Pit Master Wood Pellet Grill Basics

wood pellet grill
Now that the homestead is relatively up and running and we're getting into our routines, we have been looking for ways to simplify our lives even further and take our love of great food outdoors. For years we've run a charcoal grill and propane smoker for our various needs, but with the addition of our 'new-to-us' pellet stove in the basement, we were inspired to look at the new crop of wood pellet grill possibilities. We knew the technology was out there, it was just a matter of doing some digging to find our fit.

There are quiet a few wood pellet grill manufacturers and models on the market, so our search started with the basics. What model was going to not only provide the convenience we needed, but offered simplicity tom integrate into a homestead budget as well.

Wood Pellet Grill Difference

The idea was to combine our grill and smoker into one easy-to-use unit. Charcoal is limited in cook time and the effort that goes into getting a good bed of coals established is wasted time. With propane, it was the hassle of looking at a long-term smoke and wondering if our gas supply would last, plus the charge of $14-$20 each time we needed a fill. The wood pellet grill difference is that the auger and hopper combination works the same as our pellet stove in the basement, with a 99% efficiency when buying pellets. We keep the pellets on hand, and use as needed.

In our home-heating setup in the basement, we use between 1-2 lbs of pellets an hour depending on heat setting. The same translates to the pellet grills we've looked at. That means with a 40 pound bag of pellets, we're looking at between 20-40 hours of cooking time, more than needed for any given barbecue. You can use pellet stove pellets at around five bucks a bag, but for just five bucks more, we can get pellets made from wood species chosen for the grill.

Traeger Wood Pellet Grill

wood pellet grillThe Traeger Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker line was the first we browsed, as the reputation and price range makes it one of the most talked about among users. Customer loyalty is highly based on the quality of the product line as well as the simplicity of their systems. Traeger is the originator of the pellet grill movement, so they obviously know what they're doing.

Traeger grill and smoker combos offer anything from small desk models for under $100 to professional competition rigs well beyond our price range. What intrigued us, and this could be said for any of the grills we looked at, was the integration of simple digital technology that managed the temperature controls. Just as with our basement pellet stove, the easily adjusted auger speed is what drives the cooking temperature. Turn the dial to the temp setting and follow along with the digital readout.

Pit Boss Wood Pellet Grill

wood pellet grill
Though many of the elements of a wood pellet grill are shared by all of the models we looked at, the Pit Boss Wood Pellet Grill, specifically the 7000 series model, offered a direct heat option with slats through the shield to allow for grilling steaks. The slats can then be covered for traditional induction cooking, which is how the heat is transferred around the food. However, if you're looking for the flexibility of direct heat, this one seemed to be the only one we found that had that option.

All of the grills work off the principle of wood pellets being augered into the burner from a hopper, and the mechanics were mostly the same. Pellets specifically created for grilling are available in traditional tastes such as mesquite, alder, apple and the likes being popular. Because the mechanics are nearly identical in all the brands, the efficiency is as well, with a minimal residue of ash needing to be cleaned up after a burn. If you have a pellet stove for home heating, you will have idea of the volume.

Green Mountain Pellet Grill

wood pellet grill
The Green Mountain Pellet Grill varies a bit from the others as the steel is a thicker grade, allowing it to offer a higher temperature range. This provides the ability to provide some searing action on your meats. In comparing models, the GMG is a little more pricey, but that would easily translate to a better value because of the heavier gauge steel and temp range.

All pellet grill and smokers function in cooking foods the same way, allowing for everything you can do in a kitchen oven and stove top, only now you are out of doors. Bake bread, roast veggies, sear chicken and turkey. The sky is the limit. Thanks to the digital temperature controls for the auger speed, you can set heat as low as you would for a long 3-2-1 smoke or a quick grill if doing thick steaks or chops.

Wood Pellet Grill Difference 

What it comes down to for us after all of this investigation is cost and flexibility. Some wood pellet smoker and grill models offer additional companion elements such as pizza attachments and extended smoke stacks that really raise the price. These didn't interest us as much in making a decision as they can easily be replicated in our shop if we found a need existed. 

Pellet Grills on Sale

wood pellet grill
Our next step is to keep an eye on Amazon as well as our local hardware store to see what we can find for pellet grills on sale. Though the Traeger is the granddaddy of wood pellet grill and smoker innovation, the Pit Boss Wood Pellet Grill and the Green Mountain Pellet Grill lines offer not only a similar quality of product but varying differences that help make them stand out. The industry is just getting started, and we expect that by March we will have made up our minds to pull the trigger on a new outdoor cooking solution.

Do you have any advice for someone just getting started with a wood pellet grill and smoker? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.