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Nerdy Science in the Kitchen

Best Smoker Pellets



Smoker Pellets are Small, but PACKED with flavor!
Smoker Pellets are Small, but PACKED with flavor!

Looking for the best smoker pellets? You’re in the right place.

You probably know that smoking with wood pellets is convenient. All you have to do is set a timer—and then go do whatever else you need to do before your guests arrive.

My favorite is the economic, Smokehouse brand for the fruitwoods (check the latest price at Amazon). For straight-up hardwood pellets, I like the CookinPellets blend of 4 kinds of wood, check it out at Amazon.

What you might not know is that, when you barbecue with wood pellets, you open up a wide range of flavor possibilities for vegetables, meat, potatoes, and baked goods. Many grillers are also unaware of the different kinds of smoker pellets available to them. In fact, most people don’t know that different pellet types can affect the overall taste of their food.

It might be enlightening to learn the story behind smoker pellets before getting into the details about which specific types to buy. So, before I tell you where and how to identify the best smoker pellets, here is a brief summary of the history behind this hot grilling trend.

Brief History of Smoker Pellets

It is 1982, and Americans are seeking affordable heating sources in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis. Joe Traeger, whose family owns a heating company in Oregon, begins experimenting with an economical alternative—wood pellets. These pellets, a byproduct produced by lumber mills, seem to fit the bill.

Although the stoves were popular, barbecue fans probably recognize the Traeger brand because of its contribution to grilling. In 1985, after accidentally sending his Fourth of July bird up in flames, Traeger decided to apply his wood pellet technology to grills—and thus avoid carbonized chicken dinners in the future.

Thus was born Traeger Grills® and, with it, many innovations. Traeger’s company created a device that had an auger to feed the smoker pellets, and a blower that helped the pellets burn. The arrival of the digital age and electronic controllers allowed the development of a system that included a thermostat in the cooking chamber, which would send a signal to the fan and auger to let them know when to start doing their thing.

Originally, such systems were simply known as “grills.” These days, they are usually called “smokers.” All smokers cook using indirect heat, which is perfect for people who prefer not to introduce their meats and veggies to an open flame. If you are an avid steak lover, smoking is probably for you!

Traeger smokers are famous in the grilling community.
Traeger smokers are famous in the grilling community.

Benefits of Smoker Pellets

If you are a huge fan of smoked poultry, pork chops, prime rib, salmon, and brisket, then a pellet smoker is definitely the way to go. If you’ve never seen them, smoker pellets are eraser-sized capsules of compressed sawdust that bear a striking resemblance to rabbit chow. Keep in mind that, owing to their composition, smoker pellets turn immediately to sawdust if they get wet.

Heads up on the best knife for trimming brisket.

Unlike charcoal briquettes, smoker pellets do not contain additives and fillers. This means they combust completely with zero ash! The best smoker pellets provide heat and flavor to your meat, vegetables, and other foods, without having to add any wood chips.

CookinPellets 40PM Perfect Mix, 1 Pack

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With pellets, you don’t have to worry about overly smoky food, because this rarely happens with smoker pellets. Billed as “set-it and forget it,” pellet smokers require less attention than a traditional grill, although I suggest that you still keep an eye on your food while it cooks. The behavior of smoker pellets can be a little counterintuitive—the hotter the pellets get, the less smoke they produce.

With all that in mind, you might be thinking, “Well, that sounds great! But, what about the flavor?” As it happens, smoker pellets come in a wide variety of flavors. Allow me to introduce you to your new best friends.

Hardwood Smoker Pellets

The best manufacturers of smoker pellets focus on using high-quality wood in an assortment of natural flavors sure to please even the most particular grill operator. These pellets will bring a woodsy, smoky flavor to your meat. Check out the pellet/food combinations below to make it easy for you to determine the ideal smoker pellet flavor for your BBQ day.

  • Oak. Smoke pellets made from oak tend to be mellow and familiar. For the best results, use oak smoke pellets for fish or beef on the grill.
  • Alder. This type of pellet goes very well with any type of meat, such as chicken, lamb, pork, turkey, fish, or beef. Alder infuses your meat with a delicious, earthy taste that is not too overwhelming.
  • Maple. If you want meat—such as pork, beef, or turkey—with a tang of sweetness to it, then the maple smoker pellets are the best choice.
  • Pecan. Your taste buds will be blown away with the flavor produced by pecan smoker pellets. Pecan pairs especially well with pork and beef.
  • Hickory. Want something you can use regularly? Then hickory is an excellent choice. You can use hickory for any type of meat. However, it doesn’t pair well with fish, so keep that in mind!
  • Mesquite. If you are up for fish on your BBQ day, then mesquite is perfect for your grill. Mesquite pellets will sharpen the natural flavor of, and add a bit of spiciness to, the fish. You can also use it for chicken and beef.

