Can You Use Charcoal in a Pellet Grill?

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A typical charcoal grill, like the Weber kettle, has a steel hood and bowl coated with porcelain enamel to make them last longer. It is said to handle heat up to 1500 degrees Fahrenheit, which means it can function near hot coals. The cooking chamber of pellet grills, such as Traeger and Pit Boss, is frequently made of cast iron. 

Think about the fact that cast iron can stand up to 815 degrees Celsius (or 1500 degrees Fahrenheit) of heat. Indeed, charcoal might be a viable backup fuel source for your pellet grill, if only because of the information provided above. In this article, we’ll look into that and determine if you can use charcoal in a pellet grill.

Overview

So, can you use charcoal in a pellet grill? It is not advisable to use charcoal in a pellet grill. Because charcoal burns at a much higher temperature than pellets, you can’t use it in a pellet grill. If you use a pellet grill with charcoal too often, the barrel will start to bend. 

However, that doesn’t negate the fact that you can still use charcoal in your pellet grill. While the chamber of a pellet grill can handle a high level of heat, other components may not. If you do this, you could potentially cause damage beyond repair to your grill. For this reason and others mentioned below, don’t use charcoal in a pellet grill because:

  • It will damage the grill’s interior components. 
  • There is no way to regulate the environment’s temperature.
  • Its smoker may jam.
  • It’s impossible to collect the ash in the current setup safely.
  • It will nullify the warranty.

The question that emanates from that is, “What differentiates a charcoal grill from a pellet grill?”

Charcoal Grill

A charcoal grill is a type of outdoor grill fueled by charcoal. Beginning the cooking process, regulating the heat, and cleaning up afterward take significantly more work than on a gas grill. However, the smoky flavor it imparts to your food is unlike anything you’d get from using a gas stove. 

A charcoal grill is ideal if you enjoy the whole grilling experience, not just the result. You might be a charcoal grill person if you’re the type to nerd out a little bit or learn a new skill for greater flavor.

Charcoal grills, in contrast to pellet grills, will give your meat a deep, dark sear, which is often highly desirable. Wood pellets give the meat a light smoke flavor, but charcoal can make the flavor much stronger. Charcoal grills are typically more compact and can reach higher temperatures than pellet grills.

Advantages

A charcoal grill is a great choice for campers and people who like to travel. Charcoal grills are versatile enough to be taken anywhere, including on a boat, camping, or to a tailgate. Charcoal grills don’t need batteries or plugs as pellet grills do. Because of this, charcoal grills are typically preferred over pellet grills. They’re also smaller and lighter, so you can take them anywhere.

Charcoal grills can reach very high temperatures and keep that heat longer than pellet grills. The briquettes are capable of reaching temperatures of up to 700 degrees Fahrenheit. You’ll never need temperatures that high for cooking, but it won’t take nearly as long to heat up to grilling temperatures.

Even though charcoal-flavored wood pellets come close to duplicating the flavor of actual charcoal, they still fall short. Charcoal is the traditional fuel for grilling, giving the meat a unique smoky flavor. Meat can easily burn if you’re not paying attention, but as long as you keep an eye on your food, you should be fine.

Disadvantages

Although charcoal grills are portable, cleaning them is a major hassle. Gristle and old grease will quickly cake the racks, and you’ll also need to remove any accumulated charcoal and ash. It is a messy procedure that can become an inconvenience rather quickly.

Charcoal grills are banned in some areas, which may come as a surprise to you. Typically, apartment complexes have banned charcoal grills due to safety concerns. They pose a greater fire risk because they cannot be turned off, and hot ash flying around could easily set nearby objects ablaze.

Burning charcoal

Pellet Grill

For cooking, a wood pellet grill will use compressed hardwood pellets rather than charcoal or gas. Wood pellet grills can smoke, roast, bake, grill, and sear any food, combining the best of traditional ovens and grills. In 1987, Traeger Grills developed the first wood pellet grill. Since then, researchers have found that grills that use pellets make a fire that is more stable and easy to control, making meals taste the same.

Which grill you use is largely a matter of personal preference. A pellet grill lets you choose the type of wood that gives your food the flavor you want. If you crave the smoky flavor of charcoal, a pellet grill is not for you. Below are some of the advantages and drawbacks of utilizing a pellet grill.

How It Functions

An auger is useful for feeding wood pellets into the fire pot, where they are burned. Afterward, the HotRod will light them to feed the flames and give your food that wonderful wood-fired flavor. The fan ensures consistent cooking, while the drip tray prevents flare-ups and keeps flames away from the food. A thermostat ensures consistent cooking temperatures, so you can focus on the company of those you care about most rather than the grill.

Advantages

Pellet grills, for starters, are significantly less of a hassle to manage. Since the heat of today’s pellet grills can be precisely adjusted thanks to their electrical management and control, you can achieve perfectly cooked meat every time. Having better control over the grill’s temperature will make it much simpler to grill your meat so that it is cooked thoroughly and uniformly.

Gas and charcoal grills are much harder to control than pellet grills, making it harder to cook the meat evenly. And because of the pellet grill’s uniform cooking and temperature regulation, you won’t even need to turn the meat over. 

Whether using a gas or charcoal grill, always remove any gristle and excess fat before cooking. On the other hand, most modern pellet barbecues have built-in drip pans to catch the grease that comes off the meat as it cooks. Aside from keeping the grill tidy, this also reduces the frequency of fires. It’s much less hassle to clean the grill after usage, and it’s safer.

Disadvantages

Rainy days are not good for using a pellet barbecue since the wood pellets may rot. Of course, if your pellets are kept dry, you won’t have this issue. But this means pellet grills aren’t a good choice for people who often grill in wet weather.

Also, pellet barbecues are typically far more costly than charcoal grills. You’ll have to spend more to get a pellet grill, but most say it’s well-spent money. Delicious? Totally. Don’t even consider it if you’re looking for a cheap option.

On top of that, a pellet grill can’t function unless it’s hooked to an electrical outlet. It rules out the possibility of taking it camping to cook some burgers. Because of this, a pellet grill isn’t the most flexible choice.

Safe Ways to Use Charcoal in a Pellet Grill

One option is to use charcoal and place it in a metal container inside the grill’s drum. You don’t need to turn on gadgets because you won’t use them. As a result, the grill will be safe from the intense heat of the charcoal because of the metal container. 

To light your coals before putting them in the grill, use a chimney starter. Once you get your coals going inside the grill, you’ll need to keep adding new ones to the fire as they burn out, whether you’re cooking for an hour or four.

Situations Not Ideal for Using Charcoal in a Pellet Grill

Don’t rely solely on charcoal for fuel when using a pellet grill. Using only charcoal could lead to an overcooked meal or a fire since the temperatures inside a pellet grill are much lower than those inside a traditional charcoal grill.

Pellets burn at less than 500 degrees Fahrenheit, while coal can reach more than 800 degrees Fahrenheit. Remember, low heat and slow cooking are ideal for pellet grills. If you want to grill at high temperatures, using charcoal in a pellet grill is probably not the best option.

Conclusion

Using charcoal on a pellet grill might be tempting, but doing so will ruin the grill’s surface and your food. Instead, improve your results by using flavor-infused pellets that mimic the taste of charcoal. They are also easier to light and won’t clog your air vents.

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