When you use the best pellet smoker to cook your foods, you have absolute control over your unit’s temperature and smoke production; this type of control is necessary when you want to produce juicy, flavorful and complex cuts of meat.
Pellet burners are an amazing tool that come with convenient cooking features, and they give home chefs the opportunity to smoke their own meat without being forced to tend to their smoker all day.
Pellet smokers are chosen by most home chefs because they use a unique system to indirectly cook all of their favorite meats.
When you turn a pellet smoker on, you activate its igniter rod, and the rod starts to feed wood pellets into the unit’s firebox.
This creates the smoke that you need to cook your favorite foods; it does this automatically, so you don’t have to spend time messing around with charcoal, wood or temperature settings.
When you can set and forget your unit, it gives you free time to do other things during the lengthy smoking process.
This isn’t the case with conventional wood or charcoal smokers; they need a full day of maintenance and tending.
The pellets used for smoking contain all natural materials; they are compacted units of sawdust. Unlike charcoal, pellets don’t contain any additive or fillers, so you always know that your food will come out safe and perfectly cooked.
When you cook with a pellet smoker, you never need to add extra wood chips or flavoring agents, the natural pellets produce a smoke flavor that rivals all conventional smoking methods.
Best Pellet Smokers Reviews
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Factors To Consider When Buying A Pellet Smoker
People choose pellet smokers because they are easier to use than conventional smokers; once you set a temperature, they will automatically dispense pellets to maintain it for as long as you need to cook your foods. When people see the benefits of cooking with pellets, they often rush out to buy the first smoker they see.
If you rush into buying a unit without proper consideration, you may end up with something that you aren’t completely satisfied with. Make sure to consider the following factors before buying a new unit:
The first thing that you need to look at when buying a pellet smoker is your budget. There are tons of different models on the market, and they all come with various accessories.
If you’re looking to spend a lot of money, then you can buy a unit that comes with tons of bells and whistles, but if you’re like most people, you are better off buying a decently priced unit that cooks well.
Pellet Availability – Depending on where you are located, you might need to buy pellets in bulk; it can be difficult to buy pellets year round in some regions. The best way to buy pellets is to buy a lot of them at one time, or you can buy them over the Internet.
You need to make sure that pellets are available before you start cooking. If you don’t have enough of them, you won’t be able to properly smoke your meat.
Pellet smokers can be quite large, and if you don’t have the room for a unit, it can become a hassle. Always make sure to look at a unit’s weight and dimensions; this gives you a good idea of how mobile the unit is.
If you’re going to be moving your unit a lot, you probably want to get a smaller unit that can be easily moved. If you plan on leaving your unit in one spot, then you need to buy a unit that is the right size; you don’t have to put as much consideration into its weight and mobility features.
Quality And Durability
When you buy a pellet smoker, it should last you for years. If you buy a unit that’s dependable, then you won’t have to worry about costly repairs and replacements.
It’s important to buy a smoker that comes from a dependable manufacturer; when you do this, it’s much more likely that your unit will produce quality smoke without breaking after a few uses.
A pellet smoker gives one limitless options on what to cook. One can entirely cook anything and everything because the pellet smoker gives a combination of abilities from grilling and smoking to kitchen oven. One can grill chicken, hot dogs, burgers sea foods and even vegetables.
Brisket and ribs BBQ can be smoked. Baking of pizza, blueberry pie, bread pudding and cakes. This is why the pellet smoker is best considered than other grillers.
So how to choose a good one?
Considering quality construction of anything is among the most important factors that should be kept in mind while shopping for a pellet smoker.
No one would wish to buy an item, no matter the price, that is not of good quality and that will have rust or get destroyed without giving the user enough service. That is a loss. A good quality pellet smoker will last longer and will need less or little maintenance.
A buyer should make sure the pellet smoker he or she is choosing is of good quality. The pellet smoker should be well built, original and its features and components be of good construction. When in the store, one can feel the lid of the grill by lifting it to feel its weight. The lid should not be delicate or too hefty.
The weight should be manageable and not light enough that wind can blow it. When one closes the lead, it should lay on the grill in a comfortable way that provides a good seal.
Other important parts of the pellet smoker that one should watch out the joints, the welding and the hardware. They should be made of good material, most preferred, aluminum or steel. The joints of the pellet smoker should be well lubricated in a way that they do not produce uncomfortable sounds while the cooking is on.
The grill should generally feel sturdy with all the seams and joints fitting together snugly, leaving no spaces for heat produced to escape in any way.
It is recommended to compare and contrast specs of different pellet smokers in the store. One should also look at different reviews and researches and not be shy to ask about the quality of the pellet smoker they are wishing to have.
A good pellet smoker store should have staff that are well equipped with information about pellet smoker and they should be able to advice their customers which grills are best for them having compared variety of the different models.
