As you will have guessed by the fact my website is called ‘PelHeat’ I bat for the pellet team when it comes to BBQ grills and smokers. Then again, if you have ever read some of my other posts you will know that doesn’t mean I’ll avoid talking about the potential downsides of pellet grills/smokers. Just check out my pellet vs kamado grill or pellet vs gas grills posts as examples. On the topic of the downsides of pellet grills, I’ve previously been asked ‘why are pellet grills so expensive?‘ Well, ‘expensive’ is obviously subjective, and depends on how much you have to spend on a grill/smoker. But as I’ve stated in the past I accept that on average you have to spend more on a pellet grill than your typical charcoal/gas grill, but why is that? Well, let’s discuss that, along with their benefits.
While a pellet grill is more expensive on average than a typical charcoal or gas grill, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a range of products to meet a wide range of budgets. I’ve previously written posts on the best pellet grills/smokers under $500, under $1,000 and under $2,000, so feel free to check those out. But let’s get on with the actual topic of this article, why are pellet grills/smokers more expensive than their other BBQ siblings? Well, it mainly comes down to the fact there is simply more going on in a pellet grill/smoker.
Introduction To Why Pellet Grills/Smokers Are Typically More Expensive Than Other BBQs
I generally feel if someone is asking the question of why are pellet grills/smoker more expensive than other types of BBQ they are not aware of how a pellet grill actually works. I have a separate article which goes into detail on this (link the sentence above), but its also important to note that not all pellet grills work in exactly the same way, which does influence their cost. But in general, all pellet grills/smokers have a hopper, motorised feed auger, an induction fan, hot rod igniter and electronic control panel. Different pellet grills use different types of these components, but they are always present. Hence, these are components you won’t find in a gas grill/charcoal grill, therefore the additional cost of these components is the main reason pellet grills are more expensive.
With a gas grill its simply a case of some gas pipes to take the gas from the bottle to the burners, knobs to adjust the flow of gas and a spark ignitor. With a charcoal grill its even simpler, just a cooking chamber with some cooking grates and adjustable vents to control airflow. No motorised feed augers, no fans or digital control panels. Therefore, gas/charcoal grills do not require a source of electricity either unlike a pellet grill. At this point, you may be thinking, so pellet grills have more complicated components and are more expensive, so what is their key benefit? Its convenience (set and forget) and consistency. Hence, a pellet grill/smoker will save you time and can produce consistent results each time without you having to babysit the cooking process.
How Much Do You Value Your Time?
I’m a practical person, I enjoy building/creating and working on various projects. However, now more than ever, time is at a premium. Therefore, while many people would like to spend lazy weekends in the backyard perfecting a cook on a charcoal/gas grill, they find it hard to find the time. Therefore does that mean you shouldn’t be able to enjoy great tasting food?! Of course not, hence the appeal of pellet grills and smokers. With a wood pellet grill/smoker even with very limited time available, you can still enjoy great tasting food cooked with real wood and cooked to perfection.
I discuss in my benefits of BBQ smokers article, how you are able to produce some of the best food you will ever taste in your backyard. And with a pellet grill/smoker its going to do most of the work for you. Hence, while a pellet grill/smoker does cost more on average it will free up more of your time, which most of us value pretty highly. But depending on the model you buy some pellet grills/smokers are smarter than others. Hence, certain models with certain features can free up even more of your time.
Budget vs Premium Wood Pellet Grills/Smokers
I believe when most people are judging pellet grills and smokers to be ‘expensive’ they are looking at the price of more premium models. There are many budget-priced pellet grills which can do a very respectable job and are to a certain degree ‘set and forget’. However, you will often find that more premium models have features which make them ‘smarter’. Hence, you can spend even less time monitoring the cook. I’ve discussed this topic recently in my best pellet grills for the money article, but I’ll just briefly discuss these points below to help you appreciate why an ‘expensive’ pellet grill could save you more of your time. What I’m referring to are PID temperature controllers and WiFi functionality.
I go into detail on the what PID controllers are the additional value they provide in my article linked above. The main point being they are a type of ‘smarter’ control panel. Earlier generations of pellet grills without PID controllers regulated temperature based on time. They would turn the pellet feed auger motor on and off for a certain amount of time to achieve and regulate a certain set temperature. It works ‘ok’, however, throw in some changing weather conditions and a sudden cold breeze and those previous generation pellet grills cannot adapt. Hence the temperature inside the grill will drop below the set temperature. A PID controller, on the other hand, is making constant adjustments to the pellet feed rate/air rate to maintain a set temperature. Therefore it will adapt to ambient weather changes which can easily occur if you’re doing a long ‘low and slow’ cook.
A pellet grill/smoker with WiFi functionality such as Traeger WiFire once properly setup can be controlled via your phone from anywhere with a WiFi/Celluar connection. You can monitor the cook, adjust the temperature, check the fuel level in some cases (Traeger pellet sensor), check the internal temperature of the meat when using a probe and turn off the grill. Some people see WiFi on a grill as a marketing gimmick. However, if you have very limited time to stand by your grill and monitor the cook. I personally don’t think that’s the case at all. Hence, while its a feature that adds cost, it can free up more of your time.
Are Pellet Grills/Smokers More Expensive To Run?
So above I’ve discussed while wood pellet grills/smokers on average may be more expensive to purchase they can potentially free up more of your time which does hold value to many people in this busy modern world. But what about running costs, are pellet grills/smokers not only more expensive to buy but also run? Well, I may be able to give you a pleasant surprise with this one, because they can actually cost less to run than charcoal, gas and even electric smokers. You read more about this in my post on wood pellet grill/smoker usage.
If we are talking about slow smoking as a cooking method, the main reason anyone would want to purchase a pellet grill/smoker in the first place when you factor in the cost of the wood for gas/electric smokers purpose-made pellet smokers actually work out as the cheapest to run. Now, as I discuss in that post linked above, when it comes to high-temperature grilling I suspect the cost difference per cook between a pellet grill and gas grill is less apparent. That’s potentially part of the reason for a growth in the appeal of combo pellet/gas grills.
Conclusions On Pellet Grills Being Expensive
So in conclusion, yes on average you will typically have to pay more for a pellet grill/smoker over your average charcoal or gas grill. However, as I also discussed above, the benefits that a pellet cooker can offer to reduce your time managing the cook has value. Granted, if you have lots of spare time available, then that benefit may not be so significant. Though I also think in general we all appear to be living busier and busier lives. Its also worth noting as discussed above, that while a pellet cooker may cost more to purchase upfront its running costs can actually be lower than other BBQ types. Therefore, over the life of the grill, you need to consider the total cost of investment, as well as the fact a pellet cooker will provide you with the most consistently cooked food with few mistakes. Good brisket is not cheap!
That’s it! Thanks for reading, if the additional expense of a pellet grill/smoker hasn’t put you off please check out my Wood Pellet Grill/Smoker Guide. There I’ve answer many other common questions as well as discussing the features and capabilities of pretty much all of the pellet grills/smokers on the market today. 🙂