So, you’ve been barbecuing on charcoal and gas grills, but what is that people keep telling you about pellet grills? What the heck are pellets? How do they work? Most importantly, what is the best pellet grill options to invest in? If you’re too embarrassed to ask people about it, we’re here to help.
What Is a Pellet Grill?
It’s an electric outdoor grill powered by hardwood pellets. Imagine a side-mounter hopper in place of a firebox in a traditional offset barrel smoker. It is fueled with cylindrical food-grade wood pellets – about ¼-inch wide and an inch long – consisting of compressed sawdust (hardwood). The sawdust is placed under high heat and pressure, which activates a natural glue inside it called lignin. Pellets don’t have any additives apart from the vegetable oil used to carry flavor or aid the process of extrusion. They burn clean, leaving incredibly minimum ash.
Pellet grills can braise, bake, roast, grill, and smoke. And courtesy of a digital controller, they can maintain the user’s preferred cooking temperature for hours automatically and are extremely easy to operate.
How Do Pellet Grills Work?
They’re essentially an outdoor cooker that requires electricity to run. When they’re plugged in, and the digital controller is activated, a rotating auger performs the job of delivering pellets to a cylindrical fire pot that houses an igniter rod directly from the hopper. For a reasonable amount of time, the rod glows hot to ignite the pellets. Combusting pellets then produce smoke and heat which are diffused by a blowing fan as well as the grill grate’s metal plates.
Most pellet grills burn wood pellets as fuel to flavor, smoke, and cook all types of proteins and meats. They also have the capability to accommodate larger quantities of food and span larger in size than usual household appliances.
Externally, a pellet grill appears like a conventional offset smoker, with hoppers mounted sideways where a firebox would go. It’s also quintessentially labeled as a country smoker sometimes as it’s versatile enough to manage any grilling recipe. Other names for a pellet grill include electric smokers, smoker grills, wood-fired grills, and pellet smokers. All of the labels indicate the same appliance of food: pellet grill with a shining wood fire.
Pellet Grills make event hosting, as well as crowd-feeding an easier feat to achieve. Using them is a quick learning process as most models come with robust temperature controls (along with a plethora of other features, making them ideal for novices who do not possess prior cook-out experience.
Advantages & Disadvantages of Pellet Grills
- They preheat quick. Just like gas grills, only the preheating process requires 10-15 minutes at maximum.
- Some models of pellet grills give users pinpoint heating control by enabling them to regulate temperature in increments of 5-degrees. That is done with the help of a thermostat that sends accurate signals from the cooking chamber to the control as well as plays the role of a pellet delivery regulator.
- The grill is versatile. It can roast, grill, smoke, barbecue, and even braise or bake a variety of foods. Examples include braising short ribs to barbecuing crisp chicken wings.
- It’s hard to over-cook things on a pellet grill. Also, compared to the acrid smoke produced by charcoal fire or straight wood, the smoke flavor generated by a pellet grill is subtler.
- As the functioning of a pellet grill is similar to the functioning of a convection oven, the user can load up cook chambers without stressing over uneven cooking. Also, soaked wood chips can be kept on the head diffuser plate directly in pouches.
- They have limited portability because of their reliance on electricity. In case of a power outage, the user needs to have access to an inverter or generator.
- Though they’re known as “grills,” they don’t produce dark sears or grill marks, as fan-driven heat is used to run them. Hence, they’re often referred to as smokers. That said, the quantity of caramelization on the outside of cooked food can be increased with the use of a cast iron grill grate.
- Less smoke will be generated at high cooking temperatures. Most smoke flavors come below 250 degrees’ temperature.
- Any sort of grill that features electrical components or moving parts are prone to break down, a shortcoming that’s not present in wood or charcoal grills. Pellet fuels can disintegrate when exposed to moisture, so it’s important for those residing in humid climates to keep their pellet smokers in a dry place.
- Prices start from a few hundred dollars and go up to $5000.
What Makes a Good Pellet Grill?
It doesn’t matter if you’re gearing up to grill beef, salmon, or chicken, you have to pick the right pellet grill for the job. While the answer depends on your needs, and your preferences, it helps to gain knowledge of the factors that make up the best pellet grill. Below are some of the important elements that go into the buying decision.
Temperature Controller: The ability of a pellet grill is largely based on its control board, which is the central nervous system of the grill. Different types of controllers including ones that feature an LCD and one-touch button allow users to produce great food. Ideally, the control should offer temperature control between 180 Fahrenheit 425 Fahrenheit.
