Comparing Pellet Smoker vs Wood Smoker: Which is Right for You
If you’re in the market for a new smoker but need help deciding what type to buy, comparing the most popular options might be helpful: Pellet smoker vs wood smoker. While they offer that classic, smoky flavor coveted by barbecue enthusiasts, they differ in a few important ways.
One of the biggest distinctions is the type of fuel they use to generate smoke. Wood smokers rely on wood lumps or chips, while pellet smokers use compressed wood dust or pellets.
In this article, we’ll go over the pros and cons of both types of smokers to help you decide which one is right for your culinary needs.
Pellet Smoker vs Wood Smoker: Side-by-Side Comparison
The table below compares the key features of pellet smokers and wood smokers.
Pellet and electricity
Wood chips, wood lumps, charcoal and pellets
Up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit
Up to 400 degrees
Temp required to smoke
225 to 250 degrees
570 to 750 degrees
Smoke production and flavor
Not as strong as wood smokers
Strong smoke flavor
Price and accessibility
$300 to $1,000
The difference between the two types lies in the fuel and operational mechanism. This crucial disparity makes one model more suitable than the other, depending on the context. Let’s delve into the details to see which is best for your needs.
Wood smokers are versatile units that use wood lumps, which some like to combine with charcoal for improved cooking efficiency. If wood logs are hard to come by, relying solely on charcoal in a wood-fired smoker is still fine. In contrast, pellet smokers first grind the wood into sawdust before compressing it into compact, bullet-shaped pieces. This grinding process gives pellet smokers an advantage in convenience but may also result in less robust flavor profiles than wood smokers.
Pellet smokers are known for running with electricity while still using pellets as fuel and smoke flavor sources; pour the pellets in the hopper, flip the switch, and you’re up and running.
Conversely, using a wood smoker involves a lengthier process, requiring first placing wood logs before igniting the tank with a propane torch.
Wood smokers are perfect for those low and slow-smoking recipes, like pulled pork, pork butt, briskets, baby back ribs, and so much more. But if you’re looking for more versatility, consider a pellet smoker.
It offers the best of both modern and traditional smokers. With a pellet smoker, you can easily smoke, roast, grill, bake, and sear. Plus, it’s super easy to fire up and start cooking.
Wood smokers are excellent for low and slow cooking, delivering a smokey flavor that pleases the senses. But when it comes to cranking up the heat of the burners, pellet smokers are the hands-down winners.
One of the biggest advantages of pellet smokers is that they require significantly less heat to start smoking than wood. With temps as low as 250 degrees, you get a good smoke without investing in extra heat. And with a temperature range of 150 to 600 degrees, pellet cookers offer the perfect range of temps to create all sorts of culinary delights.
These smokers also hold heat within plus or minus 5 degrees of the designated temperature, giving you the precision of an indoor kitchen. That’s why even the most seasoned wood smoker users consider using a pellet smoker in a competition akin to cheating.
Pellet Vs. Wood Smoker – Price Comparison
Pellet smokers are popular among smoking enthusiasts, with ZGrills and Traeger being two of the most widely recognized brands on the market. These smokers typically cost upwards of $350, but rest assured that with their quality construction and enhanced features, the extra investment pays off. And remember Masterbuilt electric smokers – they boast premium build quality and unbeatable customer support.
Not everyone needs an expensive smoker, however. Wood offset and vertical smokers are ideal for those with a tight budget. These devices can be crafted at home with minimal tools and knowledge, consisting of little more than a firebox and grilling area. Some folks even repurpose 55-gallon drums to create an exceptional DIY option.
What is a Pellet Smoker?
A pellet smoker is one of the best cooking companions for home chefs who love the smoky taste of their food. Unlike traditional smokers that use charcoal or gas, a pellet smoker uses wood pellets, meaning you can enjoy the same smoky flavor without the hassle of burning hot coals.
With a pellet smoker, you can smoke meat, sear, bake, and roast, all in a single unit, and even make delicacies like pizza crusts and cakes. These grills are perfect for beginners but packed with features seasoned pros will love, thanks to their versatility and durability.
When you invest in a pellet smoker, you’re investing in a multi-reason outdoor oven, grill, and smoker that makes traditional Australian BBQ favorites like snags and steaks and low-and-slow mainstays such as briskets and ribs easier and more delicious than ever.
And the best part? Pellet smokers require less maintenance than traditional models, which use wood or charcoal, and produce smoke flavor without soot. They are also easily transported from place to place- ideal for traveling, camping, and unforgettable tailgating experiences as long as you can access power.
