Best Wood Pellets for Smoking Reviews and Buying Guide 2019

– Best Wood Pellets for Smoking Reviews 2019
Grilling alone imparts a wonderful flavor into foods, but some people want even more smoky goodness and opt to use a smoker grill instead. However, even while using smoker grills, you still have to figure out what is the best fuel source to use to get the best flavor. That is why we put together a list of the 5 best wood pellets for smoking reviews of 2019. We also provide a thorough buyer’s guide and comprehensive FAQ to answer all of your burning questions. We think that the Traeger Hickory and CookinPellets are solid all-around choices, but you have to keep reading to see our best value.

– Best Seller
— Traeger PEL319 Hickory 100% All-Natural Hardwood Grill Pellets
Anybody experienced with smoking as certainly heard of Traeger as they practically wrote the book on smoking grills. Aside from the fact that this company is the most well-known and prestigious, it is also the oldest and most experienced smoking company. In fact, Traeger actually developed the first dedicated smoker grill, though they definitely focus more on grills than on accessory products. That leads Traeger wood pellets to sell better than most other brands based on word of mouth, though this does not necessarily mean that they are the best wood pellet for smoking in every situation.

Good Choice
While the use of hickory does technically limit the situation that you would use these wood pellets in, Traeger makes sure that you do not have to worry. This is because Traeger offers a wide range of different wood pellet flavors all for a cheaper price than many of its competitors. This allows you to make sure that you get the right flavor for the type of food that you are cooking. That said, you may not be able to rely on Traeger wood pellets for every type of smoking technique as these wood pellets do not burn quite as hot as some of the others that we reviewed. That said, Traeger uses a great manufacturing process and does not include binders or fillers in their wood pellets.

Sustainable Pellets
While Traeger made its name for making high-end smoking grills, they do a fair bit of work making good wood pellets too. For one, Traeger Hickory wood pellets are made from trees sourced in the USA, but Traeger goes a step further than that. Rather than simply making sure that the wood comes from a local, reliable source, Traeger actually harvests all of their wood used in their wood pellets from their own sustainably grown tree farms. This vertical integration is likely a bit part of how Traeger can sell their wood pellets without having to charge more than some of their competitors.

— Pros
Is a less expensive wood pellet
Comes in a 20 lb bag
Has a different flavor choices
Is suitable for all types of food
Does not contain binders or fillers
Made from USA tree farms

— Cons
Not the hottest burn
Not the best shipping

– Top Pick
— CookinPellets 40PM Perfect Mix
Though CookinPellets may not necessarily have the same history of innovation when compared to some of the other companies on our list, they do have their own advantages. However, it is worth noting that this is one of the less experienced companies, though it does still have over 2 decades of experience behind it. On top of that, CookinPellets is also the only company on our list that specializes exclusively in wood pellets for smoking. While this does give them a unique insight into how to make superior wood pellets, they do still have issues in other aspects.

Great Burns
While the flavor profile of wood pellets is important, long-time smokers know that there is more to a high-quality wood pellet than that. From beginning to end, the best wood pellets are able to offer reliable and controlled cooking experiences. In this regard, CookinPellets wood pellets might be the best-performing product that we came across. For example, this is easily one of the longest burning wood pellets we reviewed which means you do not have to use as much for the same amount of cooking time. Even better than that, the CookinPellets wood pellets also have a tendency to burn at hotter temperatures which allows them to be used for a wider range of smoking techniques. The fact that the CookinPellets wood pellets burn at hotter temperatures for longer periods of time also helps ensure that they leave less ash behind when they are spent.

Bulk Troubles
One thing that can be a bit frustrating when it comes to the CookinPellets wood pellets is that there are not quite as many choices. While the Perfect Mix wood pellets allow you to cook a wide variety of different foods, it is made primarily of mild woods with a little hickory thrown into the mix. However, this is also a more expensive wood pellet, though it does at least come in a 40-pound bag. That said, this is one of the few wood pellet manufacturers that does not even sell smaller bags outside of samplers. Regardless, the biggest concern of the CookinPellets Perfect Blend wood pellets comes from a potential quality concern. Basically, a batch of these wood pellets accidentally had plastic mixed in with it, though not every bag has this issue. As such, it is important to check as soon as you receive this bag, and return any bags that have this problem.

— Pros
Made from heartwoods
Suitable for most types of food
Heats better than some
Burns better than some
Does not contain fillers
Burns cleaner than some

— Cons
Is a more expensive wood pellet
May have QC issues

– Best Value
— Camp Chef Bag of Premium for Smoker
Camp Chef is likely not the first company you think of when you think of barbecue grills, though it is still a good company all the same. Part of the issue is that Camp Chef fills a more narrow niche of grilling products made primarily for camping. This means that Camp Chef definitely does not specialize in wood pellets exclusively nor does it specialize in smoking products more broadly. However, Camp Chef is one of the older and more experienced companies on our list having been founded just a few years after the development of dedicated smoking grills in the first place.

