Pellet vs Charcoal Smokers – [Actual Difference]

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There are lots of controversial talks about pellet vs charcoal smokers surfing on the internet, our team of experts decided to show you the actual differences of both smokers with their advantages, disadvantages and which one should be suited as per needs.

Without further wasting time let’s check out the quick answer and comparison table first.

“The main difference between pellet and charcoal smoker is taste, as charcoal smoker utilizes the charcoals that infuse the dense smoke to the meat the pellet smoker will never maintain that taste”.

Pellet vs Charcoal Smokers – (Quick Comparison Table)

ParametersPellet SmokersCharcoal Smokers
Flavor and TextureNormal smoky flavorThe authentic strong smoky flavor
UsageEasy to useNeed supervision and experience
MaintenanceEasy to CleanHard to Clean
Initial CostHigherLower
Ongoing CostHigherLower
Temperatures100 – 500 Fahrenheit100 – 800 Fahrenheit
Size and PortabilityFew of the units are portableMost of the units are portable with 2’x2’ size
Cooking versatility Do smoking, Searing, or roastingDo smoking, roasting, grilling, searing, etc.
Cooking SpeedSlower CookingFaster cooking
Cooking areaMostly comes with a larger sizeHalf of the charcoal smokers have a larger cooking area
Hopper CapacityLargersmaller
DurabilityLess durableMore durable
Whether EffectsStruggleWork well in rain or snow because of the high temperatures but the wind should be blocked
Health EffectsMore healthy foodLess healthy food
PopularityNormal popularity in real BBQ lovers communityVery popular in real BBQ lovers community

Pellet Smoker Overview

Pellet Smoker

Pellet smokers work on pellets which we have to feed the hopper, from hopper the auger will transport it by utilizing some electrical power to the combustion chamber where they burn and produce smoke and heat. Also, a small blower or fan is found on the pellet smokers that supplies a constant flow of air for proper combustion.

Pellets smokers are generally beginners friendly with a lot of options to control the temperatures, smoke levels, the number of pellets, etc. even some modern smokers allow Bluetooth support and a timer.

Pros and Cons Pellet Smoker


  • Beginner friendly.
  • Quick-cooking.
  • Set and forget function.
  • No Need to soak wood chips.
  • Easier to maintain.
  • Consistent temperatures.


  • No intense smoky flavors.
  • Few portable options.
  • High ongoing and initial cost.

Charcoal Smoker Overview


The Best Charcoal smoker solely works on charcoal we have to make a bed of burned charcoal on the bottom of a charcoal smoker and put some wood, briquettes, or some pellets on the top to get proper heat and smoky flavors.

Charcoal smokers are traditional smokers they need some expertise and manual work. A beginner may struggle to cook with it, also it will not offer you timers and temperature controls you have to maintain the temperature by playing with the vents.

Overall a charcoal smoker needs practice.

Pros and Cons Charcoal Smoker


  • Enhanced smoky flavors.
  • High temperatures.
  • Low ongoing and initial cost.
  • Durable.
  • Versatile cooking options.
  • Available portable options


  • Not beginners friendly.
  • Need supervision.
  • Not healthy.

Pellet vs Charcoal Smokers – (Detailed Comparison)

Pellet vs Charcoal Smokers

Below are the parameters we should have to compare in both pellet and charcoal smokers before making a buying decision.

Taste Texture and Flavor:


For the real BBQ lovers who grew up with intense smoky flavors, the charcoal smoker is the winner since it produces dense and thick smoke that can be merged with meat and meat spices insanely, you will get an extremely appalling aroma and flavors of smoke.

The pellet smoker is also a good choice compared to the gas and electric smokers in terms of smokiness but it can’t match the smokiness of charcoal smokers.

I would say it’s a personal preference I like to cook with both, pellet smoker provides a bit less smoky flavors compared to the charcoal but it is way better than a gas or electric smoker. I am enjoying food with both of them. If you had a chance please try both.

Temperature Ranges and Control:


Charcoal smokers are generally known for the higher temperatures since the lump charcoal provides way more heat compared to the pallets.

As per my experience, a charcoal smoker can touch 800 F easily, however, a pellet smoker is limited in terms of temperatures. You can get up to 500F.

When it comes to the temperature controls pellet smokers provide strong grips depending on the units, some provides a digital meter from which we can adjust the smoke levels, temperatures, etc. however in charcoal smokers you have to master the ventilation process, and you have to open the bottom and top vents slightly to balance the heat.

