Ever since they both appeared, people have debated on which of them is better for outdoor cooking: built-in pellet or charcoal grills. While their primary goal is to get food cooked, they are quite different in terms of operation and the impact on flavors, so it’s important to know a few things before deciding which of these two types is more suitable to your liking.
Top 3 Picks
Best Built-In Pellet Grill: Memphis Grills Pro Built-In Pellet Grill
Integrating wireless technology that allows you to control the grills from a distance, every feature of this Memphis Grills is designed to aid the user in cooking meals that are close to perfection each time the unit is being used.
Best Charcoal Grill: Coyote Built-In Stainless Steel Charcoal Grill
With a sturdy construction designed to be durable but also to help the user control the air flow with greater ease, this Coyote charcoal grill is a masterpiece amongst its peers.
Designed as a quality charcoal grill at a more affordable cost, the Turbo unit comes with user-oriented features, such as dual airflow control vents and a built-in thermometer.
Pellet vs. Charcoal
Brace yourselves, as we have a long list of comparison points ahead of us. Most people think that pellet and charcoal grills are similar, but there are plenty of things that set them apart, so it’s only fair that we look at some of the main features that are of interest to the consumer:
First of all, you might be interested to know what’s the impact on the food flavor for each of these two choices. Since pellet smokers use wood to cook, the taste of wood on your meals is pretty much inevitable. Some people like it, while others complain about the fact that pellet grills don’t smoke meat as charcoal grills do. When it comes to charcoal grills, the taste is difficult to surpass, which is why a lot of people prefer them judging from a flavor standpoint. Charcoal grills can also operate at higher temperatures, giving meats a proper sear. Hint: some people like to add wood chunks to a charcoal grill in order to give it that woodsy flavor.
Then, a shopper has to consider both the initial and operating costs of each of these two grills. Quality pellet grills usually have higher prices, with models costing as much as $1,000. However, the charcoal briquettes that are used to fuel the grill are inexpensive, which is considered a plus. Charcoal grills can also cost a lot of money, but low-end options are available for less than $100. As far as fuel is concerned, lumps of charcoal are more expensive compared to pellets, but they are quick to burn and known for emitting more heat.
Temperature range is also important, so let’s discuss more about it. Pellet grills don’t offer a generous temperature range, since the majority of existing models have a maximum temperature of 500° F. They are, however, pretty good at maintaining steady low temperatures. Charcoal grills get way hotter a lot faster, with temperatures that could reach more than 800° F. Of course, this depends on the size of the grill and the type of charcoal you’re using (lump being more efficient than briquettes in terms of temperature reach).
Temperature control will determine if you can hold the grill steadily at the temperature of your choice. Using a digital pellet smoker, you will easily be able to hold a steady temperature, as it mostly a matter of turning a dial and letting the grill do its work. With a charcoal grill, temperature control is a little more complicated. In order to control the temperature on this type of grill, you will have to open and close the air vents, which are typically located on the top and bottom side of the grill. When you allow more air to get inside the grill, the temperature rises. It’s pretty much a learning curve that you’ll be able to master the more you use your charcoal grill.
Ease of Use
As far as ease of use is concerned, pellet grills are easy to master. All you have to do is fill the hopper with pellets and select the cooking temperature you want. The unit is equipped with an auger that feeds the pellet into the firebox that burns them. When you turn up the temperature on your unit, the pellets are moved into the firebox faster, resulting in more heat. With a charcoal grill, you will have to put in a little more effort. You will need either a charcoal chimney or lighter fluid to reach the desired temperature, and it takes about 20 to 30 minutes for the grill to be ready for cooking. From that point on, it’s mostly a matter of mastering the control of the air vents to increase or decrease the temperature.
Run time is another important feature that you want to look into. Wood pellet grills can cook even more than eight hours without the need to add any more pellets to the hopper. When you run out of fuel, simply open the hopper and add more pellets. Charcoal grills, on the other hand, can cook more than 12 hours with a single charcoal load if you use low and slow smoke. If you want to go with fast and hot grilling, you can burn through all the charcoal in just a few hours.
How to Choose
At this point, you might still be a little unsure as to which of these two types of grills is more suitable for your needs, so let’s have a quick look to determine what type of user each of them suits best.
A pellet grill might be a better option for you if:
- You like the flavor that real wood smoke gives to the meats cooked in a pellet grill.
- You want to be able to control the temperature of the grill without too much effort.
- You want to cook meats with different flavors that are given by the different kinds of wood pellets used.
- You plan on cooking meats at low temperatures.
- You want to use a grill but without having to manage a real fire.
Charcoal grills are a good option if you:
- You love the charcoal smoky flavor that these types of grills can provide.
- You want to sear your meats or cook at really high temperatures.
- You don’t mind mastering the learning curve required to control the temperature inside the grill.
- You like cooking with real fire.
