Nothing beats the taste of a perfectly-grilled steak or the experience of grilling burgers for friends during a backyard BBQ.
But what type of grill will give you that incredible flavor and ease of use? Seems like there are hundreds of types of grills on the market these days. For our money, the choice is between a pellet grill and a gas grill.
We’ve broken down the differences between the two so you can make the most informed choice for your grilling experience.
Pellet Grill vs Gas Grill: The Quick Answer
The main difference between gas and pellet grills is the type of fuel they use: pellets vs gas. But this small difference does create some important distinctions.
A gas grill is typically cheaper, faster, and can hit a higher temperature than a pellet grill. So if you just want a standard backyard grill for summer parties, you are probably looking for a gas grill.
But if you want to truly master that one-of-a-kind smoky grill flavor, you need a pellet grill. Pellet grills can infuse the food with flavor through the pellets and are also able to essentially double as a smoker.
Let’s dive a bit deeper into the features of each of these types of grills.
The Difference Between Pellet and Gas Grills
The difference in fuel types creates a very different grilling experience between a pellet and gas grill. You should definitely know what you’re getting into before purchasing either of these so that you are getting the best grill for you.
Pellet grills are designed to cook your meat slowly over a low temperature. It’s really more like an oven than a grill, and it can also double as a smoker. It can also do more traditional grilling, but it’s built for slowly saturating your food with that great smoky flavor through the wood pellets.
The pellets used to fuel pellet grills are compressed sawdust repurposed from lumber mills. While similar to wood chips, you do not soak wood pellets prior to using or they will just turn into mushy sawdust.
Smoking wood pellets are also quite different than heating pellets for household stoves. Unlike smoking wood pellets, heating pellets are often made from hardwoods that are not food-safe and may be full of toxic chemicals.
Smoking wood pellets are usually made from hardwoods such as applewood and hickory (which also helps you control the flavor!). You can choose different types of woods to imbue specific flavors into your meats, and you can even mix and blend different pellets to customize yours to your taste.
How does a pellet grill work?
If you are familiar with a pellet heater, then pellet grills work in a very similar way.
To use a pellet grill, you need to connect the grill to electricity in order to power the convection fan. Once you have that and your pellets ready to go:
- The pellets are placed into the hopper, located on the side of or behind the main part of the grill. It looks like a funnel.
- The pellets move through the hopper down into the auger, which is shaped like a screw and directs pellets into the main heating element- the firepot.
- The firepot contains a heated rod that causes the pellets to catch fire upon contact. This fire is what creates the smoke and heat used to cook your food.
- The convection fan controls this heat to indirectly heat and cook the meat instead of directly grilling it. This is what makes it more like a smoker or an oven instead of a grill.
What are pellet grills most used for?
You will primarily use a pellet grill if you want to smoke your meat. The flavorful smoke emitted from the wood pellets results in a different taste than you find with gas or electric grills. This does take time though, as temperatures are generally set between 200 and 300 degrees. It’s a grill that you should “set and forget” instead of using to cook a quick batch of hot dogs for the kids.
Pellet grills are for people looking to perfect their craft. These grills are less about the look of sear marks on your steak or the ability to have a host of fancy features and gadgets. They are about taste and quality.
What are some good brands?
While gas and electric grills are probably the most common, pellet grills are definitely on the rise. You’ll find an increasing number of manufacturers making pellet grills now – Traeger Grills are right at the top of most enthusiasts lists, other notable brands include: Yoder, MAK, and Rec Tec.
- Flavor:Gas is odorless and will not add to the flavor of your meat. Pellets give you lots of different flavor options and the ability to customize to your preference.
- Convenience: You don’t need to go back and forth to check on a pellet grill or flip the meat. You set it at a low temperature and let it fun for a few hours untouched.
- Versatility:Because this doubles as a smoker, you definitely have more options for cooking. You won’t get sear marks without the high heat, but you’ll get a great final product anyway.
- Control: It’s much easier to set and maintain the temperature of a pellet grill compared to other types of grills. And you can get it up to temperature in as little as 15 minutes, which makes for a pretty quick setup.
