Charcoal Pellets Vs Wood Pellets – Which Suits You Best

Pellet grills are affordable, easy, and extremely convenient. But most of the time, a crucial backyard bbq flavor goes missing with traditional pellet grills. 

Like us, if you think the charcoal smoky flavor is inseparable from a great bbq experience, pellet grills running on wood leave a lot to be desired for you too.

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Charcoal pellets are to the rescue. It is a modern technological marvel that makes charcoal accessible to pellet grill users. This, however, brings forth a new point of conversation. Charcoal pellets vs wood pellets, which one should you opt for?

To know the answer to that and more, read on:

Charcoal Pellets Vs Wood Pellets – Why, Which, And How

Well, if charcoal pellets are all the craze right now, why would anyone even use wood pellets? Right? Wrong! It is not all great in the charcoal pellet world and each of the two contenders brings their own sets of strengths as well as downsides to the table. 

So it becomes even more crucial for a regular home cook to know the difference and make an educated choice while buying fuel for their pellet grill.

Why Charcoal Pellets and Which Is The Best Charcoal Pellets

These types of pellets are made from hardwood and depending on the wood type offer distinct aromas. This aroma is the main reason why anyone would even consider ditching old-school wood pellets. 

If you have ever tasted short ribs made from a charcoal grill, you will know why it is so different.

Regardless of cooking, grilling, baking, or smoking, charcoal grills give off this firey and mouthwatering sear and Maillard reaction that the difference is immediately obvious just by looks alone. Pellets made from charcoal were created to emulate this exact flavor profile.

For the most part, the pellet variation of charcoal manages the recreate the flavor. Food cooked using charcoal pellets as fuel inside a pellet grill is a lot closer to “authentic grilling” and the same just can not be said about pellet grills.

There are a couple of other notable benefits from going the charcoal pellet route and the first of them is the moisture resistance of charcoal pellets. 

As a pellet grill owner, you should know that wood pellets can not be effectively stored inside the grill for longer amounts of time as the augur gets jammed with old pellets. 

Charcoal pellets alleviate this issue as they are resistant to moisture penetration and some brands even go as far as to call their charcoal pellets water-resistant.

Finally, the last benefit you will get from charcoal pellets is that they will burn a lot hotter. 

Incredibly high temperatures on the grill will give you an amazing char and sear on the skin of whatever protein you are cooking and if you know your way around this heat, your bbq will taste very very unique.

Summing it up, these are the three reasons why you should pick charcoal pellets:

  • Moisture resistance
  • Authentic smoky bbq flavor
  • Higher achievable temperature

Now that you know why charcoal pellets, let’s see which charcoal pellets:

Hardwood Charcoal Pellets From Pit Boss

Pit Boss is a known name in the grilling world and their entry into the charcoal pellet world gets our seal of recommendation really easily. Here are the features of this product:

Right from the unboxing, you can easily tell that they are not your typical wood pellet. They look like charcoal, smell like charcoal and if you handle them with your bare hands, they will blacken your skin, just like charcoal!!

Top Features

  • All Natural
  • Affordable
  • Low ash content
  • Fully Hardwood Blend
  • Maple, Cherry, and Hickory Blend

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On a more important note, these pellets are very versatile but are recommended for cooking chicken, beef, and veggies. 

You should not cook bread, fish, or other seafood with these. These get really really hot and also burns very clean. No ash or dust to worry about at all.

As for flavor, my god were we impressed. The end product from this fuel was practically indistinguishable and even our neighbors were asking us about “the new charcoal grill we got”. It gave the perfect smoke rings when we tried it in smoking a rack of ribs as well.

One thing we immediately noticed after opening the package was that there is almost no dust content. Which was great as in pellet bags dust are no good and the more usable pellets you get the better. 

The notable omission with this product is that Pit Boss does not advertise any sort of moisture resistivity at all.

