Pellet grills have been adding unique flavors to your meals since the 1980s. Since then, their popularity and sales have been increasing enormously.
There can be several reasons behind their fame, such as ease of use, versatility, flavorful food, and multiple advanced features.
In this article, I am going to discuss “What is a pellet grill,” how it works, what foods you can cook on it, its comparison with other grills, and what its pros and cons are.
So, Let’s begin!
What Is A Pellet Grill – A Brief Introduction
It is a popular outdoor cooking appliance and one of the most prominent grill types. It uses compressed hardwood pellets as a fuel source.
When these pellets burn, they produce heat and smoke, which then cooks your food items and injects them with a unique smoky flavor, depending on what pellet flavor you are using.
These grills have a pretty wide temperature range, approximately 150 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, which allows for multiple styles of cooking, including low and slow smoking, grilling, baking, roasting, etc.
What makes these grills so popular among BBQ lovers is their precise temperature control because they usually offer a PID controller that allows you to set and regulate the cooking temperature easily.
They provide some other convenient features as well, such as quick ignition and digital control panels to set cooking time, smoke levels, etc. Therefore, they are considered one of the best grills for beginners.
How do Pellet Grills Work?
So, after a quick overview of pellet grills, let’s move forward and see how these grills work. Firstly, they are comparatively more advanced than charcoal and gas ones, which means they are easier to use.
They consist of several main components, which include a hopper box, an auger, a firebox, intake fans, a heating rod, a cooking chamber, and a chimney.
Most importantly, each of these parts plays an essential role in the preparation of your meal. Let me explain what is the role of each component in a pellet grill.
The wood pellets are placed in a hopper box mounted on the grill’s side.
After you have plugged in the grill and turned it on from the controller, the auger moves the pellets from the hopper toward the fire pot, which is located inside the firebox.
After the pellets have reached the fire pot, a hot rod or electric igniter begins the heating process. The intake fan brings the air into the firebox to keep the pellets burning and make the combustion process consistent.
These grills usually have natural convection or a fan system that allows the heat and smoke (produced by burning pellets) to rise up from the firebox and circulate around the cooking area, where the meals are cooked to perfection.
After the smoke and heat have done their job, they exit through a chimney normally located on the opposite side of the hopper
Using the PID controllers of these grills, you can set the cooking time, set and adjust the grilling temperature, and control the intake fans.
Some advanced pellet grill and smoker models, like Camp Chef Woodwind, also allow for smoke level adjustment through the controller.
Last but not least, you will also see Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity features in many pellet grills to monitor your grilling and smoking sessions through your smartphone without even coming closer to the appliance.
What kind of Wood Pellets Should You Use?
The art of smoking and grilling is incomplete without smoky flavor because they have the ability to enhance your food’s taste.
Therefore, when you are buying wood pellets, there are a few important things you must consider. For example, how long they last, how they are made, flavor intensity, flavor profile, and price.
Various types of wood pellets are available in the market, each of which has its unique flavor and characteristics. Hickory, apple, cherry, pecan, mesquite, alder, maple, and oak are probably the best for your smoking and grilling needs.
Hickory gives strong bacon flavor to your food items, while apple is known for its mild and sweet taste. They also burn hotter and longer, which is great. Therefore, BBQ enthusiasts prefer them the most.
If you are looking for budget-friendly pellets with delectable flavor, I recommend you go with oak, maple, or alder. Depending on the set temperature, you will burn between one to three pounds of pellets per hour.
Furthermore, if you grill or smoke regularly outside on your pellet grill, I suggest you try out different pellet flavors or try mixing two of them for a unique flavor profile.
Best Foods To Cook On Pellet Grills
As I have mentioned earlier in this guide, the temperature range of these grills is pretty broad, such as 150 to 550 degrees Fahrenheit.
Ultimately, you can use them for grilling, smoking, baking, and roasting a variety of foods and meats.
Let me share the list of some of the most popular dishes that taste super delicious when you cook them perfectly using a pellet grill.
In terms of meat, I prefer cooking whole chicken, chicken thighs and wings, brisket, different kinds of ribs, turkey, lamb chops, wings, salmon, etc.
Fast food lovers can make pizza, burgers, hot dogs, and sandwiches with a delectable taste. Furthermore, various vegetables like bell peppers, onions, corn, and potatoes are also easy to cook on such grills.
What Do I Like About Pellet Grills?
- WiFi And Bluetooth Features: Most pellet grills nowadays come with WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity. It allows you to set the required temperature, cooking duration, and food’s internal temperature through your smartphone.
- Easy To Use: They are a good option for beginner BBQ lovers because, using their PID controllers, you can easily monitor your grilling and smoking sessions and cook your food to perfection.
- Easy Cleaning: Compared to charcoal, the wood pellet ones create less ash and are easy to clean because they burn the wood cleanly and nicely.
- Environment-Friendly Devices: They tend to be more eco-friendly, thanks to the pellets that are a byproduct of the timber industry.
- Good Heat Retention: One of the most admirable advantages of pellet grills is their ability to maintain a low and steady temperature for a long time. This feature allows you to smoke your favorite food items.
- Meat Probe Availability: Most grills come with a meat probe, which helps you know the meat’s internal temperature.
What we don’t like about Pellet Grills?
There are a few drawbacks that many people ignore about these grills.
- Expensive: This grill type can be more expensive than other types of grills available. It is because they use many advanced technologies. Well, not all of them are costly. You can find many pellet grills at a reasonable price.
