Comparing BBQ Wood Pellet Grills to Charcoal Barbecues
BBQ wood pellet grills
have gotten more press lately. They're a type of barbecue that uses compressed
wood pellets (often flavored) as the source of cooking fuel. How do these new
grills compare to the traditional charcoal barbecue when it comes to convenience
and ease of use, cost, and most importantly, taste?
Convenience / Easy of Use
A charcoal barbecue takes time to get to where you can actually start grilling.
From the time you set up the charcoal and light it, until the time you're
ready to cook, can easily take 20 to 30 minutes (although there's stuff you
can do to speed things up a bit). Plus charcoal is messy although
it is readily available and there are different varieties of
With a pellet grill, the pellets are typically fed into the grill via an auger
or some other type of mechanism (note: this means you need access to electricity
in order to operate this mechanism... so if your power is out, the pellet BBQ
isn't going to be an alternate way to cook dinner). When you turn on the grill
the pellets are ignited and you just have to wait for the BBQ to heat up before
you start cooking - it's fast and easy!
BBQ wood pellets
far less messy to use than charcoal, but they can be hard to find sometimes and
supply / variety may be limited. Note that you can't use the same type of
pellets used in home heating systems for your barbecue! BBQ pellets are
pure wood with no fillers, while the type used for heating can have both
fillers and chemicals. BBQ wood pellets are flavored with various types
(or blends) of wood so it's easy to get the smoky taste you want - where
with a charcoal BBQ, you'd have to add the wood (and soak it first to
get the smoke).
Charcoal briquettes are fairly affordable since they last a long time.
Lump charcoal burns much more quickly and the cost can really add up,
especially if you grill a lot. On the good side, you can buy a decent
charcoal barbecue relatively inexpensively. One example is the popular (and
excellent!) Weber One Touch
The cost of wood pellets can also add up - they burn fairly
quickly, especially at higher temperatures. Good quality pellets
are necessary too (and usually a bit more expensive) so that you
don't jam up your BBQ. Pellet grills are pretty expensive and
aren't carried in a lot of places either. The other question
you'd want to consider is what would happen if a part broke
or the manufacturer of the pellet grill went out of business
- can you still get parts or service?
Pellet barbecues are better at smoking than at direct grilling.
They do exceptionally well at 'low and slow' cooking but not all
that great when searing meat. However, most people report that the
food cooked on pellet grills is delicious and tender if done right.
reputedly give a better 'wood' taste than charcoal
grills (naturally!). Some people have complained that the 'smoke' taste
with a pellet grill is too mild for their taste, having become accustomed
to smoking on a charcoal grill.
The charcoal barbecue cooks up food with that delicious taste that
most people associate with grilled food. It's hard to beat! For
searing and direct grilling, like steaks and burgers, hot dogs,
and chicken, the charcoal BBQ can get you that nice sear. Great smoky
flavors can be done too, if not as conveniently or easily as using
a wood pellet grill, but with a stronger smoky flavor (if you really
want a great BBQ for both direct grilling and for 'low and slow'
smoking, check out the Big Green
Of course, if you really want to use pellets, you can use them
in a charcoal BBQ, too.
Have a few extra minutes? Check this out:
Street Journal published an article on pellet grills
. This article
addresses whether it's healthier to grill on a wood pellet BBQ, and
also does a 'taste test' on food cooked on both the wood pellet vs.
a regular charcoal grill.
BBQ wood pellet grills are becoming more mainstream. They are
basically faster and easier to use, but in terms of cost and taste
as compared to a charcoal grill, it's up for debate which one is
better (obviously we love our charcoal BBQ!). More
BBQ tips here.
. We barbecue with a charcoal grill
in an outdoor kamado-style cooker called
We love food and we love the grill, and hope you enjoy our recipes!