Gas vs Charcoal vs Pellet Grill - See Which is The Best for You

Gas vs Charcoal vs Pellet Grill

Grilling, an iconic cooking method of the beloved humankind predating civilizations. It’s likely the next best innovation after making fire pits.

Thanks to a few grill-loving science folks, there have been many innovations beyond the basic bonfire grill. And that’s exactly what we’re about to learn today.

A fun factoid before we begin: BBQing is cooked in a slow circumvented unit of hot air with the lid closed. Grilling is done with the lid up and cooked with direct heat on the bottom, instead of an all-around-source.

There are mainly three types of grills namely gas, charcoal, and pellet.

Let’s first take a look at gas grills.

Gas Grill

gas vs charcoal

Gas grills are either built into a fixed structure outside the house/apartment building with a different number of gas burners or they come in a compact, portable, cart-like form.

Why this matters? The reason being the type of gas used in either form factors.

The fixed installation comes with the ease of natural gas. For you land-lovers, this is a satisfying option as it is a cleaner and cheaper alternative to liquid propane. Since the gas is available in its natural form, no need to store it in a special sealed container.

The gas can be generated from a compost pit in your backyard, providing great ecological and economic benefits.

With a natural gas grill, you’ll have all the technical cooking benefits of propane gas grills. In contrast to natural gas, liquid propane is store-bought and is available in portable containers making it the default choice of fuel for your portable gas grills.

One other con with propane is that you’ll have to have a rough estimation of how long you’ll cook as liquid propane is in limited container sizes. Unlike natural gas, you don’t have a vast supply and hence you’ll have to be meticulous with your fuel usage.

But, really this is more of a “tomayto”-”tomahto” debate so, pick the fuel that suits your needs and capabilities.

That out of the way, the gas grill is much quicker to start than a charcoal grill or pellet grill as you’re cooking over direct flame. It is easy to start, use, regulate, and put out.

It is as easy as turning your knob to change high or low flame in your grill as opposed to stoking or abating a charcoal fire. Since there are no ashes to clean out, it makes the post-cooking sink job much easier.

Gas vs Charcoal vs Pellet Grill

Mind you that gas grill doesn’t quite give the same smoky, burnt taste as will a charcoal grill. For some, including myself, this is quite a deal breaker as our kind believes that grilling is quite not the same without it.

If you want the best of bost worlds, you may add a smoke box to your gas grill to somewhat equate to the smoky taste of charcoal grill.

The decision of gas grill essentially comes down to the features of the gas grill such as the number of gas burners, side burners, gas conversion kit, etc., and the proportionally increasing price with increasing features.

To give you a rough idea, it could cost you anywhere between €60 and €1,500+ depending on the features you choose.

Next up is the classic charcoal grill.

Charcoal Grill

Charcoal Grill

Charcoal grills have been around for centuries. They’re sort of a fancy bonfire with a metal grill over flames.

I myself am an uncompromising grill lover and I like the classics (or basics if you will). Just warnin’ ya ahead of time that I just might convert you to my charcoal grill-egion.

It’s common even for enthusiasts to consider this old-school grill style as the most grandeur out of the three or out of all other grill styles even.

Its simplicity and the much-too-familiar smoked flavor never fails to disappoint anyone looking to grill. You can set it up on the riverside or with a fancy grill box in your backyard for a neighborhood grill party.

Having such flexibility, it’s easily a good choice for beginners and intermediates alike.

Although varying in sizes, forms, and locations, their commonality is the type of fuel used which is usually charcoal lumps or charcoal briquettes mixed with wood chips. The fuel used is what gives the grilled food its relishing smoky flavor and odor.

With great simplicity, comes great challenges. And one overcomes the challenges of the charcoal grill with patience and experience to get the best-tasting grilled food. Having meager control over the temperature of the grill attributes to the majority of its mastery. Even starting a grill takes about a half hour, or more depending on the size and environment. But, it makes up for its shortcomings by being easy to maintain and use as there are no complex mechanisms.

And the prices are very minimal too. They range from €20 to €400 depending on the type of charcoal grill. Despite there being many types, they can be mainly classified into ceramic, barrel, and kettle grills.

Ceramic Grill

Ceramic Grill

Ceramic grills look like a jackpot except you find something much better than gold, grilled food. They are quite efficient at cooking, as the ceramic chamber retains heat well enough. They can be used to slow cook a steak for 9 hours as well as bake a pizza at 450 °C. They are a bit pricey and hence offer the best temperature control a charcoal grill can get. The temperature can be changed by controlling the airflow through the vents.

Barrel Grill

Barrel Grill

Barrel grills look like barrels as they were originally made by cutting a barrel in half at the beginning. There’s a chamber for charcoal in the bottom, grills on top, and a chimney to regulate the heat inside the barrel chamber. Closing the lid allows more of the smoky taste to retain on the food and the food to cook well on the inside as well, without burning the outside too much.

Kettle Grill

Kettle Grill

Kettle grills are the good old round grills on a tripod (of which two legs have wheels). This is quite portable although not portable enough to carry it for every “grill in the woods weekend”. However, at Gizzo, we have just that. A portable, collapsible (rectangle base) kettle grill, the Gizzo Starter Set that can be assembled out of a satchel-sized bag. Now, that is something you can take around for every weekend party. Heck! With a grill in your bag, you can have your own party whenever wherever!

Pellet grill

Pellet Grill

And here come the pellet grills; combining parts of gas and charcoal grills. They give you the ease of use and mastery with gas grills and a smoky flavor fragrance as with charcoal grill. The main difference is the fuel used which is wooden pellets instead of gas or charcoal.

Since wooden pellets are burnt the smoky is of a burnt hardwood which is quite different from charcoal’s smoky flavor. But, worry not. You’ll hardly notice the difference between the two.

A pellet grill uses food grade wood pellets which you add to the hopper. It is then fed to the bottom where it’s burnt. Then there’s an air intake system with fans which bring in air from outside. The intake system pushes air into a pressurized chamber and heats the air based on the user’s settings.

It’s convenient that pellet grills come with an electronic control panel which can be used to regulate the pellet flow, intake fan speed, air pressure, and heat. Thus you can load in your food and slow cook for hours or quick grill for a half hour. Either way, the control panel is just a great addition to the whole grilling scene.

Since you’ll need the power to operate the electronic control panel and fans, pellet grills need to be near a power outlet to be functional. Unless you wouldn’t mind being the weird guy that’s driving around town with a solar panel and pellet grill on the back of your pickup truck.

If being stationary doesn’t bother you then you’re looking at a price range of €300 to €1,100 depending on the form factor and other technical features. And they are usually barrel or cart style grills.

That sums it up for pellet grills; well, essentially they are more of an updated charcoal grill.

Below is a table summarizing the differences and similarities of the three types of a grill.


Grill type

Gas grill

Charcoal grill

Pellet grill

Burns on

Liquid propane or natural gas

Charcoal

Wooden pallets

Form factors

Fixed, concrete or cart-like

Ceramic, barrel, kettle, and others

Unique pellet grill style

Portability

Depends on the form factor and fuel used

Rating - 4/10

Depends on the form factor

Rating - 9/10

Not portable


Rating - 1/10

Tastes like (with only base fuel)

Regular pan-grilled food on the stove

Smokey and burnt (charcoal) flavor

Smokey and burnt (hardwood) flavor

Costs (depending on technical specifications)

€200 - €1,500+

€50 - €400

€300 to €1,100


Let the grill knowledge flow through you, eh!


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