Pellet grills combine everything you love about a grill and a smoker in one tool that you can use for cooking at home. Instead of constantly checking to see if you have propane left or spending money on charcoal briquettes, you can use wood pellets made from different types of wood that will create the heat and smoke needed for grilling or smoking.
These cooking machines work similar to the way wood pellet stoves do. Those stoves use wood pellets to create the heat that keeps your home warm. You can get a look at how these grills work and what each part does before you fire up the heat.
Parts of a Pellet Grill
A pellet grill consists of a few different parts of the pellet hopper. This is a small or large box located on the side that stores the pellets used.
Located on the front or side of the hopper is the digital controller, which acts like a thermostat to control the temperature inside the hopper. Many models also come with a fan that regulates the temperature.
When you lift the lid on the grill, you should see at least one grate inside. Many manufacturers use cast iron because it’s heavier than steel and will last longer.
Underneath the grate is a greased tray and a heat shield. Your grill will also have a chimney that releases excess smoke, a bucket that collects grease, an ignition to start the grill and a firebox that contains the flames.
How Pellet Grills Work
Now that you know about the parts of your grill, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty and find out how pellet grills work. The steps that you need to take are so easy that anyone can use one of these grills.
Filling the hopper is your first step. You can usually use any type of wood pellets, but some manufacturers make grills that require specific pellets made only by that company. Different types of wood will impart a sweet, fruity or savory flavor to your foods. But if your new to cooking with a pellet grill, then get a good pellet recipe book for guidance.
Using the digital controller lets you set both the cook time and temperature. Many prefer a low and slow setting that helps meats stay moist and juicy. If you’re in a hurry, you can turn the heat up and reduce the cooking time down.
The way you turn on your grill will depend on the model that you have. Some of the newer and more modern models let you hold down an ignition button and wait a few seconds until the heat comes on. Others may require that you add the flame from a lighter or match to turn on the heat.
Digital controls use the temperature and cook time you specified to determine the number of pellets needed and how quickly those pellets should move through the grill. This controller will then send information to the auger, which is what actually moves those pellets.
The auger will slowly rotate and move the pellets from the hopper to the firebox. As the pellets move over the flames inside the grill, the wood burns to create both heat and smoke. The fan inside your grill will keep the smoke circulating around inside to completely cover all areas of your meat.
As long as you have enough pellets in the hopper, the grill will keep smoking and cooking. Some models now come with an alert feature, which monitors the inside of the hopper and tells you when you run low. You can even find models that send an alert through an app your download to a smartphone or computer.
Electric vs. Gas
Before buying a smoker, you’ll need to choose between an electric or gas pellet grill. Both models have some nice features that home cooks like.
Gas smokers rely on the same propane that you would use with a gas grill. If the power fails, the smoker will keep working. The downside is that you need to keep propane on hand and change out the tank during longer cooking sessions.
With an electric smoker, you can get away from propane, which can give some foods a slightly off taste. Electric models allow you to taste the full flavor of your meat and any wood that you used. If you don’t have any outdoor outlets or want to use a smoker further away from your home, you may prefer a gas model.
Now that you know how a pellet grill works, it’s time to fire up your own wood pellet model and start smoking.