Have you ever wondered if there is a difference between a pellet grill vs smoker? Turns out, there is. With many pellet grills ambiguously marked as “smokers”, you may be left confused. It is for this reason that we are breaking down the differences between the pellet grill vs smoker, as well as which might be best suited for your needs.
Table of Contents
- What’s a Pellet Grill?
- What’s a Pellet Smoker?
- Are Pellet Grill and Pellet Smoker the Same?
- Is a Pellet Grill Better Than a Smoker?
- Do Pellet Grills Cook the Same As Other Grills?
- What Is the Benefit of a Pellet Grill vs Smoker?
- What Are the Cons of a Pellet Grill vs Smoker?
- Do Pellet Grills Take Longer To Cook?
- Can You Smoke on a Pellet Grill?
- Is Pellet Smoking As Good as Wood?
- Why You Shouldn’t Buy a Pellet Grill
- Pellet Grill vs Smoker: Similar But Very Different!
What’s a Pellet Grill?
A pellet grill is a cooking device that safely utilizes electricity to heat, barbecue, sear, and roast food. It is typically horizontal. There are many pellet grill brands on the market, many of which boast differing features.
Pellet grills are temperature controlled which makes them easier to use than conventional grills. With that said, pellet grills can be more expensive than conventional grills and require high-quality pellets on an ongoing basis.
When using a pellet grill, you won’t be able to utilize the appliance for baking or smoking at a low temperature. Pellet grills have a heat source closer to the food, which causes the food to cook more quickly. It is this characteristic that makes it ideal for barbecuing and searing. Still, it isn’t plausible to slow cook food using this type of grill, as the grill will likely be too hot to perform such a task.
What’s a Pellet Smoker?
A pellet smoker is an appliance that utilizes electricity to slow smoke, bake, or roast meat. It can come in either horizontal or vertical varieties. Like pellet grills, there are many brands of pellet smokers out there. Which you use will depend on your needs.
Pellet smokers are highly precise in terms of temperature control. The utilization of wood chips, wood pellets, firewood, or charcoal can yield a delicious smoky flavor. Like pellet grills, pellet smokers may also require the utilization of high-quality pellets for the best flavor. For this reason, the cost of pellets will be an ongoing purchase if you choose to use them.
Unlike pellet grills, you can use a pellet smoker to cook food low and slow. In fact, you can use your pellet smoker for baking and roasting as well.
What won’t you get with your smoker? Unfortunately, you won’t be able to sear or barbecue your meat for that crispy charred taste that makes your mouth water. Instead, you’ll find your food to be fall-off-the-bone tender with a wonderful subtle smoke flavor that makes it ideal to cook meats.
Are Pellet Grill and Pellet Smoker the Same?
As you can see by the detailed explanation above, a pellet grill and smoker aren’t the same things. Unfortunately, when comparing a pellet grill vs smoker, many people use the two names interchangeably. Even some companies do this within their own brands. In actuality, there are some grills that are also smokers (like the Sunlifer Vertical Charcoal Smoker and Grill Combo).
But this doesn’t mean that pellet smokers and grills are always the same.
Is a Pellet Grill Better Than a Smoker?
Remember that whichever you choose between pellet grill vs smoker for outdoor cooking will depend on your needs. Because the cooking process for different foods can vary greatly, it’s impossible to say which will work best for you.
In a general sense, you can expect the indirect heating element of a smoker to work great for steaks, ribs, sausages, or vegetables. Having said that, if you are looking to give any of these foods a seared or yummy barbecue flavor, you likely won’t achieve it using a smoker. Instead, you’ll need to look for a pellet grill.
Pellet grilling offers heat sources that are closer to the food. The result is faster cooking time, but this limits your cooking options in terms of slow cooking. Instead, you’ll be cooking food that can be grilled relatively quickly, including chicken, burgers, steaks, and more. Using this method, you’ll also be missing out on the common smoke flavor imparted by using a pellet smoker.
Do Pellet Grills Cook the Same As Other Grills?
Yes and no.
Pellet grills often utilize pure hardwood pellets and burning wood to add flavor to the meat. However, they offer precise temperature control that is much different than that of your standard charcoal grill.
In this way, your pellet grill is a lot more similar to a conventional gas grill, although it still isn’t quite the same. A propane grill may cook faster than a pellet grill, and thus, you may need to allow for more time when cooking meats and other foods.
Other than these slight differences, you can expect to yield the flavor of a conventional grill from a pellet grill but without the work of constantly maintaining the temperature. Instead, your electrically powered pellet grill will do the work for you.
