Smoking is an admirable cooking method that lets you prepare delicious foods with unique smoky flavors, but it requires a suitable smoker to get the job done.
When it comes to choosing the perfect smoker, pellets and propane smokers are two of the most famous smokers with different capabilities and advantages.
Pellet smokers are better for those who prioritize smoky flavors, convenience, and versatility. Conversely, propane smokers are a better choice if you want a straightforward, portable, and budget-friendly smoking solution.
This article aims to provide a detailed comparison of pellet smokers vs propane smokers, covering all the essential aspects like cooking capacity, extra features, price, safety, and pros and cons.
Let’s move forward and see which is a better option for your cooking needs, a propane smoker or electric smoker.
Pellet Smoker vs Propane Smoker: Main Differences
Many noticeable differences exist between pellet smokers and propane smokers, including the fuel type, temperature range, food flavors, etc.
One of the significant distinctions between pellet and gas smokers is their fuel source.
Usually, a pellet smoker uses electricity as the power source and wood pellets as the fuel source, while propane gas or natural gas is the fuel source of propane grills and smokers.
Wood pellet smokers need to be plugged into an electric socket to operate. In contrast, propane smokers need a propane tank near the smoker that supplies gas to the burner.
Temperature control on both of these devices is different. For example, pellet smoker is comparatively advanced and come up with digital control panels to maintain and set the temperature.
Propane grills and smokers, on the other hand, need manual actions to regulate heat, and they provide control knobs that allow you to adjust the smoker’s temperature.
Pellet smokers outperform propane ones in the competition of temperature range because they can cook between 150 °F – 500 °F or even more.
While the heat range of propane gas smokers is around 150 °F – 350 °F. Some new gas smokers can reach a higher temperature of 450 °F.
Most importantly, if you look after convenience and ease of use inside a smoker, you will love using a pellet smoker, thanks to their advanced features, such as automated ignition and easy temperature control.
Propane gas smokers are also suitable for beginners because you don’t need to spend much time for ignition like charcoal grills. But they are less advanced than a pellet grill or smoker.
When it comes to money, the average price of a propane smoker is between $150 to $400, tending to be a budget-friendly option.
Due to the high-tech nature of pellet grills, they can cost you between $400 to $1000 or above.
These are the significant differences you will notice between pellet smokers vs gas smokers. However, you should thoroughly inspect them before deciding which suits your requirements.
How Does a Pellet Smoker Work?
Pellet smokers are famous because of their versatility and ease of use. They use dry wood pellets of different flavors as the fuel source to heat and smoke your food.
They mainly consist of a hopper, auger, firepot, circulation or convection fan, and cooking chamber.
The pellets are placed in a box called a hopper which is on the side of the smoker. When you plug in and press the turn-on button, the auger takes the required amount of wood pellets into the firepot, where an electric igniter starts burning wood pellets.
When pellets burn, they produce heat and smoke, which then circulates around the cooking chamber with the help of a circulation fan.
Inside the chamber are many cooking grates where you can place your food items for smoking or grilling through the heat and smoke produced by the pellets.
You get a digital control panel with these smokers that allow you to control the auger’s speed, adjust the temperature inside the smoker, and set the cooking time.
Interestingly, most pellet smokers and pellet grills provide Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity features that help you monitor your cooking sessions using your smartphone and tablets.
What do we like most in a pellet smoker?
Pellet smokers are known for their smooth and excellent smoking outcomes. So, the pros of pellet smokers are mentioned below for your assistance.
- Different smokey flavors: The wood pellets are available in various flavors, so you need to choose your favorite flavor, and pellet smokers will impart unique smoky flavors to your foods. You can also get a beautiful smoke ring from a pellet smoker.
- Automatic features: These smokers are easy to use and can be suitable for beginners thanks to their advanced and automated features like auto-ignition, easy heat control, app connectivity, etc.
- Easy cleanup: They burn pellets efficiently, which builds up less ash than charcoal. As a result, you get to clean your smoker quickly and easily. Moreover, they usually come with ash drawers that catch all the ash, and you can empty them quickly.
- Versatility: Pellet smokers have a broad temperature range of 150 °F to 500 °F, which allows you to cook food through different methods such as smoking, grilling, baking, roasting, etc.
What we don’t like?
Pellet smoker cons are mentioned below.
