To get right to the point, yes, a pellet grill/smoker requires electricity to operate. In most cases, electricity is purely used to power the internal components of the auger, fan and control panel, the heat/smoke will come from burning BBQ pellets. However, some pellet grills operate on AC (Alternating Current) which comes from the wall outlet in your home. Other pellet grills operate on DC (Direct Current), the 12V battery in your car/truck for instance. I’ll also discuss how much electricity (Watts/Amps) a pellet grill actually needs.
Disclaimer: Hey! By the way… any links on this page that lead to products on Amazon or other sites are affiliate links, and I earn a commission if you make a purchase.
Introduction To Pellet Grills/Smokers & Electricity
To understand why a pellet grill/smoker requires electricity to operate, you really need to understand how a pellet grill works. Now, that link goes to an article I’ve previously written on the subject which is very detailed, so let’s just discuss the highlights here.
While a pellet grill/smoker uses wood pellets to generate the source of smoke and heat to cook the food, electrical components (augers, fans and a control panel) are required to regulate how those pellets burn.
The reason pellet grills/smokers are so popular is how automated/convenient they are to use. That ultimately means in the busy world we live in a pellet grill/smoker saves you some of your most valuable asset, time.
The automated nature of a pellet grill/smoker is only possible with electricity powering the additional components to control the pellet fire and temperature inside the grill. That then opens up other potential features such as WiFi/App support on pellet grills/smokers to save additional time/effort.
It is important not to confuse an electric smoker with a pellet smoker. With a dedicated electric smoker, the heat is generated from an electric element (same as in a kettle). A dedicated electric smoker will use significantly more electricity than a pellet grill/smoker, I’ll discuss that more below.
There is now also the Arden Indoor Pellet Smoker, which uses electricity as the source of heat and burns a very small volume of pellets to produce the smoke.
Most Pellet Grills/Smokers Operate On AC Electricity
Ok, so let’s start off with the type of backyard pellet grill/smoker that most people buy. Whether its made by Traeger, Pit Boss, Weber, Camp Chef is irrelevant, its going to require a source of electricity, and it will come from the outlet in your home.
Most pellet grills operate on 120 volts of AC power (120 VAC) the type of electricity that comes out of a standard wall socket. You won’t be plugging any pellet grill I’m aware of into a 240 VAC socket you may have in your garage for an electric dryer/electric car charger.
AC Powered Pellet Grills Using DC Electric Motors?
In recent years as pellet grill/smoker technology has been advancing we have seen smarter control panels being introduced. These are known as PID (Proportional, Integral, Derivative) control panels, its basically a computer algorithm that is making constant small adjustments to the fan and auger speed to control the pellet fire.
Well, when motors such a those typically found in many pellet grills/smokers are fitted to the pellet auger/fan run on AC power, they typically just turn on and off. Its harder (more expensive) to make an AC motor variable speed.
You have some pellet grill brands such as Traeger now fitting DC motors (D2 Direct Drive) to their pellet augers and fans so they can precisely control their speed. There is an additional benefit that a DC motor has more torque typically than an AC motor, hence less chance of a pellet auger blockage.
However, these current generation Traeger Pro Series, Ironwood or Timberline models while fitted with DC motors still operate on AC power from a standard domestic 120 VAC socket. There is an inverter within the pellet grills to convert AC power to DC power.
Though there are some pellet grills/smokers which are designed to operate on DC power directly…
DC Electricity & Portable Pellet Grills/Smokers
By their very nature a portable pellet grill, whether its freestanding or a tabletop smoker its designed to be moved around. Hence, on many occasions, portable pellet grill owners want to use the grill when their away from home where they’re also commonly away from AC power.
However, as long as you have your car, truck or RV there is a source of electricity available to power the pellet grill, the 12V DC battery used to start the vehicle. Though, with an RV there is also commonly a leisure battery as well, so that can also be a source of 12V DC power.
The GMG Trek (previously known as the Davy Crockett) has a 12V DC socket as its source of electricity, also know as a cigarette power socket or automobile auxiliary power socket. Therefore, the source of electricity can come from a cable connected within the vehicle or directly off a 12V battery with crockodile clips.
In fact, all the pellet grills in the GMG (Green Mountains Grills) range run on 12V DC power, even their backyard pellet grills and smokers. So hows does that work at home on AC power? Well, they provide a power adapter…
Changing AC Power to DC Power & Vice Versa
Whether your chosen pellet grill/smoker requires AC power or DC power to operate either can be created provided the source of electricity is sufficient. You can get AC to DC power converters or DC to AC power converters.
I’ve also previously written a post on portable power for pellet grills where I discuss the options of a power converter, battery bank or small generator, each with their pros and cons.
However, before you can choose any type of power source to power a pellet grill/smoker there is obviously an important question to ask, ‘how much power do I need?‘.
How Much Electricity Does A Pellet Grill/Smoker Need?
So above we have established that yes, a pellet grill/smoker requires electricity (AC or DC) to operate. We now need to discuss how much electricity is sufficient to run a pellet grill/smoker?
