Gravity Fed Charcoal Grill Vs Pellet Grill: Key Differences

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Are you looking to buy a grill that requires less management and is easy to use?

After doing some research, you’ve narrowed your choices to a charcoal grill or a pellet grill. Now comes the most challenging part: deciding which one is right for you.

The choice between charcoal gravity-fed grills and pellet grills might not seem important. But if you decide on the wrong type of grill, you could experience disappointing outdoor grilling.

In this article, I’ve put together a list of 6 key differences between these two types of grills, along with the pros and cons of each type of grill, to help you find the option that is right for your needs.

Keep reading to find out!

Gravity Fed Charcoal Grill Vs Pellet Grill: A Full Overview

Gravity Fed Charcoal Grill

Ease of Use

Easy to control, perfect for beginners

Main heat fuel

Lump charcoal & charcoal briquettes

Temperature range

150°F~ 700°F


5$$ – 1$$$

On-going cost

More expensive

Food taste

Produce a more intense smoky flavor


Can’t go far from the power outlet


Easy to clean

Pellet Grill

Ease of Use

Easy to control, perfect for beginners

Main heat fuel

Wood pellets

Temperature range

150°F~ 500°F


3$$ – 2$$$

On-going cost

Less expensive

Food taste

Produce a milder smoky flavor


Can’t go far from the power outlet


Easy to clean

What is gravity-fed charcoal grill?

The gravity-fed charcoal grill combines the best features of a traditional charcoal grill and a pellet grill, which uses gravity to feed wood pellets into the firebox so that they get burned efficiently in order to provide maximum heat with minimal effort.

The way gravity-fed charcoal grill works is very simple:

First, there is a charcoal chute (hopper) that can be filled with charcoal and lit from the bottom. After setting your desired cooking temperature with a controller, a variable-speed fan on the side of the firebox begins to blow through the coals to keep the air on them.

The PID controller will tell the fan to speed up or slow down depending on how much temperature your grill requires.

When charcoal is burned, it falls through the charcoal grate into the ash pan.

The burning charcoal that has fallen into the fireplace is automatically replaced by the unlit charcoal that has been stored above.

There is an ash clean-out pan at the smokebox where we can place the wood chunks. Charcoal that falls through the grate from the hopper will burn the wood chunks, imparting a smoky flavor to the food.

You can also add pieces of wood to the charcoal hopper, allowing them to slowly burn down and give your food a stronger smoke flavor.

Pros & Cons Of Gravity Fed Charcoal Grills

  • Easy to use and control cooking temperature
  • It heats up quickly
  • Can get up to 700°F for cooking faster
  • Giving your food a more intense smoke flavor
  • Comes with a grease cup for easy cleaning
  • Versatile
  • The ongoing cost can be a little higher
  • It needs a power outlet to function so you can’t use it everywhere

Pellet Grill

A pellet grill is a type of barbecue grill that uses small, compressed wood pellets as fuel. Pellets are made from tree trunks, branches, or sawdust, and they’re burned inside the cooking chamber to create heat and smoke.

Most pellet grills can also be used to smoke, so they are also known as pellet smokers.

(Image Source: Traegergrills.com)

With pellet grills, you don’t have to worry about maintaining that intense flame or heating element.

Instead, pellets are placed in a hopper container (1) on the side. The hopper contains pellets, which are made of compressed sawdust.

The pellets are transferred from the hopper to the burn pot by a rotating auger (3) powered by electricity.

When the pellets reach the burn pot (4), they are lit by an electric igniter. This causes them to begin smoldering and generating heat.

The heat from this process is transferred through the cooking grate and into your food.

Next, the induction fan blows air around the burn pot, keeping the heat even and making sure that the pellets are burning evenly and completely.

A heat baffle (5) sits above the burn pot to evenly distribute direct heat throughout the grill rather than allowing it to burn your food.

A controller (2) controls and monitors the internal temperature.

