Wood Pellet Smoker Vs. Charcoal Smoker- Exploring The Differences!

With the many options for grills available in the market these days, it can be overwhelming to decide which smoker to buy or which one to upgrade to. In either of these circumstances, a question most commonly raised concerns the wood pellet smoker vs. Charcoal smoker. 

Since they came out, charcoal smokers have been American families’ go-to grilling outdoor equipment. However, lately, and with the emergence of wood pellet smokers, the options are broadening, and preferences are transforming.

Both smokers operate very differently from each other, and while wood pellet smokers are growing in popularity, charcoal smokers still retain their faithful supporters. 

Therefore, today in this article, we will address the query of many grillers- wood pellet smoker Vs. Charcoal smoker by exploring their differences and why one of the two stands to be a better option than the other. 

Overview Of Charcoal Grills

Charcoal grills come in every size and shape and that is the reason behind a popular choice for backyard BBQ. It can operate searing or charring at high & low temperatures. Charcoal grills operate by burning charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal, which generates the heat required for cooking. This grills you can easily get within the under 100$ of budget and all these thing make it a learning curve for beginners

Overview Of Pellet Smokers

Pellet smokers offer a unique combination of convenience and flavor by the use of different wood pellets (Made by sawdust) as a fuel, making them an increasingly popular choice for both amateur and experienced grill enthusiasts. Like the charcoal smoker, you won’t need to find a wood pellet grill of any shape, size, or configuration. They’re excellent for a range of cooking methods, including smoking, grilling, baking, roasting, or even braising.

Among the other pellet smokers became popular and its well known pellet smoker brands Bar-Be-Cube, Traeger, Camp Chef, or Pit Boss…

Wood Pellet Smoker Vs. Charcoal Smoker

Possibly the only similarity that a wood pellet smoker and Charcoal smoker have in common is that they both operate on the same principle of smoking and cooking food with the primary aim of imparting a flavor to it. 

A wood pellet smoker is much easier to use and to operate in every manner. Specifically, with a wood pellet smoker comes a whole new level of versatility in every regard, such as in size, design, and fuel capacity, which are all superior to that of a charcoal smoker. For instance, though a wood pellet smoker does not burn as hot as a charcoal smoker, you can conveniently fine-tune it to the desired temperature simply by turning a dial.

temp of smoker

On the other hand, charcoal smokers are technical in their operation, considering that you will be smoking food on a real fire, making cleanup a challenging task. Nevertheless, they are in demand because of the smoky flavor generated in the food through their charcoal smoke and because the smoker retains the ability to burn hotter, searing the meat adequately. 

Exploring The Differences

Ease Of Use

From a convenience standpoint, pellet smokers are generally easier to use, especially for beginners or for those who prefer a “set and forget” approach. Simply put, a wood pellet smoker is a modernized version of a smoker whereby not much effort is required by the side of a griller. Generally, pellet grills are simple to use as they run on electricity and only need to be connected to a power outlet in your backyard. 

Additionally, you only have to fill the hopper with your desired wood pellets initially and set the temperature; the smoker will do the rest of the work. The internal auger attached to the hopper will ensure the pellets are fed into the firebox at a controlled pace whenever the previous pellet batch is burnt down. 

If you want to enhance the grill’s temperature, you can do so through the dedicated buttons, and then the pellets will burn quickly to create a hotter fire. Regardless, what stands to be a big deal and, essentially, a drawback of the wood pellet smoker is that it needs to be connected to an electricity outlet, and not many people might have one in their backyards.

cooking ease

In comparison, using a charcoal smoker demands some effort from your side, and operating the smoker relies on a learning curve precisely when mastering how to cook on charcoal properly

Before cooking food on a charcoal smoker, you would have to let the smoker preheat for 20-30 minutes by letting the charcoal burn on the grill. Setting and maintaining a specific temperature in a charcoal smoker is not straightforward, but once you get the hang of it, you can sear at high heat and cook food on multi-zone cooking to cook slowly. 

One of the key considerations for me is the time it takes to get the grill ready. Lighting a charcoal grill takes a bit longer compared to a gas grill, and it requires some skill to get the charcoal burning evenly. However, I think the flavor payoff is absolutely worth the extra effort.

Flavor And Taste

The flavor and taste of the cooked food are significant factors that need to be considered before deciding between a wood pellet smoker and a Charcoal smoker. Typically, the taste preference is unique for every individual. 

ribs taste from pellet smoker

Nonetheless, charcoal smokers impart a unique smoky flavor to food, the taste that most Americans have grown familiar with. However, the variety of wood pellet options (like hickory, mesquite, apple, and cherry) that a wood pellet smoker has given to all smokers allows them to choose a flavor they want imparted in their food. 

The flavor and the aroma of the hardwood pellets both designate a distinct flavor to cooked food, and the griller has multiple hues and tones of flavor to select the perceived flavor of the food. The Smoky flavor is generally milder compared to charcoal grills.

Fuel Type

This is the main difference between both pellet and charcoal smokers! The charcoal smoker fueled by coal and pellet grill are operated by hardwood pellets.

