Does Fuel Affect Grilled Food Flavour? Myth Vs. Reality

The charcoal versus gas debate has raged on since the dawn of gas grilling, and will likely never end. But with modern advances in both charcoal manufacturing and gas grill technology, the real debate often comes down to flavour — not cooking temperature, speed or convenience.

What do we hear the most?

“Gas grills leave a chemical flavour on food.”

And, “Only charcoal can give you a true ‘grilled’ flavour.”

Wrong! Let’s debunk these myths once and for all.

Gas Is Tasteless & Odourless

Both natural gas and propane are completely tasteless, odourless and colourless. What’s that odour then that you smell when you open the tank valve and before lighting? Gas manufacturers add a completely harmless (albeit, stinky) chemical called ethyl mercaptan. This is a safety measure to alert you to gas leaks. As soon as the gas and mercaptan combust, the odour burns off instantly, along with the gas, leaving no residual taste or smell. When you burn gas properly your combustion byproducts are carbon dioxide and water vapor.

If you still swear you’re tasting “gas,” you may need to do some troubleshooting to make sure your gas grill is working properly. Under-combustion produces carbon monoxide.

Always let a gas grill preheat completely – any smoke you see before adding food is organic material (old food, spider webs, etc.) that need to burn off. Preheating usually takes 10-15 minutes, with the exception of an infrared burner.

Note the colour of the flame – the flame of a gas grill with the proper mix of gas and air should burn bright blue with faint yellow tips. Sluggish yellow or orange flames indicate too much gas and not enough oxygen. This means the gas and mercaptan are not fully combusting before reaching your food.

Clean and adjust air intake – clean the burners to ensure no food or other materials are blocking them. If this doesn’t produce blue flames, consult your owner’s manual for instructions on adjusting the air-gas mixture. It may also be a sign that you need to replace your burners to get back to peak performance.

Vaporization Gives You True Grilled Flavour

Now for the other myth. While it’s true that charcoal – particularly solid hardwood chunks – is naturally going to impart a smokier flavour than a clean-burning gas grill, the distinct ‘grilled’ flavour most people recognize actually comes from vaporization.

We’ll discuss this more in-depth in another post, but basically when fat and juices drip down off of food and hit a hot surface – either hot charcoal or a hot burner – it vaporizes and coats the food in a tasty goodness that cannot be achieved by any other cooking method.

Vaporization occurs over any hot surface. It’s the reason why Broil King uses Flav-R-Wave technology in our heat plates. The heat plates cover the burners to protect them and evenly distribute heat, yes. But the Flav-R-Wave heat plates are also designed specifically to vaporize drippings and channel excess fat away.

Want to add extra smoky flavour using your gas grill? Simply add some wood chips or pellets of your choice to a smoker box during the preheating process. Once your chips start smoking, adjust the vents on the smoker box to control the amount of smoke, and keep your grill lid closed while cooking.

Find Your Next Grill At Broil King

Gas versus charcoal ultimately comes down to preference! An authentic grilled flavour can be achieved on both types of grills. Whatever you decide, you can find your next gas or charcoal grill at your local Broil King distributor. See our complete line of grills at