Ease Of Usage:

The usage of a pellet smoker is pretty easy even a beginner can cook a delicious brisket because of the automation. You just need to feed the pallets to the hopper, setup the temperature smoker levels, etc. auger will transport the pellets to the firebox where they will burn. Pellet smokers will also provide a great control on the temperatures as well.

In the case of a charcoal smoker, you must have some practice about how to make ventilation, control temperatures, add a grill, exhaust chimney, etc. though it is the game of practice you will definitely cook well after some attempts, still for beginners pellet smoker will work like a charm.

Here is the guide to use a charcoal smoker perfectly.


Wood pellet smokers are pretty easy to clean since they have ash, drip, and other types of mechanisms that can be utilized to do the maintenance instantly. Also, the wood pellets produce mild smoke compared to the charcoal smoker; you can clean it after 2 – 3 rounds of cooking.

In the case of a charcoal smoker, you will not have ash, drip, or other types of modern features; also it produces thick smoke and ash that should be clean after a single round of cooking.

In addition to that, you will have to do some struggle to clean the dense smoke and ashes from the grates of the charcoal smokers, however, in pellet smokers, you don’t have to struggle more.

Initial Cost:

The best charcoal smoker could be found anywhere between $500 – $1000+ I am using a weber 22’ which costs me around $500, however, a good pellet smoker like Camp Chef 36 may cost you around $1500 – $2000.

Though there are budget options in both, still don’t compromise on quality.

Ongoing Cost:

As a pellet smoker solely works on pellets, you have spent more to get a bag of quality pellets compared to the charcoals. Even charcoal briquettes and lump coal are way cheaper than pellets. Also, the runtime of charcoals is almost 2x compared to the pellets depending on the quality of charcoals. I usually get 13 – 14 hours of runtime with a single load of charcoals, however, with pellets I manage to get 8 – 9 hours.

In addition to that pellet smokers are a bit fragile compared to charcoal smokers; they may need a few replacements of parts.

Cooking Versatility:

Frankly speaking, a pellet smoker was used as a smoker but in the current era a pellet smoker can attain up to 500F could be a great temperature to do searing, roasting, etc., however, a charcoal smoker still has great potential to cook multiple grilling related recipes because of the higher temperatures.

The bottom line is a charcoal smoker is more versatile in terms of cooking compared to pellet smokers.

Size and Portability:


Most charcoal smokers are compact and portable with a vertical design, however, a few pellet smokers can be found as portable.

What Lasts Longer Pellets or Charcoal?

A single feed of Charcoal can last for about 12 – 14 hours at normal to moderate temperature; however, a single feed of pellets can last for about 7 – 8 hours depending on the temperatures and the quality of pellets you are using.

In terms of the runtime, the charcoal smoker is a clear winner.

Which Is Healthier Charcoal or Pellet Grill?

Both of the smokers don’t use any type of frying process but they use smoke that contains most of the harmful particles of carbon, sulfur, and carcinogenic particles as well. In the case of pellet smokers, the smoke levels are less dense, which makes it somehow healthier compared to the charcoal smokers.

Eating 2 – 4 times a week with a pellet smoker would not be a problem, however, regular eating may lead you to some serious problems. In the case of charcoal smokers, we suggest you eat only 1 – 2 times a week.

Also checkout our comparison about charcoal and electric smokers

Which One Should I Choose?

If you are hunting for a smoker which can be easy to maintain and need little to no babysitting and can provide decent smoky flavors, versatile cooking options, and great automation go for a pellet smoker.

Though a pellet smoker costs a bit more compared to the charcoal smoker, still it will be a good choice for beginner to medium-level BBQ experts.

If you are a real smoky flavor lover and can easily supervise the charcoal smoker it is built for you, it needs your attention to manage the temperatures, ventilation, and also maintenance after cooking.

The bottom line is both are made for different purposes, you have to figure out your needs, taste, and expertise before selecting the one.

Wrapping Up

Hope we have cleared your confusion about the pellet vs charcoal smokers, still, if you’re confused below is a quick recap of our guide.

  • Pellet smokers are extremely beginners friendly with easy maintenance and need little to no supervision, though it is not a budget-friendly smoker with a lower ongoing cost but it is completely worth it.
  • Charcoal smokers are for those who want to get authentic smoky flavors with low initial and ongoing cost, though it needs babysitting and you should have some prior experience, still it is best for getting the authentic flavors.

If you found some missing please let us know in the comment section we are open to replay the quarries.

Samy is an industrial engineer and fellow meat enthusiast. He works as a graphic designer and content manager for

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