Here we share our pros and cons of pellet grills including what it is, how it works, advantages, disadvantages, cost, and if cooking with a pellet grill is worth it.
Pellet grills are considered a new addition to the lineup of innovative devices for grilling. What makes it stands out is its main fuel source is wooden pellets. These wood pellets provide a practical and versatile alternative to the traditional smoking devices available on the market.
The main benefit of a pellet grill is it can do all of the things that a smoker does, it also grills, bakes, and does much more.
What Is A Pellet Grill
A pellet grill is a home kitchen tool that, as the name suggests, generates smoke and heat for flavoring and cooking your food by way of burning wood pellets that are food grade. The mechanism is pretty interesting.
Despite being an electronic device, its main heat component doesn’t come from electricity at all. In its truest essence, it’s still every bit a wood-fueled grill which is nostalgic of the more primitive traditional firewood grill that it innovated from.
The main appeal of a pellet grill comes from its unrivaled ability to control temperatures. A lot of these grill brands have also been marketing their pellet grills with having the ability to not just smoke and grill but also to bake and roast.
This positions it as one of the best outdoor kitchen must haves that’s both versatile and boasts multiple functions.
How A Pellet Grill Works
It all starts off by having pellets being fed from the hopper towards the auger. This is usually with the aid of gravity. These pellets continue to move towards the auger as the older ones get rotated in the burn pot.
Once these pellets are in the burn pot, there’s an internal hot rod that will then begin the process of combustion. There’s a fan from the outside of the grill that blows air in, fanning the flame and further intensifying it.
Once the heat and smoke rise, an installed heat plate deflects it, spreading the heat out evenly, which are then funneled upwards by the drip plates so that they reach the food. Drippings are caught by a system inside the grill and they eventually end up being on the removable grease tray at the bottom.
Modern pellet grills usually come with electronic controllers. It’s important to note that the heat still comes from the wood pellets being burned. The electronic controllers are only there to regulate the temperature of the grill.
Another electronic component of a pellet grill is the hot rod starter, which starts a spark and eventually a small flame. The hot rod automatically turns off once the flame starts growing.
Advantages Of Pellet Grills
Precise heat controls: The main appeal of the pellet grill comes from the unmatched heat control that it offers as opposed to the other grills in the market. Because it electronically controls the heat, the temperature is easily regulated for the user.
Because of this kind of heat regulation, especially for some of the higher-end models, it allows the grill to control the temperature coming from the grill with extreme precision.
Gas grills can offer some amount of heat control but not at the same level of precision. Charcoal grills don’t offer any type of temperature control at all.
Unmanned cooking: Another feature of pellet grills is that you just have to put the food in and then wait. Because these grills have conventional smoke circulation and heating, this allows the food to be evenly cooked without ever having to constantly turn them or move them around to avoid overcooking. It requires much less labor and attention to the cooking process.
No flare-ups: The typical pellet grill is also equipped with a drip pan that’s been built in under the grates. Because of this extra feature, it completely eliminates the incidents of having flare-ups while getting the food cooked.
There also isn’t any need for you to worry about trimming the excess fats in the food or in using marinades because the drip pan will just catch the excess moisture. This cannot be offered by charcoal and gas grills and flare-ups are a constant occurrence when you’re using them.
Versatility: Mainly because of the precise temperature control, pellet grills can be extremely versatile. For the price of just one cooking device, you get to have a smoker, an oven, a grill, and so much more all in one.
If getting bang for buck value for your money is something that you’re quite keen about, getting a pellet grill is among the backyard essentials that will be versatile in the long run.
Easy to use: This grill is a godsend for novice or inexperienced grillers so if you aren’t that skilled or experienced yet, this may be a great option for you. All you need to do is just get the hopper loaded in, plug the device in, allow it to preheat, and then you’re good to go.
There isn’t any need to constantly get the fire stoked or check if the food is overcooking or anything like that. There isn’t any need for you to move your food around as the grill moves on its own, making sure that even smoke and heat is delivered to the food that you’re cooking.
Cheap and convenient fuel: This grill type is fueled by wood pellets. Although you still need to buy them, you can actually get them at discounted rates especially if you buy them in bulk.
It also eliminates the need for you to have to lug and move a gas tank around so you can reposition it in any location that’s convenient for you at any given time.
Disadvantages Of Pellet Grills
Not ideal for wet conditions: Pellet grills are not recommended to be used during wet conditions. This is because you’ll be grilling with wood and tinder-dry conditions are required at all times.
There is also the off-chance that the pellets will deteriorate and will be deemed unusable the moment that they get wet. If you make sure that your pellets are stored properly though, you’ll be able to completely get rid of these possible problems.
