Can a pellet grill replace a smoker? Generally, yes. A pellet grill smoker uses pellets like a traditional smoker; its temperature can be set and internally maintained more conveniently. But, the traditional smoker produces a more intense smoky flavour.

With the rise in popularity of pellet grill smokers, the debate of whether convenience and near smokiness are enough to sway people to opt for pellet grills. Elmira Stove Works in London, ON, a premier retailer of upscale gas and wood fireplaces, outdoor grills, and ovens, explores both sides of this smoky divide and looks at other pros and cons of pellet grill smokers.

Pellet grill smoker vs a traditional smoker 

Both use compressed wood pellets as their fuel source, which are usually made from a blend of hardwoods; mesquite, hickory, apple, cherry, pecan, oak, and even signature blends. Pellet grills and traditional smokers use natural wood pellets, the choice of which plays a pivotal role in the final taste of the food. 

Traditional smokers: 

These classic smoking devices have been used for generations, and the process is truly an art form. 

  • Each type of wood – hickory, mesquite, applewood, or oak – imparts its unique flavour profile onto the meat, adding depth and complexity to the dish. 
  • For aficionados of the traditional method, there’s no substitute for the authenticity of the cooking experience.
  • Traditionalists have long argued that nothing can beat the flavour of food cooked by a traditional wood smoker when it comes to barbecuing and smoking meat.


Pellet grill smokers: 

These have swiftly gained popularity among barbecue enthusiasts due to their convenience and ease of use. 

  • Like a traditional wood smoker, a pellet grill uses many different natural wood pellets to impart flavour during barbequing.  
  • The pellets are fed into the grill’s firepot, automatically igniting and regulated by a digital controller, allowing precise temperature control. 
  • This set-it-and-forget-it approach has made pellet grills extremely popular, particularly among busy cooks who still crave that smoky flavour.


Can a pellet grill replace a smoker?

Critics of pellet grill smokers argue that using wood pellets lacks the authenticity of traditional wood smokers and that pellet grills have a milder smoky flavour. 

  • While this may be true to some extent, it’s crucial to recognize the advantages that pellet grills bring to the table. 
  • The precise temperature control and consistent heat distribution in pellet grills eliminate the guesswork and constant monitoring associated with traditional smokers.
  • This means that even novice grillmasters can achieve delicious smoked and grilled dishes.


Main advantages and disadvantages of a pellet grill smoker:

Pros of pellet grill smokers:

Consistent Temperature Control: Electronic controls and fans regulate the flow of pellets and maintain a consistent cooking temperature. This feature allows for precise cooking, making consistent and predictable results easier.

Versatility: Pellet grills can be used for various cooking methods, such as grilling, smoking, roasting, baking, and braising. They offer a wide temperature range, allowing you to cook different types of food effectively.

Flavour ability: Wood pellets are available in the same flavours, and some pellet smoker manufacturers boast custom signature flavours: oak, cherry, hickory, apple, pecan, and signature blends. Each kind of pellet imparts a unique smoky flavour to the food, enhancing the overall taste of grilled dishes.

Convenient to Use: Pellet grills typically have automated features like electronic ignition and temperature control. Once set up, they require minimal supervision, allowing you to focus on other tasks while cooking.

Efficient Fuel Consumption: Pellet grills are known for their fuel efficiency. The pellets burn cleanly and generate consistent heat, reducing the amount of fuel needed for cooking compared to traditional charcoal or wood smokers.


Cons of pellet grill smokers:

Higher Initial Cost: Pellet grills are more expensive than traditional charcoal or gas grills. Additionally, ongoing costs include purchasing wood pellets, which can be relatively more expensive than other fuel sources.

Power Source Dependency: Pellet grills require electricity to operate the fans and control the temperature. If you experience a power outage during cooking, it could disrupt your cooking process.

Limited Portability: Some pellet grills can be heavy and bulky, limiting their portability. If you plan to take your grill on camping trips or tailgating, you’ll need to consider the weight and size of the model.

Ash Cleanup: While pellet grills are efficient in burning pellets, they produce ash as a byproduct. Depending on the grill model, cleaning the ash may require effort, though many modern designs include ash management systems to ease the process.

Less Intense Smoky Flavour: While the smoky flavour is definitely apparent, some barbecue purists may argue that pellet grills produce a milder smoky flavour than traditional charcoal or wood smokers.


In summary, pellet grills offer a great combination of convenience, versatility, and flavour. However, they might not be ideal for those on a tight budget or looking for a grill without electricity. As with any cooking appliance, weighing these pros and cons against your specific needs and preferences before making a purchase is essential.

At Elmira Stoveworks, we firmly believe that choosing between a pellet grill smoker and a wood smoker ultimately depends on personal preference and individual cooking needs. 


If you love the art of tending to a fire and enjoy the process of smoking as much as the end result, a traditional wood smoker might be the perfect fit for you. The tactile experience of building and managing the fire adds a sense of adventure and satisfaction to the cooking process.


On the other hand, if you’re a busy individual who enjoys the convenience of technology and values consistency in your cooking, a pellet grill smoker could be your ideal match. Pellet grills allow you to multitask, spending more time with friends and family while your grill takes care of the cooking. With the added benefit of producing less ash and minimal cleanup, pellet grills can be a game-changer for those with a busy lifestyle.


When used correctly, both pellet grill and wood smokers can produce mouthwatering, smoky flavours. While traditionalists might argue that wood smokers offer the purest form of smokiness, the debate over taste essentially boils down to individual taste preferences. It’s essential to remember that each style has its merits, and the love and passion for outdoor cooking bring out the best flavours in any dish.


This post was written by Kyle Watters

July 31, 2023