Yes, you can use charcoal as a substitute, but it is not recommended due to its unique significance, like temperature difference, etc.
Grills can be distinguished by their fuel sources (propane gas, pellet, charcoal, etc.), which means that each source is specified. However, there is still a typical query, can you use charcoal in pellet grills or different fuels except for their respective grills? If yes, then how? In not, then why. This is the guide to answer all the related concerns. So, let’s get started.
Can you use charcoal in a pellet grill?
Yes. Charcoal briquettes and lump charcoal can be used in a pellet grill but consider it the last possibility for grilling. As you know, charcoal generated carbon monoxide and burns hot, which is not only harmful to your health but can also damage your grill. However, wood pellets allow temperature control as they can maintain consistency and uniformity in the heat especially when you want slow cooking that charcoal lacks.
Using charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal instead of wood pellets may seem trivial, but it is not recommended; here is why.
Why is the use of lump charcoal as a substitute for pellets not good?
You can use lump charcoal in a pellet grill; honestly, it is not a good idea, and neither do I recommend that. The main reason is that they both are different fuel types and have their highs and lows.
Thus, I am stating the obvious facts, which are
1. The temperature difference
Wood pellets and charcoal both have different temperatures. Charcoal is much hotter but does not exert more heat yet, it has a temperature of 2000 degrees F, but the heat dissipates fast. Before the heat reaches the cooking grates, they may cool down before reaching cooking grate, which also happens due to the construction style of the grill. At the same time, the pellet grills are designed not to bear high temperatures, not more than 500 degrees F.
2. Pellet grills require pellets as a fuel
The auger size matters here as for pellet grills, and you need to get the appropriate size of pellet-shaped fuel that is suitable for the pellet smoker. That is why wood pellets are available in different sizes.
3. Air Vents of pellet grill can be treacherous
The pellet grill is designed for proper ventilation. When you use charcoal in a pellet grill, then with the air, the charcoal briquettes produce too much ash causing a dangerous build-up on your food. Other than that, it also may break your grill.
Hence, you can only use charcoal instead of pellets in case of emergency.
How can I use charcoal in a pellet grill in case of an emergency?
As I said, you can only use charcoal when you are out of charcoal pellets in the middle of cooking; there are ways to use them; however, you must be vigilant and do it safely.
The safest way to burn charcoal in a wood pellet grill is to take a smoker box filled with heated lump charcoal. Place it carefully within the pellet hopper/drum of your pellet grill. The smoker box will protect the grills from direct heat.
However, here an additional task that you have to do is keep an eye on the coals and replace them from time to time when they are about to cool down to ensure that the food is cooked.
Can I put charcoal in the Drum of the pellet grill?
The pellet grills, as you can get it from its name, are made to work with pellets; using charcoal in the drum is like being a daredevil, in short, putting your grill at risk.
Placing charcoal briquettes directly in the drum will cause severe damage to your gill and the food too. However, there are ways through which you can do so (mentioned in the coming headings). But the fact remains that you need to be careful and take precautions.
Secondly, the pellet grill does not maintain the heat temperature itself, so you must put enough fuel source to consistency, and if you run out of it midway, you have to use enough charcoal. Else, the grill will turn cold.
Another thing, while filling the drum, leave some room for air as overfilling will choke the required airflow system, which causes the fire to smolder. Ensure the charcoal are not too close to the cooking grate, too, because the excessive heat and carbon monoxide can ruin your food and grates too.
Other than that, there will be ashy residue afterward, which may stick to the grill as you find in charcoal grills.
When should I not use a charcoal pellet grill?
Remember that if you are using charcoal in your pellet grill as a substitute, rely on it only partially. A pellet grill is constructed to maintain a temperature that does not exceed 500 degrees F.
Whereas the charcoal grill has a high temperature and charcoal burns hotter compared to it. Thus, the hot coals burn hotter and can overcook your meal, but can clearly damage your grill too or even can put it on fire.
If you need higher temperatures, then it is suggested to use a charcoal grill instead of a pellet grill.
Pellet grills are made for wood pellets; putting charcoal in the pellet hopper might choke the auger as the size varies according to the grill. Even if you want to add smoky charcoal flavor pellets to your beef brisket, you don’t have to use charcoal. Instead, you can get the flavored pellets for that.
