The word “smoker” is a generic term that refers to any device for smoking food. The type of smoker you choose will depend on your needs, budget and taste.
You can use a pellet smoker to make all kinds of smoked meats, but it’s particularly suited for cooking large quantities of smoked meat in one go. You can also smoke vegetables, cheeses, pastries or even fish.
If you have never used a pellet smoker before, there are some important things to know about them before going out and buying one. If you already know what a pellet smoker does, then please continue reading this article to learn more about how they work.
What Is Pellet Smoke?
Pellet smoke involves the combustion of wood pellets in an enclosed chamber. This produces a smoky smell and flavor that makes cooked meats look and taste great. Pellets are made from sawdust, which has a high moisture content, so they produce very little ash compared with charcoal briquettes.
To burn the pellets, you need to place them in a metal pan called a cooker insert. This pan acts as both a heat source and a water pan. It also catches any drippings that fall into it from the meat you’re cooking. The cooker insert is placed inside a stainless steel cooker that sits on top of the heating element. Pellet smokers come with various cookers, ranging from small tabletop models to larger commercial units.
In most cases, you will only need a single-burner model cooker – that means one burner that heats the entire unit. Some larger models have two or three separate burners. These allow you to switch between different cooking temperatures without having to move the whole cooker around.
Most pellet smokers come with a temperature probe that allows you to monitor the meat’s internal temperature during cooking. They usually include a digital display screen that shows the current setting.
Some pellet smokers also have integrated scales for weighing ingredients. These are handy if you plan on smoking foods that require specific amounts of seasoning such as cheese and sausage.
One important feature of pellet smokers is their ability to maintain precise temperatures over long periods of time. Most manufacturers claim that their products can hold steady at a constant temperature for up to 14 hours at a time. This is a significant advantage over other types of smokers who tend to get hot spots where the meat isn’t properly searing.
How Do Pellet Smokers Work?
Pellet smokers use the same principle as a gas barbecue. Wood pellets (or chips) sit in a metal pan below the cooking grill. A fan blows air across these pellets to create a fire above the pan. When the pellets start to burn, the rising heat causes them to explode and release heat.
This heat travels upward through the grill and ignites the cooking surface. As the heat builds, the grill gets hotter and hotter until the meat begins to brown. Once the meat is fully cooked, the excess fat dripping onto the pan stops burning and starts to solidify. This creates a layer of grease that traps the remaining heat, helping prevent further cooking.
You should clean and oil the food grate after every use to ensure it remains free of gunk and residue. When you want to add new pellets to the cooker, first turn off the burner and unplug it from the power supply.
Next, remove the pan by lifting it up and away from the grill. Remove the cooking rack, too. Then, put the pellets back in the pan and replace the rack. Turn on the burner again and let it preheat for 15 minutes. Next, lower the meat slowly into the cooker using tongs. Remember to keep the air flow open while doing this.
Once the meat is inserted, close the lid and wait for 2 to 3 minutes. This gives the meat a chance to absorb the smoke flavors. Now, you can either cook directly on the grate or place a baking sheet underneath the meat to catch any extra juices. Place the meat on the grill and leave it alone for 30 minutes to 1 hour. This is the critical step. During this process, the meat absorbs the smoke flavor and turns a beautiful color.
Types of Pellet Smokers
There are many different brands of pellet smokers. While some are designed mainly for home use, others are intended for commercial applications. Here are some of the more popular models:
These are heavy duty pellet smokers that are suitable for large family gatherings and events. They come in four sizes: 9.8 cubic foot, 13.3 cubic foot, 16.4 cubic foot, and 20 cubic feet.
Cheffire Pellet Grill
This model is ideal for smaller families or those who prefer a lighter and less expensive option. It features a removable cooking grid that lets you easily change the grilling area. You also get a convenient drip tray that collects excess grease for easy disposal.
Charbroil Pellet Grill
This product comes with a wide variety of accessories including a rotisserie rod, side shelves, a warming drawer, a pizza stone and a large storage compartment. The grill also comes with a built-in scale so you don’t have to worry about measuring your ingredients.
Coleman Pellet Grill
Coleman offers a full line of pellet smokers, including this one, which is especially well suited for outdoor cooking. The company claims that its products give you the best value for money among all major brands. In addition, Coleman is known for making quality products that last a lifetime.