Grilling with Wood vs. Charcoal

Asking someone whether they prefer grilling with wood or charcoal is like asking whether they prefer bacon or ribs. Many folks will have a preference, but both choices ultimately come from the same source! And both options will give you a delicious meal — they’ll just get you there in different ways. 

The right choice of grilling fuel is the one that leaves you and your guests most satisfied! In this guide, we’re going to talk about how to make your decision on grilling with wood vs. charcoal. 

chicken breasts cooking on a grill

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Grilling with Wood

Some BBQ chefs out there still grill over whole cooking wood, or over wood chips. These methods can definitely be fun if you’re an experienced pitmaster with some time to experiment and a good grasp of fire safety! But these styles of wood cooking are messy, labor-intensive and overall not practical for a backyard or tailgate BBQ chef. 

For most pitmasters, pellet grills offer the best way to enjoy wood-fired flavor. A pellet grill burns tiny, compressed pellets of hardwoods like hickory and mesquite. The pitmaster sets the temperature on the grill, which automatically burns pellets at a steady rate.

This creates an even and consistent heat that’s versatile enough to cook almost anything, although it’s especially good for smoking! Pellet grills like the Grilla Silverbac have found a home with pitmasters who want amazing flavor and consistent results on anything they grill. 

Grilling with Charcoal

Charcoal is wood that’s been burned in a charcoal kiln to deprive it of oxygen while it’s burning. After the wood is left to smolder for hours, the remaining product is pure carbon that lights and burns easily. 

There’s a reason that generations of pitmasters have used charcoal. It’s relatively affordable, it makes delicious BBQ and it’s fun to grill with! Lately, ceramic-lined charcoal grills called kamado grills have seen a huge surge in popularity. These grills, like the Grilla Grills Kong, are awesome for both grilling and smoking. 

Many people only know charcoal in the form of briquettes. However, there’s a better choice: natural lump charcoal! This unprocessed charcoal burns hotter, leaves far less ash behind and is much better for cooking in ceramic grills like the Kong.

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a slab of beef with grilla grills dry rub and wood pelletsGrilling with Wood vs. Charcoal: Which Is Right for You?

Temperature Consistency

Consistent temperatures are everything in BBQ, and wood pellet grills excel at keeping just the right heat. Enter your ideal cooking temperature and your pellet grill will automatically burn pellets at the right rate to maintain it. 

Pellet grills are especially good for low-and-slow smoking, and their built-in fans circulate hot air for convection cooking throughout the grill. Grilla Grills even contain our exclusive TempTamer feature, which reduces the heat lost when opening the lid of the grill. 

Maintaining the right temperature on a charcoal grill takes more skill and more work. However, the ceramic lining on a kamado grill helps a lot! It regulates heat and distributes it evenly throughout the grill, which makes kamado grills star performers at a wide range of temps from smoking to searing. It just takes a bit more time and effort to learn how to dial that temperature in the way you like!

Learning Curve

Grilling up cookout staples like burgers and hot dogs is easy on a charcoal grill. When it comes to more advanced techniques like smoking, charcoal grills do have a bit of a learning curve. But once you’ve mastered techniques like lighting a kamado grill, the versatility of charcoal means the world is your oyster. (Or, in this case, your brisket.) 

The first time you use a wood pellet grill, you’ll need to follow the instructions carefully. (Make sure to prime your pellet grill first!) Use our Grilla Grills virtual toolbox kits to get acquainted with your new grill in depth. Once you know the basics, you’ll be off and running on a huge variety of awesome pellet grill recipes


Both wood and charcoal produce awesome BBQ that’s full of rich and delicious flavors. However, both also require paying attention to the quality of the fuel you’re using to make sure you’re getting the taste you want.

Commercial briquettes are often packed with additives to make them burn faster, potentially including nasty ingredients like lighter fluid. These can affect the taste of your food, which is another reason to use natural lump charcoal! For pellet grills, make sure you’re buying food-grade wood pellets rather than heating pellets, which often have their own additives. 

Wood pellets also offer a wider range of options in terms of smoke flavors. That’s because using different woods can dramatically change the flavor of your BBQ! Grilla Grills wood pellets come in a huge variety of premium woods, from hickory to mesquite to apple. Read our guide to choosing wood pellets to help you decide, and don’t forget our Competition Blend pellets when you need a flavor that tastes great on anything!


Most people associate charcoal grilling with cleaning up a huge pile of ash afterward, and that’s true if you use briquettes. Lump charcoal, on the other hand, actually produces much less ash! A kamado grill that burns high quality lump charcoal is fast and easy to clean up. Get the Kick Ash Basket accessory and it gets even easier! 

Pellet grills will occasionally require basic cleaning tasks like dumping the grease can and emptying ash from the fire pot. Fortunately, the efficient design of pellet grills like the Grilla Silverbac makes these tasks fast and easy. Read our guide to cleaning a pellet grill for more tips and tricks that will keep your grill sterling. 

a couple of steaks cooking on a grill pan

In the end, your grilling know-how will  make more of a difference thanwhether you’re grilling with wood or charcoal! Make sure to follow our Grilla Grills blog for all kinds of useful tips, like how to season your grill

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