Smoking meat by popping pellets? How to make great barbecue without the stress. Watch a barbecue competition in person or on television and you’ll usually see pit masters tossing logs into really big smoking rigs. It’s what most people think of when they think of great tasting meats, whether its ribs, brisket or pulled pork. But for most backyard barbecuers, that investment in time, money and learning are just not in the cards.
For those barbecuers on a budget, pellet smokers are becoming increasingly popular as a way for smoking meat that not only tastes great but doesn’t require breaking the bank to do so. In some competitions, meats produced by pellet smokers are helping deliver some of the top prizes to their owners.
The principal for pellet smokers is the same as for regular smokers. They burn wood in the form of pellets. The major differences are that the smoker can regulate the airflow and temperature for you, allowing for a focus on prepping meats, rubs, sauces and other elements that make for mouth-watering food. You don’t have to worry so much about maintaining fire and airflow that you forget about what’s most important: smoking meat and getting the flavors you want.
There are some items you need to keep an eye on with pellet smokers that you don’t have to do with regular smokers, such as cleaning out the firebox before starting any smoking session. Some other items you’ll need include:
- A consistent electrical power supply, which may mean having a generator if you like to take your smoker camping
- Spare fuses
- Extension cord
- Airtight containers for pellets as they are ruined if they get wet
- Aluminum foil for the drip pan
There are many pellet smoker manufacturers, with a number of price points for their products. As with any smoker, you can get as fancy as you want, with features such as built-in wireless thermometers, or go bare-bones with essentially an on-off switch.
As with any piece of equipment, you’ll probably want to try before you buy. Don’t be afraid to ask your dealer for a demo, or if they know someone who’s willing to share stories or, better yet, some of the foods they’ve smoked. No matter what you decide, smoke on!