The temperature range
Temperature vary depending on different cooking, making this an important factor to consider when selecting the best pellet smoker for you. What type of cooking do you practice? Most if not all pellet smokers are good when used at indirect cooking and the maximum temperature they can get ranges from 180 – 425 degrees.
This temperature range is good when one is grilling, roasting, baking or smoking. It becomes a challenge when you want to sear, which requires a temperature range of 500 – 550 degrees.
You should consider the temperature range of what you will be cooking mostly before choosing the desired pellet smoker, to avoid choosing one that is not fit cooking foods of higher temperature. Pellet smoker with higher temperature range are better that those with low temperature range because they can cook more foods with different styles of cooking.
Is the size of the pellet smoker fit for the selected cooking area? This is a question everyone should have in mind when selecting the best pellet smoker.
They come in different sizes. Big and small. Getting a big pellet grill that is bigger for the set cooking area will inconvenience the buyer. On the other side getting a smaller pellet smoker that is less fit for selected space will make it look unfit.
It is advisable and recommended for you to relate the physical dimensions of the cooking area and lifestyle to the size of the pellet smoker.
Features and capabilities
You should make sure the pellet smoker has all the features you want. The control board is a feature used to input meat to the grill. Some pellet smokers though have an outdoor control board for meat probes.
Some other important features include Wi-Fi capability, direct grilling option, secondary cooking racks and included probes. A computer, tab or mobile phone connectivity is also another important consideration because it helps with regulating heat.
The choosing and purchase of any item or device should be mostly favored by the preference of the buyer. A pellet smoker is not different. A buyer should pay for something that is appealing to his or her own eyes. This will make the buyer have an easy time and have appreciation while using the grill. The user though should consider other factors equally with the personal choice.
Cleaning a Pellet Smoker
Owning a pellet smoker can be a revelation on how good meat can really taste. The flavors from a pellet smoker or grill can be out of this world. However, over time, a build-up of crusted and carbonized grease and spills could taint that flavor.
The by-products of smoking, such as tar and soot can accumulate and fall into the food you are cooking. What some people may call ‘seasoning’ is really just the detritus of cooking and needs to be cleaned like any other kitchen appliance.
Cleaning a pellet smoker make be daunting to some people, but this short article hopes to take away some of the mystique on cleaning and give you some useful tips on how to keep your smoker in tip-top condition. If you set up a simple cleaning regime for your pellet smoker, it will last longer, and keep cooking high-quality food with the best flavor imaginable.
It will also make the deep cleaning that much easier. There are three levels of cleaning, after each cook, after say 50 or so hours of cooking, and annual maintenance.
After Each Cook
Once you have finished cooking, don’t switch off the smoker immediately. Let it go to high heat for a while to burn off any food or fat residue left in the smoker. Once it has reached a high temperature use a brass wire brush to clean the grates of any leftover foodstuffs or amassed dirt and soot residue.
It is now time to switch off the smoker and let it cool down. Remove the grease bucket or trap you may have been using, and set it aside. With a damp rag, wipe any grease or fat deposits that may have accumulated on the outside of the smoker. Once the grease bucket is cool enough to handle, replace the aluminum foil in the drip pan, and discard the old.
A build-up of grease in the smoker could lead to an unwanted fire. Don’t forget to clean out any pellet ash once things are cool inside your smoker.
Monthly or 50 Cooking Hours Cleaning
If you begin to get hooked on meat smoking, you will find yourself doing this cleaning on a fairly regular basis. Occasional cooks may see that this could be incorporated with the annual cleaning session.
Before you start, make sure your pellet smoker is cold, preferably wait at least 24 hours after a cook before starting the cleaning process. If you are using an electric pellet smoker, make sure it is unplugged from a power source. If it uses gas, it would be an excellent time to uncouple it from the gas bottle to check the connections.
Remove the pellets from the feed hopper to stop them getting wet or being contaminated by any cleaning products you will use. Empty the ash from the burn cup. Some people line their burn cup with aluminum foil to make the cleaning process more manageable. An ash vacuum cleaner will also do the trick.
Open the smoker and remove the cooking grate and any other racks you might have inside. Don’t forget to remove the heat diffuser as well. Why not take a picture of how they are placed inside the smoker, so you will have a reference handy when putting them back after cleaning. If there are debris and ash inside the smoker, use the vacuum cleaner to suck out the rubbish.
Once all the bits have been removed, use hot soapy water to wash down the inside of the smoker. Then attack the cooking grate and the other parts you removed from the smoker using a rag and the hot soapy water to clean them too. Once you have removed the built-up of grease rinse the surfaces and allow to dry.
Cover the heat diffuser, and the drip tray with aluminum foil before they return to the smoker to make cleaning easier next time.
