When it comes to outdoor cooking, the market has expanded to a point where there are almost too many options available.
In the past, picking a grill meant choosing between a handful of brands as well as finding a grill within your price range. There’s also the age-old debate of charcoal versus gas, but that’s another story altogether.
However, a comparison that gets asked about these days is the pellet grill versus the gas grill.
After all, both pellet and gas grills are easy to use and offer versatile cooking options but which one is better?
Pellet grills will leave a smoky flavor and can cook a variety of food from smoking brisket, grilling burgers, and even baking pizzas. However, gas grills are just as easy to use as pellet grills but will not leave a smoke flavor on food.
Both pellet grills and gas grills have their pros and cons.
So let’s dive into both the pellet grill and gas grill to determine which one is best for you.
An Overview of Pellet Grills
Pellet grills are often referred to as pellet smokers or pellet cookers, which is an appropriate name.
Primarily, these grills are most famous for being able to smoke meat.
However, these grills can also be used as an outdoor oven and a grill to cook anything from burgers, steaks, and even pizzas.
Here’s a brief overview of how pellet grills work.
How Pellet Grills Work
As the name implies, pellet grills use wood pellets in order to create heat and smoke.
Wood pellets are loaded in the hopper where an auger feeds the wood pellets into the firepot. The firepot is where the fire is contained that creates both heat and smoke that gets circulated throughout the cooking area.
Read this article to learn more about how pellet grills work and how to get the most out of your pellet grill.
Effectively, pellet grills are similar to convection ovens where the food is cooked through indirect heat.
The benefit of pellet grills over convection ovens is that the wood smoke will create a smoky flavor and can create smoke rings on meat. Not to mention the food will cook evenly from all sides so food cooked at low cooking temperatures does not need to be flipped on pellet grills.
Since pellet grills can automatically feed in wood pellets into the firepot, pellet grills make it easy to cook and smoke food. Just set a cooking temperature, place the food on the grill, and wait until the food is ready.
The ease of use when smoking food is the huge selling point of pellet grills over smoking food using charcoal or wood.
Let’s quickly go over the other main advantages of pellet grills.
The Biggest Advantages of Pellet Grills
These are the biggest advantages of using a pellet grill for your outdoor cooking needs:
- Convenience: Pellet grills are a “set it and forget it” style cooker, allowing you to turn on the grill, set a cooking temperature, and wait. It doesn’t get any easier to smoke food.
- Efficient: Generally, pellet grills only consume about 1 pound of pellets per hour so fuel costs are low.
- Less Mess: Pellet grills have a grease trap and require very little maintenance, just needing the surfaces cleaned and occasionally the firepot.
- Versatility: With a pellet cooker, you have the ability to smoke, bake, and grill your foods.
Here is a longer list of pellet grill advantages that should be known before purchasing a pellet grill.
The Disadvantages of Pellet Grills
While pellet cookers are excellent cookers, they do have some drawbacks. These are the most notable disadvantages of these culinary machines:
- High Cost: Pellet grills are one of the most expensive options on the market when it comes to outdoor cookers. The cheapest options are often more expensive than high-priced gas grills.
- Power is Required: To use a pellet grill, it has to be plugged in. This isn’t always the easiest thing to accomplish when you’re cooking outdoors.
- Harder to Transport: Generally, pellet grills are larger and heavier than charcoal grills. So tailgating or camping with a pellet grill is more difficult to do than with a charcoal grill.
- Middle of the Road: Being extremely versatile is a huge benefit, but it also means that there is no specialization. They smoke foods well, but the smokey flavor isn’t strong. They can grill, but the high temperatures needed for searing can’t be obtained.
Here is a list of pellet grill disadvantages that should be known before purchasing a pellet grill.
An Overview of Gas Grills
Gas grills, as the name implies, use gas as the fuel source.
The gas is either propane or natural gas, but the most common fuel source is propane.
You’re likely familiar with how gas grills work, but let’s cover it so you can see what the differences are with pellet grills.
How Gas Grills Work
In a gas grill, the fuel is kept in a bottle or canister that is underneath the cooking area of the grill.
Gas travels through a hose into the manifold. The manifold then feeds the gas to different valves, each associated with a different burner or dial. These control the amount of fuel that is burned, which controls the cooking temperature in the grill.
Most gas grills have burners that produce flames.
Food in a gas grill can be cooked directly over the flame or indirectly through the heat dispersion covers. Generally, most people will cook food directly over the flames on a gas grill to create those signature grill marks on food.
The Advantages of Gas Grills
Gas grills have a number of advantages that allow them to perform better than a pellet grill in certain scenarios. Here are the main advantages:
- Higher Temperatures: Higher temperatures mean that foods can be seared or grilled faster than in a pellet smoker. Higher cooking temperaturse is the best advantage of a gas grill.
- Affordable: The majority of gas grills available are cheap and effective. This means that they’re going to fit into nearly any budget.
- Easy to Use: Gas grills are as easy to use as pellet grills once setup. Generally, the gas grill can be turned on by turning on the gas and lighting the fire. The fire is easily constrolled which controls the cooking temperature.
- No Mess: Propane and natural gas are both clean burning fuels which means cleaning the grill is as simple as scraping the grill grates clean and occassionally cleaning any drippings or larger messes in the bottom of the grill.
The Disadvantages of Gas Grills
Gas grills have a number of different disadvantages as well, all of which should be taken into consideration:
- Uneven Heat: Gas grill work from a flame creating heat. When smoking food for long periods of time, you want evenly distributed heat. If the food is placed over the flame, one side will cook faster which means food needs to be rotated or flipped on gas grills.
- Safety: Gas can be a dangerous fuel to cook with especially with propane tanks.
- Less Flavor: Using a gas grill results in foods that lack the smokey flavor you get when using a pellet grill or the charcoal flavor achieved with charcoal grills.
Personally, I recommend pellet grills over propane grills for 2 main reasons:
Pellet grills use wood pellets to create both heat and smoke. Food cooked on a pellet grill will absorb some of the smoke flavors which makes food cooked on pellet grills taste better than food cooked on gas grills.
Not to mention the versatility of pellet grills where you can smoke a brisket for 12 hours, then crank up to the temperature to grill burgers before baking a pie. All on the same grill!
Although gas grills are extremely convenient to use for grilling, I would never smoke a brisket for 12 hours on a gas grill.
You would need to use wood chips to create smoke, make sure the brisket is cooking evenly from all sides, and make sure there are enough wood chips throughout the cook to create smoke the entire time.
However, if budget is a limiting factor then gas grills are always going to be a crowd-pleaser to grill food.
If you’re looking for a pellet grill then here are 3 great lists to help you decide:
It really comes down to what you’re looking for in a grill. Overall, pellet grills are going to take the cake. These cookers can be considered a jack-of-all-trades, allowing users to cook foods in a number of ways. It’s great at low heat cooking, baking, and can be used to sear in some cases.
However, if you need a more budget-friendly option or a grill that can achieve high temperatures, you’ll need a gas grill. This is the only thing that a gas grill can do well, though. It’s a “master-of-none” when it comes to grilling.
Knowing this information, you can easily pick the grill that best suits your needs. If you can afford the pellet grill, though, we’d recommend you pick that option.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is a pellet grill worth the money?
A: A pellet grill is absolutely worth the money. Pellet grills reduce the difficulties of smoking meats, and they’re good at baking as well. Their versatility makes them worth the price tag alone.
Q: Can a pellet grill replace a gas grill?
A: In short, no. This is because the two are designed for different purposes. In reality, the two should be used in conjunction. The pellet grill can be used for cooking low and slow, while the gas grill will excel at high-temperature grilling.