What is a pellet grill?
Pellet grills are wood-fired outdoor cookers that combine the ease of use of a gas grill and kitchen oven with the flavor many long for from a charcoal smoker. Pellet grills utilize the latest innovations in a long line of great decisions for barbecuing perfection, which has experienced a massive surge in popularity since their creation over 30 years ago.
Smokin’ Meat Is In!
Historians aren’t exactly sure when the process of smoking meat got started, but most believe it was soon after people figured out how to create fire. Salting, smoking, and meat are a natural combination, so it’s no surprise that amazing flavors didn’t take long to catch on. Fast forward, and you now have an enormous variety of mouthwatering smoked items, from flavorful dry rubs and sauces to tender-tangy slow-cooked meat, along with countless ways to bring that beautiful smoke flavor to life.
By marrying modern digital perfection with traditional smoking methods, pellet grills pull off a marvelous mix of science, technology, and culinary passion. All the magic, from blower uptime to the correct stream of pellets for maximum flavor, depends on state-of-the-art computer processors and sensors that monitor smoking levels and interior temperatures constantly and produce some of the best meats, desserts, and pizzas you’ve ever eaten.
Pellet grills look similar in design to a sleek offset barrel smoker but differ significantly in functionality. Where the firebox would normally appear, a large hopper holds compressed wood pellets that are the secret to this grill’s fame. A rotating auger delivers the precise number of pellets needed to a fire pot in the center of the grill. A strategically placed heat shield ensures even heat distribution underneath your meats of choice, and a metal drip tray collects any fat drippings and routes it to a metal bucket.
Some of the more advanced pellet grills are now routing drippings and a large majority of ash to a single bucket, which makes the typical clean-out process very easy!
Wood pellets, the star of that delicious smoke flavor, are made from real hardwood that’s been ground and formed into small cylinders. Pellet grills use high-quality food-grade pellets that are free of additives, flavoring oils, and chemicals, and the best pellets are 100% natural hardwood. Whether you want that apple or fruit flavor for pulled pork or hickory and mesquite for that juicy brisket, the hardwood pellets make it all possible. One of the many beauties of a pellet grill is that you can easily load, mix, and change flavors easily and you don’t have to babysit coals or wood during cooks.
Again, some more advanced pellet grills will even communicate in an app how many pellets you have left in our pellet hopper, giving you plenty of time to refill if needed.
Sit And Forget It!
The great beauty of pellet grills is that, in large part, you sit it and forget it. Unlike other smokers, where you have to monitor coals, wood, and temperature on a regular basis, everything on a pellet smoker is digital and managed automatically.
A good pellet grill will maintain a consistent grill temperature, auto-feed pellets for the perfect smoke mixture, and communicate everything via a user-friendly app that can also control your pellet grill wirelessly.
So, Why Buy a Pellet Grill?
There’s something about the moist, fall-off-the-bone goodness of wood-fired barbecue that we find absolutely irresistible. Smoking brisket, pork, ribs, and steaks impart unique flavors and locks in seasoning for the long haul.
If the idea of slaving over charcoal, making sure flames don’t die out or flare up, you’re not alone! With a pellet grill, all controls are intuitive. Igniting the pellets and adjusting cooking temperatures are practically automatic and similar to an oven’s. Smart technology keeps heat within 5° – 10° of your target temp at all times without babysitting. Some pellet smokers have built-in WiFi, enabling you to control everything from a smart device.
One of the biggest advantages of pellet grills is their ability to adapt effortlessly to whatever you’re itching to grill. Switching hardwood types (pellets) on the fly is amazing, letting you pair the perfect smoke with each recipe. Whether it’s enhancing the sweetness of your special-recipe barbecue sauce with cherry wood or taking advantage of a touch of mesquite for your signature ribs, you can create a grilled masterpiece without having to plan ahead.
Pellet grills don’t disappoint with their promise of ‘set it and go’ functionality. People who don’t have a lot of time on their hands like this because they can have fun with other things while waiting for meats to smoke to perfection. Grill masters with decades of experience also value this grill’s heat distribution and precise temperature control; having trustworthy flames that respond instantly and don’t depend on the whims of outside weather or user error is a huge advantage.
