“Which Flavor of Pellets Do I Get?”
It Might Not Seem Like a Big Decision, But It Can Really Affect Your Cooking. Let Shane Help.
So you’ve decided to jump in with both feet and you bought a new pellet pit. Now you are faced with picking the right BBQ pellets for your cooking needs. There are tons of brands and each claim to be the best. To add to it, there are dozens of flavors and blends. So where do you begin when deciding which pellets to get for your pellet grill?
Everyone has an opinion when it comes to barbecue and especially with their preferred flavor of cooking pellets or wood chips. They all have a favorite brand or flavor they use and they also think their choice and reasoning is best. I’m not here to start an argument but just provide some basic info to help out the new users.
How We Designed Our Wood Pellets
When it came time to make a pellet for the Grilla Grill’s line of products we took it very seriously. We wanted to make the best wood fuel pellets on the market. We tested all the top brands, took pages and pages of notes comparing everything from heat output and flavor to efficiency and ash created. We also went to several factories and asked the hard questions concerning the use of flavor oils, additives, fillers, and woods such as Alder. We wanted to ensure what we put our name was hands down the best pellets for our grills.
Once all the data was compiled and the interviews were done we found some commonality between the top brands. First, they only used high-quality wood and nothing else in their pellets. No flavor oils, binders or any other additives were used or needed when the best woods were used. Second, hardwood species such as Oak was the primary ingredient used even in their blended pellets. Alder avoided since it was determined to not create as much heat and could attribute to flameout issues in some pellet smokers. Last but not least, this “keep it simple but honest” philosophy of pellet manufacturing hands down created not only the best burning pellet but the most flavorful food. The rich flavors of the right pellet fuel was genuinely a difference you could taste.
We understand that many pellet brands are cheaper price wise than our competition grade pellets, but when it comes to pellets we believe you get what you pay for. Our pellets have no fillers, flavor oils or additives. They create significantly less ash content than other brands and are exceptionally efficient as far as burn rate is concerned. These are all great things, but we are most proud of how much flavor our pellets create which help you be a star in your backyard.
Choosing Pellet Flavors
Pellet grill pellets come in all kinds of flavors and each are better suited for different kinds of meat. If you just want a quick reference, our chart below is a handy guide to which flavors work with which foods.
If you don’t want to buy an endless amount of different flavors, I would suggest using our Competition Blend or just keeping these four around:
1 – Mesquite
2 – Hickory
3 – Cherry / Apple
4 – Pecan
If you are like me, you’re used to smoke being a prominent flavor in your final product. Mesquite smoker pellets can typically be way too strong, but lucky for us, pellet pits by their very nature produce a gentler smoke flavor profile. I have found that Mesquite in a pellet smoker is awesome and it has become my go-to.
Hickory is strong, but not as strong as Mesquite but I recommend it for much the same reasons as I recommend Mesquite.
Cherry & Apple
I know, I know I listed two here. It’s because I use them interchangeably, but if I had to pick just one, I’d pick Cherry. It’s widely known for producing a great smoke ring and great color on your meat, but is still very, very mild.
Last but not least, Pecan. I love Pecan. Pecan is just a fantastic mix of what Hickory can do but with a nice vanilla, nutty finish. Pecan to me is what good bourbon is to most other folks. It hits all the same flavor notes and is so palatable that it suites all occasions. Rather than using Oak, I find Pecan works in its place.
One flavor is great for the backyard, but during competition, I’ll mix two pellet tastes. I love taking 6lbs of Mesquite pellets and mixing them with 4lbs of Cherry pellets. This mellows the Mesquite just a bit yet gives me the smoke ring and color benefits of Cherry.
Choose for You
So which should you choose? Well, I first and foremost recommend everyone experimenting to find what works best for you. That said, here is a list of what I like to use when cooking various things at home:
- Burgers / Brats – Hickory, Mesquite or Pecan – You want to hit the burgers with as much smoke flavor as possible since it is a shorter cook time.
- Pork Ribs – Cherry or Mesquite
- Pulled Pork – I really like Pecan here, but Cherry, Hickory, Apple and Mesquite would be great as well
- Brisket – Mesquite and Hickory – When it comes to big, beautiful beef, go strong with flavors
- Chicken – Pecan, Apple and Cherry – Chicken is not a very strongly flavored meat so you can go lighter
- Veggies – Hickory and Mesquite – Again, it’s a short cook time so I like stronger flavored woods here like
- Steaks – Pecan, Hickory, or Mesquite.
- Salmon – Apple and Cherry, or in a pinch, Pecan
- Whole Turkey – Cherry and Apple over Mesquite – If you are serving this for Thanksgiving, I wouldn’t go super heavy with smoke flavor here
- Pizzas – Pecan
When In Doubt, Foil It Out
What do you do when you only have a strong-flavored pellet but don’t want to over-flavor the meat? Solve it by the old Texas Crutch a.k.a. wrapping with aluminum foil. Many times I’ve wrapped meat once I was happy with the color or to keep the meat from taking on more smoke than desired. It’s a great technique.
You do what works for you and what creates the best results. People will remember the meal, the flavors, and the fellowship, not what pellet flavor you chose.
Remember the first rule of your barbecue – it’s YOUR barbecue.