On the topic of insulated blankets for pellet grills/smokers, I’ve heard arguments both for and against them. In principle, the idea is sound, they are effectively a coat for your pellet grill/smoker for colder weather. However, I’ve also heard others comment that their cost (and they can cost quite a bit) does not justify the amount of improved performance/reduced pellet consumption in colder weather. Personally, if the pellet/smoker is not twin-wall insulated I’ve always recommended getting an insulated blanket if you want to cook in colder weather (around 30 degrees Fahrenheit and below). As I discuss in my article on using a pellet grill in cold/winter weather. Though, previously I didn’t have any information I could reference to prove they are a good idea, until now.
Introduction To Pellet Grill/Smoker Insulated Blankets
So just to be absolutely clear, with this post I’m not talking about storage covers for pellet grills when they will be kept outside. We are purely talking about insulated blankets which can be fitted to many makes and models of wood pellet grills/smokers for use in cold/winter weather. Now, not all pellet grills will benefit from an insulated blanket to the same degree. In fact on some, they are simply not necessary. As David discusses in his video above, some pellet grills are fabricated with twin-wall construction. This provides an air gap between the combustion zone/cooking chamber and the outside ambient temperature. I’ll discuss twin-wall pellet grills/smokers below. But for now, let’s presume you own a pellet grill which does not feature twin-wall construction, which is common in the sub $500 and sub $1,000 price brackets.
Insulated blankets are available for many different makes and models of pellet grills/smokers: Image – Amazon.com
Insulated Blankets and Reduced BBQ Wood Pellet Consumption
When it comes to pellet usage/consumption on a pellet grill/smoker it should not come as a surprise to you that with colder weather pellet usage will increase. In the spring/summer time your pellet cooker while going ‘low and slow’ will be consuming typically between 1-2lbs hour. Well in colder weather, the pellet cooker has to burn more pellets to achieve/maintain the set temperature than it would on a warm summers day for instance. As David shows in the video above, without an insulated cover and with an outside air temperature of 32 degrees the grill consumed 3.3lbs per hour. However, with the insulated blanket fitted to his pellet grill, the consumption dropped to 2lbs per hour.
Saving money on BBQ wood pellets with an insulated blanket should be a pretty obvious benefit: Image – Amazon.com
Now, I personally feel, as I David also appears to, that a saving of 1.3lbs per hour is pretty significant. However, as I’ve discussed above, insulated blankets due to the fireproof materials they are made from typically aren’t ‘cheap’. Depending on the make/model of pellet grill you have you’re typically going to have to spend between $50 and $130 for an insulated blanket. As discussed in my pellet usage article, typically 1 lb of pellets costs around $1, maybe a bit less. Therefore, that’s 50 to 130 hours of cooking time to recover the investment on the insulated blanket. However, as David also shows in his excellent video above, insulated blankets are not just about saving on pellets, they are about producing better BBQ.
Insulated Blankets Produce Better BBQ
After you have watched David’s video above, I think the main benefit of using an insulated blanked in cold weather (if the pellet grill needs one) is better BBQ. In David’s test, he monitored the temperature in three locations to demonstrate the differences between the inter and outer cooking temperatures with and without an insulated blanket. As the test showed when an insulated blanket wasn’t used on the pellet grill there was a massive 60-degree temperature difference. With the insulated blanket fitted there was only a 20-degree difference between the temperature probs.
What this actually means is without an insulated blanket the centre of the cooking grate in getting much hotter than the outer edges. Hence, you can get part of the meat which is going to be overdone before other parts are finishing cooking. Hence, with an insulated blanket, the meat will be cooked more evenly. So again, if we go back to this topic of the payback period for an insulated blanket, its not just about reduced pellet consumption. The insulated blanket will help you to produce better BBQ that’s not overdone/burnt in some areas and underdone in others. Hence, an insulated blanket could actually save you wasting/poorly cooking good (often expensive) meat.
Not Every Pellet Grill Needs An Insulated Blanket
Some pellet grills are made with what’s called twin-wall construction. The benefits of this manufacturing technique are it separates the heat from the cooking chamber/combustion zone from the outside temperature. Often its two pieces of steel separated with an air gap. When you get up to the really top-end pellet grills from say Memphis, Coyote and Twin Eagles they are also fitting insulation between the two layers of steel. Though obviously, in this case, its also stainless steel, not carbon steel.
The other approach taken by brands such as Broil King and Yoder is to use thicker gauge steel. This will provide some thermal resistance to outside air temperatures. However, the downside is it can take longer to warm up the cooking chamber as the thick steel absorbs the energy. Therefore while cooking performance in cold weather is improved pellet consumption is typically higher than a pellet grill with twin-wall construction. Therefore, on pellet grills with thick single-wall steel, I still think an insulated blanket should be used.
There are pellet grills at much lower price bracket than the Twin Eagles etc which are using twin-wall construction. The most affordable pellet grills that I’m aware of which are using twin-wall construction is Grilla Grills. However, I should note, they are currently only using twin-wall construction around the lower combustion zone and not the upper cooking chamber. Therefore, on a Grilla Grills, you may still want to consider an insulated blanket over the lid. Sub $2,000 probably the most well known twin-wall insulated pellet grill is the Traeger Timberline. Traeger is currently the most popular pellet grill brand (here’s proof), but you probably already knew that.
Conclusions On Insulated Blankets For Pellet Grills/Smokers
If you only very rarely use or intend to use your wood pellet grill over the colder winter months I can understand the hesitation to spend a good chunk of change on an accessory you may not use very often. While in terms of pellet consumption it will save you money, it will obviously take time to recover that investment in purely BBQ wood pellet savings. Personally, I would focus more on the benefits to the food its self. As David’s video above shows, the cooking performance using the insulated cover is dramatically improved. After all, the whole point of owning a pellet BBQ in the first place is to produce better food than you can from the cooker in your kitchen.
That’s it! I hope my comments above and David’s video have helped you to consider the benefits of an insulated blanket for a pellet grill in a bit more detail. If you would like to read more of my pellet grill/smoker related articles please check out my Wood Pellet Grill/Smoker Guide. 🙂