- Efficiency: The convection fan and pellets make for a very efficient cooking process. The grill heats up quickly and doesn’t expend a lot of fuel or energy in the process.
- Cleanliness:There is little-to-no mess with a pellet grill. You’ll need to clean off the grill surfaces as with any grill, but the pellets will burn up and keep things pretty tidy!
- Price: Pellet grills definitely come at a higher initial price than gas grills. However, it’s a marginal increase, not an exponential one. You can still get a quality pellet grill for a reasonable price. And you will likely save money over time though with pellets instead of propane.
- Power: Pellet grills need to be plugged in. This means that while the lack of a propane tank makes them easy to transport, you’ll have to have a power source wherever you go.
- Fuel Supply: It’s definitely harder to find smoking pellets than propane. When you find a kind you like, you’ll need to start building a stockpile so you don’t run out unexpectedly. You probably won’t be able to run down the street to get more fuel in a pinch.
- Temperatures: Pellet grills are for using at lower temperatures than gas grills. This means you don’t get the finger-licking seared flavor. However, you are exchanging it for comparable flavoring through the pellet smoke. Additionally, more and more manufacturers are designing ways to give pellet stove users the ability to sear as well.
- Speed: Pellet grills are also slower because of the lower temperatures. This is a big difference that you should focus on when choosing what type of grill to purchase.
What is a gas grill?
A gas grill is one of the most common types of grills you’ll find on the market today. They are easy to find, easy to use, and make for a great piece of cooking equipment.
Gas grills come in a pretty wide range of styles due to their ubiquity. You can find any number of burners and special cooking features. You might see them as small rolling carts for use on a deck, or you might see them built into impressive outdoor kitchen displays.
As the name implies, gas grills use gas as their fuel source. You can find grills that use either natural gas or liquid propane depending on your preference.
What types of gas are used?
Most gas grills use liquid propane (LP)instead of natural gas. This is what you see in those big white tanks at hardware stores. It is portable and really widely available.
Natural gas, on the other hand, is piped directly to your house meaning you need to connect a line to your grill in order to access it.
There are advantages and disadvantages to each, and you can choose what kind of gas you want used with your gas grill. While the vast majority of grills use LP, you can usually purchase a conversion kit if you want the option of natural gas as well. If you already have a gas line at your house, this is probably the best of both worlds.
The benefits of natural gas are that it is exponentially cheaper than LP, never requires refilling as long as your gas is turned on and burns cleaner than LP. If you already have a gas line and don’t ever plan on moving your grill, natural gas will probably save you a lot of money and time.
However, if you don’t already have a gas line, having one installed is probably not worth the effort. You also want to use LP if you might want to relocate or travel with your grill. You just have to remember to keep your tank full so you don’t run out in the middle of a BBQ!
How does a gas grill work?
To use a gas grill, you first need to connect your gas to the grill (either natural gas or LP). Once that is done:
- Open the gas source so it is flowing freely into the grill.
- The gas then travels into the valves that you use to control gas flow and ultimately temperature.
- You may also wish to use briquettes over the flame to help distribute the heat more evenly. As with pellet grills, the foot is not cooked directly by the fire.
- Most grills have at least 2 main burners surrounded by holes for the gas. Once you ignite the grill starter, a spark will ignite the gas and create flames through the holes in the burners. You can use the valves to control these flames.
- The grill hood is lowered to trap the air inside and bring the grill up to temperature. You can cook with or without the hood though.
What are they used for?
Unlike pellet grills, gas grills are made for medium to high temperatures and a quick cooking time. There are many accessories and attachments that can create different cooking types though.
Because you can find a gas grill for any price point, try to think mostly about how many burners you need and if you need any other accessories (such as a smoker box or sear burner). You can find a small 2-burner grill at a very low cost, or you can go up to 6 burners for significantly more.
What are some good brands?
It’s not hard to find a good gas grill; you’re probably already familiar with the biggest names out there. We would say Weber is the most popular brand in gas grills, and you should be able to find one at any store selling grills. Other popular brands are Coleman, Char-Broil, and Dyna-Glo.
