Why You Should Own A Pellet Grill
When exploring the world of backyard food cooking, you usually think of gas and charcoal grills, and now, pellet grills. What started out with Traeger back in 1985 has spread into a new grilling and smoking phenomena. BBQ smoking competitions have dramatically increased in popularity, gaining international acclaim on TV. Gone are the days when you needed to be a pitmaster to whip up a smoked brisket or some burnt ends, with a pellet grill anyone can be a BBQ hero.
In this article, we'll go over the key questions most people have when considering a pellet grill. Topics include everything from operation to price and maintenance. Keep reading to learn more about pellet grills and why you should seriously consider picking one up this grilling season!
What Are Food Grade Wood Pellets?
Food grade wood pellets are made from 100% natural wood which is first dried and then ground into sawdust. The sawdust is then pressurized and put under extreme heat, which causes any contaminants in the wood to be eliminated and also holds their cylindrical shape using the wood's natural lignin.
What makes food grade pellets different from normal heating pellets is both their lack of contaminants as well as their wood selection. Cooking pellets are typically produced from Alder, Apple, Cherry, Pecan, Maple, Oak, Hickory, and Mesquite wood. Species such as Fir, Spruce, and other softwoods commonly used for heating pellets will sour the taste of food.
Pellets are typically sold in 10, 20, or 40-pound bundles at some sporting goods stores, hardware stores, and, of course, through us! Don’t forget, pellets are made up of compressed sawdust, this means they need to stay dry or they won’t be usable. We recommend a heavy duty 20lb steel bucket outfitted with a filter and lid. These filtered lids are great at stopping impurities from getting into the hopper and jamming the feeding system.
Is Cooking With A Pellet Grill Easy?
Pellet grills are very easy to operate, especially newer models featuring both WiFi connectivity and proportional integral derivative (PID) controllers. These models let you control your pellet grill through an app on your smartphone, all you have to do is open the app and select the temperature of your cook, the grill will take care of the rest. These newer grills even shut themselves down when your meal is done, so you never over cook an expensive piece of meat! Most models also let you download recipes from your phone, this lets you select the meal you're cooking and sets the grill to cruise control. Below we'll give a quick overview on just how easy a pellet grill is to operate.
How Does A Pellet Grill Work?
To operate a pellet grill, all you need is an electrical power source, wood pellets, and some food!
- Fill the hopper with food grade pellets (the hopper is a box which is attached to either the back or side of the grill).
- Turn the control board to the smoke setting. The control board will tell the auger to feed pellets from the hopper into the fire pot. Once they’ve accumulated, a hot rod will heat up and cause the pellets to ignite while a convection fan turns on to spread the temperature evenly throughout the grill.
- Now that the grill is lit, simply set the desired temperature you’d like to cook at on the control board, the grill will slowly feed the correct amount of pellets into the fire pot to maintain your desired temperature. As the grill burns the wood pellets, it fills the cooking area with an aromatic smoke that permeates into your meal, giving it that wonderful smokehouse flavor.
It’s that simple! We’ve just walked through how to cook a meal in 3 easy steps. You’re good to smoke, grill, bake, roast, or barbecue your heart out!
Can You Sear On A Pellet Grill?
Searing foods is the result of exposing food to direct intense heat, like the sizzle of a juicy burger as it hits the hot grill grate positioned over a fire. With higher temperatures, a pellet grill can sear food with ease as higher-end manufacturers began producing grills that allow searing directly over the burn pot on a perforated plate. Alternatively, you can preheat a cast iron skillet or griddle directly on the grill grate.
Are Pellet Grills Portable?
Traeger, Pit Boss, Green Mountain Grills, and other manufacturers all make a model they typically call the Tailgater. These grills usually feature a smaller hopper, more compact size, and foldable legs for easy transporting. Powering these grills is simple too, all you need is a high efficiency power inverter and a car / boat battery or gas-powered generator. While these grills may not be ideal for backpacking or hiking, they make an excellent addition to any tailgate, festival, camping weekend, or just a day by the lake.
What Are The Advantages Of Pellet Grills vs Gas and Charcoal?
Exploring which grill to purchase for the upcoming season, to replace an old grill, or to broaden your horizons can be a tedious task as there are many different options to choose from. While researching the advantages and setbacks of each type of grill, pellet grills, you will find, have many advantages over the standard gas and charcoal grills, these include:
Ease of use – Pellet grills allows you to set your grill and walk away until it is time to transition your food from grill to plate. Pellet grills work more like a conventional oven and require less attention during your use due to their simple controls and indirect convection-like heat, just set it and forget it! With the benefit of only having to open the lid to snag your delicious creations, you have the perfect opportunity to make delectable grilled wings without missing the best part of Sunday football!
