Ever since I first tried wood pellets on my propane gas barbeque grill with a little cast iron smoker pot I’ve been amazed by the range of flavours on offer. Now, I know a lot about how wood pellets are made, and their various uses. But the popularity of barbeque wood pellet grills and smokers has even taken me by surprise.
With this post, I thought I would provide a rundown of the top brands of wood pellets for your BBQ grill or smoker. I’ll briefly cover how wood pellets for BBQ grills are made and the differences between them and standard fuel pellets.
Introduction to Wood Pellets for BBQ Grills and Smokers
If your new to the concept of using wood pellets for your outdoor cooking needs, the video below from the BBQGuys provides an excellent and brief introduction:
Now you have seen the brief introduction video above I want to go into more detail. However, if you want to just jump straight to the top brands of wood pellets for your grill or smoker, use the links below:
Top Wood Pellet Brands For BBQ’s and Smokers
- BBQrs Delight Grill Pellets
- Traeger Grill Pellets
- RecTec Grill Pellets
- Louisiana Grills Pellets
- Camp Chef Premium Grill Pellets
- Lumber Jack Grill Pellets
- Pit Boss Grill Pellets
What are BBQ Wood Pellets and how are they made?
So essentially, barbeque wood pellets are produced from the sawdust of various different species of hardwood. Through heat and compression in the pellet mill, a pellet is formed. One of the leading brands in barbeque wood pellets for your grill or smoker is Traeger. They even produce their own fuel for their grills. Many people are curious about how Traeger wood pellets are made. I would encourage you to view my post on Traeger wood pellets which also includes a video.
Are Barbeque Wood Pellets the same as Heating Pellets?
So to look at them you would presume they are the same product. They look very similar and they are both used to generate heat. However, there are some important differences between barbeque wood pellets and heating pellets for stove and boilers.
Softwood vs Hardwood
Typically wood pellets used in pellet stoves and boilers are made from softwood residues. This will include pine and spruce sawdust. There are premium grades of heating fuel pellets, but they are not made to a food grade standard. Furthermore, with softwoods your not really going to be getting great flavour which is the main reason to cook with BBQ wood pellets.
Harwood Pellets produce the Best Flavoured Food
Barbeque pellets are produced from various hardwood residues which include:
- Alder – Great for cooking birds and salmon
- Apple – Works well with pork, seafood and lamb
- Cherry – A good allrounder
- Hickory – Works well pork and BBQ ribs
- Maple – Nice for cooking vegetables and cheese
- Mesquite – Particularly suited to red meats
- Oak – The ‘Foundation’ of BBQ wood pellets
- Pecan – Best suited to for cooking poultry
- Walnut – Especially nice for game and red meats
Full Flavour or Blended?
So you may have noticed above, I describe Oak wood pellets as the ‘Foundation’ of barbeque pellets. The reason being, their flavour is the most subtle. You can cook pretty much any type of food with Oak, and get just a mellow smoky flavour. The other varieties of hardwoods will produce a more intense flavour.
Flavoured Wood Pellets
You can purchase bags of just flavoured pellets, made from just Apple, Alder etc. Flavoured bags are more expensive than blended bags. There will be no oak pellets within flavoured bags, unless its Oak flavour obviously. Oak wood pellets mixed in with flavoured grill pellets are regarded as ‘filler’ and are called blended pellets.
Blended Wood Pellets
As you properly guessed, blended bags are a mixture of oak pellets and other flavours. Typically you will be looking at a blend of around 70% oak to 30% of a different hardwood species.
Should you Choose Flavoured or Blended?
If you’re using a small smoker pot on your propane gas grill I would just go with flavoured pellets. If you own a full on wood pellet grill such as a Traeger, it depends on your cooking style and personal preference. It depends on how you’re cooking the food and the intensity of the flavour you prefer.
As you’ll recall from earlier in the post. Smoking food will use around 1lb/h, but full heating cooking/chargrilling will use around 3lb/h. Therefore using flavoured pellets when chargrilling will not only be expensive, you might not be able to tell the difference between cooking with blended or just pure oak pellets.
The Benefits and Issues of Bark in BBQ Wood Pellets
Some smoking pellets are produced with the bark left on the logs. Now, for wood pellets used purely in stoves and boilers, bark can creates issues. Leaving the bark on the logs will increase the ash content of the fuel. However, when it comes to barbeque pellets bark can also improve the flavour.
