Wood Pellets Guide | Can Pellets Go Bad?

Wood Pellets Guide Can Pellets Go Bad?

Pellet grills are versatile smokers, grills, and wood fire ovens that can cook a variety of food.

Depending on the temperature setting and wood pellet flavoring – you can cook just about anything on a pellet grill.

Given that pellet grills rely on wood pellets to work, it’s important to understand what wood pellets are, how to store them, and when they go bad.

Before diving into what wood pellets are and how they’re made, here’s a general rule of thumb for keeping wood pellets usable for a pellet grill.

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 when needed. If the wood pellets get wet and expand from moisture then remove those pellets before turning the pellet grill on.

What Are Wood Pellets?

Wood pellets are exactly what it sounds like – pellets made of wood.

Typically wood pellets are created by compressing wood chips or sawdust into tiny pellets. The compression creates heat which melts the natural lignin in the wood.

Raw Materials for Wood Pellets

The natural lignin acts as a glue to hold the compressed wood together in the pellet shape. The lignin is what gives the wood pellets their shape and their shine.

Keep in mind to only use wood pellets intended for grilling or cooking.

Lower quality wood pellets, such as heating pellets for space heaters or ovens, should not be used in pellet grills or anything that cooks food. These lower-quality pellets can be made from contaminated wood or have adhesives added to hold the pellets together.

See this article for more information on using heating pellets with pellet grills.

Can Wood Pellets Get Wet?

Wood pellets cannot get wet or be exposed to moisture since the pellets will expand and become mushy. Wet wood pellets will be unusable in a pellet grill since these mushy wood pellets will jam the auger. Remove any wet wood pellets before turning on a pellet grill.

Since wood pellets are created by compressing wood dust together and using the natural lignin to hold the pellet shape, any natural wood pellet is susceptible to expansion from high levels of moisture.

So the wood pellets used in a pellet grill cannot get wet regardless of the weather conditions. When using a pellet grill in the rain, the water cannot leak into the hopper otherwise the wood pellets will become unusable.

For example, below are wood pellets that I soaked with a tablespoon of water in a bowl. After about 5 minutes, the pellets exposed to water were fully expanded, mushy, and unusable for a pellet grill.

The dry wood pellets (left) and wet wood pellets (right) are visibly different.

Wet wood pellets will not ignite properly and there is a chance these mushy pellets will get stuck in the auger. So make sure to discard any wet wood pellets before turning on a pellet grill.

Can 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 when needed. If the wood pellets get wet and expand from moisture then remove those pellets before turning the pellet grill on.

Any expanded wood pellets will be soft and can jam the auger.

Can You Leave Pellets In The Hopper?

Wood pellets can be left in the hopper of a pellet grill in between cooking sessions. However, the hopper must remain dry since wood pellets cannot get wet otherwise the pellets will expand and become unusable.

When storing a pellet grill outdoors, a cover must be placed over the hopper in order to prevent moisture from mixing with the wood pellets.

Pellet grills stored indoors can have pellets leftover in the hopper.

Can You Add Pellets To Pellet Grills While Cooking?

Wood pellets can be added to a pellet grill’s hopper at any time. Topping off the hopper with additional wood pellets while the pellet grill is cooking is safe and will help the grill continue to operate during a long smoke.

However, make sure that the hopper is not empty or that there isn’t any “tunneling” with the pellets before adding more pellets. Below is an image of my Traeger pellet grill’s hopper where the pellets can be seen to be stuck to the side and the auger is visible.

Traeger hopper with wood pellets tunneling

The situation where the hopper has pellets stuck to the sides while the center is empty is called “tunneling.” The hopper isn’t technically empty but the auger will not be able to feed pellets that are stuck to the side.

So the pellets need to be gently shaken into the auger before topping off the hopper with more pellets.

Can I Use Other Brand Pellets In A Traeger Pellet Grill?

Any brand of wood pellet rated for pellet grills can be used in a Traeger pellet grill. Heating pellets that are intended for heaters should not be used for cooking since they can contain contaminants and adhesives that are not safe for consumption.

There are multiple brands that manufacture wood pellets that can produce more smoke, different flavors, or are more cost-efficient than Traeger wood pellets.

For example, other Traeger owners on reddit use brands such as CookinPelletsPitBoss, or Lumberjack wood pellets with their Traeger pellet grills and did not run into any issues.

So feel free to experiment with other wood pellet brands and flavors to find your favorite blend.

Final Thoughts

Wood pellets are the essential fuel for all pellet grills.

Given that wood pellets produce the heat, smoke, and flavor for the food – you should find the best blend for your taste. Whether you use Traeger or other brands, there are plenty of wood pellet flavors and blends on the market.

Just make sure to keep pellets away from water and high moisture since that is the only way wood pellets can become unusable.

Whether you decide to keep wood pellets in the bag or the hopper of a pellet grill, the wood pellets will be ready for your next cook if kept dry.

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Steven

I'm learning how to catch, grow, and cook my own natural food and my goal is to help others eat more food from nature. Eating natural food can taste great, be affordable and accessible with a little planning. Don't get me wrong, I still eat taco bell and pizzas every so often, but I'm trying to eat more dank food from nature! So let's eat tasty natural food together.

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