Can You Use Charcoal in A Pellet Grill? (Don’ts and Dos)

Do you ever find yourself in a situation where you’ve run out of wood pellets for your pellet grill, and can’t figure out what to do?

Maybe you’re looking to switch things up and add some charcoal flavor to your meat?

Or maybe you’re even considering using your pellet grill like a traditional charcoal grill.

Regardless of the reason behind it, the question remains: can you use charcoal in a pellet grill?

In this article, we will answer that question and explore the potential risks of using charcoal in a pellet grill, and provide better options.

While it may seem like a quick fix to keep your grilling or smoking going, it’s important to understand the implications of adding charcoal to your pellet grill.

So, whether you’re a seasoned pellet grill enthusiast or just getting started, read on to learn more about this topic.

Using Charcoal in a Pellet Grill

Using charcoal in a pellet grill may seem like a good option for some, particularly when they have no wood pellets left or desire a unique flavor. Nonetheless, this is not a practice recommended by most pellet grill manufacturers.

One of the reasons why charcoal isn’t suitable for a pellet grill is that these grills are designed to be used with wood pellets, which are made especially for these grills and enable the user to regulate temperature and smoke flavor easily.

Charcoal lumps or briquettes, on the other hand, are not made for pellet grills and can cause problems when used in one.

Jamming the Auger

Using charcoal can lead to a rather irritating situation – the auger getting jammed. This critical part of the grill transfers the wood pellets into the firebox or fire pot and is designed to work with pellets of a certain size and shape.

The problem is that charcoal is usually too large for the auger, causing it to get stuck and preventing the pellets from entering the firebox.

Not being able to get the pellets to the firebox means that the grill can’t maintain the desired temperature, resulting in poor cooking and potential foodborne illnesses.

To avoid problems with the auger, it’s a good idea only to use pellets made for pellet grills. That way, you can enjoy your cooking without worrying about any frustrating issues.

How Traeger Pellet Works

The Tricky Endeavor of Temperature Control

Grilling with charcoal in a pellet grill can be a tricky endeavor, as these grills are not designed to handle the temperature control that charcoal requires. Unlike charcoal grills, which often feature dampers to regulate heat, pellet grills use fans to spread smoke and heat around the food. This makes it difficult to get the right temperature when using charcoal.

The inability to control the temperature of charcoal in a pellet grill can result in undercooked or overcooked food, which can be frustrating and disappointing for anyone using the grill. Moreover, since the temperature cannot be accurately maintained, there is also an increased risk of foodborne illnesses, as mentioned above.

If you’re someone who prefers to use charcoal in your grilling, it may be best to stick to a traditional charcoal grill rather than a pellet grill. That way, you can better regulate the temperature and quickly achieve your desired level of cooking.

Cleaning Challenges

Using charcoal briquets or lumps can complicate the cleaning process. Charcoal produces messier ash than wood pellets and can easily spread across your outdoor area. Plus, the ash can clog the grill’s ventilation system, affecting the distribution of heat and airflow.

On the other hand, pellet grills are usually low-maintenance, thanks to their simple design. But when you use charcoal, it can make the cleaning more difficult. The ash can stick to the grates and settle in hard-to-reach places like the auger, making it tougher to keep your grill in top shape.

Voiding The Warranty

Using the right fuel for your pellet grill is essential – and the manufacturer’s instructions must be followed. Many leading grill brands, including Traeger, Pit Boss, and Z Grills, explicitly state that using anything other than wood pellets can void your warranty and even endanger your safety.

For instance, the Traeger Grills Pro Series 22 Pellet Smoker user guide clearly warns against adding excess pellets or other combustible materials to the firepot or hopper. It emphasizes that the grill is only designed for use with all-natural wood cooking pellets tailored for pellet grills. Otherwise, the auger could become jammed and the damage to the grill could be serious.


While it’s generally not recommended to use charcoal in a pellet grill, there are exceptions. Some pellet grills are designed to handle both wood pellets and charcoal, thanks to specialized features like a different firebox or ash removal system.

One example of a pellet grill that can handle charcoal is the Camp Chef Woodwind Pro. It has a removable smoke box that allows you to add charcoal or wood. But remember, only a small amount of charcoal can be added to the smoke box to get that smoky charcoal flavor.

Another option for those wanting a charcoal flavor and a little extra heat to sear their meat is to use charcoal pellets.

So, just be sure to research and check your grill’s manual before trying it.

Charcoal Pellets for Pellet Grills

Pellet grills use wood pellets as fuel. But did you know you can also use charcoal pellets in a pellet grill? Yes! It’s true – charcoal pellets are now available for purchase and can be used in your pellet grill. Let’s take a closer look.

Charcoal pellets are a fuel created when charcoal is compressed into pellets with sizes suitable for pellet grills or smokers. Many types are available, ranging from pure charcoal to a blend of charcoal and hardwood. Try out a few of these to find the right flavor for your dish.

For instance, Royal Oak 100 Percent Hardwood Charcoal Pellets are made entirely of charcoal, giving your food a classic charcoal taste. Pit Boss Charcoal Blend Hardwood Pellets, on the other hand, offer a combination of oak hardwood and charcoal notes.

Charcoal Pellets Vs Wood Pellets

Charcoal pellets and wood pellets may have certain commonalities, yet they also have some distinct differences.

The main one is the burn rate: charcoal pellets burn more rapidly than wood pellets, thus producing more heat. This can be advantageous if you need to sear your food quickly or cook at a high temperature.

However, wood pellets may be a better option if you’re trying to cook something low and slow since they burn slower and generate less heat.

Regarding flavor, charcoal and wood pellets can give your food a smoky taste, yet the flavor profile can be different. Charcoal pellets will give your food a more genuine charcoal flavor, while wood pellets can give your food a more natural smoky flavor.

Overall, charcoal pellets and wood pellets may have some similarities, but they can also be quite different. It’s essential to consider the burn rate and flavor when deciding which is best for your recipe.

Royal Oak 100% Charcoal Pellets
Pit Boss Charcoal Blend Hardwood Pellets

Mixing Charcoal and Wood Pellets

You can mix in some charcoal pellets if you run out of wood pellets. But remember to pay attention to the burn rate of both types. Since charcoal pellets burn faster, you have to adjust the ratio to get the desired temperature and cook time.

If you want your food to have a more-smoky charcoal flavor, you’ll need to use more charcoal pellets than wood pellets. Conversely, if you want your food to have a more natural-smoky flavor, you’ll need to go with more wood pellets.

If you’re starting out and wondering which type of pellet to use, refer to the charcoal and hardwood blended lines like Camp Chef Premium Charwood Pellets or Pit Boss Charcoal Blend Hardwood Pellets, so you don’t need to mix.


In summary, using charcoal in a pellet grill is achievable due to the presence of charcoal pellets in the market. These pellets come in a variety of types, such as pure charcoal or charcoal blended with hardwood, granting you the freedom to select the flavor you enjoy the most.

It is noteworthy that charcoal pellets possess a different burning rate and produces more heat than wood pellets, which in turn affects the cooking duration and temperature. For a safe and pleasurable grilling experience, it is crucial to heed the producer’s instructions for use and safety tips. By doing this, you can relish the unique smoky flavors of charcoal while making use of your pellet grill.

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