Pellet grills are versatile cooking machines that can smoke briskets, corn, and even pizzas. These grills are incredibly easy to use since you just need to fill the hopper with wood pellets, plug the grill in, and set a cooking temperature.
Since pellet grills are so easy to use, a common question I hear with pellet grill is if they create a smoke flavor on food.
So do pellet grills leave a smokey flavor on food?
Pellet grills will create a smoke flavor on food when smoking at a low cooking temperature such as 180°F or 225°F for hours. However, pellet grills may produce a lighter smoke flavor compared to charcoal and stick-burning smokers. Hardwood pellets and smoker tubes can increase the amount of smoke a pellet grill produces to create a heavier smoke flavor.
So pellet grills will produce a smoky flavor on food when given enough time at a low cooking temperature.
Let’s cover how pellet grills work before diving into tips on how to produce more smoke on a pellet grill.
How Pellet Grills Work
Pellet grills need electricity and wood pellets in order to create heat and smoke.
The wood pellets are the fuel that is fed into the firepot where they are burned and turned into smoke and heat. The induction fan is what blows the heat and smoke throughout the pellet grill which cooks the food.
Unlike charcoal and propane grills that use direct heat to cook food where one side of the food cooks faster than the other. Pellet grills use indirect heat by blowing the heat and smoke into the cooking chamber to smoke and cook the food from all sides at the same time.
Pellet grills are similar to convection ovens where the food is being cooked from all sides.
The consistent heat and smoke are what make pellet grills so special since you can set a temperature, such as 225°F, without having to maintain the fire. Here is an image of how a pellet grill works:
Now that we know how pellet grills work, let’s cover how to create more smoke and smokey flavor on a pellet grill.
Creating Smoke Rings on Meat with Pellet Grills
The main benefit of creating a smokey flavor on food using a smoker is developing a smoke ring on meat. Smoke rings are delicious and beautiful pink-colored rings that can be seen on the outside edge of meat when sliced open.
Below is a brisket that was smoked on my Traeger pellet grill where the pink and red smoke ring is visible along the edges of the brisket.
The smoke ring is proof that a pellet grill can give a smokey flavor since it can visibly develop a smoke ring on meat. If the brisket was cooked in a regular oven then the smoke ring would not develop since smoke rings can only develop from wood-burning smoke.
See this guide for creating the best smoke ring on meat using a pellet grill.
Now lets cover some tips for creating more smoke on a pellet grill so that the food will taste smokey.
Tips for Creating More Smoke on Pellet Grills
Generally, pellet grills produce a moderate amount of smoke compared to a charcoal or stick burning smoker. However, pellet grills can produce even more smoke when the correct tools and technique are used.
Here are the three most important tips when creating more smoke on a pellet grill.
Tip 1: Use Lower Temperatures to Create More Smoke
Pellet grills produce more smoke at lower cooking temperatures. Lower cooking temperatures allow the wood pellets to smolder which will produce more smoke.
When a pellet grill is set to a higher cooking temperature such as 450°F then the pellets will burn faster which produces less visible smoke. In fact, grilling on a Traeger without smoke is possible when using a higher cooking temperature in case you do not want the food to taste smokey.
So always use a lower cooking temperature such as 180°F or 225°F in order to create more smoke on a pellet grill.
Tip 2: Use Hardwood Pellets instead of Fruitwood Pellets
Generally, hardwoods will burn longer and produce more smoke than fruit woods. Similarly, in wood pellets, hardwood pellets will produce more smoke than fruitwood pellets.
Examples of hardwoods pellets that produce more smoke are mesquite, oak, and walnut. Fruitwoods, such as apple, cherry, or maple will leave a sweeter and lighter smoke flavor compared to hardwoods.
Checkout the best wood for smoking guide to determine the best wood type for the food being cooked.
Tip 3: Use a Smoker Tube for More Smoke
Smoker tubes are a great way to create more smoke on a pellet grill. Similar to a wood chip box, smoker tubes will hold wood pellets and allow them to smolder inside the grill to create additional smoke.
The benefit of using a smoker tube over a wood chip box on a pellet grill is that smoker tubes can be filled with the same wood pellets the pellet grill is using. So the smoker tube will be creating more of the exact same smoke and flavor that the pellet grill is producing.
Here is the smoker tube that I purchased off Amazon and use whenever I need extra smoke in my pellet grill.
Some pellet grill owners report using a different wood pellet flavor in the smoker tube to create a combination of flavors. For example, the pellet grill can have mesquite wood pellets to create a heavy smoke flavor while the smoker tube can have apple wood pellets in order to create a sweet tasting smoke on the food.
The combination of different flavored wood pellets makes the smoker tube very handy for any BBQ enthusiast that has a pellet grill.
Pellet grills are great cooking machines that can grill, smoke, sear, and even bake food depending on the cooking temperature.
Given the versatility of pellet grills, the grill may not produce as much smoke as a more traditional charcoal or stick-burning smoker. Here is a comparison guide of pellet grills vs stick burning smokers that highlights the pros and cons of each smoker.
Ultimately, pellet grills do create a smoke flavor on food when a lower cooking temperature is used such as 180°F or 225°F. Using hardwood pellets and a smoker tube will help create additional smoke in order to create a more intense smoke flavor.
So do not shy away from pellet grills since a smoke flavor and smoke ring can be created on these versatile grills.