-Perks of Using Pellet Smoker
Pellet smokers have revolutionized the smoking game, offering unparalleled convenience and versatility in smoking food. Their ease of use means that even those without cooking experience can start smoking their favorite foods quickly.
However, convenience isn’t the only benefit of owning a pellet smoker. With constant and consistent temperature control and incredible flavor infusion, these smoker grills provide a smoking experience.
One of the best things about pellet smokers is that they allow you to experiment with all kinds of meat and vegetables. Whether you’re a fan of fish fillets, pork ribs, or anything, a pellet smoker will give you endless opportunities to try out new recipes and techniques.
While wood-fired grills might offer varying temperature control options, they don’t match pellet smokers’ consistent, high-quality results.
-Drawbacks of Pellet Smoker
Pellet smokers come at a premium cost compared to conventional fireplaces, primarily because they require electricity. Furthermore, they occupy more space and require more maintenance, as pellet top-ups are necessary, and ashtrays need cleaning.
However, pellet smokers hold a competitive edge over their counterparts because they produce substantially less smoke than briquettes or dry hardwood logs, making them great for those who care about flavor.
Although, if you’re the type of person who likes regulating the temperature setting, there may be better choices than a pellet smoker. Even though some high-end models can adjust the heat output, maintaining a uniform temperature inside the grill chamber can be challenging.
-How to Do Pellet Smokers Work?
Pellet smokers sport a control panel on the front, simplifying operation. Turn on the unit, and the induction fan drives air into the cooking chamber. The auger then starts spinning, ushering the pellets into the smoker’s bowels.
At the bottom of the pot of pellets lies the auger motor, feeding it into the burner where the pellets go under the racks and deflector. The little heating unit heats up as the auger motor feeds pellets into the fire burner pot. It stays on for a few minutes, just enough to get the fire going before turning off, leaving your fuel source burning.
Setting your temperature on the control panel, much like your oven.
What I Like About Pellet Smokers?
If you are considering pellet cookers, let’s discuss some of their benefits.
1/Easy to Use
One major advantage of pellet smokers immediately comes to mind is their ease of use.
They operate the same way as your standard oven at home, freeing you from the risk and hassle of fighting a fire like a wood smoker.
Gone are the days of constantly replenishing charcoal or wood to keep your food cooking. Simply load up the hopper with pellets, and you’re good to go.
2/Low and Wide Price Range
Pellet cookers feature a vast price range encompassing various budgets, from as low as $300 to as high as $800. This range allows anyone to own a pellet cooker, providing an opportunity to enjoy the pleasure of cooking over wood.
Pellet grills are renowned for their versatility. They can maintain any temperature range, so you can smoke down to low temperatures like an electric or wood smoker, cook food on a high flame, or even bake like an outdoor oven. With such adaptability, pellet grills are a must-have cooking appliance for outdoor enthusiasts looking to up their game in the kitchen.
4/Clean Source of Fuel
In the US, most commercially available pellets are safe and clean fuel sources. A food-grade pellet pack is all you need to get started!
These pellets burn incredibly efficiently, producing just the right amount of heat and smoke.
No over-smoking on a pellet grill! Plus, with low ash output, clean-up is a breeze. Just keep in mind that pellet grills require access to an electrical outlet.
What is a Wood Smoker?
When you’re looking for the perfect smoker, a wood smoker is a fantastic option to consider. While it works like a traditional charcoal smoker, the main difference is that it uses wood lumps or chips for that undeniable smoky flavor.
However, starting the fire manually can be tricky. You’ll need a coal bed or a reliable blowtorch to get those wood chunks burning, but once you’re up and smoking, you’ll enjoy an unparalleled low and slow cooking experience.
Although you can mix wood chips and charcoal briquettes in an offset smoker, it’s different from having a proper wood smoker. You get the best mix of burning efficiency and smokiness, ensuring your food has that unmistakable wood-fired taste.
You would find few commercially available wood smokers. Most are designed for multi-fuel use except for the Meadow Creek TS250 wood smoker, which costs around $10,000. But thanks to Amazon, you can easily find a variety of top-notch wood-fired smokers designed solely for wood lumps or chunks.
Although charcoal smokers are often used for burning wood, mixing pellet and wood or using charcoal briquettes with wood is a wise choice for a fuller flavor.
For those passionate about traditional wood smokers, a makeshift smoking house could be built on campsites or backyard grillers. However, health-wise, wood smokers are not a safe option due to the harmful effects of wood smoke.
