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Why Buy a Wood Pellet Grill

Why Buy a Wood Pellet Grill

Why Buy a Wood Pellet Grill

Why Buy a Wood Pellet Grill

Are Wood Pellet BBQ’s Right For You?

Today’s backyard chefs have more options than ever when it comes to buying charcoal, gas and wood pellet BBQ’s.  Each one servers a purpose, price point, awesome rotisserie, ease of use and even safety.  Wood pellet BBQ’s or wood pellet grills as some companies call them, are truly great cooking devices.  Cooking over a gas grill will barely enhance the grilled foods flavour.  Usually the use of sauces and spices are used to add flavour.  You will get great grill markings from the direct radiant heat.  Using good lump charcoal has an undeniably great flavour and plays a huge roll in backyard cooking.  Wood pellet grills in my opinion greatly enhance the flavour of the food you are producing.  Depending on the cooking time and temperature, you can get great smoke flavour in foods that take to smoke well, ie. pork, poultry.

Are you the consumer ready to make the big jump, push your gas grill aside and make room for a new BBQ on your deck?  It’s not the biggest decision you will ever make in your life, but your family and friends might thank you.  My daughter tells me she wants “Traegered chicken“.  Traeger is a verb in our house.  I started my wood pellet journey with Traegers, and the rest is history.  It sounds a bit crazy, but wood pellet grills have changed how our family eats and entertains.  Prime rib cooked slowly over wood is truly a work of art.  It is something you just can’t get from a gas grill.  Are they the best?  Not to a charcoal enthusiast.  They are another great option.  Before I move on I should note, I interchangeably use the terms “wood pellet grill”, “wood pellet BBQ” and “wood pellet cooker”.  They all mean the same thing within the context of this article.  But in real life, out on the patios, they are different things.

These are some of my short and true stories about wood pellet grills.

Last night we entertained, had 25 guests over.  I made pulled pork with my usual Ancho and Pasilla pepper sauce, and smoked a couple of chickens for those who don’t like pork.  Even before we served the food there was a lineup of people asking me “What on earth is this thing”, or in some cases profanity was intertwined within the question.  What is all the smoke from? Oh my god that smells good.  Followed by dozens of questions.  Once they had finished eating, and usually stuffing the smoked chicken and pulled pork sandwiches down, they asked me where could they buy one of these BBQ’s.

Another story which I find exemplifies the wood pellet BBQ and it’s impact on those who experience it’s potential.

Back in the mid 2000’s, I had 45 of my best friends from work come over for a pig roast.  I slowly cooked and smoked a suckling pig on my Traeger.  The guests were beyond ecstatic about the food they were eating.  They never new this was possible.  Without a word of a lie, the following week, I was asked to organize a bulk purchase of Traeger grill’s.  Within a month, 11 Traeger Texas Style grills were purchased.  Two of the purchasers went on to become rabid BBQ enthusiasts and have competed at a very high level on the BBQ tournament circuit.  I am a certified BBQ tournament judge, and can confirm that they are now top notch BBQ competitors.  Some of the ribs I had the pleasure of sampling were truly fantastic.  They both now have a half dozen different types of BBQ’s and are usually at one time or another sponsored by a BBQ company, or two :)

Convert your wood pellet smoker into a cold smoker

What You Need To Know About Wood Pellet Grills

There are a couple important things that differentiate a gas grill from a wood pellet cooker, or even a charcoal BBQ from a wood pellet cooker.  Below is a high level look at the items that should be considered prior to buying a wood pellet cooker.

Hydro – First off, you need to know that wood pellet grills need hydro.  It uses a good amount of electricity when it first turns on to start the fire in the firepot.  There is an igniter that gets voltage for the first 2 minutes until the fire has started.  After which point the power usage is negligible as only a small fan and auger and possibly digital thermostat are drawing electricity.  So you need an outdoor outlet where you plan on parking your wood pellet grill.

Grilling - The second thing to know about is that almost all wood pellet grills, despite the name don’t technically grill your food.  They are indirect smokers and cookers.  Meaning between your food and the flame is a metal flame diffuser which deflects the flame evenly underneath the drip pan.  This is significant in many ways.  One being if you had visions of grilling steaks over wood, then you would be mistaken.  There is a pellet manufacturer called Yoder who makes a grill that is hot enough to technically sear your steaks.  There is also the Black Olive Grill which is a wood pellet Kamado shell which can grill with direct heat.  But as a rule, wood pellet grills don’t grill.  Therefore calling these wood pellet grills “grills” is probably a bad marketing term, but still used.  Another factor to consider is the amount of heat you are accustomed to on your gas or charcoal grill.  Wood pellet grills can’t produce the high heat you would find on a charcoal or gas grill.  Some new wood pellet grills are capable of hitting upwards of 600 F now.  This is hot enough to put your pizza stone in and produce great pizza’s.  Wood pellet grills are rarely able to match those heat levels and are most famous for low and slow cooking.

