Pellets are made from renewable substances generally from wood waste. It is considered to be the most versatile fuel source for outdoor cooking ( barbecuing ) for various reasons.
Most of them do not contain chemicals resulting to an efficient and clean-burning fuel source.
These are made from finely grounded hardwood that are turned into sawdust and are packed and pressed into cylindrical shape that is about half an inches long.
Because of their small size, you can easily control the smoke by adding the right amount of pellets.
Pellets are also popular on outdoor cooking because these add rich and thick flavor to whatever you are cooking while being cost-effective.
Aside from their functionality, these wood pellets are considered to be Eco-friendly and promote recycling of used materials as these are made from different categories of biomass, such as food waste, agricultural residues and virgin lumber. Among the different pellets, wood pellet is the most popular.
These are also sustainable with the lowest ash residue compared to other fuels. However, with the wide array of pellet manufacturers, it is hard to choose the best one which you can use for your regular smokers.
There are some cheap and low-quality products in the market that are contaminated with chemicals which are not safe when mixed with foods.
In order to avoid this situation, make sure that you choose only the trusted and established brands.
Uses of Wood Pellets
As mentioned earlier, pellets can be used instead of charcoal, firewood, oil and gas, however its usage is not just limited for cooking but it also has other functions that most of the people do not know about.
When added with small amount of water they make a suitable horse bedding.
Likewise, it is not much known that wood pellets are also absorbents as they are used to absorb contaminated water when drilling oil or gas wells.
In cold countries, most houses use wood pellets to heat their homes by using boilers and stoves. These are also recognized by scientists that offers benefits compared to fossil fuels.
Since these are made from different biomass, they have a potential in terms of greenhouse gas mitigation. Thus is considered a greener fuel source.
Because of this potential, some energy industry had started using wood pellets in replacement of fossil fuels and alternative to carbon-intensive sources of energy.
But today wood pellet is used largely in outdoor cooking like BBQ and as alternative heat source.
Can You Use Pellets In A Regular Smoker?
The simple answer would be a big yes. Pellets can be used in various ways such as in a pellet smoker, grill or anything you want to use on your next outdoor barbecue picnic.
As long the pellets are not made with chemicals and other additives, these are safe to use in a regular smoker. That is why it is very important that you choose the most natural-made pellets because those with high chemicals are harmful to one’s health and do not have the natural wood flavor.
These are just easy to use because you do not need to soak them before you start cooking. Likewise, you can also control the heat and smoke output by applying the right amount of pellets.
However, it is highly advised that you avoid the low-quality products as they may contain chemicals, hence make sure that you only buy products from trusted manufacturers.
Pellets on Propane Smoker
You can use pellets on propane smoker, however, there are only few type of pellets that are compatible with this type of smoker.
In order to use them, you must put them in an aluminum pouch / foil before putting them in into the propane smoker. After which, you make a hole on the top to achieve that smoky flavor.
Pellets on Charcoal Smoker
Charcoal smoker is one of the most preferred equipment on outdoor cooking because of its accessibility and efficiency, however only few know that pellet can also be used .
When using the charcoal smoker, the pellet can also be used but not as the primary source of fuel, instead just use these to add smoky flavor to the meat.
Always remember that charcoal smokers are designed for charcoals, hence it is still best to combine them with charcoal to continue enjoying your charcoal smoker.
Pellets on Electric Smoker
There is nothing wrong with using pellets on your electric smoker, however, you have to make sure that the manufacturer allows the same because there are some brands that do not allow the usage of pellets with their products or else they will void your warranty.
In order to get the best experience using pellet in your electric smoker, you just have learn the right amount you need for your smoker.
You must also have to spread them evenly on the tray to allow them to smolder better.
It is also recommended that you apply cold smoking method because wood pellets ignite easily on electric smokers, hence they shall not be left unattended.
Pellets on Gas Smoker
The best way to use them on a gas smoker is by picking the correct type of pellet. The most recommended type of pellet for this smoker is the food-grade pellets, or those that are safe for foods.
After choosing the most compatible type, you should also have to learn the right amount of pellet to put into your gas smoker to avoid creosote build up, a black residue that builds on the top and walls of your smoker. Once you get the perfect amount , you’ll get the right balance leading to consistent results.
Pellets on gas smokers can produce smoke for several hours , but it still depends on how high the the heat is and what you are going to cook.
The best type of smoker are the vertical ones because pellets work perfectly on vertical settings.
It is not also advisable to put the pellets into the heating tray since they are extremely flammable so as much as possible, keep away your pellets around your smoker’s heating tray.
Different Flavors of Pellet
These are found in variety of flavors which will compliment depending on the type of meat you are cooking. The most popular flavor is the Mesquite that produces an aroma and more spicy flavor perfect for Texas-style BBQ.
These type of pellets are also highly recommended to be paired with strong-flavored meats such as beef.
If you’re looking for a milder flavor, Maple is the best option which can be paired with a pork. If you want to add some slightly sweet flavor to pork, chicken or even lamb, you might consider the Cherry-flavored pellets.