Forget about waiting an eternity for charcoal briquettes to smoke. The speed of a pellet grill’s push-button starter lets you focus more on your meats and less on fighting with your fire.
Because of the huge range of temperatures possible, typically 150° to 500°, a pellet grill can provide slow heat for all-day smoking, or enough fire to grill burgers and hotdogs for a feast with family and friends. You can also tackle wildly different meat thicknesses, such as dry-rubbed steak strips for amazing carnitas, sweet pork shoulder, or a turkey roasted to perfection. Don’t forget those cakes, pies, cheeses, and pizza, as these are all deliciously possible on a pellet grill. Pellet grills can grill, smoke, bake, roast, barbecue, boil, broil, and sear!
Pellet grills offer several advantages in the flavor department. First, pellets provide consistent smoke with little ash, allowing that smoke flavor to penetrate whatever it is you are smoking. Second, the central positioning of the fire pot infuses every part of your choice of meats with the hardwood’s distinct flavors and ensures balanced temperatures (i.e., fewer hot zones). Last, because temperature control is so easy, you can let flavors penetrate longer and then ramp up the heat at the perfect moment for an amazing exterior.
It seems we’ve spoken to this a few times already. Still, the reality is true: if you’re looking to cook flavorful, tender, and juicy barbecue that truly has that wow factor without the inconvenience factor, buy a pellet smoker. Furthermore, buy a pellet smoker with WiFi capabilities! I know it sounds silly, but the single best feature of my pellet smoker is the ability to monitor the internal temperature of my meats, monitor the consumption of my pellets, and control the smoker’s temperature—all wirelessly from my iPhone or iPad. With a Smart Pellet Grill, you can start cooking in the morning, monitor and control throughout the day from your phone, and come home to a delicious meal.
- Easy to use to produce incredible food every single time. It’s hard to mess it up.
- Sit it and forget it. A pellet grill does not require babysitting, so you can go out, go to bed, or enjoy family while it smokes incredible meals.
- The flavor and quality of pellet grilled food is hard to beat.
- You can smoke, grill, roast, broil, boil, or barbecue with a pellet grill.
- In comparison to other grill options, pellet grills are expensive. Some affordable options exist, but quality pellet grills start at around $600 and go up from there.
- Pellet grills aren’t great at searing by default. There are ways around this, but searing is not where pellet grills shine.
- Cleaning can be annoying at times but doable.
What pellet grill should I buy?
GrillingCo.com is working hard to answer this tough question. In general, though, here are some recommendations.
Entry Level Pellet Grills
- Traeger Pro Series 575, $799
- recteq Bullseye Deluxe, $799
- Green Mountain Grills Ledge Prime Plus, $899
- Camp Chef SmokePro, $649
- Pit Boss Sportsman 1600, $1,099
Pro Level Pellet Grills
Portable Pellet Grills
Cheap, Affordable Pellet Grills
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
If you’re in the market for a pellet grill, I’m sure you have many questions. Here are some of the common questions:
What are the negatives of a pellet grill?
Price, searing ability, and cleaning are the top three drawbacks of a pellet grill. Compared to a gas grill, a quality pellet grill will cost more but is more versatile. Pellet grills, by default, don’t do well at searing. They can get up to 500 degrees, but they require some grill grates to really “sear.” Lastly, you do have to clean out a pellet grill every other cook or so. This process is annoying at times, however, if you invest in a more advanced pellet grill, clean-out is super easy!
Can you leave a pellet grill unattended?
Yes, you can leave most pellet grills unattended for at least 6 hours.
Do pellet grills have to be cleaned after every cook?
No. Most of the time you can go at least 2-3 cooks before having to do a basic clean-out on a pellet grill.
How hot can a pellet grill get?
Most pellet grills can reach internal temperatures of 500 degrees.
Can a pellet grill get rained on?
Yes, but it is not recommended. Pellet grills have digital displays that aren’t great for constant rain. The easy fix here is to buy a pellet grill cover!
Do pellet grill use a lot of electricity?
No, pellet grills are very efficient, using about 60 watts per hour during cooks.
What's the difference between a pellet smoker and a pellet grill?
They are both referring to the same thing. The term “pellet grill” is often used because you CAN grill, but you can also smoke food as well.