Pros & Cons Of Pellet Grills

  • Easy to use
  • More environmentally friendly since wood pellets produce less smoke
  • Easy to clean thanks to the grease tray under the cooking grates
  • Versatile
  • The smoke flavor when cooking with wood pellets can be too light for some people. 
  • Most pellet grills only reach 500°F
  • It needs a power outlet to function so you can’t use it everywhere

Gravity Fed Charcoal Grill Vs Pellet Grill: Comparison

1. Heating Fuel

One of the primary distinctions between the two types of grills is the heating fuel.

The gravity-fed charcoal grill uses charcoal and wood chunks as its heating fuel, charcoal burns to make heat, and wood chunks burn to flavor the smoke.

On the other hand, the pellet grill gets its heat from wood pellets. Since they are made of compressed sawdust, they don’t make as much ash or smoke as charcoal fires, which is another way to say they’re cleaner than charcoal fires.

2. Temperature range and cooking performance

The temperature range of a pellet grill is usually between 150 and 500 degrees Fahrenheit. While this is perfect for low and slow cooking, it is also a great feature for those who enjoy grilling at higher temperatures for creating a great sear mark on your steak, which happens when you sear your steak at 300°F to 500°F.

On the other hand, most gravity-fed charcoal grills can reach temperatures up to 700 degrees Fahrenheit. Besides low and slow cooking, this also allows for searing at higher temperatures for a shorter time.

So, if you enjoy a wide range of cooking options, then gravity-fed charcoal grills are definitely better than pellet grills.

3. Price and ongoing cost

Both types of grills cost a couple of hundred dollars to more than a thousand, so it can say that the up-front cost of buying the appliance is quite the same. And both use electricity to operate the grill.

Then the difference in ongoing cost comes down to the cost of buying fuels:

Charcoal is cheap but burns faster, so you must keep buying it. Wood pellets are often more expensive, but they last longer, so you don’t have to buy them as often.

4. Ease Of Use

Both pellet and charcoal grills are designed to be easy to use.

They both use the same operating method, in which the heating fuel is automatically fed into the burner, so you don’t have to put fuel into the grill and manage the flame manually.

They both have temperature controls that allow you to adjust the heat of your cooking surface.

With that said, both of these grills are perfect for beginners who want to get into the BBQ world.

5. Cleaning And Maintenance

Both pellet and gravity-fed charcoal grills are pretty easy to clean.

There is a grease tray above the heat baffle in the pellet grill; this grease tray collects all of the grease drippings from the food and keeps it from dripping onto the heating element below.

There is also a grease cup in the gravity-fed charcoal grill to collect any drippings from your meal. This will help prevent the grease from dripping onto the floor.

6. Weather Considerations

Both types of grills are not ideal if you live in a rainy area because they rely on electricity to operate, and rain can cause power outages.


You can get charcoal flavor with a pellet grill by using charcoal pellets instead of the original hardwood pellets. Charcoal pellets have 40% more energy than hardwood ones, so they generate higher heat and are great for grilling/ searing.

We all know that charcoal and wood pellets are great for barbecuing, but which tastes better? Charcoal is the way to go when you’re in the mood for a full feast. It’s more flavorful and gives your food an added boost of smoky flavor.

You can get a mild smoky flavor when cooking with a pellet grill. Wood pellets don’t taste as smokey as charcoal, but they do give off a light smell that doesn’t overpower the food you’re grilling.

Wood pellets burn slowly and do not produce as much smoke when compared to charcoal because they contain less air. This means that they tend to be slow-burning and last longer than charcoal.

To light your charcoal grill, you’ll need to put a fire lighter in the hole under the charcoal grates and then light it. This will allow you to ignite the coals from below. Once they are lit, you can then use the grill as normal.

Final Thoughts

In the end, both of the grills listed above are pretty awesome. This article has shown you that there are some major differences between these types of grills and their approaches to cooking.

It’s up to you to determine which approach is best for your particular needs.

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