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,” said chef/owner Teddy Bricker of Austin’s Soursop. “Plus, lighting charcoal is a huge pain in the ass.”
Dan Zuccarello, the executive food editor of nooks at America’s Test Kitchen, sums it up perfectly. “I find grilling with gas much more straightforward for basic weeknight grilling -- it's quick to set-up and quick to clean-up,” he said.
That’s echoed by Top Chef alum Bryan Voltaggio, who cooks over live fire at MGM National Harbor’s Voltaggio Brothers Steak House, but gets why you wouldn’t want to. “If you’re a weekend grill warrior and your days are filled with other activities, the time saved using a propane grill is beneficial,” he said. “You just light it and wait for the temp to rise versus building a fire and keeping a watchful eye on it.”
Don’t let propane’s reputation stop you from embracing it. Even a James Beard Award-winning chef rediscovered the joy of grilling with it. “I used it for nine months while my kitchen was under construction, and I even added a steel plate for sauce pots and sauteing,” said Chef Christopher Gross of Phoenix’s The Wrigley Mansion.
Head butcher and chef Rob Levitt of Chicago’s Publican Quality Meats says 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,” he noted. “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!).” Perhaps that’s another benefit to propane grilling: You can wear your hilarious Big Dogs T-shirt and have No Fear that it’d get destroyed.