Pellet smokers are and “all in one” outdoor oven, BBQ and smoker fuelled by wood pellets instead of gas or charcoal.
You can use a pellet smoker to cook up your Aussie BBQ favourites such as snags and steaks but also do low ‘n’ slow classics like briskets and ribs which you would otherwise have to cook in a smoker. Versatility is the key with a wood pellet smoker as you can cook just about anything in them.
With modern wood pellet smokers, you set the desired temperature on the controller as you would with an oven, and it takes care of the rest, delivering the wood pellets to the fire-pot to maintain the heat output. A big misconception that people have is that pellet smokers will not give you the same results as a traditional offset smoker, but this is far from the truth, and more and more serious BBQ teams are now using pellet smokers for their competition cooking.
Pellet smoker vs pellet grills
What is the difference between a pellet smoker and a pellet grill? They mean the same thing. You’ll commonly see people referring to them as pellet grills in the United States and pellet smokers here in Australia.
We’ve seen many brands getting creative by saying that they have some patented buzzword technology that will ensure better cooking experience but the actual technology behind pellet smokers has not really changed over the years.
How it works
For a brief overview of how Z Grills Pellet Smokers work, check out this page.
Generally, pellet smokers will have a hopper on the side or at the back of that can hold around 7-10kg of wood pellets, enough for up to 25 hours of cooking. Wood pellets are fed by an auger (spiral metal rod) into a fire-pot where the wood is ignited by an electric resistive ignition rod, sometimes also referred to as a hot rod. An electronic controller monitors the temperature in the grill cooking area and turns turns on/off the auger to feed as many pellets as needed to maintain the set temperature. Most modern pellet smoker controllers run on a PID (Proportional Integral Derivative) logic that works like a feedback loop to gradually “learn” the right amount of pellets to deliver to maintain the set temperature.
There is also a fan located under the hopper that forces air into the fire-pot. This air feeds the fire with a constant supply of oxygen but also acts like a fan-forced oven, circulating the heat (and smoke) around the food and then out the chimney.
At lower temperatures, the fan will force less air into the fire-pot causing the wood to smoulder, providing more smoke. The opposite happens at higher temperatures and the fire burns very cleanly with almost no visible smoke.
Our entire range of pellet smokers are designed with a sloped drip tray which drains oil into a bucket on the side of the grill for easy disposal. This design keeps the oil separated from the ash which means that cleaning up is as easy as vacuuming the fire-pot, replacing the foil on the grease tray and emptying the drip bucket.
Now that we know how pellet smokers work, the key question is how well does it cook? People who cook on an offset smoker are often concerned about a lack of smoky flavour from a pellet grill, but the reality is fantastic low ‘n’ slow results can be achieved. A key advantage vs an offset is the stability of the cooking temperature and no need to babysit the fire.
We sponsor quite a few BBQ teams throughout Australia who actively compete in the various BBQ competitions and they regularly win prizes for the food they cook on their Z Grills pellet smoker.
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Lamb hand in lamb ribs ,lamb shank chunks and back strap @bbqbeerroadshow in Brisbane mixture of @heathrilesbbq everyday rub , cherry rub and topped with a peach rub sauced with 50/50 mix of bbq sauce and vinegar sauce Beef ribs sliced then butterfly then rolled All cooked in the Zgrills @zgrillsoz Thanks to @lownslowmeatco for supplying the meat #heathrilesbbq #zgrills #beefribs #lamb #lambribs #ribsnpigsbbq #thebarbecueco
WHAT ELSE CAN I COOK
A wood pellet smoker isn’t just great a cooking meat with lovely smoke rings. It is easy to cook bread, cakes, pies, fish, veggies and pretty much anything you would do in a conventional oven or on a BBQ as the grill can operate up to 230ºC
Instead of charcoal and wood chunks, the main source of fuel used in a pellet smoker is food-grade wood pellets.
Wood is processed into fine chips and then heated and compressed at specific temperatures and pressure. This process causes the lignin from the wood fibre to naturally bind everything together and leave a shiny surface on the pellet which is a sign of good pellets. There is no need to add any chemicals to glue them together.
Not all pellets are created equal, and so it is essential to only use food-grade pellets designed for use with wood pellet smokers. There are many types of wood types available and some can provide very distinctive flavours to the food. For example, hickory pellets are known to infuse a strong smoky bacon-like flavour which makes it a popular choice for briskets and ribs, while a wood like alder is great for cooking chicken or fish. In most cases people start with a milder flavour wood and look to explore different types of wood as their pellet smoker cooking experience develops.
An argument sometimes raised by gas BBQ advocates is that wood pellets are more expensive. This is certainly true when considering $/kWh of heat energy, but if you work out the cost per cook, they are still extremely affordable. For example, a 10kg bag of quality wood pellets in Australia will cost between $25 and $30 AUD and can do between 15 and 25 hours of cooking. It is also important to appreciate the versatility of the grill and awesome flavours and cooking results you can get. Also consider that you will be cooking restaurant quality food at home, saving $$ vs going out for dinner. ????
Is a pellet smoker the right choice for you?
Pellet smokers are a great choice for the backyard cook who wants to get a bit more adventurous but stills wants convenience and simplicity of use. So many people get their first pellet grill with just smoking meat in mind and end up doing so much more cooking with it.
Here are some key reasons to consider a pellet smoker:
- Extremely versatile cooking
- Easy to clean after finish cooking
- No need to babysit
- Cook amazing food
Think of it this way, the next time you throw a BBQ, would you rather babysit your grill while your mates and family have a good time or let your pellet smoker do the cooking for you.
If you are still not sure if a pellet smoker is right for you, check out what people are cooking up on theirs.