Electric smoker, because of the name itself, causes some people to think that it purely relies on an electric source for its fuel. This kind of smoker has been popular for the convenience and ease it offers in cooking your favorite dish. However, what if I tell you that some electric smokers also use wood? In fact, one of the best kinds of wood to use is pellets.
Pellets and wood chips: the two popular woods for smokers
Pellet is a kind of wood perfect for electric smokers as it offers a deep, rich and thick smoke that would enhance your recipe. However, when hearing the word “wood” for a smoker, what may cross your mind are the wood chips instead of pellets. Both kinds of woods are good for your smokers and can be bought at an affordable price.
Pellet and wood chips similarities and differences
Size and composition
Although both pellets and wood chips are made from hardwood, pellets are finer than wood chips. Pellets are cylindrical in shape and are made from finely grounded hardwood which is then pressed and packed into the said shape. On the other hand, wood chips are tiny shreds of the same material as that of pellets, but the difference is that these are not pressed and packed.
Taste and flavor
Pellets produce a consistent, thick and deeper smoke than that of the wood chips. Wood chips are known to emit a mild bitter smoke with extreme flavor. In terms of flavor, pellets have lesser options having only apple, hickory, and bourbon oak. Wood chips have more variety with five different flavors namely: hickory, mesquite, cherry, oak, and pecan.
Pellets burn slowly, and hence, temperature is easier to control compared to wood chips. Because of this, pellets are more suitable for hot and cold smoking than its wood chip counterpart. The wood chip’s downside is that since it burns faster than the pellets, sometimes, soaking it is needed to ensure its smoke lasts longer.
From the comparison between pellets and wood chips, it is undeniable that pellets are the winner. However, it is not a go signal to go to the store right away to purchase pellets and electric smoker. You should also consider what pellet brand to buy and whether the electric smoker model you are planning to purchase is compatible with pellets. Otherwise, you’ll just be throwing money straight to the thrash.
If you are planning to use pellets instead of wood chips, here are two electric smoker brands you should avoid:
Electric smoker brands which you should not use pellet:
Masterbuilt electric smoker
As a brand, Masterbuilt has built its reputation being the best producer of barbecue smokers. However, whichever model of Masterbuilt you buy, whether the electric, propane or cold smoking attachments, using pellets is not advisable. For these models, it is recommended to use wood chips and wood chunks instead. If you really want to use pellets, you may buy the Masterbuilt pellet smoker which is specifically built for that kind of wood. Other than that, using pellets for its other models is a big no-no.
Despite Masterbuilt’s warning on what to use and not to use for their smokers, consumers still experiment using wood pellets for the electric models. So far, feedback and comments from consumers are positive and they are even encouraging others to try it as well. In the end, the decision is up to you–whether you heed to the brand’s warnings or follow the consumers advice.
Pit boss electric smoker
Just like Masterbuilt, Pit Boss does not recommend using pellets for its electric models. For those who would love to use wood, there is a Pit Boss Grills Wood Pellets, which you can buy online or in their stores. It is still not advisable to use pellets for the said variant. However, despite the brand’s advice, there are still users who have successfully used electric smokers with wood pellets, and so far, nothing bad has happened.
Pellet brands to consider:
Knowing the difference between wood chips and pellets is not enough. Before you purchase pellets, you should know what brands to consider so that you will have the best of the best. It certainly will make a difference in your cooking and barbecuing journey. The brands you should choose will also vary on the flavor you are trying to achieve and the food you are trying to cook. Here are the list of some popular brands to choose from: Pit Boss Natural Hardwood Pellets, BBQr’s Delight, CookinPellets, Traeger Grills Signature Blends, and Louisiana Grills.
Which flavor should you pick?
Remember to pick the pellets or wood chips that complement the meat you’re smoking, same with how you choose wood chips. If you’re planning to cook lamb, use oak, pecan, cherry and hickory flavor. If it is seafood, use apple and mesquite. Here are some other best combinations of flavors and the food you are planning to prepare:
Beef- perfect fit for pecan, hickory, mesquite, and the competition blend wherein it combines maple, cherry and hickory.
Fish- best with flavors such as apple and fruitwood pellets.
Pork- because of its sweet flavor, pork is best partnered with hickory, apple, pecan, and maple, as these enhance its taste.
Poultry- best complemented with lighter flavors such as apple, alder, maple, pecan, and mesquite.
Vegetable- flavors like oak, pecan, maple, cherry and apple.
Dos and don’ts when using wood pellets and wood chips in electric smokers
Even if you buy the best brand of pellet out there, you won’t still be able to maximize its capabilities if you were not able to use it properly. Here are some reminders you should bear in mind before using wood pellets for your electric smoker.
- Do add little bits of pellet at a time, as doing so in bulk may produce a tremendous amount of smoke.
- Do use pellets like how you would normally use wood chips and wood chunks.
- Do wrap your pellet in a tinfoil pack with a few small holes in it if you want to control the smoke.
- Do use a smoke tube or smoke maze.
- Do use appropriate wood pellets for the corresponding temperature and weather condition. Colder and windier conditions means more pellet usage. Normally, a pellet grill consumes half a pound of pellet per 60 minutes.
- Do not leave the pellets unattended because the wood ignites very fast. You may opt to do cold smoking instead.
- Do not use wood pellets if the manufacturer advises against using it with their electric models, otherwise, you’ll void the warranty.
- Do not store your pellets in a moist and wet area, as these turn into mush, commonly called Pellet Crepe. Store in dry areas instead.
- Do not soak your wood chips in water. It will only become smolder because of the lack of oxygen. The water will just evaporate and then the wood will ignite, thus, defeating your purpose of producing smoke.
Buying the best brand of smoker or the best type of pellet or wood chips does not guarantee mouth-watering results. You must consider that the type, kind, and flavor you choose complements the food you are cooking in order to achieve the taste that you are going for. Just randomly picking pellets without following the proper way to use it may give you disastrous results. Pick the right one and enjoy cooking!