The tantalizing flavor of pellet wood is one of the main reasons why grill chefs prefer pellet grills. Pellet grills have emerged as strong competitors to gas grills and charcoal grills on account of their exotic flavor, ease of use and superior temperature control.
Master grill chefs can craft the most mouth-watering, smoke-flavored barbecue using the best wood pellets for pellet grill smoking.
If you have researched wood pellet grills, then you probably know that there’s a myriad wood pellet types to choose from. Of course, not all wood pellet types and brands are equal.
This guide will take you through all sorts of wood pellets so that choosing the best wood pellets for smoking becomes less perplexing for you.
Here are the brands that make the best wood pellets for pellet grills.
Cookinpellets Perfect Mix
This wood pellet manufacturing company was founded more than five years back. The circumstances under which the company was launched are interesting. Apparently, the owner suffered an unenviable grilling experience due to the use of low-quality wood pellets. He then started making wood pellets from a small wood mill.
The company’s flagship product is the Perfect Mix blend. This concoction combines the four leading hardwood flavors into one extraordinarily good package. The blend consists of cherry, apple, maple and hickory. The size of the bag is 40 pounds, which is pretty massive.
The great thing about these hardwood pellets is that they are 100 percent flavored to bring out the best taste in your barbecue. They do not contain any bark that can confound pellet grilling. Only high quality wood has been used from the center of logs. The problem with bark is that it has a high concentration of lignin, which produces higher heat levels, which leads to uneven temperature.
The only major con is that the 40-pound bag is really huge. Another disadvantage is that since the flavors are pre-mixed, you cannot experiment with different flavors.
All in all, by utilizing four of the best hardwood types, Cookinpellets Perfect Mix delivers nothing short of the very best smoke flavor.
The smoke flavor is such that it will suit just about any barbecue recipe that you want to grill. The pellets burn well consistently so that temperature levels are maintained on reliable grills. With the Cookinpellets Perfect Mix, you can infuse your barbecue with delectable and exquisite smoke flavor that is bound to please everyone.
Cookinpellets guarantees that all of its products are filler-free. They do not contain any oil or tasteless filler woods, such as alder or oak.
BBQr’s Delight Cherry Flavor Pellets
This is one brand that you should definitely consider if you are serious about making the best flavored meal that will delight everyone. After all, this pellet wood mixture is the favorite of BBQ pro competitors. These well-manufactured pellets have low moisture content for consistent burning. Consequently, you will find that these wood pellets burn nice and clean.
Of course, if you aspire to reach the same exalted level as seasoned BBQ chefs and professionals, then you should give preference to the wood pellet mix that is the choice of champions. You simply cannot go wrong with the pellet mix that high flying BBQ aficionados hold in high esteem.
The major con of this brand is that it has slightly less flavor as compared to the 100 percent mixtures. This may, in fact, be a boon if you are seeking a more subtle rather than an overpowering flavor. Another disadvantage is that it has apple wood pellets, which may not be the ideal choice for briskets, ribs and steaks – although it is wonderful for all other recipes.
You will be reassured knowing that the product has an unofficial endorsement of sorts from top barbecue professionals since it enjoys wide use among this elite class. What’s more, BBQr’s Delight also makes several other exotic blends that you would like to try out at some point. There are a dozen more concoctions to try if you are satisfied with the cherry flavor mix. It may be a good idea to adhere to one brand if you are confident that you will enjoy the same great consistent quality from other items in its product range.
Traeger Hickory Pellets
It’s hard to imagine anything going wrong if you go with the top name in pellet grills. Exuberant grill chefs will certainly want to try out wood pellets by a company that is the best in the business.
The first thing that any budding grill novice learns is that Traeger is a leading industry player. In fact, it is the very company that kicked off the pellet grilling craze that’s swept across the US. There is hardly any accessory or ingredient that this illustrious company does not make and excel in. In addition to top quality pellet grills and wood pellets, you can also dabble in some of the most delectable sauces and rubs, which will set your culinary prowess soaring to new heights.
