How to Use Your Pellet Grill (Beginner’s Guide)

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Are you wanting to learn how to use a pellet grill?

You’re in the right place!

In this TheGrillingDad.com guide, you’ll learn:

  • Step by Step guide on how to use a pellet grill
  • Pellet grill user tips
  • And much more!
How to Use Your Pellet Grill

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What You Need to Know About Using Pellet Grills

A pellet grill is a unique alternative to a traditional BBQ grill that can truly give you the best of both worlds. Not quite a smoker, but not just a grill, you can give your favorite meats an amazing smoke flavor when you use a pellet grill.

But like any other type of large kitchen appliance, you need to know how to properly use a pellet grill–both for your safety and to ensure your meal turns out just how you want it to! 

We want to make you a pro at using your pellet grill no matter what level you are currently at. Whether you are new to the pellet grill world, or a veteran, read on to learn how to use your pellet grill to achieve the best results.

Supplies Needed to Use Your Pellet Grill

When you first buy a pellet grill, chances are you don’t have any supplies. Although you likely just spent all your money on the pellet grill, there are some supplies you need to be able to operate your pellet grill properly. They are as follows:

  • Wood pellets (we recommend grabbing a few flavors)
  • Grill brush
  • Cooking oil (for the seasoning process)
  • Meat thermometer
  • Temperature probe (if yours doesn’t come with one)
  • Tongs
  • Pellet grill cover (or safe space to store it with no water exposure)
  • Hooks to store your tools (optional)

While the last one on this list is optional, you cannot hope to become a successful pellet grill chef without the others on the list. So gather these items first, then get ready to learn how to use your pellet grill!

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How to Use Your Pellet Grill

Here is a step-by-step process for using your pellet grill. Besides step one, which should only be performed once a year, you should follow these steps each time you use your pellet grill. 

Step 1: Season Your Pellet Grill

Because a pellet grill is part smoker, for best results you will need to season it before you use it. Once you season it once, your pellet grill should be good to go for at least a year. For more information on the seasoning process, head over to our Pellet Grill Seasoning Guide

It’s best to let your pellet grill rest for 24 hours after the seasoning process. 

Step 2: Preheat Your Pellet Grill

Before each use, preheat your pellet grill. This simple step can go a long way to ensuring all your meat is cooked evenly and completely. If you aren’t sure what temperature to smoke your meats, it is always recommended to preheat it to 225°F and go from there. 

Generally, this process will take 10-15 minutes to complete. You should open the lid to see billowing smoke coming out, this is the sign that your pellet grill is ready to go. 

Step 3: Place Meat on the Grill

Place your meat on the grill using the tongs. Or fish, or veggies, or whatever else you plan to cook. A major aspect of success when it comes to cooking on your pellet grill is placing your meats in the right spot on the grill. 

Meat generally should go in the middle of the lower grate, while veggies should go on the higher shelf. Consider using a grilling mat so you don’t have to worry about them falling through the cracks.

Step 4: Close the Lid

It can be tempting to check on your food frequently, but the pellet grill won’t work properly unless the lid is closed. So close the lid and walk away, resisting the urge to check on your food until 5-10 minutes before you expect it to be done (or if you need to flip it).

Step 5: Remove Food

When you think your food may be done, use the meat temperature probe to be sure, as it can be difficult to tell on pellet grills. If your meat has the desired temperature, remove it from the grill using the tongs. 

Step 6: Shut Down Properly

It is extremely important that you shut down your pellet grill properly each and every time. This involves shutting off the grill but then waiting for the fan to run its cycle before unplugging it from the outlet and placing it under a cover. This will help prevent your pellet hopper from catching fire.

Step 7: Proper Storage

Besides shutting your pellet grill down the right way, it is also important to store your pellet grill properly. Your pellet grill is not water resistant. You need a cover for it, or to store it in the garage, this is especially true of the hopper which, if water gets in, can be completely ruined by expanding wood pellets. 

