Charcoal or gas? We have been cooking over fire for a very long time. It’s not just that our ancestors wanted to avoid raw meat, fire when correctly managed makes things deliciously tender. A suitable fire for the correct amount of time at the right intensity adds flavour with a combination of char and smoke that cannot be mimicked with Instant pots or electric frying pans. We no longer NEED to cook with fire, but we miss that flavour so we are drawn to make meals over the fire.

This portable gas grill makes grilling year-round easy.

Photo courtesy of Broil King.

Whether at home or on the road the right equipment answers the call for a proper fire-cooked meal. Both gas and charcoal have strong points that come with some tradeoffs. But before we argue for one or another there are a few questions:

      • For how many will you be cooking?
      • Where will you be cooking?
      • What will you be cooking?
      • Does the grill need to be portable? Back of the half-ton portable or RV cubby bin portable?
      • Will this be your sole source of heat for food preparation, or will it be used occasionally?

Choosing gas versus charcoal partly depends on the answers to these questions. I use the Broil King gas grill the most at home. It’s adapted to be connected to my residential gas line so I can grill every day of the year––even when it’s -20 C. My go-to grill for camping is the Camp Chef three-burner stove with an optional grill box and pizza oven. The Camp Chef capably handles multi-course food prep for our extended family of 13 on camping trips and is fueled by propane. It’s a flexible base piece of equipment that handles a skillet, Dutch oven or griddle and allows the addition of a grill box or pizza oven. The downside is the base and the components, making it a beast to haul. I say it is worth the effort. But when it’s just Kathy, our Gordon Setter and me for a week or two in the woods, I prefer the Lodge Sportsman Grill. It is a Hibachi-style grill perfect for preparing simple grilled meals over charcoal for 2-4 people. It fits in my trailer’s cubby and all I need is a pail of briquettes and a small chimney starter.

Lodge cast iron’s Sportsman’s Grill is a small, portable and functional charcoal grill.

There are smaller portable propane grills as another option for RVers, but I want to do more with my grill than just grill. If an auxiliary propane tank is too much nuisance, the right length of adaptor hose allows you to connect your grill to your RV propane tanks.

The difference in cooking performance between gas and charcoal comes down to the chemical makeup of the two fuels. Each propane molecule is comprised of three carbon atoms and eight hydrogen atoms compared to charcoal’s pure carbon. Propane kicks off four molecules of water for every molecule of propane consumed. This means the charcoal grill is a dryer and often more intense heat. I like this, but I still use a propane grill regularly with satisfactory results. It is worth noting that when I want a good hard sear on an expensive rib eye, I nearly always choose charcoal.

Skewers are a great easy-to-grill item. Here is a recipe for a quick marinade for your choice of protein that will work well on either gas or charcoal.

Here are a selection of meats and vegetables ready for the charcoal grill.

Skewers for four
About 10 minutes of prep time and 30 minutes to cook.


      • The grill of your choice
      • Fuel (gas or charcoal)
      • Bamboo (or metal) skewers
      • Mixing bowl
      • Whisk
      • Sealable bag for marinating meat to rest
      • Tongs for grilling
      • Platter for prep grill-side


      • 500 grams (about 1 pound) of beef, chicken or pork cut into 1-inch cubes
      • 1 cup (250 ml) of Greek yogurt
      • quarter cup of canola oil
      • the zest and juice from one lemon
      • 2 tablespoons of sweet Spanish smoked paprika
      • 1-2 teaspoons of salt
      • 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
      • 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne (Or more if you want some heat.)
      • 2 cloves of garlic, smashed


1. Combine oil and yogurt with a whisk. Add lemon zest and juice, garlic and other spices. Whisk well to combine into a smooth consistency of salad dressing.
2. Pour over the diced meat.
3. Place in a Ziploc bag and let rest in the refrigerator for 8 to 36 hours.
4. Heat grill to high.
5. Thread meat on bamboo skewers and grill over high heat, until the beef reaches 130 to 140 F internal temperature or the pork or chicken hits 165 F.
6. Serve with your choice of sides. (I am particularly happy to have grilled zucchini, potato slices and cob corn brushed with a bit of oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper. Grill to mark and cook until tender.)

The whole dinner can be cooked on the Sportsman’s Grill.

Because I very much like the results of both gas and charcoal when cooking over a fire, I have a ridiculous collection of stick and pellet smokers (which function perfectly as grills too) charcoal, gas and propane grills. Some are portable, some are not, but the complements about the good food that comes off all of them are the remaining constant.

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