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Everything You Need to Know About Wood Pellet Grills

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If you're looking to up your grilling or smoking game with better-tasting food, more room to cook, and precise temperature control, you should learn more about wood pellet grills.


What Is a Wood Pellet Grill?

A wood pellet grill is a versatile, outdoor cooking appliance that can smoke, BBQ, grill, braise, bake, and roast.

The temperature of a wood pellet grill can be precisely controlled. A cook simply has to turn a dial to set the temperature they want. And because there is no open flame, there is no risk of sudden flare-ups that can burn food or cause fires.

And, though wood pellet grills are ideal for low-temperature smoking, they can also be used for high-temperature grilling.


A Short History of Pellet Grills

Manufactured wood pellets were first used in wood pellet stoves as an alternative heating source for homes.

In the 1980s, Traeger developed the first wood pellet grills. The general principle is similar to the way wood pellet stoves work: Combustion of wood pellets creates heat. But unlike stoves for home heating, pellet grills use wood pellets designed for cooking, and they also deliver natural wood flavor to foods.


How Do Pellet Grills Work?

Here's how a wood pellet grill works. The cook puts hardwood pellets into a hopper, then chooses the cooking temperature they want. The grill automatically feeds the proper amount of wood pellets into a fire pot, and then blows the heat and smoke into the cooking area, heating and flavoring the food. A drip tray keeps flames away from the food, eliminating dangerous flare-ups.

Digital controllers ensure the grill remains at the desired temperature, burning more pellets as needed. Using a wood pellet grill is as easy as using an oven. Newer grills also have wireless connectivity, allowing you to control your grill from an app on your smartphone.

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What Are Wood Pellet Grills Best For?

Because of their precise temperature control and even, consistent cooking, wood pellet grills are ideal for grilling, smoking, baking, roasting, braising, and barbecue. Some other brands claim the same versatility. But only Traeger grills have the quality, durability, wood-fired flavor, and the backing of an active community of customers.

Grilling

Pellet grills can reach temperatures up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit which is the ideal temperature for high-heat, direct grilling of steaks, pork chops, chicken breast, and hearty vegetables.

Smoking

Most smokers require near-constant monitoring of the wood fire and temperature. With a Traeger wood pellet grill, you simply set it and forget it. The grill keeps the temperature consistent (and the natural wood smoke flavor, too). An all-day smoke of brisket, prime rib, or pulled pork doesn't mean you have to sit by your grill all day.

Baking

A wood pellet grill works like an oven. You can use all your favorite baking recipes in a wood pellet grill. The difference will be that you'll get a boost of natural wood smoke flavor in every bite of pie, bread, or biscuit -- just like it was cooked over a campfire.

Roasting

Only a wood pellet grill can deliver consistent temperatures for roasting, plus natural wood smoke flavor. In a smoker or on most grills, smoking a whole chicken would take hours. But with a wood pellet grill, you can set a high temperature like 400 degrees Fahrenheit and have wood-smoke-flavored roast chicken in an hour.

Barbecue

Everything barbecue can be made on a wood pellet grill — from the barbecue sauce to sides like baked beans and corn, to the meat itself. A wood pellet grill is like an outdoor cooking station, for creating anything you'd do inside.


Are Wood Pellet Grills Worth the Cost?

Wood pellet grills are versatile, easier to use, more consistent, and simply make the food taste better than gas or charcoal grills. In the long run, buying a wood pellet grill will save a substantial amount of time and effort compared to other types of grills.

If you like to smoke and grill, a wood pellet grill is the best choice for one appliance that can do both well. Most charcoal and gas products are made for either grilling or smoking and aren't versatile enough to succeed at both. Wood pellet grills can also be used for baking, roasting, and braising. If you buy a wood pellet grill, you'll never need another outdoor cooking product so it’s worth the price.

Traeger wood pellet grills are built by an expert product team, using the latest consumer, product materials, and technology.

Because wood pellet grills come with precise temperature control, they save both time and effort. With other grill products, you have to stay nearby to constantly monitor the temperature of the cooking surface. You also may need to add and replenish wood chunks to get wood smoke flavor to your food. If the temperature runs low, you may need to burn and add more charcoal or replace a gas tank. With a wood pellet grill, you simply set the temperature, and let the grill do the rest. When you cook with a wood pellet grill, you're free to greet guests, do other chores, watch a ballgame, or anything else you'd rather be doing than checking a thermometer every five minutes.


What's the Best Wood Pellet Grill for You?

The most important considerations when buying a wood pellet grill are size, price, and reliability.

Wood Pellet Grill Size

One benefit of wood pellet grills is that you can use the entire cooking surface for smoking or grilling. With gas and charcoal grills, low and slow recipes require 2-zone cooking. Because one zone is just for the fire, only half of your grill surface is available for cooking.

How many people do you plan to feed at once? If you want your grill to be your hardest worker at large parties or family gatherings, bigger sizes may be for you. Larger grills can cook as many as nine chickens, eight rib racks, or six pork butts at once.

Cost

Wood pellet grills start at a few hundred dollars for small portable models that can cook a few burgers or pieces of chicken at once. Higher quality models with larger cooking areas and wi-fi enabled features cost closer to $2000.

Features

The key feature of a wood pellet grill is temperature control. No other type of grill/smoker combo allows you to set a precise temperature that is then automatically controlled.

