You may have heard of the amazing benefits using a smoker can offer, but what’s the real difference between a pellet smoker vs wood smoker? The truth? A whole lot! In this article, we’ll delve into the differences between pellet and wood smoker, as well as if either is worth purchasing in the first place.
Table of Contents
- What Is a Pellet Smoker?
- What Is a Wood Smoker?
- What Is the Difference Between a Wood and Pellet Smoker?
- Are Pellet Smokers as Good as Wood Smokers?
- Are Pellet Smokers Good?
- Pellet Smoker vs Wood-Smoker: Which Is Better?
- Is a Pellet Smoker Worth it?
- Pellet Smoker vs Wood Smoker: It Depends on Your Preferences!
What Is a Pellet Smoker?
Pellet smokers can be defined as smokers that utilize pellets instead of wood chips for smoking meat.
Pellets are usually made of hardwood, like oak or hickory, and don’t contain any additives. Instead of tossing the leftover waste from lumber and other types of wood from wood industries, they are often collected and formed to make pellets.
A pellet smoker utilizes these pellets to help you cook your meat. The pellet smoker acts much like an outdoor conventional oven. Once it reaches the desired temperature, it is able to sustain the temperature for the rest of your cooking.
This is because a pellet smoker is an electrical device that gives it the ability to maintain cooking temperatures over a sustained amount of time.
How Does a Pellet Smoker Work?
A pellet smoker works by utilizing pellets that are placed into a storage container. These pellets are then electrically brought into a cooking chamber where they ignite. The heat from the combustion is taken in by fans and is used to maintain heat within your pellet grill for cooking.
As previously mentioned, pellet cookers can maintain heat at the desired temperature for as long as you want it. And much like an oven, the heat can be controlled by just a simple twist of the dial.
Just know that using a pellet grill may not yield a very strong smoke flavor. So, for example, if you want a smoky flavored turkey, you’d have to do it a different way. If this is something you’re interested in, you may need to look to an offset smoker to get your smoky fix.
What Is a Wood Smoker?
A wood smoker (also known as an offset smoker) is also a cooking device that works to heat your food. It is often used for cooking meats and providing that coveted smoke flavor, especially when using hickory hardwood.
The wood smoker isn’t electrical, meaning it can be used just about anywhere. You need to keep a close watch on it as it requires fired wood. It will be up to you to adjust and maintain the heat in the wood smoker to produce the desired results.
How Does a Wood Smoker Work?
So, how does a wood smoker, or offset smoker, work? There is a horizontal smoker, or cooking chamber, on the side of the wood smoker. It’s paired with a firebox. The firebox is loaded with wood chips and must stay continuously lit. The heat from the firebox is adjusted by vents allowing for temperature control by the one operating it.
What Is the Difference Between a Wood and Pellet Smoker?
After reading the previous descriptions of both an offset smoker and pellet smoker, you’ve likely noticed differences. Let’s take some time to highlight those differences here.
One of the first major differences to come to mind when it comes to the wood and pellet smoker debate is the ability to control temperature. Unlike a wood smoker, pellet smokers operate electrically. Thus, they have the ability to maintain heat, unlike traditional smokers that utilize actual wood.
Having said this, pellet smokers have their limitations when compared to offset smokers. Because they don’t use actual wood chips, they don’t produce as smokey of a flavor. Instead, they utilize wood pellets which only yield a subtle smoky taste in the finished product–if any at all!
Pellet smokers are also smaller in size and aren’t as readily portable as wood smokers. This makes them less than ideal for camping situations.
Wood smokers, on the other hand, do utilize actual wood in the form of wood chunks. You can vary the type of wood you use to line your firebox for different flavors. You can even use charcoal or a mix of both to further enhance flavoring.
As mentioned, a wood smoker is a fantastic option for use in any setting or location. Because it doesn’t require electricity, the only thing you need to worry about is kindling your fire and controlling the heat. Unlike pellet smokers, you’ll need to mindfully monitor your wood smoker as you manipulate the vents to achieve the desired results.
Remember that when using an offset smoker, your use of the vents will determine the final outcome. Opening the vents allows more oxygen which will lead to higher heat. Closing the vents will cause oxygen to diminish, lessening the heat within your smoker.
Are Pellet Smokers as Good as Wood Smokers?