Good Burn
While not all wood pellets are necessarily the strongest when it comes to their flavor profile, they can still provide a lot of benefits for smoking purposes. By far one of the best things about the Camp Chef wood pellets is that it burns hotter than many other products we came across. This is likely due in a large part because it uses an ultra-low moisture process to ensure that it can compact more wood than some of its competitors. Not only does this approach allow the Camp Chef wood pellets to get hotter than some of their competitors, but it also allows them to burn for longer. This combination of qualities allows the Camp Chef wood pellets to be used for hot smoking where you need sustained temperatures of 400-degrees or more.

Okay Effect
To be fair, it may not necessarily be the fault of the Camp Chef wood pellets, but there is no getting around the fact that this product does not impart the strongest flavor. Part of this is definitely due to the use of only applewood in its manufacturing, but applewood is noted for being a medium flavor wood. This applewood wood pellet is definitely closer to a mild flavor wood like cherry than it is a traditional applewood. On top of the fact that the applewood flavor is already not terribly strong, the absence of other woods also limits the use of this wood pellet for certain foods. Thankfully, the Camp Chef wood pellet is a cheaper wood pellet and still offers plenty of value otherwise.

— Pros
Is a less expensive wood pellet
Comes in a 20 lb bag
Has an ultra-low moisture content
Does not contain binders or fillers
Heats better than some
Burns better than some

— Cons
Not ideal for hearty meats
Not the strongest flavor

– Runner Up
— Traeger Grills PEL331 Signature Blend 100% All-Natural Hardwood Pellets – Grill, Smoke, Bake, Roast, Braise, and BBQ (20 lb. Bag)
Traeger makes another appearance on our list, but this time, instead of going with the specific approach, the company takes a more generalist approach. While this definitely has its advantages and weaknesses, Traeger’s specialty in the field and nearly 35 years of experience allows them to tackle this goal better than most. The Trager Grilles Signature Blend wood pellets are fairly good in what they do, but they are not appreciably better than some of the other options that we came across.

Reliable Seller
One of the best things about buying and Traeger Grills wood pellets is that you at least do not have to worry about any issues with the seller. For one, Traeger Grills wooden pellets are the only ones we saw that can boast the “mill to grill” claim making sure that nothing happens before the wood is processed into pellets. On top of that, while Traeger Grills wood pellets do use soy oil for lubrication purposes, they do not use any wood fillers or artificial binders. Even better, this is a less expensive wood pellet which is impressive considering all of the time and care put into its production.

Needs Work
One of the better qualities of the Signature Blend wood pellets is that it includes enough different types of wood that it can cover most bases. Not only does this allow the PEL331 wood pellets to work when cooking pretty much any kind of food, but it also provides a robust flavor profile. This is further complemented by the fact that this Traeger Grills wood pellet made sure to use a combination of hickory, maple, and cherry so that they blend well together. Unfortunately, this is actually one of the faster burning wood pellets that we came across which will definitely for you to use more. What is worse, this quicker burn time does not correlate to a hotter burn which is likely caused by a less solid pellet.

— Pros
Is a less expensive wood pellet
Comes in a 20 lb bag
Has a robust blend of wood flavors
Is suitable for all types of food
Does not contain binders or fillers
Made from USA tree farms

— Cons
Not as solid
Burns quicker than some

– Also Consider
— Louisiana Grills 55405 Competition Blend Pellets, 40,
Louisiana Grills is definitely an interesting company if for no other reason than the fact that it is actually a subsidiary brand owned by Danson US, LLC. While Danson and Louisiana Grills cannot boast of being the first, they do have some of the founding members of Traeger grills as part of their team. Though it should be noted that this caused a legal conflict between the 2 companies, it also means that you can expect a similar level of quality with their products. Still, Louisiana Grills is easily the youngest and least experienced company on our list at just under 5 years old. On top of that, the company focuses more on their grills than they do their wood pellets.

Good Before
One of the best qualities of the Louisiana Grills wood pellets is that you get plenty of pellets with your purchase. Granted, you may have to pay a little bit more upfront, but you get 40 pounds of wood pellets in the end. On top of that, this is actually one of the less expensive 40-pound wood pellet bags that we saw making it the least expensive wood pellet per pound. Even better than that, the Competition Blend wood pellets provide a nice mix of flavors with 50-percent maple, 25-percent hickory, and 25-percent cherry wood. This allows you to cook virtually any kind of food without having to worry about contradictory flavor profiles and even imparts a wide range of different flavors onto the food.