Some pellet grills are able to deal with the high ash content, but some aren’t. There are cases where the burn pot can fill up with ash and the fire either stops or runs poorly. Therefore, before you purchase several bags of a particular smoking pellet brand (especially those that contain bark) its best to try a bag in your grill first to see how well they run.
Avoid Smoking Pellets with lots of fines (dust)
So dust in your bag of grill pellets is also known as fines. This is material which did not form properly into a wood pellet. Some pellet grills run poorly if there are too many fines, blocking up the feed auger from the hopper. Therefore instead of just tipping you bag of wood pellets straight into the grill hopper, I do have some advice.
Place a large cooking sieve over a bucket, tip the bag of pellets into the sieve and give a quick shake. The fines will drop out into the bucket. Then tip the pellets out the sieve into the pellet grill hopper. You can then dispose of the fines on your garden. Problem sorted.
If you want to check the quality and density of the wood pellets you have purchased you can do what I call the ‘snap test’. Just follow the diagram below:
Should you only use Traeger Wood Pellets in Traeger Grills?
Technically Traeger state in their product manuals that only their own brand of wood pellets should be used in their stoves. Now, you obviously have to take that statement into context. Traeger obviously only wants to you only purchase their wood pellets.
However, Traeger also doesn’t want you to use wood pellets with an ash content that’s too high or contain lots of fines. You can use other ‘quality’ brands of smoking pellets in your Traeger grill without complications. However, just remember my comments above about separating out the fines and the ‘snap test’.
How many Wood Pellets does a Smoker or Grill Use?
Well, this really depends on how you’re using the smoking pellets. Are you using a small cast iron smoker pot on a propane gas grill, or do you own a full on a wood pellet grill? With a small cast iron smoker you will be able to improve the flavour of your food, however, your not getting the ‘full effect’. On a proper wood pellet grill from a brand such as Traeger, you will be able to achieve that fully developed wood smoke flavour.
With a smoker pot, you will just be using single-use 1lb/450g single-use bags at a time. You can get hold of a whole range of single-use BBQ wood pellet bags, however, I would encourage you to try and the Jack Daniels pellets from BBQr’s Delight. I personally really liked using Jack Daniels pellets and I cooked some excellent smoked chicken. The strange thing is though, I don’t actually like drinking Jack Daniels whiskey?!
With a proper pellet grill which is using just wood pellets to generate the required heat, the usage will obviously be a lot higher. However, wood pellet usage will also depend on how the grill is used. For instance, Traeger state with their grills while smoking a grill will use around 1lb per hour. However, if the barbeque is turned up to full heat the grill will use up to 3lbs per hour.
Is Cooking with Wood Pellets Safe?
The ‘safety’ question is a pretty big question with lots of discussions around the safety of consuming smoked and grilled food. With this post, I’m not going to get into the full discussion on safety. However, what I will say that safety is another reason to only use branded and reputable hardwood pellets for cooking.
For instance, I once read a storey about a wood pellet fuel manufacturer who got caught making wood pellets from trees that were contaminated from the nuclear reactor explosion at Chernoble in Ukraine! Therefore the customers of those wood pellets were burning wood which was slightly radioactive! Whilst obviously an extreme scenario, the point being you want to be able to trust the wood pellets your cooking your food with.
Top Brands of BBQ Pellets for Grills and Smokers
Hopefully now for those of you who weren’t familiar with the details on wood pellets for grills you have a bit more knowledge on the subject. Now, let’s talk about who are the top brands on the market today. Please note the order below is not a ranking, all of these brands produce reputable products and I encourage you to try them and choose a product which suits your own preferences.
BBQrs Delight Wood Smoking Pellets
So I thought I’d start with the first brand of smoking pellets I personally tried, and that’s BBQrs Delight. Specifically their variety flavour tester pack. With this pack, you get 1lb bags of their various flavours including Apple, Hickory, Mesquite, Cherry, Pecan and Jack Daniel’s. All BBQr’s Delight pellets are made in the USA. This pack serves as a good introduction to trying smoking pellets along with a smoker pot on your existing propane gas BBQ.
