Pellet Grill vs Charcoal Grill (How to Choose!)

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Are you looking to buy a new grill but cannot decide between the pellet or charcoal grill? Don’t worry because we have all of the information you need to make your decision here.

In this TheGrillingDad.com guide, you will discover:

  • Differences between the pellet grill and charcoal grill
  • Which grill fits your needs better
  • Our recommendation
  • And much more!
a chicken leg over a flaming grill

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Pellet Grill vs. Charcoal Grill Overview

When it comes to grilling and choosing the grill that is right for you, it is important to know what type of outdoor cooking you plan to do. This is because the pellet grill and charcoal grill are suited for different types of cooking.

Choosing the right grill for you also depends on where you plan on grilling. Whether you plan to only grill in your backyard or take the unit along with you for tailgating or camping, you will need to keep in mind that only the charcoal grill has the portability you may be looking for.

On the other hand, if you are looking for a grill that has quite a bit of versatility, then the pellet grill may be the one for you. This is because the pellet grill cannot only grill at high temperatures, but also is great for the low and slow cooking methods used when smoking meats.

Whichever grill you choose, you will want to ensure that you have done your research and understand the inner workings of each. If you are still not sure which grill to choose, keep reading because we have the advantages and disadvantages listed below.

charcoal grill vs pellet smoker comparison

Pellet Grill and Charcoal Grill At a Glance

As you begin your research on which grill you would like to purchase, you may have already formed an opinion. Making the final decision boils down to a few details that you don’t want to miss.

Taking the time to learn about each type of grill can prevent you from purchasing a grill that you may regret down the road. Keep in mind that your decision should be based on your wants and needs and not the ones of your friends or neighbors.

If you are not familiar with each of these grills, read on below to learn more.

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Pellet Grill At a Glance

A pellet grill is powered by electricity, which means it should be located near an electrical outlet. Additionally, this type of grill uses wood pellets, which are made from sawdust of various kinds of wood.

The electricity works to operate the digital controls as well as the auger that moves the wood pellets into the firebox. Once the pellets are pushed from the hopper to the firebox, they then combust to produce the heat and smoke needed to cook your favorite foods.

Pellet grills are widely known for their ability to cook using a variety of methods which include grilling, smoking, baking, roasting, and more. If you are looking for a grill that has more versatility, the pellet grill may be the one for you.

Related >> Best Pellet Grills

Check out some of the pros and cons of the pellet grill so you can decide for yourself:

Pros:

  • Typically has a larger cooking area
  • Easy to operate
  • Ability to cook for longer periods
  • Provides a nice smoky flavor to your favorite meats
  • Temperature tends to stay consistent throughout the cooking process

Cons:

  • Has to be plugged into electricity to operate
  • May not hit the higher temperatures required for grilling
  • Not as easy to clean
  • Requires more maintenance than other grills

Overall, the pellet grill is best suited for those who are interested in only cooking in their backyard since the grill is not easily portable. In addition, if you want more versatility, and enjoy the low and slow cooking process, the pellet grill may be suitable for you.

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10/01/2022 10:44 am GMT

Charcoal Grill At a Glance

Unlike the pellet grill, the charcoal grill is known for its ease of use since it does not require electricity for it to operate. This also means that it can be easily transported from place to place as you see fit.

The charcoal grill is fueled by charcoal briquettes that are readily available at your local grocery or hardware store. If you find yourself running low on briquettes, it is easy enough to run to the store or send someone else to get them in a pinch.

Charcoal grills do require a bit of a learning curve to find just the right amount of charcoal to use and how to use it. Keep in mind that this type of grill also functions using high temperatures so you will need to stay close so your food does not burn.

