Charcoal Barbecuing vs Pellet Grilling - Which is Right for You?

"Should I buy a charcoal barbecue or pellet grill?"

is a question us barbecue experts get all the time. Despite the fact they're both wood, they make your barbecue experience completely different. From the cook to the taste, both have characteristics that you may see as a favorable or not, depending on your grilling background, knowledge, style, and/or needs. We'll start with the differences in practicality and move on to explaining what you can achieve with the flavours each style produces. 

Practicality: time, money, and technology 

Oftentimes, practicality will be a barbecuers main deciding factor on when they choose a grill - especially if they're new. Here are some differences between charcoal and wood pellet grilling from a practical standpoint: 

Pros of Charcoal Grilling:

      • There is a big variety of charcoal grills, such as the Weber Kettle, that is relatively inexpensive or you can get the world renowned Kamado Joe for a few extra bucks.
      • Burning charcoal gives you a great bang for your buck as you may be able to reuse the larger lumps in another cook
      • Since it's more cost efficient, you won't have to feel guilty about experimenting with a variety of charcoal to see what combination of flavours and types that you love the most.

          big boy charcoal, barbecues galore

          Cons of Charcoal Grilling:

          • Bringing charcoal up to your desired temperature can take up to 30 minutes.
          • Managing the temperature of a charcoal fire takes far more work that most people don't love because it can get pretty difficult to someone who is less experienced. This may not be a drawback for everyone, in fact many pitmasters prefer this. If you do enjoy this, congratulations - you're probably a seasoned griller.
          • The difficulty in managing charcoal doesn't end when your foods done. Charcoal tends to be a whole lot messier and the flames take much longer to burn out. 

          Pros of Pellet Grilling:

          • With the technology available in modern pellet grills, you can set it and forget it. Just set your desired temperature on your thermometer, insert the meat probe, and hang out until your food is ready. Many pellet grills also have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connection, as well as their own designated smart phone apps that will help you monitor the temperature remotely. Check out the Yoder YS640s to see the best of the best. 
          • Pellet grills are generally much easier to clean with the ash being more manageable both during and after your cook. 

            Cons of Pellet Grilling:

            • Pellet grills are more expensive than charcoal barbecues (when you're comparing quality apples to quality apples), but of course you will get your moneys worth for which ever barbecue you decide to buy.
            • Fuel costs are also more expensive, with charcoal landing at about $1 to $2 per pound and wood pellets being anywhere from $3 to $6 per pound. 
            • Pellet grills will also require electricity, which limits their portability a great deal. It's fine for the backyard barbecue but it may not be your best choice if you like to bring your cooking to the great outdoors. 

                Final Flavours: Variety and Cooking Style

                So far, we've talked about what might make you get one or the other. In this next part, we're going to tell you the results you can expect in your food if you cook on a charcoal grill vs if you cook on a pellet grill. 

                Benefits of Charcoal Grilling:

                • Charcoal grilling is a journey with a delicious final destination. If you're here to go back to your the roots and simply cook a piece of meat over a flame like how cavemen did it, charcoal grilling is the way to go. You may not perfect the craft right away, but the experiences you'll take away from learning to control the flame and smoke will give you a pride you can only get when you've been through trial and error of getting that perfectly charcoal-smoked piece of meat. And when you achieve this, you'll get something you can't get with pellet smoking - and that's...
                • Nostalgia. Remember those family cookouts you used to have with the smell of charcoal smoke in the air while you tossed the football around because you were waiting for those perfectly charred burgers and hotdogs? Even if Uncle Johnny accidentally burnt them, you still loved the food with enough condiments on it. You can't beat that classic taste and smell that charcoal provides - that's why so many people prefer charcoal grills over pellets.

                  buffalo charcoal, barbecues galore

                   Benefits of Pellet Smokers:

                  • Although people tend to want the specific smoky flavours that charcoal can produce, the options are limited. On the contrary, there is a far greater variety of flavoured pellets available for your cookouts. If you prefer a more flavourful and aromatic smoke for your food, pellets are the way to go. 
                  • We've already mentioned that pellet grills are easier to control, as they often come with technology compatible with smart phones, but we didn't quite touch on what that can do for your food. With the pellet grill route, you can set your cook low and slow, so that your foods will absorb a great deal of the smoke that the pellets produce over a longer period of time - days if you prefer. This function is excellent if you want those sugar maple pellets, for example, to really infuse into your food. Again, this will provide exceptional flavours that can't quite be achieved with charcoal grilling.
                  • You can cook with these super cost effective, bang for your buck Big Boy Ash Kickin' Pellets.


                    So now that you know the differences between charcoal barbecuing and pellet grilling, which one do you think is right for you? Generally, people who favour charcoal grilling also enjoy the organic caveman cooking style that we've lost in our modern day cuisine. In contrast, those who pursue pellet smoking love the journey of seeing how far they can push the envelope with their intricate pellet blends until they find the perfect one for them.

                    Despite this blog post being about the differences between charcoal and pellet grilling, don't forget you can still use both in a single cook. Additionally, with the helping hand of items such as the Stainless Steel Smoker Pipe or A-Maze-N Pellet Smoker, you can keep put pellets onto your gas barbecues as well.

                     a-maze-n pellet smoker

                    Thanks for stopping by our blog to help you decide if charcoal or pellet grilling is your calling. Come visit any of our 5 locations across Canada. We've got two in Calgary, Alberta (North Location & South Location), as well as three across the Greater Toronto Area: BurlingtonOakville & Etobicoke, Ontario.

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