Pellet Smoker vs Wood Smoker: Which is better?
There’s a lot of debate when it comes to the best way to smoke meat – using a pellet smoker or a wood smoker. Both have their pros and cons, but which one is right for you? Here’s a look at the key differences between these two smoking methods.
Before you purchase your next smoker, be sure to read this important information. In this article, we will compare the pellet smoker vs wood smoker so that you can make the most informed decision for your needs. Both smokers have their pros and cons, but which one is right for you? Let’s find out!
What is a pellet smoker and how does it work?
A pellet smoker is a type of smoker that works by using wood pellets as the main fuel source. The pellets are fed into a firepot, which in turn heats up the grill and produces smoke for cooking. The best thing about pellet smokers is that you can set it and forget it, meaning no more babysitting while you make your favorite meats.
Pellet smokers easily maintain consistent temperatures with the use of their digital thermostat controllers. They’re also great when it comes to recycling because they produce little ash or smoke ‘byproducts’.
Instead of having to get out your rake halfway through smoking ribs on your summer cook-out, then spending another 15 minutes burning off all that residue, you just dump the ash after it’s done.
What are the pros of a pellet smoker?
Pellet smokers are great because they provide consistent high heat for smoking meats, making them perfect for long cooks. The best example of this would be brisket, which easily takes 6-8 hours to get to an internal temperature around 200 degrees F using traditional smokers.
Using a pellet smoker will guarantee that you’ll never have to babysit the smoker again – just set it and forget it!
Another pro is that pellet smokers don’t produce very much ash, so you won’t have to spend time getting rid of ash halfway through cooking ribs or other meats on your cook-out. You can just let the ash fall off, dump it in the trash or even vacuum it up for disposal.
Pellet smokers also produce very little smoke byproducts because of their efficient pellet burners. This is great if you’re short on space and can’t have your smoker near any houses – this will limit the amount of smoke that takes over your neighborhood!
What are the cons of a pellet smoker?
While pellet smokers are great for beginners, advanced users will love the control they have over their smoking sessions. They’re a little bit harder to learn how to use compared to other smokers because you’ll need to know about the different settings and temperatures that this wood smoker maintains.
If you want a smoker that’s foolproof and doesn’t require much babysitting – consider getting another type of smoker!
Another con is that some types of pellets will leave a bad flavor on your meats due to their chemical composition. The best way around this is by investing in high quality pellets from brands like Hickory or Cherry.
You might also be able to avoid this issue by using a few chunks of hardwood instead of just pellets, which burn at a higher temperature.
What is a wood smoker and how does it work?
A wood smoker is a traditional type of smoker that works by using the heat from burning wood to smoke meat. This wood is usually hardwood, such as hickory, oak, maple or mesquite.
In fact, many people claim that they can taste the difference between meats smoked with different types of wood – even different dry rubs!
Unlike the simple charcoal grill, you will need to use some kind of starter in order to get your fire going when smoking on a wood smoker. Some good examples of this are electric starters or a propane-fired grill starter used for starting a gas grill.
Don’t worry though; these devices make getting your fire going super easy and are available at stores like Amazon.com or even your local Walmart.
What are the pros of a wood smoker?
Wood smokers are great because they provide consistent high heat for smoking meats. This is perfect for long smokes, such as brisket that can take 6-8 hours to get to an internal temperature of 200 degrees F.
In fact, many people claim that they can taste the difference between meats smoked with different types of wood – even different dry rubs!
Another pro is that wood smokers don’t produce very much ash, so you won’t have to spend time getting rid of ash halfway through cooking ribs or other meats on your cookout. You can just let the ash fall off, dump it in the trash or even vacuum it up for disposal.
Wood smokers also produce very little smoke byproducts because of their efficient burners. This is great if you’re short on space and can’t have your smoker near any houses – this will limit the amount of smoke that takes over your neighborhood!
What are the cons of a wood smoker?
One big downside to cooking with a traditional wood smoker vs pellet smoker is that you need to babysit the grill while cooking. For example, brisket cooked on my offset smoker typically takes 6-8 hours plus constant attention in order to get my internal temperature around 200 degrees F.
I’ve had many days when I forget about my cookout until an hour before it’s done, and I still manage to pull it off. That being said, pellet smokers are much easier to use because you set them and forget them – no babysitting required!
Another downside is that you need to buy wood chips (usually for between $2-5 per bag) in order to add flavor. However, if you’re familiar with smoking meats in general, this shouldn’t prove too difficult.
Pellet Smoker vs Wood Smoker Comparison:
Pellet smokers are usually more expensive than wood smokers, but there are some entry level models out there that cost around the same.
Wood smoker: $80-$200
Pellet smoker: $150+
This is one of the main reasons why people buy a pellet grill over a traditional smoker. You can smoke meat with both devices and get great results – however, you’ll need to babysit the wood smoker to make sure your fire stays consistent and doesn’t die out completely.