- Need electricity: Pellet smoker runs with electricity. You need an electric plug near your smoking device. It will reduce the portability feature of these smokers.
- A bit expensive: If we compare propane and pellet smokers, pellet ones are more expensive due to the most modern operational tools. But there are many budget-friendly pellet grills and smokers available that can offer a great smoking experience.
- Store in dry places: Wood pellets inside the smoker may turn into ash if exposed to moisture. Therefore, you need to place your smoker in a dry place to avoid this.
How Does a Propane Smoker Work – Overview
Like pellet grills and smokers, propane ones also have some sort of automated working, but they require a few manual steps to operate.
Firstly, they need a propane tank that is connected to the smoker and supplies the propane to its gas burner.
When you turn on the gas supply, it begins the firing process in the burner. Some smokers ignite automatically through an electric ignition system, while others may need to be lit manually using a lighter.
The heat coming from the burner goes into the cooking chamber and cooks the food you have placed on the grates. But, the heat that comes from the burner does not guarantee smoky flavors in your food.
Therefore, there are some propane smokers that come with a wood chips tray right above the burner, which can hold the wood chips and chunks.
When the burner produces fire, it heats the wood chips inside the tray, and they start to smolder and produce heat and smoke. The smoke produced by the chips helps you cook your meal with smoky flavors.
You usually get air vents or dampers to control the heat and smoke produced by the wood chunks or chips. Moreover, you can control the cooking temperature using knobs on the smoker’s control panel.
Lastly, most gas grills provide a water pan that you can place inside the cooking chamber to regulate the heat, keep the food moist, and maintain a consistent temperature.
What do we like most in propane smokers?
Have a look at the most prominent pellet smoker pros.
- Inexpensive: Compared to pellet smokers, they are affordable and a great option if you are on a budget. They cost less because they don’t have advanced or automated features.
- Portable: Propane smokers need a gas cylinder as fuel. So, you can take them anywhere. Camping and outdoor parties are easy to manage with these smokers.
- Easy to use: Propane smokers are easy to use because they have a simple working technique. Also, we consider them a great cooking appliance for newbies.
- Precise temperature control: You get knobs with these smokers that allow you to control the temperature easily and smoke your food to perfection.
What we don’t like?
Below, you will find some of the possible drawbacks of propane smokers.
- Limited smoky flavors: Although a propane grill or smoker can inject smoky flavors into your food, it won’t be as authentic as you get from a pellet grill or smoker. Also, it is the major difference between propane vs wood smoking.
- Insulating a propane smoker: Gas smokers provide poor insulation in rainy and windy weather. So, you may struggle to maintain the internal temperature of the cooking chamber.
- Small cooking area: Compared to a pellet grill and charcoal grill, propane ones have limited cooking capacity, making them suitable for small households but not for large gatherings.
Pellet Smoker vs Propane Smoker: Head-to-Head
Although both smokers serve the same purpose of smoking food, there are many differences. Let’s compare the most significant factors of these two famous smokers to make things easier.
When the goal is to achieve unique and rich smokey flavor in different types of meats, a propane smoker does not come closer to a pellet one.
The reason is that propane smokers use liquid gas, which isn’t entirely beneficial in making your meat flavorful. On the other hand, wood pellets are the fuel source of pellet smokers and can inject more smoke flavor into your food.
Moreover, you can use several pellet varieties to offer your food various flavors. Although you can use pellets in a gas grill or gas smoker, the outcome would still be different.
Ease of Use
A pellet grill or smoker is more convenient than a gas smoker in several ways. They work automatically and allow you to smoke meat in a set-and-forget style.
Also, they develop a digital control panel through which you can easily set the temperature, monitor the heat and smoker, and set cooking time per your requirements.
Moreover, the availability of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technology allows you to monitor your smoking sessions through your smartphone or tablet.
On the other hand, propane smokers are also a good option for newbies but require manual settings. There are several beginner-friendly meats options that you can smoke using a propane grill or smoker.
You may need to control the heat using air vents and dampers and adjust the temperature through knobs. Also, they don’t provide mobile apps to look after things remotely.
Both gas and pellet smokers are generally safe to use if the users follow the safety precautions accordingly.
There are fewer chances of flare-ups in pellet grills because they usually provide indirect heat for smoking meat.
