For those of you who are regular readers of this column, you know that last year I began looking at embarking on a different direction in terms of my outdoor cooking, smoking and grilling set up.
I have historically been a traditionalist, with a Weber kettle grill and a Weber Smokey Mountain smoker. They have been fantastic, but I was interested in trying something different which didn’t require the process of lighting charcoal, monitoring charcoal, refilling charcoal for long smokes, etc.
For those reasons and more, pellet smokers intrigued me. After doing a lot of reading on the topic I settled on a Green Mountain Grill Daniel Boone Prime Plus pellet smoker this past November..
Pellet smokers are electrical, in the sense that an electrically fueled auger slowly feeds small wooden pellets (they look like rabbit food) from the hopper into a firepot, which is in the middle of the grill. The firepot ignites the wooden pellets, which obviously creates both heat and smoke. There is a heat shield that sits over the firepot, as well as a drip tray which keeps the rendering fat from meeting up with the flame in the firepot, which would cause your pellet smoker to become an inferno rather quickly.
This setup definitely appeals to the technology nerd in me. Once you get the smoker connected to your smartphone you can power up the grill from your phone, as well as control the smoker temperature, monitor the internal temperature of whatever you are smoking, set alarms and timers, etc.
You can also connect the grill to your Wi-Fi network, allowing you to roam your house while monitoring what’s going on inside the smoker as well as connect to “server” mode, which literally allows you to monitor your smoker anywhere there is a cell phone signal. The server setting is kind of cool, but you can’t really do much to fix a problem if you are off property and away from the smoker.
The pellets come in many different flavors, brands, and price points. To be honest I haven’t really noticed much of a difference in pellet flavors, such as fruitwood as opposed to hickory as an example. But at this point the longest cook I have embarked on was literally last night, when I smoked some baby back pork ribs. I smoked them for 2 ½ hours uncovered at 250 degrees, then rapped them in foil and kept the smoker at the same temperature for about an hour, and lastly smoked them uncovered for 45 additional minutes or so. This last step is to harden up the bark of the ribs. The ribs were delicious.
Something that has really been fun is the addition of the pizza stone-oven attachment. By setting the smoker at 260 degrees, you end up with a stone temperature of between 600 and 700 degrees. The result is a wood-fired pizza that cooks in less than 6 minutes.
Again, if you are a frequent reader of this column you were bombarded with a number of unique pizza recipes we have tried out and I subsequently wrote about. We recently created a pizza meant to mimic the famous Big Mac. It was awesome. If you are contemplating a move to the pellet side of the tracks, you’ve got to get a pizza oven attachment.
As I continue down the pellet grill path I will now and then report of my progress if I feel it is warranted. If you are looking to make a change this year in your grilling/smoking equipment, a pellet grill is worth at least looking into.
But it’s not a “set it and forget it” approach to grilling and smoking. The unit requires cleaning quite frequently, and you always have to monitor how many pellets remain in the hopper for your long cooks. Also, it is a machine with moving parts, so mechanical mishaps can happen, although I haven’t experienced that as of yet. My advice to you would be to do your own research to determine if a pellet smoker is right for you. If you have any specific questions, feel free to drop me an email.