Iffy After
While all wood pellets burn better than logs of wood due to their compressed form, some wood pellets burn better than others. The Louisiana Grills Competition Blend wood pellets are definitely in this camp and are noted for burning longer than many of their competitors. That said, it seems that the 55405 wood pellets put out a comparable amount of smoke, but they are also noted for burning less clean than others. This ultimately creates a situation where you have to clean out the smoker grill more when using these wood pellets than you do with others. On top of that, it seems as though these wood pellets are not quite as compact as some of the others we reviewed and can create sawdust as well.

— Pros
Comes in a 40 lb bag
Has a robust blend of wood flavors
Is suitable for most types of food
Does not contain binders or fillers
Made from USA wood
Burns better than some

— Cons
Is a more expensive wood pellet
Creates more dust than some

– Best Wood Pellets for Smoking Buying Guide 2019
— Wood
While this quality will not necessarily determine how well the wood pellets perform, it is still one of the more important aspects to consider. This is because different types of wood infuse different types of flavor into the food with their smoke. As such, it is important to make sure that you choose a wood which pairs well with the type of food you smoke. Keep in mind, while this may seem obvious for smoking meats, it applies to smoking vegetables, baked goods, and even cheeses.

— Light Flavors – These woods have a tendency to produce a fairly mild smoky flavor that will not overwhelm the rest of the flavors in your food. Alder, cherry, and maple are all noted for producing a subtler flavor than some of the other popular woods. It is also worth noting that mild flavors also have a tendency to impart a bit of sweetness from the smoke. While not always the case depending on the cuisine, light flavors have a tendency to pair better with light meats as well as vegetables and baked goods.

— Medium Flavors – As the name might suggest, these woods will generally impart a stronger smoke flavor than the mild woods but not too strong of a flavor. That said, there is a wider range of different flavor profiles in the medium wood category as they can span the spectrum in terms of additional flavor qualities. For example, medium smoke hardwoods include apple, pecan, and oak which is often considered the middle ground in terms of smoking flavor. However, while oak imparts a fairly general smoky flavor, apple is noted for its sweetness while pecan is noted for its nuttiness.

— Heavy Flavors – Hardwoods the produce heavy smoke flavors are some of the most popular and some of the most difficult to use. The reason for this is that the smoke flavor needs to be controlled far more for a heavier wood profile than it does for milder woods or else the food can end up tasting bitter. The 2 most common heavy smoke flavoring woods are also 2 of the most popular in hickory and mesquite— though walnut is a lesser-used option as well. While heavily flavored woods are used most often with heavier meats, hickory is used for a wide variety of different pork too. It is not at all uncommon for a heavy flavor wood to be mixed in with lighter woods to provide a robust flavor without as much risk of bitterness.

— Avoid – While the woods above are great for imparting a number of different flavors into food, there are always some woods you want to avoid. Generally, you will want to avoid any softwoods when smoking food and should not accept their use in wood pellets either. For one, softwoods have a tendency to impart funny flavors into foods due to the different types of compounds that make them softwoods in the first place. However, some softwoods also contain compounds called terpenes which are used in the production of turpentine and can make you sick.

– FAQ’s
— Why Choose Wood Pellets for Smoking?
While it might seem a bit obvious as to why you would use wood pellets for smoking it is important to remember that wood pellets are processed, you could always just use unprocessed wood for smoking. However, wood pellets definitely confer some distinct advantages over unprocessed wood when it comes to smoking food. And of course, both wood pellets and unprocessed wood offer a significantly better flavor and healthier alternative to artificial smoke flavors.
That said, when compared to raw wood, wood pellets are significantly easier to manage since they come in a more compact form. On top of that, the high-end dedicated smoking grills are generally designed to use wood pellets, though many can also use raw wood. However, the processing that wood pellets undergo also has a tendency to allow them to burn longer than raw wood. On top of that, wood pellets can be sourced from particular parts of the timber which allows them to provide a more consistent burn and flavor profile than raw wood which almost always uses multiple layers of timber.

