Wood Pellets for Smoking
You have purchased your wood pellet smoker, but now what? With endless options of flavored wood pellets to choose from it’s hard to know where to begin.
Experimenting with different flavors of pellets is half the fun of investing in a pellet grill.
Don’t worry about sticking with the pellets made by your grill manufacturer either.
What are Smoking Wood Pellets?
Now that you know some of the best wood pellets for smoking, it is time to talk more specifically about the wood pellets themselves. Where do they come from? How are they made?
These are just a few of the questions you may have.
If you were to visit a lumber mill, you would see sawdust and wood pieces scattered all throughout the mill.
This short video does a good job of showing how wood pellets are actually made.
Sawdust and wood pieces are waste from the lumber being cut. Instead of throwing this out, it gets re-purposed!
Wood pellets are created from compressed sawdust. The compression of the sawdust releases natural substances within the wood. During compression, these released substances soften then harden.
This allows the sawdust to stick together to maintain their shape and consistency. These shapes are usually small, cylindrical shapes for easy use.
These cylindrical wood pieces are called wood pellets, and they have different intended functions.
Unlike wood chips, smoking pellets are not required to be soaked prior to use. Soaking wood pellets in water will cause the pellets to disintegrate.
There’s a big difference between heating pellets and smoking pellets
Wood pellets made from hardwoods with chemicals or insecticides are intended to be used only as heating pellets.
Heating pellets are wood pellets made for a pellet stove to heat a home.
Wood pellets made from food-safe hardwoods are manufactured as smoking wood pellets.
Different kind of pellets- oak, pine,sunflower- selective focus on the heap
These smoking wood pellets are specifically made fuel for pellet grills. Some food-safe hardwoods include apple wood, hickory, or mesquite, to name a few.
This is where the fun begins! There are many flavors, blends and combinations of smoking wood pellets to choose from.
Depending on the type of meat you will be smoking can help you decide which flavor or combination of flavors to use.
What are the Best Wood Pellet Flavors?
Wood pellets for smoking are produced from a variety of hardwoods. Each of these have slighly different properties that can impact the flavor of your barbecue.
The most popular hardwood flavors include:
Smoking wood pellets may be from 100% the specified type of hardwood, or a blended combination of generally 30% flavor with 70% filler.
Blended smoking wood pellets which use roughly 30% of flavored pellets are more affordable. The remaining 70% of the pellet is typically comprised of oak.
There’s nothing wrong with using oak as a smoke wood. Some people take issue with how manufactures use oak because it tends to be cheaper, while still labeling the pellets as something else.
Smoking Pellet Pairings
Pairing your smoking wood pellets with what you are smoking is not a requirement.
However, some people enjoy trying to enhance the flavors of what they are smoking by pairing specific types of wood with different types of meat.
This is a very subjective topic so take the suggestions below as just that. Suggestions that you can play around with.
Apple – Apple wood pellets are best used for smoking chicken, pork, lamb and seafood. It is mild and can be mixed well with others flavors.
Cherry – Like Apple, cherry wood pellets are extremely universal and can be used to smoke anything.
Hickory – When it comes to smoking pork, hickory cannot be beat. In addition to pork, both chicken and beef are also best paired with hickory flavored wood pellets.
Maple – Best for chicken and vegetables, maple wood pellets are also similar to cherry and a great flavor to keep on hand.
Mesquite – This flavor is the best wood pellet to use for beef; specifically for beef brisket.
Oak – While oak is a mild flavor mostly used for filling and blended flavors, it can be used for all proteins and vegetables. It is another universal flavor to keep on hand at all times.
Pecan – Pecan wood pellets are ideal for smoking chicken. This flavor can be blended with others, especially when smoking chicken.
Keys to Remember
100% flavored smoking wood pellets are more expensive than blended pellets.
Do not soak wood pellets prior to use as they will disintegrate.
Always use food-grade pellets. Do not use wood pellets that are not recommended for smoking, such as heating pellets.
Do not use old wood pellets that contain mold or fungus.
Do You Have to Use the Same Brand Pellet as Your Grill?
Most companies that manufacture pellet smokers also sell their own brand of wood pellets for smoking.
Many people believe they have to only use wood pellets that are sold by their pellet grill manufacturer.
As you have seen in the reviews above, Traeger is a brand that makes quality pellet grills and quality wood pellets.
They also claim that the use of other brand’s wood pellets could harm your pellet grill and result in a voided warranty.
There are actually laws that prevents manufacturers like Traeger from enforcing an implied warranty like that.
However, there are no law that prevents them from putting those stickers on the grills.
So long as you use a quality smoking wood pellet, there’s no reason why you can’t experiment with different brands.
How to Safely Store Your Wood Pellets
While it may seem unnecessary, it’s important to safetly store your wood pellets.
Proper storage is essential for guaranteeing your wood pellets’ shelf life is maximized.
Proper storage will prevent mold, fungus, or other toxins from entering or growing on the pellets.