Cooking Area & Size: Small pellet grills usually feature 450 sq. inch of primary cooking area and 100-150 sq. feet of the upper rack. It isn’t much different from larger variants that feature 500-700 sq. inch of primary cooking area. For larger families, a primary surface of 350-800 sq. inches should be enough.
Construction: The best pellet grills are made from painted steel. They’re painted using a high-quality powder coat that can survive high heat without going pale. The body should be painted well, as the steel can easily rust once exposed. Higher-end options are constructed from stainless steel, which is more durable, convenient to maintain, and rust-resistant.
Best Pellet Grills to Buy in 2018
Where to Buy
REC TEC Wood Pellet Grill
Smart Grill Technology – Maintains precise temperature from 180ºF to 500ºF in 5º increments
Louisiana Grills 61100-LG1100 LG 1100 Pellet Grill (1061 sq. inch)
Porcelain Steel Removable Upper Cooking Grid
Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett Pellet Grill – WIFI enabled
Includes Sense-Mate, a thermal sensor which constantly monitors grill temperature
Though we’ve given you a run-through of all the important factors to take into account before making a purchase decision, it’s still a long shot. Also, it can be tiring (and confusing) to visit shop after shop to find the best pellet grill for your needs. To save you the hassle, we’ve researched the web and offline stores to find the best pellet grills for everyone’s need. Below is an in-depth look at the models that made our list.
This grill comes with REC TEC’s Smart grill technology, which controls and maintains temperature with precision. It also features a 40-pound pellet hopper and is constructed using stainless steel of the best quality. Other notable features are its drip pan and temperature proof powder coat textures that feature an auto start option.
The model can accommodate temperatures from 180 degrees to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. There’s even a five-degree increment (high or low) that allows users to prepare delicate meals like seafood. Additionally, REC TEC includes an “Extreme” feature for smoke that with 180 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit option to intensify the smoke.
What makes it stand out?
It has a big cooking area of 702 sq. inch. Furthermore, the pellet grill is constructed with weather coat and high-quality stainless steel.
The second on the list is this black-colored grill from Louisiana Grills. It comes with 2 cooking levels and a mammoth 1061 sq. inch cooking area (we know what you’re thinking, it’s big enough for multiple grillers!). The grill also features main grids of porcelain iron cast and an upper cooking grill that’s removable and constructed using porcelain steel.
In addition, the Louisiana Grills LG 1100 Pellet Grill comes with a digital controller center. The weight is 173 pounds and the grill is constructed with high-quality materials that can go on for a lifetime.
What makes it stand out?
The Programmable Meat Probe and the grill’s Digital Control Center can function together for heat regulation. Users just have to set the Probe to an internal temperature they prefer and the Digital Controller will modify heat to maintain it.
If you’ve been looking for the best pellet grill for tailgating, we dare you to look any further than Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett Pellet Grill (after reading its review, of course). Called the “ultimate tailgate grill” this model can function on 12V or 120 AC, for camping or use at home. The function and legs fold easily when it’s time to pack and move elsewhere.
The grill also features a thermal sensor called Sense-Mate that monitors the temperature of the grill while a Wi-Fi enabled controller lets users control and monitor the grill through their smartphone. In total, the grill weighs just 57 pounds, so it can fit in the trunk of most vehicles.
What makes it stand out?
An iOS or Android app can be used to control and monitor the temperature. Additionally, it features a meat probe, as well as a peaked lid that provides enough space for stand-up turkeys and other big foods.
This model provides 160 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit in heat range and includes an adjustable chimney top. Roasts are monitored with the meat probe that’s made of stainless steel. Camp Chef has also included smart smoke technology for when users prefer to smoke rather than grill; it helps in maintaining optimal temperature. Also, the grill has an ash cleanout system (level operated) and roller wheels that make it easy for the user to move the grill wherever they want. Then there’s a pellet popper weighing 18 pounds and 429 sq. inch of surface area. The grill makes it convenient to cook for a party or for the entire family.
What makes it stand out?
The grill comes with a grease management system that makes it easy for the user to keep grease at bay.
The above reviews of the best pellet grills will give you a good understanding of the most important pellet grill features. Now that you’ve the knowledge, go grab your own pellet grill, throw a party and enjoy your weekend.