Among those seemingly unsolvable binary arguments—Ginger versus Mary Ann, Coke v. Pepsi, Yankees v. Red Sox, North v. South, tastes great v. less filling, Catholic v. Protestant, John Kerry v. an IQ Test, etc—one of the most important is: charcoal versus gas. For grilling, that is.
Since today is the unofficial beginning of summer, or at least of grilling season, we may as well wade into this searing controversy. I’ve always been partial to charcoal. “Lump or briquette?” you ask. Don’t be impertinent. It depends on the meat, and the method of cooking. Directly cooked steaks and lamb chops are better on lump charcoal; chicken is better on briquette, but everything is better on briquette if you’re cooking by indirect heat—as you should most of the time. But I digress from the main point.
Wired magazine weighs in firmly on the side of charcoal in the next issue–and hey, if it’s in Wired, it must be true, because Silicon Valley:
True fact: Cooking on a gas grill is more convenient than cooking with charcoal. It’s also a lot less special. And, scientifically speaking, it creates less flavorful food.
To understand why, you first need to understand that flavor and taste are not the same thing. “Within flavor, we have taste compounds and we have aroma compounds,” says Gavin Sacks, associate professor of food science at Cornell University. “Our brains just aren’t designed to decouple them. . .
But here’s the clincher argument:
Cooking over charcoal makes your food taste like bacon. Let me repeat that: blah blah charcoal blah blah BACON.
So if you have two identical steaks, cooked at identical temperatures, for the same amount of time, where the only difference is that one is cooked over charcoal and one is cooked over gas, what will be the end result? The charcoal-cooked steak will taste more like bacon.
Seems ironclad to me.