Pellet grills are incredible cooking machines that can slow smoke a brisket, grill burgers, and even bake a pizza!
So it’s no wonder why there’s been some debate on whether or not meat should be flipped on a pellet grill. After all, meat cooked on a regular charcoal or propane grill needs to be flipped otherwise one side will get burned.
So when does meat need to be flipped on a pellet grill?
Slow-smoked meat does not need to be flipped on a pellet grill. So ribs, brisket, and pork shoulder smoked at 225°F do not need to be flipped. However, meat cooked at higher temperatures on a pellet grill should be flipped such as grilling burgers or steaks at 450°F.
So meat only needs to be flipped on a pellet grill when cooking at high temperatures.
Smoking meat at low temperatures is an indirect cooking method which means that the air surrounding the meat is cooking the meat. So flipping the meat over would have little to no effect on how the meat cooks.
Let’s cover some common scenarios of when meat needs to be flipped on a pellet grill.
Do Not Flip Meat When Smoking Low and Slow
The most common cooking method on a pellet grill is using the “smoke” or low-temperature settings for multiple hours to smoke meat. Thankfully smoking meat for multiple hours on a pellet grill is simple as long as the pellet grill has electricity and the hopper is full of wood pellets.
Even better is the fact that meat being smoked at low temperatures should not be flipped.
The simple fact is that flipping meat that is being smoked will not help the meat cook any faster or better. So a brisket or pork shoulder can sit on a pellet grill for 10 hours until it is ready to be pulled off.
Now you can spritz a pork shoulder with apple cider vinegar or pull a brisket off mid-smoke to wrap it and put it back on but the meat does not need to be flipped. All these techniques are just to help the meat retain moisture and add flavor.
Flip Meat When Cooking On High Temperatures
When cooking burgers or searing a steak on a pellet grill, the meat should be flipped otherwise one side will get overcooked. Generally, grilling burgers and searing steaks on a pellet grill are done at high temperatures such as 450°F.
Below you can see the wagyu burgers I was grilling on my Traeger pellet grill. I set the temperature to “High” which hits around 450°F once the grill has heated up.
The heat and smoke from pellet grills come from the bottom where the firepot is. The wood pellets burn in the firepot which is what creates heat and smoke. See this article to learn more about how pellet grills work.
So similar to a charcoal or propane grill, the bottom of the burgers will cook faster than the top of the burgers on a pellet grill set to a high temperature.
Unlike smoking meat at low temperatures where the inside of the pellet grill’s drum along with the smoky air cook meat from all sides, high-temperature grilling will cook the meat on the bottom faster. So the meat must be flipped when cooking at high temperatures on a pellet grill otherwise the bottom will cook faster and burn.
Sear Meat on High Temperatures on Pellet Grills
Similar to cooking or grilling meat at high temperatures on pellet grills, steaks and meat can also be seared on pellet grills.
See this article for the perfect temperature for searing meat on pellet grills.
Just make sure to allow the pellet grill to preheat for at least 10 minutes to allow all the internal cooking areas to come up to the cooking temperature. This will help the meat sear quickly on the grill.
Grill on Pellet Grills with Lid Closed
Regardless of whether or not you flip your meat on a pellet grill, the lid must remain closed.
Unlike charcoal or propane grills that can generate an immense amount of heat directly over the fire, pellet grills have a heat baffle that distributes the heat and smoke throughout the grill. This means that pellet grills have more trouble maintaining cooking temperatures with the lid open.
So close the lid even when grilling or searing meat on a pellet grill at high temperatures.
Pellet grills are versatile cooking machines that can smoke meat, grill burgers, and bake pizzas. This means for each of the different styles of cooking, the meat may or may not need to be flipped.
When smoking meat at a low temperature, such as 225°F, the meat does not need to be flipped.
When grilling or searing meat at a high temperature, such as 450°F, the meat should be flipped otherwise one side will cook faster than the other side.
Regardless of what you end up cooking on a pellet grill just remember to keep the lid closed as much as possible.