Can You Use Wood Pellets in a Charcoal Grill?

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If you have been using a charcoal grill for the longest time, you know how messy it can be.

It requires a lot of cleanup, and ashes can get in your food if you don’t clean it regularly enough.

On the contrary, wood pellets produce a lot cleaner smoke and less dirt and ash.

Given this benefit, you have probably thought of switching from a charcoal grill to a gas or pellet grill.

The only problem is that you’re not yet ready to spend a few hundred dollars.

Therefore, instead of buying a new grill, you might be wondering, “Can you use wood pellets in a charcoal grill?

The quick answer is yes. However, there are a few things you need to know before you get started.

What Are Wood Pellets Exactly?

Pellets are biofuels made from compressed wood fiber.

As you know, wood is a classic, tried, and true fuel source for outdoor cooking. It also produces smoke that adds a beautiful flavor to your meat.

Most of the moisture and air is removed during the compression of wood shaving and sawdust.

This means you won’t be burning any dirt, bark, and other components you would find on raw wood logs. This results in a clean, flavorful smoke and an efficient fuel source.

Most pellets are made from oak, which is a very stable burning wood.

Sometimes, other types of hardwood or fruitwood are added into the mix to boost the flavor coming from the smoke.

Can You Use Wood Pellets in a Charcoal Grill?

Pellets are a very versatile type of fuel, and yes, they can be used in a charcoal grill.

However, while it is perfectly fine to use wood pellets in a charcoal grill, it is important to choose premium-grade pellets.

Look for food-grade barbecue pellets designed for outdoor cooking and not heating pellets.

Why Use Wood Pellets on a Charcoal Grill?

The use of pellets by themselves or in combination with another fuel source, such as charcoal, does have some great advantages. These include:

Low Moisture

Charcoal contains some moisture, which can cause fluctuations in the temperature.

Adding wood pellets, which lack moisture and air, will help you achieve a consistently hot fuel when grilling or smoking.

Clean Burning and Lower CO

The pellets’ burning process is much cleaner than other fuels because they don’t contain wood scrap or bark.

Instead, they produce about only one percent ash, which makes the grill easy to clean.

Moreover, pellets usually produce a much lower amount of carbon dioxide.


BBQ pellets are extremely efficient compared to other forms of fuel.

That’s because they transform about 90 percent of their contained energy into heat you can use.

Better Flavor

Charcoal doesn’t necessarily produce a bad taste, but cooking with wood delivers a better flavor.

Pellets provide a wide range of flavors and aromas, which can level up the taste of your barbecues and steaks.

What’s more, wood pellets are all-natural, so they won’t expose your food to potentially harmful substances and fumes.


Compared to other types of fuel, pellets are more environment-friendly because they are made from repurposed materials and byproducts of wood.

can you use wood pellets in a charcoal grill at home

How To Use Wood Pellets on a Charcoal Grill

There are three different ways to use wood pellets on a charcoal grill. Let’s discuss each one of them.

Directly on the Coal

The first one involves directly adding pellets on top of the burning charcoal. To do this, follow these steps:

Step 1: Remove the grill grate.

Start by removing the grill grate and then firing up some charcoal.

While it’s okay to use wood pellets on their own, they tend to burn too quickly without the charcoal.

Make sure to keep the vents of your charcoal grill open. You may also use a foil or smoker box to slow down the rate at which the pellets burn.

Step 2: Wait for the charcoal to heat up.

After heating up, sprinkle a generous amount of wood pellets underneath the rock grate.

If you want 30 to 40 minutes of smoke, pour 1/3 to 1/2 cup of wood pellets.

Step 3: Wait for the wood pellets to ignite.

This step should take a few minutes. Once the wood pellets start to fire up, you can now start cooking.

At this point, they will start giving off the nice smoked wood flavor.

Step 4: Keep the vents open.

Close the lid to keep the smoke in and pinch the vents to keep them half-open.

