Summer is a wonderful time for South Africans as we take advantage of our beautiful climate and spend time outdoors in the garden. The traditional braai is a regular pastime and you can pick up the aroma of a braai every weekend.
We have previously covered the topic of giving your braai a makeover, but if your braai has outlived its lifespan and it is pitted with rust and the bottom eaten away, you are probably going to be looking at options for replacing the braai. This brings to mind the options we now have for the weekend braai: charcoal vs gas grill.
Walk into your local Builders and you will be provided with a variety of options- both charcoal and gas and if you are in two minds as to which one to choose, the best way to approach this problem is to take the following into consideration:
Many may say that a gas grill is more convenient than charcoal. Simply ignite the grill and, voila, you are ready to go. My problem with the gas grill is this; there are more than a few dodgy gas cylinders flooding the market at the moment and even though I was brought up with gas appliances, it still worries me that gas cylinders can be dangerous. Another disadvantage of a gas grill is supply and demand. As the demand for gas grills increases, so does the demand for gas. More than once I have taken my gas cylinder for re-filling, only to be informed that there is a shortage of gas.
Charcoal on the other hand is always available. You can pop into your local supermarket or convenience store and grab a bag of charcoal or wood as and when you need it.
Let’s be honest, a traditional South African braai is not just about sit down and eat, it’s more about waiting for the coals to heat up to the right temperature for cooking and enjoying a convivial atmosphere with family and friends.
But if you are more concerned about being able to control the temperature, perhaps for cooking more than chops and steaks, a gas grill is generally more user friendly. Not to mention that there are gas grills that can accommodate far more cooking space if you like to entertain extended family and friends on a regular basis.
Gas grills are the appliance of choice around the world. It’s quick and easy to fire up and cook almost any type of food and even place conventional cookware on top of the grill. But does gas-grilled food match the flavour of charcoal- or wood-grilled food? Many braai-masters claim that a gas grill does not deliver on taste.
The traditional charcoal or wood braai offers the most authentic taste for the braai connoisseur. No other method comes close to replicating the smoky char grilled flavour that is as a result of sizzling fats and juices dripping onto hot coals and producing a smokiness that is imparted to food.
However, there are gas grills that are fitted with ceramic or lava rock over the gas burners, and these do emit a certain amount of smoke, which is then imparted to the food being cooked. Browse the Internet and you will find many a forum for discussion on how to get gas grilled to deliver the same taste as the charcoal, but none that discuss the reverse. In fact, when cooking over wood a compound known as Guaiacol is produced, and it is this that imparts the smoky flavour to food.
There’s no denying that gas grills are more expensive than a charcoal or wood alternative. But today’s gas grills are not just about slapping on a couple of steaks. You will find gas grills that offer a variety of built-ins and add-ons to take the average braai to a new level.
As with electric and gas stoves, there are pros and cons when cleaning a gas grill or charcoal braai. With a charcoal braai you need to clean out the used coals and clean the grill regularly, which can be a messy exercise, but one that most South Africans accept as part of the experience of a charcoal braai. A gas grill on the other hand does require a bit more care and cleaning. A gas grill needs to be regularly cleaned and maintained to ensure safe operation, this includes inspecting and replacing damaged or worn parts as and when required.
At the end of the day the ultimate choice is yours alone to make. Shop around and look at various options, taking into consideration your personal wants and needs for outdoor entertaining.