Types of Pellets to add more smoke flavor to your meat
Pellets are made from compressed sawdust, wood chips, and or forest residues most of the time, but there are other materials too. When it comes to their types, they are categorized as hardwood and softwood, which are further flavored differently.
Hardwood pellets have a low amount of water and last long for a sustained burn. These include oak and maple, perfect for slow cooking and intense pellet grilling.
Softwood pellets, in contrast, burn hot and quickly—cedar and spruce have a high lignin count.
The types are available in the following flavors
1. Cherry Hardwood Pellet
This flavor gives a sweet and fruity taste and enhances the taste overall.
I recommend Fire & Flavor Premium Cherry Hardwood pellets
2. Royal Oak Hardwood pellet
Oak pellets are strong but still have a medium smoky level. It adds a mild nutty flavor to your desired meal.
For that, I recommend Royal Oak Hardwood pellet
3. Mesquite Hardwood Pellet
This adds a robust smoky taste to the meat, especially briskets.
Traeger grills PEL331 signature blend is recommended.
It has a mild taste and adds a sweet flavor to all the food.
4. Maple Wood pellet
It has a mild taste and adds a sweet flavor to all the food.
I recommend Oklahoma Joe’s Wood Pellet
5. Pecan Wood pellet
They are ideal for baking items. It adds nutty, sweet, and a little spicy flavor to the food.
For Pecan, go for Bear Mountain Pecan Wood Pellet
6. Hickory Pellet Grill
This adds a robust flavor to your bbq and complements almost all types of meat, brisket, and bbq specifically.
Trager Grill Hickory is what I recommend.
7. Alder Wood Pellet
Alder pellet adds a mild flavor to your vegetables, meat, or other food.
Trager Grills Signature Blend is highly recommended.
You can also use the charcoal pellets blend for your meal
Instead of adding charcoal for flavor, it is a better idea to use a charcoal pellets blend bbq hardwood pellet. For that, the recommended product is
Pit Boss Charcoal Blend Hardwood pellet. It will not produce too much ash as charcoal burns.
Here is a quick guide for which flavor to use for different meat.
Image Courtesy: grow.ifa.coop
What are charcoal pellets?
Charcoal-flavored pellets are small and equal in size that is filled with charcoal to add flavor to the meal. However, they are different in composition compared to regular pellets. Charcoal Flavored pellets are a blend of charcoal and wood while the regular pellet that most pellet grills use is 100% wood. Nonetheless, the ratio of charcoal in charcoal pellets varies on the brands.
How are Hardwood pellets different from charcoal pellets?
Hardwood pellets, as I have mentioned, are made from different wood kinds, and the flavor is added during their manufacturing. They all have a unique chemical compound that helps make the food more tasteful and enriched in different flavors.
Whereas charcoal pellets are processed from carbonization that has burnt off many chemical compounds. Thus, they don’t produce the same smoky flavor.
Cooking with charcoal does provide a BBQ flavor, however. If it weren't the case, you wouldn't be able to distinguish between meals cooked on a gas grill and a charcoal grill, even though I'm confident that most people can.
However, lump charcoal produces more smoke as compared to charcoal pellets because of its irregular size and shape, and all of them work differently.
Are there any wood pellets that can be used for all-purpose?
How long can a bag of wood pellets burn?
It depends on the size of your pellet grill and the hopper. However, as a rule of thumb, around one lb. of wood pellets are consumed in an hour.
You will require a few wood pellets for items that are longer smoked food, whereas, for high-end food like pizza and rolls, it may consume around 3 lbs. per hour.
Conclusion | Can you use charcoal in a pellet grill?
Planning for backyard cooking and grilling experience is what we expect in spring on your favorite gas grill or pellet grill; whichever you have is a great idea. Nonetheless, in case of using charcoal for flavor in a pellet grill is not a good idea as it is severe damage to your grill and your health both.
If you are planning to add smoky flavor to your meat, burning coal in wood pellet grills is not recommended. In this article, I tried sorting the query and adding the best wood pellets.
Hence, it is better to have a combo pellet grill that allows a dual fuel source option.