While just a few decades ago, the choice of a grill was pretty easy – with only a few types and brands being offered, today, the newer grills such as pellet grills and gas grills are overtaking the market due to their convenience and ease of use. This makes choosing the most suitable grill a bit more complicated.
The question is – which one is better for you?
Read on to find out everything you need to know regarding the head-to-head pellet grill vs. gas grill competition.
Pellet grill vs. gas grill
In order to make an informed decision about which grill type is better for you, it is good to know what the differences between pellet and gas grills are, as well as what each of their pros and cons is.
Firstly, both pellet and gas grills have been increasing in popularity over the more traditional charcoal and wood grills because of their convenience, easy setup, easy cleaning, and straightforward and accurate temperature adjustment and consistency.
Pellet grills are a preferred choice for pitmasters who are looking for a “set it and forget it” type of outdoor cooker. They are perfect for low and slow barbecuing and smoking and can help infuse the meat and other food with that distinctive smoky flavor.
In general, pellet grills are more expensive than gas grills. Also, replacement gas tanks are more readily available than the wood pellets needed for the pellet grills.
As for gas grills, these outdoor cooking appliances are efficient, heat up almost immediately, and are the easiest to clean up as the gas doesn’t leave any residue from the burning. They are suitable for grilling at medium to high range temperatures.
They are not as suitable for low and slow cooking as the pellet grills are, and overall, it is harder to smoke meat and food on a gas grill than in a pellet grill.
Overview of pellet grills
Pellet grills are more similar to outdoor ovens or smokers rather than traditional grills.
After being first introduced by Traeger in the 1980s and after the patent held by the company ended, numerous other manufacturers entered the pellet grill market. Some of the most famous ones being Recteq (former Rec Tec), Yoder, MAK, and more.
Pellet grills are fueled by wood pellets which are made of compressed wood sawdust which is formed into cylindrical pellets. The grills have hoppers where the pellets are placed. The hopper is designed in a funnel-like shape and slowly pours the pellets to the auger.
Pellet grills have automated augers with motors that feed the pellets automatically into the firepot during the cooking, which is why they are considered among the best cookers to use for “set and forget” low and slow smoking and cooking sessions. There is an igniter rod in the firepot which lights up the pellets as they enter, and thus smoke and heat are produced for cooking and smoking the food.
The convection fan blows the heat and the smoke through the cooking chamber of the grill, and some of these grills have heat baffles that help distribute the smoke and heat evenly throughout the entire cooking area.
Pellet grills rely on indirect heat for cooking and have combustion fans that help cook the food evenly and hold the temperature, much like convection ovens.
Here are the main pros of pellet grills:
They are much more convenient than most other grills, as you don’t need to babysit the grill and keep adjusting the temperature or feeding pellets, which makes them perfect for long or overnight low and slow cooking.
They are efficient and cheap to run thanks to their convection fans which distribute the heat and smoke evenly throughout the cooking chamber. Using a pellet grill is less expensive than using a traditional charcoal one.
They are very easy to clean, which is one of the features that users love the most. Unlike grills that use charcoal, pellet grills only require having their cooking surface cleaned and occasional cleaning of the firepot.
Pellet grills are versatile and can be used not only for grilling but also to smoke, barbecue, roast, and even bake all kinds of meals. Keep in mind that the sear is not as good as the one produced by a charcoal grill.
The wood pellets will give the cooked food a smoky flavor, unlike propane which emits and infuses the food with no flavor at all.
They heat up quickly. A pellet grill will preheat to the desired temperature and will be ready for use in less than 15 minutes.
Let’s explore the main cons of pellet grills:
They do need a power source, so pellet grills are not as portable as other grills unless you have a generator.
Pellet grills can be quite expensive. Even if you want a starter grill, you will need to pay at least $400 for a pellet grill.
Pellets are not as readily available as propane gas tanks or charcoal, so you will need to stock up with them or order them online unless you are lucky to have a store that carries them nearby.
The average pellet grill will produce lower temperatures and less smoke than other grills, so unless you have a grill like the Camp Chef PG24 Deluxe, which can be combined with a sear grill kit, you may not be able to achieve a satisfying sear on your meat.
Overview of gas grills
Unlike pellet grills which are suited for low and slow cooking, gas grills are a preferred choice for hot and fast searing and grilling. Some of them do come with lids and features, which also make them suitable for indirect cooking at lower temperatures too.
The most commonly used gas grills are fueled by liquid propane gas, but there are some natural gas grills that you can connect to your home gas line as well. But for the purposes of this article, we will be examining the more popular propane gas grills.
The grills are fueled via a gas tank which is usually located under the cooking area or mounted on the side of the grill. The propane gas is fed to a tube called a manifold which runs along the entire length of the cooking area via a gas regulator hose.
The manifold tube feeds the running gas to the valves, which control the amount of gas released and thus the temperature of the burners.
Some of these grills have infrared burners which heat up quickly to high searing temperatures and can also be used for faster and even cooking.
The standard gas grill burners produce flames that create heat, which is distributed on the cooking surface either via briquettes or others. The food is placed on the cooking grates located on top of these briquettes and is cooked without being located directly over the flame.
Here are the pros of gas grills which have made them very popular in the USA:
They are an excellent choice for grilling and searing at high temperatures and not as suitable for low and slow barbecuing and smoking.
