Best Wood Pellets for Smoking of 2018 – Everything You Need to Know
When it comes to fuel sources for Pellet Grills, it can get quite confusing. Unlike gas or charcoal, there are dozens of brands, different wood blends, and different smoke flavors. A great smoker is only as good as the quality of the wood, so you’re wise not to underestimate your fuel.
Every brand of smoker will tell you that they have the best smoker pellets, but can they all be telling the truth?
Granted, specific pellets excel in different types of conditions or have tastes that pair well with different meat; some will burn a bit hotter, some will cook a bit longer, some will burn more quickly but offer a smokier flavor.
The point we’re trying to make is that there isn’t necessarily a “best” option that’s going to be perfect for everyone, but none the less – we’ve taken the best offerings from the top brands, smoked some meat, and reported back with what we found.
These pellets are 100% all natural, food grade pellets made from a variety of premium hardwoods; namely cherry, hickory, and maple. It gives you a very well-rounded and versatile smoked flavor that goes great with just about anything you toss in your smoker.
If you’re fine with using a blend that someone else has put together, especially when that “someone else” is Camp Chef, then this is an excellent option.
You don’t need to be at a fancy BBQ competition to use these either. While some people prefer one type of wood, this competition blend uses three hardwoods that all pair well together. As a result, Camp Chef notes that these particular pellets can be used to cook all types of meats and vegetables.
Some have remarked that this blend seems to leave behind less dust and ash than other brands. This is likely due to not using any added fillers or oils, just pure hardwood.
These pellets are made in America and are appealing for their reasonable price and smoke quality.
Pros and cons
- Reasonable pricing for a 20 lb bag
- All Natural blend that pairs well with all types of meat
- Less dust and ash due to using no fillers, additives, or oils
- Mix/Blend of several kinds of wood. If you’re after a specific flavor, these aren’t for you.
Here’s another favorite choice, this time around it comes in a 40-pound bag. This is another blend, meaning it consists of multiple types of wood. Per pound, it’s a bit more expensive than some of the others we’ll be looking at, but CookinPellets is a brand that gets right down to business, no frills, no gimmicks, just high-quality pellets for your smoker. There’s no fancy packaging, no distractions… if you’re in the business of cooking up some perfectly smoked food, business is good.
While our top listed blend featured three different premium hardwoods, this one has four, for an even more diverse taste. These pellets are made using only the heartwoods from the center of the log, and will never contain bark.
They don’t add any oils or filler woods, including oak and alder. When it comes to smoking, oak and alder are sometimes referred to as filler woods. “Filler” can also refer to lower quality parts of the same tree like bark. The blend consists of a hickory base and contains hard maple, apple, and cherry. They call this blend the “Perfect Mix, ” and it’s hard to argue with that.
Pros and cons
- High-quality hardwoods; hickory, maple, apple, and cherry.
- No fillers, additives, or oils used in production including oak and alder
- Value for your money.
- Cookinpellets only offers 40 lb bags
If you primarily smoke meats and veggies like pork, poultry, and cheese, then applewood pairs quite well. While Apple is noted as the primary flavor, all of the Camp Chef flavors use alder as the base wood.
With that said there are no oils or additional flavors added. These pellets are made in the USA and are a standard for any home-smoker. Something that Camp Chef notes is they work with any brand of pellet smoker. Don’t be fooled by brands like Traeger who try to get you to only buy their brands products. Even if you didn’t buy a Camp Chef, they don’t care and neither should you.
Just like the competition blend, this is an excellent quality wood regardless of the Adler filler. The price is a bit higher, but it’s somewhat justified by the long-lasting burn and smoke. The pellets are a bit larger than other brands but feed through the auger and the burn pot nicely. Ash production is also kept to a minimum even with the larger pellet size.
Pros and cons
- 100% apple wood
- Perfect for a smoky apple taste
- Not the cheapest option
Pit Boss is another big name in the smoker world and these are some of their very best wood pellets for smoking.
