The Pros and Cons of Pellet Grills (Complete Buying Guide)

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Are you thinking about buying a pellet grill but you’re not sure if it’s worth it? We’ve got you covered.

In this TheGrillingDad.com guide, you’ll learn:

  • The pros and cons of pellet grills
  • Things to consider before pulling out your wallet
  • And much more!
a pellet grill in a backyard

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What is a Pellet Grill?

You’ve heard people talking about pellet grills, right? Maybe you’ve heard of them, but maybe you’re not sure how they’re different from other grills. Understanding what a pellet grill is will help you decide if buying one is right for you.

A pellet grill is an outdoor magical meat machine that uses electricity to feed wood pellets into a burn pot to create heat and smoke. This allows for extremely consistent temperatures and is one of the easiest ways to grill or smoke food. 

Many people refer to this unit as either a pellet grill or a smoker, which can sometimes lead to confusion. The important thing to keep in mind is that this unit is extremely versatile and can be used for grilling, searing, smoking, roasting, and even baking, making it a great option if you don’t have space for multiple appliances on your back porch. 

If you’re sure a pellet grill is right for you, check out our reviews of the best pellet grills.

How Do You Operate a Pellet Grill?

A pellet grill is controlled via a dial which is used to select the desired temperature. There is also a prime button which needs to be used when the grill is first turned on.

As previously mentioned, a pellet grill has to be plugged into an electrical outlet before it can function. Although this is the case, they are not referred to as electric grills. If you’re looking for an electric smoker that uses wood chips, you can find that guide here

Since the pellet grill requires the use of wood pellets, it is quite different from your standard electric grill. The electricity is simply used to move the wood pellets through the grill’s mechanism toward the firebox rather than as the primary heat source.

The way that this works is that wood pellets are first loaded carefully into the hopper of the pellet grill. Once they are loaded in, the hopper releases the pellets into the auger to then be moved along until they reach the fire pot where they can be ignited.

After the wood pellets have been moved through the auger to the fire pot, they are then ignited by the rod which then produces heat and smoke. A fan then blows the smoke throughout the unit allowing it to spread throughout the entire cooking space.

Related >> How Long Does a Pellet Grill Take To Heat Up?

We’ve got an entire beginner’s guide on using your pellet grill if you’d like to learn more. 

traeger pellet grill in the backyard on the patio

Characteristics of the Pellet Grill

Pellet grills, like other types of grills, have specific characteristics that identify them and make them unique. The most obvious characteristic is that they use wood pellets as fuel and electricity as a power source.

Here are some of the characteristics that make pellet grills different from other types of grills and smokers:

  • Many have a larger cooking capacity than other grills
  • Uses wood pellets as fuel which are easier to clean up
  • Usually have a box to the side which is the hopper where the pellets are stored
  • Has a temperature dial and wide range of available temperatures

While these are only just a few of the characteristics that identify a pellet grill, there are many more that you will discover if you choose to purchase one. Upgrading to a pellet grill can give you the variation in grilling that you are craving.

Related >> Wood Pellet Storage Ideas

Pros of a Pellet Grill

Along with the characteristics that make pellet grills unique, many advantages make owning one worth it. If you are deciding whether or not you want to purchase a pellet grill, this list of pros should help you make your decision much easier.

Keep in mind that, as with most grills, there is a bit of a learning curve when it comes to operating a pellet grill. However, over time you will be grilling and smoking your favorite meats without any trouble.

Temperature Control

Since pellet grills operate on electricity, they are well known for their ability to hold temperatures better than any other type of grill. This means that with the digital controls they have, you can stay in charge of the temperature adjustments during your cooking session.

Getting the temperatures you desire is easy when you are working with a pellet grill since all you have to do is plug it in and set the dial to the desired temperature. After about 15-20 minutes, the temperature will reach what you set it to and you are ready to start cooking.

Related >> How Does a Pellet Grill Work?

Less Risk of Flare-Ups

In many grills, there is always the risk of flare-ups that are brought on by many different conditions. Some of these conditions include having extra fat on the meat and having the flame too close to the grease pot.

With a pellet grill, there is some distance between the flame and the greased pan that reduces the risk of various flare-ups. Most pellet grill users say that they have not experienced a flare-up during their grilling sessions at all.

