Pellet Grills are becoming increasingly popular among barbecue enthusiasts (the hardcore traditional pit masters tend to opt for charcoal smoking) due to their versatility, convenience, consistency, and ever-advancing technology. These characteristics create delicious smoked meats. However not everyone knows what makes pellet grills different from charcoal or the common gas grill. That's ok, we're here to teach you everything you need to know about how a pellet grill works, which will explain why they're becoming a bigger player in the barbecue industry every year. Specifically, we'll go over:
- The Basics of Pellets and Smokers
- Controlling Your Temperatures
- The Results: Flavour and Smoke
- Cleaning and Maintenance
- Recommended Pellet Grills
Let's get started.
The Basics of Pellets and Smokers
Pellet grills, also known as "pellet smokers" or simply "smokers", use wood pellets as their primary source of fuel. These pellets are made from compressed "sawdust" and wood shavings, which are formed into small cylinders. Pellet smokers have a hopper that stores the pellets and use an auger to feed the pellets into a burn pot (also called a fire pot) underneath the grilling surface. From here, the pellets are ignited and burned to produce heat and smoke that will infuse into your food to make give them that elevated smoky taste we all love.
At this point, you might be wondering about how we said pellets are a "primary source," rather than the only source. Well, the great part about pellet smoking is that you can also get your own smoker box and burn wood chips in it. This would help you get different balances of flavours on your food.
A word of advice from the pros: DO NOT put any woodchips in your auger. This will likely break it and will definitely void any warranty you may have on your smoker.
Controlling Your Temperatures
One of the most significant advantages of using a pellet smoker is their ability to maintain a consistent temperature during short and long cooking sessions. It's because of this reason, many people opt for a pellet smoker over a charcoal smoker for dishes like overnight smoked brisket. It achieves precision over long cooks by using an electronic controller that regulates the speed at which the pellets are fed into the burn pot depending on temperature increases or drops, which then maintains the heat output. In laymen terms, if the pellet smoker detects a drop in temperature, more pellets will be fed into it. This automated process allows pit masters around the world to do those low and slow cooks. Of course, you can crank up your desired temperature and get smoky flavour while grilling on high heat too.
The Results: Flavour and Smoke
As the pellets burn, they produce smoke that infuses the meat with flavour. Pellet grills are available in various wood flavours; the most popular around the world tend to be mesquite, hickory, apple, and cherry, wood flavours. As you can guess, the type of wood you use will affect the flavour profile of your finished food. Some pit masters who like to experiment with flavours will different kinds of pellets in their hopper while they cook.
Moreover, most pellet grills will have a fan that circulates the air throughout the cooking chamber, which gets you a nice even distribution of smoke and heat, despite the burner being on one side. Not only that, pellet smokers will have their smoke stack or exhaust vent on the opposite side of their hopper, ensuring the smoke travels across the grill and your food before leaving the cooking chamber.
Cleaning and Maintenance
Just like a gas grill, you'll have to clean your pellet smoker to increase the lifespan of it. Just take a grill brush to the grill grates like you would any other kind of BBQ. These barbecues will have easily removable grill grates and drip trays for deep cleans. You'll have to clean your ash pot before every cook, just to make sure you're operating at max performance.
There you have it. You can see how pellet grills offer a unique cooking experience, which is why many gas grill or charcoal BBQ owners still get a reliable pellet grill as a secondary or third unit in their backyard. Pellet smokers use wood pellets as a primary fuel source for precise temperature control, which yields consistent flavour on all your food. We hope that with the information you learned in this article, you can confidently say "yay," or "nay" to having a pellet smoker in your backyard.
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Recommended Pellet Grills
Enough chatter from us, we'll let the smokers do the talking: