How To Choose The Best BBQ Smoking Pellets

Choosing the right smoking pellets can help take your grilling to the next level.

Wood pellets serve as both a flavour enhancer and a fuel source, meaning they can affect everything from how good your meat tastes to how well your grill performs. Many people assume that all smoking pellets are the same because they look alike, however, the pellets that you use can make a huge difference.

Here is a brief guide to finding the best BBQ pellets for your favourite meats and veggies.

What Are The Best Smoking Pellet Flavours?

Smoking pellets come in a wide variety of wood flavours, from the common BBQ staples like hickory, cherry, and apple, to lesser known woods like pecan and maple. Each variety has its own unique taste and works best with different meats. Let’s go through our favourite smoking pellets and the meats they go best with.

Alder

These pellets are the most versatile due to their mild flavour and aroma. Alder wood gives off a good amount of smoke without overpowering the more delicate flavours like fish, chicken, or baked goods.

Apple

Apple pellets offer a slightly fruity smoke that helps enhance mild flavoured meats. They are most often used with pork and poultry.

Cherry

One of the most flavourful pellets, cherry wood is a great choice when you want to add a hearty smoke flavour. Use these pellets when making marinated beef ribs. Between the cherry smoke and the marinade, these delicious ribs don’t even need any sauce to be tremendously flavourful.

Hickory

Likely the most popular type of pellets used in barbecue, hickory pellets release a strong flavour that complements most meats. For some, hickory can be a little too strong, so keep in mind that you can also mix it with milder pellets such as apple or oak.

Maple

Mild, with a subtle touch of sweetness, maple pellets are exceptional on pork and turkey. Break these out to smoke your Christmas turkeys and your family will want you to cook every year. Best consider that burden when you do, though!

Mesquite

Mesquite pellets infuse your meat with a hearty smoke flavour and are a staple of Texas-style BBQ. This powerful smoky flavour is perfect for recipes in need of a little something extra.

Oak

These pellets offer a medium level of smoke intensity. They’re a little stronger than apple or cherry but a little lighter than hickory. Oak is a great choice for fish and vegetables, separate or together.

Pecan

A tasty, nutty flavour with a little kick to it, Pecan pellets work well with beef, poultry, and pork. They also add a nice depth of flavour to baked goods as well.

Any meat and pellet combo will taste good on a Traeger grill, however, there are some pairs that are particularly appetising.

  • Beef: Hickory, Oak, Mesquite, Alder, Cherry, Alder, Pecan
  • Pork: Apple, Cherry, Hickory, Maple, Pecan, Alder
  • Poultry: Apple, Alder, Hickory, Pecan, Apple, Cherry
  • Seafood: Alder, Oak, Mesquite
  • Vegetables: Apple, Pecan, Alder, Maple, Hickory
  • Baked Goods: Alder, Apple, Cherry, Maple, Oak, Pecan

100% Flavoured Woods Vs Blends

BBQ pellets are made from 100% natural hardwood, but this doesn’t mean that pellets are always 100% the type of wood listed on the bag. If you buy cherry wood chips or chunks, the wood is entirely cherry wood. However, if you buy cherry wood pellets, they tend to be a blend of cherry and a different wood such as alder or oak. This may seem misleading, but there are good reasons for this practice.

Mixing flavoured woods with oak provides several benefits. The first is price. Woods like hickory and cherry aren’t nearly as bountiful as oak, making them more expensive. A bag of 100% flavoured wood pellets will cost considerably more than those that use a base of alder or oak. Using a blend of cherry and oak allows pellet makers to keep their prices down and because oak is more neutral, the cherry smoke flavour still comes through.

Along with cost savings, using an oak base also provides consistency. Different types of wood have varying densities, burn at different speeds, and produce distinct levels of heat and smoke. For example, cherry burns faster than hickory. This means when using 100% cherry wood you’d go through more pellets than if using only hickory. Adding oak to the mix allows each flavour to burn at a similar rate and with a similar heat output, leading to consistency between cooks.

The Differences Between Smoking Pellets And Heating Pellets

There are two types of wood pellets; smoking pellets and heating pellets. They may look alike and are both made of compressed wood, but they are not the same.

Smoking pellets are food-grade pellets and are made only from 100% hardwood. They don’t contain any fillers, additives, or binders — with the possible exception of vegetable oil which is occasionally used in the extrusion process.

Heating pellets, however, contain a variety of woods, including softwoods like pine. These woods contain a resin that infuses food with a bitter unsatisfying taste. The contents of heating pellets aren’t overly important as long as they burn. This means that they’ll often include bark, leaves, and other impurities that can not only tarnish the taste of food but also pose a health risk.

Heating pellets are much less expensive than bbq pellets because they’re easier to produce and not made of 100% hardwood. If you’re looking to save money, it may be tempting to opt for this less expensive option, however, do yourself a favour and never use heating pellets in a smoker grill.

Make The Most Of Your Smoker Grill

The most important step to getting the most out of your grill and smoking pellets is choosing the right meat. No matter your preferred cut, Meat & Cleaver has you covered. Our meat is locally-sourced here in Essex and we provide the utmost care to our animals over the course of their lives. In addition, we stock only the finest Traeger Smoking Pellets and Traeger Grills!

You can shop from the comfort of your home and have your favourite premium cuts delivered fresh, right to your door. Take your recipes over the top with flavoured Traeger pellets straight from our online butcher.
As always, we’re here to help. Contact us today to learn about our cuts, pellets, or any other questions you may have.

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