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Pellet Grill vs. Charcoal vs. Gas

How to choose the right grill for you.

For many people grilling has always meant one of two things: charcoal or gas. From the time many of us were children, there are memories of bags of charcoal, lighter fluid or propane tanks along with the accompanying hamburgers, hot dogs, steaks, chicken and veggies that came off the grill. Of course, new competitors have come and gone over the years, but the “new kid on the block” in the grilling world that’s continuing to gain momentum is the pellet grill. For those of you considering a new grill, we’ll walk you through the pros and cons of a pellet grill vs. a gas grill and a pellet grill vs. a charcoal grill to help you decide on the right outdoor cooking tool for your needs.

Silverbac pellet grill

Pellet Grill vs. Charcoal Grill

For years the charcoal grill was the standard for the home cooking grilling aficionado. Many purists claim that the flavor imparted from charcoal is the only way to grill. While many people are familiar with charcoal grills, it’s worth noting that charcoal grills come in many shapes and sizes. Here are some of the more popular styles of charcoal grills:

  • Kettle grills are what most people think of when they think of a charcoal grill, with a round grill set atop a tripod with a lid and a vent. Kettle grills are often a popular choice as a portable grill as there are many smaller, lightweight models available for camping or traveling.
  • Barrel grills are what they sound like, grills that are made out of barrels, or to look like traditional 55-gallon barrels, cut in half with a hinge and some legs to stand on.
  • Cart grills are basically grills that look like modern gas grills but use charcoal for fuel.
  • Kamado grills are egg shaped grills made out of ceramic. The ceramic material provides insulation which helps create an even cooking temperature across the entire cooking area. Kamados can also achieve grill temperatures of 700 degrees or more, which makes them great for searing or using them as a pizza oven. These grills have become very popular among home chefs, and if you’d like to check one out have a look at Grilla’s Kong ceramic kamado grill.

Now that you know what your options ware with charcoal bbq grills, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of cooking with a charcoal grill.

Pros of Charcoal Grills

  • Charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal are usually less expensive than gas
  • Added smoky, charcoal flavor
  • Portable options
  • Lightweight (most models)
  • Inexpensive options

Cons of Charcoal Grills

  • Take time to light and get up to temperature (sometimes up to 30 minutes)
  • Takes time to cool down/turn off
  • Need a fairly large amount of space to use, which may not be an option in tight quarters
  • Can be very messy

If you’re not familiar with pellet grills you should check out our “What is a Wood Pellet Grill?” page. For the purposes of this post, however, we’ll provide a quick overview. A pellet grill will usually have the standard look of a gas grill or charcoal cart or barrel grill (with the notable exception of our Grilla model), with the addition of a pellet hopper on the side to holds quite a few pounds of pellets for fuel. There’s an electric powered auger at the bottom of the hopper that pulls the hardwood pellets into the fire pot where they are lit. From there, you simply set your pellet grill to the temperature you want and the pellet grill will use fuel as needed to maintain that temperature with convection-style cooking that makes for an even, smoky cook.

Pros of Pellet Grills

  • Easy to use – barbecue like a pro even as a novice cooker
  • Delicious wood smoked flavor
  • Variety of wood flavors
  • Precise temperature control
  • Set it and forget it cooking. You can literally set the temperature, insert a meat probe for the occasional temperature check and go grab something to drink
  • Act as both a smoker and a grill
  • Maintains temperature in nearly any weather
  • Fuel efficient (about a pound per hour of cook time)
  • Easier to clean than charcoal grills

Cons of Pellet Grills

  • More expensive than charcoal grills
  • Slightly higher fuel costs
  • Some people are not happy with how hot pellet grills get, as they can’t achieve the higher temperatures achieved by most charcoal grills, particularly kamados, which can make searing less effective without special attachments or additional features on the grill
  • Require electricity to use

Pellet Grill vs. Gas Grill

Gas grills are extremely popular, especially if you walk into your local big box store. There are all the brand names you’ve come to expect, you can get as few or as many square inches of cooking space that you’d like, and the prices can range as high or low as you’re willing to go. Gas grills often time come with some cool features as well, like side burners that run off of the fuel tank. While gas grills are the most popular grills on the market there are some very clear positives and negatives in choosing a gas grill.

Pros of Gas Grills

  • Easy to light and get up to temperature
  • Can achieve high temperatures quickly
  • Lots of available features
  • Inexpensive models are available
  • No cleanup from fuel

Cons of Gas Grills

  • Where’s the taste? Gas has no inherent flavor
  • Unable to smoke
  • Don’t perform well at lower temperatures
  • Foods don’t cook as evenly
  • You’ll need to be very aware of safety and ordinances from the fire hazards associated with gas grills
  • Can be difficult to control the temperature

While we addressed the pros and cons of a pellet grill above, there are some slight differences of the pros and cons when comparing a pellet grill to a gas grill.

Pros of Pellet Grills

  • Easy to use
  • Adds wood-smoked flavor and can be varied depending on your choice in hardwood pellets
  • Precise temperature control
  • Set it and forget it cooking.
  • Act as both a smoker and a grill
  • Maintains temperature in nearly any weather

Cons of Pellet Grills

  • Pellets are more expensive than gas
  • Requires cleaning of the fire pot
  • More expensive initial purchase than a gas grill
  • Can’t achieve higher temperatures for searing like gas or charcoal
  • Require electricity to use
  • Don’t achieve temperature as quickly as gas grills (though they are still fairly quick)
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Grilla Grills
558 E. 64th Street
Holland, MI 49423
Email: grillmaster@grillagrills.com
Phone: 616-392-7410