When smoking on my offset smoker, I typically have to add new hardwood every 30 minutes to an hour in order to maintain heat for cooking meats such as brisket or ribs. We also use two propane tanks to keep our fire going at all times.
Pellet smoker: Cook for 6-8 hours without needing to add any new wood chips or pellets.
Wood smoker: You’ll need to add new chunks of hardwood every 30 minutes to an hour in order to maintain heat and smoke flavor.
Both devices have a controller so you can adjust the heat settings, but this is where things get a little tricky on a traditional wood smoker. You usually have two options when it comes down to controlling your temperature – either leave the vent open or closed fully.
If you leave it open slightly more than halfway, you may need to add additional hardwood later on as it burns out faster with the air intake wide open. So if you close it all the way, you’ll need to wait for the temperature to rise again before adding more wood.
Pellet smoker: Temperature can be adjusted by opening or closing vents and controlling your temperature with a pellet controller. This is much easier compared to traditional smokers.
Wood smoker: You have control over how much air goes into your smoker – this means that you’ll have to keep an eye on the temperature as well as decide when and how often you need to add new hardwood chunks/chips in order to maintain heat.
In my opinion, there are only a few select features that make a difference between pellet smoker vs wood smoker. That being said, those extra features aren’t completely necessary so they’re not a deal breaker.
On pellet smokers, you usually have the option of adding an ash cup that collects all the ashes after each cook. This makes it easy to dump out your ashes once they’re cold enough to touch without getting burned!
For wood smokers, there are some people out there who prefer to clean their wood smoker by dismantling it completely and cleaning each piece individually with soap and water or other cleaners.
I’ve even read where some people remove the grills on vertical smokers so they can fit inside dishwashers for extra-clean sanitary smoking. It is up to personal preference whether this is necessary or not with most traditional smokers.
Since you’ll be using your smoker pretty frequently (at least I do), try to avoid anything that might be a pain to clean such as removing grates and smoking racks.
Wood smokers can be harder to clean than pellet smokers because their burners are tough to get to. However, pellets have the added cost of buying wood pellets when they run out – usually every 2-3 hours on most pellet grills.
Wood smoker: Cleaning is minimal; ash builds up over time and must be emptied frequently
Pellet smoker: Cleaning is moderate; ashes don’t build up as quickly but still require regular attention
Wood smokers may take longer to reach their desired temperature, but once they do, they can provide even cooking because their burners are in a confined area. This makes them perfect for meats like brisket that require slow and consistent temperatures throughout the cook.
Pellet smoker: More difficult to cook items that need slow and uniform temperatures over many hours
Wood Smoker: Heat is more evenly distributed around food with fewer hot spots because it’s in a small enclosed space
Pellet smokers are easier to clean than traditional smokers because they have no hot plates that require constant attention and cleaning after every use. They also don’t clog as easily as traditional smokers do with ash and other residue building up over time.
Wood smoker: Requires regular cleaning and attention after each use
Pellet Smoker: Doesn’t need as much daily maintenance to keep it clean and cooking efficiently
Both types of smokers require a significant amount of space on your deck or patio in order to cook effectively, although pellet smokers do come with some additional side burner options that allow you to place another grill at the same time.
Also, traditional wood smokers typically don’t have any other add-ons such as side burners or hooks for other tools like rotisseries.
Pellet smoker: Adds an extra space for cooking by utilizing a side burner
Wood Smoker: Requires additional space on your deck/patio; doesn’t offer other add-ons like a side burner and rotisserie
Wood smokers can be more durable because they don’t have any parts that burn hotter than 400 degrees F. Pellet smokers typically require some repair after heating above 600 degrees F, which is typical when you open the lid to check on your food.
This high heat also affects the internal components such as switches much faster than traditional wood smokers.
Pellet smoker: Not able to withstand the high heat of checking your food; requires frequent repairs
Wood Smoker: Able to withstand opening the lid without causing damage to electronic components or creating a fire hazard
Traditional wood smokers are harder to transport because they’re big and bulky, although there are some options that come with wheels. Portable pellet smokers are more versatile and often times can be broken down and moved with ease.
Pellet smoker: Perfect for bringing to the park or camping; you can break it down into smaller pieces
Wood Smoker: Doesn’t need as much space to transport, but they’re typically heavier and harder to manage during transportation
To Sum Up:
Pellet smokers are a recent invention that uses small wood pellets as the main fuel source. These pellets come in a variety of flavors, such as apple, cherry, hickory and mesquite, and produce very little ash when burned. Pellet smokers are also very easy to use; you simply set the temperature and the smoker does the rest!
In contrast, traditional wood smokers work by burning hardwood, such as oak, maple or hickory. These smokers are a little bit harder to use and require more babysitting than pellet smokers. You’ll also need to know about the different settings and temperatures that this type of smoker maintains.
