Ceramic Grills vs Other Grills

A side-by-side review of the three most popular grilling methods.

The "Grate Debate"

With so many grills on the market today, it can be more than a little confusing when you’re ready to buy one. That's why we put together an easy-to-read guide for you can compare the the most popular grilling methods. In the end, it’s all about find the grilling style that’s right for you.

What’s the best grill for you?

That depends. Generally, it should be a grill that satisfies your taste, lifestyle and falls within your budget. Whatever you decide, grill well.


Gas Grills

Pros: If convenience is a priority, then a gas grill may be your best choice. It’s the most common grill and offers multiple burners, warmers, side shelves and a number of accessories for specialty cooking like rotisserie attachments. Start up and shut down is quick and temperature control is easy with a low cost per use. Cleaning is fairly easy, although cast iron grates require a little more care. Gas grills are attractive and come in a variety of stainless steel designs. A good quality gas grill will cost $500-$1,500 and upwards of that for commercial outdoor versions.

Cons: As convenience goes up the flavor goes down. You will sacrifice some level of taste by using gas, because the grilled taste can only come from the vaporized drippings of the food. Space is another consideration if you have a small patio or deck. Also, you may unknowingly run out fuel in the middle of cooking if you don’t check your tank prior to cooking. All metal grills become very hot while grilling, so they pose a burn hazard. The real drawback to metal grills is that they radiate great amounts of heat, which pulls the moisture from food very efficiently. It's likely that the driest chicken breast you ever ate came from a gas grill.


Briquette Charcoal Grills

Pros: These grills offer a good charcoal taste and are generally inexpensive compared to other grilling styles–as low as $20 with average pricing of $75-$150. Briquette charcoal is widely available and is offered in a variety of brands and features such as mesquite flavored and “ready-to-light” versions. They typically have a large grilling area for direct and indirect grilling and you can even use them as a smoker on a limited basis by controlling the air vents. They are also a good choice if you have limited space.

Cons: Briquette charcoal grills typically take 20-30 minutes or more for start up. There is no thermometer on basic models so these grills take quite a bit of guesswork when it comes to temperature. Once again, all metal grills pose a burn hazard, and they radiate great amounts of heat which pulls the moisture from food very efficiently.

Classic Kamado Joe

Ceramic Charcoal Grills

Pros: If you are a serious outdoor cooker and put a priority on taste, then a ceramic grill is likely your best choice. These grills use a combination of ceramic shell, natural lump charcoal and air flow to offer a superior charcoal taste and the ability to cook food at high temperatures and have it retain its moistness . You can cook as low as 225°F or well over 750°F, so you can use it as an oven, a grill or a smoker. They have a small footprint and costs range from $850-$1,000. A wide range of accessories are available. Ceramic grills are ready to use in 15 minutes.

Cons: Ceramic grills have an initial learning curve when it comes to adjusting the airflow to achieve the desired temperature. The weight of these grills averages around 150lbs, so you may need help placing it in the cart or moving it up stairs to a raised deck or balcony. Ceramic grills are ceramic and while not fragile, they are susceptible to chipping or breaking if dropped or hit with significant force.

  Gas Grills Briquette Charcoal Grills Ceramic Charcoal Grills
Taste Any "grilled" taste is the result of food drippings burning as they hot lava rocks. (Smoker box attachment can a moderate level of smokey flavor). Modest charcoal smoked flavor - briquettes are made from sawdust and contain additives like borax, starch. Ready-to-light briquettes can leave aftertaste. True wood-fire flavor. Lump charcoal is made from charred hardwoods like oak, hickory and maple and imparts outstanding flavor.
Ease of Use Convenient start-up and shut-down. Best for "last minute" grilling. Requires significant guesswork to achieve desired temperature. Best for basic foods. Requires starting of lump charcoal (though lump charcoal lights fast); temperature control is achieved by adjusting airflow, monitoring of thermometer.
Moisture Retention Require more total heat to cook due to uninsulated wells which can dry out food, especially meats. Require more total heat-to cook due to uninsulated wells and need to check food due to lack of temperature control. This results in even more moisture loss. Because of exceptional insulation and heat circulation due to shape, requires far less total heat which means much moister meats/food.
Start Up Time Lights immediately. Ready in Minutes. Longest start-up time; up to 20 - 30 minutes. Ready to cook in 15 minutes.
Temperature Range Low temperatures are easily achieved. Entry level units average 500°F for the highest temperature. More expensive models offer a sear burner for high temperature searing. Low temperatures can be achieved. Depending on the amount of briquette charcoal, you can achieve temperatures near 700°F. Average high temperatures hover around 500°F for most models. Consistent temperatures as low as 225°F and as high as 750°F+ can be achieved easily. Low temperatures can be retained for 12 hours or longer for smoking.
Heat Source LP Gas, Natural Gas Briquette Charcoal Natural Lump Charcoal
Fuel Cost Depending on LP gas prices you can expect it to cost about $1.00 an hour to operate. Natural gas is lower, but a new regulator and line connection will need to be installed. Using a volume of six quarts of briquettes, you can expect a cost on average of $3.00-$3.50 per cooking depending on the brand. Using a volume of six quarts of natural lump charcoal for one cooking, on average you can expect a cost of about $1.50-$1.75 depending on the brand.
Cleaning Regularly clean the burners, igniter collector box, and drip trays. Clean the cooking grate before grilling by turning the grill to high for 10-15 minutes, then brush the grates. Cast iron grates require regular oiling. and ceramic coated grated should not be scraped to prevent flaking of the coating. Briquette charcoal produces a lot of ash residue. If you grill often, consider a model with an ash catcher can. Brush or scrape the cooking grate before cooking and occasionally clean the outside. Ceramic grills produce one-third the ash of briquettes, however an ash tool is usually provided that can be used to remove it. Brush or scrape the cooking grate before cooking.
Space Typically needs the most space, and should only be considered for good-sized patios and decks. A small area is needed and they are a good choice for limited outdoor space like an apartment balcony. Check your rental agreement for restrictions. Ceramic grills work well in a limited outdoor space. They can also be inserted in a grill table for an additional working surface and storage.
Purchasing Considerations If you prefer added flavor you should consider a model with a smoker box. Consider how much working space you need on the grill itself and if you will regularly need side burners to keep food warm. Determine how much you plan to cook and the maximum amount of food you will grill at any one time. This help you determining the cooking area needed. The model and features you need depends on how much you grill. If you’re an infrequent griller look for a basic model with enough capacity for your needs. If you grill often an ash can catcher will be invaluable. The more expensive models allow you to adjust the cooking grate for flexible cooking and some offer fireboxes for indirect cooking and a propane gas feature for starting. All Ceramic grills are not the same. Some use inferior ceramics and cheap hardware. Choose a manufacturer with a full line of accessories for the types of cooking you plan to do. Heat deflectors are a good choice for indirect cooking whether your grilling, baking or smoking. If you’re looking for working space and/or storage space, consider a grill table.
Price Range Entry level gas grills can be as low as $100, expect to pay $500-$1,500 for a durable grill with with decent features. Commercial grade outdoor grills can cost in the thousands. You can get a tailgate style grill for as low as $20. Standard models will run around $75-$150 and up to $500 for deluxe models. Standard size Ceramic grills range in price from $850-$1,000. If you add a grill table plan to spend $250-$750 more.