Smoking is a popular and delicious way of cooking food. Smoked meat, in particular, is flavorful and tender enough to pull apart with a fork. But to achieve such levels of flavor and tenderness, you need a predictable fuel source.
That’s why we love our electric smokers. They take less hassle to use and give consistent and reliable results. But many people still find themselves asking, can you use pellets in an electric smoker?
In this post, we answer this question, give you tips about using wood pellets, and we’ll also highlight which electric smoker brands can use pellets and which brands do not permit the use of wood pellets.
Can you Use Pellets in an Electric Smoker?
You can use pellets in an electric smoker. In fact, pellets give off, rich smokey flavor that you can’t go wrong when starting out.
However, most manufacturers like the Masterbuilt electric smoker recommend using wood chips instead of wood pellets.
Wood pellets are made of compressed sawdust. This means they are very dense, hence store more energy and smoke. When used in an electric smoker, pellets will not burn until they reach a high temperature. The hot air produced can cause internal issues which can affect smoking.
To get a better perspective of this, let’s see how an electric smoker works.
Elements of an Electric Smoker
Heating Rods- Found at the bottom of the smoker, one or more electric rods heat the space and cook the meat slowly.
Wood Chip Tray – In most smokers, the heating element is encircled by a wood chip tray. This is where you input the wood chips. The chips burn slowly to infuse the smoke flavor in the food.
Water Pan – It sits on top of the wood chip tray. You fill it with cold water. The water acts as a temperature regulator. It starts steaming, and in turn, helps in convection cooking.
Grill Racks – electric smokers mostly come with stainless steel grill racks where you place the food or use the racks to hold cast iron skillets for roasting the meat.
Dampers and Vents –These are used to regulate temperature by regulating the intake and outtake of oxygen in the smoker.
When you plug in an electric smoker, the heating element heats u. They then heat the pan with the wood chips. The wood chips smolder and fill the smoker with smoke. The smoke buildup plus the heat will smoke cook your food.
Because pellets are much denser than wood chips, the electric elements may not have enough heat to cause the pellets to smolder, as in the case with chips. This can cause them to be ineffective in smoking food.
Can you use Pellets instead of Wood Chips?
There are two smoke sources: wood chips and wood pellets for an electric smoker.
As we said, pellets are made from pressed hardwood sawdust.
- Burn very clean (do not contain bark or scrap wood)
- Are suitable for hot and cold smoking.
Cold smoking involves smoking the food without cooking it.
- Burn hotter than wood chips
- Produce a deep, smokey flavor
- They are available in many types, including hickory, mesquite, cherry, and oak
- Cost less per energy unit
Wood pellets impart different flavor profiles on meats. They provide an even flavor because they burn slowly and for a longer time than wood chips.
Wood chips are hardwoods that have been run through a wood chipper to become the small wood pieces they are. They are thin, measuring less than 0.25 inches thick.
When put in a smoker, wood chips burst into their natural smokey flavors in just a few minutes. This causes them to burn faster than wood pellets.
Regular Wood chips;
- Burn quicker than pellets.
- Are very flavorful
- Can be soaked.
Soaking wood chips enables them to burn longer for consistent smoke
- They are available in many types like oak, cherry, pecan, hickory, and mesquite
Wood chunks are much larger pieces. They can be as thick as 4 inches, burn longer than wood chips, and be exposed to a fire.
Can you use Wood Pellets in a Smoker?
You can use pellets in any smoker, be it propane or charcoal smoker. Some of the best electric smokers include Masterbuilt electric smokers, Pit Boss, and Char Broil.
But a few things to keep in mind;
- First, learn the amount you need for your particular smoker.
- For example, when you use too many wood pellets in propane smokers, there’s a high chance of a creosote buildup. That is a black sticky residue that forms on the top and sides of the smoker. They can also impart a slightly bitter smoke in food.
Now, here’s how to remove creosote buildup if your propane smoker.
- Second, pick a wood pellet flavor that complements the meat you are cooking.
- Learn how to smoke control and temperature control.
- Lastly, don’t leave wood pellets unattended since they will ignite fast on a charcoal or propane smoker.
How to Use Pellets in an Electric Smoker
Before using wood pellets in a smoker, consider the brand of the electric smoker and the pellet brand you’ll be using.
If your smoker’s manual instructs not to use wood chips, you’ll likely void the warranty if you use wood pellets.
If all you have are pellets, here are a few tips for using pellets in an electric smoker.
- Put a small number of pellets at a time when you start smoking. They burn at a higher temperature, so they need time before smoldering.
- Spread the pellets evenly on the tray to decrease their density. This will allow them to smolder better.
- Don’t soak wood pellets because they will turn into mush. Remember, pellets are compressed sawdust.
- Use a pellet tube to light the wood pellets on fire to smoke.
Can you use Pellets in a Smoker?
As long as the pellets are for smoking or cooking, you can use them safely in a smoker. Pellets add a unique wood flavor while being cost-effective.
Can you use Pellets in Masterbuilt Electric Smoker?
Although the Masterbuilt electric smoker’s manual states that you should never use pellets in the unit, we believe it is safe to use pellets in the Masterbuilt electric smoker.
However, you should use a small number. To be specific, 5-7 pellets for every hour of smoking.
It’s all in the density of the pellets and the fact that they have lots of stored energy and smoke. Filling the tray can warp the metal and also damage the electric heating element. It can also cause blowback or too much smoke exiting with force because of the buildup of pressure in the closely compacted pellets.
Can you Use Pellets in Char-Broil Electric Smoker?
A Char Broil electric smoker is designed with a separate smoker box for chips and pellets. You can use pellets like you would chips.
Can you use Pellets in Pit Boss Electric Smoker?
Pit Boss Electric smokers are designed to use pellets for smoking. They regulate the number of pellets going in to give you consistent smoke flavor.
Best Wood Pellets for Electric Smoker
Half the fun of investing in an electric smoker is experimenting with different wood pellet flavors There are various brands, including Pit Boss Natural Hardwood Pellets, Traeger Grills Signature Blend, and Louisiana Grills.
It’s best if you keep in mind how to pair food with the appropriate pellet flavor.
- Beef benefits from mesquite, pecan, hickory, and competition blend (a tasty mix of hickory, maple, and cherry).
- Pork has its sweet flavor. It needs a smoke flavor that enhances its taste. It goes well with mesquite, hickory, apple, maple, and pecan.
- Poultry goes well with the lighter flavors of alder, apple, maple, pecan, and mesquite.
- Fish benefits from apple and fruitwood pellets because it has a narrow taste profile.
- As for veggies, you want a universal wood flavor like that of cherry, maple, oak, pecan, and apple.
Can you use Pellets in a Non-Pellet Smoker?
Pellets are primarily used for their smoke flavor. You can use a pellet brand of choice to smoke food as you would with wood chips.
Do Electric Smokers Use Pellets?
Electric smokers can use pellets for the most part. It all depends on the brand. And, you have to use the correct number to avoid using too many.
How often to add pellets to an electric pellet smoker?
Usage depends on the weather conditions and temperature settings. Wind and cold add pellet consumption. A pellet grill usually uses ½ pound of pellets per hour. This means a 20-pound bag is suitable for several cooks.
I believe we’ve put to rest the question; can you use pellets in an electric smoker? While most electric smoker brands recommend against smoking with pellets, it’s safe as long as you follow a few guidelines. Remember to consider the number of pellets you need depending on the brand, and don’t leave the wood pellets unattended.
Happy smoking, fellow grillers!