If you must store your pellet grill outside, buy a waterproof cover. Those in an especially humid area will also want to leave the hopper/auger empty every time they are finished grilling. 

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How Long Do Wood Pellets Last?

Of course, the number one item you need to make your pellet grill run is the wooden pellets. These small pieces of compressed wood are what serve as fuel for your pellet grill. 

When purchasing pellets, know that approximately 1 pound of pellets will burn for 1 hour, but to be on the safe side you should always have 1 extra pound on hand for the recipe you are making, as this will compensate for preheating the grill as well as any extra time needed. 

If kept dry, pellets can be kept in the garage almost indefinitely. If the pellets get wet and expand, they are no longer usable. Additionally, if your pellets develop any sort of mold from moisture exposure, they should be thrown away.

In dry climates, pellets can be left in the hopper for the duration of the grilling season. But at the end of the season, you should remove any leftovers both for cleaning and health purposes. Store your pellet grill empty of wood pellets during the offseason. 

Best Meats to Cook on a Pellet Grill

Now that you know how to use your pellet grill, it’s time to start picking out some meats! 

When smoking meat of any type, you want to go for the fattier cuts. This is because smoking can dry out meats if they are too lean. 

But you also don’t want too much fat otherwise the meat won’t cook properly either. Below is a list of the best meats to use in your pellet grill. 

  • Brisket (trim the fat)
  • Pork shoulder
  • Pork butt
  • Pork ribs
  • Pork Roast
  • Beef Ribs
  • Chicken thighs
  • Salmon
  • Leg of Lamb

Obviously, there are many more meats that you can put on your pellet grill, these are just some that easily lend themselves to the pellet grill cooking style. Don’t be afraid to venture out of the box and experiment a bit on your own grill!

Pellet Grill Tips and Tricks

Struggling to get the right flavors using your pellet grill? Here are some of our tips and tricks to being successful when using a pellet grill.

Change Wood Pellets

No matter what pellets you choose, no one pellet will work best for every meat. We suggest you buy two or three flavors to start and experiment with different cuts of meat.

Stick to mesquite or hickory when working with beef or other strong meats, but then tone it down to fruit flavors like apple or cherry for poultry or pork. With fish, you’ll want a cedar or lemon to complement the natural flavors.

Smoke Indirectly

Meat gains the best smoke flavor with the least drying effect when it is smoked indirectly. While most modern pellet grills automatically offset the heat, you may want to experiment with your placement of the meat on the grill.

For example, instead of starting at the middle, pick one side or the other. You never know when you may find the sweet spot for your grill! 

Pay Attention to the Smoke Color

A good indication that your smoker is working properly is that it is producing blue smoke. Blue smoke will smoke your food without adding that bitter smoke taste.

If you spot gray or white smoke coming from your pellet smoker there’s a chance that something is wrong with your pellet smoker, or it may need to be cleaned. Check your owner’s manual for more information.

Final Thoughts on Using a Pellet Grill

Overall, using a pellet grill might be a bit of a challenge at first, but once you get the hang of it, you will be making some amazing meats your family will love! Just remember to season your pellet grill before use, then experiment with your wood and meat pairings. You never know when you will discover your new favorite combination.

Hope Davis

Hope Davis

Born in Denver, Colorado as the oldest of 5 children, I learned at a young age that the grill was one of the best ways to prepare food for a crowd. And during the winter storm months, when the snow was likely to knock out the power to our house, the propane grill was a lifesaver! You wouldn’t believe the number of things you can cook on a grill when necessary. With parents who couldn’t tell salt from pepper unless you told them, I spent my late teen years making my own seasoning mixes and marinades to dress the meat before barbecues. It wasn’t long before I developed a secret marinade that people still beg me to make for them today! When I was 21 years old I bought my first smoker. Picked up some cedar chips for making a cedar plank salmon...and well, the rest they say is history! I’ve been grilling and smoking all kinds of creations ever since and I’m always excited to share my passion with others through my favorite medium--writing!

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