Related >> Best Charcoal Grills

Here are some of the pros and cons of a charcoal grill that may help you make your decision:

Pros:

  • Great for searing meat
  • High temperatures mean your food cooks faster
  • Easy to operate
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Charcoal is readily available at any store

Cons:

  • Cooking areas tend to be smaller
  • High temperatures mean that you have to stay close
  • Temperature control requires a learning curve
  • Does not have many bells and whistles

If you are looking for simplicity and portability in an outdoor grill, you may be better suited for a charcoal grill. This is because they only require charcoal to operate and will take less time to cook your favorite foods and clean up afterward.

Comparison Between the Pellet Grill and Charcoal Grill

Before you make your final decision on whether to buy a pellet grill or charcoal grill, you should consider some of the following features. Knowing how each grill operates is essential when it comes to making a purchase that you will need to live with for the foreseeable future.

Below, we’ve compared some of the most common features of grills to help you make an informed decision about which one you should buy. Keep in mind that while not every grill is perfect, you will find one that is best suited for your wants and needs.

Ease of Use

When you begin to compare the pellet grill and charcoal grills, it is important to understand that they both have different features that make them easy to use. The difference between the two comes down to how much time you want to spend with the entire process.

The pellet grill is simple to get started since all you have to do is hit the ignite button to start the process. While it does have to be plugged in at all times, it is pretty simple to load in your pellets and flip the switch for it to start heating.

Related >> How to use a pellet grill

The charcoal grill, on the other hand, has its ease of use features as well including the fact that all you have to do is toss in your briquettes and ignite them. The difference is that the charcoal grill may take some time before it is ready to cook your food.

Related >> How to start a charcoal grills

While both grills are relatively simple to use, the pellet grill provides the best simplicity since you do not have to keep your eye on it the whole time. This grill is designed to give you the freedom to walk away from the grill knowing that your food will not be charred when you return.

Cost Comparisons

Another feature you may want to consider before purchasing your grill is the cost of not only buying it but also operating it over time. While the initial cost is what can affect your budget the most, maintenance costs and fuel costs should also be factored into your decision.

Pellet grills are much more expensive to purchase than other grills since they have more features such as technology. This means that you typically get more bells and whistles, but you most likely will have to pay heavily for them.

Related >> Best Pellet Grills Under $500

Charcoal grills, on the other hand, are relatively inexpensive which makes them more affordable in the long run. They tend to have a lower initial cost and since charcoal briquettes are not very expensive, the replacement fuel costs are minimal as well.

Related >> Best Charcoal Grills Under $500

Overall, if you are making your decision on cost alone, the charcoal grill is the clear winner since it is much more inexpensive. This typically means that you not only will save money on your initial investment but will not spend as much for fuel replacement as well.

Temperature Control

Temperature control is another feature that is important to consider when trying to decide whether to buy a pellet grill or a charcoal grill. When you are cooking outdoors, you will likely not want to spend hours fighting the temperature on your grill.

Pellet grills are well known for their stellar temperature control since they function with the use of electricity. This means that you can set the temperature to where you want it and can be assured that it will likely stay there for the duration of the cooking process.

Charcoal grills tend to be more challenging since they do not have a digital control that keeps the temperature constant. Most grillers view a charcoal grill as a learning experience since you have to play with the temperature to get it just right.

The bottom line on temperature control is that the pellet grill is much easier to keep the temperature constant so your food cooks evenly. For this reason, the pellet grill is hands down the winner of this category.

Temperature Range

In addition to the control of the temperature, it is also important to consider the temperature ranges at which you can cook your food. While higher temperatures are great for some purposes, lower temperatures can work well also.

Pellet grills work great for those who want to cook using the low and slow method that is common when you are smoking meat. This is because the temperature range typically does not get much higher than 400℉, except in some models.

Charcoal grills are famously known for their ability to grill at super high temperatures that typically reach anywhere between 600℉ and 700℉. These temperatures allow you to cook your favorite foods at a faster pace than other grilling methods.

For this feature, there is not a clear winner since the range of temperatures depends on what type of cooking you plan to do. If you want the ability to cook low and slow, then the pellet grill is best for you, however, if you want your grilling done fast with more sear marks, the charcoal grill is for you.

