Using a pellet smoker isn’t very hard, especially if you have all of the information. Follow these tips for a successful meal in the smoker.
The pellet smoker is a great way to make delicious, moist, fall-off-the-bone meat from even the toughest cut of meat. Smokers generally cook at lower temperatures, so they take a long time to cook. It’s a good idea to start with a simple recipe the first time you use your pellet smoker to get used to how it works.
The most important part of using a pellet smoker is making sure you have enough pellets and that the pellets stay wet throughout the cooking time.
Originally Published On: March 3rd, 2023
What Type of Smoker is Best?
Electric smokers are great for their ease of use. You only need to have an electrical outlet outdoors and you are ready to go. Oftentimes, an electric smoker has better temperature control inside the smoker.
For those who prefer more natural smokers, buying a propane smoker is a great option. You can also use a propane smoker even without electricity. As someone who lives in a hurricane-prone area, this is important for us to have a way to home cook warm meals after a storm has passed.
Wood Pellet Grill
Size and shape matter when it comes to the smoker you choose. When you purchase a grill-style smoker, you need more horizontal space as they are spread out and look similar to a regular backyard grill.
Vertical Pellet Smoker
A vertical smoker saves a lot of space as its size goes up instead of out. You also have more vertical space to place the racks, meaning a more versatile area to cook your food.
You can go from the most basic pellet smoker to one with all the bells and whistles. The cost will increase as you add more technology, but it may be worth it to you. Some have an app that you connect to be able to adjust the smoker from your phone without ever having to touch the smoker.
How to Choose Wood Pellets
You can find a variety of wood pellets, but our favorite type of wood pellets to use is apple wood.
Wood pellets can be purchased at most outdoor and home improvement stores. You’ll usually find them near the other grills, smokers, and similar products.
The type of wood pellets you use will depend partly on the smoker you have as well as the flavor you’re looking for.
The most popular pellets are hickory, apple, and mesquite as they are typically associated with bbq flavors. No matter what flavor you choose, make sure to get hardwood pellets that are food-grade and made for a smoker. They will cost more than the softwood pellets marketed for wood-burning stoves, but that’s because they are made for use with food.
Make sure you have enough pellets for the entire cooking time. You’ll usually go through about 1 lb of pellets for every hour of cooking. But plan for extra, just in case. You don’t want to be in the middle of cooking and run out. The unused pellets can be stored in a dry, airtight container. If the pellets get moisture in them they will start to mold before you can use them for your food.
What are the Pellet Flavors?
You can find many different types of wood pellets at stores near you. The most popular brands are Traeger pellets and Camp Chef pellets. They come in the following flavors:
- Premium Blend
Check out the Premium Wood Pellets that are available and what they are best paired with:
Where do you Purchase a Pellet Smoker?
Check your favorite outdoor and home improvement store for a pellet smoker. We have seen them at Home Depot, Lowes, Ace Hardware, and Walmart around here. The easiest way to find one would be to research options online and see where it’s available.
The two most popular brands are Traeger Smoker and Pit Boss although my father-in-law has a Masterbuilt Gas Smokehouse and has been using it for years. It’s not a very high-tech smoker, but it works really well. You can
How Does a Pellet Smoker Work?
A pellet smoker works by heating up wooden pellets over lower temperatures so slowly cook the meat inside. The wood chips are placed in a small container and a fire is lit underneath. This heats up the wood pellets which start to smoke. The indirect heat from below the wood chips circulates through the smoker along with the smoke from the pellets. The smoke infuses its flavor into the food as it cooks. They have a smoke tube to allow some of the smoke and pressure to escape.
There are many types of smokers, and they all work a little differently. The one our family has uses a propane tank to keep the fire going underneath the wood pellets. You can also purchase charcoal smokers that will add both the smoke and charcoal taste to the cooked food.
Pellet Grill Tips
- Clean the racks using a grill brush the same way you would for regular gas grills
- Make sure the grease tray has been cleaned out before use
- Trust the cooking process and don’t try to rush it by using higher temperatures or your meat will be tough
Tips for Handling Hot Meat
When you remove the different cuts of meat or food from the smoker, it will, obviously, be extremely hot. Make sure to use protection for your hands and watch for any splashes of juices from the meat.
The best way to handle the high heat of the meat is through a double layer of gloves. Get yourself some high-heat gloves that allow you to use your fingers (not mitts). Put those on, then cover them with a layer of latex gloves. This allows you to have the protection of the insulated gloves while keeping hot juices from seeping through to your hands. It also helps keep the gloves clean.
Steps to Using a Pellet Smoker
All smokers will be a little different, so make sure to refer to any instructions that came with your specific model. In general, though, they will all work in a similar fashion.
- Set your pellet smoker up in a well-ventilated area outside
- Add your soaked pellets to the pellet pan and fill it with liquid
- If your model comes with a pellet hopper, make sure that’s filled as well
- Light the heat source under the pellets, whether that’s through plugging in the electric smoker or lighting the igniter and open flame on a propane smoker
- Place the meat on the racks inside the smoker (lower racks will get more of the smoky flavor while the upper rack doesn’t get as much of the smoker) and insert the meat thermometer
- Set your pellet smoker to the desired temperature
- Check the pellets every few hours to make sure they aren’t drying out or need to be replenished
- Turn off the heat when the meat is cooked through