- Electricity Dependant: Most of these grills require electricity to operate and can be heavier. That being said, their portability can be challenging for you.
- Not Suitable For High Heat Searing: You may be unable to sear your meat properly through pellet grills because they mostly have the max temp range of 500 or 550 degrees Fahrenheit, which may not offer ideal searing results. However, some brands now manufacture a sear box or sidekick that can get hotter enough for perfect searing.
A Quick Comparison With Other Grills
The biggest competitors of pellet grills are charcoal and gas grills. So, let’s see how they are different from each other and which one is more suitable in which scenario.
Pellet vs Charcoal Grill
Both are excellent outdoor cooking appliances for preparing finger-licking foods. There are a few significant distinctions between them.
First and foremost, the fuel source of these cooking devices is a big difference because a pellet grill uses all-natural hardwood pellets, and a charcoal grill requires charcoals to cook meals.
It is important to mention here that I would go with charcoal if the goal is to add more smoky flavors to my food items.
In the competition of temperature range, charcoal grills can outperform pellet ones with a maximum reach of around 1000 °F or even more.
The reason is that charcoal grills work manually while pellet grills are kind of automated devices, and their manufacturers have set a limited temp range.
But when it comes to precise temperature control, pellet grills are incomparable because they provide digital control panels to set and regulate the cooking temperature.
On the other hand, controlling temperature on charcoal grills is a bit tricky as you need to adjust the temperature through vents or dampers.
For a detailed comparison between these two grills, visit pellet vs charcoal grill.
Pellet vs Gas Grill
When you look for fast and convenient outdoor cookers, you will see pellet and gas grills at the top. However, they also have some notable differences.
Firstly, they use different fuel sources (natural gas and all-natural hardwood pellets) but have a pretty quick ignition compared to the charcoal ones.
The difference comes in the temperature range. Pellet grills offer 500 to 550 °F, and a few can reach 600 °F. On the other side, gas grills have the highest temperature of 700 °F.
Pellet grills for low and slow cooking are beast because they have precise temperature regulation and the ability to cook consistently between 200 °F – 350 °F, essential for cooking low and slow.
On the other hand, gas grills are suitable for food searing because of their higher temperatures. But, they may not impart smoky flavors to your food unless you use wood pellets.
How to Clean a Pellet Grill?
These grills have more simple, easy, and quick cleaning, especially if I compare them with charcoal grills. Let’s share how you clean your pellet grill.
- Firstly, empty the hopper by removing wood pellets, and if there are any left in the firebox or auger, burn them all. To burn quickly, set the temperature to its highest setting.
- Once the grill is free of pellets, let it cool. After that, start the cleaning procedure from the hopper by using a wet cloth.
- Then, get a grill brush and start scrapping off the grill grates without detaching them. It helps in removing the wreckage.
- But if you see stubborn food debris on the grates, remove them from their location and mist them with cleaner and degreaser for thorough cleaning.
- After one minute, wipe them with an old cloth and wash the grates with mild detergent water or soapy water, whatever suits you.
- Remove the heat deflector plates and vacuum the inner part to collect the ash inside. If you have not cleaned the interior for too long, clean it the same way you cleaned your grates. The cleaning of the exterior is also the same.
Most importantly, cleaning with the instructions provided by the grill’s brand is always beneficial.
Are Wood Pellet Grills Worth It?
You can answer this question yourself if you know your cooking preferences.
Pellet grills are a suitable option if you are a beginner and looking for a convenient cooking gadget for your BBQ needs.
A “Turn On” button will begin the ignition, and you can set the temperature and cooking duration per your requirements. After that, let the grill cook your food.
Moreover, they are perfect if you like smoking, grilling, baking, and roasting your food at the same product. The meat searing may not be as good if the temperature range of your grill is 500 °F or below.
There are a variety of foods that you can prepare in them. The most popular dishes are smoked brisket, chicken wings, whole chicken, turkey, vegetables, seafood, etc.
Read our in-depth article on pellet grill tips and tricks to cook your food like a pro.
On the downside, they are comparatively more expensive than charcoal and gas grills. Also, most pellet smokers run on electricity and can be heavier enough, which raises a question about their portability.
Wrapping It Up
A pellet grill is an advanced outdoor cooking appliance with several notable features that make it an outstanding option for beginner BBQ lovers.
It can also offer great grilling, smoking, baking, and roasting results because of its wide temperature range. In the end, if you are looking to buy one for yourself, it is the utmost guide for you.
A remarkable and successful BBQ journey awaits you!
Frequently Asked Questions
Do pellet grills require electricity?
They require electricity because most parts, such as the control panel, auger, and fan system, are electric-powered. The consumption of electricity depends on the model of your pellet grill.
How long does a 20 lb bag of pellets last in a pellet grill?
It depends on several factors, such as the cooking temperature, the model of the grill, and how often you cook. The rough estimate says that a 20lb bag of wood pellets will last for six to 20 hours if you cook at around 225 °F.
Can you use pellet grills for cold smoking?
Yes, using a smoke tube, you can cold smoke in a pellet grill. Place the smoke tube with burning pellets on the lowest rack and the food on the upper rack. It will maintain the distance and allow you to smoke between 70-100 °F, the required temperature for cold smoking.
Caspian James, the Founder and Chief Editor at FaveGrills, is passionate about sharing his knowledge and expertise on the latest Smokers and Grilling Products along with mouth-watering barbecue recipes. He constantly researches new gear with a sharp eye for detail, providing the FaveGrills community with in-depth reviews.