One of the most versatile flavors is Hickory as its flavor pairs well with different type of meats because of its rich and strong flavor.
For vegetables, a universal wood flavor would perfectly compliment like Cherry, Maple and Apple flavor. As for fish meat, you might opt to use Apple and Fruit-wood because of their narrow taste.
Alder is also one of the most universal type of pellets next to Mesquite because its flavor can compliment well with beef, chicken, pork, seafood and vegetables.
Other flavors include Walnut, Oak, Pecan and more.
Type of Wood
To Soak It or Not
I understand where are you coming from; you have been soaking woods before using them and wonder should you do the same with pellets? But instead of what common knowledge is you should not soak it.
Pellets are not bound with solid materials, hence it will crumble and swell up when you soak them with water.
If the sawdust expands and falls apart, it will act as a barrier to generate smoke and worse, it will damage your smoker. Soaking pellet with water will make it impossible to burn consistently.
During the manufacturing process, the moisture is extracted making the sawdust very dry, hence if it gets wet, it will begin to expand which will be a big mess.
Wood Pellet vs Wood Chips
Smoking meat as a part of the BBQ process is as much an art as it is a science. A person might describe to you the colors of a rose, but in painting it you will discover shades and hues that appeal best to you.
So it is with smoking woods and their flavors.
For those of you who have already discovered the taste you like, you can expect to achieve it consistently using any of the woods reviewed. If you are new to the craft, these are excellent products to start with.
The best way to become comfortable and confident with the smoking process is to experiment, preferably using high quality wood pellet to ensure you experience their purest taste.
Ideally wood chips are preferred over wood pellet because of their better performance ( Food Taste ). But since not all grill or smokers can work with wood chips wood pellets are most used in general.
Wood pellets are much better than wood because the former burn slowly compared to the latter. They also allow you to control the level of the temperature and it is also cheaper but effective.
In terms of health concerns, wood pellets produce less smoke because of its good combustion performance, while wood chips and chunks produce smoke, gases and fine particles which may affect person’s respiratory system.
Pros of Using Pellets
- Pellets are clean and easy to work because they leave minimal residue.
- Available in variety of flavors. They add rich and smoky flavor to foods. You may also mix and match flavors to get that perfect taste.
- Most of the pellets have no chemicals and additives.
- Can easily control the smoke by putting the right amount of pellet.
- Have one universal size
- Can be used both for hot and cold smoking
- Locally-available and low-cost fuel
Cons of using pellets
- Get easily burned hence you should not leave it unattended.
- Low-quality pellets may contain chemicals that are harmful to one’s health and the desired flavor of food might not be attained.
Frequently Asked Question
Q. Can I Use Any Wood Pellet in My Smoker?
Yes, you can use any wood pellet in your smoker irrespective of their brand. Whether its the Traeger, Pit Boss or Jack Daniels they are basically the same at most fundamental level in terms of safety or quality.
Wood pellets made for cooking rather than heating are made with different, safer materials that pose no threat even when ingested in a small amount.
That is why using high-quality wood pellet from recognized brands are suggested in general.
Choosing good-quality pellets will not only create a better flavor but also ensure that nothing harmful has been used to bind the pellet in production.
Q. How Often Do I Need To Add Wood Pellets to My Smoker?
The exact amount of time between replenishing wood pellets will vary between smokers and what each maker recommends, but wood pellets do tend to burn quickly.
Because of that, it’s important to keep an eye on your smoker while you learn how many or few pellets you need.
Some smoking issues to look out for are white, billowy smoke, which indicates a few too many pellets, and a lack of any smoke indicates underused.
Aim for a smoke that is blue-tinged and thin, and make sure to check your pellets while you adjust to your smoker’s burn times.
Q. Which Pellet Produce the Most Smoke?
Generally, hardwoods like hickory, oak, pecan, and alder produce the strongest, smokiest flavors. The actual taste component comes not from the physical smoke we see but from the vapors within the smoke.
Hardwood pellet varieties will naturally be denser and burn cleaner, as opposed to softwoods like pine that burn hot and quick, giving off an ashy, impure smoke that will taste unpleasant.
Hardwood smoke contains the tasty, infusing vapors you’ll need, and many wood pellets combine different types of hardwood to create specific flavors.
This is important when choosing the desired flavor, and many brands will market their combinations based on the flavor it creates.
Q. How Long Does A 20 Pound Bag of Pellets Last?
The exact length of time will depend on factors like burning temperature, your smoker type, and outdoor temperatures.
Roughly speaking, burning on high heat will use two to two and a half pounds per hour, medium heat one pound, and low heat would use half a pound per hour.
So, in numbers, one twenty-pound bag will range between ten hours of burn time to forty, depending on heating temperature and other outside factors like cold and wind.
The ‘smoke’ setting on a smoker uses the fewest pellets, and conveniently, some even feed the pellets in intervals to make the process even simpler.