Pellet Vs Gas Grill: Which Is Best for You?


You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to picking a new grill. However, if you want an efficient, convenient grill that is easy-to-use, your option becomes a toss-up between either pellet or gas grill.

But what’s the difference? And which wins in the battle of pellet vs. gas grill?

Well, gas grills use natural or propane gas to cook and hit high and consistent temperatures, which you may not achieve with the pellet grill.

Pellet grills rely on burning pellets but give extra sear and savor to foods that you can’t achieve with gas.

Since fuel types influence heating time, flavors, and general grilling experience, finding the winner for you shouldn’t be too daunting.

In our hunt, we’re going to compare the following characteristics to help you land your custom-fit.

Design 

Gas Grill

Gas grills use either propane or natural gas. Your choice will depend on your circumstances and is a discussion for an article on its own.

But if you want portability, propane is what you need to consider. Two-thirds of gas grills are propane powered, so it’s those that we’ll mostly concentrate on here.

The gas cylinder is usually near the cooking area of the barbecue. Connected to the cylinder is a hose, or manifold, that feeds the burner through valves. It is these valves that control the amount of combusting gas and regulate the grilling temperatures. 

Advanced gas grills come with infrared burners that distribute heat evenly. With pellet grills, they achieve even cooking with fans.

Some grills come with only one burner, while most come with multiple burners, up to four. 

You can get to cook your favorite recipe either directly or indirectly based on your choice of food.  For example, to sear a steak, you’d use a direct heat zone and allow it to cook to your desired taste.

If your recipe requires medium or medium-low heat, you’ll turn the burner’s indirect zones on for the intended results.

One rule of thumb; if the whole cooking session takes less than 20 minutes, use the direct heat zones. If the session exceeds 20 minutes, use indirect heat zones.

To cook, you simply place the food on top of the rack, and it will cook as per your preset temperature requirement for ideal flavor. 

pellet vs gas grill infographic

Pellet Grill

Pellet grills use pellets for smoking, usually compressed from sawdust. The wood pellets look pretty much like chicken feed pellets.

In most pellet grills, the wood pellet holder (also called a hopper) is at the side or back of the heating appliance.

Most hoppers are funnels that feed the pellets into a screw-like auger. As the auger turns, so do the pellets burn to produce a flame. 

Unlike traditional grills, modern-day pellet barbecues run on standard household current. To ignite the system, simply plug the extension into the grid and turn the digital controller. This will start the auger rotating. 

As the auger rotates, it releases pellets to a firing unit with an igniter rod. As soon as the igniter rod receives the pellets, it will start to glow red, become hot, and cause the pellets to burn. 

Heat and smoke diffuse from the combustion unit continuously into a blower fan that rotates to distribute an even heat when searing, braising, or cooking your favorite food. Some models come with features that let you smoke and heat at the same time.

Efficiency

Flame grilling burgers and sausages.

Now you know how they design each variant, the next question is, how efficient is each one at grilling?

Pellet grills have a convection fan to disperse heat from the heating furnace, meaning that once you’ve set them cooking, they run efficiently, with little more interaction. 

On the downside, most pellet grills will struggle to hit a temperature of 400 degrees, making them unsuitable for high heat braising. 

Gas grills come with knob adjusters that you can use to control the amount of combustion gas. Some models come with three knobs; high heat, medium heat, and low heat. This way, you can adjust the amount of gas flow for efficiency, keeping costs down.

On high heat, you can achieve up to 500 degrees on a propane gas grill.

Cost

It’s that old story of swings and roundabouts. Gas grills are cheaper to buy, but the fuel is more expensive than pellet grills.

With proper use and care, you won’t need to refill your pellet grill hopper frequently unless you are on a heavy-duty grilling session. With a propane gas grill, you must replace the propane bottle more often.

An entry-level pellet grill costs around $500. More advanced models go for up to $2000

Conversely, an entry-level gas grill goes for around $200. The most expensive ones cost between $5000 and  $5000. 

The more expensive gas grills come with many more features, making them ideal for taking your heating adventure a notch higher.

Flavor

Pellet grills are popular for their rich smoky flavor. As the compressed sawdust pellets burn, they dissipate and impact a distinctive flavor that adds to the aroma of your food.

Also, since you can buy pellets of different wood types that create different flavors, you can experiment and choose a specific custom-fit aroma to suit your taste.

Gas grills, on the other hand, do not enhance the flavor. Usually, as the gas burns, it produces only water and carbon dioxide. This way, the only smell that is prevalent is the smell of your food. 

Based on this factor, pellet grills win if you fancy smoky flavor on your barbecue, steak or veggies.

Safety

There’s always a danger where fire is concerned, so always adhere to health and safety standards and advice when using any type of grill. 

Make sure you read all the accompanying instructions before using your grill. 

