How to Use Wood Pellets in Charcoal Grill | Add Extra flavor on Barbecue Using Wood Pellets

If you are a grilling person and want to get delicious smoke in your meat, you will need to add some pellets with the coal. Not only grill, but you can also put pellets to a smoker, too. In this article, I will describe how to use wood pellets in charcoal grill easily so you can grab the technique within no time.

Have you ever tried using wood pellets with charcoal? Wood pellets are supposed to add a uniquely delicious flavor and aroma to the grilled food. You may think it is for the pro grillers but, that’s not the case at all. 

If you want a smokey flavor using a charcoal grill, only the coals are not enough, you will need to use a proper amount of pellets, too. Here I am going to share how to use wood pellets in charcoal grill so you can easily get the trick whether you are new to grilling or not. 

What are Wood Pellets

When wood, sawdust, energy crops, wood chips, and other elements are in a compressed, small, tubular form through the exposition of some binding agents, it is known as wood pellets. They are widely used as fuel material to bring a unique flavor and smoke to the grilled food. 

Although they look like tiny bullets, they provide a powerful impact on the meat. They give you the uniqueness that you won’t get from gas, charcoal, or other cooking fuels. Some pellets are made only for grilling food, they are known as barbeque pellets, they are becoming more and more popular in outdoor grilling history

Can You Use Wood Pellets in a Charcoal Grill? What are The Benefits of Using Wood Pellets?

The answer, in a nutshell, is, yes, you can use pellets as fuel in a charcoal grill, so it is not necessary to have a pellet smoker. If you mix pellets with charcoal properly like mixing charcoal with briquette, it will facilitate the cooking process and give you some extra benefits along with the flavor that I’ve mentioned below–

Flavor- This is the main reason for using pellets while grilling. Pellets provide a wide range of flavor and aroma to the meat. Different types of flavors match with different types of meat. 

Efficiency- They are more efficient than other fuels, like charcoal, gas, or fossil oil. It’s because they can use up to 90% of the energy that they contain and convert them into heat. 

Cleanliness- The pellets burning process is cleaner than the other fuels as they do not contain any scrap or bark wood. Also, they produce about only 1% ash making the grill easy to clean, so it will not make your hands dirty. 

Temperature- It is important to keep a consistent temperature while grilling but logs, coals, or other fuels usually do not provide that much consistency than pellets. 

Eco-friendliness- If you are aware of using environmentally sound products, you will love to use pellets, as they are repurposed materials that are made from byproducts of wood. Also, you can find chemicals and additives-free pellets as well.

Carbon dioxide- Pellets usually produce a much lower amount of carbon dioxide and thus, it will not make the air suffocate by creating a local greenhouse effect.  

It is a great idea to mix some pellets with charcoal so you can get all the advantages from pellets along with the mouth-watering flavor and taste.

How to Use Wood Pellets in Charcoal Grill – Get The Most From Wood Pellets

Using wood pellets in a grill is not a hard task. All you need to do is follow some simple steps one by one and you will find it as easy as grilling with other fuels. 

Step 1: Firstly, remove the grate of the grill. Fire up some coal using crumpled newspaper and chimney starter, and switch the grill on. Now wait for a few moments and let the coal to heat up. Make sure to keep the vents open widely. 

Step 2: Once the grill is properly heated, add the wood pellets to the charcoal. As you just want to bring a flavor to the food, don’t put the excessive amount, only a thin layer of pellets will work effectively. You can sprinkle a little amount and gather a load on top. If you want about thirty to forty minutes of smoke, then 1/3rd or ½ cup of the wood pellet is enough. 

Step 3: Once the pellets begin to flare up, the grill is ready to cook food. You can easily get to it as the pellets start to emit wood flavor at this point. Now you can start cooking the meat. 

Step 4: Keep the lid of the grill closed and pinch the vents to keep it half-open. If you want to close or open them, use the grill thermometer to check the temperature. Do not forget to wear a pair of heatproof hand gloves.  

