One of the best things about being an editor at SAIL is learning new things from our writers. Case in point: I’ve never been much of an onboard griller, but Jan’s article got me thinking. It also got me wondering about the plusses and minuses of charcoal vs. gas, so I borrowed a ChefsMate Gas Grill from Magma Products and a Stow-N-Go charcoal grill from Kuuma Grills to put the two methods to the test. (Both companies make gas and charcoal grills—I could have just as easily tested a Kuuma gas grill and a Magma charcoal grill.)
The two grills were rectangular, with grilling areas of about 160 square inches. The ChefsMate used a standard 1lb disposable propane canister. For the Kuuma Grill, I went with Kingsford-brand charcoal, as per Jan’s recommendation.
Although both grills are designed to be mounted on a stern pulpit, they can be used just as easily on land, thanks to their foldaway legs. With their lids securely closed, they were as easy to haul around as a lightweight toolbox. I could see taking either one of these grills ashore at the end of the day for a beach party.
Although it was a windy—and cold!—early spring day, we had no problem firing up either grill. Our chosen victuals included a score of Jan’s jerk chicken kabobs (see sailmagazine.com/recipes for recipe) and a half-dozen tofu burgers. Interestingly, cooking times for the two grills were approximately the same. With the charcoal grill, we had to wait the requisite 10 minutes for the coals to get good and hot, but once they did, our burgers and kabobs cooked up in just a few minutes. With the gas grill we rushed things a little, only gave it a couple of minutes to warm up, and ended up having to cook things a little longer. In the future, I’ll be sure to give the gas grill a little extra warm-up time.
In both cases, the end result was impressive. The two grills did a great job of cooking the meat without scorching it. Jan is right about the taste: the SAIL staff was unanimous that the charcoal did impart a nice smoky flavor that was lacking with the gas. Still, the gas-cooked food was delicious.
Cleaning up afterward, the gas grill really showed its stuff. Within minutes of turning the grill off, I was able to pick it up without having to worry about burning myself. The charcoal grill, on the other hand, just kept going, and going. Granted, at a good beach party or when the grill’s clamped to the pushpit, cool-down times are not really an issue. Nonetheless, it’s something to keep in mind.
It was also nice to not have to deal with a pile of spent coals. The environmentalist in me isn’t crazy about throwing out those bulky metal canisters. But then again, if your grill is hooked up to a refillable tank onboard, this becomes a non-issue. I’ve also never been a fan of lugging around lighter fluid, another downside of charcoal.
In the end, I think the gas grill is the way to go. While it’s true the food probably tastes a bit better with charcoal, you just can’t beat the convenience that comes when you grill with gas.