Can you use pellets in an electric smoker? Short answer, yes. Long answer, yes, but there’s a whole lot of things you need to know. Pellets are different from conventional wood chips or chunks. So things are going to change if you shake up the smoker setup!
A Quick Explanation For Using Pellets In An Electric Smoker
Pellets are the fuel of choice for pellet grills. They find wide use in smoking food and even some grilling. So we know they are suitable for smoking food, but it is how they interact with electric smokers that matters for our current discussion. And as we know, they are entirely different beasts compared to pellet grills.
Wood chips or chunks are the conventional choices for electric smokers. Most electric smokers are built with wood chips in mind, so things take a turn when pellets show up for smoking food.
Let’s take a quick overview of wood chips and pellets used for smoking food.
Wood Chips Used For Electric Smokers
As we know, wood chips are made from hardwood fashioned into small but evenly sized pieces. They’re easy to burn and produce flavorful smoke, though there might also be an element of a bitter taste.
Chips are placed in a tray inside an electric smoker. Here, an electric element heats, transferring the heat to the chips. This heat causes the chips to give out smoke, though there is never a fire involved.
This is the conventional way for electric smokers to create those flavorful meals.
Pellets And The Electric Smoker
Pellets too are made from hardwood, though the process is different. Often, they are made from sawdust or finely ground hardwood. These small particles face compression for packing as small, cylindrical pellets.
Contrary to some misinformation, quality pellets don’t use glue or similar binding agents. Pretty much all the work is done by the high pressure that puts the small particles in the shape of pellets.
They are slow-burning and release excellent flavor. That’s a big reason they’re so popular with pellet grills and vertical pellet smokers. Things change when pellets are put in electric smokers. Pellet grills usually ignite the pellets and use their smoke.
However, electric smokers don’t want any ignition. Pellets are remarkably easy to burn and can catch fire inside electric smokers. These chances rise with the increase in power of the heating element. So, if you’ve got an electric smoker with a powerful heating element, think twice about using pellets.
Tips And Details On Using Pellets With An Electric Smoker
Notes When Using Pellets For Smoke
Okay, so you’ve decided to place pellets inside your trusty electric smoker. Here are some pointers to make this operation a success.
Pellets are densely packed, so they give off more heat and smoke. When replacing wood chips with pellets, go small. Putting in less than 10 pellets at a time should work just fine. We know that pellets are more flammable compared to chips. One solution is to put the pellets in a tinfoil pack with a few holes.
Even so, remember that pellets are quick to ignite. The smoker shouldn’t be left unattended for a long time. Finally, as with wood chips, pellets are available in several wood and flavor options. Choose the right one to get the most out of the food.
Here’s a quick rundown of the relevant parts:
- Choose the right pellets for your food, keep them dry.
- Pellets are more flammable and give out more smoke as compared to wood chips. So, it’s good to use pellets in batches of 7-9.
- Consider placing pellets in a tinfoil pack with holes.
- Don’t leave the smoker unattended for long periods.
Even with all the precautions, there are chances that smoking with pellets inside an electric smoker won’t go as planned. Therefore, skip their use for hot smoking and consider going cold.
Cold Smoking With Pellets In An Electric Smoker
So far, we’ve concluded that it is possible to use pellets in an electric smoker. It just takes some extra preparation and effort.
But why bother with all that?
Just stick with the old-fashioned way of using chips and the preparation and worries reduce dramatically. Pellets, however, are still great for some cold smoking. This makes it possible to benefit from the high volume of smoke that pellets release, while not worrying about the risks of fire.
It’s also better to use something like a smoke tube or a smoke maze. Both of these are simple, usually metal constructs that you can fill up with pellets. They’re excellent for cold smoking and release smoke for a very long time.
What Do Manufacturers Like Masterbuild And Pit Boss Think Of Pellets In Electric Smokers
Manufacturers have different opinions on whether or not pellets should see the inside of an electric smoker. Masterbuilt, for example, strongly discourages the use of pellets in electric smokers.
Pit Boss is a bit ambivalent on the issue, instead recommending the company’s pellets for the smoker. After all, if they can work with Pit Boss vertical pellet smokers, they might work with conventional electric smokers.
Manufacturers like Char-Broil have different ideas still. Smokers from this company are okay with the use of pellets or wood chips. Several vertical smoker models also include specific trays for wood chips or pellets. This makes the setup easy and useful to handle.
The recommendations vary by manufacturer, so do some research to see what the manufacturer says. In some cases, using pellets might cost you the warranty protection of the electric smoker.
Of course, if you do use pellets, don’t put quality on the backburner. There are several quality brands available, including those produced by pellet grill manufacturers. Some of the top names for pellet brands are Traeger, Weber, Louisiana-Grills, and CookinPellets.
The Yay Or Nay On Pellets In An Electric Smoker
We’ve gone into a fair bit of detail to answer the question: can you use pellets in an electric smoker? The answer is yes. Although, it’s better to use them for cold smoking rather than hot smoking. For the latter, you’ll have to be more careful and take additional steps for the best results in taste and safety.