Choosing Pellets for your Pellet Smoker
Pellet smokers are part of new generation of outdoor cookers that are used by thousands and probably closer to hundreds of thousands of households all across the globe. Also known as pellet grills, what makes them special is that they can be used for preparing foods using a wide range of cooking methods. These highly versatile grills and smoker combination units use a unique fuel source called wood pellets.
The pellets are burned inside a burning chamber which produces heat and smoke which makes it possible to use the grill/smoker for a number of cooking methods. The key to getting the best results from a pellet grill is to always use the highest quality fuel source. For this type of grill that means using pellets made from 100% pressed wood products.
The makers of the highest quality fuel for these pellet grills only use materials made up of fibers from hardwood species of trees. There are four very popular types of wood used in creating pellet fuel; Hickory, Cherry, Hard Maple, and Apple. Along with generating a whole lot of heat, these varieties of wood also create a unique combination smoke. There are plenty of other very viable woods species out there, but we’ll focus on these four common ones today.
4 Top Hardwoods Used in Pellet Smokers (and a bonus!)
Hickory – There are 19 varieties of Hickory trees and the wood the is derived from the tree is some of the densest, strong and hardest of all the wood materials. This hardness and denseness of the wood translate into a high energy source. It also creates a unique smelling smoke that adds extra flavor. Hickory tends to be the gold standard when it comes to pros that smoke.
Cherry – Cherry wood is an extremely dense and hardwood that burns very hot and produces a whole lot heat energy. This makes it a very good choice to be included in any blended type wood material for pellets that go into a pellet grill. It also produces a good of smoke that will enhance the flavor of the food that is being cooked.
Hard Maple – The Hard Maple, also referred to as Sugar Maple is where the sap from the trees comes from that is used for making maple syrup. Hard Maple is an extremely dense wood, that is much harder than other varieties of wood and burns really hot. This makes it an excellent choice to be used in wood pellets.
Apple – Apple wood is often chosen for use in wood pellets because it is a very dense and hard wood, which it means that it will burn very hot. The second reason is that it adds a slight, hint of sweetness when burned. This makes it a great choice for smoking and grilling.
BONUS – Look for a blend – When it comes to picking the best wood pellets, there are plenty of options. But, if you can’t make up your mind, choosing a blend can offer you the best of all options. Many of the best competitors out there go this route. We like CookinPellets 40PM Perfect Mix Smoking Pellets. These pellets are a blend of the top 4 hardwoods that we recommend. They give you a great smoke flavor with the hickory base, and add just the right amount of extra flavor from the cherry, maple, and apple woods.
Watch out for fillers and oils
Unfortunately, there are some cheap, low-quality pellets out there that use inferior materials in their manufacturing process. These filler materials include wood from oak and alder trees that produce lesser quality fuel for pellet grilling. The makers of these lesser quality pellets frequently use a combination of cheaper, softer less dense wood and even add oils to the mixture when pressing the pellets. Another issue that comes up frequently when it comes to complaints about some brands of wood pellets is that they aren’t overly concerned about size and shape of their pellets. This potentially could affect how well the pellet feed mechanism within pellet grill/smoker when there are the non-uniform shape and sized pellets inside the hopper that holds them.