Royal Oak Charcoal Pellets

The final charcoal pellet for today comes from Royal Oak and even though Royal Oak does not have the best reputation, this product stands on its own two legs (metaphorical) and offers amazing water resistance.

The most coal-like quality of this product is the burning temperature. Let me tell you, it gets searingly hot. Hotter than any wood pellet can get and that produces some amazing searing experience.

Top Features

  • Charcoal Flavor 
  • Fully water-resistant
  • Neutral Smoke Flavor
  • Burns at a very high temperature
  • Made from real hardwood charcoal

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The flavor was also very mild and neutral but some people actually prefer that to distinct flavor notes as neutral means it can easily be paired with more produces and have their natural palate intact.

However, the headlining feature has to be water-resistant. Yeah, sure some other brands offer moisture resistance but this is unlike any we have ever seen. 

We even went so far as to put a handful of pellets into a bucket of water and have them come out fresh and ready to burnt. 

How this is achieved we have no clue but we can guarantee that this fuel for your pellet grill can easily withstand some rain.

MacLean’s Full-flavored Charcoal Pellets 

Now here’s a brand of charcoal pellet that you can even cook your seafood on. MacLean might not be a brand as well known as Pit Boss but their Charcoal flavored pellets are almost as good if not better.

Made without any artificial smoke or other flavors, MacLean’s comes in at second because the smoky flavor for which we are doing this in the first place was not as intense or authentic as the Pit Boss, but what it loses in that aspect, it makes up in other places.

Top Features

  • Maple flavor
  • Long-lasting
  • Fully natural
  • Made from Authentic Charcoal
  • Compatible with all pellet grills

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First of all, the maple-only flavor makes it so that you can grill seafood on it and not all charcoal pellets can say that. 

Not to say that you can not physically grill fish with the pit boss pellet but the much more neutral flavor of maple covers a lot more ground is not clashing with the flavors of the sea.

This product is a bit more expensive based on the competition but still does not advertise water/moisture resistance. Burning is clean and hot as usual as expected from charcoal pellets so the Maclean’s Charcoal pellets still get one thumb up.

Why Wood Pellets And Which Is The Best Wood Pellets

As great as charcoal pellets are, wood pellets still hold a valuable percentage of the market and that is because they too have their own sets of unique quality that you can not really get from charcoal. 

The key among these qualities is flavor. As you know, wood pellets come in various different flavors and blends from apple to maple to cherry to a thousand others in between and all of these palates work well with certain types of protein. 

So the obvious advantage of the wood pellets is that you get a lot of options.

Cook time is another important factor. Charcoal pellets get a lot hotter, yes, but to achieve that temperature it needs a longer burning time.

The offset is not half an hour either, if you plan to use charcoal pellets you need a longer prep time as well as keep more time allotted for the entire process.

And finally, the third reason you might want to go with wood pellets is that not all pellet grills can take advantage of charcoal pellets. 

Pellet grills are made to work with wood pellets primarily and thus have a lot of systems in place regarding airflow and temperature regulation. 

Unless you own a really fancy grill you might not see the higher temperature advantage of a charcoal grill. So you might as well use wood pellets. 

Briefly, here are the main reasons you would want to go with wood pellets:

  • Flavor variety
  • Shorter cook and prep time
  • You can store them for a long time using a wood pellet storage container
  • Your grill might not be equipped to take advantage of charcoal pellets

So what are the best wood pellets to use then? Here are our recommendations:

Signature Blend All-Natural Pellets By Traeger

Traeger is the ghost of the bbq grill world and we just can’t seem to avoid them. Not like we want to either as they make some of the best bbq equipment on the face of the earth. From their range of wood pellets, the signature blend is our favorite.

The signature blend is made from hickory, maple, and cherry hardwood. This combination of hardwood is incredibly popular among enthusiasts and it is for good reasons. 

The flavors here complement each other so well that you can get the best notes of all three and none of the bad parts.

