Using Heating Pellets With Pellet Grills? (Read This First!)

Using Heating Pellets With Pellet Grills (Read This First!)

Pellet grills need wood pellets and electricity in order to create smoke and heat in order to transform meat into fall of the bone goodness.

The wood pellets themselves are an important component to the cooking process since this can affect the flavor (mesquite vs apple) as well as how much smoke is produced.

As I’ve been using my pellet grill more often and started to try different flavors and brands of pellets, I began to wonder – can you use heating pellets in a pellet grill?

After all, a 40-pound bag of heating pellets costs around $5 whereas a 40-pound bag of smoking pellets costs anywhere from $30-$40. I discovered the following through my research:

Heating pellets should not be used in a pellet grill for cooking food. Heating pellets may contain softwoods, inorganic additives, wood glues, or wood-derived from low-quality sources. Generally, wood pellets for pellet grills are made from hardwoods and fruitwoods without any extra additives.

Although heating pellets can burn inside of a pellet grill, typically they should not be used in case there are other materials or softwoods in the wood pellets.

Let’s cover the main reasons why heating pellets should be avoided when cooking on a pellet grill.

Heating Pellets Contain Low-Quality Wood

Most heating pellets are made from low quality wood in order to keep costs as low as possible.

Heating pellets are intended to be used in a wood pellet furnace that has a chimney to safely allow the smoke and exhaust to vent outside. The smoke from heating pellets may contain contaminants and chemicals that would be harmful to inhale or cook food with.

Generally heating pellets are made from cheap and low quality wood such as pellets or scrap wood. These woods may have paints, chemicals, and glues that are not safe for smoking food with.

Some heating pellets may be made with cheap softwoods but this is difficult to discern without testing the quality of the pellets.

Heating Pellets Contain Softwoods

Ask any Pitmaster if they use softwoods for smoking and the resounding answer would be no.

Softwoods such as pine, spruce, and fir are not used for smoking meats due to the unappealing flavor they leave on food. Not to mention softwoods contain higher levels of sap and terpenes compared to hardwoods. The extra sap will create a dirtier smoke and leave an unpleasant taste on food.

Heating pellets are often made of softwoods due to the cheap cost of softwoods. Once burned in a furnace, the heating pellets will create this dirty smoke but it will be safely vented through the chimney in a home.

Quick note: Food such as marshmallows can be cooked over an open fire of softwood but these food items are cooked for a short period of time. Smoking food over hours with softwood will leave an unpleasant taste that smokers want to avoid.

Heating Pellets May Contain Wood Glues

Generally, wood pellets are created by compressing sawdust together with high heat until the natural lignin holds the compressed wood together.

Wood pellets used for pellet grills are all made by compressing sawdust together since the natural lignin is safe to burn and smoke food with.

However, heating pellets may be held together with wood glue or other contaminants that help the pellets retain their shape. Given the low price of heating pellets, manufacturers cannot devote a lot of time or effort to create a high quality product.

Heating pellets are intended to be burned for heat with no emphasis placed on the smoke quality since it’s going to be vented out the chimney.

So heating pellets may contain other adhesives.

Heating Pellets May Contain Inorganic Additives

The main drawback to using heating pellets in a pellet grill is that there may be other inorganic additives in the wood.

Inorganic additives such as chemicals, oil, or glue will create a dirty smoke which will leave an unpleasant taste on the food being smoked.

Simply not knowing what is in a heating pellet is the biggest risk when smoking with heating pellets. For this reason alone, I use wood pellets in my pellet grill just to make sure I’m not cooking my food with anything that may be harmful.

Final Thoughts

Heating pellets made of only wood with no other additives can be used in a pellet grill. In fact, the pellet grill would work just fine and the food would smoke as it would with any hardwood pellets.

The only noticeable difference might be the taste since softwoods tend to leave a different taste than hardwoods.

However, the main challenge with heating pellets is not knowing exactly what’s placed in the wood. There may be other inorganic additives such as chemicals, oil, or glue that will create a dirty smoke.

Hardwood pellets are intended to be used in pellet grills to cook food. This is the main reason why I am comfortable selecting hardwood pellets over heating pellets when firing up the pellet grill.

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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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