How to Use Wood Pellets in an Electric Smoker (7 Tips)

Devon Ferguson
Published by Devon Ferguson
Last Updated On: December 4, 2023

Whether it's your first time using an electric smoker or you're an OG looking to try something new - we've all wondered which form of wood is the best to use.

But does an electric smoker work in the same way as a pellet smoker? Am I going to break my electric smoker if I decide to use pellets? Read our guide to find out how to use wood pellets in an electric smoker!

Quick Summary

  • Wood pellets can be used in an electric smoker like normal wood chips, placed in a tinfoil pack, and should be stored dry. Cold smoking is recommended.
  • Wood chips burn quicker and produce a slightly bitter smoke, while wood pellets burn hotter, suitable for cold and hot smoking, and provide a deep smoky flavor.
  • While most electric smokers recommend wood chips, wood pellets won't break the smoker but may be less effective.

 

7 Tips for Using Wood Pellets in an Electric Smoker

Pouring wood pellets to an electric smoker

Before you start using pellets in your electric smoker, there are a few things you should know:

  1. Pellets should be used as if they are normal wood chips or chunks.
  2. Pick the flavor that most compliments the meat you are smoking. Otherwise, you may not be happy with the end results. Once you start smoking, there's no turning back!
  3. The wood pellets ignite very quickly, so they shouldn't be left unattended (cold smoking is recommended)
  4. They're likely to produce a lot of smoke in just a few minutes.
  1. Place the pellets in a tinfoil pack and poke a few holes for smoke control.
  2. Store your pellets in a dry area. If they're wet, they'll turn to mush.
  3. Lastly, if the electric smoker manufacturer advises against using wood pellets, you'll void your warranty.

Can You Use Pellets in an Electric Smoker?

Most electric smokers recommend the use of wood chips and not wood pellets. But, say you only have wood pellets sitting around, can you still use them?

Unfortunately, there's no concrete answer on the web. It's a highly debated topic - some say you can, some say you can't.

So if wood pellets are all you have at home, they won't break your electric smoker. They may just not be as effective as wood chips due to them being denser. [1]

You can check out our guide on how to use wood chips in an electric smoker to learn some cool tips & tricks in case you opt for wood chips.

What's An Electric Smoker?

Electric smokers allow you to control the temperature, meaning the cooking can remain consistent like an oven. In general, electric smokers are a very reliable cooking source.

For a beginner, an electric smoker may be the best option. They're usually easier to use compared to other smokers out there.

You don't have to worry about managing charcoal as you cook or adjusting the valve on a gas canister - all you have to do is plug it in.

Electric smokers usually come with a smoking chamber, water tray, heating element, and sometimes, a wood chips tray.

The food in an electric smoker is cooked from hot air produced by the electric heating element - just like an oven.

When it comes to smoking the food, you need to add wood to the wood chip tray. This will get heated up to create the smoke.

Basically, an electric smoker is a type of smoker that uses electricity to cook different kinds of BBQ meat.

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Should I Use Wood Chips or Pellets?

Wood chips and wood pellets combined

Wood chips and wood pellets are the two main wood choices for smoking food in an electric smoker.

Both are relatively inexpensive and offer a natural smoky flavor. But there are also quite a few differences between them both that all smokers out there should know.

Wood Chips

Wood chips are made from hardwood. The hardwood used is cut into small, evenly sized wood chips that measure around an inch or two.

Wood chips are:

  • Known to burn quicker than pellets.
  • Super flavorful, producing a slightly bitter smoke.
  • Available in many types such as pecan, oak, cherry, hickory, and mesquite.
  • Sometimes you need extra time if you decide to soak them for a longer smoke.

Wood Pellets

Wood pellets are also made from hardwood, but instead of being cut, they're ground into fine sawdust pressed into small cylindrical pellets.

Wood pellets are:

  • Able to burn hotter than wood chips.
  • Suitable for cold and hot smoking.
  • Supply a thick consistent smoke
  • Slow-burning
  • Produce a deep smoky flavor
  • Available in many types such as pecan, oak, cherry, hickory, and mesquite.

Not all pellets are created equal. Different brands will give you different results, which will have a significant impact on your smoking journey.

Some smokers will have their own brand of pellets and suggest you use them.

But generally, smoking fans will have their favorites and the ones they swear by.

Remember to keep in mind the different flavors available and pick the right one for the foods you plan on cooking.

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“Barbecue may not be the road to world peace, but it's a start.”

- Anthony Bourdain, Renowned Chef, Author, and Journalist

FAQs

Should I soak the pellets in water before using them?

It's not recommended to soak the pellets in water. Dry wood pellets will last longer and get hotter if you don't soak them. In order for them to get hot enough to smolder, they should reach around 250 degrees. [1]

Which pellet flavor should I use?

All wood pellet flavors are used for different types of meat. First, you should decide what you want to cook, and you should purchase or use the corresponding pellets after. For example, hickory, cherry, oak, and pecan are great for lamb. Apple and Mesquite wood pellets are good for seafood.

How many wood pellets do I need?

Usage depends on the temperature setting and weather conditions (cold and wind will increase pellet consumption), but a 20-pound back is usually enough for several cooks. A pellet grill will usually use about ½ pound of pellets per hour.


Reference:

  1. https://www.hpba.org/Consumer-Information/Barbecue-Outdoor-Living/Grill-Safety/Pellet-Grill
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