Pellet smokers are becoming some of the most popular smoking solutions in the world of barbecue these days – and for good reason!
Super easy to use, super easy to control, and are more predictable than traditional smoker setups, pellets allow you to kick back and relax while smoking in a way that post wood, charcoal, and other fuels can’t.
At the same time, not all pellets are created equally.
Some pellets are going to last hours and hours while others will burn up in a hurry and need to be replenished a couple of times throughout a smoke. Some, of course, are going to sit somewhere in between those two extremes.
Let’s dig a little deeper into the ins and outs of how long pellets really last.
How Long Do Wood Pellets Last in a Smoker, Anyway?
Smokers typically work best with temperatures between 200°F and 250°F. These kinds of temperatures usually mean that your pellets are going to last a few hours (sometimes four or five, sometimes even longer)
What Factors Affect How Long Your Pellets Last
A couple of different factors will play a huge role in how long wood pellets last inside a smoker. These are the ones you’ll want to zero in on before you pick pellets for your next smoke.
Right out of the gate, different pellet types are going to burn at different rates than others.
Some pellets will be tiny, really tightly compressed, and made from only the highest quality wood materials. Others will be lightly packed, a little bit on the oversized side of things, and made from glued-up sawdust from a bunch of different wood materials.
The brand you choose is critical. Their reputation will give you a good idea of how long they should last.
High-quality brands that are one species of wood exclusively with dense material packs are going to last a whole lot longer than run-of-the-mill, department store wood pellets that are anything but consistent.
Further Reading: How Are Wood Pellets Made
Your smoker’s temperature is also going to play a huge role in how long your pellets last.
Smoking is almost always a low and slow kind of affair, with temperatures of between 200°F and 250°F pretty common. These kinds of temperatures usually mean that your pellets are going to last a few hours (sometimes four or five, sometimes even longer) before the hopper needs to be filled up again.
If you have a pellet smoker that does double duty as a grill, though, expect those pellets to get used up a lot faster if you crank the temperatures through the roof.
As soon as you start to push 400°F or higher, you’re going to burn through pellets sooner than you think.
How well insulated and how well-made your smoker is will also determine how consistently you maintain those temperatures and how hard your firebox needs to work to keep your temps dialed in.
Well-made smokers that are almost over insulated will lock in temperatures and allow you to use a lot fewer pellets to get the job done.
Flimsy smokers made from sheet-metal are going to chew through fuel much faster and produce much lower quality BBQ at the same.
Wind, Weather, and Humidity
Environmental factors like wind, weather, and humidity will have a huge impact on your smoker and how efficiently it operates.
Pellet smokers always burn fuel faster on frigid days with a lot of wind compared to bright, sunny, summer days with no breeze at all.
Humidity will help smoke cling to your food a little better and impart more of that smoky flavor, but it’s also going to do a number on your wood pellets when they are in storage.
The ideal humidity for storing wooden pellets for an extended amount of time sits at around 10% or less. That gives your pellets about six months of storage time (give or take a few weeks). Bump humidity higher than 10%, though, and your pellets are going to spoil much faster as they soak the water out of the air.