Remember that both gas and wood pellet grills won’t necessarily produce a ton of smoky flavor. Though your pellet grill is more likely to offer smokier flavor than your natural gas grill, your food still won’t be as smoky as it would be had you used a smoker.
What Is the Benefit of a Pellet Grill vs Smoker?
The benefit of a pellet grill vs smoker are as follows:
- Cooks food more quickly
- Pellet grills offer searing capabilities
- Has automated temperatures
- Great for barbecue
- Offers a bit more smoky flavor than would a gas grill (although not much)
What Are the Cons of a Pellet Grill vs Smoker?
The disadvantages of using a pellet grill vs smoker include:
- Pellet grills won’t offer low and slow cooking qualities as a smoker would
- Pellet grills don’t offer as smoky a flavor as pellet smokers
- May not offer a large cooking capacity like vertical pellet smokers might
Do Pellet Grills Take Longer To Cook?
While the pellet grill is an awesome type of BBQ equipment, you may find it to take much longer to cook than your propane traditional smokers. Having said that, there are many advantages to using a pellet grill. Thus, which type of BBQ equipment you choose will totally be up to you and your needs.
Can You Smoke on a Pellet Grill?
Although you will experience somewhat of a smoky flavor when grilling on a pellet grill, you won’t exactly be able to “smoke” your meat. However, the answer to this question will be different if you’ve chosen to purchase a smoker/grill combo.
When purchasing a combination smoker and grill, you are able to use the device as both a smoker and a grill. Thus, you’ll be getting the best of both worlds.
Just be sure to not assume that all pellet smokers are grills and that all pellet grills are smokers. Unless they are specifically marked as being both, you can expect these two pieces of equipment to function differently.
Is Pellet Smoking As Good as Wood?
In some cases yes. In fact, many hail pellets as being better than wood chips as they tend to burn longer and more evenly. In addition, using wood pellet can be ideal for imparting a more enhanced flavor to whatever you are cooking, according to some.
Still, there are many out there that believe wood chips produce a greater amount of flavor than hardwood pellets. With this, we agree! Still, there are many benefits to using pellets over wood chips especially when it comes to controlling the heat and cooking meat evenly.
Thus, which of the two you choose will ultimately depend on your personal preference!
Why You Shouldn’t Buy a Pellet Grill
Though pellet grills have their benefits, they also have a few downsides. Consider the following:
- Lower Cooking Temperatures– Pellet grills can barbecue and sear meats just fine, but don’t expect them to achieve temperatures higher than 450 degrees. Many traditional grills can easily get hotter than this temperature, so getting your meat as crispy or well-seared as you might on a traditional grill is unlikely.
- Higher Pricing– the initial price of buying a wood pellet grill tends to be much higher than a traditional grill. Not only this but because the pellet grill requires electricity, you may very well see a spike in your electric bill after using it.
- Requires Electricity– As previously stated, pellet grills require electricity. This means not they’ll not only cost you more monthly in electric bills but also that you won’t be able to use it wherever you wish. You’ll need to be able to connect to a power source when utilizing your pellet grill which can sometimes get difficult during the outdoor cooking process.
- Can’t Always Be Used to Smoke Meats– Remember that unless you are purchasing a combo grill, your pellet grill isn’t likely the best option for smoking meats. You’ll want to have a pellet smoker on hand for that or simply purchase grill and smoker combination bbq equipment instead.
Pellet Grill vs Smoker: Similar But Very Different!
Though many people commonly use the terms “pellet grill” and “pellet smoker” interchangeably, the truth is that the two are not the same. A pellet grill is best for cooking meats at a high temperature and developing a nice charr or sear on the meat. A smoker is better for low and slow cooked foods that could benefit from a subtle smoky flavor and an extra tender texture.
We hope this helps! Which of the two will you choose?
Can pellet smokers be used as grills?
Unless the pellet smoker is marked as a combination smoker and grill, you typically shouldn’t grill on a pellet smoker. There are some that have found convenient methods for achieving this, however, so feel free to experiment and do what works for you.
Are pellet grill and pellet smoker the same?
No. In most cases, a smoker is intended for smoking, and a grill for grilling. However, there are some types of wood pellet grills that also function as smokers. When this is the case, you can feel free to use your grilling equipment for both tasks.
How long does it take to cook a burger on a pellet grill?
Try 4-8 minutes on each side with your grill on the highest setting.
Are pellet grills good for steaks?
Yes, pellet grills are actually great for steaks!