Pellet grills have recently become one of the most popular additions to many barbecue enthusiasts’ outdoor kitchen setups. Due to the fact that the grill is typically used to smoke meats, many people look into adding one to their own barbecue setups. They are, after all, quite a versatile machine with the ability to cook as well.
However there are a few things many pellet grill owners don’t know about when it comes to using their grills. Those that just start using it without properly understanding how to use the grill can often find themselves with a simple smoked roast that they could have just barbecued instead. Or even worse, they could end up with an unevenly cooked brisket or ribs.
As daunting as it can seem, even some experts could be using their pellet grills in a less efficient way. When the end result you have in mind is a juicy brisket, chances are that you’re forgetting how to do a few steps in the rush for deliciousness. This article covers some of the most vital tips to help you make that delicious cut of meat and so much more.
Find any hot spots
Much like any other kinds of barbecues, pellet grills have a special area where most of the heat is concentrated. This area of the grill is called a hotspot and will likely change depending on what type of grill you have. The best way to find your pellet grill’s hotspot is to lay slices of a cheaper white bread edge to edge along the hot grill. After a few minutes, flip the slices over. The darkest spots on the slices are where your hot spots are, and where any food you place will cook faster.
Season the grill
Seasoning your pellet grill before you cook on it can be one of the most important steps you can do. Though the process can take a fair amount of time – about 45 minutes to an hour depending on the manufacturer – seasoning the grill’s grates can do so much more than simply adding flavour to the grill. The process burns off any potentially toxic substances while replacing it with a safer oil that also protects the grate from rusting. The end result is a longer lasting pellet grill.
Get a good meat thermometer
If you don’t already have a meat specific thermometer, now is the best time to invest in a high quality one. Laser style thermometers tend to give more accurate temperature readings than the ones built into the grill itself. However, if you need to keep a budget, a regular meat thermometer can work just as well. While cooking more simple dishes, keep track of what temperatures the grill reaches, since it can be used later for both searing and smoking.
Cook straight from the fridge
Though many recipes call for putting meat on the grill or smoker after it’s come to room temperature, it actually isn’t a good idea. Keeping the meat refrigerated actually reduces the risk of any bad bacteria or viruses from forming, lengthening the amount of time you can safely store it in case something comes up. If you leave the meat out to warm it a few degrees, the pellet grill can safely do that for you.
Keep the pellets topped off
Always ensure that you have enough pellets inside the hopper for the entire duration that you’re cooking or smoking. If it runs out in the middle of a session, more often than not, your grill’s manual will require you to wait for the grill to cool completely first before relighting it. With half or even uncooked meat inside it, there’s a growing risk of bacteria. Instead, always have pellets on hand to quickly refill it.
Use lower temperatures
Sometimes, in order to get a great smoked brisket or rack of ribs, you need to cook them at lower temperatures for a long amount of time. This means that you need to know what counts as low heat and how to use them. Generally, low temperatures often create more smoke, which in turn smokes the meat well.
Cook more than meat
As wonderful a rack of smoked ribs sounds, there are more than just cuts of meat that you can make with a pellet grill. With an appropriate grill plate, you can easily whip up mac and cheese, cornbread, omelettes and even soup on pellet grills. A lot of dishes can be made great if you’re willing to experiment a little.
Know your different wood pellets
Much like experimenting with different kinds of foods to cook on a pellet grill, the pellets themselves don’t need to be the same for each grilling session. Many different hardwoods and fruit woods are used as pellets, each giving different unique flavours to the smoke. When it comes to smoking, the flavours can come through quite strongly which is where different wood pellet types really come into play. Each type of wood pellet can make different types of foods far more delicious if you’re willing to experiment.
Adding food to the smoker too early
In the same way you need to wait for an oven to reach the ideal temperatures to bake a cake well, a pellet grill needs to preheat first before you can add food to it to cook. Adding meats and vegetables too early can lead to undercooked dishes and some unappealing flavours. Instead, when looking to start smoking, make sure that the smoke is thin and blue.
Oversmoking the food
If you ever worked with a charcoal grill, you know that too much cooking can ruin the taste of a dish, even if you scrape off any burned bits of it. In the same way, smoking is a fine line when it comes to food. Too much smoke can ruin the flavours of a dish by entirely hiding the original flavours. However, it can always be difficult to judge how much smoke is good for a dish. As a rule of thumb, less can always compliment a dish.