For the outside of the smoker, you can use hot soapy water, with a spray cleaner for any painted or stainless steel surfaces. Allow at least 24 hours after cleaning before cooking, and make sure the pellet hopper is completely dry before reloading it.
Annual or End Of Summer Clean
Once a year, or at the end of the barbecue season before you stow away your pellet grill for the winter it’s wise to give it a thorough clean. To start with fill a large plastic container with hot soapy water, and a cleaner recommended for barbecues.
Remove the grill rack and chimney dome and pop them into the water to soak. Remove the foil from the drip pan and flame deflector. If there is any debris or cooking residue on them, scrape it off. Once the majority of the dirt has been removed, put them into the hot soapy water too. Clean out the grease bucket and add that to the container. With a little elbow grease scrub the parts as well as you can to remove any dirt or debris and allow them to dry.
Clean out the grease shoot if your smoker has one with a stick or wooden spoon. You will be surprised how much dirt and detritus will be inside the chimney, and it is best to scrape that out too. Using a vacuum cleaner remove any dust, dirt, soot or debris from the inside of the smoker, not forgetting the firepot.
Give the whole interior a wipe down with a damp rag using a natural cleanser. Make sure the temperature probe is clean and not contaminated with soot or dirt. Its next time to reassemble your pellet smoker.
Dampness and Mold
The last thing you want inside a pellet smoker is any dampness. If the pellets themselves get wet at all they can turn into a wood concrete, that will make it difficult for the auger within the hopper to dispense them.
Pellet smokers usually have some electrical parts inside so it is vital that they do not get wet as they could short and become inoperable. If your pellet grill has not been used for a while, and not kept dry, you might find white furry patches inside when you open it up.
The mold inside needs to be dealt with, and the smoker thoroughly cleaned to prevent food contamination. Fire up your smoker to get it as hot as possible, and keep it there for about 20 minutes. Let it cool, and then remove all the internal parts and give them a good clean in hot soapy water.
You may have to pressure wash some of the items to get rid of the mold spores. Once the internal parts are dry, replace them in the smoker and start it up again to remove any final mold and residue from the cleaning process. To stop mold building up inside your smoker, always let it run hot at the end of every cook. Also, store it in a dry place with the vents open.
How Healthy Are Pellet Grills?
Everyone loves grilled food, especially if it has been cooked on an outside grill to give it that deep rich roasted flavor. Since their introduction a couple of decades ago, pellet grills have become the simple way to give a distinct flavor when cooking to your steaks, burgers, and roasts.
The taste of meat cooked on a pellet grill can be outstanding. However, some recent medical studies have suggested a link between eating smoked or grilled meat, and a risk of developing some types of cancer, the most notable being pancreatic cancer.
Pellet grills both smoke and grill the meat, so it’s necessary to understand what happens during the cooking processes, and how that can have a possible effect on your health.
Is usually reserved for tender cuts of meat, that can be cooked at a high temperature relatively quickly. All meat contains animal fat, and it is inevitable that during grilling the fat will hit the fire and burn. A small number of harmful chemicals called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are formed.
These substances are released into the air within the grill and can permeate any meat that is above the fire. Animal studies have shown that eating food containing these chemicals can increase the chances of getting cancer. To avoid contamination by these substances, it is best to prevent any flare-ups, where the flames rise and bathe the food on the grill, and to make sure the meat is not over charred. Meat that has been over charred does not only taste bad but is unhealthy.
Works best when using cheaper cuts of meat, that need to be cooked for a long time at a low temperature. This allows the connective tissue in the meat to break down, making the food tender moist and flavorsome. Smoking relies more on indirect or radiant heat to cook the foodstuffs rather than flames, and works at a much lower temperature, the formation of HCAs is far less of an issue. The heterocyclic amines are present but in much lower concentrations.
The smoke you get from the wood being used in the smoker can be the source of harmful chemicals. These are the same chemicals that add the pleasant smell from the wood to the meat. The compounds are called polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and are a known carcinogen. These PAHs are present in a wide variety of commercially made processed and cooked meats but have higher concentrations in meat that has been home-smoked.
How a pellet grill reduces the adverse effects of grilling and smoking
All this talk of carcinogens can be scary stuff, but it should not get you too alarmed. First off, these chemicals are not found in very high concentrations, and secondly very few of us are eating grilled or smoked meat for every meal. Enjoying a smoked pork shoulder or a grilled burger once in a while is not likely to increase your risk of contracting cancer by any measurable degree. However, if you are gravely concerned about making sure you eat as healthily as possible there as some simple things you can do to reduce this minimal risk even more.
Who doesn’t want to experience the tastiest grilled food, and one of the simplest ways to do that, and make sure your meat is more healthy for you is to marinate the meat before grilling or smoking. A marinade will add a plethora of new flavors to your cooking, and it also forms a protective barrier around the food to stop any harmful chemicals penetrating into the meat.
