How Does a Pellet Grill Work?

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No doubt you’ve noticed the increase in pellet grills on the market these days, as well as the growing number of them in the backyards of your friends. While smoking meat has always been a favored pastime, right alongside grilling, it’s definitely pick up steam these days (see what I did there?).

We love our pellet grill and try to make use of it as often as possible to smoke big things like beef ribs and brisket, but also every day side dishes and appetizers like smoked cauliflower and smoked cream cheese.

Z grills pellet grill

If you’re thinking it has to be a long drawn out process to use the thing, that’s only half of the truth. Yes, it does take somewhere in the vicinity of 12-20 hours to smoke a brisket, but you can also do quick things like chicken thighs in under an hour.

In this article, we’re going to break down exactly how does a pellet grill work, in case you’re curious about the inner workings of this weekend warrior. We’ve already written guides on how to use and how to start a pellet grill for the first time, if you’re looking for additional reading.

» You might also like these 15 Pellet Grill Accessories You Need.

What is a Pellet Grill?

A Pellet Grill has many functions. It’s an outdoor cooking appliance, often referred to as either a pellet grill or pellet smoker, that combines the characteristics of a smoker, a grill, and an oven.

The grill is run on electricity and must be plugged into a power source. The primary source of fuel, however, is wood pellets that are fed into a hopper by an electronic control system that manages and monitors the cooking process.

As a result of their adaptability, which enables users to smoke, grill, roast, and even bake food, pellet grills are becoming an increasingly popular option for individuals who are enthusiastic about outdoor cooking.

Why Would You Choose a Pellet Grill?

When compared to other types of grills, such as charcoal or gas, a pellet grill has a number of advantages that could sway someone’s decision to purchase one:

Ease of use: Pellet grills are noted for their user-friendly operation since the digital control systems handle the temperature, the amount of time spent cooking, and a variety of other crucial characteristics.

Consistent results: The exact temperature control that is offered by pellet grills make it possible to get repeatable and reliable cooking results every time.

Versatile: These grills are versatile in that they may be used for a variety of cooking techniques, including smoking, grilling, roasting, and baking.

Taste: Pellet grills provide a flavor that many people consider to be superior to the flavor produced by gas or charcoal barbecues. Its flavor is deep and smokey.

Environmental impact: The environmental impact of using wood pellets as a fuel source is that they are a more sustainable option than using charcoal or propane, and they produce fewer carbon emissions.

How does a pellet grill work

Detailed Explanation of How a Pellet Grill Works

Okay, now that we know what it is and have a basic understanding of why it might be fun to cook with one, let’s get into the details.

Pellet grills function off a combination of electrical and mechanical parts control the operation. So what is the operation exactly? There are four stages in the process:

Loading the pellets: You will need to load the pellets into the grill hopper, which is a box attached to the side of the grill. When you turn on the grill, the automated auger will transfer the pellets to the combustion chamber at a rate that is determined by the heat settings you’ve chosen.

Ignition: Ignition happens once you’ve turned on the grill and adjusted the temperature to your liking. The auger will start to move pellets from the hopper into a firepot and an automatic igniter will begin to heat up.

Combustion chamber
Combustion chamber

Combustion: Combustion occurs when the pellets reach the hot firepot and ignite, resulting in the production of smoke and heat. A fan specifically designed for combustion helps to maintain the appropriate level of oxygen throughout the process, which in turn helps to keep the temperature under control.

Distribution of heat: A heat diffuser plate is positioned on top of the firepot to ensure that heat is distributed uniformly throughout the surface of the cooking area. It also keeps the food from coming into direct contact with the flames, which lowers the likelihood of flare-ups occurring.

Circulation of smoke and heat: To maintain a constant temperature and ensure that the food is cooked evenly, the cooking chamber is equipped with a fan that circulates heat and smoke.

Smoker chimney

Exhaust and temperature regulation: A chimney or venting system lets excess smoke and heat escape, while a computerized controller monitors the temperature of the grill and changes the speed of the auger and the operation of the fan to keep the temperature at the appropriate level.

Before you get started using your pellet grill for the first time, you need to season the grill grate so it’s primed for cooking.

What Fuel Do Pellet Grills Use?

Pellet grills use wood pellets made from compressed sawdust and wood shavings as their primary fuel source.

These pellets are specifically designed for use in pellet grills, with minimal moisture content and uniform size and shape. The low moisture content allows for efficient combustion and less ash production, while the uniform size and shape ensure consistent feeding into the grill’s auger system.

