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Traeger Wood Pellet Grills vs Weber Charcoal Grills

Tam Nguyen  |  June 19, 2019  |  3 Min. Read

Weber  |  BBQ Grills  |  Traeger

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Editor's Note: There are many new grills. It's easy to buy the wrong grill, especially if you believe the marketing. You have to understand your cooking style so you can choose the best grill for you. In this article, we will be comparing two popular grills types - pellet and charcoal.

Unlike most of our comparisons, you will most likely like one or the other because they operate and grill so differently.

Framingham Grill Display

Also, you will learn about the benefits of both charcoal and pellet grills, their key differences, and their shortcomings.

First, let's take a look at the advantages of charcoal and pellet grills.

Charcoal Grills

Charcoal Briquettes in a Weber

A charcoal grill will give you a smokey flavor and better texture than a conventional gas grill. It also sears and cooks quickly.

Pure charcoal grills are easy to set up and transport. All you need is a bag of charcoal and a lighter.

This is an excellent option for portable grilling at the park or at tailgate parties. The grill can be ready for cooking in as quickly as 15 minutes when all the charcoal lights.

Adjusting where you lay the charcoal will enable you to cook different foods. If you're looking to sear hotdogs and hamburgers fast, pool the charcoal mostly in the center.

This will create a full area in the middle to cook and lower the temperature around the rim to keep your cooked food warm before serving.

Are you looking to roast a chicken or a big cut of meat? Place the charcoal to the sides of your grilling area for indirect heat cooking to avoid burning the outside of the food too quickly.

Your best flavors will come from your meat's fats that drip onto the hot charcoal, vaporize, and come back up to infuse flavor into the meat. There are adjustable vents to help control the rate at which the charcoal burns.

Cleanup is relatively quick and easy. To dispose of your charcoal properly, always extinguish it and let it cool.

Weber-Vent

Weber Grill Vent

Pellet Grills

Grill Pellets

Pellet grills can infuse different flavors through the wood pellets powering the grill. It will cook more evenly and consistently than any other grill.

Pellet grills are electric powered, so they're not as portable as charcoal grills. What they're known for is control. You can set the temperature and walk away from a pellet grill.

how-it-works-traeger

Electric-Powered Pellet Grill 

Instead of worrying about controlling the gas or the amount of charcoal, you can simply fill the hopper consistently and let it cook.

This makes for a trendy smoking unit where it can take hours for ribs or a brisket to cook. The heat is also indirect for no flare-ups. So, what can't pellet grills cook?

Anything you plan to sear like a hamburger, steak, or pizza is not ideal because the temperature in a pellet grill tends to max out around 500 degrees.

You might have already made up your mind on which grill you like but let's look at a couple of popular models from Traeger and Weber.

Best Weber Charcoal Grills

Let's look at two popular brands; Traeger for the pellet grills and Weber for charcoal grills. Weber started about 80 years ago with the Kettle Charcoal grill but has quickly become the household name for grills.

They're known for their quality and now offer a variety of sizes and options in gas and charcoal. Even though gas grills dominate the lineup, the Kettle and Summit Charcoal grills are classic designs that will achieve your quick grilling needs.

Weber 14401001 – $165

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Features:

  • 363 sq. in. of cooking area
  • Porcelain-Enameled Lid and Bowl - helps protects against the elements for long-lasting use
  • Built-In Thermometer - Easy temperature to manage the cooking process
  • Lid Handle with Heat Shield - helps to open and close the lid without heavy duty gloves on
  • Ash Catcher - easily remove and dispose of ash or spent charcoal 
  • Air Vents - Swivels to regulate air and smoke

This is the original Kettle Charcoal grill that started it all. Unlike the first one made 80 years ago, the Premium unit added a porcelain-enameled bowl and lid, an ash catcher for a more natural cleanup, and a built-in thermometer. The simplicity of the grill is what makes it a favorite and true classic.

It's small enough to bring to the park or tailgate party while still offering enough cooking area to crank out burgers and hotdogs for a party.

Cooking a chicken or smoking ribs? It's as easy as changing how and where in the bowl you load the charcoal. This is a charcoal grill, so you do need to tend to the grill to control the heat and flare-ups.

The grill works, and it is inexpensive.

Weber 18501001 – $1,999

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Features:

  • 452 sq. in. of cooking area
  • Air Insulated Double Walled - Helps retain heat for consistent cooking
  • Diffuser Plate - creates indirect heat for slow cooking
  • Gasket Lid - Creates a heat-trapping seal to retain temperature
  • Gourmet BBQ System - an interchangeable system that adapts to cooking a variety of foods using the optional accessories like pizza, wok, griddle etc.
  • Snap-Jet Ignition System - Quickly start the grill using propane gas

The Summit Charcoal Grilling Center might initially look like a larger Kettle grill on a cart, but it's a different grill. You use charcoal for flavor, but there is also gas to quickly light the charcoal.

