There is a big debate among barbecue amateurs and experts alike. Which is better to grill with, charcoal or propane? The short answer is that most people will vote for charcoal.
That does not mean you cannot cook delicious barbecue with propane grills. But, what makes such a significant difference between the two? It has to do with the flavoring and the smokiness that charcoal gives to any grilled food. That is the essence of barbecue anyway.
The latest propane grills have lava rocks or other types of materials underneath the grill which, when juices fall onto, will vaporize. They will also smoke up and add similar flavor to the meat or other food being grilled as charcoal.
Depending on the type of propane grill being used, it may be hard for anyone but an expert to tell the difference if food has been cooked with that propane grill or charcoal. One thing to keep in mind is that if grilling is done with charcoal and that charcoal has been lit with lighter fluid, there can be an unpleasant flavor. That flavor can be slightly reminiscent of a petrochemical.
That is not exactly a delicious flavor to embrace yet it is possible when it comes to grilling with charcoal. If a charcoal chimney-type smoker is used, however, with wood chips the flavor is entirely natural. There is no chemical flavor. There is only a woodsy, natural taste.
The truth is that there are subtle taste differences between propane and charcoal. The flavoring of the finished meal comes mostly from the seasonings. Whatever rubs or sauces are used before the food is placed on a grill has the most to do with enhancing flavor.
There are slight differences between charcoal and propane. Most have to do with seasoning and also personal preferences.