Pellet grills are becoming increasingly popular and are selling well. Some of the reasons are their simplicity, convenience, technological advancement, and also that awesome wood-fired flavor from burning pellets.
Gas grills have long been the go-to for those who wanted a grill that was easy to use, fast to get going, and easy to cook on. However, gas grills have one drawback: a lack of flavor. Before pellet grills came into the picture, charcoal grills were the king of flavor.
Still, many compromised and opted for gas grills as an easy-to-use option. You can still get a smoky flavor out of your gas grill by using a smoker wood chip box, but you will still lack the wood-fired flavor produced by a wood pellet grill.
The emergence of pellet grills has not only taken over the most significant advantage of gas grills, ease of use, but with better technology, added flavor, and technology, many consumers are buying wood pellet grills.
So maybe you are on the fence and not sure which is for you, are ready to upgrade, or are on the hunt for your next grill. In this article, pellet grill vs gas grill comparison, we will show you the major differences between these two types of grills and help you decide which type is better for you.
Which is better, gas grill vs pellet grill?
The answer to this question can be subjective. For some, the simplicity of gas grills, their low cost, clean-burning fuel, and ease of use remain king and their only option.
However, many more people have realized that pellet BBQs are just as simple to operate as gas grills, but they yield far more flavor. Not to mention the sophistication and automation inherent in pellet BBQ smokers and grills.
Let’s go over a few factors, similarities, and differences between these two types of grills and see which is better.
Gas Grill Overview
A gas grill is very similar to a gas stove. Liquid Propane or Natura Gas is fed to the burner and ignited. This process produces heat, which cooks the food. Both stoves and gas grills are available in natural gas and liquid propane, and yes, there are differences between LP and natural gas.
A natural gas line can be connected to the grill, whereas with LP grills, a liquid standard propane tank holds the fuel under pressure for the burners.
What made gas grills so popular was the fact that, like a kitchen stove, you turn a knob, push a button or an igniter, and you are ready to cook food. With Charcoal grills, you have to light charcoal and control the temperature using air vents; the cooking process in a gas barbecue is much simpler.
The biggest drawback of gas grills is that gas has no taste, flavor, or aroma. Some gas grills put out high temperatures, which some prefer for direct cooking and searing. However, gas and propane are inexpensive fuels for gas grills but, no flavor.
Pellet Grill Overview
Pellet grills use indirect heating for cooking food using a convection fan similar to a kitchen oven. Pellet grills must be connected to electricity for powering fans and other various features but do not need a gas line.
Because of the smoke generated when wood pellets burn and the way pellet grills work, these grills are often called smokers. A charcoal smoker cooks at a slow and low temperature, and a pellet grill can too.
The pellet grill market has exploded in recent years. Brands like Traeger, Z Grills, Yoder, and Rec-Tec dominate the market. Pellet smokers and grills have a lot going for them.
First, they are as easy, if not easier, to use than propane grills. In many models, all you have to do is push a button, and the cooking process starts.
Second, they render good and juicier meats due to their indirect heat cooking method. Pellet cookers burn wood pellets in a fire pot where a convection fan agitates the flame and sends heat to the cooking areas. Flames are kept at bay by a heat shield over the fire pot, and only heat and smoke enter the cooking area.
Set the temperature and enjoy the slow cooking process and smoky flavor. You raise the temperature to grill a few burgers. The point is, these grills are great at keeping a consistent temperature.
Lastly, these grills are great and maintain heat well since a digital controller controls the temperature. The biggest advantage of these grills is the smokey taste from burning pellets. Wood pellets are compressed sawdust recycled from lumbermills and other resources in natural ways.
The pellets are made from hardwoods like hickory and oak, which, when burned, well, you enjoy the taste. Smoking pellets are different from heating pellets. One drawback is that pellet grills require electricity to run their electronics, fans, and augers, unlike most gas grills.
Gas vs Pellet Grills – Similarities, Differences, and more. Pellet Grill vs Gas Grill
While gas and pellet grills have many similarities, they’re still two different types of cooking equipment. Both types of grills are easy to use, but the biggest gap between the two is that natural smoke flavor. Simply put, burning pellets equals to smoke flavor.
Operating costs of pellet grill vs gas grill
Wood pellet grills only work with cooking pellets. Wood pellets are available to almost everywhere, online, and in your nearest local big box store. The price of a 20-pound bag of wood pellets is slightly higher than the cost of refilling or exchanging a 20-pound propane tank. Some argue that the price of either natural gas or propane is less than pellets, but with more brands joining the market, the price of pellets has dropped considerably and, in some cases, is less.
However, smoking pellets need to be stored properly for them to last, whereas a propane tank, provided it has no leaks, can hold propane for long periods. Pellet grills burn about a pound of pellets per hour, and so do gas grills.
The larger the cooking surface and cooking at higher temperatures will impact fuel burn rates. Both a good gas or pellet grill will be pretty efficient at lower temperatures.