The unit is constructed with air insulated double walls to retain and control heat. This design is comparable to using ceramic but helps make the grill lighter to move.

This type of construction is essential for smoking because a single load of charcoal can retain heat for hours. The diffuser plate helps to prevent flare-ups and create an indirect heat environment for slow cooking.

What's great about this grill is the versatility you have with different types of cooking. It's excellent at slow cooking but also can sear with the adjustable grate.

Weber offers a lineup of accessories using the Gourmet BBQ System for you to reconfigure the grill for any grilling situation. This grill is easy and straightforward to use with charcoal while also being very versatile to different types of food and cooking methods.

The New Weber Summit Charcoal Grill [Video]

 

Best Traeger Wood Pellet Grills

Traeger started in the 1980s with the mission to find alternative grilling methods using wooden pellets. This helps to control the heat, prevent flare-ups, and any potential deposits getting onto the food like cooking with charcoal. Operating more like a smoker, you can also use different types of wood pellets to introduce aromas into your food.

Traeger TFB57PZB – $799

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Features:

  • 572 sq. in. of cooking area
  • Digital Pro Controller - control temperatures with 15 degrees
  • Pellet Hopper - 18 lbs capacity with easy to empty back door
  • Dual Temperature Probe - monitor internal temperatures without opening the lid
  • Easy Start-Up - One Button Electric Start

The smoker-style design creates a perfect environment for slow cooking with much capacity. You can fit up to 24 burgers at a time. Traeger grills have the Digital Controller with Advanced Grilling Logic to maintain temperatures.

You don't have to be in front of the grill tending to the flame or adjusting vents like other grills. This makes for an excellent slow cooker or smoker. You can also select a variety of different pellets like hickory or apple BBQ to infuse your food with different flavors and aromas.

Traeger TFB85WLB – $1,699

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Features:

  • WiFire - Enables you to customize a specific cooking cycle through an App
  • Double Wall - Insulated and maintains heat for precision cooking
  • Smoke Science - Convection system circulating the smoke to ensure all the food is infused with the flavor wood as well as shorten the cooking time by 20%
  • Adjustable grate - Moving the grate to different positions can offer smoke or sear cooking

Comparing to the Traeger model above this TFB01WLE ups the game with double wall commercial grade construction for better heat insulation.

It also has a better temperature control system that can be monitored and controlled by an app which gives you full control of the smoking process without continually going to the grill.

Think about smoking in the winter or not having to leave your guests to check on the grill. The cooking area is plenty for a big party. This model can cook up to 8 racks of food.

Should You Buy a Traeger Grill? [Video]

 

Traeger Wood Pellet Grills vs. Weber Charcoal Grills

These grills are both great options for the backyard but are very different.

Size

The Weber grills have a smaller cooking area compared to the Traeger grills, however, if you are grilling for yourself or a small family, both the Weber's above will do. The Summit Charcoal grill is the largest charcoal grill on the market.

If you're often entertaining, Traeger has a larger cooking area with its multiple racks.

Power

The Weber may not have as big of a cooking area as the Traeger, but since charcoal powers the Weber grill, it can reach high temperatures for searing and quick grilling.

If hot dogs and hamburgers are your main items, the Weber cooks faster.

The Traeger uses a controlled burning of wood pellets, so it's a lower heat. However, this makes for a great slow cooker or smoker.

It would be best if you considered portability when looking at these two brands. For instance, the Traeger requires an electrical outlet to power the hopper system. The Weber uses charcoal, which makes it very easy to grill almost anywhere you can haul the grill.

Which grill should you buy?

Choosing a grill depends on your cooking style.

Traeger is both loved and hated depending on the individual. You will love the ability to infuse your meat with almost any imaginable flavor.

You can also set the temperature and can cook for a small community on this grill - it's that big.

However, Traeger is not a grill. It cannot reach higher temperatures and cannot sear quickly. If you want that burger fast, then Traeger is not for you.

Charcoal adds a level of texture along with high heat. It's like a gas grill just not as precise. You do have to add charcoal and clean out the ash as well.

For smoking and low-temperature cooking, it's probably not your best choice. If you want to maintain temperature and walk away from your grill as well as infuse flavors, then a charcoal grill is not for you.

A pellet vs. a charcoal grill is a personal, not a universal, choice of which best fits your cooking style.

So, do you want to cook on a conventional grill or cook slower with more of an outside convection oven?

Additional Resources 

Get the Yale BBQ Grill Buying Guide with features, specs, and inside tips to all the brands. Over 560,000 people have already found answers in a Yale Guide.

view our bbq buying guide

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Tam Nguyen

Tam is an Appliance Sales Consultant at Yale Appliance + Lighting. In his spare time he enjoys watching and playing sports and spending time with his two children.

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