What Smokers We Use

Traeger grills pro series 22 electric wood pellet grill and smoker, bronze, extra large

Traeger Grills Pro Series 22 Pellet Grill & Smoker

Did you know that Traeger created the original wood-pellet grill? The Pro Series 22 is the one most people choose because it’s compact, yet has plenty of space for cooking. You can use any type of wood pellets you like. See the Traeger Series 22 Grill on Amazon.

Z grills 2023 newest pellet grill smoker with pid 2. 0 controller, meat probes, rain cover, 450e

Z Grills 7002C2E Pellet Grill & Smoker

We use the 7002C2E, which has dual temperature probes, a huge pellet hopper and pellet viewing window, with a large grill space and streamlined design. See this grill and more on the Z Grills site.

What Pellets Are Best to Use?

When deciding which wood pellets are ideal for your pellet barbecue, the following criteria should be taken into consideration:

  • To ensure quality, you should search for pellets that are created entirely from hardwood and do not contain any additional fillers, binders, or additives. The use of high-quality pellets results in less ash being produced, a more efficient burning process, and an improvement in the flavor of the meal.
  • Your food will taste differently depending on the type of wood it was seasoned with. For instance, poultry and pig are best suited for cooking over fruitwoods such as apple and cherry, whereas beef and lamb are better suited for cooking over mesquite and hickory. You can get the flavor profile that you desire by experimenting with different types of wood.
  • Adhere to respectable pellet companies that are well-known for the quality and consistency of their products. You can choose the ideal pellet brand for your requirements by reading online evaluations and listening to the suggestions of others who already own pellet grills.
Smoker pellets

Are Pellets Better Than Wood Chips?

Infusing your cuisine with a smokey flavor can be accomplished using either wood pellets or wood chips; however, there are several distinctions between the two that may make one more appealing than the other:

Wood pellets are more uniform in size and shape than pieces of wood, which ensures that they burn at the same rate and at the same temperature every time. On the other hand, the size of wood chips might fluctuate, making it more difficult to regulate the temperature and the amount of smoke produced.

Wood pellets are less cumbersome than chunks of wood and may be directly placed into the hopper of the grill. This makes them simpler to use and store.

Before being used, wood chips normally need to be soaked, and some smokers require a separate box or foil pouch to store them in. Also, pellets produce less ash during combustion than wood chips do, and they also require less frequent reloading. This makes them more efficient than wood chips.

Pellet Storage Containers

A smokey flavor can be added to food using either wood pellets or wood chips; however, the intensity and profile of the flavor might vary depending on the type of wood used and the quality of the wood. While some consumers believe that the flavor that comes from pellets is more constant, others may find that the taste of chips is more to their liking.

In the end, whether you choose pellets or wood chips to use in your grill or smoker will be determined by your own personal preferences as well as the model of grill or smoker that you have.

How to use a pellet grill

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Pellet Grills


  • Pellet grills are user-friendly, with digital controls that make it simple to set and keep the optimum cooking temperature. This makes pellet grills ideal for beginners.
  • These grills allow for a variety of cooking methods, such as smoking, grilling, roasting, and baking, which demonstrates their versatility.
  • Compared to gas or charcoal grills, using wood pellets produces a more robust and smoky flavor, which many people consider to be superior.
  • Because pellet grills offer such exact temperature control, they produce cooking results that are always the same.
  • Wood pellets are better for the environment and the economy than charcoal or propane since they are a more sustainable fuel source.


  • Price: The price of a pellet grill is typically more than that of a standard charcoal or gas barbecue.
  • Dependence on electricity: Because they are dependent on electricity, these grills cannot be taken off the grid or used in distant areas because they must be plugged into a power source. This severely limits their portability.
  • Searing capabilities are limited: While some high-end pellet grills may feature a searing function, many models have difficulty reaching the high temperatures required for searing to be effective.
  • The availability of pellets: The availability of pellets can vary from location to location, so depending on where you live, you may need to stock up or place an order for pellets in advance.
Smoker pellet hopper

Final Thoughts

The deep, smoky taste that is characteristic of classic wood or charcoal barbecues may be achieved with pellet grills by combining the convenience of use and consistency of the outcomes that are achieved with pellet grills with conventional wood or charcoal grills.

In spite of the fact that they have a few limitations, such as their high cost and their reliance on energy, the advantages of employing the use of a pellet grill typically exceed these issues. You can take your outdoor cooking to the next level and surprise your friends and family with delicious, precisely cooked meals by mastering the functionality of a pellet grill and selecting the pellets that are most suited to your requirements.

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