Well, the specific answer depends on each specific pellet grill/smoker. However, as a general rule, typically a pellet grill/smoker is going to be pulling around 300 Watts of power for around 4 minutes while the hot rod igniter is getting the fire going.
Once the fire is established and the hot rod igniter is turned off, the control panel, auger and induction fan together are going to be pulling around 50 Watts of power continuously.
Someone once asked me ‘how many amps of electricy is that?‘. Well that depends, is the pellet grill running on 120V AC power or 12V DC power? As 300 Watts on 120V AC is 2.5 Amps, but on 12V DC then 300 Watts of power is 25 Amps.
Low Powered Pellet Grills: Example – Pit Boss Tailgater
So as I’ve discussed above, when it comes to how much electricity does a pellet grill/smoker need it depends at what stage of operation its running. At startup the most amount of electricity is required for the hot rod igniter.
Well, to reduce the amount of electricity a pellet grill requires, on some pellet grills its possible to disconnect the hot rod igniter. This means a much lower amount of electricity is required, hence a smaller/lowered powered inverter could be used.
As discussed in my article on the best Pit Boss reviews by real owners its shown how on the Tailgater through a back panel the hot rod igniter can be disconnected to reduce electrical power requirements.
Now, its possible to disconnect the hot rod igniter on many pellet grills. Its just on most other models it would require taking apart more components to get to the back of the control panel to the associated cables.
What that does mean though is a manual pellet grill ignition would be required. However, its not that complicated as I discuss in my linked article.
High Powered Pellet Grills: Example – Traeger Timberline (Gen 2)
Here we are going to discuss when a pellet grill/smoker may require significantly more than 300 Watts of electricity, potentially up to around 2,000 Watts under certain conditions.
For example, let’s take the latest generation Traeger Timberline models which are fitted with an induction hob. If you’re not sure what an induction hob/cooktop is I discuss it in detail in my linked Timberline article.
Quickly though, an induction cooktop uses an electromagnet to heat up cookware that contains iron. The key benefit of an induction hob is it can heat up the pan/skillets etc twice as fast as a standard electric hob or even a gas burner.
I honestly do think this induction cooktop on the latest Traeger Timberline models is a great feature. However, its going to pull a lot of electricity when in use. Oddly its power rating is not stated on the Traeger website or even in the manual. But typically, a single induction hob under full power could be pulling close to 2,000 Watts.
Now, when the induction hob is not in use, a Traeger Timberline Gen 2 will be pulling similar amounts of power to any other pellet grill. Hence, typically around 300 Watts under start-up for the hot rod igniter and around 50 Watts of power there after.
However, as when the induction hob is in use it could be pulling significantly more power I would make a couple of recommendations for electrical safety. Don’t use overly long extension cables or leave the cable curled up when in use. Also, don’t have other electrical devices using the same outlet.
Conclusions On Pellet Grills & Electricity Requirements
So in conclusion, yup, if you’re going to use a pellet grill/smoker you are going to need a source of electricity. In most cases it will be AC (Alternating Current) electricity from your home. However, a pellet grill can also operate on DC (Direct Current) electricity when required.
The amount of electricity consumed changes during the operation cycle. Significantly more electricity is required at the start to get the pellet fire going compared to operating the pellet grill once the fire is established. However, as stated above, manual ignition of a pellet grill is possible when the electrical power available is limited.
If we start to see more pellet grills fitted with induction cooktops like the Traeger Timberline expect to see beefier power cables. Whether that’s going to happen though is unclear, especially as induction cooktop technology is still relatively expensive.
That’s it! I hope this article has answered all or at least most of your questions around pellet grills/smokers and their electricity requirements. To read more of my articles, please check out my Wood Pellet Grill/Smoker Guide. 🙂
Back in 2007 when I first become aware of pellet grills and smokers the only brand I was really aware of was Traeger. Traeger is really where this whole concept of cooking with pellets started in the 1980s. It was a ‘slow burner’ (pardon the pun) but since the 2010s is really when pellet grills and smokers started to get mainstream awareness, discussed alongside gas and charcoal grills. There are now over 30 pellet grill/smoker brands that I’m aware of, and the link above goes to my A to Z list of brands article.
Now, you may already be aware of a few of the other brands such as Pit Boss, Camp Chef, Z Grills and I’m sure you are aware of Weber, though you may not have known they have entered the pellet grill game. However, they are now many, many more brands to look into. Some may be what are commonly referred to as ‘Traeger clones’, but many others are offering their own unique designs and features.
A pellet grill/smoker is only as good as the BBQ pellets you put into it. The type/quality of the BBQ wood pellets you use will impact temperature performance and smoke flavour. There are many pellet flavours including Apple, Hickory, Mapel, Oak and Walnut to name but a few. However, some brands are hardwood blended pellets whereas others are 100% single wood species.
In this article, I provide details on over 20 brands of BBQ wood pellets, their range of flavours, whether they are 100% single wood species or hardwood blended pellets, their typical price and where they are available. I also provide tips on how to get the best deal when buying BBQ wood pellets and how to test pellet quality. Finally, I discuss the new kid on the block, charcoal pellets and their special attributes compared to all other hardwood BBQ pellets.