In this article, I compared the pellet grill vs. electric smoker.
I’m hoping this article, based on my experience using them will help you decide which grill is best for you.
What’s The Difference Between A Pellet Grill And An Electric Smoker
While both pellet grills and electric smokers work on electric power and add a smoky flavor to the food, there is a big difference between how they operate.
To explain this, let’s first define what each piece of equipment does.
What Is A Pellet Grill?
As the name suggests, a pellet grill is a type of outdoor grill that uses wood pellets as fuel and as a way to infuse flavor into your food.
A pellet grill looks similar to your typical BBQ, but you’ll notice a small box off to one side; this is the hopper.
Another difference is that a pellet grill runs on electricity instead of propane or gas, so you’ll need to plug your pellet grill in and turn it on.
Some models come with electric controllers and other components to help adjust and monitor the temperature.
Pellet grills are, for the most part, fully automated, just set the temperature and time, then sit back and wait.
How Does A Pellet Grill Work?
After you turn it on, you’ll need to add wood pellets into the hopper.
The wood pellets are then transferred to the burn pot at the bottom of the grill by a rotating auger.
The pellets ignite by a hot rod, and the fire and temperature are maintained as the auger feeds more pellets into the burn pot.
The fire fans disperse the heat and smoke throughout the griller.
Pellet grills are automated; you can operate and set the temperature from a controller.
The motor and auger will adjust the speed of feeding the pellets into the firepot to maintain the desired temperature.
At lower temperatures, fewer pellets dropped by the auger, and at a higher temperature, the auger would feed more pellets to the firepot.
Check out my post How Do Pellet Grills Work? And The Benefits Of Using One for a detailed look at how they work.
What Is An Electric Smoker?
The electric smoker has a vertical design and is typically made with iron or stainless steel.
It also uses electric power to heat and smoke your food.
The electric smoker comes with either a digital or analog controller, which you can use to set the temperature.
It consists of a heating element at the bottom of it to heat the space.
Above the heating rods, there is a wood chip tray or firebox, a water tray, and the grill racks above them.
Multiple cooking racks provide you space to cook in large batches or various dishes at a time.
How Does An Electric Smoker Work?
Before turning on your electric smoker, you need to add wood chips to the tray above the heating rods.
Add water to the water pan, then turn it on.
The rods heat up and burn the wood chips in the firebox, heat the unit, and produce smoke.
The cold water in the water tray helps prevent overheating, creates steam for convection cooking, and maintains its moisture content.
Head-to-Head Comparison: Pellet Grill Vs. Electric Smoker
Now that you know the basics of what each grill is and how they work there a few other details that differentiate pellet grills from an electric smoker.
Below you can see a comparison table where we take the highlights of a few categories.
In yellow we’ve indicated which grill option excels the most.
As you can see in our comparison table above the pellet grill wins in a few of the categories. The pellet grill also has a few more pros that we like over the electric smoker.
However, it is important to note that in a few of those categories it’s a draw.
Also, it would be fair to note that when it comes to flavor both the electric smoker and pellet grill can provide delicious food. It was only because of its versatility that we gave that one to the pellet grill.
Overall, if it’s a great flavor you’re after both options provide superior taste.
Let’s discuss each one in more detail.
Flavour Infusion In Food
Flavour is the most crucial factor to consider when choosing a smoker, as flavor makes all the difference.
Both the pellet grill and electric smoker use the same energy source but have massive differences between them.
The difference is because of the different heating elements used.
In an electric smoker, the heating element used is electricity which heats the wood chip tray and water tray to produce some mild smoke and steam.
Pellet grills, on the other hand, use fire produced by the burning of pellets.
The electric power only controls the number of wood pellets fed to the burn pot based upon set temperature.
The food, however, is cooked in the heat of the burning wood pellets, which undeniably have better flavor than an electric smoker.
An electric smoker is quite efficient in cold smoking and makes tasty and juicy food, but the pellet grill’s smoky flavor is unmatchable.
If you are looking for better flavor, smoke rings and bark a pellet grill would be a better choice.
Another factor you should consider before buying is the convenience of using it.
Both the pellet grill and electric smoker are easy to use.
Connect both smokers into a power outlet and set the controller to the temperature you want it, and you are good to go.
The only thing required is to refill wood chips and pellets when needed.
