In this ultimate pellet grill FAQ guide, I’m going to be giving you the answers to your most frequently asked pellet grill questions.
Pellet grills are simultaneously one of the hottest innovations to hit the outdoor cooking scene in recent years, and one of the appliances the average buyer knows the least about.
If you’re checking out this pellet grill FAQ guide, it’s probably because you want in on this fast-growing trend that combines the turn-dial ease of a gas grill with the flavor of wood smoke but aren’t sure where to start. That’s where we come in!
In these FAQs, we’ll give you a rundown of how pellet grills work, why you might consider buying one, how to use and care for and maintain your pellet grill, and more.
We’ll wrap it all up with recommendations on the best meats to smoke on a pellet grill and a few of our final thoughts to help you make your own decision about whether a pellet grill will fit into your outdoor cooking setup.
Be sure to check back on this guide, as we often add questions and update the answers with new articles!
Ready to get the answers to all your smoking pellet grill frequently asked questions?
In This Article, We’ll Explore:
Click a topic below to be taken directly to that section.
What is a Pellet Grill?
A pellet grill is a grill/smoker combo that’s powered by wood pellets and electricity. The main distinguishing feature of these grills is their hopper, which uses an auger to feed fuel pellets into the firebox to maintain a set temperature.
To learn more about what pellet grills are and how they work, check out our Introduction To Pellet Grilling.
Why Choose a Pellet Grill?
Pellet grills combine the convenience of an electric-powered appliance with that beautiful wood-smoked taste that usually takes hours of tending a smoker to achieve. With a pellet grill, all you need to do is set the temperature and let it handle all of the hard work — that’s pretty hard to beat!
Are Pellet Grills Healthier than Charcoal or Gas Grills?
The simple answer? Yes.
Pellet grills can help avoid some of the flare-ups that are behind recent research that suggests eating grilled or smoked meats could be linked to cancer.
But there’s a lot more science to dig into here, so check out Our Article On The Healthiness Of Pellet Grills for more info.
Pellet Grill vs Gas Grill
Both types of grills have advantages and disadvantages. Pellet grills are typically pricier and have longer cook times, but they have a wide temperature range, offer great versatility, and can be moved easier since they run on electricity, not gas. They are also as close to “Set It and Forget It” as it gets when cooking outdoors.
Visit our Pellet Grill vs Gas Grill Showdown to learn more about what each grill brings to the table.
Are Pellet or Wood Smokers Better?
It depends on how you like to cook! If you’re after a smokey flavor without the work of managing a typical smoker setup, a pellet grill allows you to “set it and forget it” once you lock in your chosen temperature.
But if you’re a barbecue purist who thinks maintaining a smoker’s temperature and fuel level is half of the fun, a traditional wood smoker will be the better choice for you.
What Kinds of Ways can I Cook on a Pellet Grill?
Thanks to its versatility and temperature range, you can use a pellet grill to grill, smoke, bake, roast, braise, barbecue, and sear foods.
Do Pellet Grills Need Electricity?
Yes, pellet grills do need electricity, Pellet grills use electricity to run the auger that feeds the pellets from the hopper, the igniter, the induction fan, and any digital components of the grill.
How do you Light a Pellet Grill?
Lighting a pellet grill is probably easier than deciding what you’re going to cook on it!
Once your grill is plugged in and has a hopper full of pellets, many grills will require you to use a “prime” function to make sure enough pellets are loading into the grill to get it started the first time.
You’ll then power the grill on, set the desired temp, and start the grill with the lid open. Wait until you see smoke, close the lid, then let it get to your desired temperature.
How Long Does it Take a Pellet Grill to Start Up?
The process of igniting the pellets should take between 5-8 minutes. Depending on how hot you need your grill, after the pellets are lit it can take anywhere from 10-20 minutes to reach your desired temperature.
Is it Normal for my Grill to Produce a Lot of Smoke at First?
Yes! That means the pellets have ignited and are burning well enough to sustain a fire.
Are Pellet Grills/Smokers Indirect or Direct Heat Cookers?