  • Charcoal grills: it operates by burning charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal, which generates the heat required for cooking. in which briquettes is the best option for slow cooking. While lump is the best choice for cooking at higher temperatures to smoke food at high temperature. If compared with briquettes the lump comes with a bit higher price.
  • Pellet smokers: Pellet smokers do require electricity to operate, these smokers use small, compressed wood pellets as fuel, which are automatically fed into a fire pot by an electric auger. pellets are an incredible choice for slow cooking even more than lump charcoal. Lump charcoal also tends to produce more ash and requires more cleanup. Normally a 20 pound bag of hardwood pellets can last up-to 20 hours 

pellet use for smoker

Temperature Control 

Controlling temperature in a charcoal smoker is not something that you can learn in the first go. It is a tricky task because the temperature is controlled manually by adding more charcoal or by adjusting the vents by closing or opening them, regulating the airflow. The beauty of this type of grill lies in its simplicity and the control it offers over the cooking temperature. By adjusting the airflow using vents, I can easily control the grill’s heat. This is crucial for different types of grilling techniques like searing or slow cooking.

coal Temperature Control

The more air escapes the grill, the hotter the grill gets, and vice versa. Thus, temperature control in a charcoal grill qualifies as a skill that has to be learned, and searing meat or setting up two cooking zones does not come naturally to a smoker. To a charcoal smoker applies- practice makes one perfect. 

Alternatively, a wood pellet smoker’s temperature control cannot be any simpler as all it takes to make the griller hotter is the mere turn of a dial. This system allows for precise temperature control, often through a digital control panel, which can be a major advantage over traditional charcoal or wood smokers.

Versatility And Temperature Range

Wood pellet smokers come with a restriction on the maximum temperature that can be achieved. Even though you can effortlessly smoke at low and slow temperatures compared to the high-heating charcoal grills, you can also hold steady temperatures.

coal burning

However, most wood pellet smokers have the highest temperature limit of 550 degrees Fahrenheit, beyond which the grill cannot get hotter. Still, this is accommodated in a wood smoker’s versatility, where, if needed, you can raise the temperature further by expanding the cooking surface area through a grill grate. By placing a grill grate on top of the original grill grates, you can enhance the wood pellet smoker’s temperature by 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

On the contrary, charcoal smoker offers a higher temperature range, and their temperature increases very easily. The standard maximum temperature is 800 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the charcoal smoker type. 

Maintenance And Clean-Up

Understandably, flavor and taste generated in cooked food matters, but what also matters is how convenient it is for a user to maintain and clean the grill. The best grill can be quickly cleaned when scrubbing soot and ash from the grates. 

Charcoal grills are taxing to clean. Even when the grill may not require maintenance, it would appear dirty because of its dark color, and when a mess is created, it will leave more of a mess on your smoking equipment. Charcoal grills typically require more cleaning effort than gas grills, especially since I have to dispose of the ash residue after each grilling session. However, with regular cleaning and maintenance, a good charcoal grill can last for many years.

clean smoker

Charcoal grills generally require regular cleaning, especially to remove ash and prevent rust. While the maintenance costs are usually not high, it’s important to keep in mind that parts like grates or the charcoal bed may need replacement over time due to wear and tear.

On the contrary, cleaning and maintaining a wood pellet smoker is effortless. These advanced smoking and cooking grills already have built-in mechanisms to remove ashes, such as the Ash Management System, which collects ashes that can be dumped out later. 

Moreover, even the smoke that is produced during smoking is lighter in wood pellet smokers both in its color and its weight. Hence, unlike a charcoal smoker, it does not leave a permanent residue.

Regular cleaning of the auger and fire pot is necessary to prevent jams and ensure efficient operation. But, with proper care, a pellet smoker can be a durable and reliable addition to our outdoor cooking arsenal.


Usually, pellet grills are more expensive than the traditional charcoal grills. They will demand a bigger investment from you and can range between a few hundred dollars to a thousand dollars, depending on the company you decide to purchase from. TThe most popular brands are Camp Chef, Weber, Traeger, etc.

High-quality wood pellet grills can cost you a lot, but they are durable and built to last. Despite the consistently increasing competition between pellet grill manufacturers, prices are being driven down, and purchasing a wood pellet smoker has not remained that pricy.

The choice of a charcoal grill can be cost-effective, especially if you opt for a mid-range model that can balance both quality and price. It’s a great option for those who enjoy the hands-on experience of grilling and the unique flavor that charcoal imparts to the food. The most well known brand of charcoal grill is Cuisinart, Weber, Master-built, etc

Final Verdict 

Our final verdict does not favor any grill as the two perform their jobs commendably. If you want a grill that is the most advanced, has the latest features, and is easy to use, maintain, and clean, then the ideal one for you is a wood pellet smoker.

But, if you are looking for a grill to master the art of cooking with charcoal, the only choice you have to progress with is a charcoal smoker. The grill may be messy to clean, but once its use has been acquired, it is one of the most efficient smokers.

A charcoal grill seems like a fantastic choice for someone who enjoys the process of grilling and values the unique flavor it brings to food. The hands-on experience and the satisfaction of mastering the temperature control are aspects that I particularly look forward to.

In comparison to gas or pellet grills, charcoal grills are often less expensive initially but might have comparable ongoing costs depending on usage.

Ultimately, the decision should align with your cooking style, flavor preferences, and how much time and effort you want to invest in the grilling process.

With all the differences we have stated, you might have had a clearer idea of wood pellet smoker and Charcoal smoker. More than any similarities, the two kinds of grills have many differences, and these differences are crucial to be recognized as they are contributing factors in your decision-making process.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is pellet smokers better than charcoal?

Yes, pellet smokers are better than charcoal ones because they are more versatile and easy to maintain and operate.

Is it better to smoke with wood or charcoal?

Per your preference and the kind of taste you want your food to acquire, you can decide whether to smoke it with wood or charcoal. If you prefer ease of temperature control and a more consistent heat source, with the flexibility to still infuse smoky flavors, then charcoal (possibly combined with wood chips or chunks) might be the better option.

Are wood pellet grills safer than charcoal?

Yes, wood pellet grills are safer than charcoal because you do not have to deal with real fire, so there is no risk of burning yourself while cooking. However, each type of grill must be used with care and proper safety precautions to minimize risks. The best choice will depend on your comfort level with managing fire, as well as your grilling habits and preferences.