Pellet Grills vs. Charcoal Grills: Which one is the Best?
Both Pellet Grills and a Charcoal Grills are great for cooking tasty foods. It is the authentic smoky taste and flavor infused in food cooked with charcoal grills that makes them stand out. Lately, pellet grills have also grown in popularity and it is mainly for the same reason —flavor. Pellet grills burn on pellets made from pure hardwoods. The fact that the hardwoods are all natural and pure with no added additives ensures they produce rich smoky flames as well, only there is a distinct flavor depending on the type of hardwood used.
To determine which grill type is therefore better suited for you, you may need to consider the ease and convenience of using the grill and other factors like your budget and preferred cooking methods. If you’re looking to chose between a pellet grill and a charcoal grill, then you came to the right place as this post will give you a better understanding of the various differences that exist between these two grill types.
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When we’re talking about the taste, both charcoal and wood pellet grills stand out in this regard. They both infuse foods with smoky flavors thus creating foods that are delicious and better tasting. The difference however, is in those flavors.
Wood pellets are made from different species of hardwoods which means that they come in a variety of flavors like maple, oak, apple, mesquite, pecan and a personal favorite of mine—hickory. These different flavors can also be blended together to create unique mixed flavors but essentially whichever flavor used, it is bound to create exquisite food and thus, wood pellet grills are better in this regard as they offer you the benefit of customizing the flavor you want. You can experiment with different flavors for different foods for endless possibilities and so there is no doubt here that when it comes to taste, wood pellet grills definitely take the trophy here!
Price is often one of the first things to consider when buying a grill of any kind.
Charcoal grills may not be as popular as gas grills but they are still finding their way in a number of homes and entertaining establishments. They come in a wide range of prices, even from as low as $50 for the small portable ones to as high as $2500 or more, depending on the manufacturer, quality and features. So depending on your budget and grilling needs, you are sure to find lots of options to chose from.
Wood pellet grills on the other hand, are usually a bit pricey. This is mainly because of the automated digital controller technology and high-tech sensors in the pellet grills. Wood pellet grills retail from around $400 to as high as $1400 for the larger ones with more advanced features for optimum efficiency. Wood pellet grills retailing at less than $350 are rare and if you see one, take my advice and stay away because it will likely not give you much in terms of performance and durability.
Perhaps the most impressive feature of wood pellets grills the “set and forget” benefit they offer made possible by an automated digital controller. This impressive feature allows you to dial in your desired cooking temperatures, and walk away, just like an oven! No baby sitting! The automated digital controller maintains your set temperatures within within +/- 20 degrees F, while some like the REC TEC Wood Pellet Grill that has an advanced PID algorithm can maintain temperatures in precise 5ºF increments. This is achieved with the help of a smart auger in the hopper that automatically feeds wood pellets into the grill for consistent heat.
With a charcoal grill however constant monitoring is the name of the game. You have to be there to monitor your food not to mention, you have to manually keep adding charcoal to maintain to keep cooking when the heat reduces. And that’s not even the worst worst problem with most charcoal grills. With charcoal grills you have almost zero temperature control, unless you get creative.
Ease of use and Overall Convenience
Compared to the constant monitoring required with a charcoal grill and the need to stoke the coals, manually add charcoal to maintain the heat, a pellet grill is super easy to use and also very convenient to cook with. With the smart digital temperature controller and automatic auger in place all you have to do is fill the hopper with pellets, light up the grill, set the temperatures and you’re done. You just let the grill do all the work for you.
The thing about charcoal grills is that trying to replicate the same dish you made say yesterday or the previous weekend can sometimes be challenging mainly because of lack of temperature control and maintenance.
This is however not the case with pellet grills as you can be assured of a consistent outcome in food and the best part is that you won’t have to monitor the grill.
Fun fact: Did you know that you can cook in multiple ways using with a pellet grill including; grilling, roasting, smoking, braising, barbecuing, baking or even searing with a single wood pellet grill? Yes! They are versatile that way. With most of them you can be able to cook in at least five of this methods. So whether you’re craving a homemade cherry pie, pizza, some burgers, grilled ribs, smoked chicken or some perfectly seared restaurant-style steaks, you’re sure to find a grill that can all that.
Charcoal grills are not as versatile but there are some that will allow you to grill, smoke and barbecue on the same unit.
A big plus for using pellets as a fuel is that they generally produce less ash compared to charcoal. And because pellets don’t produce a lot of ash, some pellet grills lack a clean out system with removable ash pan for easy disposal of even the little ash that is produced. This leaves vacuuming as the best way to clean such grills. Some however like the Camp Chef Wood Pellet Grills have an elaborate ash clean-out system that involves pulling a lever to access the removable ash pan.
Charcoal grills produce more ash but the good thing is, most come with a removable ash pan so cleaning is fast and easy.
So which one is the best?
There are other things to look for in a grill and the fact that technology is evolving each day has also benefited the grilling world as these days grills that are WiFi-enabled are coming up. The Green Mountain Davy Crockett Pellet Grill is one such grill. This grill takes temperature control and monitoring to a whole new level when the grill and their app on your smartphone are synced. You just simply keep an eye on your food and control the cooking temperatures using your smartphone.
But the question of which one is best, depends on your cooking needs. Both the wood pellet grills and charcoal grills have their own unique advantages and disadvantages so its up to you to evaluate what you’re looking for in a grill and pick the one that best suits your needs. What I will advice you to do is to shop around before settling on a particular grill. If you’re shopping online, take your time and go through the customer reviews so you can get an idea on the performance of the grill and what to expect.