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Pellet Grill vs Smoker: Key Differences Explained

Pellet Grill vs Smoker: Key Differences Explained

Pellet grills and smokers look quite similar, but they serve different purposes. But one thing’s for sure; you can enjoy a delicious meal using either!

Let’s begin this comparison guide and see which will emerge on top of the pellet grill vs. smoker matchup.

What Is a Pellet Grill?

A pellet grill can grill, smoke, act as an oven, and has all the elements of a traditional grill.

The main source of heat for a pellet grill is hardwood pellets. These provide the fuel for cooking and help give you that smokey flavor in your foods!

Pellet grills run on electricity, which powers a pot for the wood pellets, causing a flame. Plus, you can control the settings digitally.

Advantages of a Pellet Grill

Pellet grills are more versatile and have more cooking options, such as charring, baking, roasting, and grilling!

The hardwood pellets also easily give you a nice smokey flavor! In addition, cooking with a pellet grill is a lot more effortless. There is little to no maintenance and constant watching over needed.

What Is a Smoker?

A smoker smokes the food and lets you cook in a more controlled, lower-temperature setting.

Like grills, smokers use different fuels, including pellets, charcoal, and electricity. With a smoker, you can cook using direct heat or indirect heat.

Direct heat involves having the food directly above the fire, while indirect heat involves the food beside the fire. 

Smoking takes quite long as you have to constantly monitor the temperature and environment so your food is ready in the best way possible.

Offset Smoker

An offset smoker consists of two barrel-shaped compartments; a small one for the fire and a bigger one for the food. These traditional smokers run on firewood or charcoal as their main fuel source.

Electric Smoker

Meanwhile, as the name suggests, electric smokers run on electricity and have shelves inside to store their food. Electric smokers allow less maintenance while the heat inside works for you! 

Comparing Pellet Grills vs. Smokers

Now that we know what pellet grills and smokers are, allow our grilling professionals to put the two side by side and explain how they are different.

Use and Functions

Pellet grills are more flexible with their capabilities, ranging from charring, smoking, grilling, roasting, etc. Smokers are used for smoking or barbecuing only.

Fuel Source and Electricity

Pellet grills run on hardwood pellets, which are activated through electricity.

Smokers run on a wider fuel range, from charcoal to electricity to pellets.

Size and Cooking Capacity

Both can be as large as roughly 1000 square inches, ideal for large groups or parties. 

Others come in around 400-600 square inches, enough for the family! Portable ones come in around 200 square inches, perfect for camping or smaller groups or families.

Ease of Use

A pellet grill does not require much maintenance as you can just let it do the work for you. On the other hand, traditional smokers may require constant monitoring and proper ventilation to get the best results.


Pellet grills cost more upfront, while smokers cost more to maintain. Additionally, pellet grills use electricity, while smokers’ fuel costs can pile up.


Pellet grills are mostly made of high-grade stainless steel and will last a long time!

Smokers come in metal, wood, or porcelain. The metal ones are the most durable, while the wood ones will likely wear down more.

Pellet Grills and Smokers: Effects on Health

Pellet grills pose less risk than smokers. Pellet grilling reduces the risk of cancer, thanks to its wood pellets.

These hardwood pellets are less exposed to carcinogens than propane or charcoal.

Are Pellet Grilled Foods Unhealthy?

No, wooden pellets are safe to cook food over as they reduce exposure to carcinogens [1]. The safest type of wood pellets is those made of food-grade materials only!

Are Wood Pellets Safe or Toxic?

Softwood pellets and those solely used for heating are toxic. But, as mentioned earlier, those made of food-grade materials are safe to use. Make sure to store them properly.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Pellet Grills Better Than Charcoal?

Both pellets and charcoal are pretty easy to use and provide a lot of flavors. Most grillers will say that charcoal is the best way to go, but that should not discredit pellet grills either. It’s really up to your preferences.


That wraps up our comparison guide on pellet grills and smokers. When choosing between a smoker vs. pellet grill, you can never go wrong with either. What matters is you can enjoy the best meal possible!

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