Regular Maintenance

When it comes to grilling, you may want to consider how much time you will need to spend on cleaning and maintaining your grill regularly. If you have to spend a lot of time, it may not be as enjoyable of an experience.

Pellet grills require that you empty the firebox from time to time to ensure that ash residue does not build up over time. Additionally, you will need to make sure that you do a good vacuuming job about every 2-3 cooks so that buildup does not keep it from operating properly.

Charcoal grills, on the other hand, do not require much in terms of maintenance since they do not have inner workings to worry about. All you have to do between cooks is empty the old briquette ashes out of the firebox and dust the rest.

The clear winner when it comes to regular maintenance is the charcoal grill since there is not anything extra that needs to be done. This means that this grill will last for a long time to come without having to spend a lot of time and money keeping it in good condition.

Fuel Costs

While most people tend to be concerned more about the initial cost of the grill, you should also consider the cost of fuel along the way. Knowing how much fuel you will need and how much it costs can affect how often you use the grill overall.

Pellet grills use wood pellets as the main fuel source, which can be more difficult to find than other sources of fuel. Additionally, wood pellets are also more expensive than charcoal in general and may include shipping costs as well.

Charcoal grills on the other hand use charcoal briquettes which can be purchased at most local grocery, hardware, and convenience stores. In addition, the cost of briquettes is usually inexpensive to purchase.

When considering how much it will cost to provide fuel to your grill, the charcoal grill is the clear winner. This is because briquettes are not only inexpensive but they are more readily available than wood pellets overall.

Portability

For some people, being able to use their grill either in their backyard or take it along with them on camping trips or tailgating is an important feature. When you are looking to purchase a grill, you will want to consider this factor.

The pellet grill does not provide much in the way of portability since it has to be plugged into an electrical outlet to operate. Because of this and the fact that they tend to be bulkier, they may not be as easily portable as other grills.

Charcoal grills, on the other hand, are perfect for backyard grilling, or even to take along with you on camping trips and tailgating. In most cases, all you have to do is place it and secure it in your vehicle until you reach your destination then toss your briquettes in and begin cooking.

As far as portability is concerned, the charcoal grill is the clear winner since the pellet grill does not have the portability ability. Being able to move your grill around is one feature that many people look for in a grill.

Pellet Grill vs. Charcoal Grill: The Winner

Now that you know the difference between a pellet grill and a charcoal grill, it should be obvious which grill you should purchase. The charcoal grill comes out way ahead of the pellet grill when you compare the features listed above.

Although the obvious winner of these features is the charcoal grill, some people still prefer the pellet grill. Keep in mind that the pellet grill is best suited for grillers who prefer the low and slow method of cooking since the temperature ranges are lower.

A charcoal grill, on the other hand, is best suited for those who are looking for both simplicities of use, and a challenge in the learning curve. This is because while this grill is easier to maintain, you have to experiment for a bit before you master the art of charcoal grilling.

Whether you choose to purchase a pellet grill or a charcoal grill, you should understand that purchasing one comes down to personal preference. Since you will be using your grill for the foreseeable future, you should make the best choice for you and your family overall.

No matter which you decide on, you will still end up with some amazing grilled dinners!

Hope Davis

Hope Davis

Born in Denver, Colorado as the oldest of 5 children, I learned at a young age that the grill was one of the best ways to prepare food for a crowd. And during the winter storm months, when the snow was likely to knock out the power to our house, the propane grill was a lifesaver! You wouldn’t believe the number of things you can cook on a grill when necessary. With parents who couldn’t tell salt from pepper unless you told them, I spent my late teen years making my own seasoning mixes and marinades to dress the meat before barbecues. It wasn’t long before I developed a secret marinade that people still beg me to make for them today! When I was 21 years old I bought my first smoker. Picked up some cedar chips for making a cedar plank salmon...and well, the rest they say is history! I’ve been grilling and smoking all kinds of creations ever since and I’m always excited to share my passion with others through my favorite medium--writing!

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