Traeger wood pellet grills come with additional features like:

  • WiFIRE technology, so you can control your grill through the Traeger app and other smart home apps.
  • Super Smoke Mode, to give a boost of smoke flavor to anything you cook.
  • TurboTemp, helping your grill get hot and reheat faster after you open the lid.
  • Pellet Sensor, which sends an alert to your app when you're running low on pellets.
  • High-quality materials, so your grill lasts longer.
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What Are the Pros and Cons of a Pellet Grill?

The pros of a wood pellet grill are precise temperature control, versatility, and wood-fired flavor.

The main reason people choose not to buy a pellet grill is the starting cost compared to other types of grills.

You may have heard that wood pellet grills can't sear or grill as well as gas or charcoal grills. This is false. Modern wood pellet grills get plenty hot for getting those classic grill marks, whether you're direct grilling or using newer techniques like the reverse-sear.

When it comes to high-performance, high-capacity premium grills, wood pellet grills cost about the same as other types. If grilling high-quality food every time is important to you -- rather than just tossing some burgers on the grill a few times a year -- a wood pellet grill is worth considering.


What Do You Need to Grill on a Pellet Grill?

To start a wood pellet grill, you need a connection to an electrical outlet, GFCI outlet, and food-grade wood pellets.

Traeger provides a free app that connects to your grill via Bluetooth, so you can change the temperature of your grill from anywhere in your home.

When you're grill arrives, you'll have to season it before cooking — this just means letting it heat up for approximately 1 hour, which ensures the best flavor and calibration of the grill.

Accessories can help you get the most out of your grill.

  • A grill cover will protect it from the elements.
  • Grill shelves give you extra space for prepping and plating.
  • Drip tray liners keep the interior of the grill clean.
  • Meat thermometers help you achieve the perfect temperature for your wood-fired food.
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What Is the Difference Between Using a Wood Pellet Grill and Using a Gas Grill or Charcoal Grill?

The main difference between cooking on a wood pellet grill, compared to cooking with gas or charcoal, is the delicious wood-fired taste. Precise temperature control is also a noticeable difference.

Precise Temperature Control

When cooking with charcoal or gas, it’s up to you to figure out the right amount of fuel needed to generate the temperature you want. This can mean spending time adjusting the grill’s dampers, adding or removing briquettes, turning burners up or down, or changing the position of the food you are cooking. On a wood pellet grill, you simply set the temperature you want and the grill does the rest.

Taste

Because pellet grills work by burning natural woods, you're getting wood-fired flavor delivered to your food every time you cook.

Charcoal and gas grills do not deliver this flavor unless you add wood chips or chunks to the cooking fire or a smoke tube. It’s an extra expense (and an extra hassle). Wood chips must be added every 30 minutes, requiring you to open and close your grill and extending cooking times. Wood chips and chunks do not burn consistently, the way wood pellets do. If chips and chunks do not burn exactly right, they can throw off heavy acrid smoke that will ruin the flavor of the food.


Can Wood Pellet Grills Be Used Indoors?

A wood pellet grill can never be used indoors or in any enclosed space. Grills that burn wood, gas, or charcoal emit carbon monoxide, a colorless and odorless but deadly chemical.


How to Use a Wood Pellet Grill

Wood pellet grills are designed to be simple to use. The goal behind the design is to make it easy to create incredible barbecue.

How to Start/Light a Wood Pellet Grill

To start a modern wood pellet grill, simply set your grill to the desired temperature, close the lid, and let it preheat for 15 minutes. For older models, see these instructions.

When you first purchase the grill, you'll need to season it. This simple but important step calibrates the grill's sensors so you get the best flavor and performance.

How to Put out a Wood Pellet Grill

When you are done using a wood pellet grill, initiate the shut down cycle. This will burn off the leftover pellets, so you're starting fresh and safely on your next cook.If you need to move the grill or return it to a vehicle, wait until the grill is cool before doing so.

How to Clean a Wood Pellet Grill

To clean a wood pellet grill, first make sure the grill is cool, and unplug it. Then, remove the grates, drip tray, and heat baffle to give you better access to the interior of the grill.

Note: For scrubbing, use heavy-duty paper towels, disposable cloths, or a non-metallic brush. Wire-bristle brushes can damage the finish of grill components. Also, the bristles can break off, stick to the grill grates, and end up in your food.

Here is a basic primer on what to clean and how to clean it.

Grill grate: Remove, spray with all-natural cleaner, and wipe down to remove grease. Clean the grill grate with a wooden scraper after every cook.

Firepot: Vacuum out excess ash using a wet/dry vacuum. Clean the firepot every 3 to 5 cooks, or after a long cook.

Grill exterior: Using a disposable rag, spray with all-natural cleaner and wipe down to remove grease spots. Apply high-quality car wax to the exterior of the grill to maintain shine and protect it from the elements. Clean the grill exterior every three months.

Grease drip: Remove the grease bucket. Inspect the drain at the bottom of the drip tray and the tube that leads to the grease bucket, and scrape away any excess grease with a nonmetallic tool, like a wooden stir stick. Clean the grease drip every 3 to 6 months. Chimney: Scrub interior to remove buildup and residue. Clean the chimney every six months.


What Can You Cook on a Wood Pellet Grill?

You can cook anything on a wood pellet grill that you'd also make in a basic home kitchen.

There are a variety of items you can cook on a wood pellet grill.

If Outdoor Cooking's Your Thing, Consider a Wood Pellet Grill

Anyone who prefers cooking outside in the fresh air should think about buying a wood pellet grill. Compared to charcoal grills and gas grills, wood pellet grills are easier to use and can cook a wider selection of recipes. The temperature control and consistent wood smoke flavor is a real time-saver.

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