Over the years the range of hardwood pellet flavours available for pellet grills/smokers has been steadily growing. As I discuss in my article on the best grill pellets currently available, there are now over 20 brands offering BBQ pellets. Well, a few of those brands are also now offering charcoal pellets. However, while some of those pellets are made from 100% charcoal, others are hardwood/charcoal blends. With this article, I want to discuss the significant difference between these two types of charcoal pellets. Enjoy 🙂
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What Are The Benefits of Charcoal Pellets?
As I have previously discussed in my article on pellet smokers vs kamado charcoal smokers, with charcoal you will generally get a more intense smokey flavour into the food. Now, whether that’s a good or a bad thing comes down to personal preference. The point being though, with charcoal pellets now been available, for those who are looking for a more intense smokey flavour in their food, charcoal pellets can provide that boost in smoke flavour.
100% Charcoal vs Charcoal/Hardwood Blended Pellets
Charcoal pellets whether they are 100% charcoal or a charcoal/hardwood blend will both provide a boost to the smokey flavour profile of your food. However, with a 100% charcoal pellet such as the Royal Oak, you should expect a more noticeable increase in smokey flavour over the charcoal/hardwood blends from Camp Chef, Louisiana Grills and Pit Boss.
Again, in terms of heat output, while both types of charcoal pellets will provide a temperature boost, its the 100% charcoal pellets where the difference will be truly noticeable. The reason being that per lb of fuel a 100% charcoal pellet contains roughly 40% more energy than a standard hardwood BBQ pellet. Whereas a charcoal/hardwood blended pellet depending on the mix percentage will likely provide a much smaller energy increase.
The Water Resistance of 100% Charcoal Pellets
Another very handy feature of 100% charcoal pellets beside the more intense smokey flavour and higher heat output is the fact they are water-resistant. Yup, you read that correctly, a 100% charcoal pellet will not absorb water. How is that possible!? Well, during the process of making charcoal and the carbonisation process the fuel is altered on a chemical level and it becomes hydrophobic, hence it repels water.
Now, I often discuss on this site that I don’t recommend leaving pellets in hoppers over extended periods of time due to humidity reducing the integrity of the pellets. In a worst-case scenario, you can get an auger blockage if the pellets take on a lot of water/humidity. Well, with 100% charcoal pellets, there is no need to worry, you could leave the pellets in the hopper all year round if you wanted to.
The video above from Just Grillin Outdoor Living does an excellent job of showing that Royal Oak 100% charcoal pellets are indeed water-resistant. However, what would happen if you tried that test with charcoal blended pellets? Well, they would absorb the water and expand like any other hardwood BBQ pellet, as charcoal blended pellets still contain a percentage of virgin hardwood.
100% Charcoal Pellets Increased Heat Output
As I stated above, compared to hardwoods in general, charcoal contains about 40% more energy per lb. Hence, as each charcoal pellet contains more energy it has the potential to burn hotter. Grilling/searing is an area that many budget pellet grills and even some premium products do indeed struggle with, hence the appeal of pellet/gas combo grills. However, the use of charcoal pellets in any pellet grill can provide a boost to grilling/searing performance.
In the video above it was found that Royal Oak charcoal pellets could boost the maximum temperature output of a Weber SmokeFire from 600 degrees to 700 degrees at the cooking grate! That’s a very impressive boost in heat output, that puts the searing/grilling performance of that pellet grill on par with any typical gas grill. Also bear in mind that 700 temperature output was achieved after running the Weber for just 20 minutes!
Now, you shouldn’t necessarily expect a 100-degree boost in temperature on every pellet grill, as the Weber SmokeFire pellet grills with standard hardwood pellets are already one of the best for high-temperature grilling. However, even on other pellet grills, I would expect a 50 to 100-degree boost in maximum temperature output.
Brands Of Charcoal Pellets
Below I’ve put together details on all the brands of charcoal pellets I’m currently aware of and whether they are made from 100% charcoal or if they are a charcoal and hardwood blend.
Camp Chef Charwood Blended Pellets
A manufacturer of SmokePro and Woodwind pellet grills, Camp Chef have been a staple of mid-range to premium pellet grills/smokers for many years now. To go alongside their existing range of hardwood blended pellets they now have two additional flavours, Charwood Hickory and Charwood Cherry pellets.
These Camp Chef Chardwood pellet flavours are a charcoal and hardwood blend which you can tell by the look of the pellets being of a grey appearance as opposed to the black appearance of 100% charcoal pellets. Camp Chef state their pellets are a ‘proprietary blend‘, therefore they do not provide details on the charcoal to hardwood ratio of their pellets.