Cleaning – A certain amount of maintenance work is involved in most wood pellet grills.  Because the heat is indirect on most wood pellet cookers, the drippings and fat doesn’t burn off.  The drippings and fat is usually corralled on an angled drip pan which ultimately drains into a grease trap or bucket.  This will periodically need to be dealt with, usually emptied and cleaned up a bit.  The drip pan in most cases needs to be covered in a foil of some kind to prevent the fatty liquids from burning and spoiling the flavour.

Wood Pellet Purchase and Storage – As a proud wood pellet grill owner, you will need storage space for 20 or 40 lb bags of wood pellets.  There are many different types of wood pellets.  Woods like maple, apple, oak to the exiting cherry, mesquite and hickory.  These are super wood pellets but they need to be stored carefully, somewhere dry.  If you buy a couple of bags at a time, you will need the space.  The same amount of space as a couple of bags of lump charcoal takes.  The bags are heavier than charcoal, obviously they weigh around 20 or 40 lbs respectively :)  You also will need a steady supply of wood pellets.  Most locations have ready access to them, just make sure you have a good source of pellets prior to buying a wood pellet grill.

Food Grade Wood Pellets – What you need to know.  Are all wood pellets created the same? What’s safe to use in your pellet grill and whats not?  Here is a thorough look at the wood pellet industry, and whats safe to use and not.  Food grade wood pellets, what can you use.

Reliability and durability – It is my theory and it has proven to be true in most cases, the more moving parts there are, the more likely there is to be a failure of some kind.  Wood pellet grills have electronics which govern temperature, fan motors, augers, igniters and thermostats.  In the event of a failure of one of these components, you will most likely not be able to use your wood pellet grill.  If you spend $3000 on a top of the line Memphis grill, you can be assured that the quality of the components are top notch and less likely to burn out on you.  I don’t have to point out what could happen on a $700 pellet grill.  Something to think about.

Safety - You can put 4 chickens in your wood pellet cooker, walk away and come back in 2 hours.  There wouldn’t have been a massive fire, your chicken would not be charred black, but instead would be perfectly smoked and cooked.  The wood pellet grills are very safe this way, and that is a real plus.  If your grill gets knocked over, you wouldn’t have to worry about hot charcoal burning your deck down.  There wouldn’t be any explosions or dangerous flames.  No propane tank and regulator, only a small firepot with a small amount of hot embers.  Wood pellet grills are really safe this way and is a great selling feature.  They are still very hot to touch, almost all BBQ’s and grills get dangerously hot.  All grills get hot to touch except for the Broil King keg which is probably the safest BBQ on the market today.

What Kind of Wood Pellet Grill Should I buy?

Why Buy a Wood Pellet Grill

Why Buy a Wood Pellet Grill

Like the gas grill industry, wood pellet grills now have a multitude of makes and models.  Be it a high end Memphis Grill or Mak 1 or 2 star general grill or the lowly Traeger, buyers now have truly great variety in price and quality.  It is now definitely a buyers market with many exiting choices.  Companies like Yoder (See photo at top), and Lousiana grills have stepped up to the plate with great products.  All wood pellet grill manufactures offer minor differences in their products, trying to out do their competitor.  The high end grills have top notch components, from the electronics to the auger and fan assemblies.  The low end grills usually have thinner gauge steel and cheaper electronics.  I have personally used a cheap wood pellet grill for many years and really enjoyed cooking on them.  I saved money and got away with it.  The big names in some cases have contracted out there manufacturing in China and the quality has suffered.  This was the case with Traeger.  Buying a wood pellet grill also comes down to what you want to pay.  A decision can also be based on what kind of warranty the manufacturer has and also product availability in your area.  Not all makes and models are available everywhere, but can be purchased online.  Buying it online means you won’t necessarily have local support.  Some dealers are authorized resellers who also play the service and support rolls.  This can be important.  The basics of a wood pellet grill are the same.  They all have hoppers, an auger fed firepot with fans.  But some have long and some have short augers.  Large and small hoppers, large and small cooking areas, thin or thick gauge steel.  Talk to your local dealer as most dealers are authorized resellers, meaning they are knowledgeable about the products limitations and as well as qualities.  Hopefully you won’t have a salesman who is only driven by a sale.  Wood pellet grills are truly great cooking devices and every year a new player steps into the market.  Below is a fairly comprehensive list of wood pellet BBQ manufacturers.  These are not in any specific order per se.  Included in the list below are wood pellet cooker manufacturers who produce very high end cookers.  Some of them offer models that cost over $2000 easily, and even more.  The Mak and Memphis grills are way up there, as well as the  Cookshack grills.  These are truly high end, and used in many cases for competitive and commercial purposes.  But if you are a real keener and have the money to burn, put one of these on your deck, you will have neighbours coming over regularly.

See the complete comprehensive list of wood pellet grill manufacturers 

I have not had the pleasure of cooking with or reviewing all of these models.  Yet. Traeger grills was one of the first to produce a wood pellet grill and had a good head start.  They are arguably the pioneers of the industry and still command some respect, while there quality has suffered since the company was sold.  Brinkmann has always been a big player in the BBQ world, and they there offerings as well.  It will be interesting to see if Broil King and Weber will ever step up to the plate and offer some kind of wood pellet based product.
If you think a wood pellet cooker might be the right thing for you.  Buy one, and tell use what you have bought, and what you think of it.