Most pellet grills can run up to 8 hours once the hopper is filled with wood pellets and require refill only after that.
Wood chips in electric smokers can last anywhere between 1 hour to 8 hours and may require refilling between cooking.
When choosing between the two, one main thing to consider is how much space you have for the smoker.
Pellet grills are larger compared to the electric smoker and also produce more smoke.
If you live in a house with a backyard, a pellet grill will work great and if you live in an apartment, maybe go for the electric smoker.
Your budget is a huge factor when picking between a pellet grill and an electric smoker.
If you have a low budget, then the electric smoker is likely the best choice.
An electric smoker can cost as low as $100 and can go up to $500.
The lower price doesn’t mean you will get low-quality food; it just means if you spend a little extra, the unit you get might have more space, better-built quality, and additional features for a better cooking experience.
Pellet grills come with a higher price tag than electric smokers.
They typically range between $500 to $3000. For a good quality pellet grill, you would need to spend at least $1000.
However, the running cost is where they differ the most.
Both the pellet grill and electric smoker use electricity to operate.
Electricity is relatively cheap, and it is the wood chips or pellets cost that makes all the difference.
The electric smoker needs 7-8 ounces of wood chips for smoke per cooking session, and that’s about all it needs.
Wood pellets cost about $1 per pound. So a five-hour cooking time would cost you anywhere between $5 to $10 using a pellet grill.
If your budget allows, go for the pellet grill as it offers more flexibility, and the result tastes better.
But if you want to be more economical, then go for the electric smoker for some good-tasting food without spending as much.
Maintenance of both pellet grill and electric smoker is easy and takes almost the same amount of time.
You’ll need to clean the grill racks after every use in both of them to remove oil and food residue.
You’ll need to empty the wood chip tray and water pan in an electric smoker and replace the foil on the wood chip tray.
You’ll need to remove the ashes and refill wood pellets in the hopper before the next use with a pellet grill.
A pellet grills’ versatility makes it the best choice when considering cooking options.
Besides smoking, you can use your pellet grill to roast, grill, broil, or even bake your food. Just make sure to choose a model, which has all these functions.
An electric smoker may have more space but is limited to just smoking at low temperatures, which can restrict your cooking options.
If you’re looking for flexibility, then go with the pellet grill; if you only want to smoke food, maybe the electric smoker is what you need.
With its vertical structure, the electric smoker has a compact size when compared to the pellet grill.
Most units come with wheels to help move them around quickly.
In comparison, a pellet grill is heavier and takes more space than an electric smoker.
However, there are some options available that are smaller in size.
If space is limited, go with the electric smoker.
Video: Pellet Grills vs Electric/Cabinet Smokers: What to know BEFORE you buy
Here is a great video from Rough Riders where he compares the Pros & Cons of each type of smoker.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is A Pellet Smoker Better Than An Electric Smoker?
Many of the above features should be considered when picking between a pellet grill and an electric smoker.
Some features make a pellet grill better than an electric smoker.
When comparing flavor, the pellet grill does a beautiful job at creating delicious food with smoke rings and bark compared to the electric smoker.
But the cost of buying and operating a pellet smoker is more than an electric smoker.
In the end, you should think about what’s most important to you before deciding which one to buy.
Are Pellet Grills And Smokers The Same Thing?
Pellet grills and smokers are not the same things, but you can find models that can do both; it just depends on the pellet grill model you have.
You can smoke any food on low heat, but if you need to grill, you need a grill that can reach a higher temperature.
Can A Pellet Grill Be Used As A Smoker?
The versatility of the pellet grill is what makes them a great choice.
You can use a pellet grill to smoke, grill, roast, and even bake in it.
It acts as an oven that uses burning wood pellets as the heating source. The burning pellets produce smoke which adds smokiness to your food.
One of my childhood memories is the whole family gathered in our backyard, smoking meat and fish, grilling, and having lots of fun.
Having a good quality smoker is essential to me to make great meals for my family and friends to enjoy.
Both electric smokers and pellet grills use electricity to run and are convenient to use.
Overall, cost and flavor are the top two features where a pellet grill and an electric smoker differ the most.
For someone who is big on flavors and doesn’t mind the extra cost, a pellet grill would be the best for you.
On the other hand, if you are on a tight budget, an electric smoker gives you good flavor and fits into your pocket.
Lastly, if you’re still not sure which grill is the best check out one of these articles: