If you’re thinking about picking out a brand new pellet grill smoker, then you might just want to pause for a moment to make sure you have everything you need to be confident before you get your latest grilling toy.
A wood pellet grill is a great thing, and I’d never try to put anyone off owning one because they have a lot to offer.
Still, there are some tips, precautions, and safety factors you need to consider before you buy a wood pellet smoker.
So, to give you all the details you need, I’ve put together this list of things you need to know before buying a pellet grill smoker! Ready to find out more? Then let’s get to it!
The Most Important Thing To Remember…
Before I start talking about your different options, tips, safety, and precautions – let’s just get the elephant in the room out of the way first.
Are pellet grill smokers more maintenance and work than your average grills and electric smokers? Yes, absolutely.
BUT, they also produce some of the most delicious food and smoked goodies you can imagine.
So, to help you with your new bit of grilling kit, I’ll take you through some of the most important things to know throughout today’s post, so owning one is a little easier.
After all, once you know what to expect, you can really decide if the new move to a pellet grill smoker is the right one for you.
Pellet Smoker VS Pellet Grill Smoker Combo
Let’s start at the beginning, by clearing up some terminology differences that you need to be aware of before you pick out a pellet grill smoker.
Do you want a pellet smoker (something that is designed to JUST smoke) or do you want a pellet grill smoker combo (something that smokes AND grills)?
Making your mind up will depend on what you have already and whether you’re looking to upgrade.
If you’ve got a grill you LOVE, then there’s no point switching to a pellet grill smoker combo if you aren’t going to use all the features on offer.
If you want to upgrade and you want a smoker, then a pellet grill smoker has everything you need for the ultimate grilling and smoking experience.
It’s just important that you know the difference between the two products, so you get the one you really want.
Keep an eye on the terminology used before you pick out the product you want, so you only get the smoker or smoker/grill you want.
The rest of today’s post will focus on pellet grill smokers from here on out, but most of the advice given will apply to a standard wood pellet smoker too.
Quick-Fire Tips BEFORE You Buy
Below, I’ll cover all the practical tips you need to think about before you even buy the pellet grill smoker to begin with.
- How Are You Getting It Home?
If you’re the kind of person who likes to see their products in person before they buy, then that’s fine. You can often find wood pellet smoker grills in different stores.
However, if you think you’ll be able to throw one of these in the trunk and drive home with it that day, you’ll need to think again.
Some stores might offer home delivery after buying in store, which can be a great option. If they don’t, though, then you’ll need to bring along a truck or SUV to put your new pellet smoker grill in the back.
Oh, and bring a strong friend along too, because these things can weigh over 200lbs, so loading and unloading can be difficult if you don’t come prepared.
Another option is online shopping, but if you want to see it in person, then this obviously won’t work for you. For those of you not too bothered, getting one delivered to your home is probably your best bet.
- Where Will It Go?
An obvious question, perhaps, but I know what it’s like. You see something you want, and you rush into buying it without really thinking about the practicalities of owning it.
Well, that’s why I have to remind you that wood pellet smokers are BIG, and they take up a lot of room. Do you even have the garden space to fit one in?
Even if you do, you then need to think about the smoke. If you’re overlooked by neighbors, then you need to consider them too.
These smokers produce a lot of smoke, so you can’t put them near anywhere that has open windows or doors.
That means you need to place them as far away from your neighbor’s (and your own) house as possible. Remember, too, that smoke discolors, so if it’s near a beautiful white-washed wall, it won’t be white-washed for very long…
- Don’t Forget Electricity
Your pellet grill smoker runs on wood pellets, but electricity is still required to ignite the pellets to start with, run the fans to keep the flames going and circulate heat, power the auger to feed the pellets as required, and the list goes on.
That means you’re probably going to need a top-quality outdoor extension cord to use it, because the cords that ship with most smokers will only be around 6ft or so.
Now you need to consider how long your extension cord needs to be to reach your smoker where you’re planning on putting it.
What You Need To Know When Your Pellet Grill Smoker Arrives
Here’s everything you need to consider once the pellet grill smoker arrives.
- Assembly Is Required
Most smokers will require assembly, so it’s good to be prepared for that. Most smoker grills can be dealt with by yourself, but given that they’re pretty big, having someone around to help with the heavy lifting and following the instructions will be a big bonus.
Even with this additional help, you can expect it to take 3 hours or so, so make sure you clear an afternoon when your pellet grill smoker arrives and have someone around who can help out to speed things up a little.
- There’s A Burn In Process
You might not have heard of the ‘burn in’ process if you haven’t been looking into pellet smoker grills for a while, so let me just explain.
It’s essentially like the seasoning process for a griddle – once every pellet smoker grill is delivered to your home, you’ll need to complete the burn in process to make it ready for its first proper use.
It helps to prime the auger with pellets and burn off any contaminants and chemicals used in the packing and manufacturing process, etc.
Most pellet smoker grills will come with instruction manuals that tell you how to do the burn in process for your specific make and model – or at the very least, the info will be available online.
I can’t tell you the exact burn in process for your specific smoker/grill, but I can give you a generic example below.
Remember, though, that this is only generic, and you will need to find the specific info for your pellet smoker grill before starting the process:
- Fill your fire pot
- Prime your hopper so pellets fall into the fire pot
- Set your smoker to smoke
- Wait 10 minutes after the smoker starts to produce smoke
- Then turn the smoker to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
- Let it burn for around 45 minutes
- Turn your smoker off
- Let it go through the full cool down cycle
After that, any contaminants should be burned away and your pellet smoker grill should be ready for its first proper cook with food!
- You’ll Need Wood Pellets – And A LOT Of Them
This is something you really need to be aware of, or else the constant running back and forth to the store will really start to annoy you fast.
These wood pellet smokers burn through a lot of wood pellets (on average, around 1.5 lbs of wood pellets per hour for a medium sized smoker grill cooking at 225 degrees Fahrenheit).
But, that number will only increase for bigger smokers, colder temperatures outside, and higher cooking temperatures, too).
And yes, wood pellets are your only options. It can be tempting when you’re buying bags of wood pellets every few days over summer to just think about throwing in twigs, sticks, and other pieces of wood in its place, but these smokers ONLY run on wood pellets.
The hopper, auger, and every other part of the smoker grill are only designed to deal with wood pellets.
Wood pellets are also the safest things to burn, since they’ve been specifically treated and approved for burning as a way of adding smoke flavor to food. Anything else you use won’t have that same approval.
So, be prepared to go through a lot of wood pellets with these pellet smoker grills.
Everyday Safety, Cleaning, And Usage Tips
Once you’ve thought about the steps involved before you buy and after it first arrives, there are still some important things to know when you’re using it every day too.
My first two tips will focus on safety, before I move on to cleaning and everyday use tips.
- ALWAYS Keep Your Smoker On Level Ground
Smokers are designed with excellent grease traps that will catch grease and keep it safely away from the flames.
However, if you put your wood pellet grill on unlevel ground (on a slant, for example) then you can no longer guarantee that the grease trap will catch the grease from the food as it should.
If the grease is able to pool in an area that isn’t the grease trap, and a flame eventually comes into contact with that, then you could end up with a grease fire in your smoker, which can lead to the whole thing setting alight – something that I don’t need to tell you is really dangerous.
So, remember before you even try to use your smoker – it ALWAYS needs to be on level ground.
- NEVER Unplug The Smoker/Grill To Turn It Off
This step is so important to know from a safety perspective. Smokers are designed with a number of safety procedures it has to go through before turning off.
The whole premise of them works on setting wood pellets on fire, and so when you turn it off, it has to go through a cool down process where the flames are extinguished and the whole thing cools down to prevent any pellets setting on fire again.
If you just unplug the smoker grill combo to turn it off, then it doesn’t go through the cool down process.
That can lead to the wood pellets in the auger and hopper catching on fire, which is terrible for your smoker and can lead to irreparable damage.
So always make sure you turn it off properly using the cool down features for safety.
- Cleaning Your Pellet Grill Smoker
You will need to clean your pellet grill smoker fairly regularly – some manufacturers advise to do so after every smoke, but most users agree that after every fifth smoke is still workable.
Cleaning your pellet grill smoker involves clearing out the firebox, grease trap (to be done after EVERY use) and getting rid of all the hidden ash with a powerful vacuum cleaner you reserve for cleaning your smoker only.
The important thing is that you stay on top of regularly cleaning your wood pellet smoker grill because if you don’t, then the ash that’s left over from previous smokes can eventually make its way on to your food, leaving a bitter, horrible taste.
So a regular cleaning routine is necessary!
- Covering Your Pellet Smoker Grill
And finally, you need to buy a cover. It not only protects your smoker grill itself from the elements – wind, rain, snow, etc. – but it also protects you.
These smokers inevitably get covered in soot and ash, and if you lean against them, you’ll get covered in soot and ash too. So, a cover is a great idea.
It also protects the pellets in the hopper. I don’t need to tell you that if these wood pellets get wet, then they’re virtually useless in your smoker and you’d need to empty the whole thing out and add fresh stock.
And if all those weren’t reason enough, then a cover will extend the life of your new pellet smoker grill considerably, meaning you can spend many years grilling and smoking with your fantastic new addition to your outdoor cooking arsenal!