Although the smoke flavor is excellent, there is one thing that you must keep in mind. The pellets are made out of oak and alder infused with natural flavor oils. They are not real hickory wood pellets.
This is one of the best buys in pellet wood since it offers the full depth of flavor with the naturally-flavored hardwood. What’s more, your grilling process will stand to gain with the superior burning properties of alder and oak.
Lumber Jack Apple Blend Pellets
The full spectrum of barbecue enthusiasts, ranging from grilling maestros to weekend warriors, can now relish the exotic BBQ smoke flavor emanating from these wood pellets.
Lumber Jack prides itself on making premium wood pellet mixtures that appeal to almost everyone. The company takes a rather unique approach to its products. Instead of using rejected wood chips from saw mills, it has its own factory that grinds wood from its own sources.
The extra flavor from this pellet wood blend will add zest to your barbeque.
Besides the best wood pellet brands, you should also know about other important aspects of wood pellets. You should read on to find out about key issues, including how using the wrong wood pellets can potentially ruin your precious grill. Learn about the richest flavors and which hardwood flavors best suit the food that you are making.
How Wood Pellets Are Made
Wood pellets are nothing more than compressed sawdust. These compacted bits of sawdust are the sole fuel for wood pellet grills.
Pellet grills cannot handle pieces of actual wood and charcoal, as other grills do. As you might suspect, the raw material for wood pellets comes from lumber mills. The unwanted wood from these mills is salvaged by shredding it into tiny pieces, drying it and then forcing it through a small die hole to manufacture wood pellets.
During the manufacturing process, the natural polymer in plant tissue called lignin heats up to become soft. As it cools down, the lignin hardens to hold the wood together just like glue. The extruded wood is cut into the appropriate length and then packaged.
Heating Pellets Are Different from Grill Pellets
Pellet stoves also use wood pellets as the fuel source to provide heat to the surroundings. Wood pellets made for this purpose lack flavor and are, therefore, unsuitable for smoking barbecue.
If you make the mistake of using heating pellets, then don’t be surprised if the barbecue is bland and tasteless.
Which Wood Pellet Flavor Is the Best?
Wood pellet flavor is what distinguishes the food cooked on pellet grills with that cooked on gas grills or charcoal grills. Each wood pellet variety has its own subtle yet distinct flavor that makes it suitable for certain food categories.
Since there are so many different pellet wood varieties, deciding between the flavors is quite a dilemma. It all comes down to personal taste ultimately. However, there is a broad agreement across the grilling community that certain wood pellet varieties are better for specific food categories.
Here are the most common wood pellet flavors and the food categories that they enhance with their unique flavor.
- Alder – game birds, poultry and salmon
- Apple – seafood, lamb and poultry
- Cherry – all kinds of meats
- Hickory – ribs and beef
- Maple – cheese, vegetables and poultry
- Mesquite – all kind of red meat
- Oak – suitable for all meats when mixed with other wood types
- Pecan – poultry
- Walnut – game and red meat
You can also gain many exotic flavors by mixing different pellet woods together. As a result, there are several different flavors that you can choose from, besides the pure 100% product that is based only on one wood variety.
Wood pellets fall under one of the following 3 categories.
- Flavored wood
Here are details on these categories.
1. Flavored Wood Pellets
These comprise 100 percent flavored wood. No fillers are added to this product. Oak may be used at times, but it does not have much flavor on its own.
Flavored wood pellets are the most costly option.
2. Blended Wood Pellets
In order to keep the price low, manufacturers blend flavored wood with filler material. The ratio here corresponds to about 70 percent filler and 30 percent flavored wood.
3. Standard Pellets
In general, these pellets are used for heating purposes since they have little or no flavor.
Wood Pellet Problems Are Usually Behind Pellet Grill Performance Issues
When it comes to temperature control, pellet grills have unmatched performance. These grills have sophisticated controllers that monitor the temperature via sensors. On the basis of sensor input, they send signals to both the fan and auger system. The controller instructs the auger system to add wood pellets, as required by the grilling conditions.