Top Features 

  • Fully natural
  • Premium quality
  • No binders added 
  • Clean burn with low ash content
  • Traeger’s signature blend of wood

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As a side-effect of this signature blend, these wood pellets are prepared to cook anything and everything. 

Wild game, veggies, seafood, even bread, you name it the signature blend wood pellets from Traeger can do a fine job of it. 

Traeger even makes spice rubs that complement their wood pellets so that you can get a complete experience from grill to plate.

Overall, Traeger has decades of experience in grilling at its shows with their products. This is no different and hence it is our favorite wood pellet to use for any sort of smoking, grilling, or baking.

Bear Mountain Gourmet Blend BBQ Pellets

Another signature blend from another BBQ heavyweight. While Bear Mountain has tons of other wood pellets to offer, their gourmet blend is our favorite for its versatility.

The classic combination of wood pellets is hickory, maple, and cherry. Bear Mountain decided that these three flavors are a bit too out there and they needed balancing. And according to them, oak is the perfect remedy. So on top of the trio, these pellets also have Oaks. 

Now if that makes the flavor better or worse that is up to you, but the taste is certainly unique and everyone should try it at least once.

Top Features

  • All-natural
  • Low moisture content
  • Wide grill compatibility
  • Unique “gourmet” blend
  • No flavorings or fillers added

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Flavors aside, this product also burns really really well. It has a really low moisture content that makes the pellets burn really clean with a great amount of smoke that is perfect for smoking, grilling, and all sorts of BBQ-ing. 

While it is recommended for all types of produce except baking or bread, we tried it and found the results to be really really good. So the versatility is top-notch.

Overall the uniqueness of the flavor and the ease of use are what drew us to these brands of wood pellets from Bear Mountain and we hope you try it too!!

Rec Tec Premium Quality BBQ Pellets

As the other two of our wood pellets delve into more or less similar flavors, we thought why not pick something different for the final pick. And after rigorous trial and error, we landed on these premium quality wood pellets from Rec-Tec.

Top Features

  • All-natural
  • Consistent quality
  • Guaranteed uniformity 
  • A unique blend of woods
  • No additives, fillers, or flavoring

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Cutting right to the chase, the wood blend here are white oak, red oak, and hickory. This is not a combination that would come straight to our mind but upon usage, it really does make sense. 

The hickory here adds a really robust smoky flavor while the two different oaks balance it out and smoothen the jagged edges of all that smoke. 

This mixture gives an amazing edge to meat and poultry but you should try baking or seafood at your own risk. 

The pellet uniformity proves great attention to detail and it gives you even temperature coverage while reducing the amount of ash or sawdust. 

Rec Tec also stands behind their product really well, with examples of customers having a full bag replaced due to minor issues.

Overall, if you are looking for something other than the regular “holy-trinity” blend, the Rec-Tec Premium Quality Wood Pellets were made just for you.

Wood Pellets Or Charcoal Pellets – Which is The Best Pellets for Smoking & Grilling

So both wood and charcoal pellets have their own sets of pros and cons. How do you go on about picking the right one for you? 

Well, we think that depends on the pellet grill you have. If your grill can have proper air circulation that lets it get hot enough, charcoal pellets definitely reign supreme.

The advantages offered by wood pellets are very real, don’t get us wrong, but as someone who correlated the smell of burning coal to bbq, nothing in the wood pellet market can not quite touch the authenticity of the newer charcoal pellets offer. 

Yes, it does take longer to heat up and requires more attention while cooking, but the end result is totally worth it as bbq is already a time-consuming experience. So what is in a couple of hours more for a better-tasting result?

Conclusion 

The winner of charcoal pellets vs wood pellets is pretty easy to decide after all. If you have the right equipment, charcoal pellets all day long. However, that is not to say we are saying wood pellets are bad. They absolutely are not and you can and will get fantastic results by using some good quality wood pellets. We just prefer charcoal. Maybe try out both to see if you feel any different!!

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