Ever wonder if a pellet grill actually needs a smoke stack? You are not alone, so let’s sort this out here and now.
If you love cooking outdoors, you are probably familiar with the various ways in which to cook your food. From gas grills, to wood chip smokers, to campfire roasts, the possibilities for preparing your meals are numerous to say the least.
Technology has come a long way since the days of simple charcoal and lighter fluid. You didn’t miss a beat along the way, which is why you’re wondering now whether or not your new pellet grill needs a smoke stack.
So, whether you’re shopping around or are wondering about adding onto your existing pellet grill, here’s everything you need to know about pellet grills and smoke stacks.
What Is a Pellet Grill?
Pellet grills are like the Cadillac of outdoor cooking. They’re high quality and versatile, providing you with plenty of cooking options from smoking, to grilling, to baking.
The pellet grill gets its name from the type of fuel it uses. Instead of gas, charcoal, or standard wood chips, the pellet grill uses a highly compressed form of food-grade wood as fuel.
The wood is compressed into small pellets, which is why it’s called a pellet grill.
Essentially, with a pellet grill, you’re getting the best of several various outdoor cooking methods, through a combination of elements of convection, gas, and charcoal grills.
How Does a Pellet Grill Smoke Stack Work?
Novice outdoor cooks might be hesitant to read further, but once you learn how easy they are to use, you might just go out and get one for yourself. Pellet grills are both wood pellet and electrically powered.
Though the electrical powering is only used to ignite fire and control the temperature. Beyond that, it’s a simple process that makes perfect sense if you follow it step by step.
The process itself is important to understand, as it will help you determine if you need a smoke stack down the road.
To begin, you need to fill a chamber with your food-grade wood pellets. This chamber is known as the “hopper.”
The wooden pellets are fed down into an “auger,” which rotates and feeds the pellets into a burn pot. In the burn pot, the pellets are exposed to a hot rod or stove igniter, which is used to ignite the wood pellets.
Meanwhile, a fan blows air into the same chamber, igniting flames, and helping the fire to intensify.
The heat and smoke created from the fire rise and are deflected by a heat plate, so that your cooking chamber heats evenly.
There’s also a drip tray beneath the grill, which keeps grease away from the flames, and is often removable for easy cleaning. From there, you set the temperature electronically, grab a drink and let your food cook!
Benefits of Having a Smoke Stack or Chimney
With all of that heat building up inside your pellet grill, it can become difficult to regulate the temperature.
In case you’re unaware, a smokestack is a chimney that releases the smoke from the grill. It helps regulate the internal temperature of the grill.
The smoke stack is important for maintaining a consistent temperature inside the grill, but you can use a pellet grill with or without a smoke stack.
However, the ambient temperature outside can affect the internal temperature of the grill, especially during the winter months when icy winds and snow typically occur.
The chimney also helps to reduce flare-ups, which often occur due to excess wind getting into the burn pot.
Having a smokestack provides a channel for the smoke to safely exit the cooking chamber, eliminating a messy, smoke-filled backyard.
Unlike other pellet grills that don’t have them, the smokestack on a pellet grill also allows you to adjust the amount of smoke that gets released, which gives you—the chef—more control over how smoky (or not smoky) you want your food to taste.
Using a Pellet Grill in Cold Weather
Part of the appeal to using a grill is the ability to cook outside, but using pellet grills or pellet smokers usually takes several hours to cook or smoke your food.
During the winter months, you may still want to cook outside though, so insulating the cooking chamber is crucial.
If your pellet grill has open vents, then the colder it gets, the harder your pellet grill will have to work to maintain the temperature you set it to.
Like the heating in your home—if you turn the heat up, but leave the windows open, you’re going to have an outrageous heating bill next month.
In the same way, grilling in the cold weather will have a similar impact on the amount of fuel you’ll end up using.
Having a smoke stack will help to mitigate the amount of cold air that enters your grill, and regulate the amount of hot air that exits.
So, instead of burning through twice the amount of wood pellets for one meal (and taking twice the time), it might just be wiser to install a smoke stack and keep the heat trapped inside.
Smoke Venting From Pellet Grills Without Smoke Stacks
For spring and summertime smoking and grilling though, a smokestack may not be the first thing on your mind, as the ambient temperature outside won’t affect the heat inside the chamber as much.
When a smokestack isn’t present, other types of ventilation are used for pellet grills. Louvered vents allow smoke and heat to exit, while keeping dirt, water, and debris out. This is helpful as it ensures your food stays clean.
Other types of pellet grills have rows of small holes, or two to three larger oblong holes. These may be effective at providing ventilation, but will likely cause you problems on a cold day.
Do Pellet Grills Need a Smoke Stack?
Pellet grills don’t need a smoke stack to function the way they’re supposed to. If the weather permits, you can use a pellet grill with or without a smoke stack.
Pellet grills are a high-tech way to smoke your food. Having a smokestack is necessary when it’s cold and windy outside, but besides that, it’s really just aesthetically pleasing—but there’s nothing wrong with that!