General Pellet Grill/Smoker FAQ

Hi, I’m Chris I started PelHeat.com back in 2007.

Pellet grills and smokers are great! Well, I think so, and so do many others. The problem though is that as pellet BBQs are not as common as gas/charcoal BBQs, it brings up a lot of questions for many people. There are also lots of questions that people need to be asking of a specific pellet grill/smoker to work out if its going to best suit their needs. Therefore, I thought it was a good idea to create this general FAQ page which I can use to link to various other articles I’ve produced to help people, like yourself, find the best pellet grill/smoker for you. Use the Table Of Contents below to jump to specific questions.

Pellet Grill & Smoker FAQ
There is already a huge range of pellet grills/smokers on the market today, and the range of options keeps increasing. Hence, you need to understand the differences in their features/capabilities: Images – BBQGuys.com

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.

Table of Contents

General Pellet Grill/Smoker Questions

Why Are Pellet Grills/Smokers So Popular?

I thought the most obvious place to start is to address the question of the growth of popularity of pellet grills/smokers, and their advantages. So with a pellet grill, you are cooking with real wood, its just been compressed into a pellet. In pellet form, you can cook with real wood in an automated and precisely controlled process. Hence, pellet grills are popular as anyone can easily cook with real wood to experience the great flavour a real wood fire produces.

I also frequently state the key benefit of pellet grills/smokers are to save time. With an automated pellet grill/smoker (especially with WiFi/App support) you can produce great wood-fired food with as little time as possible actually stud next to the grill/smoker. Hence, pellet grills/smokers are ideally suited to our modern busy lives. Learn more in my full article on why pellet grills/smokers are so popular.

How Does A Pellet Grill/Smoker Work?

Ok, I have a full detailed article on how a pellet grill works, but I’ll just quickly summarise the key points here. First, you have a hopper that holds the wood pellets. At the base of that hopper, there is an auger with an electric motor attached. There is also an electric fan inside the pellet grill and a hot rod igniter.

The auger feeds pellets into a burn pot, the fan provides air for combustion and the hot rod igniter gets the fire going. A control panel adjusts the speed/timing of the auger/combustion fan to achieve the set temperature and it maintains the grill to that temperature.

That’s the basics, however, there are various different control panels using different technologies such as PID algorithms, and some have WiFi/Bluetooth integration. But essentially, all pellet grills/smokers no matter the budget operates on the same basic principles above.

How Do You Choose A Pellet Grill?

Obviously, for many people, their available budget is a significant factor in their choice. Therefore, I’ve got articles on the best pellet grills under $500, under $1,000 and under $2,000 as some of the most common budget limits. I also have a separate article on how to choose a pellet grill/smoker.

Besides your budget, you really need to consider other factors such as what is more important to you, grilling or smoking performance? As these are two very different things in the pellet grill world. That will dictate whether a horizontal pellet grill/smoker will suit your needs better than a vertical pellet smoker. You also need to think about whether a freestanding or a built-in pellet BBQ would work better for you?

Do All Pellet Grills Need Electricity?

Yes, for a pellet grill/smoker to automate the combustion process electricity is needed to power the auger, fan, igniter and control panel. Now, most pellet grills are designed to run from a 110V domestic supply. However, there are also portable pellet grills that can be operated from a 12V DC power supply provided by a vehicle or RV.

After the igniter within a pellet grill/smoker has got the fire going, the power consumption to run the auger, fan and control panel is actually very minimal. Hence, it is feasible to run a portable pellet grill from a 12V battery. I also have an article on portable power/backup for pellet grills/smokers which you may be interested in.

How Do You Light A Pellet Grill?

Don’t think of a pellet grill like a charcoal grill where you have to use fire-lighters etc. In a pellet grill, a hot rod igniter is positioned at the base of the burn pot. The control panel once a temperature has been set will light the pellet grill with the hot rod igniter. Hence, just let the control panel do its job, don’t use fire-lighters or any flammable liquids in a pellet grill.

Are Pellet Grills/Smokers Indirect or Direct Heat Cookers?

