Pellet grills have become a particularly hot item over the last few years. People are turning towards pellet grills due to their versatile and easy-to-use nature.
Although a pellet grill can smoke a brisket, bake a pizza, and even sear a steak, a common question I hear is if pellet grills are good for smoking?
After all, a huge selling point of pellet grills is being able to turn on the grill, set a temperature, and let the meat smoke for hours without having to maintain the fire. So is the smoke from pellet grills enough?
Pellet grills are good for smoking since they are easy to use and produce enough smoke to create a smoke ring. Unlike traditional wood or charcoal smokers, pellet grills require little maintenance and upkeep in order to smoke food. Simply plug in the pellet grill, set the temperature, and wait until the food is done. Moreover, more smoke can be produced on a pellet grill by using smoker tubes and hardwood pellets if the pellet grill does not produce enough smoke.
Pellet grills are the best option for almost every at-home chef.
Pellet grills are a great option for someone who wants to smoke meat but is just getting started since they’re easy to use. Even for an experienced chef or BBQ enthusiast, a pellet grill can help expand the range of dishes that can be cooked due to the versatility of a pellet grill.
There aren’t any other outdoor cooking devices that can smoke a brisket, sear a steak, and bake a pizza as a pellet grill can.
Now let’s dive into what a pellet grill is and why they are great for smoking.
What Pellet Grills Are and How They Work
Pellet grills are simply grills that use wood pellets as fuel. The wood pellets get fed into a firepot where they burn and create heat and smoke.
Pellet grills were designed to give users very precise control over the cooking temperature. Since pellet grills are creating heat and smoke, the food is being cooked via indirect heat similar to a convection oven. The fire itself does not necessarily cook the food, the hot smoke is what actually cooks the food.
The indirect heat is why pellet grills can be compared to convection ovens. Pellet grills set to a high temperature such as 500°F will act as a convection oven which is how pizzas can be baked in a pellet grill.
The range of temperatures that a grill can generally cover is around 180°F to about 500°F. This allows pellet grills to be versatile and cook a variety of food in a number of ways.
At lower temperatures such as 180°F and 225°F, pellet grills will create more smoke and cook food slowly which is needed to create smoke rings.
So pellet grills are the “jack of all trades” which include being a smoker.
That being said, let’s compare a pellet grill to a dedicated smoker to show the pros and cons of each.
Is a Pellet Grill Better Than a Dedicated Smoker?
Pellet grills and dedicated stick and charcoal smokers often get compared. All these cooking devices can smoke a brisket but determining which one is better depends on a few factors.
Pellet grills will smoke a brisket with extreme ease but there are some compromises.
Pellet Grills May Not Create As Much Smoke
Compared to a traditional stick or charcoal smoker, pellet grills generally produce less smoke.
Pellet grills will still develop a smoke ring and smoke flavor but some smoking recipes call for heavy smoke to create a thick bark. Although a charcoal or stick smoker can create thicker smoke by throwing more wood on the fire, pellet grills aren’t as easy without some additional help.
First, pellet grills can create more smoke by using a wood pellet smoker tube that can be placed inside the grill. Next, hardwood pellets such as mesquite will create a thicker smoker than fruitwoods such as apple.
Here are 5 tips to create more smoke on a pellet grill that will solve the issue of a pellet grill not producing enough smoke.
Pellet Grills Need Power
Unlike a stick or charcoal smoker, pellet grills need electricity in order to work.
Depending on where you plan on smoking your food, having an electrical source can be a drawback if you plan on smoking away from civilization.
However, most home chefs will have an electrical outlet or extension cord handy so that the pellet grill can be powered.
While it’s easy to see that these are a great option for beginners, even pros are using pellet grills to smoke their foods.
Pellet grills are more convenient and easy to use compared to a traditional smoker. Here are some of the biggest advantages you get by using a pellet grill for smoking.
You Can Set It and Forget It on a Pellet Grill
Pellet grills have a temperature controller that other smokers cannot match. On a pellet grill, the cooking temperature can be set which is what the food will smoke or cook at similar to an oven.
With traditional smokers, the fire must be monitored so that the temperature doesn’t rise too high or too low. This reason alone is what makes traditional smokers more difficult to use since it takes skill to properly maintain a fire.
The “set it and forget it” possibility with a pellet grill is what makes these grills the most beginner-friendly and convenient when it comes to smoking.
Simply set your cooking temperature, place the meat on the pellet grill, and wait until the meat is ready. You can literally walk away from the pellet grill for hours and return to a perfectly smoked brisket or ribs.
Meats are Harder to Burn
Pellet grills cook using indirect heat since the smoke and hot air are blown by the convection fan. This means that all sides of the food cook at the same time in a pellet grill.
Unless the pellet grill has a direct flame or sear feature, the pellet grill will almost never burn the food unless you leave the food on the grill for a very long time.
Compared to regular charcoal or propane grills and even traditional smokers, pellet grills will allow you more time to take the food off the grill before it starts burning.
Once the food gets burned, the taste will be bitter which you want to avoid. Burned food is something you rarely have to worry about when using a pellet grill.
A traditional smoker is made for one thing: smoking meats. A pellet grill, on the other hand, can be used in a number of ways.
Pellet grills excel at smoking, grilling, roasting, baking, and even searing. Pellet grills can be seen as both an outdoor grill, oven, and smoker.
With all of these advantages and the knowledge that professionals trust them, you could say that a pellet grill is an excellent option for almost anyone. They’re highly versatile, and they can be used by just about anyone.
Pellet grills are not only good for smoking but they’re also good for grilling, roasting, searing, and even baking.
If you’re looking for the easiest way to smoke meats, then a pellet grill is your answer. Pellet grills may not produce as much smoke as traditional smokers but there are a few solutions to create more smoke. Not to mention pellet grills come with a ton of other advantages that traditional smokers do not have.
So if you’re on the fence about getting or using a pellet grill because of how much smoke it produces, just know that there are ways to create more smoke on a pellet grill. Overall, pellet grills produce enough smoke to create smoke rings and develop a nice smoky flavor.
It’s true that pellet grills tend to be a bit more expensive than other grills, but the control they offer can’t be beaten. They provide high control over temperature, and you can “set them and forget them.” They also provide you with other methods of cooking. This is worth the cost alone.
As with anything else, there are some brands that stand above the rest. Some of the more popular brands available are Camp Chef, Recteq, Traeger, and Green Mountain Grills.
This question comes up a lot. The terms pellet smoker and pellet grill are interchangeable, meaning that they’re the same thing. They may be called one or the other, depending on who you’re talking to.
Pellet grills are designed to be an easy-to-use smoker. As such, they may be a better option for some than for others.