Charcoal Grills are a classic staple in the BBQ world. Usually people that own them forgo the convenience of propane grills because they love the taste of a charred burger or steak cooked on their bare-bones kettle grill. But ever since Pellet Grills introduced real wood fired flavor to convenience loving backyard BBQers, even charcoal enthusiasts are left wondering: Wood Pellet Grills vs Charcoal, which is better for me?
Many in the grilling community have been intrigued with pellet grills for a long time. They’re convenient, add great flavor, and they seem like a nice addition to the BBQ arsenal. But if I needed to choose just one grill, is a Wood Pellet Grill really up to the task of searing and charring my steaks and burgers the way a charcoal grill can?
With the advent of Pit Boss’s Flame Broiler plate, which allows for direct flame broiling and searing, it’s time to revisit the Pellet Grills vs Charcoal Grills question because with our Pit Boss Wood Pellet Grills, you can most certainly sear and char flavorful meat.
In the interest of fairness, we are going to compare the two types of grills based on 5 specific criteria:
One of the major benefits of using a wood pellet grill in the first place is the ability to grill and smoke your food with the natural aromas of hardwood pellets. These aromas add delicious flavor notes to your food via the smoke they produce when lit. Pit Boss Grills use a variety of food grade hardwood pellets that produce these flavors.
Pit Boss Grills sells wood pellets in the following flavors:
You can also add wood flavor to a charcoal grill as well by adding wood chunks to the charcoal. However, it can be a little complicated to light the charcoal without using lighter fluid. And that fluid can affect the flavor a little bit. With pellet grills, no lighter fluid is necessary, the wood pellets ignite solely from the heat conducted in the burn pot.
If you’re not using wood chunks, then you’re left with the flavor provided by the two types of charcoal used in charcoal grills:
Both use wood that is burned down until all the natural additives, moisture, sap and oxygen is gone. What’s left are the little lumps you see as the end result.
In lump charcoal, no additives are added during the process however, they are used in charcoal briquettes.
When talking about convenience, we take a few different factors into the equation.
By design, wood pellet grills allow for better temperature control than gas grills (which we will talk about a little later). Much like an oven, you can set your pellet grill to the desired temperature and wonder off to do other things. We do recommend checking back every now and then unless you have a handy remote grill thermometer.
Charcoal grills must be monitored constantly. There is no such thing as automation on a charcoal grill, so you can forget about leaving your grill alone to tend to other matters around the house. In other words, if you’re cooking on a charcoal grill, plan to be around the grill for the duration of the cook.
There is a small learning curve with wood pellet grills. But the “set it and forget it” nature of pellet grills helps to make up ground when scoring ease of use points. Oh, and don’t forget Pit Boss is a community of grilling experts and we are all here to help, anytime.
Charcoal grills have a bit of learning curve when it comes to mastering temperature control and heat distribution. It’s one reason why they are so popular amongst BBQ enthusiasts. Some people simply enjoy being more involved in the cooking process and love the manual control of charcoal grills.
Technically, you can do anything on a charcoal grill that you can do on a pellet grill. However, most people probably won’t want to babysit a charcoal grill during a 16 hour brisket smoke.
Charcoal grills and pellet grills come in a variety of different price points. A lower end charcoal grill can run about $40, while a higher end charcoal grill, like certain Kamado Grills for instance, can cost above $1,000 (FYI, Pit Boss sells Kamados ranging from $800 - $900.)
Wood Pellet Grills on the low end can cost around $200 while reaching up to over $1,000 on the high end. Usually the difference in price on a pellet grill means more features and options are included in the higher priced grills. A charcoal grill basically has the same features at any price point. The difference is usually dependent on the materials used to build the grill which affects heat retention and distribution. Kamado Grills, for example are built with ceramic to insulate heat much more efficiently than their metal counterparts.
Controlling temperature on a charcoal grill is an entirely manual process. You have to use vents and charcoals to control heat and air flow in order to regulate temperature. There is no dial that controls this process for you, and it is entirely up to trial and error.
A Pit Boss Wood Pellet Grill uses a digital control board in combination with the auger which feeds the pellets into the burn plate and a fan to control air flow and distribute heat. This whole process works in together to control your grill to reach and maintain its desired temperature. So long as your hopper doesn’t run out of pellets, your grill should maintain its temperature with minor variances when more pellets are added to the burn pot.
As mentioned previously, a Pit Boss Wood Pellet Grill gives you 8 different cooking options to choose from. Grill, bake, char, sear, smoke, roast, BBQ, and braise your way to deliciously and naturally flavored meals thanks to the hardwood pellets that are used for fuel.
While you can choose to perform all these cooking options on a charcoal grill, they’re not exactly easy to do. Charcoal grills are optimal for grilling, searing, charring, and some BBQ, depending on the type of grill. Kamado Grills can be used to bake certain recipes like pizza and pies. A Chicago style deep dish pizza can turn out quite delicious when baked on a Kamado.
Look, we admit, we may be a little biased. However, the facts tell the best story when it comes to comparisons and evaluation. If you’re looking for a grill that offers you more options for flavor, convenience, value, cooking, and with better temperature control, then a Pit Boss Wood Pellet Grill is the clear winner in this debate.
But if you are a die-hard charcoal griller, we also have some great kamado ceramic charcoal grills as well! And don’t forget that you can expand your BBQ arsenal with either grill. Who doesn’t love options?