No grill marks: One of the highlights of grilling food is getting the iconic and highly satisfying grill marks on the food that you cook. This isn’t offered when you cook with a pellet grill because of the fact that it mainly uses indirect heat.
If you insist on having the grill marks though, you can actually purchase accessories to help you achieve them but this is an extra cost as pellet grills don’t come with such extra accessories right out of the box.
Requires electricity: You need electricity to operate a pellet grill. This means that you can’t take it with you if you want to go camping off the grid or something similar to that.
Internal components may break down: And of course, because it has a lot of moving parts and is operated by electricity, there’s the possibility that some of these parts may break down over time, making your pellet grill completely unusable, which is usually the case with most electronics. You can take care of this by ensuring that you buy a brand that offers a strong and comprehensive warranty on the device.
Wood Pellet Grill Cost
A wood pellet grill is among the best outdoor kitchen appliances that are luxurious to have but one that is definitely worth owning, given its extra value-added features in terms of temperature control, place-and-wait function, and fuel cost.
The price pros and cons of pellet grills can vary greatly depending on the brand you opt for as well as the warranty that they carry but a good ballpark figure would be in the range of $400 up to $1000 and above. Some of the best brands to keep an eye out for are the following:
Traeger Timberline 1300 Wi-Fi Wood Pellet Grill: It has a WIFI controller app that lets you monitor your grill without being physically by the grill.
Memphis Grills Beale Street Pellet Grill: It also has an app that lets you control the grill via WIFI but has the added function of a mobile app that can send you text alerts once your food is ready.
Weber SmokeFire EX6 Gen 2 Pellet Grill: It has a WIFI app and a DC-powered engine that’s built specifically to prevent getting jams in the auger.
How Much Does A 40 Lb Bag Of Pellets Cost?
Wood pellets are decently priced at a good range of $4 to $9 per bag weighing 40 pounds. A lot of things can factor into the price of the pellet bag from the type of pellets you choose as well as where you order them from.
A 40-pound bag of wood pellets can last for a solid 24 hours of continuous burning but it may vary slightly depending on the temperature. The rule of thumb is that the higher your temperature, the faster the pellets burn.
Then there’s also the variance between hardwood and softwood pellets. Softwood pellets are known to burn better than hardwood ones. This means that they offer a cleaner burn as well as getting the ability to reach hotter temperatures in a shorter amount of time.
Hardwood pellets, on the other hand, are great if you don’t want the grill heating up too fast or getting the temperature too high so they’re more recommended for smoking.
Cost Of Wood Pellets Vs Propane Grill
Initial cost: On the front end, gas grills are cheaper than pellet grills. They’re also more easily accessible as they can be bought in almost any big store all over the world.
There’s bound to be a gas grill that suits your budget as they can go from the fairly affordable ones to ones that can be in the thousands of dollars, depending on your preferences.
Pellet grills, on the other hand, are typically much more expensive upfront. Even the cheaper brands or units will still run for $500 or above. And then, of course, the high-end ones, can be well in the thousands of dollars as well.
Operating Costs: The pros and cons of pellet grills when it comes to cost are highly variable depending on the temperature that you run the grills on and how long you’re running them.
But in general, a gas grill using propane will cost you about $1.20 or so per hour of use. If you calculate it on a 24-hour timeframe, a propane grill has an operating cost of $28.80 while a wood pellet grill consumes a 40-pound bag of wood pellets costing $4 to $9, depending on the type of wood pellet.
Do Pellet Grills Use Propane
Wood pellets get the fire started with the use of an ignition rod that’s powered by electricity and then uses wood pellets as fuel. It doesn’t employ the use of propane as these units use indirect heat driven by their internal fans.
Are Pellet Grills Worth It?
Even with all the pros and cons of these grills, they are still definitely worth it. Despite the fact that it has a much higher price tag upfront, it will cost you less in the long run. With gas grills, you need to make sure that you constantly keep an eye on the food that you’re cooking as well as on the propane tank.
When compared to charcoal grills, they also cost less as a bag of wood pellets will cost you far less compared to getting a bag of charcoal briquettes.
You have the added benefit of being able to do other things while you let your food cook. You get to regulate and control your grill temperature better, ensuring that your food doesn’t overcook. There isn’t any need for you to deal with bulky and costly propane takes.
The units come in a wide range of prices that are bound to fit whatever budget you have. High-grade pellet grills also come with comprehensive warranties and have been said to last at least a decade longer than regular grills.
You have the freedom to experiment with various cooking methods other than grilling because of their versatility and they’re easy to clean up once you’re done using them. They’re definitely well worth the buy and the experience.
Read more about our guide on vertical vs horizontal smoker here.