It may have taken a few years to catch on, but it’s hard to dispute that pellet grills are here to stay. Pellet grills are easily the fastest-growing segment in the grilling industry. This has left many new pellet grill owners with a few questions concerning pellets. Chief among them “what constitutes a good pellet?” Second, “where can they find pellets to fuel their prized grill?”
Thankfully the popularity of pellet grills spurred many new pellet fuel manufacturing companies to enter the industry. There are also some very big names in the grilling world that have seen the light and are now producing pellets as well. This has helped the availability of pellets for sure, but we are still not to a point where pellets are commonplace in stores in all areas.
Local availability of pellets is only one problem though. How are you, the consumer, supposed to know which is a good pellet brand versus a bad? If you do a Google search for “where to buy pellets” you are likely only to see a lot of advertisements all proclaiming their product to be the best. This situation is very akin to what consumers in the charcoal industry deal with as well.
To compound the complexity of this issue the consumer also has to deal with some grill manufacturers recommending the use of only their branded pellets. Then to make matters even worse pellet consumers have to navigate all the different flavors available and whether to use a blended pellet (a blend of multiple kinds of wood such as oak, hickory, and cherry) or a 100% pure pellet (a pellet that uses only the flavor listed on the package). This doesn’t even take into consideration some pellet companies using things such as oils and fillers in their pellets.
So where does a new pellet grill owner start? How do you successfully navigate this pellet predicament? Let’s start with some basic recommendations that will hopefully save you money and hours of frustration.
First and foremost, avoid pellets that have anything other 100% wood as the ingredient. Oils, fillers, etc have no place in a pellet. Also, look for a pellet that is mostly comprised of hardwood. Oak, hickory, and pecan all are great bases for a pellet composition.
But which pellet brands should you buy? We analyzed over a dozen brands and multiple flavors within each brand when we first got into this business. That data was used to formulate what would become Grilla Grills pellets.
Of course, we recommend our pellets and have proven them to work fantastically with all of our grills, but we would never be short-sighted enough to say that our owners must only use our pellets. That just seems a bit, well, wrong. From our testing and customer feedback, the following brands all worked very well: B&B, BBQrs Delight, Cooking Pellets.com, Lumberjack and Smoke Ring.
So what about the question of blends versus 100% pure species pellets? Should you avoid blends? Should you only use 100% pure? That is a web to unweave and depends greatly on what you are cooking as to the correct answer. Through our testing we found many blends to work very well. We liked them so much that we incorporated them into what we offer. Not all blends are created equal though and the amount of hardwood versus flavor wood varies widely across brands. We also found that some 100% pure pellets such as cherry and apple had harder times reaching higher grilling temperatures and lacked the harder core flavor punch of hickory or mesquite. Coming from the world of stick burners many new pellet grill owners assume that going 100% cherry or apple is going to work for them since that is what they have grown accustomed to. At the end of the day, they end up moving to a pellet with a deeper flavor like hickory or mesquite to get the results they are used to.
You now know more about the perplexing pellet predicament, but where do you actually buy them? After all, none of this matters if you cannot get them when you need them. If you are lucky you have a local store that sells one of the brands mentioned above. Definitely take the time to visit the web pages of these manufacturers and see what is available in your area. If you are not one of the fortunate grill owners who live near an Academy Sports, Dicks Sporting Goods, Rural King, etc there is a chance your local Wal-Mart, Lowes or Home Depot may carry a reputable brand.
If none of these outlets work for you all is not lost. There are many online retailers, including Grilla Grills, who will deliver pellets direct to your door often with no additional shipping charges if you order 2-3 bags at a time. Pellet prices vary greatly, so do your homework and shop around.
Another avenue that many pellet grill owners use is participating in a bulk buy of their favorite brand. Many times by ordering as little as a thousand pounds of pellets and having them shipped via pallet can save enough per pound to be worth the effort. Also, check the websites of the pellet brands listed above, many have local distributors that maybe with an hour drive of your location. If you are new to the pellet world, the thought of ordering a thousand pounds of pellets may sound excessive or intimidating. Many felt this way at first, but if you are in a location where it is hard to get pellets, the mantra of keeping at least a hundred pounds of pellets (five 20 pound bags) on hand at all times starts to make sense quickly.
One final word of caution when it comes to pellet pricing. If you see a price on pellets that seems too good to be true, there’s probably a reason for it. If the pellets you got an amazing deal on creates twice as much ash, don’t burn as well, generate wild temp swings, and end up ruining a $65 brisket were they worth it? What about if that flame out or temp swing cost you a whole pit full of meat and ruined the family reunion the next day? We are all for saving money as much as anyone, but perspective is key here. We are in no way saying that great pellets cannot be had for pennies per pound, but we are definitely saying, that if those pennies saved are not on a proven brand that you can trust then it’s probably not a bet worth taking.