Can I Use Charcoal Briquettes on a Gas Grill?

Many grillers seek the classic BBQ flavor of charcoal grilling, but prefer the convenience and precision of gas grills. If you’re seeking the best of both worlds, you might be wondering “can I use charcoal briquettes in a gas grill?”

As avid barbecue lovers, we understand the thrill of experimenting with different grilling techniques in the quest to achieve that delectable smoky flavor and charred perfection. While gas grills offer simplicity and precision, there’s an undeniable allure to the rich taste that comes from traditional charcoal grilling.

Flavor is probably the #1 reason people want to use charcoal on a gas grill, but is it possible—and safe—to infuse gas grilling with the distinct flavor of charcoal briquettes? Let’s explore the answers and perhaps introduce a new dimension to your grilling experience. Grab your aprons and keep reading to learn more about:

  • Can I use charcoal briquettes in a gas grill?
  • How to cook with charcoal on a gas grill
  • Ceramic vs. charcoal briquettes

Now let’s get cooking.

Can I Use Charcoal Briquettes in a Gas Grill?

Unless your grill is specifically built to operate as both a gas grill and a charcoal grill, you should not be adding charcoal to it without taking some additional steps to prevent damage to your gas barbecue.

Gas grills are designed to handle the heat created by their gas-powered burners, and the higher heat and ash generated by burning charcoal can easily cause permanent damage to the components of your gas grill. Other dangers include fires and flare-ups if you do not secure the charcoal in a smoker box, basket, or tray.

If you want to use charcoal briquettes on a gas grill to amp up the flavor, you may be able to safely set up charcoal using the method described below.

If you’re hoping charcoal briquettes will help heat up your grill, you’re better off avoiding charcoal altogether. If heat is the issue, you may actually be looking for ceramic briquettes, or there may be other issues with your grill. Troubleshoot heat problems with our guide.

How to Cook with Charcoal on a Gas Grill

If you’re a proud member of the “why not both” school of grilling, the safest way to use charcoal on a gas grill is to invest in a dual fuel grill that is designed to handle both fuel sources, or, if you have the money and space, purchase two separate grills.

Dual fuel grills are built for using both types of fuel, but these grills will typically feature a gas grill and a charcoal grill beside each other, rather than both fuel types integrated into one cooking space.

We strongly recommend not using charcoal briquettes on a gas grill to prevent damage to your grill, but if you are totally committed to finding a way to use charcoal briquettes on your gas grill, you will absolutely need to use a charcoal tray to contain the coals. Set the tray into the grill grate area—similar to how you would with wood chips—to keep the charcoal heat away from your grill’s delicate parts and prevent the ash from getting into the grill components. You should avoid using lighter fluid on the charcoal in order to reduce the fire risk. Once the charcoals are burning, turn off the burners and propane gas and only use the charcoals as a heat source.

GRILL SPOT TIP: While they may look like they’ll work for charcoal briquettes, you shouldn’t use a smoker box to hold charcoal. Smoker boxes are designed for wood chips and pellets—not to handle the high direct heat of charcoal.

Ceramic Briquettes vs. Charcoal Briquettes

Ceramic briquettes and charcoal briquettes are two very different things, designed to be used in different grills and for different purposes.

Ceramic briquettes are used in gas grills to aid in heat retention and help build flavor—as drippings fall off the items on the grill, they fall onto the hot ceramic briquettes and turn into steam or smoke. Charcoal briquettes are a type of fuel used to generate (not just retain) fire and heat in charcoal grills.

Below, we have created a chart to outline the differences between both types of briquette, as well as lava rocks—another common product used for heat distribution in gas grills:

If your gas grill doesn’t have any type of rocks or briquettes, that is likely because it uses a heat plate or heat tent system.

Wrapping Up

It is generally not advisable to use charcoal on a gas grill, but it can be done if you’re determined and you take the proper precautions. If you want smoky flavour and you’re curious but hesitant about trying charcoal briquettes on your gas grill, consider trying wood chips instead.

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