What Are The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Charcoal Barbecues?

What Are The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Charcoal Barbecues?

Charcoal barbecues give that authentic smokey flavour to your food


  • They take longer to heat than gas but a Chimney Starter cuts down on the amount of time it takes to get your charcoal or briquettes up to cooking temperature; they can be ready in 15 – 20 minutes. Fully open the vents at the bottom of the BBQ. Fill the chimney with the required amount of fuel, place 2 Lighter Cubes onto the BBQ grate and safely light with a lighter. Stand the chimney on top of the lit cubes with the steering handle on the edge of the BBQ. When the flames are visible at the top, pour the fuel onto the grate or into the baskets; remembering to always use the High Temperature Premium Gloves. If you are using the baskets remember to put some of the coals from the top into each basket and some of the bottom coals into each basket; this gives a more even temperature. Chimney Starter Sets are available which contain everything you need to fire up the BBQ; they make great presents for the BBQ chef. This is a rough guide to how much fuel you need to put into the chimney: roasting and baking 180 – 190C  -  one third of a chimney full; grilling 240 – 250C  -  half a chimney full; pizza and searing meat; 280 – 290C  -  one full chimney
  • You achieve that distinctive smokey barbecue flavour. By adding flavoured wood chips and chunks you can change the flavour of the smoke.
  • Charcoal is ideal for cooking something quickly on a high heat, such as pizza, steaks or kebabs. It can reach a temperature of 260 – 370C which is ideal if you want your steak caramelised on the outside and pink inside.
  • Choose briquettes if you want to cook something at a lower, more even temperature over a longer period, such as chicken or a joint on the rotisserie. If you cook chicken over a high heat there is a chance that the outside will burn before the centre is cooked.
  • Charcoal is usually cheaper than gas. 

Chef flavouring the charcoal barbecue with half an onion


  • Charcoal only has a cooking time of about 30 – 45 minutes, and once it reaches its peak temperature it starts to cool quite quickly. Putting on more charcoal means that it can take another 10 – 15 minutes to reach temperature. Briquettes can overcome this problem as they burn for up to 3 hours with a fairly even temperature.
  • Cheap charcoal can contain a lot of unusable small pieces and dust, so make sure you always use good quality fuel, such as the Weber Lumpwood Charcoal.
  • They can be quite dirty.
  • There is the problem of ash to deal with, whereas there is no residue with gas.
  • Some people struggle to light the charcoal but this can be overcome with a chimney starter.
  • Using charcoal it is sometimes difficult to achieve an even temperature over the bed due to the irregular sizes of the charcoal pieces. This can be overcome by using good quality briquettes, such as the Weber Briquettes which due to their uniform size provide a more even temperature.
  • The temperature is harder to control; you have to move the fuel around to create direct and indirect heat areas.
  • They take longer to clean than the gas.

For more information on barbecuing just get in touch with our expert team here in store at The Barbecue Shop or check out our Youtube channel.

Profile Image Angela Slater

Angela Slater

Daughter of a farmer and market gardener so have always had a connection with the outdoors, whether it was keeping animals or producing fruit, vegetables and cut flowers. Along with my work at Hayes Garden World I also have a smallholding, mainly breeding rare breed pigs. I gained an HND and BSc in Conservation and Environmental Land Management, as a result I am an ardent environmentalist and have a keen interest in environmentally friendly gardening. In my time at Hayes I worked for several years in the Outdoor Plant and Houseplant areas.