gas grill. After all, cooking with charcoal is not economical and it comes with its fair share of downsides. All you need to do is to buy a smoker tube or a smoker box for your grill.
Alternatively, you can create your own smoker by wrapping flavored wood chips like oak or hickory in aluminum foil and placing them in a pan. Make sure the chips are food-grade since treated chips can be harmful to your health and they can leave a bad taste in your food.
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