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. So much so I’m now looking to purchase a purpose-made wood pellet grill/smoker. 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 when compared to standard fuel pellets. I hope you find the information below useful. 🙂
Wood pellets for BBQ grills and smokers have grown significantly in popularity: Image – Amazon
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There is a lot of information in this post on the best BBQ wood pellets currently available for cooking different foods. However, if you’re short on time please feel free to use the Table of Contents below to jump to a particular section.
Introduction to Wood Pellets for BBQ Grills and Smokers
I’ve been ‘into’ wood pellets and various other forms of biomass pellets since 2007. At the time I was purely focused on producing and using pellets in stoves and boilers for space heating purposes. However, in recent years hardwood BBQ wood pellets have really started to take off. 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 on various points. Such as the differences between full flavour and blended pellets, and how to estimate pellet consumption. 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/Best 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
- Cuisinart Premium Smoking Pellets
- Memphis Grill Pellets
What Are BBQ Wood Pellets And How Are They Made?
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?
To look at them you would presume standard wood pellets and BBQ pellets 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.
Hardwood Pellets produce the Best Flavoured Food
Barbeque pellets are produced from various hardwood residues which include the following species:
- 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 also 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 the video earlier in the post. Smoking food will use around 1lb/h, but full 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.
There is an ever-growing range of cookbooks being produced specifically about using BBQ wood pellets: Image – Amazon
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)
Dust in your bag of grill pellets is also known as fines. This is material which did not form properly into a wood pellet. It can also come from the pellets themselves when the bags have been handled poorly. Some pellet grills run poorly if there are too many fines, blocking up the feed auger from the hopper. Therefore instead of just tipping your 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 can source a large flat sieve such as this these are ideal for separating fines from wood pellets: Image – Amazon
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 grills/smokers. It may even be stated with the pellet grill warranty terms. Now, you obviously have to take that statement into context. Traeger obviously wants to you purchase only their wood pellets.
Traeger does state to only use their own grill pellets in their products: Image – Amazon
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’ to assess if they are ‘quality’ pellets. On my best Traeger accessories page, the topic of keeping pellets in a good condition is also discussed.
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, you’re 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 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?!
This the single-use selection pack from BBQrs Delight for use with a smoker pot which included the Jack Daniels pellets: Image – Amazon
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, BBQ wood pellet usage/consumption 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 has come up 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 and the health implications of consuming smoked foods. 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 Chernobyl 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/Best Brands of BBQ Pellets for Grills and Smokers
Hopefully after reading the above 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/best 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
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.
For anyone who’s looking to try smoking pellets for the first time, I think the BBQr’s Delight Sample Tester Pack is a good place to start: Image – Amazon
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.
Traeger offers a wide range of full flavour and blended grill pellet products, all produced in the USA: Image – Amazon
Now, Cookinpellets.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. Cookinpellets.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.
Perfect Mix from CookinPellets.com is a good all-rounder for cooking a wide range of foods on your pellet grill: Image – Amazon
If you just want to get up and running with your new pellet grill as quickly as possible, a bag of Perfect Mix is a good place to start. In the future, you may wish to try your own mix of flavours.
REC TEC Grill Pellets
RecTec like Traeger produces both grills and their own wood pellets. I have an extensive article on REC TEC pellet grills. 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 REC TEC, even a Traeger.
RecTec is another pellet grill manufacturer who offers their own brand of barbecue wood pellets: Image – Amazon
Louisiana Grills Pellets
Lousiana Grills just like RecTec and Traeger offers 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, Pennsylvania Cherry and Texas Mesquite.
Louisiana Grills Competition Blend is apparently a popular choice among barbecue professionals: Image – Amazon
Camp Chef Premium Grill Pellets
Camp Chef are another pellet grill manufacturer who also sells their own brand of BBQ pellets. For instance, the Camp Chef Woodwind range is a very popular range of pellet grills. Camp Chef currently offer either Oak, Applewood or Hickory grill pellets through websites such as Amazon. However, on Campchef.com you can also purchase their Competition Blend, Mesquite, Alder and Cherry.
The range of Camp Chef grill pellets currently on offer through Amazon isn’t as comprehensive as many other brands: Image – Amazon
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.
Lumber Jack offers a wide range of premium grade grill pellets including the bark of the wood for additional flavour: Image – Amazon
Lumber Jack used to use brown paper bags, which 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. Hence, it appears Lumber Jack have had to opt for plastic bags.
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. For instance, I have a post on the current range of Pit Boss Budget pellet grills. 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:
Pit Boss offer their blended competition grill pellets along with their individual flavours including whiskey: Image – Amazon
Cuisinart Premium Smoking Pellets
Cuisinart is relatively new to the pellet grilling/smoking game. However, I do believe their Woodcreek and Twin Oaks pellet grills are excellent entry-level/budget products. Along with the release of their first pellet grills, Cuisinart has introduced two of their own flavours of premium smoking pellets, maple bourbon and cherry rum.
Memphis Grills Hardwood Pellets
If you are lucky enough to own a luxury fully stainless steel freestanding or built-in Memphis pellet grill you only want to be using the highest quality hardwood pellets available with a good density and low dust percentage. Memphis just as their grills are made in the USA only recommend using their hardwood grill pellets which are also made in the USA.
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 are 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. I have a post on the best portable pellet grills you may wish to read, and don’t forget, there are also wood pellet pizza ovens to consider as well. I also have a post on the best tips on how to clean a pellet grill.
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 smoke taste into their food.
Thanks for reading, I hope you found this post useful/interesting. Please feel free to check out my other posts about making, burning and the other many used for wood pellets. Also please check out my wood pellet grill/smoker guide.