Versatile cookers – Another perk of a pellet grill is the advantage of its versatility, anything that can be smoked or baked can be cooked on a pellet grill as these grills combine the perks of a grill and a smoker! The pellet grill offers the ability to cook, roast, barbecue, braise, sear, bake, and smoke while adding a subtle smokey flavor. Check out the article "How to get Started Smoking Beef and Fish" by our good friends The Stove Center for an idea of how smoking differs from traditional grilling.
Temperature accuracy – Trying to maintain the perfect temperature on a gas or charcoal grill can be a daunting task, luckily, pellet grills make this easy! All pellet grills make use of an RTD Probe to take a temperature readout of the inside of the grill and relay it back to the control board. The control board then tells the auger exactly how many pellets to feed into the burn pot, allowing the grill to regulate the temperature within 5 to 10 degrees. Newer grills make this even easier thanks to their PID controllers using an algorithm to maintain consistent temperature regardless of the temperature outside the grill!
Cheaper & More Efficient – Years ago, pellet grills were the most expensive style of grill you could buy. Now, thanks to advancements in technology, you can find a pellet grill for any budget. As you look for your first grill you will notice that as the price goes up, the grills sport more features such as full stainless steel construction and WiFi controllers. Pellet grills are a double whammy when it comes to price though, as they’re also cheaper to operate per hour vs propane and charcoal grills. We’ll get into this more a bit later.
Delicious wood smoke flavor – One of the factors that separates pellet grills from the rest is their ability to add a superior smoke taste other grills have a hard time providing. To make it even more appealing, wood pellets are sold in a variety of flavors ranging from hickory, apple, and oak, to beyond. Wood pellets also give you the creativity to mix different flavors to create a unique taste profile, a great way to add a flare to the same recipe you’ve cooked before.
Are Pellet Grills Expensive To Run?
The cost for a bag of pellets can be a turn off at first sight, but there’s more you’re missing behind the initial numbers. Pellet grills are actually much cheaper to run per hour than gas and charcoal grills! One hour of cooking at 225 degrees fahrenheit with pellets costs roughly $0.76, while propane costs $1.20, and charcoal a whopping $2.85. Pellet grills are also more efficient, especially across the entire surface thanks to a convection fan, as they keep the temperature consistent and spread throughout. You may see a small increase in your electric bill if you use your pellet grill often, but this is with daily use.
Do Pellet Grills Require Maintenance?
Just like gas, charcoal, and electric grills, pellet grills also require maintenance to operate at peak performance. After each use, your grill will collect ash and grease. Over time, these buildups impact the function of your grill and the quality of your food. Cleaning your grill will keep your unit operating properly while keeping your food tasting great!
All grills collect grease upon use, but pellet grills make it very easy to clean up. Most grills are equipped with a grease pan drain system that allows grease to flow directly into a bucket to be dumped later on. We recommend lining both your grease pan and bucket with liners to make cleanup even quicker. The grease pan liner acts the same as aluminum foil on a baking sheet when making bacon, while the grease bucket liner keeps you from having to wash out the bucket after each filling. Remember, grease build-up can back up into the grill if left too long and can result in a potential grease fire, it is essential to routinely check and clean out any old grease.
Pellet grills often sport three styles of cooking grates: cast iron, stainless steel, or porcelain coated cast iron. A good wire steel brush can be used for cleaning cast iron and stainless steel grates, but we recommend a wood scrape for porcelain coated cast iron as it will make sure the non stick coating stays the way it was made, non stick! An all natural cleaner should be used to make sure the seasoning of cast iron grates isn’t stripped. Make sure with your cleaning you gently wipe down temperature probes after each use as well in order to keep accurate communication between your firebox and controller.
Aside from cooking related cleaning, pellet grills do burn pellets which create ash that collect at the bottom of the fire box requiring periodic vacuuming with an ash vacuum. It is important to vacuum out ash as it will circulate inside the smoker while you cook, the more ash build-up, the more it will impact the flavor of your food and efficiency pellets are burnt at.
Just like your car (or anything with moving parts) your grill will require periodic replacement of parts. Stove & Grill Parts For Less is the largest supplier of high quality, affordable parts anywhere! Check out our parts sorted by brand, leave us a message on our contact form, or give us a call and our highly trained support staff will make sure you’re up and grilling again in no time!