Charcoal Grills vs Pellet Grills


Cooking with wood pellets and grilling with charcoal have many differences. From temperature ranges to fuel costs, there is a lot to consider. We’re here to make that investment a little easier. Here you will find everything you need to know about the differences between pellet grills and charcoal grills.

Pellet or charcoal grill

Two of the best ways to cook in the backyard are on a pellet grill or a charcoal grill.

Both are great for grilling meats and creating the smoky, charred flavors we all associate with cooking.

But what’s better? What kind of stove should you buy when you first step into the world of grilling? In this guide, we will reveal the main differences between them and who they are more suitable for. Where are you headed in the pellet grill vs charcoal grill debate?

Food button

The two types of grills use two very different fuel sources for heat, so it stands to reason that the resulting smoke and flavor each produces will differ significantly. Pellet smoker grills use wood pellets that are fed by an auger, which unsurprisingly imparts a slightly woody flavor to the food being grilled.

Wood pellets tend to burn cleaner than charcoal, which can mean they don’t produce as much smoke. They can produce even less smoke than wood chips used in smokers or charcoal grills.

Charcoal grills use unique charcoal for fuel and have the unique charcoal aroma and flavor. They can also produce a lot of smoke and can be taken to another level by using wood chips like hickory, mesquite or oak.


The costs should be broken down into start-up costs and operating costs. We’ve seen that while propane grills can be more expensive, fuel costs can make them cheaper in the long run, especially if you switch to natural gas. Does similar logic apply when comparing pellet and charcoal appliances?

Start up costs

Pellet grills tend to be more expensive than charcoal grills. We’ve seen many pellet models approaching $1000 and sometimes even higher(although it’s not hard to find some pellet grills under $500 ). In contrast, some charcoal kettle grills can be as inexpensive as under $100.

Operating costs

This is where the comparison gets a little more difficult. Charcoal briquettes can be very cheap, but I never recommend using them. They’re cheap for a reason: they’re packed with chemical fillers and can give off an unpleasant odor. I always recommend using lump charcoal instead . The downside is that it can be a bit more expensive.

Pellet grills are also built with a motor that feeds pellets from the hopper into the fire pit. Like any mechanical component, it is at risk of failure after prolonged continuous use. Parts like replacement engines can cost upwards of $50 and also depend entirely on the exact make and model you have.

Charcoal grills have a lidded chamber, which means they don’t have the same maintenance costs as their wood pellet counterparts.

Pellets can typically only be stored for 1-3 months before going through humidity( source ). If you have special storage it can sometimes be extended to 6 months but the shelf life is quite short. In contrast, lump coal can often last up to 2 years if stored properly( source ). 

Smoke comes out of the Weber charcoal grill vents

Temperature control

Charcoal grills are inherently tough. Everything about one is theirs, so there’s a steep manual learning curve to getting to grips with them. Lighting a charcoal grill style=”vertical-align: inherit;”> is notoriously difficult and may require the use of a charcoal fireplace. However, it doesn’t end there. Once you’ve learned how to light it, you must learn how to use your grill’s vents to control the temperature, how to heat it up, and finally how to turn it off safely and efficiently. What can make this even harder is how you do it, whether you want to grill right on the grill at a high temperature or set things up for a slow smoker at 225°F.

Pellet grills, on the other hand, are designed and built for ease of use. With a built-in motorized auger and temperature controller, all you have to do is fill the hopper with pellets and set the desired cooking temperature. When YOU want to turn up the heat, YOU just have to adjust the knob accordingly. The motor then feeds pellets into the grill at a faster rate, creating a hot fire.

Heat range

Pellet smoker grills are built primarily for grilling. Their typical temperature range is reflected more broadly as they are designed to operate at temperatures better suited to low and slow cooking. While they can increase heat to over 450°F, they generally don’t reach the high temperatures that charcoal can reach and often have trouble breaking 500°F.

Charcoal grills are easy to set up for smoking with the 2-Zone Indirect Grill, but at these temperatures it’s quite a challenge. They come into their own when grilled at high temperatures and, depending on the wood you use, they can often reach over 300ºC.

Fuel efficiency

Each wood pellet can release a lot of energy per pellet, which means the grill’s motor can run at a slow speed when you cook low and slow. This often allows pellet grills to run for over 6 hours without having to refill the hopper. If you use it mainly for grilling, your ongoing fuel costs will be low in the long run.

Charcoal can also burn for hours. You can typically produce the same charcoal for 3-4 hours, so it’s not uncommon to grill for a full 8-10 hours and only produce the charcoal once. However, if you lose control of your vents or decide to turn up the heat, expect to get through coals in 45 minutes.

For whose son?

Pellet grills are for people who:

  • Love the aromas and flavors of wood-fired cooking
  • Favor smoking grilling over high heat grilling
  • I don’t want to manage all aspects of temperature control
  • They like to spend more money
  • Value convenience over convenience
  • You want to use cleaner fuel sources

Advantages of pellet grills

  • They are quick and easy to start.
  • Can easily handle consistent temperatures

Best Pellet Grills in The Market

Cons of pellet grills

  • Must be operated within range of power source
  • Required replacement parts after prolonged use
  • The auger can clog over time or if you use poor quality pellets

Charcoal grills are for people who:

  • You want to learn how to properly control the fire and airflow in your grill
  • Love the distinct aromas and flavors of charcoal cooking.
  • Favor high temperature grilling over slow smoking
  • You are on a budget
  • They want to take their grill with them on the road

Benefits of charcoal grills

  • Very low acquisition costs
  • Versatility between high temperature searing and barbecue smoking
  • Can reach very high temperatures
  • An “authentic” way to smoke and grill

Best Charcoal Grills in The Market

Disadvantages of charcoal grills

  • Difficult to learn for beginners.
  • Lumpy charcoal can be difficult to clean after continued use
  • Charcoal is notoriously difficult to light

Leave a Comment