A question I’ve been asked on several occasions over the years when I’ve been discussing pellet grills with people who are not familiar with them and how they work is ‘can you leave a pellet grill outside?‘. Now, many people leave their gas/charcoal grill outside on their patio/deck, so why should it be any different for a pellet grill? Well, there are a couple of important differences between pellet grills and gas/charcoal grills. First, a pellet grill uses electricity to operate, therefore they feature electrical components. Second, obviously a pellet grill uses BBQ wood pellets as the fuel source, and wood pellets readily absorb water/moisture, its what makes them such good animal/pet bedding. Therefore, can you leave a pellet grill outside is a valid question, and the answer is yes, with some considerations/precautions.
As stated in the image caption above, obviously a luxury stainless steel pellet grill for a built-in kitchen is designed to live outside. As a result, these are the most expensive pellet grills/smokers on the market. However, even then its not as simple as stating all stainless steel pellet grills have the same weather resistance. For instance, in my Memphis pellet grills article who are a stainless steel grill manufacturer, they produce both 430 and 304-grade stainless steel pellet grills. If the grill will be located in a coastal region, 304 (higher grade) stainless steel is recommended as its more resistant to the salty coastal air. Hence, don’t presume all stainless steel pellet grills are created equal and are equally suited to being left outside in the elements. But what about the rest of us who don’t have the coin to drop on a luxury stainless steel pellet grill? Well, then a cover needs to be seriously considered.
Choose A Cover For Your Pellet Grill Very Carefully
If you own or are looking to own any pellet grill which is not of fully stainless steel construction you need to consider a cover. Now, you have some pellet grill brands which feature a stainless steel lid and stainless steel internal components such as Grilla Grills and REC TEC. These stainless steel components are great, but the rest of the pellet grill is in many cases powder coated (painted) steel. Hence, over time the paint will likely get scratched, water/humid air can get to steel and the corrosion (rust) process begins. Therefore, really on any pellet grill which is not of full stainless steel construction, you need to consider a cover of some kind to keep the rain/snow off the pellet grill when its not in use. However, should you choose just any cover? Perhaps a tarpaulin held down on the grill with some rope/bungee straps? No, you really need a properly fitted cover.
Traeger is just one example of many of a pellet grill manufacturer offering fitted covers for specific pellet grill models: Image – Amazon
If you go for just any generic pellet grill cover/tarpaulin what’s likely to happen is its going to get ripped and eventually water is going to get to the pellet grill. None fitted covers are going to move in the wind, therefore a none fitted pellet grill cover is going to flap against the pellet grill. It can then get caught on a sharp edge and tear etc. Now, pretty much all pellet grill manufacturers out there provide custom covers to fit not only their own pellet grills but in many cases a specific model of pellet grill. I discuss this topic in my Traeger accessories post for example. Hence, there should be minimal if any flapping of pellet grill cover in the wind. Which means its going to last a lot longer and do a much better job of keeping rain/snow off your pellet grill. Especially in storms when driving rain/snow is not falling straight down its coming in from the side.
Consider Emptying Your Pellet Grill Hopper
If you are going to be leaving your pellet grill/smoker outside for more than just a few days (or less outside of the summer months), empty the pellet hopper. As I’ve referenced above, wood pellets readily absorb moisture. Hence, while it may be handy to leave your hopper lid open to keep an eye on pellet consumption and when you need to top up the hopper, its not advised. If you get caught out by even a quick rain shower with that hopper lid open you will regret it. Even a small amount of rain running down inside the hopper and into the pellets at the bottom can lead to an auger blockage if those wet pellets stay there, expand, dry, and then set like concrete. However, its also not ‘safe’ to just presume if your hopper lid is down the wood pellets in the hopper will be fine indefinitely and not go bad.
Wood pellets can absorb moisture (humidity) from the air. Now, depending on the time of year and where you live, the humidity risk to the wood pellets is obviously highly variable. But to be safe, its best practice to empty the pellet hopper when not in use and to store the pellets in a sealed plastic bag/plastic container. In my article on Oklahoma Joe’s pellet grills, I praised their grills for having one of the easiest/most convenient means to empty the pellet hopper to safely store wood pellets away from moisture when not in use. Now, by no means is Oklahoma Joe’s the only pellet grill brand to offer such a feature. However, don’t presume a quick means to empty the pellet hopper is universal across all pellet grills, because its not.
Now, many pellet grill manufacturers who have hopper emptying chutes promote it as a means to change wood pellet flavours. For instance, changing from oak pellets to maybe apple/cherry wood. And while that is a great use for the pellet chute, I do wish more pellet grill manufacturers explained just how important it is not to leave pellets in the hopper when not in use for more than just a few days. Now, don’t get me wrong, the results are not universal. If you live in a dry area you could potentially leave the pellets in the hopper for months without any issues at all. The point is, unless you can guarantee dry weather, you need to empty that pellet grill hopper if you want to store your pellet grill outside. If fact, to be honest, even if you can store the grill in a garage/shed, high humidity in those areas can still be a problem. Hence, its just best practice in all scenarios to empty the pellet grill hopper and safely store the pellets in a plastic bag/container.
Wood Pellet Grills and Electrical Safety
All pellet grills require a source of electricity, whether its 110V AC for domestic pellet grills or vertical pellet smokers, or 12V DC power for portable pellet grills. As I discuss in my post about can you use a pellet grill in the rain, electrical safety for both you and your pellet grill needs to be carefully considered. In other words, if you are going to leave/store your pellet grill outside, do not leave it connected to a source of live power. Even if there is a switch on the outlet, still wind up the power cord and properly store it away from the rain/snow while the pellet grill is not in use, you don’t want it to be a tripping hazard.
The other thing you have to think about when it comes to leaving/storing your pellet grill outside is the control panel. While the auger motor/combustion fan are protected from rain as they are internal components the control panel is more exposed to the weather. Now, all pellet grill control panels are rated for at least some level of moisture ‘resistance’. However, very few pellet grill control panels are actually ‘waterproof’. Hence, again, its why if your pellet grills is going to be left outside you want to make sure its got a good weatherproof cover. As pellet grills become more sophisticated with PID temperature control and WiFi integration they will also be more expensive to replace if they go wrong. Furthermore, even under warranty, you may have ‘fun’ trying to get a free replacement control panel if water damage is present.
Conclusions On Leaving/Storing A Pellet Grill Outside
So as you can tell from my comments above, while in many cases you can leave/store a pellet grill outside, there are a lot of considerations/precautions you need to take to decide if its actually a good idea for you and your specific pellet grill. If its a luxury full stainless steel pellet grill from brands such as Cookshack, Coyote, Twin Eagles or MAK Grills these grills are built to the highest standards, hence are better prepared to cope with the elements. However, let’s say you only had/have a very limited budget (say below $500) and you have purchased something like a Z Grills pellet grill. Budget pellet grills are made from pretty thin carbon steel sheet metal. To keep that grill looking/performing the best it can for as long as possible, at a minimum want to invest in a good quality cover. Ideally, you want to store the grill in a shed/garage when not in use. And remember, whether you own a budget or luxury pellet grill, keep the pellet hopper empty when not in use, you can thank me later. 🙂
That’s it! Thanks for reading, I hope this article has helped you to decided if you want to leave/store your pellet grill outside. I have lots of other articles such as which pellet grills get the hottest and many others linked to in my Wood Pellet Grill/Smoker Guide. Cheers 🙂