Step 5: You can remove the lid from the grill after 30-40 minutes and add some more pellets if more time is required. 

Step 6: If you want to smoke jerky, brisket, or any other thing that requires more than two hours, you should use a pellet smoker tube. You will need to fill up the tube with BBQ pellets, and light them. That’s all, then up to five hours, the tube will produce smoke from the pellets. 

You need to keep in mind that the smoke produced by the smoker tube is more robust. To avoid this problem you will need to keep the ventilation system properly workable, otherwise, you will end up having over-smoked and bitter food. 

Is Wood Pellet Grilling Healthy?

When you grill food with wood pellets or charcoals, a carcinogenic substance is formed called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Also, if juice and fat drip onto the fire from meat, it causes the flame to coat the food with PAHs above the fire. 

Like the other wood and wood materials, pellets also produce carbon monoxide gas that is considered a silent killer gas. Long time exposure to carbon monoxide can be harmful, so always keep a distance from the smoke that is producing from the grill. 

Now you know about the precautions that need to be maintained while grilling food. According to scientists, there is no enough evidence about the topic ‘pellet grilling is safer than the rest of the grilling methods’. But it is not that harmful as well. If you keep yourself away from the smoke and maintain all the precautions, it will be fine to grill with wood pellets.

Types of Wood Pellets & Their Flavour Profile

Wood pellets can be categorized depending upon a variety of characteristics. The two main types of wood pellets are—

Hardwood pellets: These pellets have a relatively higher density and a long burning time. 

Soft wood pellets: These pellets have a high concentration of lignins which creates high temperature. 

Wood pellets are also classified based on their uses. They are—

Barbecue pellets: These pellets are specially produced for BBQ grills or smokers. You can get the most delicious wood-fired flavor to the cooked meat from these pellets. 

Heating pellets: These are produced to flare up home heaters. They usually contain some harmful ingredients and chemicals, so using this type of pellets for grilling or smoking is not a good idea at all.

The barbecue wood pellets are further classified based on the types of flavor, like mild, moderate, and more, that is flavor profile—

Apple

It is one of the best mild woods you can get for grilling. For chicken breast and chopped pork, it can be the top pick, but it will not do the same job in the case of stronger meats (lamb, beef) 

Alder

This is considered as a multi-purpose pellet that is suitable for any types of vegetables or steaks. It will give you a clean smoke but it does not produce any particular flavor. 

Cherry

It is also a mild-flavored pellet that provides sweetness to pork and beef. It is not suitable for seafood. Also, be careful while cooking with this particular variant as it can give a reddish hue to the cooked food. 

Pecan

It is a nutty, rich wood having a beck of spice. It can be the top pick if you are planning to make homemade cornbread.

Maple

It has a natural sweetness and thus it is a good match for turkey or poultry. Maple- smoked poultry or turkey with roasted potatoes and cranberry sauce is one of the best combinations you should try. 

Oak

The intensity of smoke is a little bit higher in oak pellets. Beef tenderloin grilled with oak pellets has become a staple menu. Also, oak provides a unique complexity, and firms the white-fleshed fishes, too.

Hickory

It has a strong flavor among the grilling community. It can produce a bitter aftertaste if used in a large quantity or used as the main fuel. So, mix it with alder or apple to minimize the intensity of the pellet. But if you use it on a charcoal grill, you don’t need to worry. You can get a slice of smokey pork from hickory. 

Mesquite

One of the most intense flavor producing woods that will overwhelm the taste, but you will need to mix it with some mild pellets to decrease the intensity. Beef briskets can be smoked with this pellet. 

Isn’t it amazing to have such a wide range of flavors for different food? Once you start using pellets with the regular grill, you will feel the difference immediately.