- Price:These are significantly cheaper than the pellet stoves. You’ll be able to find a good one no matter your budget, and you can build up to a very high-tech grill with some extra cash.
- Temperatures: You can get to higher cooking temperatures on a gas grill. This is important for anyone who wants to get those coveted grill marks on their steak.
- Speed: Grilling also takes much less time on a gas grill than a pellet grill. This is because they are using two very different cooking styles that are ultimately hard to compare. The higher temperatures of a gas grill mean your food will be done faster.
- Cleanliness: Gas grills are pretty easy to clean as well. You don’t have charcoal or burned wood to worry about and just need to keep the cooking surface clean.
- Accessorizing: Because of the popularity of gas grills, you can find all sorts of accessories and add-on features to customize your grill. You can add a sear burner, a smoke box, a griddle pan, and so on.
- Flavor: Because gas has no flavor, it imparts no flavor. It doesn’t make your food taste bad, but you won’t get the classic smoky taste you get from the pellets.
- Safety: Cooking with gas is always risky. Especially if you are connected to a direct natural gas line, it can be dangerous to use. There is always a risk of explosion or spills and you will need to check local rules and regulations around the use of gas grills in certain areas.
- Heat Retention: The ventilation required of gas grills makes them less able to trap and maintain heat. This is why it is not recommended to use them as smokers, even if you get the “smoker” accessories.
- Temperature Control: It’s tough to get a precise temperature maintained on a gas grill. You’ll have to spend a bit of time tweaking the valves to get the heat where you want it. Eventually you should get the hang of your own grill, but it’s a learning process you’ll have to repeat with each new grill.
|Temperature Control||Pellet Grill|
|Temperature Range||Gas Grill|
|Run Time||Gas Grill|
|Flavor of Food||Pellet Grill|
|Cooking Options||Pellet Grill|
|Value for Money||Pellet Grill|
|Ease of Use||Pellet Grill|
So we’ve shown you the ins and outs of each type of grill. Now let’s see how they stack up against each other on the most important features.
Pellet grills offer an incredible amount of control over temperature. You can find models now that offer a 5 degree range of precision and some that even have computerized temperature control. The rounded shape of the dome makes for an efficient convection heating process. As long as you have fuel available, you shouldn’t have to worry about temperature swings.
Gas grills have a few things working against them when it comes to temperature control and regulation. First, they are less insulated and less able to retain heat. This means that their ability to cook anything at low temperatures is challenging to say the least.
Additionally, there are not yet any digital temperature controls that we know of, so you still have to fiddle with the valves to keep your temperature in check.
Winner: Pellet Grill
There’s really no contest here. The pellet grill was made for temperature control and gas grills just have not yet found a way to catch up.
Pellet grills can generally cook well between 200 and 450 degrees. They do not really go above that range. They are optimized for the 200-300 degree range and cannot get the heat required for a good sear.
Gas grills, on the other hand, can reach up to 700 degrees on some of the higher-end models, but really struggle to cook well at low temperatures. They have difficulty with heat retention which means even the higher temperatures might be hard to maintain.
Winner: Gas Grills
This one is close. While pellet grills do a great job cooking in their 250 degree range, the 400+ degree range of gas grills is technically higher.
It should be noted though that they struggle at the low and high end of those ranges, so it might become an issue of quantity over quality in this category.
Run Time (Before Refueling)
A standard sized pellet grill can hold enough pellets for roughly 8 hours of cooking. That’s about as long as you need for most slow cooks, but you may wish to refill for longer stretches or back-to-back sessions.
Gas grills can typically get about 20 hours of cooking with a standard propane tank. And they can cook forever (in theory) if connected to a natural gas line.
Winner: Gas Grills
This is an easy win for gas grills. You have the option of 20 hours per propane tank or unlimited gas with a natural gas line.
Flavor Of Food
The pellets used in pellet stoves can transfer a great deal of flavor onto the food being cooked. The different types of wood used can create wonderful flavor combinations as well.
Gas grills do not use these pellets and are less able to recreate the smoking effect through their add-on accessories. They do not contribute bad flavors, but rather rely solely on the meat itself and any seasoning to do the job.