So pellet grills can cook via indirect and direct heat, though some pellet grills with direct-flame access for instance have better direct heat cooking performance. Pellet smokers on the other hand are purely indirect heat cookers with maximum temperature settings below 450 degrees. I discuss this more in my article on indirect vs direct heat.

Do Pellet Grills/Smokers Have Hot Spots?

Most types of grills (gas/charcoal) have hot spots to some degree and pellet grills/smokers are no exception. Hot spots can typically be found around the edge of the cooking grate on a pellet grill where the grease tray is not providing heat deflection. However, there is a lot more to it which I go into in my article on hot spots on pellet grills.

How Hot Can A Pellet Grill Get?

Typically, budget/mid-range pellet grills have a maximum temperature setting of 450-500 degrees. However, those with direct-flame access can produce a temperature at the grate of around 650 degrees. More premium/luxury pellet grills have higher temperature settings of 600 to 725 degrees and can achieve even higher temperatures with direct-flame access.

Can You Sear Meat On A Pellet Grill?

Yes, however, certain pellet grills are more capable of putting on a good sear than others. Pellet grills with direct-flame access will produce the best searing results. On a pellet grill without direct-flame access that has a maximum temperature setting of around 450 degrees, a set of GrillGrates is really going to be needed to get a good sear. I have more details in my article on the best pellet grills for searing.

Do Pellet Smokers Produce Enough Smoke?

In my article on the benefits of BBQ smokers, I describe the smoke profile that pellet grills produce as been more intense than an electric smoker (using wood chips) but not as an intensive smoke flavour as a charcoal grill. I also discuss this more in my pellet vs electric smokers article and my pellet vs kamado grill article. So really, picture pellet smokers as the middle ground in terms of smoke flavour intensity.

However, there is actually more to it, some have argued that the latest PID control panels found in many modern pellet grills produce less smoke than previous models. There can actually be some truth to that, as PID control panels provide more accurate temperature control through more precisely controlling the combustion process.

Well, with a PID control panel more precisely controlling the pellet combustion process that naturally means less smoke. However, pellet grill manufacturers know this, and many have implemented specific ‘smoke’ modes into their latest PID control panels.

How Often Should I Clean A Pellet Grill?

As always, first and foremost you should follow the specific manufacturer’s instructions. However, as a ‘general’ rule after having gone through a couple of hoppers full of pellets you should be inspecting the burn pot/base of the grill for ash build up and once cool using a shop vac to clean out the pellet grill/smoker. I also have an article where I discuss tips for cleaning a pellet grill.

However, as I discuss in my article on when to clean a pellet grill, especially on grills with direct-flame access you want to make sure a build-up of grease has not accumulated. Excessive grease build-up on a pellet grill with direct-flame access could lead to a grease fire/flare-up.

Can You Cook Pizza On A Pellet Grill?

Sure! With their electric fans, pellet grills can perform as a convection oven, offering great even temperature distribution. There are dedicated pellet pizza ovens, however, any pellet grill can really be used as a pizza oven and produce excellent results with fantastic wood-fired flavours.

Do Pellet Grills Work Well In Cold/Winter Weather?

How well a pellet grill/smoker performs in colder weather will depend on a couple of factors. First off, a pellet grill with a PID control panel will perform best, holding a more consistent temperature. However, how well insulated the pellet grill/smoker (twin-wall construction) is also forms an important part of its cold-weather performance. Some pellet grills/smokers need an insulated blank to perform well in cold/winter weather.

Can You Use A Pellet Smoker As A Grill?

As I’ve discussed in my article on horizontal grills/smokers vs vertical smokers they each have their pros and cons. As to whether you could use a vertical pellet smoker as a grill? No, not only do vertical pellet smokers have very limited space on the lowest rack closest to the pellet burn pot, they cannot reach the high temperatures required for grilling (450+ degrees). The control panels on vertical pellet smokers are often limited to 400 degrees or so.

Do Pellet Smokers Dry Out Meat?

With any type of BBQ, the type of meat your cooking and its fat content will impact how susceptible it is to drying out during the cooking process. Gas grills with the combustion of propane produce moisture. Now pellet grills don’t produce as much moisture as a propane grill, however, pellets still contain on average 5-10% moisture.