Grill fires and explosions are common occurrences across the United States. Gas grills are particularly dangerous in that they use the highly-flammable propane or LPG gas.  

A tank exploding by accident culminates in an instant fire. So be sure to check your gas tank regularly for any developing seam faults or signs of wear and tear. For added safety, periodically check seams in hoses and regulator valves to prevent leakages.

Propane, natural gas and wood pellet grills all produce carbon dioxide when burning. So whenever grilling on one of these devices, make sure you do so in a well-ventilated location to avoid inhalation of toxic fumes.

Bottom-line, gas grills have a lot more safety concerns and can be more dangerous if handled carelessly. Sometimes, city ordinances do not prohibit their use because of the risk. It’s worth checking this out before buying.

If you want something that you can use more safely around kids, then the pellet grill is your go-to option. 

Heat retention

For a slow heating barbecue, you must preheat for about 10 minutes under slow and low temperatures. Investing in a grill with excellent heat retention lets you cook without having to adjust the temperatures or burn extra pellets or gas.

A gas grill preheats in 10 minutes, but it doesn’t retain the temperature too long. Once it’s off, the heat dissipates and convects to the air.

Pellet grills preheat in 10-15 minutes, plus, they design some grills to minimize flare-ups. Advanced designs regulate temperature with a 5-degree increment feature, allowing you to pinpoint the ideal heat required. 

Convenience 

The most convenient grill is one that is easy to use and which you can set and forget.  A pellet grill doubles as an oven, in that, you can set it to the desired temperature and leave it to do its magic. The pellets burn slow, enabling heat retention and prolonged cooking without burning the food.

On the other hand, gas grills allow heat to escape easily, so you can’t rely on them for prolonged use without close monitoring.

Pellet grills also have a small learning curve, making them ideal for use when starting a grilling journey. Unlike the gas grill, which comes with multiple knobs and needs a regulator to keep the heat under control.

Gas grills are convenient for big family bbq lunches. It is your perfect option if you intend to cook chickens for flatbreads, pork skewers, chicken gyro skewers, texas bbq medleys, and a lot more.

On the other hand, pellet grills are best for slow-cooked add-day bbq, cook-outs, and bbq flavors. Examples of foods that cook perfectly on these grills include baby back ribs and briskets.

Burgers and sausages on a pellet grill

Lastly, if carting your grill is something that you’d wish to do, then propane is the way to go. The downside of the natural gas grill and the pellet grill is that they both need to be attached to a domestic source. One for the fuel and the other for power to rotate the auger motor and keep its fan working. Unless you have a long attachment, they may not work in outdoor spaces away from the grid. 

Other Features

A programmable grill with high tech features is an added advantage. Some pellet and gas grills come with wifi and Bluetooth capability that allows for remote control using either an Android or Apple device. These features enable the system to hold the temperature when it hits a specific range. 

Also, you’ll find some high priced models with LCD screens that record and show the whole grilling session for ease-of-monitoring.

Pellet Vs. Gas Grill Frequently Asked Questions 

Can You Grill Steaks on a Pellet Grill? 

Yes, to sear a steak on a pellet grill, first preheat the grill to 350 degrees. This way, you will enjoy the sizzle of your steak as it makes contact with the heat.

However, before placing the steak on the grill, remove the moisture from the steak’s surface to prevent steaming. This hack works magic in creating the best texture in the seared crust.  

How Long Does It Take to Grill on a Pellet Grill?

When you plug the pellet grill into a standard electric current, the rotating auger delivers wood pellets from the hopper to the igniter. Immediately the igniter starts to glow; it takes only 5-10 minutes for the grill to heat up.

How long your food can take on the grill depends on the number and size of food items you intend to sear, braise, bake, roast, or barbecue. 

Are Pellet Grills Bad for Your Health? 

No, pellet grills are safe, just like any other grills, when you use them correctly. The first grilling rule of thumb; avoid eating grilled food too often. 

Too much red meat can saturate your body with cholesterol, making you susceptible to obesity and high blood pressure.

The second rule of thumb is to grill within the recommended temperature range. Research from the National Cancer Institute indicates that grilling above 350 degrees Fahrenheit causes the formation of heterocyclic amines, which are mutagenic.  

The research also found out that burnt meat also has some heterocyclic amines. When ingested, these chemicals can cause brain, colon, skin, and prostate cancer. 

Conclusion 

The battle of pellet grill vs. gas grill is a tough one because both options are efficient when cooking a variety of foods. The margin between the two is minimal when it comes to functionality, as most foods cook well in mid-range temperatures (200-400 degrees Fahrenheit). 

If you want to constantly hit a high temperature, a propane gas grill is the most efficient. But, if you want a slow smoker that, if used regularly, saves money and energy, go for a pellet grill.

If you enjoyed our comparison, you now know everything it takes to make an informed decision.

Which option did you choose? Let us know what tips worked for you in the comment section.

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