Pellet Smoking Tips

Pellet Smoking Tips for a Better Grilling Experience

Ian Mutuli
Updated on

You might be wondering how to achieve a smoky, flavored taste surrounding your favorite meats and veggies that you take at your restaurant. If so, you might be experiencing the delicious results of professional pellet smoking, which is achievable at home if you have one of the best pellet smokers on the market. Besides, with the pellet smoker having recent popularity, it is time that you learn some pellet smoking tips and tricks required to achieve professional results.

Although pellet smoking takes some finesse and knowledge, it should not be seen as a complex skill and only for grilling experts. However, with little practice, you can become an expert. Here in this pellet grill tips guide, we have compiled the best tips for achieving the best results.

What’s a Pellet Smoker Grill?

A pellet smoker, commonly referred to as a pellet grill, is a wood-burning cooker capable of grilling, baking, smoking meat. Pellet grills are usually fueled by wood pellets made of food-grade compressed wood and burn gradually and cleanly at a lower temperature than most regular standard wood chips. Pellet smokers are usually ideal for cooking brisket, fish, turkey, ribs, and more, infusing them with a mouthwatering smoky flavor. Plus, they are easy to operate:

  • Open the smoker's lid.
  • Flip your meat.
  • Rotate it on the grilling surface or braise it with a marinade.

Wood pellet smokers usually come in a wide range of models from well-known brands. They vary in cooking, warming racks, features, temperature control options, and accouterments like digital controllers. Virtually all come with stainless steel construction. And with so many pellet grill models on the market, it would be wise to check out the best pellet smokers review and buying guide.

How Do Pellet Grills Work?

Pellet grills usually work by heating the cooking chamber where air circulates, eventually heating food through convection heat. Hardwood and charcoal grill pellets burn at the chamber ( also called a firepot or burn pot), while food lays on the grill grates near the chamber top. So, when fuel runs low, more wood is usually dispensed from a pellet hopper ( usually located above the chamber). Then, a drill pushes enough wood pellets down a chute and precisely at the heart of the chamber.

The temperature settings on a pellet smoker grill are usually controlled by airflow. To raise the temperature, heavy-duty fans at the bottom of the unit usually suck air into the cooking chamber, where the pellets consume the oxygen. In the meantime, heat escapes from the pellet smoker when the top lid is opened.

What Are the Pellet Smoking Tips?

1. Understand what you are grilling

Every type of food usually has a particular grilling temperature range. For instance, grilling belly pork at 225-400 Fahrenheit degrees in four hours will give the best quality, while cooking the Filet mignon beef at 360-400 Fahrenheit in 3-10 minutes will produce the best flavor. Therefore, it's essential to understand your ingredients before proceeding to the grilling part.

Besides, to get the best food out of the grill, we recommend carefully researching the ingredients you plan to prepare, such as its correct heating temperature, good toppings, compatible wood pellets and many more.

2. Monitor the temperature using a thermometer

You might not be able to monitor the inside environment of the grill by the sighting; therefore, we recommend using a thermometer to check the heat regularly. Most people prefer to use a clock to set the cooking time so that once the alarm is triggered, you know when the food is ready to serve. Nonetheless, this presumption is based on experience posing risks of overcooking or undercooked food. Instead of working on an assumption, go ahead and use an integrated thermometer to solve all these problems.

Conversely, some grilling professionals are saying that once you open the pellet grill door, you cannot cook anymore, and that's a fact. The heat can escape, and the cooking process will have an impact. Thus, buying a pellet grill with a thermometer is better for a better grilling experience. Furthermore, the thermometer will help check the temperature with no need of opening the grill's door.

3. Look for high-quality wood pellets.

If you invest in good-quality pellets, your food will have the best flavor and smoke without a doubt. Nonetheless, not every pellet can complement your meat best; therefore, we recommend searching for the wood pellets that work best with the ingredients you plan to cook.

4. Use the pellet smoker like an oven.

One of the best pellet smoking tips to count on in creating tastier food is to use your pellet grill as an oven. Although not every food works well with smoke, how can you know without trying once? Just be creative when mixing the ingredients, and you will be surprised. Besides, you can apply any recipe for baking and roasting in your kitchen ovens to the pellet grill. By alternating the cooking period or maintaining the same cooking time, you can compare how food quality differs between the two appliances.

For example, baking a cake in an oven is usual, so why not try baking in the pellet grill instead? Baking a cake in an oven usually takes about 30 minutes, though you can alternate to about 45-60 minutes for a grill. Though the result might come out as not good as you anticipated, you can keep trying until you get it right.

5. Use the reverse searing.

Professional chefs usually recommend reverse searing since it can ensure cooked food. So let us check out the process and learn how to do it. Besides, this method works great on beef slices 4-5 cm thick.

  • First, take the beef out from the freezer and wait to defrost thoroughly. Then, place the beef on water-absorbing cooking paper to suck all the water from the meat. Later, warm up the grill at 230 Celsius degrees ( 446 Fahrenheit degree).
  • Secondly, add sauce, salt, etc., into the food. Then wait about 20 mins for the beef to absorb the mixture better.
  • Next, place the beef into the pellet grill for 6-8 minutes to reach the medium-rare state ( 54.4 Celsius degree/ 130 Fahrenheit degree). Then, take out the meat and wait for 5-7 minutes.
  • Finally, half-frying the beef in up to 90 seconds with 45 mins on each side. You shouldn't press the food since juice extraction can lower the dish's taste.

6. Use upper racks

Upper racks are usually great features for pellet smokers. They increase the cooking capacity per one smoking session and lower the radiant heat released from the grease bucket. The beef from the upper racks usually receives lighter heat; therefore, cooking tender pieces is wise. The thicker chuck of meat can cook on the lower rack. Besides, you can place a water pan under that rack to maintain the perfect temperature for a long brisket cook.

