Wood pellet grills seem to be a smoking hot trend these days, with a lot of people posting their newly acquired grills on their social media accounts.
In fact, they’re one of the fastest-growing trends among grill masters both old and new.
How to use a Pellet Grill
If you want to jump in on the trend, then now’s the best time to get yourself one and learn how to use a pellet grill successfully.
We created this article to help you learn the ins and outs of a pellet grill, how to use it properly, and some other cooking tips you’ll find useful.
What is a Pellet Grill?
First and foremost, let’s first have a look at what a pellet smoker is.
Pellet grills, commonly known by many as “pellet smokers”, combine the elements of gas grills, kitchen ovens, and charcoal smokers into a single appliance. This makes them a perfect choice for those who want efficiency while cooking but would rather prefer using a traditional method while doing so.
However, compared to other types of smokers, a pellet smoker uses both electricity to operate and hardwood pellets as fuel (hence the name) to smoke food at a constant temperature. since it uses all-natural hardwood pellets, you can introduce either direct heat or indirect heat into the food you’re cooking.
A pellet grill also features a wide temperature range which makes it ideal for cooking various foods like ribs, briskets, roast and foods that require the use of different cooking methods.
Despite the growing popularity, pellet grills or pellet smokers were actually introduced way back in 1988 by Joe Traeger. He originally came up with the idea after noticing that his gas grill was covered in flames while cooking food for his family.
Fast forward to more than 3 decades, the Traeger brand has become the most widely known brand on the market when it comes to pellet grills. This is also one of the reasons why most of the posts you see on social media involving pellet grills have the Traeger brand.
The most appealing feature of wood pellet grills compared to charcoal grills, gas grills, and others is that they’re quite easier to use and control.
In fact, each aspect of use from the startup down to temperature control and maintenance is very simple.
As long as you follow the right steps, you’ll get to enjoy your favorite smoked foods in no time!
How Does It Work?
A pellet smoker uses wood pellets as fuel to cook your foods. It has a container known as a hopper where wood pellets are poured into.
Then, these pellets get transferred to an electric-powered fire pot via a rotating auger.
Once the pellets are inside the fire pot, they are then ignited by a hot rod which causes them to burn. Once heat and smoke are produced, they then travel upward into a heat baffle which then distributes them throughout the grill, allowing your food to cook without burning it.
Then, a grease drip tray is located above to further distribute the heat and catch grease drippings. Lastly, heat and smoke are circulated throughout the grill chamber.
This method is known as convection style, and it’s the one responsible for cooking your food while it’s inside the pellet smoker grill.
A pellet smoker typically has five main components which are as follows:
As mentioned, the rotating auger is the one that transfers the pellets into the fire pot. It’s normally located at the very bottom of the hopper.
You also have the option to set the speed of the auger, either have it rotate fast to cook food quickly or have it rotate slowly for a low-heat, slow cooking.
The controller is a pellet grill’s electronic component that contains the controls you need to operate your grill. Most grills come with an LCD-style control panel, though it’s a common feature that all current Traeger models have.
You can also find pellet grills that come with an old-school dial control featuring temperature settings that are marked on the grill. They can still operate and cook your food just fine; the only exception is that they are far less convenient than their modern counterparts.
The fan is the heat that keeps the fire burning and circulates heat and smoke to allow for even cooking. It actually comes with variable speed so you can set the temperature inside the pellet smoker grill.
This is basically where the hot rod, which ignites and burns the pellets, is located.
As mentioned earlier, the hopper is a box-shaped container where you can place the wood pellets. It then moves the pellets down into the auger via gravity. It has a lid that you can open to feed the pellets and check the current pellet levels any time.
When buying a Pellet Grill, there are lots of things to consider. However, your choice of Pellet Grill should really come down to personal preference and it having the features that you want.
How to Use a Pellet Grill
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s now proceed to the steps you need to follow so you can start cooking foods using a pellet smoker. They’re as follows:
Step 1: Preparing the Pellet Grill
Before starting, make sure your pellet grill is clean and ready to use. Remove any leftover ash and grease. Clean the grates, grease tray, and temperature probe with a grill brush or scraper.
Step 2: Choosing the Right Pellets
Select high-quality hardwood pellets for your grill. Different wood types give unique flavors to your food. For example, hickory is great for a bold taste, while applewood adds a milder, fruity flavor.
Step 3: Practicing Safety
Place your pellet grill on a flat, stable surface away from flammable materials. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby. Make sure the grill is in a well-ventilated area, and never leave it unattended while it’s on.
Step 4: Filling the Hopper
Open the pellet hopper and pour in your chosen pellets. Fill it to the top but avoid overfilling. Close the lid securely to keep moisture out.
Step 5: Turning On the Pellet Grill
Plug the grill into an outlet, then turn it on using the power button or switch. The grill’s control panel will light up, and the auger will start moving pellets into the firepot.
Step 6: Setting the Temperature
Use the control panel to set the desired cooking temperature. Allow the grill to preheat for 10-15 minutes. The grill will automatically adjust the pellet feed rate to maintain the set temperature.
Step 7: Cooking on the Pellet Grill
Once the grill is preheated, open the lid and place your food on the grates. Close the lid to trap heat and smoke. Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness, and follow the cooking times and temperatures recommended in your recipe.
Step 8: After the Cook
When your food is cooked, turn off the pellet grill using the power button or switch. Carefully remove the food from the grates, and let it rest before serving.
Step 9: Cleaning Up
Allow the grill to cool completely. Clean the grates, grease tray, and temperature probe with a grill brush or scraper. Empty the ash from the firepot and dispose of it safely. Store your grill in a dry, protected area when not in use.
Tips for Properly Using a Pellet Grill
- Always season your new pellet grill to get rid of any residual oils which might be left behind during the manufacturing process.
- Take it slow and start out small. This will allow you to get acquainted with your new grill. This means that instead of going directly for a whole brisket, start smoking smaller meat, particularly chicken, salmon, and other cuts that will only require around 2 hours of smoking or even less.
- Don’t be afraid to use the reverse sear method. This means smoking your meat at a lower temperature then switching to a higher one once it’s almost cooked. This method is useful for smoking chicken and even thicker steaks.
- Always refill the pellet hopper and don’t let it run out. In the event that your hopper does run out of pellets, make sure to consult the manual before you relight the grill.
- If you’re cooking meat that has a higher tendency to dry out, such as fish fillets or chicken breasts, it’s highly recommended to place them in the upper rack of the grill. This way, you can protect them from the intense heat radiating from the bottom.
However, if your grill doesn’t come with an upper rack, you can instead use a wire rack and balance it on fire bricks. Don’t forget to place a water pan on the grate for added moisture.
Get Your Own Pellet Grill Now
At this point, you should have already figured out how to use a pellet grill properly. The steps are actually pretty simple compared to other types of smokers.
If you’re looking for a good balance of convenience, flavor, and flexibility in a grill/smoker, then don’t hesitate to go for a pellet grill.