If your grill is looking a little worse for the wear, it may be time for an upgrade. But which grill is going to give you the best results?
There are literally hundreds of options out there, but when it comes to versatility and ease, it comes down to two options: pellet and gas grills.
So what’s better between pellet and gas grills?
In short, pellet grills give you smoky flavor, flexible cooking and high-tech features, but they’re slower and more expensive. Gas grills are cheaper and cook quickly, but they have poor heat retention and temperature control.
As you can see, it’s not a straightforward decision. That’s why we’re going to give you a full rundown on how these grills work, what the pros and cons are, and how they compare across key performance areas. Then we’ll give you our verdict on which grill is best for your needs.
Ready to fire up those burners? Then let’s get started!
What is a Pellet Grill?
A pellet grill is an outdoor cooker that heats your food using wood pellets and a convection fan. It’s often used as a smoker, but it can also grill, bake, and roast.
The wood pellets used in pellet grills are usually compressed hardwoods like hickory, oak or applewood, but you can choose any wood that suits your preference. These pellets are placed in a hopper, located at the back of the unit, which feeds the pellets into an auger.
The auger directs the pellets into the fire pot where a heated rod allows the pellets to catch fire. As the fan disperses the heat, the grill heats your food slowly and evenly, just as it would in an oven or smoker.
Pros of Pellet Grills
- Easy to Maintain – Very little mess left behind. All you need to do is clean the grill surfaces and you’re done. Once in a while, however, you may need to clean the fire pot, but this is a straightforward process.
- Versatile – You have more options for cooking, such as grilling, baking, and smoking.
- Convenient – You don’t need to flip your meat. You just set and forget until your timer goes off.
- Fuel-Efficient – The pellets heat up within 15 minutes and the fan does the rest of the work. This means you use less energy and fuel.
- Smoky Flavor – Cooking at low temperatures with wood pellets gives your food a deliciously smoky flavor. You can even vary the flavor profile by using different wood types.
Cons of Pellet Grills
- Long Cooking Times– It can take 30–45 minutes to cook a steak (short ribs could take 4–6 hours), so you’ll need to be patient and start cooking in advance.
- Power Supply – You need to have a power outlet close by. Also, you can’t take your pellet griller camping unless you have a generator.
- No Sear Marks – Pellet grills cook at low temperatures, so you won’t get grill marks on your steak.
- Pricey – Because they’re relatively new to the market, pellet grills can be more expensive.
- Fuel Supply – Not every BBQ retailer stocks food-grade wood pellets. You may need to shop around or stockpile your favorite brand.
What is a Gas Grill?
The gas grill is one of the most popular outdoor cookers on the market. As its name suggests, it uses propane or natural gas to fuel the unit and cook your food. The gas bottle often sits underneath and the fuel travels up a hose into the manifold, a tube that runs along the base of the cooking area. This directs the gas to the valves, which can be adjusted to decrease or increase the amount of gas in the burner.
Once you ignite the grill, small flames appear in the burner’s holes, but they don’t cook your food directly. Instead, the flames heat the rack where your meat sits, giving your meat its characteristic grill marks.
Gas grills also come with many features. A hood allows you to cook whole chickens and roasts, much like an oven. You can also find models with side burners for heating sauces, and warming racks to prevent your meat from going cold before you serve it.
Pros of Gas Grills
- Great for Grilling – Gas grills allow you to cook at higher temperatures, which means you get grill marks on your food.
- Speed – Higher temperatures will cook your meat quickly.
- Affordable – There are gas grills to suit every taste and budget. Even cheap gas grills can offer great performance and features.
- Easy to Maintain – You don’t have to fuss around with charcoal or pellets. All you need to do is turn on the gas, choose the right temperature, and you’re good to go. From time to time you’ll need to replace the gas cylinder, but this is an easy process.
- Fuel Supply – Gas is cheap, efficient, and readily available, so you won’t have any trouble finding a gas cylinder for your grill.
Cons of Gas Grills
- Safety – Gas grills should be used outside to reduce the risk of fire or smoke inhalation. Also, some cities prohibit the use of gas grills, so check regulations in your local area.
- No smoky flavor – Even if your gas grill has a smoker function, you still won’t get the rich smokiness of a pellet grill.
- Temperature Control – It can take a while to set the right temperature on a new gas grill. Most are operated with a knob, which doesn’t allow for precision.
- Poor Heat Retention – Because gas grills are open and need ventilation, they don’t retain heat as effectively as pellet grills.
Comparison Guide of Pellet vs Gas Grills
Now that we’ve covered the pros and cons of each grill, let’s take a close look at six key performance areas and see how pellet and gas grills compare.
Ease of Use
Pellet grills are simple to set up and use. You add the pellets, set your preferred temperature, and wait for it to heat up. When it’s ready, you add your meat and let it cook until the timer tells you it’s ready.
