Pellet Grill vs Electric Smoker – Which Type Is Best For You?

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If you’re in the market for a brand-new grill or smoker, it’s only due diligence to look into the different types available, suss them out, and decide which type best suits your needs.

Many people start off with an electric smoker for the sheer convenience of it, but with so many rave reviews online, even those who’ve got accustomed to using the electric smoker wonder whether they should switch to a pellet grill (also known as a pellet smoker) instead.

But both options tend to cost a lot of money, so it literally pays to give it some serious thought before dipping your hand in your wallet.

In this article, we’re going to cover the main differences between a pellet grill and an electric smoker, highlighting the pros and cons of each, before wrapping up with a conclusion.

By the end of the article, you will be in a much better position to decide what type you want to invest in.

Please feel free to scroll ahead to any section that jumps out at you. Here goes…

Contents

Main Differences (And Similarities) Between An Electric Smoker And A Pellet Grill

Main Differences (And Similarities) Between An Electric Smoker And A Pellet Smoker

Similarities

Let’s kick things off by discussing what these two types have in common.

There are those who assume that a pellet grill doesn’t use electricity, but actually both electric smokers and pellet grills need to be plugged into an electrical power source.

They’re also, I would argue, just as easy to use. They both offer easy, straightforward “set it and forget it” cooking, whereby you simply season the food, and cook it low and slow until you get your foods cooked to perfection, usually crispy on the outside and juicy and tender on the inside.

In that respect, they’re just as easy to use as a conventional oven, which is to be expected since it works in a similar way, whereby hot air is passed to and around the food, and the moisture is retained by the machine’s housing.

They both typically have a very large capacity that are ideal for cookouts, whereas gas and charcoal grills are often designed with portability in mind rather than capacity.

Differences

Let’s start with the most obvious differences. 

The most obvious difference is in the shape and structure of the machines. Electric smokers are upright, sending heat vertically through the machine’s housing, while pellet grills tend to look more laid down, sending heat horizontally through the smoking chamber instead. 

But the real, and most consistent, difference between the two methods is the heat source. With an electric smoker, the source of heat comes from an electric element (like in a kettle). And with a pellet grill, the source of heat comes from the combustion of pellets. 

Pros And Cons Of An Electric Smoker

Pros

  • Electric smokers are perfect for getting newbies into meat smoking, because you don’t have to worry about managing a fire as you would with a traditional smoker.
  • You don’t really have to hover over the machine as much to make sure everything’s ok.
  • It takes up less room in your garage or backyard because it’s vertical.
  • You can smoke your meat at lower temperatures (weather conditions permitting – see cons).
  • The price tag is usually fairly reasonable.

Cons

  • The heating capability of the heating element is limited, and less you invest in a heavily insulated model, which would be more expensive, then you’re basically hostage to the outside temperature, and you may not necessarily get all the heat you need.
  • They’re not designed for rainy weather – electricity and water are a lethal combination.
  • You know that smoke ring, where the pink-colored meat that remains after the meat has been cooked, just between the crust and the interior brown-colored meat? You can’t get that with an electric smoker.

Pros And Cons Of A Pellet Grill

Pros And Cons Of A Pellet Smoker

Pros

  • You get incomparable heat control, and easy temperature management.
  • You don’t have to move food around to ensure it gets enough heat all over or have to keep coming back to check on the food. Something you can’t do with gas or charcoal.
  • Some (not all) pellet grills can double as a smoker.
  • You don’t need to constantly stoke the fire, as you may have to do with a charcoal grill.
  • The pellets are cheap to buy in bulk, so you’ll rarely run low.
  • You don’t have to worry about flare-ups like you would with gas or charcoal.

Cons

  • They can be tricky to work with in the rain because you’ve got to be careful not to get the pellets wet.
  • Sometimes the temperature can fluctuate
  • The warranties on pellet grills are pretty lame when compared to similarly priced gas grills. 

Things To Consider When Choosing a Pellet Grill vs Electric Smoker

There are a number of things to bear in mind when choosing which type to go for. Here is what I consider to be most important…

  • Flavor – First and foremost, you should consider how the food will taste. A pellet grill will always win out in this regard.
  • How easy it is to use – To be honest, they’re very similar. They require little hovering over and little maintenance, but the pellet grill offers greater temperature control.
  • Running costs – When you take into consideration both the electricity usage and the wood pellet usage, an electric smoker will cost you more money to run.
  • Purchase cost & value for money – Electric smokers can be really cheap, with some available for under $100, but a good quality, insulated pellet grill will set you back $700 or more.

Wrap Up

So, there we have it. Now, you not only know the pros and cons for both, but you’ve also got a run down of what to consider when choosing between the two.

Now it’s just a question of weighing everything up and deciding what are the most important features and benefits to you. Good luck!

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