Another thing to consider is that, like electric grills, pellet grills need a power source to operate, whereas gas grills only need gas. This means that you will consume two types of fuel when using your pellet BBQ smoker or grill.
As explained in our review of the best pellet smoker and grills, we also covered the benefits and disadvantages of a wood pellet smoker. Both types of grills offer easy-to-start and stop functionality and are easy to use.
Pellet smokers start with the touch of a “power button,” or even a remote mobile app, and gas grills are lit using a push igniter ( Piezo Igniter ) or battery-powered operated igniter.
However, pellet grills are easier to use than gas grills when it comes to temperature control. This is primarily partly due to how pellet grills are designed. A PID controller manages the feeding of pellets, pellet ignition, and the fan. This means that you set the desired cooking temperature on a pellet grill, and the grill does the work.
In a propane BBQ grill, you must still open and close the gas burner to increase or decrease the fire. In a gas grill, the temperature knobs control the grill.
In both pellet and gas grills, adjusting or controlling the temperature is relatively easy, but in a pellet grill, the process is automated.
Pellet grills allow for precise temperature control. Customers can find quality pellet models with a five-degree accuracy rating in temperature control by a digital controller. A quality pellet grill can not only be accurate but can also maintain heat well.
Higher-end gas grills can retain heat well and cook at a steady temperature but lack the digital technology to detect heat fluctuations and adjust accordingly.
Temperature control is an issue in most gas and charcoal grills, and it can be difficult to cook low and slow in some. However, direct heat and open flame cooking are where gas grills shine. It is easy to sear meat on a gas grill, although most grills can’t operate at high temperatures for long.
But if you want to smoke meat low and slow and add natural wood flavors, the right grill is a pellet grill.
Available Accessories – Pellet grill vs gas grill
Most manufacturers have accessories available for both their pellet and gas grills. But you will quickly realize that more accessories are available for pellet units. Many manufactures offer accessories and tools such as pizza stones, searing boxes, and versatile cooking grates to aid in the slow cooking process of ribs, briskets, and pork shoulders.
A pellet grill is a versatile grill which brings me to my next point, versatility.
A wood pellet grill can smoke meats, bake, and grill, and with so many pellet flavors, the results are more often than not amazing. A gas or charcoal grill can be as versatile and offer the same cooking options, but not without some sort of modification and certainly not as easy as a wood pellet grill.
The only input you give a pellet grill is the desired temperature; everything else is handled by the grill itself, making it easy to cook meat, vegetables, and everything else that you can think of.
Generally speaking, most gas grills have adjustable temperature settings, but some models cannot operate at constant low temperatures for smoking, and yeah, no smoke flavor.
Technology – The Gadgets
When comparing a pellet grill to a gas grill, technology is the biggest difference between these two types of grills.
No good article can compare the two without talking about technology. The reason why is that pellet grills are packed with technology. Temperature control is managed by smart controllers capable of monitoring the temperature inside your grill cooking area and adjusting the desired temperature accordingly. This means you can spend more time away from your new grill and more time with your friends and family while cooking.
Smart technology in pellet grills has advanced to the point where some of these grills can integrate with other smart devices and offer mobile apps. Companies like Traeger offer grills that can be controlled using mobile apps and even integrate with Alexa.
There are gas grills with good technology, but none come close to the technology and automation found in a pellet grill.
Impact on Flavor – Another Huge Difference
Ok, This is obvious, but I need to emphasize this point a lot. Smoking pellets yield amazing flavor. Something needs to be added to get wood-fired flavor when cooking on gas or charcoal grills. Either a smoker box, wood chips, or wood chunks, something needs to be added to get the smoke flavor.
A propane grill without added wood chips yields zero flavors, and all the meat’s taste will come from its seasoning.
Wood pellet grills are all about flavor. When it comes to flavor, pellets all day. You have complete flavor control since you have a variety of wood pellet flavors at your disposal. You can even mix wood flavors and get whatever taste you want. With a propane grill, well propane…
Most wood pellets are made out of natural wood, so you are burning a natural product, avoiding adding foul smells and toxins to your food. In a charcoal grill, charcoal briquettes are a source of fuel, and something like wood chips still needs to be added for flavor. Some lump charcoal brands use hardwoods that do yield smokey flavor.
Running Times (before refueling)
Running times are pretty equal between these two types of grills, especially when comparing grills of the same size.
A pellet grill can burn about one pound and a half of pellets per hour depending on the cooking temperature and other environmental factors like weather. If it is freezing outside, your propane or pellet smoker will work harder to keep the temperature, and so will your gas grill.
You can get to up to two pounds of pellets per hour if you set the temp low to smoke meat.
Cost of Grills
Factors impacting the cost of grills include their size, building materials, technology, and quality. But when talking about pellet grills, this is one area where the propane grills win. Manufacturing propane grills is much cheaper than pellet grills.