As for the propane gas smokers, you can also operate them safely if you inspect the tank, hose, pipeline, and gas burner first. You need to ensure there is no gas leakage, and then you can begin smoking.
Propane smokers are a popular option for people who like the comfort of a barbecue without having much trouble on a BBQ grill. Gas grills can be good for various cooking methods like direct and indirect smoking.
The advantage of using a propane smoker is that you can easily manage it by switching on/off the gas. Furthermore, they heat up rapidly, allowing you to begin cooking immediately.
On the other hand, a pellet smoker is a fantastic option for dealing with multiple cooking methods. These smokers produce flavorful smoke depending on the quality of the pellets.
Furthermore, they can achieve high temperatures (150 °F – 500 °F or more), making pellet smokers perfect for smoking, grilling, searing, or cold smoking if you know how to use a smoke tube.
Pellet smokers and pellet grills tend to be a variety of sizes and have different cooking capacities.
On average, you can expect anywhere from 500 to 800 square inches of cooking area or more, with 3 to 4 grilling racks for preparing multiple food items at once.
Pellet smokers have more spacious than propane smokers, which makes them a good option for larger families or hosting events.
Propane smokers, on the other hand, are typically smaller and come in vertical shape. The cooking space of these smokers depends on the number of racks inside, which usually range from 4 to 5.
Well, propane smokers may have less cooking space than pellet smokers, but they can still be a good choice for smaller families.
Propane smokers are inexpensive, and pellet smokers are a bit expensive, but some cost-effective options are also available.
If you have a low budget, you can choose a propane smoker at a comparatively lower cost.
The pellet smoker is on the expensive side of the cost index and will be beneficial in the long run. It consumes less fuel and is more advance than the gas smoker.
Runtime Before Fueling
Pellet and propane smokers have different runtimes because both use different fuels.
The lifespan of pellets in a pellet grill or smoker depends on the specific model and the smoker’s internal temperature.
Usually, they last for around 8 hours in a mid-capacity pellet hopper, which is sufficient for an ordinary cooking session. If you are cooking meats like brisket or ribs, you may need to reload pellets in the hopper.
In contrast, propane tanks can last for 18 to 20 hours if there is no gas leakage.
Pellet smokers are a versatile cooking option thanks to their wide temperature range. You can use them for low and slow temps, smoking, grilling, searing, etc.
Moreover, they can reach high temperatures quickly without trouble and maintain internal heat with an excellent heat retention system.
Gas smokers have a shorter temperature range than pellet grills. Therefore, they are suitable for smoking and might not be as good for other cooking methods like grilling and roasting.
Who is the Winner? Head-to-head Summary
Let’s share a short quick summary of the relative winners in a head-to-head comparison.
|More smoky flavor||Pellet smokers|
|Easy to use||Pellet smokers|
|Safe to use||Pellet smokers|
|Operating Cost||Propane smokers|
|Versatility & Convenience||Pellet smokers|
Pellet and propane smokers are two different types of smokers with their own advantages and disadvantages. There are several distinctions between them that you must know before choosing one.
Therefore, we have comprehensively compared all the significant aspects of propane and pellet smokers, which will help you make a wise decision according to your cooking preferences and budget.
We hope you enjoyed reading this article and found it informative.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is propane gas more expensive than wood pellets?
Yes, propane gas is expensive compared to wood pellets, but not too much. Its total cost depends on several factors, such as how often you smoke, the city you live in and the smoker temperature you cook at, etc.
Can you use pellet grills or smokers for searing?
Yes, pellet grills are one of the best options for searing different types of meat, especially steaks. The reason is that they can reach higher temperatures of 500 °F quickly, which is essential for searing.
Can you use a propane smoker as a grill?
Yes, you can use your propane smoker as a grill if it can reach the temperature of 450 °F or more because this heat range is necessary to use your smoker as a grill.
Do pellet grills use propane?
No, pellet grills don’t use propane gas. They require electricity to operate and wood pellets to produce heat and smoke, which is responsible for grilling or smoking your foods.
Caspian James, the Founder and Chief Editor at FaveGrills, is passionate about sharing his knowledge and expertise on the latest Smokers and Grilling Products along with mouth-watering barbecue recipes. He constantly researches new gear with a sharp eye for detail, providing the FaveGrills community with in-depth reviews.