Pellet Grill vs. Charcoal vs. Gas: Everything You Need to Know

If you’re like many people, the approaching warmer months mean that a big portion of your meals will be cooked on the grill. But if you’re looking for a new grill, you may be overwhelmed by all of the choices. What is the difference between a pellet grill vs. gas grill or a pellet grill vs. charcoal grill? In this post, we will outline the features of each type of grill and help guide you in making the right decision about your new purchase.

Part 1. Pellet Grills

Pellet grills may seem intimidating at first, but once you understand the basics, the quality of this type of grill is unmatched.

What is a Pellet Grill?

A pellet grill uses tightly compressed wood pellets as fuel. These wood pellets are flavored in many different ways and can provide a nice, smoky accent to whatever you are cooking. The grills are a great choice, as they prevent flare-ups, automatically maintain the correct temperature, cook food evenly utilizing convection technology, and are environmentally friendly.

How Does it Work?

A pellet grill makes cooking delicious food incredibly simple. While different models have slightly different processes, in general, the process involves the following steps:

  1. You set your desired temperature.
  2. You select the flavor of wood pellet you prefer.
  3. An auger pulls the wood pellets into contact with the igniter.
  4. A circulation fan provides a convection heating element.
  5. The temperature is automatically maintained by the grill, allowing you to relax while your food cooks.

Price Range

Prices for pellet grills can vary widely depending on the size and features included. On the low end of the price range, you may find a pellet grill for around $500.00. At the upper range, you may find a pellet grill with all the bells and whistles for around $9000.00.

Pros and Cons

The benefits of a pellet grill tend to outweigh the downsides by a large margin.

Pros:

  • Can provide a variety of smoky flavors depending on the type of wood pellet selected.
  • Provides many different cooking options including grilling, smoking, roasting, braising and searing (searing is an option on Z grills, not on all pellet grill brands).
  • Is environmentally friendly by utilizing small amounts of pellets and optimizing electricity.
  • Is extremely easy to use, and doesn’t require constant monitoring during the cooking process.

Cons:

  • Tend to be heavier than some other types of grills.
  • Tend to run slightly more expensive than gas and charcoal grills.

Part 2. Gas Grills 

Gas grills are a common site to see in many backyards, but there are some considerations to make if you are considering purchasing a gas grill.

What is a Gas Grill?

Generally, a propane tank is used with this type of grill, however, there are some models that can be hooked up to the gas line from a home.

How Does it Work?

A gas grill requires some additional steps and equipment to get started when compared to a pellet grill. If everything is in order, you just need to turn the knob to your desired cooking temperature and go from there to cook your food. However, there are a few other steps that need to take place beforehand, to ensure that you will have a successful grilling experience. While these will vary slightly based on the brand and type of grill, generally your gas grill will require the following steps:

  1. Open the lid to prevent gas buildup in cooking area.
  2. Completely open the valve on the propane tank, ensuring that there is enough propane and no issues with the hose, tank, etc.
  3. Gas is then fed into the grilling area and depending on the type of grill, either an igniter button or long handled match is used to light the grill.
  4. Generally, within 10-15 minutes, the grill will be sufficiently heated and ready to use.
  5. Continuously monitor food to determine when fully cooked.

Price Range

The average gas grill generally costs between $100.00-$400.00, while top of the line gas grills can run much more expensive, even in the upper ranges of $5000.00.

Pros and Cons

Let’s break down the pros and cons of gas grills:

Pros:

  • Generally easy clean-up after cooking.
  • Short pre-heating process.

Cons:

  • Does not provide the smoky flavor achieved from a charcoal and pellet grill.
  • Need to keep propane on hand.
  • Need to continuously monitor grill during cooking.

Part 3. Charcoal Grills

When you think of the word “grill,” a small, charcoal grill is probably the image that comes to mind. They are a common site at barbecues, tailgates, and all sorts of outdoor gatherings.

What is a Charcoal Grill?

Compared to pellet and gas grills, charcoal grills use charcoal briquettes as a heat source.

How Does it Work?

Depending on the exact type of charcoal grill, the process is generally as follows:

  1. Open all vents and remove the lid.
  2. Light the charcoal briquettes utilizing lighter fluid, electric starter or bunched up newspaper.
  3. Once lit, the general guidance is to wait until the briquettes turn gray with ash.
  4. Spread the briquettes out along the bottom of the grill (30-minute process to heat up).
  5. Continuously monitor grill and adjust temperature through opening and closing vents depending on desired cooking outcome.

Price Range

Of the three grills outlined today, charcoal grills tend to be the most affordable. You can find a basic charcoal grill for $20.00, while a more durable version may be as much as $2000.00.

Pros and Cons

While charcoal grills utilize some of the most basic technology when it comes to grilling, they are certainly not the most beginner-friendly option.

Pros:

  • Simple, cheap design and parts
  • Provides smoky flavor to food

Cons:

  • Requires more experience to use
  • Higher potential for flare ups
  • Produces lots of smoke
  • Requires extensive clean-up after each use

Part 4. Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a versatile, easy, safe, and environmentally friendly grill for the summer, a pellet grill is the obvious choice. Pellet grills will impress you and your guests with its numerous desirable features, not to mention the delicious food it produces.

When it comes to great grilling, Z Grills has the products and accessories you need for savory success. There are plenty of grill options out there. Choose from compact grills for cooking in tight spaces, camping and tailgating, to monster-sized grills that help you feed a large crowd.