Can You Use Charcoal in a Pellet Grill?

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The grill has changed modern outdoor cooking and given summertime a whole new level of fun and convenience. However, what happens when you run out of pellets and charcoal is all you’ve got left? Let’s find out whether charcoal can actually be used in a pellet grill or not.

It is not advisable to use charcoal in a pellet grill. Charcoal tends to get much hotter than pellets do, and a pellet grill is not designed to withstand that kind of direct heat. Excessive use of charcoal in a pellet grill over time will most likely result in a warped barrel.

By now you might be wondering what exactly is the difference between a pellet grill and a charcoal grill? If you’d like to find out, you have come to the right place! Read on to learn about the differences between charcoal and pellet grills and which one might be right for you.

Using Charcoal in a Pellet Grill

As mentioned above, you should not make a habit of using charcoal in a pellet grill because the charcoal will generate way too much heat for the grill to handle. Pellet grills are only designed to withstand the heat that wood pellets generate, not the fiery furnace that burning coal creates. Overuse of charcoal in a pellet grill can be pretty damaging over time, so you should avoid using charcoal in a pellet grill altogether.

So, now you have a decision to make. If you want to use your pellet grill, but you also prefer to grill with charcoal, then you will have to choose one over the other, because you can’t have the best of both worlds! You can either use wood pellets in a pellet grill, or you can use charcoal in a charcoal grill, but you shouldn’t mix and match.

So, which grill should you use? Let’s discuss the pros and cons of each.

Pellet Grills

As for which grill to use, it really comes down to what you prefer. Using a pellet grill means you can choose what kind of wood you want, and thus what kind of flavor you want (the flavor of the wood will carry over to the meat). If you prefer the smoky sear of charcoal, a pellet grill is probably not for you. Without further ado, here are a few pros and cons of using a pellet grill!

Pros

First of all, pellet grills are much easier to control. Most modern pellet grills are electrically managed and controlled, which means there is plenty of heat control for you to utilize while cooking your meat. Heat control means it will be far easier to grill your meat evenly and get a good cook all the way through.

Gas and charcoal grills are much more difficult to control than pellet grills, and therefore, it will be more difficult to cook the meat evenly. Plus, with the pellet grill’s heat control and even cook, you won’t have to move the meat around while you cook it, which isn’t necessarily hard, but it’s convenient to not have to worry about it.

wood chips used to make wood pellets

With gas and charcoal grills, you usually have to carefully trim off extra fat and gristle. With some pellet grills, it’s the same story, but most pellet grills nowadays are built with drip pans that will catch all the grease that drips off of your meat. This not only keeps the grill cleaner, but it prevents flare-ups from happening too often. This makes the grill easy to clean and even a bit safer to use.

Cons

If your wood pellets get wet, it’s game over, which means that a pellet grill is not ideal for wet weather conditions. Of course, as long as you keep your pellets dry, you can definitely avoid this problem. However, this does not make a pellet grill a great choice for those who like to grill in the rain.

Additionally, pellet grills tend to be a lot more expensive than charcoal ones. Most people do find the price to be worth it, but you’ll still have to empty your pockets a little to pay for a pellet grill. Delicious? Totally. Cheap? Definitely not! Additionally, a pellet grill has to be plugged in to be able to work. This means you can’t just take it out into the woods and grill up some burgers. For this reason, a pellet grill is not the most portable or convenient option.

Charcoal Grills

Unlike pellet grills, charcoal grills will provide a hardcore sear for your meat, which is quite often a very desirable quality. While wood pellets can give the meat a subtle, smoky flavor, charcoal can pack a powerful, flavorful punch. Charcoal grills can reach higher temperatures, and they tend to be a little bit smaller than most pellet grills.

Here are a few pros and cons of charcoal grills:

Pros

Charcoal grills are ideal for those who like to travel. You can take a charcoal grill tailgating, camping, boating—whatever you want. Unlike pellet grills, charcoal grills don’t require electricity to function. This is why charcoal grills are often much more desirable than pellet grills. They are not only convenient, but because they’re smaller, they are also much more portable.

As mentioned above, charcoal grills can get super hot, much hotter than most pellet grills. As a matter of fact, you could get those briquettes up to a heat of 700°F. Obviously, you’d never need it that hot to cook food, but you won’t have to wait nearly as long for it to get to grilling heat.

charcoal grill outside

You can imitate the flavor of charcoal with charcoal-flavored wood pellets, but the imitation is simply not the same as the original. Charcoal gives meat a classic grilled, smoky flavor that can only be found on the good old charcoal grill. It can burn meat if you’re not careful, but as long as you keep a watchful eye on whatever you’re cooking, you should be in perfect shape.

Cons

Charcoal grills might be easy to move around, but they are a real pain in the neck to clean. The racks will quickly become caked with gristle and old grease, plus you’ll have to clean out all the old charcoal and ash. This is a pretty messy process that can quickly become a bother.

Believe it or not, charcoal grills are actually illegal in some places. These are mostly apartments that have put a ban on charcoal grills for safety reasons. In reality, they are a bit more of a fire hazard because they can’t be turned off, plus if hot ash were to fly anywhere and catch something on fire, it would not be good!

Want more information check out our post: Pellet Grill vs. Charcoal Grill – Which Is Best? Head-to-Head Comparison