- Pellet Flavours: Hickory & Cherry Chardwood Pellets (Charcoal/Hardwood blend)
- Bag Size: 20lbs
- Typical Price: $16
- Availability: CampChef.com
Louisiana Grills Charcoal Blended Pellets
A premium brand of pellet grills/smokers from Danson LLC who also owns the Pit Boss brand. The Louisiana Grills charcoal pellets are stated on the bag to be a charcoal blend, however, specifics are not provided on the ratio of charcoal to hardwood.
- Pellet Flavours: Charcoal Blend (Charcoal and Hardwood mixture)
- Bag Size: 40 lbs
- Typical Price: $29
- Availability: Louisiana-Grills.com
Pit Boss Charcoal Blended Pellets
The Pit Boss brand is a subsidiary of Danson LLC just like Lousiana Grills. Therefore, its highly likely the Pit Boss charcoal/hardwood blended pellets are the same as the Louisiana Grills pellets above. Strangely, there is currently no reference to these pellets on the Pit Boss website.
Currently, the only place online I can find these Pit Boss charcoal pellets is at Walmart. While I suspect they are produced at the same plant as the Louisiana Grills charcoal pellets which come in a 40lb bag these Pit Boss charcoal pellets come in a 20lb bag and are currently priced under $10.
- Pellet Flavours: Charcoal Blend (Charcoal and Hardwood mixture)
- Bag Size: 20 lbs
- Typical Price: $9
- Availability: Walmart.com
Royal Oak 100% Charcoal Pellets
Founded in 1953 Royal Oak is the largest producer in the US of natural lump charcoal. Therefore, it makes sense that Royal Oak has been the first to produce 100% charcoal pellets. These 100% charcoal pellets have special attributes that set them apart from standard hardwood BBQ pellets, or charcoal/hardwood blended pellets.
Not only will these 100% charcoal pellets produce more smoke flavour, they will produce more heat for grilling/searing and they are also water-resistant! The higher heat output of these 100% charcoal pellets may also be well suited to cooking pizza with pellets where you want the pizza stone to be getting up to very high temperatures for a nice crust. 100% charcoal pellets in any pellet grill will provide more functionality and eliminate the chance of an auger block due to swelling pellets.
- Pellet Flavours: 100% Oak Charcoal
- Bag Size: 20lbs
- Typical Price: $19
- Availability: HomeDepot.com (more options coming soon)
Conclusions On The Best Charcoal Pellets
Currently, Royal Oak are the only brand I’m aware of 100% charcoal pellets. While they are the most expensive option compared to the other charcoal/hardwood blended pellets above, only the Royal Oak pellets are water-resistant and will provide a significant boost in heat output. Does that mean I now would only ever recommend using Royal Oak 100% charcoal pellets in any pellet grill/smoker? Not at all.
You see, there is such a wide range of hardwood BBQ pellet flavours, to restrict yourself to just a charcoal flavour profile I think would be a mistake when it comes to pellet smoking. However, when it comes to grilling/searing I think the Royal Oak 100% charcoal pellets are a no brainer due to their higher heat output. Therefore, I’m expecting to see more brands come out with 100% charcoal pellets relatively soon.
That’s it! I hope you found my article above on charcoal pellets and their benefits/differences interesting and useful. If you would like to learn more its worth checking out my Wood Pellet Grill/Smoker Guide or the links to more of my articles below. Enjoy 🙂
Back in 2007 when I first become aware of pellet grills and smokers the only brand I was really aware of was Traeger. Traeger is really where this whole concept of cooking with pellets started in the 1980s. It was a ‘slow burner’ (pardon the pun) but since the 2010s is really when pellet grills and smokers started to get mainstream awareness, discussed alongside gas and charcoal grills. There are now over 30 pellet grill/smoker brands that I’m aware of, and the link above goes to my A to Z list of brands article.
Now, you may already be aware of a few of the other brands such as Pit Boss, Camp Chef, Z Grills and I’m sure you are aware of Weber, though you may not have known they have entered the pellet grill game. However, they are now many, many more brands to look into. Some may be what are commonly referred to as ‘Traeger clones’, but many others are offering their own unique designs and features.
A pellet grill/smoker is only as good as the BBQ pellets you put into it. The type/quality of the BBQ wood pellets you use will impact temperature performance and smoke flavour. There are many pellet flavours including Apple, Hickory, Mapel, Oak and Walnut to name but a few. However, some brands are hardwood blended pellets whereas others are 100% single wood species.
In this article, I provide details on over 20 brands of BBQ wood pellets, their range of flavours, whether they are 100% single wood species or hardwood blended pellets, their typical price and where they are available. I also provide tips on how to get the best deal when buying BBQ wood pellets and how to test pellet quality. Finally, I discuss the new kid on the block, charcoal pellets and their special attributes compared to all other hardwood BBQ pellets.