Gas grills are not as expensive as others. While there are some mid and high-end grills, you can also find some very affordable gas grills on the market. Propane gas as well is affordable, so buying a gas grill and using it will not necessarily cost you a fortune.
These grills are very easy to use, as their temperature can be adjusted via knobs or other controls, and there is no need to feed coal or other fuel manually unless when you have to replace the gas tank.
Replacement propane tanks are readily available almost anywhere, so you won’t have trouble buying fuel when the gas runs out.
Gas grills take only about 10 minutes to preheat to the desired temperature, which is another advantage.
Propane gas is a cleaner-burning fuel than coal or wood, and there is no need to clean out burnt ashes and leftover wood and coals after use.
Gas grills do not hold smoke as well as other grills because cooking on gas requires good ventilation, which makes retaining the smoke difficult. The good news is that there are some optional gas smokers and replacement grates, which can help increase the temperatures to a searing level.
They do not add that delicious barbecue flavor – because propane does not transfer any flavor to the food, you will need to use an additional pellet smoking tube or wood drawer or other if you want the food you cook to be infused with the traditional BBQ flavor. Here’s more info on how to use a smoker box for a gas grill.
Some areas, cities, and buildings prohibit the use of gas grills, so you need to check the regulations before purchasing one.
Getting the temperature right requires some practice. While it is easy to set, you may need to practice and experiment with the temperature controls of your gas grill before you get the hang of it.
Head to head comparison
Here is a head-to-head pellet grill vs. gas grill comparison regarding some of the key features of any grill:
Which grills are easier to use?
As we mentioned at the very beginning of this article, both the pellet and the gas grills are growing in popularity mainly due to their ease of use and convenience.
Both types are easy to start up and preheat very quickly, unlike lighting up charcoal or wood grills which take time and skill.
With both pellet and gas grills, the fire is started via a push of a button or a turn of the knob.
Plus, once you are done, each of these grills is much easier to clean up than cleaning a charcoal grill.
Pellet grills are easier to use if you are a fan of low and slow smoking and cooking, while gas grills are easier to use if you like to sear and grill at high temperatures.
Temperature range and control
Since pellet grills are better suited for low and slow smoking and cooking, you can expect to be able to easily achieve and hold steady lower temperatures of 200 to 350 degrees Fahrenheit on a pellet grill. Reaching a temperature of 400 degrees F or higher on a pellet grill can be a real struggle or even impossible.
Pellet grills use some complex algorithms for controlling the temperature, and many of the good quality pellet grills can be programmed to hold the temperature with an accuracy of plus minus 5 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the cooking.
Gas grills, on the other hand, are easier to set and to reach higher temperatures of up to 500 degrees and, in some cases, even up to 700 degrees Fahrenheit. But holding a lower temperature around 250 degrees Fahrenheit on an inexpensive gas grill can be a difficult task. Thankfully, some of the higher-quality gas grills perform much better when it comes to maintaining a low temperature.
The temperature adjustments on gas grills are made by adjusting the knobs of the burners and cannot be programmed like they can on pellet grills.
While many modern grills today feature some impressive high-tech technologies and “bells and whistles,” it is much more likely to find more cool features in pellet grills than in gas grills.
Pellet grills are packed with technology, and many of them now include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, built-in temperature probes for the food and the ambient temperature, programmable features, state-of-the-art controls, and large displays, and others that help maintain the temperature at the desired level with minimal babysitting of the grill. Many pellets also have cold smoking attachments and options. But being so feature-packed, pellet grills are also the ones that are more likely to break down than gas grills.
Gas grills too can come with some cool features such as rotisseries, sear stations, infrared side burners, illuminated knobs and controls, internal lights for nighttime visibility, optional rib racks, pizza stones, and more.
Overall, if you are looking for a grill with all the bells and whistles, you will need to be prepared more for a higher-end model.
Which grills are healthier?
According to the National Cancer Institute, cooking muscle meat such as beef, pork, poultry, or fish at high temperatures over an open flame, on a heated surface, or by frying in a pan can cause the formation of HCA and PAH chemicals, which have been found to change the DNA and to increase the risk of development of cancer. These chemicals can also be formed while smoking meat too.
Meat which is cooked at a temperature of 300 degrees Fahrenheit or above is more likely to produce more HCAs, and meats exposed to more smoke will create more PAHs.
So, whether you are using a pellet or a gas grill, how healthy the meat and food cooked is, depends on the temperatures you use for cooking it and the amount of smoke you expose it to.
Overall, both pellet and gas grills are healthier than charcoal or wood grills, especially when the food is grilled and cooked over a direct flame and exposed to large amounts of smoke.
Still, there are no scientific studies and evidence to prove which grill is the safest to use and with the lowest risk of causing the formation of these potentially harmful chemicals.
Hopefully, we have helped you understand the main differences, the key features, and the advantages and disadvantages of pellet and gas grills are.
Both types of grills are newer alternatives to the traditional wood and charcoal grills and are becoming more and more popular thanks to their quick start and preheating, easy temperature adjustment and controls, easy cleaning and maintenance, and low running price.
So, whichever type of grill you choose, you will undoubtedly have fun using it to prepare delicious food for your family and friends.
Related: Pellet Smoker vs Electric Smoker: What’s Better?