What this does is allows a pellet grill user to leave their grill unattended as they would a smoker. Most people start their pellet grill then leave the house to run errands as some of the longer cooking sessions can take all day.

Large Cooking Capacity

While other grill brands offer a variety of different cooking capacities for their units, most of the pellet grills you can get have a larger capacity. This allows you to either spread out your cooking a bit more or even cook more at one time.

In most cases, it takes only a bit more effort on the part of the manufacturer to increase the size of the pellet grill. Since this is the case, it allows you to have much more room and flexibility to cook more food at any given time without needing to upgrade to an insanely large grill. 

Related >> Is It a Pellet Grill or Pellet Smoker?

Robust Flavor Profile

Another advantage of using a pellet grill is that you have the option to use a variety of different wood pellet flavors. This allows you to add a variety of flavor profiles to your favorite meats and change it up whenever you desire.

The varieties of wood pellets available are many stemming from the basics of hickory and mesquite to apple, alder, and cherry woods. This means that you can change the flavor profile to suit your preferences with the different meats that you cook.

You can even mix woods those times when you are really looking for an adventure! 

Evenly Cooks Food

When it comes to cooking your meats evenly, no grill does it better than a pellet grill. Since your meat is never exposed to direct flames (some models allow for searing) you never have to worry about one part of the meat cooking faster than others.

Pellet grills are able to use indirect heat since the wood pellets are guided from the hopper to the firebox, which sits away from the grates. Because of this the smoke and heat are evenly distributed throughout the grill providing you with the perfect cooking experience.

Versatile

To have a truly all-around outdoor cooking experience, most people want to be able to cook in a variety of ways. In some cases, it could mean that you will have to have multiple different grills to do the trick.

With a pellet grill, it is extremely versatile in that it allows you to grill, smoke, roast, and bake your favorite foods. This means that instead of having to purchase multiple units, you can have just the pellet grill and you can still cook all the ways you want! 

Easy to Operate

Another feature that many people look for in their outdoor grilling experience is having a unit that is easy to operate. For most people, it can be a hindrance to spend a lot of time setting their grill up before they can use it.

A pellet grill on the other hand is quite simple to set up and operate for your convenience. All you have to do is plug it into an electrical outlet, turn the dial to the desired temperature, and wait a few minutes, then you are ready to grill.

chicken and ribs on a pellet smoker

Cons of a Pellet Grill

Even though many advantages make purchasing a pellet grill worth it, there are also disadvantages that you should consider. These disadvantages may not change your mind about buying a pellet grill, but they may make you at least pause before you do.

For other people, many of the disadvantages can be a deal breaker when it comes to choosing a pellet grill over other options. Keep in mind that no grill is perfect, and because of this you sometimes have to take the good with the bad.

Require Electricity

Although pellet grills are not considered in the same category as electric grills, they still require you to plug them into an electrical outlet to operate. This is because the inner workings that move the wood pellets through the system have to have electricity to function.

The fact that they require electricity is a reason to pause before you consider purchasing a pellet grill. If you do not have access to an electrical outlet close to your outdoor cooking space, a pellet grill may not be the best choice for you.

Wood Pellets May Not Last Long

Another consideration you need to keep in mind before purchasing a pellet grill is that since they use wood pellets as fuel, you will need a proper storage area. Wood pellets, like anything else made from wood, have a limited shelf life.

Wood pellets by themselves contain some amount of moisture from manufacturing which is why you need to be cautious when exposing them to wet areas. Along with your purchase of pellets, you will need to also buy a proper storage container to keep your wood pellets in if you expect them to last long.

And if you’re wondering how long they last while you’re using it, here’s a guide for that.

May Not Produce as Much Smoke as Other Grills

Many people who purchase a pellet grill do so for the sole purpose of being able to expose their food to smoky flavor profiles. You should keep in mind that while a pellet grill is designed for smoking, it is not a full smoker and does not produce as much smoke.

If you are looking for an authentic smoky flavor for your food, you will find that the pellet grill will give you a more subtle taste. For those who desire a more robust smoke flavor, you may want to stick with a charcoal smoker or a classic offset smoker

Related >> How To Get More Smoke Flavor from a Pellet Grill

Challenging in Inclement Weather

If you live somewhere that gets a lot of rain or humidity, you may want to second-guess your choice to purchase a pellet grill. This is because the moisture of any kind needs to be kept away from your grill and the wood pellets.