Hence, that’s more moisture that charcoal. Pellet grills/smokers are therefore actually less likely to dry out meat than an electric smoker or charcoal grill. However, water pans/Grill Grates can be used to help keep the meat moist. I have a dedicated article on pellet grills/smokers & dry meat.

Can You Use A Pellet Grill In The Rain?

As discussed above, all pellet grills use electricity, and electricity/rain doesn’t go together well. Furthermore, if you get rain/water on your pellets that’s also going to go badly. Hence, as I discuss in my article on using a pellet grill in the rain, you would need cover for the grill and the pellets, as well as making sure the electrical supply to the grill is safe. However, you cannot use a pellet grill in a fully enclosed environment due to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. So any cover used must also be very well ventilated. Therefore, I generally don’t recommend pellet grills are used in garages, even with the door open.

Can You Leave A Pellet Grill/Smoker Outside?

As pellet grills/smokers use electricity it does bring up the question can you safely leave them outside? While you have to follow proper precautions with regards to the electrical supply to the appliance, and to not leave power going to the grill during wet weather, the appliance its self is weather rated to a degree. However, as I discuss in my article on leaving a pellet grill outside, unless its a full-stainless steel pellet grills, its best not to.

What Is A PID Control Panel?

PID stands for Proportional, Integral, Derivative and is a form of mathematical algorithm which some pellet grill control panels are using to monitor and control their temperature. Older/cheaper pellet grills commonly used timer-based control panels that would turn the pellet feed auger and fan on for set timed intervals to main a set temperature. Typically, timer-based control panels can maintain the temperature within the pellet grill to within 25 degrees of the set temperature.

A PID control panel on the other hand is constantly monitoring the internal temperature against the set temperature and making precise adjustments to the fan and auger speed. As such, a PID control can much more precisely control the temperature within the pellet grill/smoker to within 5 degrees of the set temperature. I have a separate article on PID control panels if you would like to learn more.

Are There Commercial Pellet Grills/Smokers Available?

Yes, a couple of brands such as RECTEQ, GMG, Yoder and Cookshack produce commercial pellet grills/smokers which you can review more details on in that link to my article above. Traeger did previously produce portable commercial pellet smokers, however, they no longer appear to offer commercial products and are focused purely on their domestic products.

Pellet Related Questions

How Long Will A 20LB Bag Of Pellets Last?

There is a huge range of different BBQ wood pellet flavours to choose from to use in a pellet grill/smoker. Typically, found in 20lb bags and typically costing around $20. In terms of how long a bag will last, well typically for smoking (around 250 degrees) expect to use between 1 to 1.5 lbs of pellets per hour. For grilling, however, consumption will increase, typically to around 3 lbs per hour. I discuss this more in my article on pellet usage.

However, pellet consumption/usage varies per pellet grill depending on how efficiently the control panel can control the combustion process. Furthermore, the outside temperature (summer vs winter) will play a big part in pellet usage, along with how the pellet grill/smoker is constructed, does it feature single-wall or twin-wall construction?

Do You Have To Use The Manufacturers Grill Pellets?

Certain manufacturers state within their manual to only use their own branded grill pellets to maintain the product warranty. If no such statement is included within the warranty make sure you only use ‘grill’ branded pellets made from a hardwood species. Don’t be tempted to use softwood heating fuel pellets in a pellet grill or smoker as a cheaper alternative. First off, excessive ash will be produced which could block up the burn pot. Also, the smoke produced from softwood pellets will not produce a good flavour.

How Long Can You Store Grill Pellets For?

If protected from moisture (and moist air) grill pellets can last indefinitely provided they are handled with care, otherwise, pellets can go bad. Hence, storing grill/smoker pellets in a sealed plastic bag/container is the best means to protect them from moisture. What that also means is leaving pellets in the hopper on the grill/smoker is not ideal. Hence, if you are not going to be using a pellet BBQ for an extended length of time or its going into storage you should empty the hopper of pellets.

Can You Use Wood Chips In A Pellet Grill/Smoker?

Don’t be tempted to put wood chips in the hopper of a pellet grill/smoker. The auger will likely block with wood chips pretty quickly, wood chips could even damage the auger/drive-motor.

Pellet Grill/Smoker Manufacturer Questions

Which Are The Most Popular Pellet Grill Brands?

