Should you become a pellet grill owner? We’re going through the advantages of cooking with a pellet grill that can help you decide!
Don’t be worried if this is the first time you’ve heard about cooking with a pellet grill. Pellet grills have squeezed their way into the limelight and have quickly become a trending subject in the world of grilling, with pellet grills taking about 2% of all grill sales. Not too bad for the new guy in town, especially knowing that their popularity is only expected to continue in growth.
Why are we just now hearing about cooking with pellet grills? Well, if you remember our recent post about infrared grills, we discussed original patents expiring and a flooding of competition and the subsequent lowering of prices. The same thing has happened with the pellet grill where the original patent, owned by Traeger Grills, expired. The result? Pellet grills for everyone!
Not so fast.
Pellet grills are cheaper but certainly not cheap. They’re easier, but are they too easy? What am I getting at here? Well, with any trending cooking methods, it’s best to know what exactly we are working with before hopping on the pellet grill bandwagon. Let’s learn more about cooking with a pellet grill and go through some of its advantages and disadvantages. By then, you’ll be ready to decide for yourself whether cooking with a pellet grill is worth the investment. Ready? Go!
What is a Pellet Grill?
Can’t decide between buying a new grill or smoker? A pellet grill could be your answer. Cooking with a pellet grill means you can smoke or grill and can perform each of these activities easily and with maximum flavor. A pellet grill uses real wood and real fire for maximum smoky flavor, yet does not require constant supervision.
Pellet grills burn small hardwood pellets that are about double the length and size of a pencil eraser, which you can buy in bags of multiple flavors to pair with the meat you are cooking.
How Does A Wood Pellet Grill Work?
Cooking with a pellet grill is pretty straightforward and utilizes a convection process.
Wood pellets, consisting of sawdust and wood shavings, are poured into the hopper. These pellets are then fed into a burn pot using an electrical auger system. The auger, which is basically like a long screw, delivers pellets to the burn pot based on the speed dictated by the unit’s thermostat. Quicker speeds for hot and fast cooking or slower speeds for low and slow methods.
There is typically an electronic igniter in the burn pot that lights the pellets on fire. Once the process gets going, new pellets are ignited by the old ones. Heated air flows through the main section and a blend of warm and cool air circulates, maintaining a steady heat for even cooking. This process is controlled by a computer and monitored by a digital thermostat. The auger pushes out more pellets as needed to maintain the temperature you have set.
Advantages of a Pellet Grill
Now that we understand what it is and how to cook with a pellet grill, let’s explore if the pellet grill is all it’s cracked up to be.
Easy To Use:
Some BBQ naysayers think the pellet grill is actually too easy to use. They consider the constant vigilance and checking of temperature to be part of the smoking and grilling process. These naysayers may also still be rocking a flip phone. If you have no qualms trading in for something better and easier, then this should not be a concern of yours.
The controls on the pellet grill are very simple and the grill can preheat quickly, like a gas grill, and also manages the temperature. The temperature is managed by regulating the feeding of wood pellets. This is as close to the “set it and forget it” kind of smoking you will be able to get. The design helps to keep potential flare ups at bay and clean up is a cinch compared to traditional grills and smokers.
Precise and Even Cooking:
Like I mentioned previously, the grill manages the temperature for you and is able to maintain an accuracy of about 2-3 degrees without you hovering over it. Compared to a traditional smoker, this is like night and day. The pellet grill works quite like a convection oven, so the results are almost always evenly cooked.
The pellet grill can serve as a grill, smoker, and oven. It can still be more expensive than each of these items separately, but will get more use overall than just if you purchase a smoker that is rarely used. This is especially great for those of us who do not have extra space to store a smoker that is used a few times a year.
Overall, if you are looking for an easy way to cook consistently great bbq with real wood and don’t want to bother with constant monitoring, then this could be a great investment for you.
But wait, I started with the good. Let’s take a peek at the disadvantages before I can make a full recommendation:
Disadvantages of A Pellet Grill:
I gave you the good, now let’s look at the “bad.”
Lack of Mobility:
The pellet grill still uses electricity to run the digital controller, the auger, and the convection fan. This means the pellet grill is not exactly mobile unless you are traveling with a generator.
Level of smoke varies by temps:
When you cook at a high temperature, there is little or no smoke. When you cook at low temperatures, there is a lot of smoke. There is no way around this. What does this mean? If you want to cook a meat low and slow to keep in the juices but don’t want smoke flavor, then you are out of luck.
Little to no searing:
They are called pellet grills, but as mentioned, they tend to cook with more of a convection method. This means you are not going to get sear marks that you are generally after with a good steak or burger.
Overall Thoughts On The Pellet Grill:
The pellet grill is a very good smoking method if you are looking to BBQ yet also allows an easy option for grilling and baking. This combination of uses, quality of results, and convenience make for a great buy. Even at a higher price than most smokers, it provides more benefits and therefore makes for a reasonable purchasing price of anywhere between $300 – $1600 for standard pellet grills.
What to cook on a pellet grill?
Cooking methods that utilize the low and slow mantra do really well on the pellet grill, including smoked turkey, brisket, salmon, and pork chops. Here are a few recipes to consider starting off with:
Smoking this lean cut of beef is all about retaining juices and getting the meat to the appropriate temperature. Consider using our Glow – Smoker Thermometer to ensure your meat hits the perfect temperature every time!
A bit on the spicy side, you can be sure salmon is not overdone when cooking with a pellet grill.
Yes, bread. The pellet grill can act like an oven and bring out the baker in you!
Now that you know the advantages and disadvantages to cooking with a pellet grill, you can now be confident in choosing whether or not to make this investment. If you have a pellet grill already and would like to comment with your thoughts, please share with us below!