I have been asked on a countless number of occasions if you can (or should) use a pellet grill/smoker in the rain. Now, with a pellet grill, there are two factors to consider. One the pellet grill uses an electrical connection. If you didn’t know (but of course you do) water and electricity don’t play nicely together. Secondly, you have to think about the pellets, as water and pellets don’t play nicely together, as water will cause the wood pellets to expand and go bad. Well, most pellets but not all of them (we’ll get into that below).
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The question of ‘can/should I use a pellet grill in the rain?’ is applicable to every make/brand of pellet grill, whether its a Traeger, Camp Chef, Weber or any other brand. I have many articles now in my Wood Pellet Grill/Smoker Guide, so after you have read the below, please check that out. 🙂
Introduction To Pellet Grills, Wood Pellets and Rain Showers
First off, you really want to avoid using a pellet grill if you know it’s likely to rain and you don’t have any protective measures as discussed below. There are obviously many different types of ‘rain’ from very light to heavy showers that can leave you (and your pellet grill) thoroughly soaked in seconds. If light rain is predicted you should be able to prepare for it.
However, if heavy rain is predicted, personally I don’t think its worth taking the risk. A pellet grill is generally an expensive purchase. You can get pellet grills for under $500, however, most people end up choosing pellet grills under $1,000. Some people look to spend up to $2,000 on a pellet grill, and some much more. Hence, you don’t want rain damage to be an expensive mistake.
If you already own a pellet grill you want to thoroughly read the manual (and check the warranty conditions). For instance, you may find statements that your warranty will be null and void if the grill gets wet, things like that. That shouldn’t be surprising, after all, most grills are designed for use on a warm summers day, not in the middle of a monsoon.
Manufacturers won’t want their pellet grill getting wet for several reasons. First off, unless its stainless steel, ultimately corrosion (rust) is going to be attacking the grill, and moisture is a key contributor to how quickly the grill will corrode. The pellet grill control panel is an area where rain penetration should be a concern.
The front of the control panel will generally be ‘water-resistant’ not ‘waterproof’. Hence, if you have to store your pellet grill outside you should always invest in a good quality cover as I discuss in my Traeger accessories post. Otherwise, the pellet grill may not turn on next time you come to use it.
If you can only store your pellet grill outside, you must invest in a good quality all-weather cover to protect it: Image – Amazon.com
So below I’m going to discuss how you should have your pellet grill/smoker setup if there is a chance of rain and you get caught out. The solutions below have their limitations, hence if there is an exceptional amount of rain and wind, that may still be an issue. The recommendations below are what you should reasonably do to be prepared for rain if it does turn up during your cook.
Pellet Grill Electrical Safety In Rainy Conditions
Pellet grills require a source of electricity to run the control panel, which in turn powers the combustion fan, auger motor and hot rod igniter. Whenever you are using electric equipment outside you should not be using electrical extension cables which are not rated for external use. Many pellet grill manufacturers don’t recommend the use of extension cables and advise plugging directly into a power socket.
Obviously, follow whatever specific recommendations your pellet grill manufacturer advises. Its best practice to frequently check the condition of the power cable and plugs/sockets. Damage to the cable/socket is dangerous, but particularly so if you factor in rain. So always make sure your pellet grill power cable is in good condition. If you have to use an extension cable, make sure its rated for external use.
If you are going to use an extension cable for the pellet grill make sure its rated for outdoor use (moisture resistant), they are often bright orange: Image – Amazon.com
The reason why pellet grill manufacturers often don’t recommend the use of extension cables is because of voltage drops. The longer the extension cable, the higher the chance of a voltage drop. Voltage drop can cause erratic behaviour of the control panel, some components may fail to work properly at all. Not only the length of the cable can effect voltage drop, but the quality of the cable can also impact voltage drop. Therefore, ideally, if you can avoid using an extension cable, its the better option.