Despite the high level of temperature precision, grill chefs may find themselves in a quandary due to strongly fluctuating heat levels. Big temperature swings are, particularly, detrimental to slow cooking as it must be done over a duration of several hours.
One may be inclined to think that malfunctioning grill parts are to blame. However, you should first verify if it is wood pellets that are behind the issue as they often lie at the root of different grill problems.
New grilling enthusiasts might believe that since bark is natural, there will be no issues if it is part of wood pellets. However, this is an erroneous belief. For best performance, your pellets should not have any bark as it can potentially lead to different kinds of problems.
Although pellet grills with bark are available, you should eschew these in favor of bark-less variety.
The biggest issue with bark is that it burns at a different rate than the rest of the wood. The inclusion of bark can, therefore, lead to highly inconsistent temperatures even when the same amount of wood is burnt within a given time frame. Bark also poses another problem. It creates a lot of ash when it is burnt. Not only is this extra ash more tedious and cumbersome to clean, it can also choke the firebox, in particular, if you don’t clean it regularly.
As with all things, there are big differences between different brands of pellet wood varieties. Hence, it is imperative that you stay far away from the cheap low quality ones. This review considers only the best performing brands with satisfied users and stable market shares.
If the wood pellets are compressed poorly, then they will disintegrate easily. This problem can transpire when the auger is pushing the pellets into the firebox. The force of the auger motor may cause the cheap wood pellets to fall apart. If this happens, then there will be a discrepancy between the quantity that the auger is feeding and the required quantity.
Poor quality wood pellets can also disintegrate when you are pouring them from the bag into the pellet hopper. The problem with powdered wood pellets is that such mixture does not burn well. This leads to substantially lower temperatures and low smoke generation. Your food will not be cooked properly nor will it have the right level of smoke flavor.
Thankfully, there is a fairly easy to tell if the wood pellet suffers from inadequate compression. Simply look at the bottom of the wood pellet pack. The pulverized pellets fall towards the bottom of the bag by making their way across air gaps that exist between the solid wood pellets. If you see too much powder at the bottom, then this is a clear sign of poor cohesion. You should avoid such wood pellets.
Another simple option is just to buy from those high end pellet brands that are mentioned in this guide.
If your pellet grill starts performing poorly, then you should not assume by default that malfunctioning grill parts are to blame. Check to see if the wood pellets suffer any of the defects mentioned above. Even if you cannot see any apparent issue by visual inspection, you should switch to a reliable brand if you were using a little-known variety. Verify whether or not there is any improvement in grilling performance after you switch wood pellet brands. If there is a change and your grill reverts back to normal, then you can heave a sigh of relief and resolve to abide by the best wood pellet brands.
Will Using Other Wood Pellets Besides Traeger Void the Warranty of the Traeger Pellet Grill?
Traeger is unquestionably the market leader in the world of pellet grills. In fact, the company founder patented pellet grills and manufactured them exclusively under patent for two decades.
Unsurprisingly, Traeger also manufactures its own wood pellets. The problem is that you must use wood pellets from Traeger only for your Traeger pellet grill. If you use any other brand, then this will void your warranty. Electronics brands have been carrying the same practice for years. They may void the warranty of their product if users utilize any other accessory, besides their own brand.
If you have a Traeger grill, then you should not be dismayed with the dearth of choice when it comes to pellet woods. Traeger makes some very high quality wood pellets that are exceptional on both counts: flavor as well as performance.
But just in case you are interested in trying out other wood pellet brands, then you should keep one thing in mind. Officially, the use of any other wood pellet brand will cancel your warranty. However, in practice, it is very hard for the company to prove or even detect that you have used any other pellet wood. In fact, as long as you utilize trustworthy brands, then there is a very small likelihood that the pellet wood fuel will ruin your expensive Traeger grill. Just steer clear of the cheap or unknown variety.
Remember to accept nothing less than the best wood pellets for pellet grills to extract the best flavor from your meals and to keep your grill running in prime condition.