The opinions expressed in the product reviews and commentary on this web site are solely those of the original author. The author is not associated with any of the product manufacturers and does not gain financially from any of the reviews and comments contained within this web site. All product reviews are a combination of objective and subjective commentary and opinion, and therefore open to discussion and further opinions. Any valid comments and opinions are welcomed

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6 Responses to Why Buy a Wood Pellet Grill

  1. van July 24, 2013 at 7:58 am #

    My neighbor has a Louisiana Grill 570. It is like a traeger, cheap components and thin gauge metal. The wheels on the cart look like something from a childs platic toy. If the pellet grill industry wants to show the charcoal and gas grill market that it is serious, it has to stop cutting corners. no cheap crappy low end brinkman or sunbeam style bbq’s. I’m not saying they should all be mak or yoder class grills, but stop selling trash.

    In your section titled “What you need to know about wood pellet grills” you talk about how wood pellet grills dont grill. While this is partially true, there are other grills aside from the black olive that can. The yoder is top of the line and has a direct grilling option that you have to pay for.


    • rocker August 17, 2013 at 9:35 am #

      Hi Van

      Thanks for your comments. Right off the top, I can’t say that I really know the Louisiana grill product. But in this industry like all industries, there are high and low quality products. It’s true with shoes, bread, jewelry, hamster food and BBQ’s. Traegers actually used to be quite a good product back when the Traeger family owned the company. Manufactured and welded with solid metal right in Oregon I believe. So there’s nothing one can to to prevent cheap stuff from being produced except try to avoid buying there product so they ultimately have to drop the line and build better products.

      With respect to grilling, I did mention that the Yoder does have a grilling option. This is a great feature, but you can’t grill more than a couple of steaks, at best 4 or 5 steaks. This is great but this is not the norm for pellet grills and smokers. Pellet bbq’s have there purpose. I guess it’s hard to have a product that does it all. Maybe some day, there will be a wood pellet bbq with charcoal option of some kind? That would be neat as all get out.



  2. kamal August 19, 2013 at 8:16 am #

    I will never buy a bbq that needs a wall plug, electricity and which has moving parts. If you loose power you wont’ be able to cook your dinner. charcoal or gas, preferrably charcoal.

  3. Doug April 11, 2014 at 1:53 pm #

    I think wood pellet smokers are absolutely great. Only drawback is you can’t grill, and have to have an electrical outlet nearby. But that’s a small price to pay for a really safe smoker, that produces great food. I bought a Green Mountain Grill 2 years ago and have never looked back. I’d recommend them to anyone. Can’t figure out how to attach a photo so I can’t show you my smoker.


  4. Donald March 16, 2015 at 8:13 am #

    15+ years smoking experience….

    and flat out…..pellet smokers are lame
    your friends will make fun of you (not always to your face)

    Smokers should NEVER use electricity!
    (unless you are using a commercial stick burner with a rotisserie)

    Real smokers run off of coal, wood, or propane (if you absolutely have to)
    Plus if you buy an offset smoker, you want a reverse flow…
    not one of these that has no bottom baffle causing a wider range of temps under the hood.
    This causes inconsistent cooking.

    For the love of God…. if you are just starting out….
    do yourself a favor and learn the RIGHT way… get a Weber Smokey Mountain cooker.
    tried and true…. no electricity needed.

    give it a year or two after that and you’ll want a bigger better monster;
    and probably have learned that no self-respecting pitmaster would Ever cook on a pellet pooper!

    Only time its acceptable is if the owner is disabled in some way, or if the pitmaster is so old they need the assistance… but one should never think this is a ‘go-to’ substitute for a real smoker….

    The pellets also have additives that you are smoking into your food.
    That is not the case with real wood.

    • Pellet Hopper March 26, 2015 at 7:56 am #

      Ohh my, but you have a real hate on wood pellet smokers.

      I’ve owned offsets, (still own a smokey mountain), kamado’s. Heck, I’ve owned a lot of different types of bbq’s. Including pellet smokers. Are they a gimmick? Offsets are bitches to work with and take time and putsing around to get the right temps. Kamado’s and smokey mountain type smokers all have their pluses, but pellet smokers have their place. They are easy to use, and produce fantastic food. They are also safe, which I think is a good thing. While all sorts of companies have thrown their hats into the ring, and are now producing pellet smokers, there are many that produce very fine smokers.

      Have you ever used a smokey mountain smoker when its colder than say… -10C ? They don’t work well, and colder, really don’t work at all. Smokey mountains are cheap, but not all season. Mine just doesn’t hit temps for 1/3 of the year for me as its too cold. Wood pellet smokers do a better job, (depending on models) at cold weather smoking. Yes they need hydro, but is that so bad? My kamado works fine in cold weather though. But that’s a different beast.

      I digress. Thanks for your opinion, it is valid, but I disagree.

      Keep your coals hot!

      What is a real smoker btw? A bradley smoker? There are tons of commercial smokers that use hydro. Not everyone can afford a meadowcreek smoker ( or any of the bigger smokers.

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