Since your pellet grill runs on electricity, rain can cause the insides of the unit to ruin or at the very least become rusted. In addition, if your wood pellets are exposed to humid air or rain, they will swell and possibly mold causing them to be unusable. But if you are truly worried about this, a good cover should keep your pellet grill safe! 

Want to learn more about using your new toy in harsh conditions? We’ve got a guide for that.

No Fire to Contend With

Let’s face it, we like the aspect of throwing meat over a fire when cooking outdoors. It is a primal need to want to not only see the fire but to interact with it and keep it going strong.

With a pellet grill, while there is a firebox that produces the heat and smoke, you do not have the same amount of fire to contend with as you would in other grills. For some people, this can be a deal breaker since fire is one of the main reasons they enjoy grilling.

wood fired pellet grill with ribs and chicken

Tips and Tricks of Pellet Grilling

If you have decided that a pellet grill is the best option for you, then there are certain tips and tricks that you should be aware of. Knowing these can help you to have a better experience as you get to know and love your pellet grill! 

Purchase the Right Wood Pellets

When you start with a pellet grill, you must purchase the right pellets. Keep in mind that the pellets should not be heating pellets but wood pellets. This is because heating pellets are an entirely different product that can be toxic and is not for human consumption.

We recommend starting by purchasing the pellets that are branded for your grill. You can purchase other ones later, but this will give you an idea of what type of pellets work best with your pellet grill. 

Experimenting is Key

Purchasing a new grill such as a pellet grill can be an exciting adventure if you follow the recommendations of the manufacturer and other grill masters. Because of this, you should experiment with different types of wood pellets to get a different flavor profile before deciding on which you like best.

We recommend trying lots of different cuts of meat and flavors of wood. You didn’t buy a pellet grill to make the same thing every week! 

Follow the Manufacturer’s Recommendations

As with any new piece of equipment, you should always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations when it comes to both setting up the grill and operating it. Keep in mind that going against these recommendations can cause irreparable damage to your grill and possibly cause harm to you and your family.

Season Your Pellet Grill

Following the Manufacturer’s recommendations includes taking the time to season your pellet grill. If you don’t you may notice some off tasting meats as you make your recipes.

What to Look For When Choosing a Pellet Grill

When choosing a pellet grill that is right for you, there are several factors that you should consider to ensure you meet all of your needs and wants. While you can always add on accessories, it is best to make sure that the grill will do everything you want it to out of the box.

Wondering what you should look for when choosing a pellet grill? Keep reading to find out.

Brand is Important

As you are narrowing down your choices of pellet grills, you may want to consider who the manufacturer is. This is because going with a reputable brand means fewer headaches IF there are issues with the unit. You don’t want to try to work with customer service that isn’t helpful. 

While the brand name might be a bit more pricey than an off-brand, it will be worth it in the end! 

Related >> Pit Boss vs Traeger

Size Matters

Depending on whether you are planning to cook for yourself or others, you will need to choose the grill that fits your needs. This means looking at the grate capacity as well as the hopper capacity to make sure it will work for your recipes. You may also want to consider a more portable pellet grill if you plan to camp frequently. 

Cost

When it comes to finalizing your decision, you should also consider how much you have budgeted for your pellet grill. While there are many choices on the market that will fit any budget, knowing what you are looking for going in can save you time and money.

But remember, when it comes to these cookers, you get what you pay for. If you want a truly amazing grilling experience, then we recommend getting the best pellet grill you can afford. This will allow you to have a top-notch experience and not sacrifice some of the best parts of owning a pellet grill. 

Consider the features you need vs the ones you want. Use that list to weed out which ones are in your budget but wouldn’t be a good fit.

We’ve put together a list of the best pellet grills under $500 since that fits into most budgets from people we’ve helped over the years.

Wood Pellet Requirements

The most important part of the pellet grill is the pellets of course! This means you will want to see what pellets your future grill will require before you buy. This may sound strange but some pellet grills only take certain pellets which can really cramp your style (or get expensive!) So check that you can use your desired pellet brand before you click purchase!

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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