I've spent over half a decade now reviewing and rating BBQs for T3.com's best BBQs, best smokers and best portable BBQs guides, and during that time I've watched the emergence of wood pellet-fuelled grills in the mainstream consumer market.
Wood pellet BBQs are powered, as the name would suggest, by small wood pellets as their fuel source rather than charcoal briquettes or gas canisters. These wood pellets, which are held in a large pellet hopper bin, are then fed via a corkscrew auger into a burn pot in the BBQ where they are lit by a heating element. The wood pellets then burn to create the necessary cooking furnace.
I've reviewed multiple wood pellet BBQ grills in my time, too, meaning that I've not only used these types of BBQ but I've also received delivery of them and built them, too. As such, I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about what they deliver.
As such, here is what I've learned about wood pellet BBQs, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses, as well as my opinion on if they are worth the money.
So, are wood pellet BBQs worth it?
Well, that's a big question and the answer will largely rest with what you want from a BBQ, so let's get into the nitty gritty.
The strength of wood pellets come, in my opinion, primarily from their cooking fuel – the pellets themselves. Wood is great for cooking with, as it burns evenly and generates smoke, which is desired as part of the cooking process.
Most wood pellets sold today for wood pellet grills, though, are also infused with various flavourings, such as hickory, apple, cherry, pecan, mesquite and more. This means that not only are wood pellets great for adding a lovely classic smoky BBQ finish to foods, but they're also good at infusing them with additional enhancing flavouring.
For this reason wood pellet grills tend to be excellent smokers as well as BBQs. In this year's T3 Awards 2022, for example, two wood pellet BBQs won two out of three of our barbecue awards, with the Traeger Ironwood 650 winning the Best BBQ award, and the Weber SmokeFire EPX 6 Stealth Edition winning the Best Smoker award.
The smoking expertise is also helped with wood pellet BBQs typically making use of drum barrel cooking areas, which really help produce be enveloped in the heat and smoke generated by the wood pellet burn pot. This in turn leads to juicy, smoky, delicious food that seems infused with extra flavour.
The best way I can describe a wood pellet BBQ is like an outdoor oven that also smokes food as well as cooking it evenly.
If this level of performance appeals to you then, in my opinion, wood pellet BBQs are absolutely worth the money – even if that means paying more than a charcoal or gas equivalent, which you will have to do to ring one up.
But, despite my recommendation, I don't think wood pellet grills are right for everyone
This is absolutely my position right now. Wood pellet BBQs are the best all-round outdoor cookers on the market today, but that doesn't mean you should just run out and buy one straight away.
This is because a charcoal or gas grill might be much more suitable to your outdoor cooking needs and intended usage scenarios.
If you're not so fussed about smoking capabilities, for example, or you only ever intend to grill a few burgers and sausages for a few people, then a wood pellet grill is almost certainly an OTT purchase.
Equally, if you prize speed of operation over everything else then, again, you're going to be better plumping for one of the best gas BBQs, as gas grills heat up much quicker than wood pellet grills.
If you prize value over everything else, too, then there is no doubt that buying and fuelling a wood pellet BBQ costs more than either gas or charcoal varieties. A large gas canister will run and run for years (probably running over half a decade for most medium-use owners), while bags of wood pellets will likely do 3-5 barbecues before being expended.
It all comes down to preference and intended usage scenarios.
So wood pellet BBQs are worth it, but not for everyone
As a BBQ expert if someone was to ask me what BBQ they should buy with an unlimited budget then I'd say a wood pellet grill. They're the most versatile BBQs on the market today, capable of roasting, grilling, smoking and baking (hello wood-fired pizzas!) to a professional standard.
However, wood pellet grills are typically very expensive and will be over the top purchases for anyone who just wants a simple grill to rustle up some bangers and burgers every now and then.