Well, not necessarily faster. A 14-hour smoke on a wood pellet grill will still take 14 hours. But you get a juicy brisket with that pink smoke line that leaves you drooling.
We’re not looking to solve the debate between wood pellet smokers vs. stick burner smokers. We want to share with you what we love about wood pellet grills and why your average backyard chef might find them less intimidating and easier to use.
What is a Wood Pellet Grill?
A traditional smoker or a stick burner smoker has an offset smoke box where you maintain a fire with traditional wood. You get an intense savory smokey flavor on most of the meat, while the bottom of the meat has a less intense smokey flavor.
A wood pellet grill or smoker has a hopper system that you load up with wood pellets that come in a bag and can buy almost anywhere. Those pellets provide an even smoke that reaches all of the meat, top, and bottom.
The main advantage of a wood pellet grill is the ease of use. Most are electric, plug-in grills. With a pellet smoker, you have total control over the temperature of the smoke for as long as you need—no fires to maintain or inconsistent temps. The only thing that can affect a wood pellet smoker getting hot enough is when you’re using it in the dead of winter like we do! But luckily, most smoke recipes are low-temp recipes!
With a stick burner smoker, it can be a very hands-on project. You must stay close to your smoker for the duration of the smoke to maintain the perfect flame.
For example, here is our typical process for brisket when we use our pellet grill:
- Wake up at 3 am and turn on the pellet smoker from an app on our phone. (Still laying in bed—not loading wood into a firebox).
- Once preheated, we go downstairs and grab the meat we’ve seasoned the day before.
- We place the meat on our smoker, set the temperature, and return to bed.
- We don’t have to babysit the smoker. The grill maintains the perfect temp for us. 12-14 hours later, it’s ready for dinner!
We’re happy to let the debate rage on. The smoke flavor of a stick burner smoked brisket will literally dance on your tongue. But a wood pellet grill will give you an equally delicious smoke without the 14 hours of constantly watching and maintaining a fire that can get too hot or go too cold on you.
We’ve even left to run errands during the day while our dinner cooks away back at home on the pellet grill.
One of the biggest draws to a pellet smoker is the bells and whistles they come with:
- Built-in Wi-Fi
- Built-in temperature probes
- Smartphone app to monitor your smoke.
- Tons of available accessories.
- Pellets heat quickly and burn clean for a more controlled smoke flavor
- Capable of maintaining a low, steady temperature for hours and hours.
- Pellets come in various flavors and mixes to help you create the perfect smokey environment for your food.
- Minimal learning curve. It’s as easy as dumping in a bag of pellets and hitting the “on” button.
- They come in a range of sizes, from small to extra large smokers, one for every budget and need.
- You can bake in a wood pellet grill: Smoked mac n cheese or smoked pizza are both incredible on a wood pellet grill.
The bottom line:
With a pellet smoker, you get convenience, versatility, consistency, and efficiency while losing only a minor percentage of the smoke flavor, if at all. You’ll even find award-winning smoke masters with a wood pellet grill to use at home.
Top Brands of Wood Pellet Smokers.
Recteq is a top brand of wood pellet grills and the one we have the most experience with. We’ve made entire thanksgiving dinners using the smoker pictured above. From our Christmas Brisket to smoked mac and cheese and even hot dogs and hamburgers, we love the ease of cooking on our Recteq grill.
We’ve fit two whole turkeys on ours at once, with room for sides.
Recteq has a range of grills in multiple sizes. The temperature range is incredible. With a Recteq, you can dehydrate or cold smoke, smoke, grill, bake, roast, and sear. It’s a versatile piece of equipment if you don’t mind a slight smoke flavor to everything you cook using the pellet grill. Smoked pumpkin pie, anyone?
Recteq smokers start at $399 for their smallest grill and go up to more than $10,000 for their largest towable smokers.
The above-pictured smoker retails for $1400.
Traeger has several series of smokers, but the Ironwood Series gives you the best bang for your buck. If you like bells and whistles, you’ll want this series.
Traeger grills have Wi-Fi capabilities and a mobile app to run your smoker. They can reach up to 500 degrees. Some higher-priced Traegar’s can reach up to 700 degrees and have searing capabilities.
Searing happens over a direct flame with high temperatures, so most pellet smokers need an additional accessory to sear meat and fish.
Traeger is known for their excellent customer service with 24/7 online/chat support and outstanding phone support.
There are two grills in the Traeger Ironwood Series.
The Ironwood 650 starts at $1,249.99.
The Ironwood 885 starts at $1,449.99.
Webber Grills are known for their durability and their warranty policies. They make reliable and long-lasting grills.
The Webber Smoke Fire Pellet Grill is made with scratch-proof materials, which will keep it from rusting on you and looking beautiful in your backyard for years to come. The Webber Smoke Fire can reach up to 700 degrees, which is excellent for a pellet grill. That high temp allows for searing and fast cooking like a traditional grill.
A Webber Smoke Fire costs $1,299.00.
Types of Pellets for a Pellet Smoker and Where to Buy them
The pellets you use in your smoker look similar to home heating pellets but are food grade. They burn cleanly and pose less risk of tainting your meat’s flavor.
Pellets are made from the leftover wood materials and sawdust of processing lumber for other applications. Grill pellets come in various flavors and combo bags you can use to add smoke flavor to your meats and other recipes.
Common Pellet Flavors:
Depending on what you’re cooking and how strong of a smoke flavor you want, you can use a mix or combination of different pellets. The mild flavors are great for fish and poultry, while the stronger flavors like hickory and mesquite are great for beef and pork.
The fruit and nut flavors are awesome for making baked goods. Smoking a pumpkin pie with pecan pellets is just chef’s kiss.
What Can you Cook on a Pellet Smoker?
What to cook is the best part about owning a pellet smoker. It’s such a versatile tool; it practically gives you an outdoor kitchen without having to spend tens of thousands of dollars designing an outdoor kitchen.
Here is just a starting point of what you can cook using a pellet smoker:
- Hot dogs and hamburgers
- Mac N Cheese
- Whole Turkeys
- Smoked Cream Cheese
- Pies and pastries.
- Bacon-wrapped Oreos
- Smoked Meat Loaf
- Scotch Eggs
- Cakes and dump cakes
- Hawaiian Bread Sandwiches
- Smoked Corn Beef
- Essentially anything you can think of!
The Benefits of a Pellet Smoker.
A pellet smoker can save you space. Depending on how much room you have on your back patio.
Even a large pellet smoker doesn’t need the larger smoker box to keep a fire like a Stick Burner Smoker. The pellets usually load into a hopper on the back or top of a pellet grill.
You get the bells and whistles of Wi-Fi capability and mobile apps that you can use to measure the temperature of your meat precisely.
The precision of a pellet smoker makes it near impossible to dry out your meat, giving you juicy and delicious recipes even the first time you try it.
We moved cross country this past winter and sold off everything we own except for our pellet smoker. It was the only thing we took with us.
We just couldn’t give it up!
What have you made with your pellet smoker?