How to Use a Pellet Grill – Easy Tips & Tricks

Please feel free to go through our brief overview of how to operate a pellet grill if you have never used one before.

Since its introduction to the market in the 1980s, pellet grills and cookers have grown in popularity among aficionados of a backyard barbecue.

Many people love them because they are simple to set up and operate and because they feature automated augers that feed the pellets as they cook, making temperature control and usage simple.

You can use a grill on wood pellets to smoke, grill, and roast, and even bake all types of meals.

They are much easier to use than traditional charcoal grills and also require much less maintenance.

Here is a step-by-step guide that will help you get started and teach you how to use a pellet grill, even if you are a complete newbie.

Starting with seasoning your smoker is a must

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The first thing to do after assembling and setting up your pellet grill is to season it. Seasoning the cooker includes applying some kind of cooking oil on the cooking grates and then letting it run without any food inside.

This will allow for the oil to cook onto the grates, thus forming a protective layer. The seasoning will also burn off any leftover factory oils inside the pellet grill.

You will need to run the grill empty for at least 45 minutes and then let it rest for at least 24 hours before proceeding to use it for cooking food.

Now preheat the smoker

Once you have seasoned your pellet grill, you can start thinking about using it.

Thankfully, preheating a pellet grill is much easier and faster than preheating a traditional charcoal grill or smoker.

First, plug the grill into an electric outlet, switch it on, and select your desired temperature. The recommended temperature for smoking is about 225 degrees Fahrenheit (107 degrees Celsius).

The average pellet grill should take just about 10 minutes to preheat completely and reach the desired temperature.

When it starts heating up, the motorized auger will start working and feeding the pellets into the firebox of the grill.

If you want to be sure that your grill has reached the temperature you want, you can use a dual probe smoker thermometer, which will show you precise readings of both the temperature in the cooking chamber as well as the internal temperature of the meat you are cooking.

It’s time to add the meat

Once the desired temperature has been reached, you can place the food on the grates. Place the meat in the middle of the cooking grate in order to ensure that it is cooked evenly without drying out from the excessive heat.

The fat content is important

For the best results when smoking or cooking food in a pellet grill, choose meat that has the right fat content. Meat that is too lean can dry out if not cooked properly, and meat that has too much fat can prevent the smoke from infusing the actual meat.

So, if you are going to be smoking brisket, make sure to trim off the fat from its exterior down to a layer of fat that is only about ½ inch thick.

Choose your wood pellets wisely

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The flavor and smokiness of the meat and other food you prepare in your pellet grill depend largely on the type of wood pellets you use.

Some types of woods work better with certain types of meat than others.

Stronger woods like hickory or mesquite are more suitable for robust meat cuts such as brisket but may be too strong and overpowering for delicate foods like poultry or fish.

You can use sweeter and lighter fruit woods such as cherry or apple when smoking such delicate meats.

Applewood pellets are also a great pick for smoking ribs.

Make sure that you check which types of wood pellets are suitable for the different recipes so that you will end up happy with the results.

The magic of 225

While the USDA recommends specific safe temperatures for the different types of meat, poultry, and fish, the actual smoking temperatures are usually quite consistent no matter the type of food you are preparing in the pellet smoker.

While the smoking and cooking temperature can vary from 250 to 275 degrees Fahrenheit, the rule of thumb for smoking, in general, is a temperature of 225 degrees Fahrenheit.

At this temperature, any cut of meat will be smoked low and slow enough so that any fat is rendered but without drying out the meat.

More smoke is generated when cooking food in a pellet smoker at temperatures ranging from 225 to 275 degrees too.

So, if you are not sure about the right temperature you should use for a particular food, the rule of thumb is to stick to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.

A Tip: Try the reverse sear method

You should definitely try using the reverse sear method when using the pellet grill, especially for preparing thick steak, prime rib, or crispy chicken.

This method involves cooking the food at a low temperature and then finishing it off by searing it at a higher one for a few minutes.

The color of the smoke

If you are new to smokers, you may not be aware that the quality of the food you prepare largely depends on the quality of the smoke which is produced. The goal is to ensure that clean smoke is produced, rather than grey smoke, which can make your food taste arid and pretty nasty.

The best clean smoke is clear or almost blue smoke produced in the pellet grill.

The best zone to smoke meat

Photo credit: napoleon

If you want to achieve the best results when smoking and cooking food in your pellet grill, you should opt for setting up a 2-zone cooking area. This involves creating a hot zone that is located directly over the fire and a cooler zone that can be used for indirect cooking at lower temperatures.

Most of the pellet grills are designed with the fireboxes set away from the cooking grates, so you shouldn’t worry too much about how to set up a hot and cool zone on them.

Shut it down

While with charcoal grills and smokers, you will usually let the grill burn out completely after you are done, with pellet grills, you will need to shut them off manually after use.

This is done by deactivating the motorized auger, which will stop the pellets from being fed into the firebox. You can do this by turning the controller to the lowest smoke setting and letting any leftover pellets burn without new ones being fed.

Leave the lid of the grill open and allow for the remaining pellets to burn away.

Then you can proceed to shut down the grill. Usually, a pellet grill will have a switch-off button that you can use. Make sure the grill is off and completely shut down.

Let the pellet smoker cool down for about 20-30 minutes after shutting it off. The motor should switch off after a few minutes after pressing the power off button.

When the grill is cool enough but still hot, use a grill brush to remove any residue, grease, or leftover wood pellets.

Empty the grease tray and clean it after use to avoid flare-ups in the future.

Take regular care of your pellet grill

While pellet grills require much less maintenance than charcoal ones, you will still need to clean them periodically. Remember to clean the grates from any residue, food, and grease, empty the grease tray, and use a shop-type vacuum to remove the ash build-up.

By taking proper care of your pellet grill, you will ensure that it works as expected and safely for years to come!

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