7. Make a smokier flavor.

This is one of the pellet grill tips applicable for large chunks of meat that you want them to absorb more smoky flavor like beef brisket, rump steak or beef rib roast. The smoke usually soaks up faster into cold beef than a warm one, and according to some experts, smoke absorbing into warm surfaces takes much time than it does with cold surfaces.

So after storing the meat at a low temperature for a certain period, remove the meat and place it away into the ready-to-cook pellet grill. Avoid waiting until the meat defrosts completely; put the semi-frozen ingredients instantly to the pellet smoker, and you'll have a smoke flavor. Also, we recommend setting the desired temperature lower than average since the low degree complementing with the cold beef can make the best dish.

8. Maintain the grill clean

After using a pellet grill, it's essential to keep it neat and clean. It's not appealing having your pellet smoking grill with grime and food waste. Even eating from an oily grill is not healthy at all. Besides, a clean grill can create smokier and tastier food. The cleaner your pellet grill is, the more smoke flavor, sanitary and delicious your meal is. We recommend cleaning your grill once after 3-5 uses, depending on the pellet grill's situation. Remember to check all the racks, rims, and corners to clear up the waste.

What Are the Benefits of Pellet Grilling?

1. The quality and flavor of the food

Profession barbeque chefs usually prefer cooking on wood to gas since they know they give the ultimate quality and flavor of the food and a pellet grill makes it so much easier to achieve. Also, charcoal and gal grills can't offer you the range of flavors that pellet smokers will. Moreover, you will get that delicious smokier flavor, and you can easily customize your favorite wood pellet flavors for delicious and unique results.

2. Provide better temperature control

Meat requires to be cooked at a part temperature to be fit to eat. Conversely, overcooking meat can make it flavorless. Therefore, finding the right spot is crucial in enjoying meat safe to eat and still tender and juicy. A wood pellet cooking grill can preheat in 10-15 minutes and usually have a temperature regulation system and a thermostat so you can have ideal control of the heat. Moreover, since a pellet smoker works like a convection oven, food is cooked uniformly across the grill grate.

3. Offer effortless ignition

One drawback of using a charcoal smoker is the skill and cooking time to get the briquettes started. Conversely, it is a lot easier and quicker with pellet grills. They usually start as quickly as a gas smoker with the touch of a button thought with charcoal grill flavors.

4. Fuel efficient and cheaper to cook on

Pellet grills usually require less fuel than charcoal or gas grills since the convection fan in the unit distributes heat more uniformly, requiring fewer wood pellets to keep the grill hot.

5. Provide great smoke flavor easily

As mentioned, pellet smokers are usually preferred by most backyard chefs due to their ease of use and taking on the flavor of the wood chosen for the pellets. You can find wood pellets in cherry, maple, alder, apple, pecan, hickory and many more flavors. In addition, most grill experts combine two or even more wood pellet types for different results.

6. Most pellet grills provide wireless connectivity.

Nowadays, you can connect your smartphone to most pellet grills using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Moreover, the application usually allows you to control the pellet grill from your phone without leaving your chair.

7. They are easy to use

Pellet grills are usually easy to use and quick to start up with simply a push of a button, and most units have controls you can preset. Also, some pellet grills allow you to pre-program them for a whole smoking cycle. So once you fill the hopper with the wood pellets, start the smoker and add your food to the grate, all you require to do is remove it when necessary. Besides, you will never have to change the internal temperature or open the lid to check-in.

8. Versatile outdoor cooking appliance

Due to the different temperatures and pellet grill can handle, the potentials are endless for what and how you cook. There is no need to purchase a separate smoker and grill if you have a pellet grill. Also, you can cook anything you can on a stove or in an oven in a pellet grill. With smoking temperatures ranging from 180-700 degrees Fahrenheit on some models, you can smoke, bake, sear and roast all on the same appliance.

9. Safe cooking option

Cooking over an open flame involves some risks. Besides, unlike gas and charcoal grills, pellet grills have full-coverage panels that usually separate your food from the open flame. Therefore, you will never worry about blackened edges and flare-ups. Moreover, the pellet grill model cooks indirectly; food doesn't directly contact the open flame. Plus, some pellet smokers come with a grease tray, so you don't have to worry about grease fires and flare-ups.

Wood pellets are also released in small quantities as required into the chamber, so no accumulation of partially burnt fuel's messy cleaning out can keep smoldering days later.

10. Offer a wide temperature range.

Though a pellet grill is popular for its low-and-slow cooking, it does not mean it can't handle high-heat searing. Modern pellet smokers can deliver the high heat required to add the grill-iconic sear mark to your meat steaks.

Frequently Asked Questions on the Pellet Smoking Tips and Tricks to Follow

1. Do pellet smokers give off enough smoke?

Yes. Pellet smokers usually produce a ton of smoke when starting up. The fire rod heats up and starts to slowly smolder wood pellets until there's enough spark for the fans to fuel into a flame. This is usually great to use to our benefit by putting large chunks of cold beef on the grill, creating a great smoke ring.

2. Do I need to wrap my ribs in foil when smoking?

Ribs usually benefit from a low-and-slow cooking method such as a pellet smoker. Besides, for cook times more than two hours, most meat will need to be wrapped in foil. For instance, baby back ribs will take about 4 hours to cook, while spare ribs usually take up to 5 hours, but both should be wrapped after two hours.

3. What is the 3, 2, 1 method when it comes to smoking ribs?

 3-stands for 3 hrs of smoking the ribs directly on the pellet smoker, 2-stands for 2 hrs of smoking the ribs wrapped in foil and still cooking on the grill while 1-stands for 1 hr of cooking, unwrapped and slathered in a barbecue sauce.

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.