Gas grills are also easy to set up and use, but they require more commitment from the cook. Food needs to be monitored or flipped, and because there’s heat loss with an open grill, you also need to adjust the temperature and move food around for better heat distribution.
WINNER: Pellet grill
You can achieve temperatures between 200°F and 450°F with a pellet grill. Many have complex controls that can be adjusted by increments of five degrees. In general, the optimal temperature for a pellet grill is 200–300°F. This allows you to cook at low heat without any heat loss. However, cooking is slow and you won’t get sear marks on your steak or chicken breasts.
Gas grills, on the other hand, can get as hot as 700°F. This gives you fast results and great color. However, it’s hard to set the right temperature, and you’ll struggle to maintain 200°F if you’re trying to cook slowly.
WINNER: Pellet grill if you want to cook slowly; Gas grill if you want quick results.
Fuel Type and Efficiency
You don’t need to buy any fuel for your pellet grill. You just need access to electricity and an extension cord. The only challenge might be finding the wood pellets you prefer. While they’re readily available online, you could have trouble finding them in stores.
When it comes to fuel efficiency, a standard pellet grill will hold enough pellets for eight hours of cooking. In general, the higher the temperature, the quicker they’ll burn.
Gas grills, on the other hand, use a gas cylinder, which is portable and easy to find in stores. It’s also a clean energy source and affordable for most budgets.
Unlike a pellet grill, you can get about 20 hours of cooking before the gas cylinder needs to be replaced. If you’re lucky enough to have a natural gas line in your home, the running time is indefinite!
Winner: Gas grill
Depending on the model you buy, pellet grills offer high-tech features such as temperature control, LCD screens, built-in meat thermometers, and even Wi-Fi connectivity. Also, they can grill, bake, and smoke with ease, which isn’t always possible with traditional grills.
Gas grills come with a range of impressive features too, such as side burners, rotisseries, and smoke boxes. Some high-end models even have Wi-Fi connectivity. These can send you notifications when the grill is hot enough or when it’s time to flip a burger!
WINNER: Pellet grill and gas grill
Pellet grills impart a smoky aroma and flavor that can take your barbecue to another level. You can choose from apple, hickory and mesquite – or a complex blend like cherry, apple, and maple. While you might not get traditional grill marks, you’ll get a lot of smoky flavor to make up for it.
Gas doesn’t have a smell, which is why it doesn’t transfer any flavor or aroma to your meat. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Gas grills allow you to enjoy the unadulterated taste of lamb chops, pork sausages or fresh corn cobs – complete with sear marks.
WINNER: Pellet grill for those who love smokiness; gas grill for those who prefer simpler flavors.
The cost of a pellet grill can range from $300 to $2000, depending on its size and features. Wood pellets can vary in price too, but you can buy them for anywhere between $18.99 and $29.95 for a 20-pound bag. This amount should last you about 8 hours, or less if you use high heat. On top of this, there are electricity costs to power the grill every time you use it.
Due to their wide availability, gas grills can be found at affordable prices. You can get a basic one for $100 or a high-end brand for more than $2000. As for fuel, a gas cylinder costs about $30, which gives you about 20 hours of cooking time on your gas grill. This means that running costs are much lower for a gas grill than they are for a pellet grill.
WINNER: Gas grill
Are Pellet Grills Worth it?
There’s no doubt that upfront and ongoing costs for pellet grills are higher than gas grills. However, they provide hands-off cooking, high-tech features, and smoky flavors. If these things are a priority for you and you have a flexible budget, pellet grills are definitely worth the money.
What’s the Best Month to Buy a Pellet Grill?
If you want a pellet grill at a discounted price, we recommend buying during end-of-season sales. These occur in May and September when retailers clear old stock to make way for the new.
If May or September is too far away, try long weekends like Memorial Day or Labor Day. Malls have increased foot traffic during holidays, so you’ll find plenty of sales at this time. If you want more information on the best months to buy pellet grills and appliances, check out our Product Clearance Calendar.
Whether you’re buying your first grill or replacing an old one, choosing the right one – a pellet grill or gas grill – will depend on your tastes, needs, and budget. If you haven’t made up your mind yet, here’s a list to help you out.
You should buy a pellet grill if:
- You don’t mind long cooking times
- You love smoky flavors
- You want flexible cooking options
- You want more temperature control
- You want Wi-Fi to remotely control your grill
You should buy a gas grill if:
- You prefer fast cooking times
- You like your meat with grill marks on it
- Your grilling needs are simple
- You have a limited budget
We hope this guide has been helpful – and that you’re one step closer to buying the grill of your dreams. For more product comparisons, see our articles below or subscribe to our emails. Happy grilling!