Traeger Grill Pellets
Whether you own a Traeger grill or not, they produce good quality hardwood pellets which can be used on any grill. They offer a considerable range of flavours including, Apple, Alder, Cherry, Hickory, Maple, Mesquite, Oak and Pecan. They also offer two blended products called Turkey and Texas Beef Blend. Again all Traeger products are made in the USA from sustainably sourced materials.
Now, CookingPellets.com have a very specific product tag line, ‘No Fillers!’. They offer a very popular ‘Perfect Mix’ 40lb bag made of Hickory, Cherry, Hard Maple and Apple. They don’t produce blended products, in fact, they don’t actually offer Oak or Alder grill pellets at all. CookingPellets.com has a strong following, and their products have a 4.5/5 star rating on Amazon out of over 1,200 reviews which is very impressive.
If you just want to get up and running with your new pellet grill, a bag of Perfect Mix is a good place to start. In the future, you may wish to try your own mix of flavours.
RecTec Grill Pellets
RecTec like Traeger produce both grills and their own wood pellets. The Ultimate Blend grill pellets from RecTect are an Oak and Hickory blend. You can obviously use these wood pellets on any grill, not just a RecTec, even a Traeger.
Louisiana Grills Pellets
So Lousiana Grills just like RecTec and Traeger offer both grills and pellets. Louisana Grills produce some very nice top end stainless steel pellet grills which I want to write a post about when I get round to it. In terms of the grill pellets they offer, their ‘Competition Blend’ appears very popular. They describe the Competition Blend as being the perfect mix of sweet, savoury and tart. I’ve yet to try them, so I’ll have to take Louisiana Grill’s word for it. They are a blend of 50% Mapel, 25% Cherry and 25% Hickory. Again, all the wood is sourced and processed in North America.
Louisana Grills also offer grill pellets in the flavours of George Pecan, New England Apple, Pensylvania Cherry and Texas Mesquite.
Camp Chef Premium Grill Pellets
I must admit, until recently I wasn’t familiar with Camp Chef, but they are another grill manufacturer who also sells their own brand of BBQ pellets. I’ve not seen enough reviews or feedback on their products to provide much insight.
Camp Chef only currently offer either Applewood or Hickory grill pellets. However, I’m sure their range of products will increase in the future.
Lumber Jack Grill Pellets
If you want to try a range of grill pellets Lumber Jack like BBQr’s Delight offer a starter pack of 7 flavours in 1lb bags. Apple, Cherry, Pecan, Hickory, Mesquite and Maple. They also have a blended bag which contains a mixture of Maple-Hickory-Cherry.
I’ve not tried Lumber Jack grill pellets as yet, but there is something that potentially concerns me. Don’t get me wrong, I think the use of brown paper bags looks great and is more sustainable than using plastic. However, if you have read my post on keeping wood pellets dry, a brown paper bag is not going to provide much protection. For instance, I would not keep them in a garage or shed which gets wet and humid.
Pit Boss Grill Pellets
Finally, we have the range of barbeque and smoker pellets offered by Pit Boss. They also offer a range of grills comparable to that made by Traeger and RecTec. Pit Boss grill pellets are provided in 40lb bags and importantly they have a resealable top to protect the wood pellets from moisture. Sourced from North American forests they offer a competition blend of Maple, Hickory and Apple. They also offer individual flavours and have produced a handy chart to choose your flavour:
Conclusions on the Top Brands of Wood Pellets for your BBQ Grill or Smoker
So as you can see, there are a considerable number of brands who now offer BBQ wood pellets, and the list is growing. If you own a propane gas grill and you want to try smoking pellets for the first time starter pack sets from either BBQr’s Delight or Lumber Jack is a good place to start. Thinking of purchasing your first pellet grill? Then trying a competition blend would be a good next step. If you get more into your outdoor grilling that’s when you could start to look into purchase pure 100% flavour bags and making your own blends and mixtures to suit your own taste preferences.
Outdoor grilling with hardwood chips has been popular for decades, however, there could be a steep learning curve. Controlling the temperature using hardwood chips was reportedly a true challenge. However, hardwood pellets have made it possible for the average homeowner to get some of that great wood taste.
Thanks for reading, I hope you found this post interesting. Please feel free to check out my other posts about making, burning and the other many used for wood pellets.