Whether you’re new to grilling, an experienced cook, or just interested in getting started, you might be asking yourself what is a pellet smoker? Although the concept is relatively easy to comprehend, understanding the process is a bit more difficult.
So, if you want to learn what a pellet grill smoker is, how to use one, and why you should be, you’ve come to the right place.
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What is a Pellet Smoker?
In short, a pellet smoker is an outdoor grill that burns hardwood pellets (as opposed to gas or charcoal). Wood pellet grill smokers use either direct or indirect heat for cooking, and as you might expect, the smoky flavor is what really sets wood pellet grilled food apart from other kinds of grilled food.
How Do Wood Pellet Grills Work?
Pellet grills are a bit more complex than gas or charcoal grills. First, hardwood pellets are added to a chamber on the side of your pellet grill. This is the hopper.
An electric-powered auger automatically feeds the pellets into the grill as needed. Once the wood ignites, the chamber begins to heat, and intake fans circulate air inside the grill.
Then, heat fills the closed cooking chamber, just like an oven. However, unlike an oven, the smoke from the wood pellets also crowds the chamber.
Pellet grill smokers also provide precise temperature controls. The temperature range is generally between 180 °F and 450 °F, so you can sear meats or slow cook them. Check out our article on how does a wood pellet grill work.
Wood Pellet vs. Gas vs. Charcoal Grills
Although you can answer the question of what is a wood pellet grill, you might still be wondering what the differences are between pellet grills and gas or charcoal grills.
Key Differences Between Wood Pellet, Charcoal and Gas Grills
When deciding which grill is best for you, here are some of the main things you should consider:
Temperature Control: Wood pellet grills win out on temperature control. Charcoal grills are difficult to control, while gas grills perform poorly at low temperatures.
Ease of Use: Charcoal grills require babysitting. Gas grills are easier to use than charcoal, but pellet grill smokers are the safest to leave on for long periods of time.
Flavor: Pellet grill smokers offer the best smoky flavor. Charcoal grills rank second, and gas grills rank third.
Clean-Up: While charcoal grills leave behind a lot of ash, wood pellet smokers leave behind little ash comparatively. Gas grills leave no residue from the fuel source.
Difficulty Levels: Ranked from easiest to most difficult to use are gas, wood pellet, then charcoal grills.
What Type of Grill is the Easiest to Use?
Not all types of grills are designed the same, so some are easier to use than others.
Although there are a few different kinds of charcoal grills, you might think of charcoal grills as a classic grilling option. When it comes to your fuel source, you only have two options: charcoal briquettes and lump charcoal.
Cooking with charcoal can be an extremely rewarding experience, however, it is challenging. Charcoal grills are the most difficult to use because controlling the temperature is not easy. There are no dials, so your expertise as a master of the coals is all you have to control how hot your grill is.
Next in line is the wood pellet grill. You need to feed the hopper before you get started, and then controlling the temperature is simply a matter of turning the dial. If you like cooking low and slow, you can. Plus, you’ll have the confidence that your grill is completely safe and your food will be great.
Of all the grills, propane gas grills may be the easiest. You hook up the gas and flip the switch, much like a gas stovetop. However, grilling with gas has its own drawbacks.
What Type of Grill Gives You the Best Flavor?
Gas grills burn propane, so they need adequate ventilation. While it is necessary, this airflow means they perform poorly at low temperatures. Gas grills are also not great for smoking foods.
In addition to the fact that propane is flavorless and doesn’t produce smoke, a gas grill would not trap the smoke the same way a pellet smoker will. So, even if you add something to burn, like wood chips, a gas grill won’t be good for smoking.
While you certainly can smoke food on a charcoal grill, the chances are higher that you’ll burn your food. Plus, you only have one flavor to choose from.
Adding More Flavor with Special Wood Pellets
Although pellet grills have been around for nearly four decades, the process of smoking meats is a cooking method that’s as old as time.
Smoking adds a unique and savory flavor to meats like poultry, fish, pork, and beef. When you use a wood pellet grill, you can alter the flavor profile of your meals by choosing different kinds of hardwood pellets, such as:
- Special blends
Each type of hardwood pellet will add different flavors to your smoked meat, so another advantage to using a wood pellet smoker is variety and experimentation. Check out our article on how to get more smoke flavor from your pellet smoker.
Who Should Buy a Wood Pellet Grill Smoker?
Whether this is your first time buying a grill or you’re looking to add something new to your collection, a wood pellet grill smoker is a great option.
With more precise temperature control, added flavor, and ease of use, a pellet smoker is ideal for smoking thick cuts low and slow or searing meats at high heat.
You should buy a wood pellet grill smoker if:
- you want to smoke meat for the first time
- you want to master smoking meats
- you like to experiment on the grill
- you’re curious about trying different smoked flavors
- you want to add variety to grilling
- you enjoy slow-cooked meats
- you want a grill that is easy to use, easy to clean and delivers excellent taste
Key Takeaways: Wood Pellet Grill Smokers
No matter what grill you decide to go with, you can cook great barbecue and grilled foods. However, if you want to enjoy the joy of smoked meats without the hassle of maintaining a charcoal grill, a wood pellet grill smoker is the way to go.
Pellet smokers are a great first grill for people who are just learning how to cook on the grill or how to smoke meat. Plus, they’re safe to leave unattended when you lower the heat, which means you can make seriously slow-cooked meats that fall off the bone with little effort.
There are a variety of different kinds of wood you can burn in your pellet smoker, so if you’re also someone who likes to experiment or gets bored easily, a pellet grill is a great option.