You can remove the lid from the grill after 30 or 40 minutes and then add some more pellets if you aren’t done cooking yet.

If you are cooking steaks or burgers, you may need to add more. For brisket, you will have to replenish the pellets every so often.

Additional Tips

Pouring pellets directly over the charcoal does work, but this method isn’t often efficient.

The pellets are meant to burn quickly, so they don’t get a chance to produce a slow, steady and delicious smoke.

To get the best result out of this method, follow these tips and suggestions:

  • Don’t soak your wood pellets. Doing so will cause them to fall apart and disintegrate as the binder loosens the sawdust.
  • Make sure your charcoal is adequately lit before adding the pellets.
  • Start with a small quantity of pellets to get a better feel of how much smoke is produced. You can always add more.

Using a Smoker Tube

The second approach to using wood pellets in a charcoal grill involves the use of a smoker tube.

It is a very useful and affordable grill and smoker accessory designed to house food-grade wood pellets and burn them slowly.

This method is best for long cooking, such as when smoking brisket or jerky.

Depending on the design of your grill, it might be easier to use a pellet smoker tube than to add the pellets directly to the heated charcoal.

Using Smoker Box

The third method is with a smoker box. If you prefer a simple and reliable option that involves easy cleanup, you can simply pick a smoker box.

A smoker box is typically used with wood chips, but it works perfectly fine with wood pellets, too.

It is important not to fill up the entire firebox. Just add two layers of wood pellets, ignite them, and set the box aside on the grill grates.

Which Wood Pellets Are Best for Barbecue?

Once you start shopping for wood pellets, there’s no doubt you will come across many options. However, not all of them are best for charcoal grills.

When choosing pellets for a charcoal grill, keep these suggestions in mind:

Knowing about the common flavor profiles of wood pellets will help you experiment and create a unique flavor for your barbecue.

Some pellets have a strong, bold flavor, while others produce a milder taste. If you prefer milder flavors, choose lighter wood pellets, like apple and pecan pellets.

Intensely flavored wood pellets include those made from hickory, mesquite, and cherry.

If you want your smoked or grilled meat to have a strong smoky flavor, you can use any of these pellets.

Consider how long your food will be smoked.

The longer your food is going to cook on the grill, the more flavor it will absorb from the pellets. Thus, choosing the right pellet type is very important.

If you are grilling brisket or smoke rings, consider cherry pellets.

For grilled desserts, opt for milder flavors, like pecan, apple, and cherry. These pellets will give your grilled food a delightfully light finish.

You can always mix and match wood pellets. Feel free to combine wood pellets to give your smoked foods a unique taste.

If you don’t want to over-flavor your meat, wrap it in aluminum foil before tossing it into the grill.

Here are a few other examples of the best wood pellet flavors for different foods:

  • Oak – All meats
  • Pecan – Poultry
  • Walnut – Red meat
  • Cherry – All meats
  • Apple – Pork, poultry, seafood, and lamb
  • Alder – Salmon, game birds, poultry
  • Hickory – Ribs, pork
  • Maple – Vegetables, poultry, and cheese

Can You Use Wood Chips Instead of Pellets?

Yes, you can. Wood chips are perfect for smoking or grilling.

However, what makes wood pellets better for smoking meats is that they burn hotter and more slowly than wood chips.

It is also much easier to control the temperature when you use wood pellets. Plus, they produce consistent smoke without creating a lot of ash.

However, for the best results, you need to make an extra effort to look for wood pellets that don’t contain additives.

Wrapping It Up

So, can you use wood pellets in a charcoal grill? Absolutely.

There are different ways to use pellets in a charcoal grill, from adding them directly over the charcoal to using a special accessory like a smoker tube or a firebox.

Whatever option you choose, make sure to pick the best quality wood pellets made from pure wood.

It is also important to familiarize yourself with the flavors so that you can find the right type of wood pellet for your outdoor cooking.

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