Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Wood Pellet Grills

By now you have at least heard of a wood pellet grill. So, what the heck are they? How do they work? What about all the rumors I have heard online? Well, folks, I am here to spread the good word!

Wood pellet grills are just that. Grills (really cookers) that use wood pellets as the heat source to cook food.

How a wood pellet grill works is actually very simple. Every wood pellet grill has a hopper to hold the pellets, an auger to feed the pellets and a fire pot to burn the pellets. The hoppers hold anywhere from 20 to 40 pounds of pellets depending on the manufacturer. A digital control keeps an eye on the temperature of the grill. As the temps goes up, the auger motor slows down feeding less pellets causing the temperature to lower. Once it lowers, the digital controller tells the auger motor to move faster so more pellets dump causing the heat to go up and so on and so on. For this reason, NO WOOD PELLET GRILL ON THE MARKET WILL HOLD IT'S TEMPERATURE TO THE DEGREE. PERIOD. I don't care what anyone tells you, it is physically impossible to hold it to the degree. Most wood pellet grills fluctuate anywhere from 10 to 30 degrees. This is perfectly normal. 

As a result, you will see smoke during the downward cycle of above and little to no smoke on the upward cycle. Again, this is perfectly normal. I cannot stress enough that NO wood pellet grill on the market (even the ones with the PID digital controller) will hold it's temp to the degree. 

I have cooked food on so many models of grills and can also tell you that the food that comes off of a $300 dollar wood pellet grill tastes just the same as the food coming off of a $5000 dollar wood pellet grill. The difference in price is usually 1. the name of the manufacturer (Traeger has been riding on it's name for years), where the grill is made (US made grills tend to run $1200 and up), and lastly what "bells and whistles" it has on it. These are not required but sure make using your grill a lot easier. For example, once the pellets burn in the fire pot, just like a fireplace or a campfire, there will be ask left over in the pot. This needs to be cleaned every cook. On most wood pellet grills that means taking all the dirty guts out and sucking out the ash with a shop vac. Camp Chef changed the world a few years ago with their patented ash clean-out system. They put a slide out bottom to the pot and with one pull of a lever, your fire pot is cleaned. Done. 

While some of the other wood pellet grills do not have the ash clean out feature, they might have other features just as cool. The Green Mountain Grills have WiFi capable digital controllers which means you can literally control your grill from anywhere you have data connection on your phone. Many of the grills now actually offer grilling as well. Meaning, they have a feature that allows you to grill hot and fast directly over the fire pot. 

One rumor that drives me nuts is "people who use wood pellet grills are lazy" among other names thrown out. Listen people, if you want to stay up all night babysitting your smoker and watching temps and adding charcoal or wood, etc; then more power to you. No one is saying you cannot continue to do that. You can also continue to use an outhouse instead of indoor plumbing as well. :) In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with innovation. 

I have no problem watching the game, playing a quick round of golf or even sleeping while my barbecue is being cooked. 

Another rumor is that they do not produce a large amount of smoke. I like to use the analogy that about 70% of the public is good with the smoke a wood pellet grill produces, 20% do not think it is enough and maybe 10% think it's too much. The good thing is; if you are in that 20% that the smoke is not enough, there are some solutions. First of all, the wood you use. There is a huge difference between Oak wood and Pecan wood as an example. Usually just using a stronger wood solves the problem. If not, the next step that does not require a ton of investment is a smoke tube. These allow you to "infuse" more smoke into your cook. They are also great for adding an addition smoke flavor to your meat and; more importantly, they are awesome for cold smoking. 

The last rumor I have heard about wood pellet grills is that they are technically not smokers. This is actually true. If you use your wood pellet grill strictly as a smoker, you are missing out on so many culinary possibilities. I tell my customers that I have made cheesecake, cookies, cakes, brownies, cobbler, jerky, sausage, frozen lasagna, just to name a few. They are really "cookers". Anything you can do in your kitchen oven, you can do on a wood pellet grill.  Today, the wood pellet grills even offer direct grilling options which makes them more of an outdoor cooking station than anything. 

Have you heard more rumors? Have you been on social media? If yes, then stop in and talk to Dan or Daren about wood pellet grills and get the real truth about them. :) 

Dan M. 
Colorado BBQ Outfitters