The digital controllers in pellet grills alone add to the cost of a grill. Smart technology, WIFI, and other tech can add to the price tag very quickly.
Ok, many of us are die-hard fans of charcoal grills, and for some, charcoal is the only way. However, charcoal grills are not very user-friendly. There are a few skills you need to master to operate a charcoal grill well.
Pellet grills are as easy to use as your kitchen oven. Turn it on, set the temperature, and let it cook. This is one of the reasons these grills are taking off and selling so well.
Both a high-end Gas Grill and Pellet Grill can include many fancy bells and whistles. But pellet grills have more tech features and automation.
Pellet grill companies have incorporated features ranging from Bluetooth and Wireless capability to embedded meat probe sensors and LCD display screens. Companies like Traeger even have “keep warm” functions in their grills.
Gas grills have no automatic temperature controls. Generally, a good gas grill includes traditional features such as side burners and rotisseries. Several models also feature little extras such as LED lighting but do not come close to the technology and automation in a pellet grill.
Grill Cleaning and Maintenance
Grill cleaning and maintenance can help preserve grill performance and durability. You should clean the grill grates and cooking chamber as often as possible.
A good grill cover can help prevent corrosion and coating damage from UV light and weather elements.
Wood pellet grills have grease trays that have to be regularly cleaned. It’s possible to cover them with foil for easy cleaning. Also, ash accumulation in the fire cup and around the grill is common as the wood pellets burn.
This requires you to use a small shop vac and clean the ashes, although some grills models have removable ash cups making it easier to clean.
Besides cleaning wood pellets ashes, both grills cleaning procedures and amount of work are relatively the same.
Wood Pellet is an organic, natural product specially produced for use in pellet grills. Propane is derived from natural gas refining.
Cooking auto nation is an area where a gas grill cannot compete with a pellet one. Pellet grills use meat probes to monitor meat temperature and cooking chamber sensors, plus a smart PID controller to keep everything in order.
Gas Grills vs pellet grill vs charcoal – which I would choose
Ok, I currently do most of my cooking on my Z Grills 450B and my Green Egg. Charcoal grills are a lot of work, but I enjoy them. Whenever I want to spend the day “playing” with charcoal and having a few beers, I use the Green Egg.
However, whenever I have friends over and want less of mess and work less, then am pellets all day. My go-to grill is a pellet grill. I even got rid of my gas grill because, sure, it was easy to use, but I am always adding wood chips for flavor, and it was not as easy to use as my Pellet grill.
If you want a grill that is easy to use and yields great flavors, try a pellet grill. If you occasionally want to grill a few hot dogs and burgers, then a gas grill can be a good fit.
What is a gas grill? Are they extinct?
A gas grill is one of the most common grills in the market. Simply put, natural gas or liquid propane is fed to burners where the fuel is ignited. The combustion of the gas generates heat which cooks your food.
Gas grills are not going anywhere. Some are going down in price, and for someone that just wants to grill burgers every once in a blue moon, these grills are still a good fit.
Even for the hardcore enthusiast, a gas grill can yield good results if you know how to use it. Gas grills are also clean; there is less mess or pellets ash to deal with, so many people love them for their outdoor kitchens.
A note on Charcoal grills
If you cook on a charcoal grill, it generates heat using charcoal briquettes. Charcoal Grills are cheap, and charcoal can be found just about anywhere. The temperature in charcoal grills can be incredibly tough to control if you are new.
Charcoal grills can be a bit harder and messier to use than a gas grill and a pellet one. Keep in mind that charcoal alone does not produce wood-fired smoke flavor. For that, you need wood chunks or wood chips.
What can pellet grills be used for?
If you like to smoke meat, these grills can be a good choice. The aroma and taste that burning wood pellet produces beats a gas BBQ. Even when grilling something simple like hot dogs, these grills deliver. These grills can bake, grill, and smoke meat. An easy way to get well cooked meat.
Popular Pellet Grill Brands
Alright, there are a lot of new pellet grill brands, but here are the most popular. Trager is the original pellet grill and has been selling pellet grills for decades. Z Grills is another popular brand that is well known for offering amazing grills at very low prices. Other brands include Rec Tec, Yoder, Mak Grills, and Pit Boss.
There are brands offering well-built grills but are small compared to larger brands like Trager, Z Grills, and Pit Boss are small and other areas of the grill fall behind.
Trager leads the way when it comes to technology and innovation. Z Grills and Pit Boss offer well-built grills at affordable prices.
A gas grill still remains one of the cleanest and easiest ways of barbecue, but if you are looking for great flavor and a grill that is easy to use, then I would recommend trying a pellet BBQ Grill or smoker. The automation, smart technology, and wood-fired flavor are hard to beat.
Regardless of which route you go, look for a grill that offers the space and cooking surface your need and from a brand that you like.