How to Cook on a Pellet Smoker Grill
Have you ever wondered why grilling has to be so hard? Can’t you just relax on a sunny afternoon, in your backyard, grilling those juicy pieces of steak? We all love grilling and smoking foods, especially when we organize a get-together on a beautiful summer day.
But all that smoke and charcoal flying around, all that wood or charcoal burning, and continuously maintaining the temperature right can be exhausting.
Luckily, a wood pellet grill can literally change your grilling experience forever, especially if you know how to do it correctly. In this article, we take a look at how wood pellet grills can improve your grilling experience, and how to cook on them.
What is a Pellet Smoker Grill?
Wood pellet smokers have been on the market for a long time, but their popularity has skyrocketed in the past couple of years. Their appearance is similar to an offset barrel smoker, but it features a side-mounted hopper.
They also work differently, and there are many varieties of wood pellet smokers to choose from. Commonly, they feature the main chamber where all the grilling and smoking take place, along with a side-mounted hopper where the wood pellets go. Some also have a dedicated chamber for smoking your meat.
These grills don’t use traditional charcoal or gas but, instead, are fueled by food-grade wood pellets. They are cylindrical in shape and measure around 1 inch in length, and .25 inch wide. These wood pellets are made of compressed hardwood sawdust, and they burn in a neat manner, leaving surprisingly behind only a small amounts of ash.
These wood pellets are the secret that imbues the meat with such a delicious, smoky flavor. These pellets can also be found in many different flavors, such as bourbon, cherry, pecan, mesquite, and more.
These are also affordable, and they are pretty efficient when cooking, burning about .5 pounds per hour if you are using the smoke setting, and 2.5 pounds for higher settings.
They are also powered by any standard electrical source. When the grill is connected to a power source, you control the pellet supply via a digital controller, which activates a rotating auger. The auger then transports the wood pellets to the main chamber, where a firepot featuring an igniter rod can be found.
Pros and Cons
Although pellet grills are great for smoking and cooking, and they offer an authentic, smoky flavor to your meats, there are also a few drawbacks.
Some advantages of pellet smoker grills are:
- They imbue your meat with a delicious, smoky flavor
- The wood pellets are affordable, and they come in many different flavors
- Incredibly versatile, being able to smoke, grill, bake, BBQ, braise and roast with them
- They feature a digital control panel where you can set the exact temperature for the grill, and leave it to do its magic
- Preheating is also very quick, typically in around 10 to 15 minutes
The drawbacks of wood pellet grills are:
- They need a source of power to function, decreasing their portability if you don’t own generators or other similar machinery
- These grills do not produce the distinct grill marks on your meat, due to the fan-driven heat which cooks your meat indirectly
- They feature many moving parts, so with more parts, there is a higher risk of something breaking
- Their cost is usually higher than charcoal or gas grills
How to Cook on a Pellet Grill
Cooking with a pellet grill is very simple, and this aspect makes it very attractive to beginners who want to try their hand at BBQing, but also not waste much food.
These pellet grills, as we’ve said, feature a digital controller which can set the exact temperature of the grill in 5-degree increments. Some, like the grills from Traeger, also feature temperature probes that you can insert into your meat, and they can connect with your phone via Bluetooth, sending an alarm when your meat is ready. It doesn’t get much easier than that.
First, you need to make sure your side-mounted hopper is loaded with wood pellets. Next, plug the grill in a power outlet, set it at the desired temperature or a preset, and wait approximately 10 to 15 minutes to preheat, making sure that the cooking chamber is closed.
After that, you are free to cook, grill, braise, and bake whatever you like. There can be plenty of presets in the digital controller, so it makes it really easy to cook a perfect meal each time. Another great aspect is that you can monitor your meat’s temperature on the fly, which is very convenient.
Steak or pork to creme brulée, you can cook whatever your heart desires with these pellet grills, and they imbue your meat with such a flavor that you won’t ever want to go back to traditional grills again.
Some words of caution before you start cooking: These grills do not produce as much smoke when at high temperatures. The most smoke is produced at temperatures below 250°. They also don’t produce grill marks on your meat, due to the indirect heating of the meat. However, this can be done by preheating the cast iron grill grate, but it is worth mentioning for the fans of classic grills.
Recommended Wood Pellet Grills
Wood pellet grills can be pricey, but they usually make up for it with their versatility and the wonderful flavor.
In our opinion, some of the best pellet grills on the market are manufactured by Memphis, Yoder Smokers, FireCraft. MAK Grills and Traeger.
All in all, wood pellet grills are very versatile, allowing you to cook in many different ways, and imbuing your food with that delicious, distinct smoky flavor.
Although they usually come at quite a cost, and they don’t present such portability as other grills, they surely are a great addition to your backyard and can ease your grilling experience considerably.