There are a couple important things that differentiate a gas grill from a wood pellet cooker, or even a charcoal BBQ from a wood pellet cooker. Below is a high level look at the items that should be considered prior to buying a wood pellet smoker.
First off, you need to know that wood pellet grills need hydro. It uses a good amount of electricity when it first turns on to start the fire in the firepot. There is an igniter that gets voltage for the first 2 minutes until the fire has started. After which point the power usage is negligible as only a small fan and auger and possibly digital thermostat are drawing electricity. So you need an outdoor outlet where you plan on parking your wood pellet grill.
The second thing to know about is that almost all wood pellet grills, despite the name don’t technically grill your food. They are indirect smokers and cookers. Meaning between your food and the flame is a metal flame diffuser which deflects the flame evenly underneath the drip pan. This is significant in many ways. One being if you had visions of grilling steaks over wood, then you would be mistaken. There is a pellet manufacturer called Yoder who makes a grill that is hot enough to technically sear your steaks. There is also the Black Olive Grill which is a wood pellet Kamado shell which can grill with direct heat. But as a rule, wood pellet grills don’t grill. Therefore calling these wood pellet grills “grills” is probably a bad marketing term, but still used. Another factor to consider is the amount of heat you are accustomed to on your gas or charcoal grill. Wood pellet grills can’t produce the high heat you would find on a charcoal or gas grill. Some new wood pellet grills are capable of hitting upwards of 600 F now. This is hot enough to put your pizza stone in and produce great pizza’s. Wood pellet grills are rarely able to match those heat levels and are most famous for low and slow cooking.
A certain amount of maintenance work is involved in most wood pellet grills. Because the heat is indirect on most wood pellet cookers, the drippings and fat doesn’t burn off. The drippings and fat is usually corralled on an angled drip pan which ultimately drains into a grease trap or bucket. This will periodically need to be dealt with, usually emptied and cleaned up a bit. The drip pan in most cases needs to be covered in a foil of some kind to prevent the fatty liquids from burning and spoiling the flavour.
Wood Pellet Purchase and Storage
As a proud wood pellet grill owner, you will need storage space for 20 or 40 lb bags of wood pellets. There are many different types of wood pellets. Woods like maple, apple, oak to the exiting cherry, mesquite and hickory. These are super wood pellets but they need to be stored carefully, somewhere dry. If you buy a couple of bags at a time, you will need the space. The same amount of space as a couple of bags of lump charcoal takes. The bags are heavier than charcoal, obviously they weigh around 20 or 40 lbs respectively You also will need a steady supply of wood pellets. Most locations have ready access to them, just make sure you have a good source of pellets prior to buying a wood pellet grill.
Reliability and durability
It is my theory and it has proven to be true in most cases, the more moving parts there are, the more likely there is to be a failure of some kind. Wood pellet grills have electronics which govern temperature, fan motors, augers, igniters and thermostats. In the event of a failure of one of these components, you will most likely not be able to use your wood pellet grill. If you spend $3000 on a top of the line Memphis grill, you can be assured that the quality of the components are top notch and less likely to burn out on you. I don’t have to point out what could happen on a $700 pellet grill. Something to think about.
You can put 4 chickens in your wood pellet cooker, walk away and come back in 2 hours. There wouldn’t have been a massive fire, your chicken would not be charred black, but instead would be perfectly smoked and cooked. The wood pellet grills are very safe this way, and that is a real plus. If your grill gets knocked over, you wouldn’t have to worry about hot charcoal burning your deck down. There wouldn’t be any explosions or dangerous flames. No propane tank and regulator, only a small firepot with a small amount of hot embers. Wood pellet grills are really safe this way and is a great selling feature. They are still very hot to touch, almost all BBQ’s and grills get dangerously hot. All grills get hot to touch except for the Broil King keg which is probably the safest BBQ on the market today.
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