How Do Pellet Grills Work (9 Things To Keep In Mind)

Iva Carter
Published by Iva Carter
Last Updated On: February 29, 2024

If you are struggling with a gas and charcoal grill choice, the right answer is to forget both and get a pellet grill instead.

Pellet grills offer the best of both worlds. Their wood pellets give a finely controlled, perfectly smoky barbecue experience that only the best grills offer.

Handling is simple, and you can find them in various sizes and price ranges.

Are you wondering how wood pellet grills work? In this post, we have all the information for you.

Quick Summary

  • Pellet grills use wood pellets as fuel, creating a smoky flavor. The pellets are placed in a hopper, and an auger moves them to a fire pot, controlling the temperature for grilling or smoking.
  • Loading the hopper, lighting up the smoker, controlling the temperature with a fan, and collecting liquids in a drip tray are the main steps.
  • A 2021 study in ScienceDirect showed that using pellet grills could lead to contamination ranges between 0.2 and 12.5 vol % (mainly particulate matter), resulting from burning pellets.
  • Pellet grills offer easy setup, better taste through different wood pellets, minimal smoke and ash residue, versatile cooking options, and healthy grilling by avoiding direct flame contact with food.

What is a Pellet Grill?

Man grilling meat on a pellet grill

The pellet grill and the pellet smoker are outdoor stoves that combine elements of charcoal smokers, kitchen ovens, and gas grills for a truly unique cooking experience. Pellet grills get their name because they use wood pellets to create smoke and give the food a smoky taste.

There are numerous models and sizes you can get, from family use to those for larger events.

You can use a pellet grill for smoking as well as other cooking techniques. Pellet grills are top-rated for outdoor cooking due to their ease of use, versatility, and convenience for various recipes or ingredients.

You can use various types of wood pellets as fuel for this BBQ. The wood pellet is cylindrical in shape and small in size, making it suitable for transport and easy to fill the hopper.

4 Steps in Using Pellet Grills

How does a wood pellet grill work? The answer is straightforward with the following instructions.

1. Load the hopper and fuel the fire

The pellets are placed in a chamber called a pellet hopper. An auger connects the hopper with the fire pot. When you switch on the grill, it will move pellets from the hopper through an auger to the fire pot at a controlled speed.

This speed can be adjusted depending on which temperature you want to grill or to smoke.

Suppose you change the desired cooking temp in the firepot. In that case, the grill automatically pulls the required amount of pellets from the hopper through the auger to maintain the temperature regularly.

2. Light up the pellet smoker and start cooking

With a pellet grill, lighting up the fire is easy. It is equipped with automatic ignition, and you can turn on the device but give it 10 to 15 minutes to warm up.

By simply selecting the temperatures in the smoker, it will heat in a short time, and you are ready to start cooking.

This makes a wood pellet grill suitable as a gas grill but with the added flavor of hardwood cooking.

3. Measure the temperature and control it with a fan

To control the heat, most pellet grills and pellet smokers have a fan and digital temp controller. You can specify a heat range and see it on display.

Using temperature control is great when you want to use your device for smoking.

You can regulate the temperature in your smoker easily to smoke at low and slow heat within the desired time in a temperature-controlled environment and be sure that everything is fine in the chamber.

Fan plays an essential role in the device as it keeps the fire circulating the heat throughout the grill, maintaining the right temp.

4. Collect liquids in a drip tray

You can collect grease and food dripping from a pellet grill in a drip tray, so the device’s surface is hygienic and very easy to clean.

How are the Pellets Made?

Wood pellets

A wood pellet is a small piece of hardwood that is 1/4 inch in diameter and looks like a long pill. Due to their small size, wood pellets burn cleanly and quickly into fine ash.

You may associate the pellets with stove fuel, but grills use pellets that are different from ordinary industrial pellets.

Granules for the food industry differ in that they do not have any chemical additives; they are 100% natural and healthy pellets that work as excellent fuel for barbecue.

They create a lot of smoke, are available in many varieties, and give the meat a great smoked smell.

A recipe has no soul. You as the cook must bring soul to the recipe.

Thomas Keller, American Chef

What Flavors of Pellets are Available?

Wood pellets come in a range of flavors, ranging from hickory and oak to cherry, apple, or mesquite.

The temperature and flavor they provide are made through wood pellets burned low and slow during the wood pellet grill operation.

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5 Reasons Why Pellet Grills & Pellet Smokers are Good Options

Wood pellets in a grill

1. Easy to set up

The grill does almost everything itself. After you determine the desired grilling temp first and add the pellets in the hopper, the grill doses them itself and maintains the heat.

That is why it is often said that you will set it and forget it because setting up a barbecue is as easy as turning on your oven.

Pellet grills are thermostatically controlled, as is the oven, making them easy to adjust and use.

2. Better Taste

Wood pellets don't just fuel the fire, but they create a smoky flavor to the food you are cooking on this grill.

That is why pellet grills make great devices - you can control your food’s flavor and taste by simply changing the wood pellets used.

While wood pellets give the food a delicious smoked aroma, different wood pellets give the meat a different taste.

For example, if you use apple pellets, the food will have a sweet, smoky taste. Make sure to get the right one when you cook your food.

All that said, there's no good evidence to show that using pellet grills is healthier compared to other grills [1].

3. No smoke and ash residue

The pellet grill smokes less than some other grills, so there are no flare-ups. It allows easy grilling, smoking, and maintenance, all free of smoke and ash. 

Most grillers I've met consider pellet grills to be generally safer than charcoal grills. However, a pellet grill still has its drawbacks. A 2021 study we found in ScienceDirect showed that contamination (mainly particulate matter) from burning pellets ranges between 0.2 and 12.5 vol % when using pellet grills [2].

Also Read: Best Smokeless Grills

4. Versatile cooking

Since you can quickly determine the heat, you can cook a variety of foods on this grill.

You may cook quality meals like classic BBQ or chicken, even pizza, without fear of temp fluctuations.

How to Cook Pizza on a Pellet Grill

The process of cooking pizza on a pellet grill involves heating a pizza stone on a pellet grill set between 450-500°F. Parchment paper aids in transferring the pizza to the hot stone, where it cooks to perfection with a crispy, flavorful crust.

You need to cook pizza on a pellet grill for about 10 minutes. The dough should be grilled for about two minutes on one side, then flipped over, with ingredients added, and then smoked for an additional four to six minutes.

The pellet grill's versatility, ease of use, and the enhanced taste it imparts to the pizza make it a favored method for many. Toppings should be pre-cooked or ready to eat, as the high heat and quick cooking time won’t allow raw ingredients to be cooked thoroughly.

You can cook pizza on a pellet grill without a pizza stone by placing it directly in the grill grates or on a baking sheet. But you'll miss out on the flavor, which is usually distinct with pizza made with pellet stone.

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References:

  1. https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304314404576411792255700826
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S259016212100040X
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About the author

Iva Carter
Associate Editor
Iva Carter is a FBP certified foodie and influencer who loves to share delicious yet quick dinner recipes. When she's not in the kitchen concocting meaty delights, you'll find her playing with her dog, Sylvie.
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