Pellet grills allow you to cook with both indirect and direct heat, although some models will have better direct cooking capabilities if they feature direct-flame access. If your model is solely a pellet smoker, it will rely on indirect heat cooking only.
Do Pellet Grills have Different Heat Zones?
Yes. Pellet grills have different heat zones thanks to rising heat and the fan that’s used to keep the pellets burning.
You can take better advantage of this if you have an upper warming rack included with your pellet grill. As all grills will be different, you will learn your grill after a few cooks and will start to understand where the heat zones are.
How Hot does a Pellet Grill Get?
Your pellet grill’s exact temperature range will depend on its manufacturer and model, but most pellet grills can reach between 500° and 750°F. A few high-end models can even reach 900°F.
Can you Sear Food on a Pellet Grill?
You can, with a few caveats — searing can be difficult on a pellet grill if your model can’t reach 550°F, or if it doesn’t have direct flame access, which not all do.
What is a PID Control Panel?
PID stands for Proportional, Integral, Derivative, and it’s a type of mathematical algorithm that some models of pellet grill use to monitor and control their temperature. If your grill does not have a PID control panel, it will likely use timer-based controls to turn on the auger or fan to maintain its temperature.
Is it Normal for my Pellet Grill to Fluctuate in Temperature?
Yes! Pellet grills don’t work exactly like your home oven, which stays consistently at the temperature you set it. Pellet grills are designed to let the flame on the pellets go out occasionally, so they give off smoke, which in turn smokes your food. So the temperature may vary, but the end result — delicious, smokey-flavored food — will not!
What is a Hopper & what does it do?
A hopper is a typically funnel-shaped receptacle used to deliver material such as grain, coal, or in our case, pellets. On a pellet grill, the hopper stores the pellets until they’re moved by the auger to the firebox to be ignited.
What is an Auger & what does it do?
The auger is essentially a large electronically controlled screw that rotates and moves pellets forward from the hopper toward the firepot.
What do I do if my Auger Becomes Jammed?
If your auger becomes jammed (typically due to moisture getting into the pellets and causing them to swell), you’ll need to remove the bottom panel and control board, detach the hopper and motor, and then remove the screw that holds the auger in place.
Once you have the auger out of your grill you can use sandpaper, a chisel, and paper towels to remove the jam and clean out the auger.
What are the Pellets Made from?
Pellets are made from condensed hardwood sawdust collected from sawmills. Pellet manufacturers specially select which sawmills they get their sawdust from to ensure a food-safe product.
Do Pellet Grills Use the Same Wood Pellets as a Pellet Heater?
No – the wood pellets that pellet heaters use are typically made from softer wood and wood with impurities that can limit your grill’s performance and impact the flavor of your food.
What Wood Flavors do Smoker Pellets Come in?
Wood pellets are available in just about any type of hardwood, although the most popular flavors for pellet grills are hickory, apple, cherry, pecan, oak, maple, mesquite, and peach.
How Long does it Take a Pellet Grill to Burn through Pellets?
While this will vary on your type of pellets and pellet grill, most grills will typically burn between 1 and 1.5 lbs of pellets per hour.
How Many Pellets will I Need Usually?
Estimate how long your food will need to cook, and plan for at least 1 lb of pellets per hour of cook time. If you’ll be cooking at high heat, be prepared to use 1.5 lbs of pellets per hour.
Do you have to Use Pellets from your Grill’s Manufacturer?
No, not necessarily! Using another brand’s pellets won’t hurt your grill if you want to experiment a bit.
However, if your grill’s instructions recommend the manufacturer’s pellets, it’s likely because they’ll be more efficient for cooking with your grill and give you better results. Some brands may even void the grill’s warranty if you use other brand’s pellets so make sure to read your warranty info carefully.
How Long can Pellets Stay in the Hopper for?
If you live in a wet or humid climate, the answer here is not long at all. It’s best to store your pellets separately in a dry area to avoid them coming in contact with moisture and becoming ineffective or clogging the auger.