The Best Built-in Pellet and Charcoal Grills
If you’ve always dreamed about a high-tech built-in pellet grill, Memphis Grills might just have the product you’ve always wanted. Using wireless technology and offering you the possibility to control the grill using a special Android or iOS app, you can access the settings of the unit even from a distance. When your food is cooked just the way you like it, you can receive an email or text alert, and that’s about as fancy and stress-free as a grill could get.
The double-wall construction will make sure that heat doesn’t escape through the lid, while also cooking your food evenly to perfection. The pellet hopper has a weight capacity of 18 pounds, which is more than enough for a grill that promises to cook at temperatures ranging between 180 and 650º F. The cooking area measures 562 square inches, while the efficient construction of the grill eliminates hot spots and promises to cook food faster.
The Coyote built-in pellet grill is one of the best products in its category, coming at a convenient price and with a bunch of specifications that are worth mentioning. It has an intuitive digital touch control system that grants you plenty of power over the settings. The smart pellet feeding system will slowly release the pellet into the burner, making sure that you can keep a steady temperature whenever you’re using the grill. The hopper has a 15-pound capacity, which should be more than enough.
It can reach generous temperatures of up to 700º F, with the lowest temperature being 175º F. It has a quality stainless steel construction for added durability. It uses a dual-fan convection system that offers precise temperature control. The generous 787 square inch cooking surface is bound to help you prepare a decent amount of food in a single batch.
The next product suggestion we have in store for you is a charcoal grill with heavy-duty construction and few features that make this one of the best products of its kind. It is designed with 304 stainless steel, being resistant enough to be used outdoors regardless of the weather elements it’s exposed to. The double-lined grill lid ensures heat is trapped inside the grill and distributed evenly for proper cooking.
It comes with an adjustable fuel tray that uses wood chips or charcoal. The drawer-type system allows you to pull this tray out and add more fuel even in the middle of a cooking sesh. The adjustable dampers work together with the integrated wind guard to offer more control over the air flow. The removable warming rack will keep your food warm until you’re ready to serve it.
The Turbo charcoal grill offers a user-oriented experience that’s clearly looking to eliminate the stigma around the difficulty of mastering this type of grill. It has a stainless steel construction that’s bound to last for years to come even when exposed to outdoor conditions. It has a height-adjustable charcoal tray that slides out and is pretty easy to clean.
With 740 square inches of cooking space, this built-in grill was constructed with dual airflow control vents that make it easier to control the temperature. The thermometer that built into the hood makes it even easier to have your food cooked at the ideal temperature, making this Turbo grill one of the most user-friendly charcoal grills that we’ve seen so far.
If you were looking for a quality and affordable grill head, this model is worth checking out. It is designed with a durable stainless steel construction and offers improved ventilation control compared to the previous versions of this product. In fact, the manufacturer claims that this is a re-engineered product aimed at delivering better performance while improving the user experience in order to achieve amazing and tasty food every time.
It measures 22.88 x 31 x 25 inches and promises ease of handling regardless of whether you’re looking to slow cook your meat at low temperature or want to benefit from high temperatures when preparing your meals.
The last suggestion for today is another built-in charcoal grill that delivers great performance without breaking the bank. It is designed with four individual cooking grids that will allow you to add wood and charcoal even while you’re hooking, thanks to the hook and hang system. The ashpan has a simple pull out system that makes it easy to clean the grill after each cooked meal. The stainless steel construction comes with a durability that can’t be contested. The grill hood is double-lined to make sure heat is preserved inside the grill and your food is evenly cooked.
Are pellet grills better than charcoal grills?
It’s very difficult to answer this question from an objective point of view because these two types of grills are pretty different from one another, both in terms of how they work, as well as in terms of what flavors you can expect to cook with. If you’re looking for a grill that’s easy to use and you’re not particularly interested in flavor versatility and achieving high temperatures, then built-in pellet grills are definitely a better choice.
Can you use charcoal on a Traeger grill?
Even if you could, Traeger recommends their own brand pellets, and to make sure that you don’t do anything that could void the warranty, it’s best if you stick with their recommendations.
Are pellet grills worth the money?
Generally speaking, pellet grills tend to intimidate buyers because they can be considerably more expensive compared to charcoal grills. However, their ease of use and the fact that fuel is available for cheap makes up for the initial cost, making built-in pellet grills an option worth considering.
Should you clean the grill after every use?
Yes, and this is important for a variety of reasons. First of all, you don’t want to have any leftover food scraps that will deteriorate the grill and influence the flavor of your future meals in a negative way. Cooking the grill after each use will also help prolong the lifespan of the grill, which is also important if you spend a lot of money on buying a high-quality grill. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and only clean the grill using the recommended cleaning tools and solutions, otherwise you might damage the construction of the unit.
The topic of whether built-in pellet grills are inferior or superior compared to charcoal grills will always be a topic of debate amongst outdoor cooking enthusiasts. It really depends on what you’re looking to cook and what machine you’re most comfortable in using, as built-in pellet grills are easier to use but not as versatile in terms of heat, while charcoal grills are more difficult to master, but you can get so many flavors out of using one.