Winner: Pellet Grill
The main benefit of pellet grills is the ability to get incredible flavor through the wood pellets. Sorry, gas grills! You’re no match for pellets here.
Both pellet grills and gas grills can come with some pretty neat cooking options these days. As manufacturers get more and more high-tech, you can find grills loaded up with features.
Gas grills will give you options for all sorts of manual accessories such as side burners, griddles, rotisseries, smoke boxes, and illuminated knobs.
Pellet grills give you the versatility of a grill, an oven, and a smoker all in one. You can cook practically anything on one of these. And pellet grills are where you will find the real high-tech features like digital temperature control and even WiFi.
Winner: Pellet Grill
The options with a pellet grill are almost endless. And manufacturers are coming up with better approaches every day to help you get that high-heat sear that’s been missing thus far.
Gas grills are definitely cheaper than pellet grills. But value doesn’t always mean cheap. Do you get more bang for your buck with an expensive but standard pellet grill versus an expensive high-end gas grill?
This is a really tough category to judge, because value will mean different things to different people. With a gas grill, you can find a quality model to fit any budget, but you’re always limited by the ability of cooking with a gas grill.
On the other hand, pellet grills give you greater flexibility and flavor but at a higher price. Not to mention, pellets may or may not be more expensive than gas depending on the source. Natural gas is the cheapest fuel out there, but propane will usually be more expensive than standard wood pellets.
Winner: Pellet Grill
We are calling this one for pellet grills for a few reasons. First, the improved cooking ability and versatility of a pellet grill means its quality-value is pretty high. If flavor isn’t anywhere near as important to you as cost, a small 2-burner gas grill might be the best value for you.
But when you get to the higher end gas grills you end up at the same price as a pellet grill, but you still have all the limits of cooking with gas. At that point it’s an easy win for pellets.
We also think that as pellet grills get more popular, there will be more competition and a lowering of prices overall.
Ease of Use:
At the end of the day, these are both pretty easy to use. Especially compared to charcoal grills!
Neither grill asks you to start a fire manually, and neither one creates a big mess at the end.
With pellet grills, you feed the pellets into the grill, set your temperature, and wait. Once it’s heated and you’ve got your meat in place, you close the lid and forget about it. That’s pretty easy.
Gas grills have a similar setup but will usually ask more of the cook during the cooking process. You may want to flip or move the food around the grill at some point to distribute the heat better. You may also need to adjust the temperature throughout the process, especially as you open and close the lid.
Winner: Pellet Grill
If you’re ok with the longer cook time, the ability to “set it and forget it” makes this one the easiest to use.
There are a few different ways to measure convenience: Ease of use, cooking options, and fuel type.
With ease of use, we already discussed each grill and declared pellet grills to be the winner. You don’t need to constantly move your food or adjust the temperature, which can easily be the case with gas grills.
For cooking options, each type has some real benefits. But we ultimately called that one for pellet grills as well. You have the convenience of a grill, smoker, oven, and more, all in one machine. You also get digital temperature control and other network features that make the entire process that much easier.
For fuel type, pellets are definitely less convenient. They are much less common than propane or natural gas, and you may find yourself in trouble if you run out. You can find LP at most large retail and hardware stores, and if you use natural gas it’s permanently connected to your home. Doesn’t get more convenient than that.
Winner: Pellet Grill
Winning 2 out of 3 evaluation categories means this one goes to pellet grills. Despite needing to stock up on pellets, these grills are incredibly easy to use and give you many more cooking options than gas grills.
The Wrap Up
Were we able to address all your concerns about choosing between a pellet grill and a gas grill? It can be hard to know which route to take with so many different products available today.
Buy a gas grill if:
- You are on a very tight budget and don’t want to save up over more time.
- You just want to cook the basics during sunny afternoons in the backyard.
- You care more about speed than flavor.
Buy a pellet grill if:
- You want the best flavor possible from your grilling experience.
- You’re willing to spend a little more upfront for a more convenient and versatile grill.
- You are also interested in a smoker.
At this point you definitely know everything you need to know to make an informed decision and buy your new grill.
So now the fun begins. Close this article and get to grilling!