Which Wood Pellets are Best for Charcoal Grills

Now you must be thinking, out of all types of wood pellets, which one should you buy? Well, it depends on the item that you want to grill. I already have mentioned above the flavor profile of wood pellets. Now It’s your choice to buy pellets for a charcoal grill, but you should keep in mind some necessary suggestions—

  • Always make sure to buy barbecue wood pellets instead of heating wood pellets (you already know the reason) 
  • All kinds of pellets are not eco-friendly. Make sure to buy those pellets which are safe for the environment. 
  • Try to avoid purchasing pellets containing chemicals or additives. 
  • If you want to use the pellets that produce a high amount of flavor, buy some mild pellets along with them.

You can choose any pellets from the flavor profile, all the pellets will work with the charcoal grill perfectly. All you need to do is, keeping some points in your mind while buying your desired wood pellets. 

Are Wood Pellets Better Than Wood Chips | Wood Pellets VS Wood Chips

Sometimes it becomes hard to pick one from wood pellets and wood chips for grilling or smoking as there are some considerable differences between the two types of wood. Here, I will try to clear the confusion so that you can easily decide which one is best for you.

When hardwood pieces run through a machine and form rough-edged little pieces, they are called wood chips. There are numerous variations of a package of chips in their size and shape. On the other side, wood pellets come with a uniform small tubular appearance. 

Wood pellets provide an even smokey flavor, and wood chips burst the natural flavor. You can mix wood chips with stronger flavored pellets to get a less intense flavor. 

Wood chips usually burn quicker than pellets, so you will need to soak them before use. Soaked chips won’t burn faster, also will produce steam that will keep the meat decadent and moist.  

Both the wood pellets and chips have their own advantages, so both varieties of wood can be used for grilling according to the type of food you want to cook. If you want juicy meat, you will need to use some pre-soaked chips. 

Wood chips can be used in a grill, but it is not wise to use them in a smoker, as they create a bitter-tasted smoke. 

Should You Soak Wood Pellets

It is better to soak wood chips before grilling because it will make the meat juicier than normal. But if you use wood pellets, you should not soak them before using them. 

Pellets are formed by the grounding of hardwood, they are specially made for barbeque, so they produce sterile smoke without soaking. They are easier to use if not soaked before use. 

FAQ

  • Which wood pellets produce the most smoke?

Hardwood pellets usually produce the most intense smoke, like hickory and mesquite. On the other side, fruit woods, like apple, peach, grapevine, or pear produce lighter smoke.

  • At what temperature do wood pellets smoke?

At about 225°F the wood pellets start producing smoke. You should not set your grill temperature above 225°F before the meat gains 135°F. It is the time when meat stops absorbing smoke.

  • Will adding wood pellets change the flavor?

Yes, adding wood pellets can completely change the flavor. Each type of wood imparts a different flavor profile that I’ve already mentioned above. You can get your desired flavor by adding pellets to the grill.

  • How Much wood pellets do I need?

It depends on the weather conditions and the temperature, as the cold and wind may increase the consumption of pellets. Normally, you will need about ½ pound of pellet for an hour for smoking, and about 2 pounds for a high temperature. 

  • Can You Substitute Wood Pellets For Charcoal?

The best option is not to replace charcoal with pellets. You can do it, but you need to keep in mind that charcoal grills are specially designed for the main fuel, charcoal. And the pellets are not exactly made for the charcoal grill. 

So it is better to add a few amounts of pellets with coal to complement it. If you want to grill only with pellets, make sure to use food-grade or barbeque pellets that are made for human use only.

Conclusion

I hope you’ve got a clear conception about how to use wood pellets in charcoal grill and the other details as well. If you are new to grilling, you can start with the simple steps. 

Basically, it is a trial and error thing, once you get a good idea about the food and flavor, you can try different tricks to get variation. 

Nowadays many outdoor cookers prefer wood pellets over other fuels, but the sad news is, pellets are not available everywhere. If you are lucky enough to get them easily, you can go for it undoubtedly.

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