They can be! But it depends on what you’re looking for. When it comes to whether or not pellet smokers are as good as offset smokers, it can help to glean over the pellet smoker pros:
- Easier to maintain cooking temperature
- Less supervision required
- Easy to control dial
- Pellets can be cheaper to buy than charcoal
- Doesn’t require manual kindling to produce heat
Despite these pellet smoker pros, there are plenty of benefits to purchasing a traditional smoker as well. Consider the following:
- Utilizes pure wood which can yield a nice smoky taste
- Generally cheaper than pellet smokers
- Can smoke larger amounts of meat (including brats, pork butt, medium-rare steaks – you name it!) than a pellet smoker
- Can be used virtually anywhere making it perfect for outdoor use in remote locations
After reviewing the pros of each type of smoker, you can see that each type has its advantages. Between maintaining temperature and the flavoring of the finished product, it will be up to you to determine which advantages matter most to you.
Are Pellet Smokers Good?
Remember that pellet smokers are best for maintaining temperature and ease of use. They are the type of grill that you can dump in the pellets, turn the dial, and walk away from.
Having said that, they’ll cost you a bit more than a traditional wood smoker, and they won’t cook as much meat. Moreover, they won’t yield those coveted smoky flavors, although many say you can still taste a hint of smoke in the final product.
Pellet Smoker vs Wood-Smoker: Which Is Better?
Still not sure which of the two is the best fit for you? Consider the following features of a pellet smoker vs wood smoker:
- Different Price Points: Remember that a wood smoker may be a better fit if you are low on cash. It will also yield more flavor. Still, it is a lot more work than a pellet smoker would be. It is likely for this very reason that pellet smokers can often cost double the amount of a wood smoker, thereby making a wood smoker the best choice for those on a budget.
- Charcoal Use: If you love the smokey and unique flavor that charcoal brings, then you’ll hands-down want to pick up a wood smoker over a pellet smoker. Pellet smoker hoppers cannot be filled with charcoal. But a wood smoker can be used with both wood and charcoal! This provides the ultimate flavor enhancer to cook up your favorite meats with. This is yet another reason that a wood smoker might win out over a pellet grill.
- Different Fuels: In relation to the already mentioned factors, you know that pellet smokers and wood smokers utilize different “fuels” to get things going. For a pellet smoker, you’ll use 100% hardwood pellets and for wood smokers, you’ll use pure wood. Prices vary for each type of fuel, so keep this in mind when searching for the best smoker for you.
- Consistent Cook Temperature: Though there are several offset smoker pros, maintaining a consistent cook temperature isn’t one of them. Consistent cooking temperatures are important for achieving the correct internal temperature when cooking meats. Without it, you’ll be sorely disappointed and can potentially put those eating from the smoker at risk.
Pellet smokers are great for maintaining temperatures as they operate electrically. There is no need for you to worry about adjusting vents and keeping an eye on your firebox. Instead, the pellet smoker keeps your meat cooking at a consistent temperature the entire time.
Thus, a pellet smoker might be your best bet if you want to achieve great smoking results with ease.
Is a Pellet Smoker Worth it?
To finish up, you may be wondering if a pellet smoker is even worth it to begin with. After all, a wood smoker has a lower price point, can house a greater amount of meat, and can add more flavor than a pellet smoker could.
Remember that a pellet smoker usually costs more and is very popular because of its convenience and ease. Yes, a wood smoker will offer more flavor, is portable, and has lower price points when compared to pellet smokers.
But pellet smokers are much easier to operate! Because of that, a pellet smoker may be more than worth it to those who don’t have much time to spare or don’t like the idea of watching over a firebox.
When To Choose a Pellet Smoker
Because several pellet smoker cons exist, it is certainly worth exploring your options when it comes to what type of smoker to buy. You should choose a pellet smoker if you want to throw your meat and other food on the grill without having to worry about it much.
Recall that pellet smokers work like conventional ovens. Thus, virtually anything that could be cooked in an oven can be cooked in a pellet smoker as well. This makes pellet smokers a highly versatile investment worth looking into.
Pellet Smoker vs Wood Smoker: It Depends on Your Preferences!
Whether or not you should choose a pellet smoker or wood smoker largely depends on your preferences. If you’re looking for a less expensive yet flavorful way to smoke a lot of meats then a wood smoker is the right pick.
If, however, you are looking for something that doesn’t require a lot of supervision and is easy to operate, you should go for a pellet smoker. Yes, it tends to cost more, but that’s the price you pay for convenience!
We hope this helps!
Most of the time, a pellet smoker is also referred to as a pellet “grill”. This means you should be able to grill normally (aluminum foil and all) using a pellet smoker. Still, double-check with the manufacturer or package label to make sure the two are synonymous before purchase.
Whether or not you choose a wood or pellet smoker will depend on your needs. Buy a wood smoker if you’re okay with supervising the firebox and controlling the temperatures. Buy a pellet smoker if you want convenience (but less smoky flavor).
Pellet smokers may offer subtle flavor but typically aren’t known to add robust smokiness to dishes the way that wood smokers do.