The hardwood smoker pellets are manufactured using real trees that are processed to produce the product. It’s not produced on residue products that may be hard or impossible to track the origin. The hardwood smoker pellets are tested in a laboratory to analyze the chemical composition along with the standard ash weight and heat value. This is done to ensure that they are made of pure wood fiber. It’s made in small diameter to create a hotter burn and more smoke with more surface area. It’s also available in different flavors including pure and blended mixtures.

PIT BOSS 55436 BBQ Wood Pellets, 40 lb, Hickory

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Let’s move on to the fruity-flavored wood pellets!

Fruitwood Smoker Pellets

When you shop for the best smoker pellets, you might want to sample some fruit-flavored varieties. You won’t regret it! Fruit-flavored pellets will take your smoking experience to a whole new level.

  • Apple. Apple is great for poultry and pork, as it adds tartness to the meat.
  • Cherry. For a gourmet flavor, use cherry-flavored smoker pellets on pork, beef, or chicken.

Fruitwood smoker pellets mostly work better with meat or veal. It also works well with poultry and game birds. Hickory wood pellets are mixed with fruitwood smoker pellets for a slightly stronger smoke taste with a unique flavor. They do not have fillers, binders or additives. They are packed in a heavy duty plastic bag for ease of handling and storage.

Smokehouse Products 9770-020-0000 5-Pound Bag All Natural Apple Flavored Wood Pellets, Bulk

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BBQrs Delight Wood Smoking Pellets

BBQrs Delight Smoker Pellets Variety Pack - Jack Daniels, Mesquite, Cherry, Hickory (1 lb bags)

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BBQrs wood smoking pellet is the sixth most popular wood smoking pellet. On any electric outdoor cooker or any charcoal or gas cooker, these food-grade wood pellets are the fastest and most natural in giving your food the smoke flavor. Since pellets are processed from sawdust by pressure which generates heat, any contaminants present in BBQrs wood smoking pellet are eliminated.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I soak my smoking pellets before using them?

Don’t soak the smoking pellets since it will render them ineffective. They are exceptional compared to chunks of hardwood that people use to produce smoke on a grill. Woods are made wet so that they don’t burn quickly. What usually happens during the initial stage of grilling, when the meat is absorbing smoke, heat is getting rid of the water you added to the woods. When the level of the moisture in the wood is right for smoldering and not burning, you get smoke for some minutes. This is in contrasts to smoking pellets because they don’t burn, they smoke.

What are smoking pellets?

They are modified hardwoods that are used in providing heat and smoke for grills. Smoking pellets are extracted from the nut hardwood, and they infuse a flavor of smoke that people want in specific food such as meat.

What is the best brand of pellets you would recommend?

The quality of the pellets is the most significant factor to consider. Many smoking pellets makers stipulate that you have to use their brands on their grills and some even warm you of losing the warranty if you fail to adhere to them. It is their way of promoting the product. However, any brand of the quality pellet will perform well on your pellet grill.

Can my grill perform well with heating pellets?

I would advise you to avoid using heating pellets on a pellet grill because they contain impurities obtained from leaves and bark of a tree which are unhealthy when ingested and can leave food with an awful taste. The pellets will burn less cleanly because of the impurities and eventually will result in poor performance of your grill.

What are wood pellet grills?

Wood pellet grill is like an oven that is used to roast, grill, smoke, sear or char-grill food. Usually, a wood pellet is small in size with diameter approximately quarter inch that of hardwood pellet. It burns quickly and cleanly into fine ash because it’s small in size.

How are the wood pellets stored?

To ensure high performance, the wood pellets should be stored in a cool, dry place. The unused pellets should not be allowed to sit on the grill for more than two days. Empty the grill hopper and the feeder system if you intend to take a break from grilling.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line when it comes to the best smoker pellets? It is all about control. And, of course, taste. BBQ day with family and friends is meant to be fun, and nothing says fun like a chance to experiment with different flavors. Don’t forget to try out the different pellets before the big day to discover the best combination for your guests—and get some extra mileage out of the summer weather.

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