— How to Use Wood Pellets for Smoking?
Though wood pellets offer significantly more in the way of flavor, they burn little like larger pieces of wood or charcoal. Granted, the wood pellets do generate a similar cooking method using convection like wooden logs or charcoal, but that is pretty much where the similarities end. For instance, both wooden logs and charcoal will regularly be used to generate enough heat so that they also heat the food directly with radiant heat which affords certain cooking qualities that wood pellets do not. Specifically, wooden logs and charcoal can quite often be used to sear foods, especially meat, while wood pellets are rarely, if ever, used for that purpose.
That said, how to use wood pellets for smoking comes down to what kind of food you are cooking and how you are cooking it. For example, if you use an actual smoker designed for wood pellets, you will employ a different approach than if you use a different type of grill. Likewise, if you use wood pellets to smoke meats, that will similarly require different cooking steps than if you smoke vegetables or bread. Finally, even if you use wood pellets for smoking, there are different types of smoking techniques— all other things being equal.
As such, it is important to determine what type of grill you will be using, what type of food you will be cooking, and what type of smoking you intend to do. However, there is one thing you need to do regardless of those decisions and that is to clean the grill. While that might sound a bit obvious, it becomes far more important when using wood pellets for smoking.
This is because smoking generates a significant amount of carbon deposits which can impact both the cooking process and the smoking effect. If the grill is not sufficiently clean, the carbon deposits and other grime can actually rob the grill of heat used to cook the food and throw off your other smoking calculations.
If you are not actually using a professional or dedicated smoking grill, you have a couple of options at your disposal. If your grill uses wooden logs or charcoal as a fuel source, you can simply add wood pellets to the base fuel source. However, the coals and embers from a direct heat source like this will cause the pellets to burn quicker and release more smoke. As such, you may need to add fewer pellets than with most of the other techniques for “flash smoking.”
The other method for using wood pellets outside of a dedicated smoking grill works for wooden log and charcoal grills as well as both types of gas grills and even electric grills. However, this method will also require you to use a separate smoker box, of which there are many to choose from. In this instance, you fill the smoker box with the wood pellets and light some of the wood pellets on fire being careful not to ignite them all. Let the wood pellets burn for about 5 to 10 minutes so that the ones first lit have turned to cinders and place the smokebox in the grill.
If you are using a dedicated smoking grill, the process might be a bit similar or it might be completely different depending on the grill in question. For example, the original “true” smoker grill actually uses nothing but wood pellets to generate its heat. These grills are usually a bit more complicated than other types of grills and will use a timed release to keep feeding the fire with wood pellets in a controlled manner. This not only prevents the smoke from getting too thick, which is necessary for certain flavors of wood pellets, but it also lets you control the temperature.
Controlling the temperature is especially important if you are slow smoking or cold smoking the food and is how some of the best barbecue is made. If you are not using a smoker grill that features the original design, you are likely dealing with a grill that has a secondary smoke box. However, unlike a smoke box for a more traditional type of grill, this arrangement still functions as the original smoker grill. The only difference is that you do not have the luxury of an automatic feeder making sure that the wood pellets are fed at a regular rate and will have to keep track of the temperature and smoke levels on your own. This type of smoker grill also requires you to manually add more wood pellets to the secondary smoke box.

— What to Look for?
Considering wood pellets are not really the most complex product, it might seem a bit difficult to figure out how to choose one over another. While there are definitely some qualities and features to look out for, by far one of the most important considerations when choosing wood pellets for smoking is the type of wood. This is because the type of wood a wood pellet uses will drastically affect the flavor that the smoke imparts on your food. While you are more than free to choose whatever combination of food and smoke flavor you want, there are a number of standard combinations used by restaurants around the world.
While there is not really a single type of wood that smokes best for every kind of food, one of the easier ways of thinking about it is by avoiding woods that impart too different of a flavor profile as the food being smoked. For example, pork is somewhat light meat that is naturally a bit sweet and salty, which means you do not want to use a wood that is too heavy. Granted, this definitely depends on the type of barbecue you are trying to make as well as the cut of meat. Beef, on the other hand, is a far heartier flavor of meat without too much in the way of additional flavor profile and does well with heavier smoke flavors.
Outside of the actual flavor combination, you want to make sure that you follow the different qualities detailed in the buyer’s guide. By far, the most important thing to do is make sure that you get food-grade wood pellets or else you risk a terrible flavor or even potential sickness. While hardwoods are the best kind of wood for smoking, the different parts of a tree smoke differently, so put a little more stock in wood pellets made from deeper within the tree too.

– Conclusion
In the end, there is not a single wood pellet that is the best for all smoking situations as the different foods, tools, and techniques all play an important role. The Traeger Hickory and other assorted flavors are less expensive than some and also provide a healthy alternative for both you and the environment. The CookinPellets definitely provides some of the best cooking results that we found for a variety of different types of situations, but you have to be careful not to get an iffy bag. The Camp Chef might be one of the best-performing wood pellets and comes at a cheaper cost, but it is more specialized and not as flavorful. The Traeger signature blend is still less expensive and offers more versatility, but it also burns somewhat quickly. Finally, the Louisiana Grills serves for numerous situations and burns better than some, but it does not burn as cleanly.

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