Another con of traditional wood smokers is that they can produce a bad odor, especially if you’re not burning the wood properly. This is also largely due to the fact that traditional smokers require constant attention, which isn’t always convenient when hosting a cookout.
Pellet Smokers vs Wood Smokers: Pros/Cons Comparison Chart
Generally speaking, pellet smokers are easier to use than wood smokers because they produce little ash and don’t need pre-heating before use. They are also perfect for long cooks, but you’ll have to monitor them carefully in order to prevent leaving your food on too long!
On the other hand, many people claim that they can taste the difference between meats smoked with different types of pellets – even different dry rubs!
Traditional wood smokers require more babysitting because you need to follow the temperature closely and add wood/charcoal every so often for a long cook. You should also have to clean out your smoker at least once before you start smoking another batch of food!
However, some people swear by cooking this way because they say their meat has a real “wood-fired taste,” but it really comes down to personal preference.
Pellet smoker vs wood smoker: Which one is right for you?
So now that we’ve covered the main differences between pellet smokers and traditional smokers, which type of smoker will work best for your own personal cooking style?
If you’re looking for more advanced features and don’t mind spending more money than on a traditional wood smoker, then I’d recommend going with a pellet grill. On the other hand, if the price isn’t an issue and you prefer the “lazy” way of smoking meat (set it and forget it), then stick with a wood smoker.
If you’re still undecided but want to learn more about pellet smokers, check out this article on interesting pellet smoker facts that help make your decision a bit easier. I’m sure it will be useful for some of you out there!
FAQ on Pellet Smoker vs Wood Smoker:
How long will a 40 lb bag of wood pellets last?
One 40 lb bag of wood pellets can last for several hours, depending on the smoker. Smaller units may only need one or two bags whereas larger units may use up to three or four bags before they need to be refilled.
How long does it take for a pellet grill to heat up?
Pellets don’t produce as much ash as traditional smokers do – which is why they are so easy to use! Because of this, pellet grills typically require less time to get to their desired internal cooking temperature. It usually takes about 10 minutes at most!
How long should I smoke a pork shoulder for ribs?
A good benchmark is 1 hour of smoking per pound of meat that you’re cooking. This means that if your pork shoulder is three pounds, it will need at least three hours of smoking time.
Which is healthier gas or pellet grill?
Ideally, pellet smokers would be the healthier option because they use wood pellets instead of gas/propane. However, most recipes that call for smoking over an open flame will produce unhealthy smoke that contains carcinogens and other harmful by-products.
How do I know when my meat is done smoking with either type of smoker?
The best way to tell if your meat is done cooking is by checking whether or not it reaches safe internal temperatures (see chart below). Another pro tip: probe test! This means sticking in an instant-read thermometer (like the Maverick ET-733) to tell you exactly what temp your meat is.
What kind of wood should I use for smoking meat?
The best type of wood for smoking is hickory or pecan, so pick your favorite! Some people also claim that fruitwood produces good results with certain types of food! Also remember that different types of wood will produce different results, so it’s a good idea to experiment with different types of wood and food.
Where can I buy a pellet smoker?
You can purchase a pellet smoker from most retail stores that sell grills and smokers. If you want to avoid the hassle of going from store to store to find one, you can simply order it online at websites like Amazon or Craigslist!
How much smoke should I add for flavor?
While cooking, try adding enough smoke until you can see visible “vapor” exiting your meat’s surface. You’ll know when you have added just the right amount when it turns into a thin blue/white haze around your food! This will ensure that you’re adding just enough smoke for a nice taste without overpowering your food with an acrid aftertaste.
What type of wood does a pellet smoker use?
Pellet smokers use wood pellets that are made of compressed sawdust. Many different types of wood can be used to make these pellets, depending on the taste you want to achieve! Some common types include hickory, mesquite, maple, oak, or applewood.
I hope this article has helped you answer the question that I get asked every day, which is what are the differences between pellet smoker vs wood smoker?
As you learned in this post, pellet smokers are super easy to use because they provide consistent heat for smoking meat – no need to babysit your grill! One other advantage is that they produce very little smoke byproducts, so residents living nearby shouldn’t be too angry at you for having a cookout.
Wood smoker users should expect to have an easier time cooking their meats compared with pellet smokers. Just let your wood smoker do its thing while checking up on it every once in a while to ensure everything is going smoothly. No constant attention is required here – just set it and forget it!
At the end of the day, both types of smokers are great at doing their job. So which is better? That will come down to your needs and preferences as a grill master. If you’re on a budget, then I recommend starting with a pellet smoker first before investing in an offset wood smoker.
If you enjoyed this article, please share it with friends and loved ones who may also like charcoal grills or smokers. Thank you for reading!
Please feel free to leave any comments or suggestions in the comment section below. Your feedback has been noted and is appreciated. We would love to hear from you – happy smoking everyone!
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