Home » Are Pellet Grills Worth Buying: Here Are The Facts

Are Pellet Grills Worth Buying: Here Are The Facts

More households than ever own pellet grills.  For great tasting meats, they are hard to beat.  But are they really worth the hype?  After all, they don’t come cheap.  An entry level Traeger costs upwards of $500 and as much as $2000.

I’ve sampled brisket, ribs, chicken and even turkey cooked in pellet, electric and gas smokers.  All were delicious but for versatility and ease of use, the pellet grill stands out and makes answering this question a little easier.  

Are pellet grills worth the high price?

You bet.  Pellet grills are worth it for anyone who wants an easy to use grill and smoker combo.  When taste is paramount, pellet grills are a notch above the competition.  The added versatility of having a grill and smoker combo makes creating any dish easier than with gas grills or electric smokers.

Today’s pellet grills are feature packed and geared toward both amateurs and seasoned chefs alike.  Keep reading and you’ll learn what you need to know to make an informed decision.  

How much do pellet smokers/grills cost

Once you chomp down on a perfectly cooked juicy steak, all concerns about the cost of a pellet grill are forgotten.  However, until that meal is served, you’re likely wondering how much money a pellet grill is going to cost you. 

On average, a pellet grill will cost between $400 and $1500.  Premium brands like Traeger demand top dollar.  An entry level Traeger smoker/grill starts at $500.  Competing brands such as Pit Boss, Z Grills and Camp Chef generally cost a little less.  Either way, expect to pay around $750 for a quality pellet grill with the most desirable features.

But don’t let the price scare you off.  Take a look at any lineup of quality gas grills.  You can easily fork over just as much money for a gas grill of similar quality to a top tier pellet grill.  Sure, you can find a few gas grills for under $200 but those aren’t even in the same league when it comes to delivering mouth watering meats.  Charcoal grills cost a bit less.  However, a primary reason people love pellet grills is for their ease of use.  Charcoal is anything but convenient to use.

All else considered, pellets grills are not unreasonably priced.  Especially, when you consider the quality of food they produce.  Dollar for dollar, you get more taste with pellets in my opinion.

Do pellet grills give good flavor

When it comes to producing delicious smoked or grilled meats, pellet grills can deliver.  Everyone has their own opinion but I seldom hear people complaining while they devour pork belly burnt ends fresh off the pellet grill.  

Defining good flavor gets trickier once you start comparing gas, charcoal and pellet grills.  

Some hardcore charcoal enthusiasts will claim that charcoal has superior flavor over all other grills.  It’s tough to argue with them too.  The beauty of charcoal is in the interaction of meat drippings with the red hot briquettes.  All that fire blasted fat, protein and sugar builds a robust layer of flavor right onto the meat.

Proponents of gas grills tout the precise control of flame and heat as the ultimate way to build flavor.  With gas, you can flame sear a steak to develop a tantalizing char and then finish off the cooking process with indirect heat.  All without the fuss and mess of charcoal.

So where does that leave pellet grills on the flavor producing spectrum?  Luckily for you, the taste of food cooked on a pellet smoker is nothing short of fantastic.  No grill is as versatile as a pellet smoker when it comes to building flavors that delight your taste buds.  You can sear meats as good as any gas grill or slow cook a brisket to the perfect tenderness. (Check out my recent post to find out how to grill steaks to perfection on a pellet grill) 

But what sets a pellet grill apart from other types of grills is the smoke.  Pellets let you customize flavors and dial up and down the intensity of the smoke until you get it just right.   

Are pellet grills expensive to operate

We’ve established that pellet grills are not overly expensive to buy and that they definitely ramp up the flavor of any grilled food.  Now let’s look at what is costs to operate one.  

Obviously, if it costs an arm and a leg to run a pellet smoker then you are less likely to enjoy cooking with it.  Luckily, it doesn’t cost a fortune to cook with a pellet grill.  In fact, a 20 pound bag of pellets costs between $10 and $20 depending on the brand.  Assuming you buy top quality hardwood pellets then $20 is more accurate.  That is roughly $1 per pound.  On average, a pellet grill burns through 1 pound per hour on low and 3 pounds per hour on high.  Therefore, expect to get 6-20 hours of burn time from one bag.  

Average it out and it costs somewhere in the ball park of $2 per hour to operate a pellet smoker.  Not bad.  That of course, does not factor in electricity costs but that is negligible anyway.  

Compared to charcoal and gas though, the cost of operating a pellet grill is going to be slightly more.  For instance, a 20 pound bag of briquettes is about $10 and provides 10 or more hours of cook time depending on the efficiency of the grill and the desired heat level.  So $1 per hour.  