While you can leave your pellets in the hopper between cooks in drier climates, it’s still a smart idea to store them separately to avoid any possible issues.
How should my Pellets be Stored?
Store your pellets in an airtight container in a clean, dry area to keep them protected from moisture that could render them useless.
How Long can you Store Wood Smoker Pellets?
If you’ve done a good job at storing your pellets away from moisture, they can typically be stored for up to six months. If you live in a more humid area, don’t plan on storing your pellets for more than three months.
Can you Use Wood Smoker Pellets in a Charcoal Grill?
While you technically can, this isn’t recommended. Wood pellets rely on the pellet grill’s auger to slowly feed them into the firepot — without that, your pellets will burn quickly, and you’ll go through around 10 times as much fuel as a pellet grill would.
Can I Use Wood Chips in a Pellet Grill?
No, wood chips will not work with your pellet grill’s hopper or firepot and could clog the pellet delivery system. Since wood pellets are made to replicate the flavor of hardwood, there’s no need to try and cook with them in your pellet grill.
Do I Need to Empty the Ash Catcher Every Time?
Yes, you should! It’s a good habit to get into. If you don’t, you could wind up with flameouts, temperature fluctuations, or pellets burning back into the hopper.
Why is there Ash Build Up on the Bottom of the Grill?
Ash can wind up on the bottom of your pellet grill thanks to the fan that keeps the pellets burning. This will happen, should be minimal, and is normal. It’s a good idea to use a shop vac to vacuum up the ash build-up after several cooks.
Are Pellet Grills Good for Smoking?
Absolutely! Pellet grills are fantastic smokers, especially when you use pellets flavored with classic smoking woods like apple and hickory.
Do Pellet Grills Produce Enough Smoke?
Pellet grills are designed to deliver a perfect amount of smoke to your food, thanks to their fans and the way wood pellets are designed. With these grills, it’s almost impossible to over-smoke your food!
Is my Grill Producing Enough Smoke?
You can tell when your grill is producing the ideal amount of smoke when the smoke is wispy, thin, blue, and almost difficult to see. Keep your firebox clean and use high-quality pellets without fillers to ensure maximum smoke.
Is it Normal for my Pellet Grill to Produce Little to No Smoke?
Yes. If you’re cooking at higher temperatures, your grill will produce less smoke due to the burning pellets. When you cook at lower temperatures your pellets are only smoldering, which produces more smoke.
How can I Add more Smoke to a Pellet Grill?
You can set your grill at a lower temperature to produce more smoke or use a Pellet Smoker Tube to supplement what your grill produces and add extra smokiness.
Why is there Smoke Coming Through my Pellets Out of the Hopper?
A small to moderate amount of smoke may come out of the hopper through the pellets thanks to the fan that keeps them burning — this is completely normal.
What does a Pellet Grill Flameout Mean?
A flameout happens when your grill’s pellets stop burning unintentionally, typically when you have the grill on its lowest temperature setting and the fire in the firebox is small. One of the causes of flameouts is ash buildup in the firebox, so keeping your grill as clean as possible can help prevent this.
Do Pellet Grills Work in Cold Weather?
Pellet grills can work in cold weather, but some may run less efficiently the colder it is outside. To prevent this, cover your grill with an Insulated Grill Blanket if the temperature has dropped below 35° and keep the lid closed as much as possible to help it retain heat.
During Cold Weather, how can I Ensure my Pellet Grill Stays Up to Temperature?
In addition to using an insulated grill blanket and keeping the lid shut whenever possible, you can keep your grill up to temperature by using food that’s at room temperature — not right out of the fridge.
Make sure you have plenty of pellets available and that your grill is adding more pellets to compensate for the cooler outside temps. It will also help to place your pellet grill in a shielded space out of the wind.
Can you Use a Pellet Grill in the Rain?
We’ve already talked in this pellet grill FAQ guide about how moisture and pellets don’t get along.
But if there are two things that get along even less, it’s moisture and electric appliances. Since pellet grills run on electricity, if you want to use yours while it’s raining, you’ll need to make sure it’s placed somewhere covered but that still has safe ventilation (so your garage is a no-go).
