Pellet grill vs gas grill – what are the differences? And which one is a better choice for your backyard barbecuing?
In order to be able to choose the right grill to fulfill your needs it’s important to understand the differences between how these two types work, and the advantages that come with that – along with any downsides. That way, you can be sure if one or the other would best suit your requirements, or if you might like to have the option of both available.
To make it easy to decide which is the best BBQ we’ve put together an expert guide to the similarities and the differences in the match of pellet grill vs gas grill, allowing you to get delicious results whenever you’re barbecuing.
The benefits of a pellet grill vs gas grill
Once you know what a pellet grill is and how it differs to a gas BBQ, you can discover how the two compare when it comes to ease of use, cooking times, flavor, their costs and more. This is what you need to know when you line up pellet grill vs gas grill.
Pros and cons of pellet grills
A pellet grill is easy to use, and simple to care for, too. Jo McDonald, country manager for wood pellet grill company Traeger (opens in new tab) for the UK says, ‘A Traeger Grill couldn’t be easier to use.
‘Simply plug it in, set the temperature for your cook and get started. You can even use pre-programmed recipes on the Traeger app, to guide you through different cooks, meaning even a beginner can try a wide range of recipes. The fan circulated heat and smoke in a Traeger delivers consistent temperatures and reliable cooking whatever your experience level.’
‘A pellet grill is so easy to use, particularly if you’re new to grilling,’ agrees Ross Bearman, Great Taste judge and founder of Ross & Ross Gifts (opens in new tab), which has a range for those who love to BBQ. ‘It’s effortless to ignite with just the touch of a button.’
Hate the task of cleaning a BBQ? A pellet design isn’t too demanding. ‘Pellet grills require very little maintenance,’ says Mike Tomkins, MasterChef 2021 runner-up and brand ambassador for Thermapen (opens in new tab). ‘The pellets cook down into almost nothing and most models have a simple fire pot which collects your ash.’
Pellet grills offer speedy heat-up times too. ‘Pellet grills typically reach your desired temperature within 10 to 15 minutes,’ says Mike.
Versatility is a major plus point for pellet grills. ‘You can grill, smoke, bake, roast and slow braise,’ says Jo. So whether you're interested in grilling fish, want to BBQ chicken or even try out some different BBQ recipes, a pellet grill can handle it all with ease.
Another major attraction of a pellet grill is the taste of food prepared this way. ‘One of the biggest draws of the pellet grill is the unlimited options when it comes to flavor,’ says Mike. ‘You can go to flavor town with a pellet grill because you can get every flavor of pellet from whisky to cherry to the classic hickory.’
‘The smoke gives everything you cook natural wood-fired taste,’ agrees Jo. ‘With a range of wood pellets available you can match the pellets to your cooking to really enhance the flavors of your food. Think of pellets as another ingredient in your dish. They bring an earthiness and smokiness to your dish, but flavor offers a different profile. Fruit woods bring a little sweetness and sometimes a little tart (think cherry). Pecan and alder offer a mild smoke with a bit of nutty earthiness. Stronger, more aggressive flavors like hickory and mesquite need to be paired with an ingredient that can stand up to or match the big, bold, smoke forward flavors, like brisket or steak.’
When it comes to what you’ll spend, be aware that typically a wood pellet grill will cost more than a gas grill. The pellets themselves meanwhile, while not difficult to obtain, are less widely available than gas. You'll find you need to weigh up similar cost considerations if you're also considering a pellet grill vs charcoal grill too.
Another point you should bear in mind is that a wood pellet grill uses electricity to power some features of the design. ‘You need to have access to an external power source,’ says BBQ demo chef Jack Rowbottom from @jacksmeatshack.
Think pellet storage, too, as you'll need somewhere near your BBQ area for them. ‘The pellets need to be stored somewhere dry as if they get wet or absorb moisture, they can affect the working of the grill,’ says Jack.
Pros and cons of gas grills
A gas grill is also easy to use and maintain. ‘A gas grill is a convenient way of cooking over fire,’ says Mike Tomkins. ‘A gas grill is a good choice if you’re looking for a convenient and quick option. Gas grills also come with a lot of customizable options including rotisseries and cast-iron plates – this makes them a good option for someone looking for versatility as well as convenience.’
Gas grills are excellent for – you guessed it – grilling. In other words, they can produce great results when higher cooking temperatures are needed. ‘Gas grills are perfect for food that needs to be cooked hot and fast,’ says Jack Rowbottom.
Bear in mind that you can also smoke on a gas grill, and some gas grill models even have smoker boxes that go onto a dedicated burner. Our guide on how to use a smoker box on a gas grill has plenty of tips on using this cooking method.
They also have ‘accessories that can be added to enhance your cooking experience’, Jack adds. ‘The Char-Broil gas barbecue range has a TRU Infrared system that helps stop grease flare ups and uses less gas whilst cooking; the grill holds temperature using less fuel which is a bonus.’
A gas grill is also ready to use at speed and lighting a BBQ with this fuel type is straightforward. ‘One of the big draws for a gas BBQ is that it heats up pretty much instantly – these BBQs can go from cold to searingly hot in a matter of minutes,’ says Mike.
Temperature control may require a little practice initially. ‘Gas BBQs are super easy to use once you’ve got the knack of the temperature control,’ Mike explains. Once you’ve got it down, though, life is easy. ‘They are a simple beast really and perfect for searing,’ he continues. ‘They heat up quickly and maintain temperature pretty well if they have a lid.’
If you want to cut down on the chores that come with outdoor cooking, a gas grill is a winner when it comes to cleaning. ‘Cleaning and maintaining a gas BBQ is typically easier than other styles of BBQ as there’s no fuel to clean up after cooking,’ says Mike.
As for pellet grill vs gas grill when it comes to price, you’ll generally spend less for a gas model than you would when buying a wood pellet grill, plus there is huge choice across a wide range of price points. As for running costs, you’ll likely spend less on fuel with a gas grill.
If you don’t like a smoky flavor, then a gas grill could be perfect but this is a downside for many. ‘The flavor from a gas BBQ isn’t really there, you don’t get the smokiness that you get from a pellet grill and often you’ll get a lot of people diminishing the worth of a gas BBQ because of this,’ says Mike. ‘With a gas BBQ you’re not really cooking on it to get that smokiness coming through – it’s cooking more for convenience.’
But bear in mind that gas barbecues can be designed to deliver a smoky taste. Dan Cooper, head grill master at Weber (opens in new tab) explains, ‘On a gas barbecue this is achieved by the Flavorizer bars that sit above the burners. Juices from food smoke and sizzle as they fall onto the Flavorizer bars, infusing the food with that delicious barbecue flavor.’
And a gas grill can create the distinctive and delicious taste produced when browning food. ‘The high temperatures that a gas grill can reach creates a great Maillard reaction with your food,’ says Jack Rowbottom.
Pellet grill vs gas grill: which is better?
When you’re weighing up pellet grill vs gas grill, it’s important to consider which factors matter most to you, as well as the type of outdoor cooking you plan to do in your outdoor grill station.
Both are easy to clean, and straightforward to use. If maximum speed is crucial, a gas grill has the edge, while if smoked flavor is most important, a wood pellet grill is the winner, and it can grill, roast, smoke and bake with delicious results. Gas, however, offers immense convenience and likely lower purchase and running costs.
Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor writing for websites, national newspapers, and magazines. She’s spent most of her journalistic career specialising in homes and gardens and loves investigating the benefits, costs and practicalities of home improvement. It's no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house revamper.
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