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On my quest to balcony charcoal grilling, without bothering my neighbours, I have researched many solutions.

I am now, pretty sure, that I can limit the smoke of the actual burning by using the right coal (like cocos coal) and lighting it the right way.

However, the main problem appears to be the fat on coal dripping, which results in a lot of smoke, no matter the coal type.

I have stumbled upon a "smokeless charcoal grill", which is specifically designed to be smokeless and it looks like this:

enter image description here

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cmVlfXxh-x0

From what I can tell, this grill hides the coal and works by indirectly heating the food, preventing fat dripping on the coal.

While this makes sense, this also limits the flavors, which develop by the dripping.

I wonder if there is no fat on coal dripping, does this even have an advantage over using a gas or electric grill?

Would the food still get some smokey flavour from the coal? Or is this actually the same as gas or electric flavorwise?

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Flavors don't develop by dripping onto the heat source

Flavor can enter a meat from smoke, but you want the flavor of hardwoods like hickory or apple. You do not want the flavor of burnt grease; I have never heard anyone describe burnt grease as a pleasant smell or taste.

Therefore, you want the drippings to go somewhere that isn't the heat source. For some fatty foods this can be a problem, particularly 70/30 hamburgers or a pork shoulder. Many barbeque-ers will put a drip pan (a small tin-foil pan) into their grill to catch grease, keeping it away from the coals or the gas flame. Also, the drippings from some cooked meats can be re-used (like in a gravy), another reason for a drip pan.

I have never seen or used a smokeless charcoal grill. But, as long as the device works as promised and keeps the grease away from the flame, there should be no change in flavor of your finished foods.

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  • There has also been some evidence that the smoke from fat dripping on hot coals, or gas/electric heat elements is a carcinogen. In no way do I intend that comment from being alarmist, but some do consider it to be a moderate food risk. It tends to be far more of a bitter, harsh taste than the intended wood/coal smoke most of us look for, so indirect heat and drip catchers are really the way to go for most grill work. Melted or rendered fat = good in many cases. Burnt fat, not good eats and potentially not good for you. – dlb May 29 '19 at 15:16
  • Interesting! I watched a documentary on japanese grill, where they explained, that the drippings, causing smoke are an essential part of the falvor. But they could be wrong ofc. This sounds reassuring. But would you prefer this charcoal grill to a gas grill? It should still have more smokey flavor right? – user1721135 May 29 '19 at 15:18
  • @user1721135 Gas does not inherently give any smokey flavor; charcoal briquettes do but it tends to be less pleasant, especially with match-light briquettes. In either case, you want to add smoky flavor using wood; either wood chips or lump hardwood. You should read up about how smoking works; I'd recommend the Barbeque Bible. – kingledion May 29 '19 at 17:28
  • But why do people prefer charcoal to gas then? Very few people bother with wood. – user1721135 May 30 '19 at 8:36
  • @user1721135 You can buy lump hardwood charcoal, as opposed to briquettes, and that will give you the smokey flavor. Also charcoal will burn hotter and there is the appeal to tradition. – kingledion May 30 '19 at 9:44

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