You are probably aware of several pellet grill brands, and you may be curious which brands are currently the most popular? Well, with the help of Google Trends I looked into the growth in popularity of various brands over time. You can read more in my article on the most popular pellet grill brands.

Who Makes The Cheapest Pellet Grills/Smokers?

Many brands are competing in the budget segment, but I think two of the most well-established brands for their budget products are Z Grills and Pit Boss. You also have brands such as Camp Chef with their budget SmokePro range, and more recent offerings from Cuisinart and Oklahoma Joe’s.

Who Makes The Most Expensive Pellet Grills/Smokers?

Well, Twin Eagles currently make by far offer the most expensive pellet grills/smokers on the market today. Then behind them, there are brands such as Memphis Grills and Coyote who are also focused on the luxury end of the market. More niche/high-end brands include MAK GRILLS and Cookshack.

Which Pellet Grills Are Best For Beginners?

Well, its easier to cook on any pellet grill/smoker than it is to manage the fire accurately on a charcoal grill. If you are looking for the easiest pellet grills to use those with precise accurate temperature control from a PID control panel and WiFi/App functionality will be the best option.

Which Pellet Grills Are Good For Camping?

So really for camping, you are going to need a dedicated portable pellet grill/smoker. You have very small tabletop units such as the Traeger Scout/Ranger to free-standing micro pellet grills. As with any portable pellet grills for camping, you are still going to need access to a source of power. Some pellet grills can run directly from a 12V DC supply. However, for others, you will need an inverter to take a 12 DC supply and convert it into 110V AC for the grill to use.

In Which Pellet Grills Can You Cook Beer Can Chicken?

I must admit, I do love beer can chicken, the problem is you need quite a bit of vertical space to cook it. Many horizontal pellet grills are based on a round barrel design, which isn’t ideal for beer can chicken. Really, vertical pellet smokers are best suited to beer can chicken. The latest Traeger Pro Series and higher spec Ironwood/Timberline models also have an oval cooking chamber with more height which can also work well for beer can chicken.

Rotisserie Kits For Pellet Grills?

As pellet grills/smokers primarily cook food via indirect/convection heat rotisserie kits are not as common as they are on direct heat charcoal and gas BBQs. However, rotisserie cooking still has its benefits even on a pellet grill, constant meat basting through the rotation etc. Therefore, you can get some pellet grills with rotisserie kits.

Which Brands Offer WiFi In Their Pellet Grills/Smokers?

While not the first to offer WiFi, Traeger with their WiFire pellet grills has been the brand really pushing the benefits of the feature. Many other brands such as Camp Chef, RECTEQ, GMG and Weber also offer WiFi functionality. Older Pit Boss pellet grills previously only came with Bluetooth, however, the new Pit Boss Pro Series and the Platinum range now come with WiFi/App integration.

Which Brands Offer PID Control Panels In Their Pellet Grills/Smokers?

Previously it was just premium/luxury brands such as Memphis Grills who were using PID algorithms in their control panels for temperature control. However, then Traeger launched their D2 Direct Drive platform featuring PID technology, and it brought more attention to the feature. You now have, pretty much every pellet grill brand offering at least some of their models with PID temperature control.

Which Brands Offer Direct-Flame Searing?

Pit Boss offer direct-flame access over almost their entire pellet grill range, likewise for their sibling brand Louisiana Grills. Some Camp Chef grills also come with direct-flame access. The same goes for GMG (Green Mountain Grills) and Z Grills. The Weber SmokeFire pellet grills have a form of direct flame access, but I’m not a big fan of how they have integrated the feature. Pretty much all pellet grills/smokers in the luxury end of the market offer direct-flame access.

Which Brands Offer Pellet/Gas Combo Grills?

There is a growing number of brands offering pellet/gas combo grills. Pit Boss currently offers the widest number of such models, with Cuisinart also stepping into the ring. Camp Chef with their propane Side Kick/Sear Box offerings are going for a slightly different route, but they all offer more or less the same functionality.

Which Brands Offer Vertical Pellet Smokers?

