Category Archives: The Great Debate Series

The Great Debate: Charcoal or Gas BBQ Grills Part 3

During the Lunar New Year break, an old friend of mine invited me to see his new apartment in Northcote (in the lovely city of Melbourne). Of course, being a barbecue lover, I headed straight for the balcony to see what kind of barbecue he had. It was a very basic 4 burner, powder-coated Jumbuck from Bunnings. Nice and simple.

What really caught my eye, though, wasn’t so much his barbecue but from where I was standing, I could see that almost every other balcony along the street had their own barbecue. It was like a bbq paradise! I loved it. These people weren’t going to let the fact that they were “garden-less” stop them from having a good time. I wish more Singaporeans would think like that, especially since we have such good barbecue weather all year round!

Anyway, let’s get back on track –

3. User-Friendliness

The gas barbecue is still a relatively new concept in Singapore. Of course, there are many barbecue-savvy people out there who know their stuff. But what I’m saying is the average Singaporean is still stuck on the idea of charcoal grills (or electric grills for some) because their idea of a barbecue party is to start a fire themselves in some pit in East Coast Park or wherever. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But for those of you who do want to see what’s out there, here it is:

If you have no idea how to start a fire with charcoal, the gas barbecue might just be your thing. It works just like a regular stove (not your electric stove), with knobs and a spark plug to ignite the fire. It’s fairly easy, and controlling the fire is just an simple twist of the knobs. One thing to note is that not all gas barbecues are built the same. Some gas grills work on a central ignition system while others work on a single integrated ignition.

What’s the different you ask? A central ignition system means you’ll have one spark plug to get your burners going, but a a single integrated ignition system allows each knob to set off it’s own spark. In a way, the central ignition system is less convenient for those who have hotplate and grill combinations on their barbecues as the burners ignite in an order (for example, from left to right), and if you’d have to switch the grill and hotplate around depending on which you’re using that day. But it’s really no big issue if you have to compare starting a fire from charcoal and fanning it constantly to get the fire going.

There are however, easier ways to start a fire using charcoal. For example, you could employ the use of a chimney starter. It’s basically a cylinder that contains your charcoal. You then stuff newspaper in the base and light it up. This will help fire up the charcoal. Once that’s done, toss the charcoal into the pit. Easy peasy. The problem after is controlling the heat. How do you do that? Well, this can be done if you have a more sophisticated charcoal unit like the Landmann Bravo Premium. There are trays in the barbecue where you can raise higher or lower with a lever. The rest is common sense. The closer your food is to the fire, the hotter they will be, and vice versa.

My verdict? Unless you’re a really good cook and you know what you’re doing on a charcoal grill, best to stick with the gas barbecue as they are much easier to handle!

The Great Debate: Charcoal or Gas BBQ Grills Part 2

Busy, busy, busy. That seems to be the theme of my life these days, as I’m sure it is for many of you too. Most of the time, the last thing I want to do when I get back from work is clean up a terrible mess. For me, how easy it is to clean and maintain a grill is definitely top priority when picking out a barbie. So, let’s see who takes home the cake in this category. Drum roll please!

2. Cleanliness & Maintenance

And the winner is… The Gas BBQ!

Yes. It’s no surprise there, I’m sure. After all, when charcoal and ash are involved, well, let’s just say I don’t want to go anywhere that stuff.

The beauty of the gas grill is that you just have to clean the grill and the drip tray afterwards. Turn the heat up on the grill to melt down all the icky bits of leftover food, apply mild soapy water and give it a gentle scrubbing (depending on whether it’s raw cast iron or enamelled, of course). After that, apply a generous amount of cooking oil across the grill to protect it from rusting. As for the drip tray, line it with foil and just change it afterwards.

Maintenance-wise, you just have to change your lava or ceramic rocks about once in 6 months, depending on how often you use your grill. But the best way to tell when a change is needed is when the grill doesn’t give off as much heat as it used to. Of course, there’s the gas tank. But one call to the gas company and they’ll have your gas over in no time. Easy-peasy.

In reality, most charcoal grills we find out there don’t last that long anyway because charcoal and fire burn really hot in the middle of the fire bowl. Plus, it’s hard to find a quality charcoal grill out there because companies don’t invest that much in those grills as much as gas barbecues. They are usually made out of flimsy material, and you could probably toss it out after 4 or 5 uses. Having said that, while hard to find, there are some pretty nifty charcoal barbecues out in the market (though not so much in Singapore).

Charcoal BBQ

 A rare find in Singapore, the Landmann Bravo Premium has the look and size of a gas barbecue.

One thing I do have to give the charcoal grill credit for is that the charcoal itself is available in almost every supermarket. Ceramic and lava rocks aren’t.

So there you go.

Next up on The Great Debate: Charcoal or Gas BBQ Grills Part 3, we’ll be talking about user-friendliness. Stay tuned!

The Great Debate: Charcoal or Gas BBQ Grills? Part 1

One of the biggest questions people often ask me is whether they should get a charcoal or a gas grill. Well, let’s just lay down some facts about each, and feel free to share your thoughts below.

1. Flavour

Lots of die-hard barbecue lovers are convinced that the charcoal barbecue offers a superior flavour to  the gas barbecue. Honestly, I can’t for the life of me tell the difference.

But let’s get down to the science of the matter.

What actually gives barbecued food that delightful aroma? The answer is all in the sizzle.

When oil from the grill (or rather, food on the grill) drips down onto the hot charcoal, it sizzles back up to the food, giving it that irresistable smell. What happens in a gas barbecue is that oil drips down onto a flame tamer (some cast iron, some stainless steel) and doesn’t quite give the same effect.

However! You might want to consider using a lava rocks or ceramic rocks tray in place of your flame tamer. These have a similar effect to the oil sizzling off the charcoal. That way, you won’t compromise on taste.

Whichever you choose, don’t forget, never, and I mean, NEVER EVER, use charcoal in place of lava or ceramic rocks in your gas barbecue or you might as well send your grill into early retirement.

Next up on The Great Debate: Charcoal or Gas BBQ Grills? Part 2, we’ll talk about maintenance and cleanliness. Can the answer really be that obvious? Think about it and let me know in my next post!