Trim the meat
Another good way to reduce the likelihood of heterocyclic amines being formed is to simply cut as much fat away from the meat you are intending to grill. This will reduce the chance of any fat falling into the flames to be burned and the chemicals released.
Cook less fatty meats
Red meats such as beef and pork generally have more fat content, so why not try leaner meats such as turkey or chicken. White meats can be just as tasty and have a lower fat content, and with a good marinade or rub can have a fantastic flavor.
A lot of people will grill vegetables alongside any meat on the grill as its always nice to have an accompaniment. However, the grilled vegetables can be a meal on their own. They can easily hold the smoky flavor you get from using your pellet smoker so why not give it a try.
Be proactive in your cooking
The shorter the cooking time, or the lower the temperature, the less likely you will create those chemicals that can increase the cancer risk. Processed meats like sausages or fish take much less time to cook on a pellet grill than pork or beef. However, if you don’t want to give up your favorite piece of brisket or pork shoulder, you could always part cook the meat in your oven or microwave, and finish off the cooking using your pellet grill. The effect of this is similar to marinating. The outside of the meat is sealed before it comes into contact with the smoke from our pellet grill, and thus the harmful chemicals cannot penetrate into the food.
Keeping everything clean
Always make sure that the cooking surfaces of your pellet grill are cleaned after each cook. The build-up of soot and debris within the grill will contain the harmful chemicals, and they should not be left inside to contaminate your next cook.
OK, so we know the grilling and smoking processes created chemicals which could increase the risk of cancer. There are studies which have shown there is an elevated risk, but even that is very small indeed, and not all the studies so far have come up with the same conclusions. So, honestly, there is no definitive result to prove the case.
Man has been cooking over open fires for thousands of years, and it hasn’t proved to be a killer, so it’s probably best to understand the possibility of risk and take any action you think appropriate.
Q. Can I use my pellet smoker in a cold weather season?
A. yes it is possible to use it in a cold weather season. It is however important to consider that some pellet smokers work better in cold weather conditions than others. Pellets grills that have been tuned into ideal conditions use a standard non-PID controller making them to lose their temperature range maintenances ability in windy or cold weathers.
The PID controller though after measuring the temperatures of the pellet smoker, it maintains the heat produced to achieve the desired temperatures in all conditions.
Q. What is the difference between the smoke flavor produced by pellets and wood chips or wood chunks?
A. The main difference is that pellets produce smoke flavor that is milder than a traditional offset and cleaner. Pellets burn cleanly making the flavor and smoke more purified. The food hence will have a lighter flavor and no heavy smoke produced.
Q. What are the recommended flavors that I should use?
A. There are two mostly and popular pellet smoker flavors. Apple and hickory. With these two types of flavors, one can cook entirely anything. When cooking poultry or pork, hickory is the best flavor. It is though a strong flavor to be used in cooking red meat. Apple on the other side can be good on vegetables and seafood but can also be used when cooking poultry, red meat and pork.
Q. After buying my pellet smoker, where is the most appropriate place to store my pellets?
A. pellets can easily be affected by humidity and moisture, making the user to be very careful when storing the pellets. A dry place with extremely no moisture or humidity is conducive. Moisture and humidity can cause difficulty or no lighting of the pellets when one is cooking. The pellets can hence swell causing jam in the cooking grill.
Q. What is the recommended duration of a pellet bag last?
A. Cooking pellets depend on the amount of heat temperature used in cooking. On normal circumstances, a pound of cooking pellets should last a duration of an hour to an hour and a half when cooking at a temperature of 250 degrees in ideal conditions of no wind. When the temperatures are increased, the number of burning pellets also increase because the pellets tend to burn more quickly. In cold weather conditions, the pellets tend to burn faster that in normal or sunny weather conditions.
Q. While using the smoker, does it really matter the brand of pellet one is using?
A. The brand of the pellet does not matter when cooking in a grill. The quality of the pellets matter. Most pellet smoker companies would recommend for a buyer to use pellets from their own models. This is because they want to insist on use of quality pellets and selling their products too. Though any good quality pellet can be used to cook in model of a pellet smoker and cooker.
When you buy the best pellet smoker, you get a unit that automatically controls the temperature of your food; this is great for people who don’t want to sit around and keep a careful eye on their unit all day. The units come with many accessories, so you have many choices when it comes to what you want your unit to do.
Always make sure that you get a unit that is appropriate for the size of the meals you are going to be cooking; you don’t want to buy a small unit that only allows you to cook for yourself. The units can be heavy, so if you are going to be moving your smoker a lot, you probably want to buy something that is a little lighter and comes on wheels.
If you find a unit from a dependable manufacturer, you’ll get a great warranty; this ensures that your unit will last you a long time.