“What Are The Best Wood Pellets for My Grill?”
It Might Not Seem Like a Big Decision, But It Can Really Affect Your Cooking. Let Us Help.
Updated July 2021
After buying a wood pellet griller, you’ll be faced with a big question — which are the best wood pellets and flavors to buy?
The answer depends on a lot of factors, including what you’re grilling and what types of wood pellets you prefer. For instance, some pitmasters swear by using pecan wood pellets for freshly grilled pizzas. Others only use hickory pellets for smoking meat or cherry pellets for cold smoking cheese.
With that being said, you can follow a few guiding principles.
How To Choose The Best Pellet Flavors for Your Grill
1. Get a Baseline Understanding of Popular Pellet Flavors
You won’t be able to experiment with different pellets until you get a better idea of how strong each pellet’s flavor is going to be.
Some of the most intense wood pellet flavors include mesquite pellets, hickory pellets and cherry pellets. So when you want your smoked and grilled ingredients to be infused with wood pellet flavor, aim for those pellets.
If you’re looking for less obvious undertones, opt for lighter wood pellet flavors like apple pellets and pecan pellets.
If you just want a quick reference, our chart below is a handy guide to which flavors work with which foods.
2. Keep a Few Pellet Flavors Around
Feeling a little overwhelmed at all the brands and flavors available? No problem. Just rely on our Competition Blend or just keeping these four around:
1 – Mesquite
2 – Hickory
4 – Pecan
Mesquite Wood Pellets
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 grill is awesome and it has become my go-to.
Hickory Wood Pellets
Hickory is strong, but not as strong as Mesquite, but I recommend it for much the same reasons as I recommend Mesquite.
Cherry & Apple Wood Pellets
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.
Pecan Wood Pellets
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.
3. Think About How Long Your Food Will Be in the Smoke
As mentioned, hickory and mesquite pellets tend to be strong. But what if you’re only giving a steak a quick sear or you’re whipping up some fast veggie kebabs? In that case, your wood pellet smoke won’t take much hold.
A basic rule of thumb is that the longer your food is going to heat up in your grill, the more important your pellet of choice will be to the finished recipe.
4. Grab Cherry Every Time for a Winning Smoke Ring
The best pellets for brisket smoke rings or smoke rings in any meat will come from cherry pellets. That’s a hands-down fact. So if you’re trying to get those coveted smoke rings, you know which pellet bag to pick up!
5. Save Sweeter Wood Pellets for Desserts
Let’s say you discovered our awesome grilled dessert recipes and you want to try them. Forget about using hickory or mesquite. Any of the sweeter-smelling woods such as pecan, apple or cherry will give you a delightfully fresh, light finish.
6. Feel Free to Mix and Match Wood Pellets
What happens if you can’t seem to find the right wood pellets for smoking meat, veggies, seafood or anything else? That’s when your innovation kicks in.
Pitmasters love to combine wood pellets to give their smoked foods unique flavor palates. For example, you might want to smoke apple and pecan wood pellets together. You’ll end up with foods imbued with a nutty vanilla finish with strong fruity overtones. Or try this suggestion:
Two-For-One: Mixing Mesquite and Cherry
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.
What are the Best Pellets for a Pellet Grill?
There are a lot of options when trying to decide the best pellets for your grill. First and foremost, I 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 wood pellets all the way
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.
How Many Pellets Does a Pellet Grill Use?
On average, a pellet grill will use about a half a pound per to two and a half pounds per hour depending on the smoke setting. The higher the setting, the more pellets you’ll use during your cook.
Can You Use Heating Pellets in a Pellet Grill?
Using heating pellets is typically frowned upon, and we don’t advise it either. There’s a reason there’s a distinction between the two, between the types of wood that they often use (pine and spruce for example) to the types of fillers they contain, heating pellets can either pose a health risk or ruin the taste of your food. Stick with food grade pellets and you’ll ensure the safety and great flavor of your food with each cook.
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.
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.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.