Pellet grills are famous for their user-friendly nature for grill-master and newbies alike. But does that ease of use mean that you can leave them unattended for long periods of time? Or do you have to babysit a pellet grill just as much as you have to babysit a charcoal grill?
Pellet grills can be left unattended if they are cooking on low and at least four feet away from the house. Leaving a pellet grill unattended on high is just as dangerous as leaving an oven cooking on high unattended. Cleaning out the grill will prevent it from being a fire hazard.
Keep reading to learn more about how to use pellet grills (and all types of grills) safely without burning the grill and your house down.
How to Use Safely
One of the biggest draws of the pellet grill is the fact that it’s so easy to use. You put the perfect blend of wood chips into the hopper, set the temperature, and ten minutes later (after it’s fully heated), you can put in your meat. It’s that simple. But some of this simplicity can make people abandon it altogether.
When the pellet grill is cooking something, you don’t have to babysit it constantly like other grills. You don’t have to tend to the fire and add more wood and check the meat. But that doesn’t mean you should just abandon it. You should stay at home and check on it every few hours or so, especially if it’s cooking for a long time. And especially if it’s cooking on high. You could watch a show on your phone or read a book outside while it’s cooking, but don’t leave it unattended. There’s always a chance that something will go wrong. Pellet grills aren’t perfect, and we’d hate for you to learn that the hard way.
If you have an app connected to your pellet grill, you can leave the pellet grill unattended as long as you have notifications on for your pellet grill. If the grill starts heating up too much, have it set so the app will notify you. That way, you can still go about your business inside while simultaneously being aware of how the pellet grill is doing outside.
You should also keep the grill at least four feet away from your house. This is just an extra measure, just in case the fire gets too out of control—then it won’t spread to your house.
Causes of Pellet Grill Fires
The very nature of a grill is the heat. Unfortunately, that also means that grills, even the “safest” or most “user-friendly” ones, are, by nature, fire hazards. Pellet grills are built to avoid fires, but like anything else, things can go wrong if you’re not taking care of your grill properly.
There are two main reasons that pellet grills catch fire: the wood pellets have clumped together in the burn pot, or there is too much grease in the grease tray.
Wood pellets clump together in the burn pot and auger channel if they’ve been exposed to moisture. Moisture makes these dry pellets prone to clumping together in huge masses, which can make the burn pot stuck open and continually receiving more wood pellets, even if the fire doesn’t need anymore. Then an even bigger fire can start, and even with the fans blowing on it, it will be much harder to put out.
To prevent this problem, keep your wood pellets from getting moist or exposed to water. If your pellet grill is outside (as it should be) you can put a cover over the whole grill and hopper to prevent rain from getting to the wood pellets. Or, if you don’t plan on using your grill for a few months, take all the pellets out and store them somewhere dry until you want to grill again.
Most pellet grills have a back hatch that makes it easy to remove all unused wood pellets from the burn pot so they won’t clog the pot the next time you want to grill.
You should also clean out the burn pot (also called a firepot) every three times you grill. Make sure the pellet grill is unplugged and fully cooled down before cleaning. Watch the video below to learn how to clean out a burn pot:
Dealing with greasy drip trays is much easier than cleaning out the burn pot. You can put a new liner in the drip tray every time you grill—just remove it once all the grease is solid for the next time. If you don’t clean out the excess grease, it is more likely to build up in the grill and start a fire.
What to Do if My Pellet Grill Catches on Fire?
Sometimes grills catch on fire, but it’s only a few moments of flames licking the bars before they retreat back down under the meat. But pellet grills have a metal tray between the burn pot and the grates, so they don’t flare up like normal grills. When they catch on fire, they catch on fire.
When we say “fire,” we mean when the flames are roaring and reaching a few feet above the grill. If this happens to your grill, do NOT douse it in water or flour. It could be a grease fire, and water or flour will only make it worse. Dousing it in water might also ruin electric wiring, and pellet grills aren’t cheap.
What you should do is close the lid, preventing the fire from getting more oxygen. If you’re lucky, the fire might suffocate on its own smoke in the grill, and you won’t have to worry about anything else. But just to be safe, if you can, you should pull the grill even further away from the house. If it gets too bad, you might have to break out a fire extinguisher, but don’t worry. Once the grill is cooled down, you can clean it off and use it again.