Can I Use my Pellet Smoker Inside?
No! Even if you vented your grill (which we don’t recommend), the risk of carbon monoxide buildup and grease fires is still too great to bring your grill indoors. Always grill outside, in an area with good ventilation and nothing touching or placed too close to the grill.
How Close to my House can a Pellet Grill be while Operating?
We recommend keeping your grill at least 10 feet away from buildings or other structures while you’re using it.
How Often should I Clean my Pellet Grill?
For starters, you should clean your grill’s grates every time you cook. Beyond that, you’ll want to vacuum out the ash (once it’s cooled) every 2-10 cooking sessions depending on how much you cook and how much ash has accumulated, and give your grill a deep clean a few times each year.
What is a Drip/Grease Pan?
The drip/grease pan sits at the bottom of some grill models and collects grease and drippings from your food.
Can I Line my Drip/Grease Pan in Foil?
If you want to make cleanup a breeze, go for it! Just be sure to check that the foil doesn’t create any channels for grease to go into the bottom of the grill.
And if you have a louvered grease pan that has slanted openings, you’ll want to avoid using foil if you’re cooking with direct heat, since the foil can deflect the heat and result in indirect cooking instead.
Can a Pellet Grill be Built-Into an Outdoor Kitchen?
Yes! While freestanding pellet grills are more common, built-in pellet grills are an awesome addition to any outdoor kitchen. Check out our recommendations for the Best Built-In Pellet Grills.
How Long does it Take to Cook on a Pellet Grill?
Since pellet grills work a lot like smoker ovens, a good rule of thumb is that food will take about as long to cook in a pellet grill as it would in your traditional indoor oven.
If you are cooking large meats slow and low, expect it to take about one to one and a half hours per pound of meat.
What Temperature is Best for Smoking?
In general, go low and slow — 225–250°F. Those temperatures will differ a bit depending on what you’re cooking, however. Brisket should be kept below 250°F so it doesn’t dry out, while pork shoulder will cook best between 220-230°F.
For poultry, you’ll want to go somewhere between 250-300°F. When in doubt, keep an eye on your meat for the signs that it’s done cooking.
What are the Best/Easiest Meats to Smoke?
If you’re looking for an easy and forgiving protein, opt for pork. Its fat content means it’ll dry out slower and stand up better to overcooking.
Ribs are a close runner-up! If you’re new to using a pellet grill, avoid finicky items like brisket that require precise cooking times and temperatures.
Can you Cook Pizza on a Pellet Grill?
Absolutely! Just like with any other type of grill, pizza that’s grilled on a pellet grill is a unique and fun recipe to try out if you need a break from straight-up meat.
Are there Wi-Fi Enabled Pellet Grills?
More and more manufacturers are making Wi-Fi-enabled pellet grills. These grills will either allow you to connect directly to the grill using a smart device like your phone, giving you control when you’re in range of it, or let you connect the grill to your home Wi-Fi network and control it via phone app or website from wherever you are.
Are there Portable Pellet Grills for Tailgating?
There are portable and table-top pellet grills that you can take tailgating, to parties, camping — anywhere you’ll have access to a standard 110-volt household outlet.
If you plan on tailgating somewhere without electricity and still want to wow fellow sports fans with smoky, meaty goodness, consider investing in a small generator to run your grill off of.
Do I Need a Cover for my Pellet Grill?
While not strictly necessary, it’s smart to get a cover for your pellet grill to protect it from moisture and inclement weather and keep it looking as good as new.
Pellet Grill FAQ Final Thoughts
If you’re looking for a unique grilling experience that gives you the power of a grill and a smoker in one package, you can’t go wrong with a pellet grill.
I hope this pellet grill FAQ guide helped answer some of the questions you have about one of today’s hottest trends in grilling.
If you have any other questions or want more information about the pellet grill details we covered here, leave a comment below or send us an email and we’ll do our best to get you an answer. We’re always looking to expand our FAQs, so you may even see your question show up in this guide!
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