A pellet grill is generally an easy to control smoker that maintains stable temperatures and leaves behind less ash and mess than a charcoal grill. It also delivers wood flavor through a variety of flavored pellets.
Pellet grills can actually be ideal for the people who have never really been fans of grilling because their simplicity makes them easy to use and deliver results that will earn rave reviews. The best pellet grills have elements of charcoal grills, gas grills, and kitchen ovens.
Joe Traeger developed the Traeger pellet grill in 1985 and patented it in 1986, meaning he was the only manufacturer of pellet grills for 20 years. Now the market has exploded with multiple companies offering pellet grills, and NPD Group reported that more than 1 million pellet grill units were sold in 2021 with a 38% revenue growth over the previous year.
Advantages of Pellet Grills
- Heat Control — Pellet grills have unrivaled levels of heat control. As an electric grill, a pellet grill will have controllers to regulate temperature and heat to precise detail. Gas grills may offer some level of heat control, but nowhere near the same amount. A charcoal grill will not have any kind of temperature control. Using a pellet grill means only having to set a temperature, waiting no more than 20 minutes, and then beginning your grilling.
- Place and Wait — With a pellet grill, you can simply set your food down and let the heat and smoke circulate to evenly cook the food. You typically have to set up several cook zones on a traditional charcoal or gas grill. With a pellet grill, you will be free to socialize with your guests while grilling.
- No Flare-Ups — Thanks to the built-in drip pan on most pellet grills, there is never a concern about flare-ups. There are shields between the flames in the fire pot and the dripping grease. You do not have to trim any excess fats or worry about using only certain marinades. Gas and charcoal grills do not offer this same comfort and this involve constant flare-up risk.
- Versatility — Pellet grills can be used to grill foods, smoke meats, and even bake. This is not to mention the wide assortment of wood types, each offering a different flavor and smoke for a wide range of tastes.
- Simplicity — With a pellet grill, you merely load the hopper, plug it in, let it heat up, and you are ready to go. There will be no need to constantly stoke a fire, check foods, or move food. Instead, the grill will move the heat and smoke right to the food for you. You can simply place your food on the grill and walk away, a luxury not afforded with gas or charcoal grills. There is a “set it and forget it” element to pellet grills.
- Flavor — Cooking over wood is going to give your food much better flavor than you would get on the conventional gas grill. The wood is burning continuously so you get a better taste and smell while grilling.
- Roominess — Most pellet grills are larger than standard charcoal or gas grills. This means you can cook a lot more food than is otherwise possible on those other types.
- Quick Start — All you have to do is fill the hopper with wood pellets, push the start button, turn it to the desired temperature, and come back in about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Cleaner Fuel — Wood pellets are a much cleaner fuel. Charcoal, on the other hand, can be a messy business. The only catch to wood pellets is making sure the do not get wet. They are also more environmentally friendly.
- Technology — Pellet grills are now allowing for neat new features like Wi-Fi connections that allow you to control your grill from your phone. You can check not just the temperature of your grill but also the temperature of the meat.
Disadvantages of Pellet Grills
- Electricity — With a pellet grill, you cannot take it anywhere unless you have access to electricity. That said, some portable pellet grills may be powered by a 12 volt supply from a car.
- Not Ideal for Wet Conditions — Any kind of moisture, even high humidity, can cause your wood pellets to swell. This will then cause them to crumble and become completely useless piles of sawdust. In other cases, they may jam the auger and shut down the grill completely.
- Constant Cleaning — A pellet grill is going to need to be regularly cared for. You cannot afford to let grease build up because the area underneath the heat deflector with fill up with the sawdust created by the fan blowing into the fire pot. Igniting the built-up grease with a pile of sawdust can cause an uncontrolled fire.
- Warranty Concerns — It seems like many pellet grills do not have warranties lasting more than a couple years, compared to the five top 10 you might get on a gas grill. And considering how many components on a pellet grill can break down or fail, this can mean more money out of your pocket for repairs.
- Wood Pellets Can Go Bad — Wood pellets will absorb moisture, and this can cause a host of problems. While you can leave pellets in your hopper, it is not recommended for extended periods of time. Even when rain is not getting into the hopper, any humidity can still break pellets apart. Charcoal pellets do not absorb moisture and can represent a suitable alternative, but you will also lose a lot of flavor.
- Cost — A pellet grill will usually be at least a few hundred dollars, and most nicer models go into the thousands. It is difficult to find any model for less than $400. On top of this, there are multiple components that will need to be repaired or replaced on pellet grills, which can further add to financial woes when owned.