10 Things You Should Know Before Buying a Pellet Grill or Smoker
1.What brand should you buy?
It depends on your budget, ability, and goals for your smoker. Not all brands are created equal, but with some practice just about any brand of smoker can produce world class food. Our favorite brands worth considering are Louisiana Grills, Pit Boss Grills, Country Smokers, Camp Chef, Weber Grills, Traeger, Yoder, Green Mountain Grills, Grilla Grills, Broil King.
2. What size of pellet grill is right for you?
Most pellet grills are measured in square inches, so keep in mind that this usually includes the top and bottom racks on a grill, so just because something says it is 800 square inches, the actual main grill size might only be 650. When cooking a whole packer brisket, they are usually 20-30” long depending on the size of the cow. The smallest barbecue I’ve ever cooked a brisket on had an 18” grilling surface, so I had to trim the brisket quite a bit, but I made it work. My theory is that if it fits both your deck and your budget, then get as big as possible.
3. How will you get it home?
I have seen people cram a Pit Boss Grills PB1000 into the back of a 2-door car and I have no idea how they got the door closed. Do not be that guy, plan for a friend with a truck or SUV or have us deliver the BBQ for you. Our delivery radius includes Sherwood Park, Edmonton, Leduc, Nisku, Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, St. Albert, Morinville, Fort Saskatchewan, Acheson, Ardrossan, Devon and all points in between.
4. What is the burn in process?
The burn in process on a grill helps to prime the auger with pellets and burn off any contaminants from packaging, travel, manufacturing and more. Follow the instructions on your owner’s manual carefully so that you do not over fill your fire pot and have a fire in the barrel of your smoker and so that your food does not taste like burning machining oil. The basics are prime your hopper until pellets start falling into the fire pot. Set the smoker to the smoke setting and once you start seeing smoke, wait 10 minutes and then turn the smoker up to 400 degrees. Let it burn at 400 degrees for around 40 minutes, then turn the smoker off and let it go through a proper cool down cycle. Full disclosure, I have never read the manual for some of the brands listed here, but I have done it on Pit Boss Grills, Louisiana Grills, Country Smokers, Weber Grills and Traeger Grills.
5. Never unplug your pellet grill to turn it off.
When you power down a pellet grill you will notice that the fan keeps running for around 8-10 minutes. This is to allow the fire to extinguish naturally, allow the metal to cool and prevent fire from burning back into your hopper. If you just unplug your grill then you can have issues like back burns, seized augers and more, it is good to always allow the grill to follow its shutdown cycle.
6. Why does the heat shield/baffle not sit flat?
The heat deflector or heat shield in a pellet grill is designed to help distribute the heat evenly across the smoker, but it also is designed to catch grease. The grease that hits the deflector should run down to the grease trap or bucket, so it is critical that the heat deflector always is installed correctly to allow the grease to flow smoothly to the bucket. You do not want grease just sitting on the deflector or getting trapped on there, because that is a way to start grease fires.
7. Always make sure your grill is on level ground.
If your barbecue is sitting on a hill with the grease trap at the top of the hill, then any grease that comes out of your meat will run away from the grease bucket and straight into the fire. That is an accident waiting to happen. If you are in a situation where the BBQ is not sitting flat, you can prop up the wheels to help flatten the surface, make sure that if it needs to sit on a hill, then the grease trap or bucket is always downhill from the fire. I had a Pit Boss Grill a few years ago that was kind enough to teach me this lesson.
8. Always cover your grill when not in use.
A grill cover is one of the best investments you can make to extend the life of your new pellet grill. Grill covers protect your barbecue from the rain and snow but more importantly the pellets. When pellets meet water, they basically turn into saw dust and with prolonged exposure, they can turn into concrete in your hopper. So, make sure to always cover your grill when not in use and if you are going to be leaving it for a long time, you should empty the pellets from the hopper to store in a cool dry place. My Louisiana grill always has a cover on it when not in use.
9. How often should you clean a pellet grill?
Most owners manuals say to clean your pellet grill after every cook, but I think that at a minimum it should be every time you go through a bag of pellets. Its important to go in and clean out the ash and clean up the heat deflector at a minimum every 20-30 hours of cooking time. I usually clean my Louisiana grill every 2-3 cooks.
10. How many Pellets should you expect to go through?
Most medium sized pellet grills when burning at 225 degrees burn about 1.5 lbs of pellets per hour. If you cook at hotter temperatures or if it is unseasonably cold outside, then you can expect that number to go up. My Louisiana Grills Founders Premiere 1200 is quite a big grill, so it definitely uses more pellets than that, my best guess would be 2-2.5 lbs per hour on a grill that size.