People all over the world have a type of BBQ tradition that brings them together. Whether you call it grilling meat, BBQ-ing or braaing (a South African colloquial term), it all boils down to taking out your grill and firing up some meat.
Charcoal grills are the preferred equipment to use when grilling because they use an accessible type of fuel.
However, most people don’t know that you can also use wood pellets as fuel for your charcoal grill. Read our guide how to use wood pellets in charcoal grill to know furthermore.
When humans first started grilling meat we burned logs to create the fire but this proved to be a very challenging process.
That’s why grills were later invented to get around this problem and use alternative types of fuel like charcoal, electricity, and gas.
However, in recent years, there has been a resurgence of cooking with wood pellets. Whether this trend is caused by a sense of nostalgia or because of the smoky flavor that wood imparts on meat, we’re not quite sure. But, we did some research to find out.
In this article, we’ll explore the possibility of there being a correlation between wood pellets and the improved meat flavor. We’re going to check out the touted benefits of cooking with wood pellets and find out if it’s okay to use them in a charcoal grill. First, we’ll start by giving you a definition of wood pellets so you understand what exactly they are and how they work.
In this post we'll cover:
What Are Wood Pellets?
Wood pellets are basically a compressed form of wood and sawdust and they’re created through a process of exposing certain binding agents to heat. The most common use of wood pellets is to fuel cooking grills and they’re known for bringing a unique smoked wood flavor to meat that you cannot get any other way.
There are generally two types of wood pellets available to choose from:
- Barbecue Pellets: As the name implies, these wood pellets are specifically created as fuel for BBQ grills and smokers. Using them gives you a real wood-fired meat flavor, similar to the flavor that charcoal imparts on meat.
- Heating Pellets: On the other hand, heating pellets are designed to fuel up home heaters. As such, they have certain ingredients like paint residue and other chemicals that may be harmful to health. That’s why you should never use them to fuel a cooking grill or smoker.
Wood Pellet Benefits
Most people are familiar with using charcoal as a source of fuel for their BBQ grills and they know what they’re going to get from it. However, using wood pellets comes with its own benefits that most people haven’t explored yet.
The following are just a few of the benefits that you can derive from using wood pellets as a source of fuel for your charcoal grill:
- Wood pellets are eco-friendly because they’re made from renewable materials. Their production encourages the repurposing of materials that would otherwise be thrown away.
- Wood pellets are far more efficient when compared to other fuels like fossil oil and gas. That’s because wood pellets are able to use 90% of their contained energy and turn it into heat.
- Wood pellets are available in different types and each offers a different wood-fired flavor. This includes alder, cherry, apple, oak, maple, hickory and mesquite wood pellets.
- Wood pellets impart an undeniable smoky flavor to meat that you’ll enjoy. It’s similar to charcoal but the difference is that wood pellets won’t get your hands dirty.
- Wood pellets produce a nice, even burn and they don’t leave a lot of ash residue. That’s why they make it easier to clean your grill after you’re done cooking.
How to Use Wood Pellets in Charcoal Grill
Yes, it’s absolutely fine to use wood pellets in your charcoal grill but on one condition – you must use premium grade pellets. This means making sure that your wood pellets are barbeque pellets that are designed for human use and not heating pellets which could be dangerous to your health.
Once you find your preferred type of wood pellet, you can then mix it with charcoal and use it to power your charcoal grill.
Can I Use Wood Pellets in a Charcoal Grill?
Yes, Why not and here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use wood pellets in charcoal grill:
- Switch on your charcoal grill by firing up some charcoal.
- Wait for the charcoal to heat up before you sprinkle a generous amount of wood pellets underneath the rock grate.
- Within a short amount of time, the wood pellets should ignite. This is a signal for you to start cooking because they’ll start giving off that nice smoked wood flavor.
- Close the lid to keep the smoke in.
While it’s okay to use wood pellets on their own, you’ll find that they burn too quickly without the charcoal. Some people add foil or use a smoker box to slow down the burning. Generally, a 1/3 cup of wood pellets will get you half an hour of smoke.
Alternatively, you can use a pellet tube smoker to keep the wood pellets in as you combine them with the charcoal. This increases the smokiness of the flavor because it amps up the smoke that’s produced. Pellet tube smokers are affordable as well so it might be worth your while to check them out.
How to Smoke Meat with Wood Pellets
If this is your first time cooking with wood pellets then you’re doing yourself a favor by reading up on how to use them. As with anything, you need to understand the basics first before you can move onto the tricks used by professionals.
Pellet grills are made from hardwood sawdust which is a by-product of furniture and other industries. They’re also a clean source of fuel which means you’re helping to save the environment when using them.
However, the proof is in the pudding, right? Well, wood pellets have definitely passed the taste test as they impart a robust flavor of smoked wood onto meat that you cannot get any other way, except maybe through charcoal. The smoke you get from wood pellets has a better flavor than the smoke that comes from burning natural gas or propane. Not to mention that propane gas tends to dry out food because it heats up too much too fast. On the other hand, a wood pellet grill allows you to cook the meat at your preferred temperature.
Grilling with Wood Pellets
Can wood pellets be used in a smoker? Yes, and nothing beats the taste of wood-fired pizza or meat that’s been smoked over burning wood. You can achieve that same taste using a wood pellet grill and smoker. For the best results, use hardwood pellets as they burn slower and are easier to work with, plus they burn clean.
It’s now possible to burn hardwood in the compressed form of pellets which is much more convenient than using logs but offers the exact same flavor. A wood pellet flame is easier to control and it really opens up your options in terms of the diversity of meals that you can cook on it. Instead of leaving your food with a propane odor, wood pellets give it a nice smoky flavor that tastes like home.
Different Pellet for Different Flavor
Whether you’re making a smoked brisket or grilling burgers, the charcoal grill can do it all, thanks to its built-in pellet door which is conveniently located underneath the pellet hopper. This makes it easy for you to change pellets without slowing down the cooking process.
The million dollar question that you must be asking yourself is, “Can I grill with wood instead of charcoal?” Yes, but to get the most out of your charcoal grill, it’s important to combine it with charcoal in order to extract the most flavor from both fuel sources. Keep in mind that charcoal grills are designed to work with charcoal as the main fuel source, and wood pellets aren’t exactly designed for charcoal grills either.
So there needs to be some common ground between the two which means mixing them together. To simplify the process, some people choose to invest in a pellet tube smoker which gives the same result without the use of charcoal. It’s great at smoking meat and it hybridizes the grill so that it’s able to grill and smoke meat.
Although wood pellets offer several benefits when it comes to grilling meat, they’re not the most popular source of fuel for charcoal grills. A lot of people still use other types of fuel like gas, charcoal and fossil fuels. The biggest challenge that people face with wood pellets is that they’re hard to find. But, if you’re lucky enough to have a place that sells them then you should definitely try them out.
In conclusion, it’s safe to say that wood pellets are a great addition to your charcoal grill as they offer a wood-fired flavor to food that you can’t get anywhere else. They’re ideal to use when grilling different types of meat or grilling meat and vegetables on 225 at the same time. You’ll get the same smoked flavor throughout with evenly-cooked results.
Also read: how to put out a charcoal grill safely