A significant drawback of wood smokers is being less efficient compared to modern wood pellet grills. Thus, more wood has to be burned to get the same efficiency, leading to substantial negative consequences on human health.
It may come as a surprise, but according to the World Health Organization, around half of all people worldwide, roughly 2.4 billion people, still cook with solid biomass, such as wood. This leads to a growing number of studies linking poor health to the use of solid fuels, resulting in about two million deaths every year from the effects of wood smoke, with half being children under five years old.
-Perks of Using Lump Wood Smoker
Although lump smokers may be less expensive than pellet smokers, they require more attention from the user.
You’ll need to feed them with chunks of wood regularly. Depending on where you live, accessing Mesquite or Hickory may be easier than finding Oak.
The versatile lump wood smokers can be paired with either lump wood or pellet fuel, making them the ideal choice for outdoor cooking enthusiasts.
Unlike electric smokers, these smokers have a simple design and tend to last longer because they don’t have complex mechanisms that can break down over time.
-Drawbacks of Lump Wood Smoker
Controlling temperature and keeping it stable is tricky when done manually, causing difficulties in maintenance.
Additionally, lump wood smoking adds an intense flavor to the food that is incomparable to pellet smokers but can be tedious and time-consuming. So if you’re looking for a quick and easy method, there may be other options.
Moreover, smoking meat or fish directly on flames may leave an unpleasant taste. So be mindful of the burning logs and the heat and smoke your food is getting.
And while smokers are generally bigger than pellet grills, their construction materials create more smoke. Therefore, it’s best to use them outdoors or in a well-ventilated area to avoid irritating symptoms like coughing or eye irritation.
-How Does A Wood Smoker Work?
A wood smoker is incredibly versatile and easy to use, providing consistent quality without the expertise required of a smoking pro. One of the biggest challenges with smoking is maintaining temperature, but with a wood-fired smoker, this is a breeze.
Not only that, but wood smokers are more forgiving than their pellet counterparts, allowing for greater flexibility in your choice of wood. You can opt for wood chips, widely available from outlets like Amazon, in various hardwoods, fruit woods, and nut woods. Whether you prefer apple, cherry, hickory, maple, or Oak, each wood type offers a unique flavor profile to take your food to the next level.
Experiment with mixing different woods to create a custom flavor. And if you have your supply of firewood, splitting smaller kindling-sized pieces will help your fire establish more quickly.
Are Pellet Smokers Better Than Wood Chip Smokers?
Wood pellet smokers perform better than their wood chunk and wood log counterparts. Not only do they boast better-burning efficiency, but they also provide easier ignition and more accurate temperature control.
Though wood chips burn fast, they fall short regarding versatility, as you cannot use them in pellet smokers. In contrast, wood pellets can be utilized in multiple appliances, including wood, charcoal smokers, and pizza ovens.
Quick Fact: If you are looking for the most cost-effective option with better-burning efficiency, easier ignition, and greater versatility, then a wood pellet smoker should be your top choice.
Final Remarks: Pellet Smoker vs Wood Smoker
Regarding barbecuing, Pellet Smokers vs Wood Smokers is a debate that often ignites among meat enthusiasts. Both are incredible for cooking meat and share a common ground in using wood as a fuel source.
However, there are some important differences to consider to help you make the right choice. For starters, wood smokers are incredibly versatile, allowing you to use a variety of fuels such as wood lumps, charcoal, and pellets.
On the other hand, pellet smokers offer a broader range of cooking options, allowing you to create different dishes easily. One caveat with wood smokers is that some health concerns are associated with cooking entirely with wood.
This is especially true if you live somewhere that doesn’t sell food-grade wood commercially, which might explain the declining popularity of wood smokers. Pellet smokers, by contrast, are an excellent alternative to propane smokers and suitable for any cooking method.
When choosing between the two, weighing up these differences and tailoring your selection to your unique requirements is important.
Pitmaster Lives in Eugene, USA. Bio: I’m Billy McCallum, and I love barbecue. I’m the president and founder of Billy Mac’s Bar & Grill, with over 20 years of experience in the field. I’m an exceptional pitmaster and grill expert who uses charcoal, wood, and fire to craft extraordinary culinary masterpieces. My mission is to educate others how to master their grills and cook a diverse range of foods on them. I have extensive expertise smoking briskets, pork shoulders using charcoal, wood, or propane grills/smokers.
I also review kitchent appliances such as grills, smoke, and more. I’ve tried out almost every model available, so if you’re in the market for any of these items be sure to check out my reviews!