Is a Pellet Grill Better Than a Smoker

pellet grill versus smoker

You love grilling and barbecuing, and that is why you are here. I would like to guess, you are considering a new grill, and the question on your mind right now might be, is a pellet grill better than a charcoal smoker?

The short answer is yes!

The main difference between pellet smokers and charcoal smokers is fuel. However, this slight difference does come with some essential distinctions.

To understand if a pellet grill is better than a charcoal smoker, we need to evaluate the two based on what I like to call the Key Performance Indicators of grilling/barbecuing.

First, it helps if you understand how each of the two works.

How Does the Pellet Grill Work?

Pellet grills are outdoor grills that use food-grade wood compressed into a pellet as the fuel source. Therefore, the grill will burn the food-grade wood pellets to generate the heat and smoke required to smoke, cook and flavor your recipe.

Here is an overview of pellet grills design to better understand how it works.

The pellets feed by gravity from the hopper to the auger. The pellets will move along the auger as they rotate towards the burn pot. When the pellets fall into the burn pot, a hot rod will burn the pellets and start combustion.

A fan blows air in as the combustion occurs, creating flames and intensifying the fire. As the fire intensifies, the heat plate deflects the heat and smoke to the top to ensure even heating. The heat and smoke reach the grill grates and cooks your meat

The fat drippings will channel through the management system to the removable grease tray.

Related Read:

How Does The Conventional Smoker Work?

Typically, pellet grills combine the elements of charcoal grills, gas grills, and conventional ovens.

As mentioned earlier, the only difference would be the source of fuel.

The charcoal briquettes fuel a charcoal smoker. Therefore, rather than the food-grade pellets, you will feed them charcoal briquettes and start the charcoal for combustion to occur. Once combustion occurs, heat and smoke rise and spread evenly to heat, flavor and cook your recipe.

Now that you have ideas of how the pellet grills and the conventional smokers work let’s look at the performance indicators that grillers will consider to determine which smoker works for them.

Ease of Operating

Pellet grills are easy to start and use. Ideally, starting a pellet grill is as simple as filling the feed system with pellets and adjusting the controls to the correct cooking temperature. To increase the temperature, add more pellets to the fire.

It would be best to have some patience for the ordinary charcoal smoker as lighting the charcoal will take up to half an hour. Besides, controlling the temperatures can be overwhelming as you need to learn how to manage the airflow.

Cost To Run

When purchasing a grill, another critical indicator to consider is the cost of operating. Ideally, pellet grills will cost less to run compared to gas, electric, or even a charcoal smoker. The lower price is that a pound of pellets gives you more cook time than a pound of charcoal.


Pellet systems are more like smokers than grills. The pellet systems are great for cooking meat at constant lower temperatures. However, reaching and maintaining certain temperatures is a bit harder with the pellet grills.

You can cook at low or high temperatures with charcoal by controlling the airflow. That means you can grill hot and fast or smoke low and slow.


Charcoal smokers infuse your recipes with a rich smoky flavor. However, wood pellets will still give that pleasant smokey taste. To achieve a rich aroma, choose the best types of pellets for your grills. However, charcoal stands out no matter your recipe when it comes to the rich smoke-infused flavor.

Ease of Cleaning Up

After the barbecue party comes the time to clean up your grill. There is less maintenance and clean-up with the pellet grills than charcoal smokers. In general, pellet grills require regular clean-up after a couple of cooking sessions.

On the other hand, charcoal smokers need to clean up the ashes after each use. Besides, the ease of cleaning will depend on how well the management system collects the drippings and how easy it is to draw those drippings from the smoker.

If you need more information you can read my article on the benefits of a pellet smoker.

At this point, you have an idea of whether to go for the pellet grill or the conventional smokers. Let us look at some common FAQs relating to pellet grills and traditional smokers.


·         Can You Use a Pellet Grill As a Regular Smoker?

The pellet grills can double as a smoker. However, the pellet grills simmer meat over a low temperature. The advantage of a pellet grill is that you do not over-smoke food as the conventional charcoal smoker will do.

·         Are Pellet Grills Good For Steaks?

The short answer here is NO! The pellet grills offer convenience and ease of use however when it comes to grilling or barbecuing steak they do not get hot enough in general. Do not forget that compared to charcoal grills, pellet grills make a great “set and forget,” hence easier to use.

·         Can You Use a Pellet Grill Without Pellets?

Without pellets, it will not work! If you run out of pellets while grilling, the temperature will decrease and flame off. Therefore, always check to ensure enough pellets before starting your grill.

·         Can You Use Charcoal In a Pellet Grill?

The pellet grills offer convenience and ease of use when grilling or barbecuing steak., While charcoal pellets produce heat, smoke, and flavor, they will not work well on the pellet grills. This is because charcoal is irregularly shaped and the auger cannot handle them.


Now that we have looked at the differences between pellet grills and conventional smokers, you have the best of both worlds! While there is no clear winner here, the choice boils down to your preference and taste. Therefore, before settling on what type of smoker or grill, consider how you cook, your flavor preference in terms of smoky, rich taste, and the maintenance involved. From us here, we wish you a happy grilling!

Robert Chill

Robert Chill loves to cook on pellet grills and uses all types of recipes and techniques to cook some awesome food. With his experience, he is able to share many reviews, tips, and ideas on how to buy a pellet grill. You can read more about him here

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