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Wood Pellet Grill vs. Charcoal Grill

Wood pellet grill vs charcoal grill

A lot of people get confused when comparing wood pellet grills vs. charcoal grills. It is because both grills are unique and have pros and cons. They work differently as the wood pellet grill uses small wood pellets while the charcoal grill runs on charcoal. But they are similar to one another as well.

In this article, we will see their similarities and differences.

What is a wood pellet grill?

A wood pellet grill runs on wood pellets. It comes with a temperature dial and you can easily control the temperature using this dial. This grill is suitable for newcomers and works well for anyone who is a regular BBQ consumer.

What is a charcoal grill?

A charcoal grill requires charcoals to run and doesn’t come with any temperature controls. Therefore, you have to be an expert to use the vents and control the airflow to increase or decrease the temperature according to the requirements. This grill is designed for the professionals and requires experienced users.

Comparison table

PropertiesWood pellet grillCharcoal grill
FlavorA slight smoky flavor of the wood pelletsA rich smoky flavor of the charcoal as well as wood chunks
Upfront costSlightly expensive than charcoal grillsA lot less than wood pellet grills
Operational costSome wood pellet brands are very expensive to operateLow-cost options are available (Lump charcoal is expensive)
User-friendlinessA lot easier to operate and is suitable for novicesNot very easy to run and is suitable for experts only
VersatilityIts primary function is to smoke the foodSmoke, sear, low and slow cooking
Temperature range and controlCan reach up to 500F max and controlling temperature is easyCan reach up to 900F and controlling temperature is not that easy
Health effectsHealthier cooking than charcoal grillsMore emphasis on taste than health

Wood pellet grill vs. Charcoal grill - The comparison

There are several points you need to consider when it comes to comparing both these grills. These points show the differences and similarities of both grills.


The most important point that differentiates both these grills from one another is the flavor they produce. Pellet smokers need wood pellets to cook the food you place over the grates. Therefore, you will get the taste of the wood in your food.

According to some people, the flavor you get from these grills is not as intense in comparison with charcoal grills. For several people, this taste is everything they are looking for in their smoky food.

As charcoal grills can reach higher temperatures very quickly, you can sear your food pretty good. So, the winner of this round is a charcoal grill.

Upfront cost

Pellet grills cost very high if you are looking for good quality. So the upfront cost of owning a pellet grill is significantly high. But when you compare that with a charcoal grill, things turn out differently. Many of the top-quality charcoal grills are available in a decent price range.

We are not sure you can find an expensive charcoal grill that matches the price of a pellet grill but a lot less pricey options are available on the market. You can even go for a kettle grill that runs on charcoal and it’s as affordable as it can get.

Operational cost

Wood pellet grills need wooden pellets instead of charcoal. And just like charcoal, some wood pellet brands are pretty expensive. The most expensive ones make sure you don’t jam your grill with the pellets. Apart from that, you must also consider the cost of any repairs or maintenance outside of the warranty.

Charcoal grills, on the other hand, need charcoal briquettes. They are relatively cheaper than wood pellets and you can not only use them for low and slow cooking but quick and hot as well. With that being said, lump charcoal is a bit expensive and can also burn hotter and faster.

Most people like to use lump charcoal for grilling purposes despite it is expensive. But besides that, there is not much you need to spend in terms of replacements or repairs of a charcoal grill.


Pellet grill is not very difficult to use as you only have to fill the hopper with the pellets and set the desired cooking temperature according to your food. When you turn the temperature up, more pellets start to go down the firebox from the hopper, and as a result, you get a hotter fire.

But cooking on a charcoal grill is not that simple; you have to be an expert. This grill doesn’t feature automatic temperature control. It has to be controlled manually.

You need to wait for at least half an hour to start cooking your food and have to control your temperature manually with the help of the vents. This is something you can only learn with experience.


In simple words, a wood pellet grill is designed for a smoker and you can work at the lower temperature as the grill can’t operate at higher temperatures. You can only achieve a bit higher temperature if you use grill grates.

A grill grate is an accessory that will sit on the existing grates. So a charcoal grill is far more versatile than a wood pellet grill.

Temperature range and control

Wood pellet grills cannot cook at higher temperatures and their max temperature range is up to 500F. Many of these grills find it tough to reach this temperature range. But they certainly maintain low temperatures for longer periods.

When it comes to controlling the temperature, a pellet grill (especially a digital one) is a lot easier than a charcoal grill. You only have a dial to work with and you can control the temperature effortlessly.

Charcoal grills are better in terms of getting a lot hotter. Based on the size and type of the grill, this can reach up to 800F and can go further if you use lump charcoal instead of briquettes. You can also use this grill to cook at a much lower temperature by reducing the amount of charcoal.

If you have enough expertise in working with this grill, you won’t find it difficult to operate. It’s all about controlling the temperature with the vents as more air flows through the charcoal the hotter it will get.

Health effects

This is one aspect where wood pellet grills perform better than the charcoal grills. Wood pellet grills only flavor the food with the smoke that comes from wood. On the other hand, the charcoal grills need charcoals to run and when fat from your food drips on these coals, smoke comes out of it. It contains toxins that can cause cancer. So in terms of health aspects, cooking on charcoal grills is less healthy but you don’t need to worry it if you do BBQs occasionally.

Final words

In this comparison of wood pellet grill vs. charcoal grill, we say the winner is a charcoal grill because it is more versatile in every aspect. The only way a wood pellet grill is better than a charcoal grill is in terms of health and user-friendliness.

Charcoal grills are more cost-efficient and can produce brilliant tasting food. But maintaining proper temperature using the vents is easier said than done. You have to be a professional to work with a charcoal grill while operating a pellet grill is just like working with an oven.

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