If you have any experience grilling, then you’ve probably heard of pellet grills. These fancy devices have risen in popularity over the years, but if you’ve never used one before, it can make you wonder, is a pellet grill a true grill? Or is it something else entirely?
Pellet grills can grill (hence the name), as well as smoke, cook, bake, braise, barbeque, and roast. They were invented in the ’80s as an easier way to smoke, but over time they’ve grown to be one of the most versatile and user-friendly grills out there for grill masters and beginners alike.
Pellet grills are really as good as they seem. They can do it all, and if you’re looking into buying a grill, the pellet grill is the perfect tool for you. So, let’s dive a little deeper!
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How Do They Work?
When most people think of grills, they think of the meat laid out on the grill rack, spitting and crisping up as the charcoal burns underneath. While that is how basic charcoal grills work, the pellet grill is a little different.
Pellet grills, for starters, don’t use charcoal at all. They use wood pellets (small cylinders of hardwood that have been cut, dried, ground into sawdust, and then pressurized to be formed into tiny pellets) to heat the grill.
These wood pellets come in a variety of flavors, such as mesquite, charcoal, apple, hickory, cherry, maple, oak, pecan, and more. So when you grill your meat in a pellet grill, you’re basically cooking it and smoking it at the same time, because the meat will come out smoked with whatever flavor of pellet that you put in there. If you end up with a pellet grill, but you like the charcoal flavor better, don’t despair. You can still buy charcoal-flavored pellets (just don’t try to use actually charcoal in your pellet grill).
You can even mix different wood pellet flavors to reach grill perfection. Hickory, cherry, and maple are said to achieve a perfect, classic BBQ blend. Mixing half mesquite and half apple achieves a nice mild and tangy smoke that pairs well with pork. Mix, match, and find the flavors that work for you.
Pellet grills have a chamber, called a hopper, that houses the wood pellets. The wood pellets are funneled down from the hopper into an auger motor, which is basically a corkscrew that slowly churns the wood pellets into a fuel chamber whenever more heat is needed for cooking. The fuel chamber ignites the wood pellets. While burning, they provide the heat, flame, and smoke, which billows up to the grill, effectively cooking and smoking the meat.
Most grills require a lot of management by the grill master. Usually, the griller has to check on the meat every hour or so, pulling out their thermostat and adding more wood/charcoal to keep the temperature up. But not so in the case of the pellet grill.
Pellet grills either have a temperature pad or dial that you set before you start cooking. The pellet grill then starts churning wood pellets into the combustion chamber, preheating like an oven. To keep the temperature from getting too high, pellet grills have intake fans that blow on the flame to keep it from getting out of control.
How to Use Pellet Grills
Pellet grills are extremely easy to use, hence why they’ve grown so popular over the last forty years. All you have to do is put your wood pellets into the hopper, set the desired temperature, and then put your meat in the grill once it’s heated. You don’t have to worry about checking on the meat every thirty minutes to an hour, and you don’t have to try and calm down a roaring fire. The pellet grill does all the work.
Another amazing feature of the pellet grill is the added app functionality. You might be wondering, “why on earth would I need to hook up my pellet grill to an app on my phone?” But it just makes everything ten times better. Pellet grills with app functionality are able to hook up to your phone at all times.
So, if you are driving home from work, and you want the grill to be preheated for when you get back, you can use the app to turn it on. And if you’re stuck in traffic for longer than you expected, you can turn the pellet grill off with that same app so it doesn’t become a fire hazard.
You can even turn on the pellet grill to cook your meat overnight and set it to alert you if there are any problems. You don’t have to stay up all night babysitting your grill—you can have a well-deserved rest and then wake up to glorious brisket in the morning.
Benefits of Pellet Grills
Pellet grills aren’t just easy, but they’re also relatively cheap. They cost around $300-$500, and they run on electricity and wood pellets. Electricity is already cheap (only 13 cents per kWh), and wood pellets cost around $18 for a twenty-pound bag. If one hour of cooking takes roughly one pound of wood pellets, then each hour of cooking with wood pellets costs a little bit less than a dollar.
The ease of pellet grills also makes it possible for a new griller to make more complicated meals, such as beef brisket. You can cook, smoke, barbeque, grill, or do practically anything you can dream of with a pellet grill, because it’s almost like a convection oven for grillers. You can even bake deserts in your pellet grill, sometimes quicker than the oven can.
Their versatility is extremely helpful, not only while grilling, but also if you’re trying to convince other members of the family as to why you should get one. They can use it to bake muffins or cake, and you can use it to perfect that all-too sought-after juicy beef brisket.
With the app functionality, ease of wood pellets, helpful fans, and a plethora of tasty meals, it’s a wonder why everyone doesn’t own a pellet grill. Yes, they can grill, but they can also do so much more.
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