Smoking food is perhaps one of the best ways to add an extra bit of flavor to your food. In order to smoke food, you are going to need to have some wood to smoke. This will normally be wood chips or wood pellets. While wood chips can easily work in an electric smoker, a lot of people wonder whether they can use wood pellets. That is what our experts want to take a look at on this page.
So, can you use pellets in an electric smoker? The answer is; maybe. While most electric smokers suggest that you only use wood chips, you may be able to get away with adding some wood pellets in there too. However, do bear in mind that they will not be as effective as using wood chips.
We do want to go into a bit more depth on this. We are sure that you are itching to discover why wood pellets may not work in your smoker. We also want to discuss a little bit about how you can use pellets in the electric smoker if you do choose to go down that route.
Can You Use Pellets in an Electric Smoker?
In some cases, yes.
It is very rare for an electric smoker to explicitly say that it allows you to use wood pellets in it. The ones that do say that you can use wood pellets will often require you to use pellets that are the same brand as your smoker.
There are a few potential problems with using pellets in an electric smoker.
They burn at a higher temperature
The main issue with putting pellets in an electric smoker is the fact that wood pellets require a lot more heat to ignite and, thus, start smoking.
The pellet tray in an electric smoker doesn’t get all that hot. In fact, it gets just hot enough for you to be able to get wood chips smoldering. As a result, a lot of people find that their electric smoker doesn’t really do anything to the pellets. The pellets will just sit there and they certainly won’t be giving off any smoke.
No mechanism for heating the pellets
If you have ever seen a pellet grill, you will notice that there is a huge auger inside. This auger scoops up the wood pellets and runs them past the heating element.
Most electric smokers do not have this auger. Some do, and they will be marketed as such, but most of them will not.
The purpose of the auger is to allow the wood pellets to heat up evenly and keep them smoking. It also provides them with direct contact with the heating element to get them to the heat that they need to smoke.
When you use wood pellets in an electric smoker that does not have this auger, you may find that your wood chips do not heat up evenly. This can result in an inconsistent smoking temperature. This can be incredibly difficult to deal with.
You may have to restock the smoker more often
As you may well know, wood chips do need to be restocked pretty often. This is because they burn off quickly. One of the main reasons people opt for pellet smokers is because pellets burn for an incredibly long time.
If you do not have a dedicated pellet smoker, then you do not get this benefit. Because the electric smoker has a tougher job heating up the pellets, you must put fewer pellets in at a time. This means that you may be replacing the wood pellets far more often than if you had just used the right quantity of wood chips.
So, how do you know whether your electric smoker is going to be able to accept wood pellets? Well, the only thing that you can do is test it out. Add a few pellets and see if they give off any smoke. If they simply won’t ignite or give off any smoke, then you won’t be able to use wood pellets in your smoker.
How Do You Use Pellets in an Electric Smoker?
If you can add wood pellets to your electric smoker, then the process should be fairly simple.
You should only add a small number of wood pellets at a time. Wait for those to ignite before you add more. Because you are adding fewer wood pellets, then you will also need to check on the smoker every so often to check that it is still producing smoke.
We also suggest that you try and spread the wood pellets out when you load them in. You do not want there to be a pile of wood pellets on one side of the electric smoker. Not only is the smoker going to have a tougher time igniting these wood pellets, but you are going to be ending up with inconsistent smoke in the electric smoker. This can have a huge impact on the flavor of your food.
If your electric smoker has a thermostat on it, then we suggest that you try and switch the thermostat all the way up to the maximum. If you don’t, then there is a chance that there will not be enough heat for your wood pellets to ignite.
Finally, if you have an electric smoker that is marketed as accepting pellets, then ensure that you purchase pellets designed for that smoker. Do not use any other brands.
Wood Chips vs Pellets: What is Better For the Electric Smoker?
If you do have an electric smoker that can use wood pellets, then you may wonder whether you should be using pellets or wood chips.
For the most part, it is going to be a personal choice. Some people are fans of the flavor that pellets give off, while others are more excited by the flavor profile of wood chips. You can experiment a little bit and see which one is the best fit for you. However, there are a few differences beyond this:
Many people claim that wood chips have a slightly more intense flavor. However, as we just stated, this is very much going to be a personal thing.
Wood chips are known to provide a more bitter, smoky flavor. Wood chips, on the other hand, have a deeper flavor to them.
Wood pellets are ready to go right out of the box. However, if you want to use wood chips, then you will need to soak the wood chips for around 30-minutes before you add them to your smoker.
Wood chips burn a lot faster than wood pellets. This means that you may need to replace them several times over a smoking session.
As we said previously, there is a small chance that your electric smoker may only allow you to use a small number of pellets at a time. If this is the case, then there likely isn’t going to be that much of a difference when it comes to how often you replace the fuel.
Wood chips can only be used for hot smoking. Wood pellets, on the other hand, can be used for both hot and cold smoking.
Many people report that wood pellets are able to give off a far more consistent smoke. This is because wood pellets are formed of all of the parts of the wood that you want to smoke and none of the ‘extras’ like bark.
Cleaning up wood pellets is a whole lot easier. Only about 1% of the wood pellet becomes ash. The rest is burned off. This makes them highly efficient as a smoking fuel.
Are all wood pellets the same?
No. Wood pellets can be made from a variety of different woods, each offering its own flavor profile. Even brands may differ in their flavor, even if they use the same type of wood. If you are using wood pellets, then you may need to experiment with a variety of different wood pellets to find the flavor that you enjoy the most.
What are the best brands of wood pellets?
The best brand of wood pellets will often be down to personal preference. Most people will stick to the main brands, though. You can never go far wrong using products from Traeger or CookinPellets.
Can you make your own wood pellets?
No, you cannot. The manufacture of wood pellets requires to use of some rather bulky machinery to compress the ground up wood down into pellets. This means that you are only able to purchase wood pellets from a store.
Can you make your own wood chips?
Potentially. While you can easily create wood chips from wood, you do have to ensure that the wood you are chipping has no ‘additives’ on it. This means nothing applied to prevent rot of the wood, etc. Ideally, you would only be making wood chips from wood that you have personally sourced yourself. If you don’t, then you may end up smoking your food with chemicals.