Pellet grills have become increasingly popular since these versatile grills can smoke, grill, sear, and even bake food.
A pellet grill is the only cooking device where you can smoke a brisket for 12 hours, then raise the cooking temperature and bake a pie shortly after.
Given how popular pellet grills are becoming, I commonly get asked how pellet grills work and if pellet grills can work without pellets and using other fuel sources.
So can you cook on a pellet grill without pellets?
Pellet grills will not cook any food without wood pellets. In fact, pellet grills require wood pellets and electricity in order to cook food. The electricity powers the auger that feeds the wood pellets into the firepot which creates both smoke and heat. Without wood pellets, the pellet grill will not be able to create smoke or heat.
Now let’s cover how pellet grills work so we can understand why wood pellets must be used in order for pellet grills to cook food.
How Pellet Grills Work
A pellet grill is simply a grill that uses wood pellets as fuel for a fire. The firepot is where the wood pellets burn and smolder which creates the heat and smoke needed to cook and smoke food.
Below is an image that highlights the main internal parts of a pellet grill and the purpose of each part.
The hopper holds the wood pellets and the pellet grill uses electricity to power the auger to feed pellets into the firepot.
Without electricity or wood pellets, pellet grills will not work or cook any food.
Can Pellet Grills Use Propane?
Another common question I hear with pellet grills is if propane can be used to cook food on pellet grills.
Sometimes we run out of wood pellets and people often try to use other sources of fuel to finish cooking the food. So can propane be used to cook food on pellet grills?
Propane cannot be used to cook food on pellet grills. Pellet grills require wood pellets and electricity to create heat and smoke in order to cook and smoke food. Without electricity or wood pellets, a pellet grill cannot power the auger that feeds the wood pellets into the firepot. The firepot is where the wood pellets burn and smolder to create heat and smoke that is used to cook food on pellet grills.
Pellet grills by definition need wood pellets in order to cook food.
See this article for a more in-depth explanation of if pellet grills can use propane or gas.
Can Pellet Grill Use Charcoal?
Another common question I hear is if pellet grills can use charcoal instead of wood pellets?
After all, charcoal grills are usually just metal containers that hold the hot charcoal fire while the food cooks on the grill grate. So initially it would seem that charcoal could be used in pellet grills.
However, Charcoal briquettes and lump charcoal cannot be used in a pellet grill. Pellet grills require pellet-shaped wood or charcoal in order to work correctly. So charcoal-flavored wood pellets and charcoal pellets can be used in a pellet grill.
DO NOT place charcoal briquettes inside a pellet grill’s drum and start a fire directly in the grill. Pellet grills are not designed to withstand the direct heat charcoal fires create. A charcoal fire can cause serious damage to a pellet grill.
Pellet grills are expensive cooking devices that range from hundreds to thousands of dollars. The electrical and mechanical components inside of the grill are not designed to withstand the high heat of charcoal fires.
So always use wood pellets when cooking food inside of a pellet grill.
See this article for a more in-depth explanation of if charcoal can be used on a pellet grill.
Can Pellet Grills Be Used For Everyday Grilling?
Now that we know pellet grills need both electricity and wood pellets in order to cook food. Another question I often hear about pellet grills is if they can be used for everyday grilling.
So can pellet grills be used for everyday grilling?
Pellet grills can be used for normal everyday grilling such as burgers, hotdogs, and steaks. Moreover, pellet grills can slow smoke brisket, cold smoke salmon, and even sear a steak. Similar to a convection oven, pellet grills have a temperature control which will determine how fast food cooks on the grill.
However, keep in mind that pellet grills require wood pellets in order to produce heat and smoke.
So even though pellet grills can be used for everyday grilling, pellet grills cannot use charcoal or propane as fuel.
See this article for a more in-depth explanation of if pellet grills can be used for everyday grilling.
Do Wood Pellets Go Bad?
A common question I hear about newcomers to pellet grills is if wood pellets go bad.
After all, charcoal and propane are both fuels that are easy to use and can withstand harsh elements such as rain and snow.
So do wood pellets go bad?
Wood pellets can go bad and become unusable if the pellets are exposed to moisture or water. However, wood pellets do not have an expiration date and can be used whenever needed. If the wood pellets get wet and expand from moisture then remove those pellets before turning the pellet grill on.
So wood pellets will not expire but cannot be exposed to water or moisture.
Unlike charcoal which can dry out or propane that is stored in a tank, wood pellets are not water-resistant.
However, as long as the wood pellets are kept dry then the wood pellets can be used whenever needed.
See this article for a more in-depth explanation of if wood pellets go bad.
How Long Do Pellet Grills Last?
Finally, another common question I hear is how long do pellet grills last?
These cooking devices are more expensive than entry-level propane and charcoal grills.
So how long do pellet grills typically last?
Generally, pellet grills will last anywhere from 5 to 10 years with regular use. Proper care and maintenance will extend the lifespan of the grill. However, cheaper pellet grills may only last 2 to 3 years due to the low-quality materials used to construct the grill. So investing in a higher quality pellet grill, proper maintenance, and storing the grill indoors or covered will extend the lifespan of a pellet grill.
Keep in mind that pellet grills must only use wood pellets to work. If propane or charcoal are used inside of a pellet grill then the lifespan of the pellet grill will be shortened.
Any improper use of a pellet grill can damage the internal electronics and mechanical components of the pellet grill.
So always use wood pellets when it comes to pellet grills.
See this article for a more in-depth explanation of how long pellet grills last.
Pellet grills are versatile cooking machines that can smoke, grill, sear, and even bake food.
Although pellet grills are versatile cooking machines, pellet grills require wood pellets and electricity in order to work. Pellet grills cannot cook food without wood pellets so propane and charcoal cannot be used in pellet grills.
As long as a pellet grill has the correct power and fuel then a pellet grill can smoke for hours on end. Moreover, a high-quality pellet grill that is properly maintained will last for 5 to 10 years with regular use so a ton of great food can be cooked on the grill.