Pit Boss and their sibling brand Louisiana Grills offer the widest range of vertical pellet smokers. Masterbuilt has a few models, but it appears they are moving away from pellet appliances. Camp Chef also produce their very compelling Vertical XXL WiFi pellet smoker. At the top end, there is also a vertical pellet smoker from Cookshack which is more targeted to commercial users.

Which Brands Offer Built-In Pellet Grills?

So just to be clear, by ‘built-in’ what we are talking about here is a pellet grill for an outdoor kitchen. Built-in pellet grills/smokers don’t come with a lower cart/wheels as they are intended to be fitted into a fixed cabinet. The most affordable built-in units currently come from Grilla Grills with the built-in version of their popular Silverbac pellet grill. Louisiana Grills also offer a couple of built-in models. At the luxury end of the market, Memphis Grills, Coyote and Twin Eagles all offer built-in models.

Which Brands Offer Twin-Wall Insulated Pellet Grills?

Right, so pretty much all vertical pellet smokers, even the cheapest models feature some level of twin-wall insulated construction. In terms of horizontal pellet grill/smokers, while twin-wall insulated construction is pretty much a given on luxury pellet grills, on more budget/mid-range options its not as common. Grilla Grills, Weber and Traeger all offer models with some level of twin-wall insulation. However, currently, of the three brands, only the Traeger Timberline offers a full twin-wall insulated cooking chamber. The Louisiana Grills Founders Series will also offer a twin-wall insulated cooking chamber.

Which Brands offer Stainless Steel Pellet Grills?

At the budget end of the pellet grill market, you will find products such as Z Grills with a stainless steel lid, but that’s about it. If you spend a bit more you will find Grilla Grills using stainless steel not only for the lids on the grill/hopper but also internal components such as the cooking racks, grease tray and burn pot. Spend a bit more and you have RECTEQ offering pellet grills with a stainless steel cooking chamber and Traeger offering a stainless steel cooking chamber on their Timberline models.

To get a full-stainless steel pellet grill/smoker you will have to spend at least around $2K for products from brands such as Cookshack and Memphis Grills. There are also brands such a MAK GRILLS, Coyote and Twin Eagles offering full stainless steel pellet grills/smokers.

Which Brands Offer The Best Warranty?

Currently, Pit Boss and RECTEQ offer the longest warranty periods of 5 and 6 years respectively. However, RECTEQ only offers 6 years on certain models, its not a universal offering across their entire range. Most other brands such as Traeger, Camp Chef and Weber offer a 3-year warranty term. More details in my article on which pellet grills/smokers offer the best warranty.

Which Brands Are Made In The USA?

So you have brands such as Traeger and Memphis who used to make their pellet grills in the US but have now moved to manufacture abroad. You also have brands such as Grilla Grills that make their grills overseas but make their stainless steel accessories in the US. Of the brands still making their products in the US, you have Yoder, Cookshack, MAK GRILLS, Twin Eagles and a couple of smaller/niche brands. Read more in my article on pellet grills/smokers made in the USA.

Pellet Grill/Smoker Brand Specific FAQs

Now, even though for many of the FAQs above I have pages that discuss the topics in more detail, the specific answers for each brand can be even more precise depending on specific models etc. Therefore, I’m also going to produce a series of brand-specific FAQ pages where I discuss which specific products from each brand has certain features, direct-flame access, PID, WiFi etc. As I produce them I’ll list them below.

Traeger Pellet Grills/Smokers FAQ

Pit Boss Pellet Grills/Smokers FAQ

Louisiana Grills Pellet Grills/Smokers FAQ

Camp Chef Pellet Grills/Smokers FAQ

Grilla Grills Pellet Grills/Smokers FAQ

Z Grills Pellet Grills/Smokers FAQ

Weber Pellet Grills/Smokers FAQ

Memphis Grills Pellet Grills/Smokers FAQ

Cookshack Pellet Grills/Smokers FAQ

Coyote Pellet Grills/Smokers FAQ

MAK GRILLS Pellet Grills/Smokers FAQ

Broil King Pellet Grills/Smokers FAQ

RECTEQ Pellet Grills/Smokers FAQ

Green Mountain Grills Pellet Grills/Smokers FAQ

Oklahoma Joe’s Pellet Grills/Smokers FAQ

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