Getting Started with Pellet Grills - What you need to know

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  • By Doug Pepperdine
  • Posted in Grilling
Getting Started with Pellet Grills - What you need to know

Learn about Grilling with real wood in the fastest growing segment of Home Cooking. Better than any restaurant, wow your friends, impress your guests and be the envy of your neighbourhood. A Pellet grill by Traeger can turn your average cookout into an iconic occasion with great food, folks and fun!

What is a pellet Grill?

This is and excellent question and one that we hear everyday.  Most people are familiar with the good 'ol gas grill, or the charcoal grill, or the offset smoker or something of the sort, but Pellet grills are different than all of them.  Why?  Because they do everything that all of the others do, only with more convenience, and they give amazing flavour to boot!

When you use a pellet grill, it's almost like using an oven but rather than electricity, you're using wood for the heat.  As a by-product of that heat, you also get smoke which is what gives your meat that great barbecue flavour.  Traeger, which is the brand of grills that we believe in most, uses and electronic controller that monitors the heat inside the grill and then pushes pellets through an auger system in order to maintain the best possible temperature.  This process balances the temperatures inside the grill and gives you extremely even cooking with almost no possibility of a flare-up.  There are many different sizes of grills with different features so you're sure to find one that fits your lifestyle and your budget. 

Click Here for our line of Traeger Grills

Ironwood Pellet Grill

What are the pellets made of?

Cooking Pellets are made of hardwood ranging from Maple, Mesquite, Pecan and many other varieties.  There are also blends of wood that help tune the flavour of your cook to any way you want.  The Pellets are high density extruded wooden cylinders that contain only wood (no glue or binders). Some Pellets are better for some foods than others.  There are delicate woods like Alder and Maple which won't over power subtle meats, and then there are stronger woods like Hickory and Mesquite which are great for stronger flavoured meats.  The blends are always a good choice as well or if you want the highest possible BTUs for colder days then Oak is your go-to.  Here at the shop we can certainly advise you on the best wood for your food.  Click here for all the woods we carry.  CAUTION - Do not use soft woods (heating stove pellets) to cook food.  Softwoods give off toxic chemicals that can harm you.

Beside is Traeger's Flavour Guide for many of the hardwood pellets they make. 

Click Here to See Lumberjack Pellet's Flavour Guide

Pellet Guide 

 

What can you cook on these?

This is another great question and the short answer is, "Just about anything".  The beauty of these grills is that you can use them to cook a wide variety of foods, from vegetables, to pizza and, of course, any kind of meat.  

Choosing the right kind of meat is important though because they don't all cook the same.  You can cook Low and slow or hot and fast and the way you set your grill determines how the finished product turns out.  It's important to always buy good quality meat if you're going to be spending time preparing it.

If you're a Vegetarian, there's good news for you too.  Pellet smokers aren't just for meat!  Veggies take on smoke flavour just as well as meat... Even better in some cases.  A mixed Veggie tray of multicoloured peppers and onions prepped with your favourite evoo and spice is sure to please!

 

Low and Slow

Fatty meats like Brisket, Ribs, Chicken thighs, and Pork Shoulder really benefit from the low and slow method of cooking.  Low and Slow usually means cooking at 225 degrees (fahrenheit) or lower.  225 is pretty standard as a starting point and most pit-masters agree that that is the temperature best suited to most meats of this kind.  A Large Packer Brisket can take as much as 15 hours to completely cook but the finished product melts in your mouth with so much beefy flavour that you'll never order restaurant brisket again.  Here at the shop we can give you instructions on exactly how to cook a brisket from the trimming to the type of rub to use and even how to make a killer sauce that's both sweet and savory.  Ribs that fall off the bone are within easy reach of any pellet grill enthusiast and we can show you the best combination of rubs, woods, and sauces to start with before you change things up to make them your own.  Fatty meats can be cooked hot and fast but with mixed results.  Meats with lots of fat and collagen need the time to break it all down into tender goodness. 

 

Hot and Fast

Chicken breast is a great example of this method and they can be tricky to cook on a pellet grill because there is so little fat.  If you try to smoke a boneless, skinless chicken breast at 225, you'll end up with a dried out, stringy, tough piece of meat and your wife and kids will just smile and nod when you ask them how they like it...  You need high heat to cook a chicken breast through before too much water evaporates out of it.  Steaks and Pork chops can be the same although they can benefit from a pre-smoke before searing.  Always have some olive oil, barbecue sauce, apple juice or even water on hand to baste those babies when you're cooking hot and fast....

 

What about combining the two?

That's one of the many great things about a pellet grill.  You can pre-smoke your steak at a low temperature to give it a great smoke flavour and then crank up your grill to get a nice sear on it.  Or, you could finish it with a cast iron pan on the stove-top with some nice rosemary, garlic and butter...mmmm.  The ways to cook are endless and the best part is that you have the control to experiment.  Very often... say when you're cooking thanksgiving dinner, You'll start the bird low and slow and then finish the turkey at high heat to crisp up the skin before you carve the bird.  If you've never had pellet smoked turkey then you're in for a special delight.  Here's the recipe that I often use to wow my guests.

The great news is that there are thousands of combinations of Meats, Woods, Rubs and sauces.  So many that it would be hard to try them all.  Plus, the manufacturers are always coming out with different ones to try out.  Check out our selection of Rubs and spices here, and our selection of Sauces and Marinades here