When it comes to safe storage, try to remember the BOOM method. If it doesn’t boom, then you’re doomed.
B – Buckets or Bins
5 Gallon White Bucket & Lid – Durable 90 Mil All Purpose Pail – Food Grade – BPA Free Plastic –
If you are purchasing bulk bags of smoking wood pellets, try not to leave them in the bags they come in.
Some manufacturers such as CookinPellets recommends leaving these pellets in their original bags.
Otherwise, you will want to remove these pellets from their bags.
Leaving wood pellets in their original bags may become punctured. Puncturing a pellet bag exposes them to oxygen or moisture.
Original bags with pellets that become damp or wet will deteriorate, resulting in a wasted product.
In addition to deteriorating, these pellets can also grow mold or fungus if they become wet. Smoking wood pellets with mold or fungus can penetrate your food and potentially make you sick.
A five-gallon bucket with a lid ensures the pellets stay dry and sealed. This gives you optimal cooking quality, both safe and tasty!
O – Off the Ground
Bags of smoking wood pellets that are stored directly touching the ground are run a high risk of being exposed to moisture.
Moisture from rain or a leak will start from the ground up. Placing your bags of pellets on an elevated, open surface will keep them off the ground and keep moisture from building up around them.
O – Open when Needed
Do not open your bag(s) of smoking wood pellets until you are ready to use them.
Bags of pellets that are opened and unused for an extended time will become oxygenated.
Oxygen contains moisture which will break down the wood pellets from the hardened capsules they are and cause them to crumble.
Additionally, once opened, use the opened bag of pellets first before opening the next one.
M – Moisture Avoidance
Did you notice the overall theme to the above? Moisture. Moisture is a wood pellet’s nemesis.
Not only will moisture break down the product, but it will also become a mold or fungus’s new habitat.
When avoiding moisture, you must also consider humidity. Humidity is just as dangerous as acute water exposure from a leak or rain.
If you choose to store your wood pellets in an area such as a basement, consider a dehumidifier for the area to keep the air as dry as possible.
The reason moisture is so detrimental is because it can cause you to spend extra money. 100% flavored wood pellets are expensive. You do not want to waste your purchase by having to replace your inadequately stored pellets.
The more hazardous risk that moisture imposes is its potential for growing toxins, such as mold or fungus.
Smoking wood pellets that are burned with these toxins will penetrate the food you are cooking through the smoke from the pellets.
Consuming food that has been exposed to these toxins has the potential to make anyone who eats the food sick.
It is imperative to store your smoking wood pellets in an area that will protect both your health and your wallet.
Wood Pellet FAQ
When it comes to finding the best wood pellet for smoking, we want to make sure all your bases are covered. Here are some of the most asked questions users ask when finding the perfect pellet.
How Long Do Wood Pellets Last in a Smoker?
A pellet grill will use approximately ½ pound of pellets per hour during smoking.
However, wind or cooler temperatures may increase how many pellets you typically burn.
Some wood pellet types have a quicker burn rate. This means you may go through more pellets of one flavor versus another flavor.
Last, the size of the meat you are smoking can also speed up the rate at which you are burning pellets. A larger piece of meat, such as a beef brisket that needs to be smoked for 12 hours, will go through more wood pellets than a small pork shoulder.
Are Wood Pellets Safe?
Wood pellets that are food-grade and made from consumable hardwoods are safe for consumption.
Do not purchase heat pellets for food preparation and consumption. These pellets may contain contaminants such as insecticides or chemical treatments.
Using heat pellets rather than food-grade wood pellets will not only worsen the taste of your food, but also make you sick.
It is imperative that you use food-grade smoking wood pellets when fueling your pellet grill.
Additionally, smoking wood pellets are safe as long as they have been adequately stored.
Do not burn wood pellets that have been exposed to moisture. Moisture may have created a toxic habitat within the pellet, potentially housing mold or fungus.
This mold or fungus is unsafe for food preparation and consumption, increasing the risk of illness if consumed.
Do Wood Pellets Need to be Soaked Before Use?
Wood pellets do not need moisture. In fact, moisture is the enemy to wood pellets.
As wood pellets are made from sawdust, soaking them in water breaks down its composition and causes them to disintegrate.
While this may make wood pellets seem fragile, it is actually the opposite.
Without requiring to be soaked in water, they require less maintenance. This means immediate bag-to-smoker use!
Wrapping it up
As you can see, there is more to smoking the perfect meat than just firing up a grill and turning the temperature to low. It is a beautiful science. It’s simple enough to enjoy, but complex enough for you to formulate a perfect blend of flavors, temperature and protein type.
Wood pellets are a great way to quickly fire up your smoker without the worry. By purchasing a universal blend or flavor of wood pellets and keeping them on hand, you can have delicious tender smoked meat anytime you want.
Remember that proper and safe storage of your wood pellets will keep them long lasting and great tasting!