I’ve previously written about pellet vs kamado grills, however, that article was discussing the pros and cons of conventional steel pellet grills against ceramic kamado grills burning lump charcoal. What if the two technologies were combined? Well, Kamado Joe one of the most popular brands when it comes to ceramic kamado cookers already offer the Pellet Joe which I’ve previously written about and I’m quite impressed with. The question is then will more ceramic pellet grills follow and become the next ‘big thing’ and importantly what are the specific pros and cons of ceramic pellet grills? Let’s get into this!
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Introduction To Ceramic Pellet Grills
So first I should explain what a ceramic pellet grill is. Well, they are essentially very similar to ceramic charcoal BBQ’s such as those provided by Kamado Joe and Big Green Egg. The body of the cooking chamber and the lid is made from a clay casting that is sprayed with a glazing solution before going into a kiln.
After going through the high heat of the kiln (up to 1300 degrees celsius) the result is a very thick and hard cooking chamber and lid that has a very hard wearing glazed outer finish. This material has several pros but also some cons as we’ll discuss below.
Where typical kamado ceramic grills are designed to cook with lump charcoal the type of ceramic grills we’re discussing here have the automated components of a pellet hopper, auger, combustion fan and control panel to control the cooking process for you.
The Benefits of Ceramic Pellet Grills
First off, let’s discuss why more ceramic pellet grills may be coming onto the market soon and their specific advantages. Well, it really comes down to the key benefit of heat retention.
The sidewall of a ceramic cooking chamber and lid is typically around an inch thick. What that provides is a well-insulated construction, hence, its able to keep more of the heat from the pellet fire inside the cooking chamber for longer.
That provides a couple of benefits, first reduced pellet consumption, as less heat is lost a ceramic pellet grill can get up to and hold the desired temperature using fewer pellets. So for instance, while ceramic pellet grills such as the Pellet Joe and Even Embers Pellet Egg have smaller pellet hoppers their run time is similar to standard steel pellet grills with pellet hoppers twice the size.
As a ceramic pellet grill can hold onto its heat better than a standard steel fabricated pellet grill it also means they can reach higher temperatures. For instance, the 600 degrees setting on the Pellet Joe and the 550 degrees setting on the Even Embers Pellet Egg are 50 to 100 degrees higher than many pellet grills on the market.
Hence, a ceramic pellet grill will be better suited to searing and grilling than many pellet grills. So in summary, a ceramic pellet grill can get up to higher temperatures, get to temp quicker and use fewer pellets than many steel fabricated pellet grills, what’s not to love!?
The Disadvantages of Ceramic Pellet Grills
I’m personally I big fan of ceramic BBQs and as a ‘pellet guy’ I’m also encouraged that we are now getting ceramic pellet grills coming onto the market. However, they do have some drawbacks/compromises that need to be discussed which means they are not ideal for everyone.
The first drawback is price, ceramic pellet grills are not going to be the cheapest on the market by any means. I’m probably never going to be covering a ceramic pellet grill in my best pellet grills for under $500 list for example.
For instance, the Pellet Joe comes in just under $2,000 and the Even Embers Pellet Egg comes in at just under $800. Now, as you will find by purely browsing this website there are many pellet grills that sell at those prices, and many for much more. However, its their price in relation to another drawback, the cooking area.
Due to the design fabricating a cast ceramic cooking chamber, the cooking area is always going to be limited. You’re not going to get multiple cooking racks on a ceramic pellet grill, you’ll get a second small rack if you’re lucky.
Hence, the Pellet Joe only has a cooking area of 254 sq.in and the Even Embers Pellet Egg provides a total cooking of 441 sq.in with a small secondary rack, the main grate is 304 sq.in. These are not considered large cooking areas for most pellet grills, especially at the price point of these ceramic pellet grills.
With a ceramic pellet grill, you also have to be aware of the damage that can be done by freezing temperatures. Its vital that water doesn’t get into the cooking chamber and pool in the bottom. If there is water in there during the winter months and it freezes it could crack the ceramic body.
The final disadvantage is weight, as established neither the Pellet Joe nor Pellet Egg is an especially large pellet grill/smoker in terms of cooking area. However, they are both above average in terms of weight, the Pellet Joe coming in at just over 200 lbs and the Pellet Egg at just under 200 lbs.
That weight means a couple of things, first moving these ceramic pellet grills around over uneven ground is not going to be easy. Second, assembling the pellet grill is definitely a job that needs to be done very carefully by at least two people. Third, expect to pay above-average delivery costs due to the weight of these pellet grills.
Conclusions On Ceramic Pellet Grills Being The Next Big Thing
I do think we will see more ceramic pellet grills coming onto the market, which may help to create more competition and lower prices. However, I think ceramic pellet grills are going to be just a small niche of pellet grills/smokers.
Rather like how Kamado grills which run on lump charcoal are a small niche of the charcoal grill market in general, with cheaper alternatives like the Weber Kettle dominating the market.
As discussed above, ceramic pellet grills have specific benefits, namely reduced pellet consumption and higher cooking temperatures. For instance, if you intend to cook a lot in the winter months but only small volumes of food a ceramic pellet grill/smoker could be ideal.
However, ceramic pellet BBQs do have their disadvantages. They are more expensive, heavy and provide a below average cooking area. Therefore, most people will likely be best suited by a steel pellet grill. However, where possible I always encourage a twin-wall insulated pellet grill when budgets allow to get some of the benefits of a ceramic BBQ.
That’s it! Thanks for reading, I hope you found my above comments interesting/useful. If you would like to explore the world of pellet grills and smokers in more detail please check out my Wood Pellet Grill Guide. 🙂
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.