With gas, it is even cheaper.  A gas grill with moderately high BTU output will burn through a 5 gallon propane tank in 8 to 10 hours on high.  That ends up being 2 hours or so per gallon.  At $2.50 per gallon (average price for propane), that is a $1.25 per hour.

It is possible to operate a pellet smoker on a budget though.  There are plenty of pellet brands that cost less than $10 for 20 pounds.  Shop around and your can get fine tasting pellets for more reasonable prices.  That will help you cut the operating cost down to about $1 per hour.  Just try them out first before buying in bulk.  

Pellet smokers vs. Electric smokers

There is a lot to love about pellet grills but at the top of the list for most adoring fans is their ability to double as a smoker.  Using a pellet grill to smoke meats opens up a whole new realm of possibilities for aspiring pit masters.  

Are pellet grills worth the cost if all you want it for is a smoker?  What about an electric smoker instead?  

Hands down, electric smokers are cheaper to operate and cost a little less up front.  There are countless options for high quality electric smokers that offer up delectable feasts when put in the hands of skilled cooks.  However, for developing well rounded flavors that rival the pros, a pellet grill far out classes an electric smoker.  Plus, electric smokers have limited versatility for other cooking styles.  So, even if you only want a smoker, pellet grills are still worth considering.  

Keep in mind that choosing between a pellet grill or an electric smoker is based largely on personal preference.  Both can achieve great tasting results.  For those who don’t want a separate smoker and barbecue grill, a pellet grill fits the bill.

Do pellet grills give a smoke ring

The pinnacle achievement for any meat eating cook is a gorgeous smoke ring.  Formed from the reaction of nitric oxide in wood smoke and the myoglobin in meat, a smoke ring is something many desire.  

For those who don’t know, a smoke ring is identified by the characteristic pink ring seen on expertly cooked meats when sliced.  While it doesn’t necessarily indicate good tenderness and juiciness, a smoke ring is never a bad thing to strive for. 

If you are chasing the dream of having beautiful smoked meats with the right mix of flavor and looks, then a pellet grill will make you smile.  

Pellet grills have adequate combustion of wood materials to produce appropriate amounts of the nitric oxide (NO) required for developing a smoke ring.  It is nearly impossible to get a smoke ring with an electric smoker or gas grill.  Even if you add wood chips to a gas grill, you’ll never get enough NO to do the job.  

Charcoal grills using briquettes or lump charcoal and wood chucks also produce good smoke rings but they are sometimes more temperamental, making a ring harder to achieve.  A pellet smoker is the easiest way for anyone to get great smoke rings every time.  

Ease of use

Pellet grills really shine in their simplicity and ease of use.  One of my favorite things about my pellet smoker is that with a flip of the switch, I can start cooking amazing food.  

It requires very little tinkering with the controls to get it dialed into the perfect cooking temperature.  Once it’s on, all you need to do is top-off the pellet hopper once in a while and the grill does the rest.  

On the maintenance side of things, pellet grills are quite easy to care for.  Occasionally, you’ll need to remove built up cooking grease and soot, scrub down the cooking grate and empty the grease pail.  You can even line the bottom drip pan with foil to simplify maintenance even more.

Just from the ease of use alone, a pellet smoker is worth every penny.

Are pellet grills bad for your health

Pellet grills are probably less harmful for you than other types of grills.  The primary concern with grilling food is the carcinogens thought to be formed through the charring process.  

Charring is something that occurs during high heat cooking.  Both charcoal and gas grills cause a fair bit of charring.  Those black sear marks are sure pretty but most health experts suggest you avoid eating it to reduce the risks carcinogens pose.

Pellet grills, on the other hand, do not put meat or other foods in direct contact with flame so charring and ash don’t build up on your food surfaces nearly as much.  

While studies are limited, there is a general consensus that pellet grills are, at the very least, not anymore harmful for your health than other forms of grilling.  In fact, they are likely a safer bet for anyone concerned with the health risks of grilling food over high heat.  

Benefits of a pellet grill

There are many reasons pellet grills are growing in popularity.  Some are more obvious than others.  If you are still not sure whether a pellet grill is right for you, consider the following benefits of owning one yourself.

  • Versatile cooking styles to satisfy any cook
  • Pellets are easy to store and come in a large variety of flavors
  • No need to refill propane tanks
  • Wide selection of sizes at prices suitable for all budgets
  • Easy maintenance and simple to use
  • Precise temperature control for better cooking results
  • Adjustable levels of smoke to match desired results
  • Short learning curve for amateur chefs looking to take their grilling to the next level