Pit Boss’ wood pellets are available in a competition blend, hickory, and apple. Most of the time, pellets either come in twenty or forty pound bags, and these are offered as 40 lbs.
The flavor profile of the competition blend is a combination of very mild tartness and a lot of savory and sweet tones. It combines hickory, maple, and cherry hardwoods that offers a very versatile smoke if you aren’t really sure what to use.
The hardwood for these pellets is sourced in North America. They are free from any spray-on scents, glues, or chemicals and they can burn hotter and cleaner than lower-quality options. These pellets are bound together by the natural adhesives in the wood itself, there’s nothing else added in, which helps them burn so cleanly.
Pros and cons
- Great value
- 100% Natural hardwood
- Mix/Blend of several woods
Traeger is one of the most well known in the Pellet Grilling world. As you can expect, their pellets are also economical in comparison to other pellet brands.
These pellets are known to produce less ash than some other options out there. Less ash produced means less ash to clean up afterward. This is because the pellets contain no fillers or additives in them and are made from 100% hardwood. With that said, not much is said about what “filler” woods might be used. A bit of digging through forums tells us that the pellets sold on the east coast use Oak, and pellets on the west coast use Alder. Traeger also isn’t super transparent about how the flavor is infused. From their patents, it appears to be wood oils, like “hickory wood oil.”
Traeger pellets are also noted for burning hotter and longer. This works out great for those longer smokes where you need a consistent temperature for hours on end. Mix this with a smoker that uses a PID controller and you are sure to have a temperature that lasts long and is accurate up to +/- 5 degrees.
They burn clean and don’t harm the environment or your food; they’ll simply add a beautiful smoky flavor profile. The hickory also pairs well with beef, poultry, pork, vegetables, and wild game.
Pros and cons
- Produce less ash than other listed options
- Variety of options to use
- None noted
What to Look for in Smoking Pellets
Smoking pellets come in a variety of flavors and brands. To start this off, I want to get this notion out of the way that you can’t mix and match brands. You can indeed use Pit Boss pellets with your camp chef pellet grill. Brands like Traeger try to get you to buy only their products with strange warranties but rest assured, if you have a Traeger pellet grill you can use any of the food-grade pellets above.
What are the Best Flavors to Use?
When people refer to flavors they are referring to the type of wood or wood oils being used to make the pellets. There are a lot of flavors on the market, but the most common are: hickory, apple, cherry, mesquite, oak, and alder. There are also more niche flavors like pecan, turkey, jack daniels, and maple.
In terms of popularity, hickory and applewood are the most popular that are sold. This is because they have a light or moderate smoke that won’t overpower your food. Most people will go for mesquite because history tells us that it’s the most popular, but be warned. Mesquite can impart a strong flavor profile to the point that you only taste the mesquite flavor.
What Flavors Pair Best?
This is up for debate but in general, the following flavor pairings are best.
Oak: Beef, Fish, Baked Goods
Alder: Beef, Poultry, Pork, Fish, Baked Goods, Veggies
Apple: Poultry, Pork, Baked Goods, Veggies
Cherry: Beef, Poultry, Pork, Baked Goods
Hickory: Beef, Poultry, Pork, Veggies, Wild Game
Mesquite: Beef, Poultry, Fish, Wild Game
Maple: Beef, Pork, Baked Goods, Veggies
Pellet Blends vs 100% Flavored Wood
We discussed this shortly when we were referring to Traeger. Other brands also use different types of “filler” woods. When buying something like applewood pellets, or even hickory, they are usually a blend of different types of woods. The most common types of filler are oak and alder. This usually is common practice, but for people with allergies to something like oak they may not want to use a hickory with an oak base.
There are reasons for using oak and alder. If you buy a hickory pellet with an oak filler, they will likely last longer and provide a steady consistent temperature from the oak. This is even noted by customers who state that the Traeger hickory pellets burn at a steady temperature. If you were to use something like 100% cherrywood you’d burn through a lot more than you would hickory.
Chef and Reviewer for Barbequesmoked.com
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