Pellet Grill Shelter From Rain During Use
If there is a chance of rain while you’ll be using your pellet grill you want to make sure you have suitable shelter in place. If you have a covered porch/patio that’s a good place to position the pellet grill as it will provide shelter from the rain. Another option is a pop-up gazebo. Putting the side panels on the gazebo can provide better shelter from driving rain if its windy.
However, you should never fit all the sides on the gazebo/canopy, as you would be significantly reducing the amount of ventilation. While you want to provide shelter from the rain you always have to remember what a pellet grill is, its a wood fire appliance. Hence, if you use a pellet grill in a poorly ventilated space there is an increased risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Gazebo/Canopy tents can potentially be used as a rain shelter for a pellet grill. However, care needs to be taken: Image – Amazon.com
The other thing to be aware of with pop-up gazebos is the wind. You should always use the tie-down ropes to keep the gazebo in position. Otherwise, they can easily be blown away and you’re going to end up with a wet pellet grill.
Another thing to bear in mind is the hot exhaust gases coming off the pellet grill. You want to make sure there is enough distance from the top of the pellet grill chimney to the gazebo/canopy roof. You don’t want the roof to be getting hot enough to be a fire risk. Gazebo/canopy tents are normally made from polyester. Polyester is not highly flammable, though it will melt if it gets too hot.
BBQ Wood Pellets And Rain Don’t Mix
I’ve shown in a previous post what happens if wood pellet get wet. Essentially, wood pellets readily absorb moisture, its what makes them such good animal bedding. However, when it comes to BBQ wood pellets we don’t want them anywhere near moisture.
You want to make sure you don’t have bags of wood pellets open outside as if it rains that bag of pellets will just turn into wet sawdust pretty quickly. You also don’t want to leave the lid on the hopper of your pellet grill open. Always make sure the hopper lid is down.
Now, I know some people that like to leave the pellet lid open so they can see how pellet consumption is going and so they don’t forget to top the hopper up. However, if you forget its open and you’re not stud next to the pellet grill a quick rain shower could give you a real headache.
If rain gets inside the hopper on your pellet grill, you will not only have to change the pellets in the hopper, you could be setting yourself up for an auger blockage. Auger blockages are most commonly caused by water/rain getting into the bottom of the hopper and expanding the pellets around the feed auger.
You may think expanded pellets are like light/fluffy sawdust. However, in the auger tube, the wet pellets will expand, dry and set like flipping concrete. I have a post on auger blockages I recommend you take a look at. To fix the auger blockage problem will often require a full strip-down of the pellet grill. Hence, don’t let rain get into your pellet hopper, or you’ll be spending quite a bit of time sorting it out.
However, you can now buy charcoal pellets which if they are only made from charcoal and not a hardwood/charcoal mixture they will not expand. Now, that’s not to say its a good idea to get charcoal pellets wet, as they won’t flow as well through the hopper etc. However, charcoal pellets are the only BBQ wood pellets that are not destroyed by moisture/humidity.
Conclusions On Using A Pellet Grill In The Rain
If you know its going to rain, and especially if it looks like it will be heavy rain and you have no shelter to use the pellet grill under I would seriously advise against using it. As stated above, you could potentially void the warranty on the grill if something went wrong. You obviously also don’t want rain getting inside the hopper on the pellet grill, that’s just going to lead to wasting wood pellets and the headache of sorting out a blocked auger.
However, you also don’t want to get caught out when there is a chance of a rain shower. Therefore, if you can position the pellet grill under some form of shelter (porch/gazebo/canopy) that’s a good idea. However, its vital that you always make sure you still have good ventilation around the pellet grill to avoid any risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
That’s it! Thanks for reading, I hope the above has given you ideas on how to properly prepare for using your pellet grill under rainy conditions. The long and short of it is your pellet grill and especially your wood pellet fuel does not want to be wet, so protect them. Please check out my Wood Pellet Grill/Smoker Guide to learn about all the different makes/models of pellet grills on the market today. 🙂
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.