How Do Pellet Grills Work?

how do pellet grills work

Pellet grills were once ridiculed by grilling enthusiasts, but the view has since changed to become a widely popular grill variety. 

One of the reasons why pellet grills have become so popular is down to marketing. People know that they can leave the grill unattended for a while and perform other tasks in the meantime. devices. 

Pellet grills can be used by grilling beginners and don’t need much maintenance. This is great for those that want to grill tasty items without using smokers or charcoal grills.

You’ll learn more about pellet grills in this post, including what they are, how they work, and their advantages and disadvantages.

What Are Pellet Grills?

Wood pellet grills (see also ‘Best Grills Under 500 Dollars‘) are grill varieties that work by using wood pellets for fuel. The pellets are burned to heat the grill’s cooking chamber, creating smoke that infuses the food with flavor. 

Wood pellets are little cylindrical pieces that are created by compressing residual hardwood matter, like bark and sawdust. These are left over after lumber businesses cut down trees to make fiberboard or paper. 

A man named Joe Traeger (see also ‘How Does A Traeger Grill Work?‘) made the first pellet grill in the 80s. Obtaining the initial patent permitted Traeger to lead the pellet grill industry (see also ‘Are Traeger Grills Electric?‘), which they still do today. 

The first patent expired in 2006, which allowed other companies to make their own pellet grills (see also our article on Char Broil grills). Sales of these grills have continued to climb, as even classic charcoal and gas grill businesses have made their versions of pellet grills. 

How Pellet Grills Work?

Pellet grills are a lot more complex compared to simple charcoal grills. The pellet grill is divided into three parts: the main cooking chamber, the auger and firebox, and the pellet hopper.

Once the pellet grill is switched on, a fan turns, moving air into the firebox. The auger components begin to transfer wood pellets to the firebox from the hopper. These pellets are then lit with an electric igniter. 

The heat and smoke from the burning pellets travel through the central cooking compartment, in which the food is cooked. The food will be cooked at a steady temperature and infused with extra flavors from the smoked wood. 

A benefit of pellet grills is that they can be set at high and low temperatures and will maintain the desired temperature for however long you need it. 

The majority of pellet grills have PID temperature controls built in, allowing you to accurately control the temperature. This is ideal during slow cooking meats, like pork shoulder, and even when baking desserts.

Pellet grills tend to be big and cumbersome, though more and more companies are creating portable varieties that are available to purchase. 

Bear in mind that the electronic parts of the pellet grills don’t deliver the main heat required to cook the food. 

The electronic elements first heat the pellets, manage the force of the fire through the fans, and handle the temperature through a regulator. The heat for cooking is delivered from the ignited wood pellets. 

Smoking Wood Pellets

As mentioned above, wood pellets are made from hardwood matter leftover from timber businesses. They are available in several different varieties which will all burn in different ways, giving your food various flavors. 

Depending on your grill model, you will go through between one and three pounds of pellets for each hour you spend cooking. 

Examples of popular wood pellet varieties include apple, cherry, and hickory. Other types include oak, mesquite, and pecan.

Some people prefer to mix different types of wood pellets. You can also find blended packs with various flavor mixes for sale. 

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Wood Pellet Grills

Wood pellet grills have advantages and disadvantages over charcoal, electric, and propane grills.

Wood Pellet Grill Advantages

  • Delivers steady, gentle smoke flavors which are enjoyed by many
  • Ideal for longer cooking periods as you can perform household tasks in the meantime
  • Built with different features like WiFi and meat probes
  • Able to use several wood pellet varieties to deliver various flavors
  • Wood pellets are an eco-friendly form of solid wood fuel

Wood Pellet Grill Disadvantages

  • Pellet grill models can cost more
  • Can be difficult to attain high temperatures 
  • Requires more cleaning and maintenance compared to other grill varieties
  • Uses intricate components which have a greater risk of breaking, requiring replacement 

Pellet grills also run on electricity, so you need to plug them in before use. Unlike other types of grills, you can’t use pellet grills outside unless you have an outdoor socket, generator, or long extension cord (see also ‘Best Built In Outdoor Grills‘). 

Can Pellet Grills Be Used Without Electricity?

While the main heat to smoke and cook food is provided by burning wood pellets, pellet grills need electricity to initially heat the wood pieces until they ignite on their own. 

Electric power is required for other components in the grill too. These include the hot rod and moving the auger to control the digital and fan controls. 

If you need to grill away from an electric outlet, you can use a small generator to deliver the power needed to operate the pellet grill. 

The Bottom Line

Pellet grills might look intimidating at first, but after a bit of practice, they are relatively easy to use. They can also handle many tasks that standard gas grills can, and can infuse your meat with some incredible smoky flavors. 

If you want a grill that can handle all of the tasks gas and electric grills can, with tasty food that’s full of delicious smoky notes, you should consider getting a pellet grill. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Pellet Grills Need To Be Seasoned?

Every pellet grill model will need to be seasoned (see also ‘How To Season A Blackstone Grill‘) before you begin using them to grill. Seasoning will burn off any residual chemicals leftover from the manufacturing process. These chemicals may affect how your food tastes, or in serious cases, may make you sick.

Seasoning is a relatively easy process that takes roughly an hour to finish, and you only need to perform it once.

Can Gas Grills Be Replaced By Pellet Grills?

Pellet grills can handle all of the cooking jobs that gas grills can do, but they have an extra advantage as they infuse food with smoky flavors. Other than basic grilling tasks, pellet grills can work as smokers and convection ovens, letting you slow cook food whenever you wish.

Can You Leave Pellet Grills Unattended?

Pellet grills can be left without supervision as long as you don’t plan to cook for over three hours. Remember to keep checking on the food that you are cooking and ensure that there are enough smoker wood pellets (see also ‘Best Smoker Pellets‘) in the grill’s hopper.

Pellet grills can still catch fire if they are placed too close to flammable items, so always use caution when using the grill.

Amanda Litchford

Making delicious meals and researching products has inspired me as a stay at home mom to start this website in helping out others who don’t have the time or expertise in the kitchen.

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