You have purchased your wood pellet smoker, but now what? With endless options of flavored wood pellets to choose from it’s hard to know where to begin.
Experimenting with different flavors of pellets is half the fun of investing in a pellet grill.
Don’t worry about sticking with the pellets made by your grill manufacturer either. We’ll explain why below.
Whether you are new to smoking or have become a pit expert, there is a wood pellet for everyone, and we have listed the best pellets below.
Our 9 favorite wood pellets for smoking
These are our top wood pellets that burn hot and clean for great smoke flavor and minimal ash clean up.
Different brands and wood types produce different levels of smoke flavor so you’ll need to experiment to find what tastes best for you.
Camp Chef offers a wide range of wood pellet flavors, all available in 20lbs bags and at a nice affordable price point.
These pellets are amongst the cheapest we’ve tested, and I didn’t notice any issues when testing these out on the Woodwind.
These are manufactured using a kiln-dried process that creates low moisture for a super dry, hot burning pellet that produces less dust.
One of our favorite flavors is the Charwood Charcoal Cherry Blend, so if you can only buy one bag then definitely give that a go.
Weber launched their own range of cooking hardwood pellets to go with the SmokeFire pellet grill.
They work just as well in any pellet grill though, so don’t let the fact you don’t own a SmokeFire put you off.
Available in a range of different single flavors and blends including:
- GrillMaster Blend (Maple, hickory and cherry)
The GrillMaster blend has a balanced, mild flavor that is perfect for smoking a variety of foods. If you want something with a little more hit then go for the Mesquite.
These pellets burn great and provide excellent flavor.
Currently a top selling brand, CookinPellets offers a 40-pound blend of hardwood smoking wood pellets.
It features the top four hardwoods: hickory, cherry, hard maple, and apple.
This 40-pound blend of smoking wood pellets can be used for any smoking recipe.
The CookinPellets bag is designed for immediate storage. You do not have to transfer the wood pellets from the bag to another storage location, such as a bin or bucket.
CookinPellets guarantees that their smoking wood pellets will not void any manufacturers warranty on your pellet smoker.
What We Like:
- Quality – CookinPellets offers both design and quality. The design of their bag makes for quick and easy storage. CookinPellets guarantees that their smoking wood pellets will not void any manufacturers warranty on your pellet smoker.
- Top 4 Hardwoods – The hickory, cherry, maple and apple hardwoods allow for full flavor during smoking. This blend is fool-proof for smoking any recipe.
- No Oak Fillers – Some manufacturers use cheaper wood like oak to bulk out the pellets. With these what you see is what you get.
What We Don’t Like:
- Preset Blend of Hardwoods – Some smoking connoisseurs like to choose the exact wood to use. This preset blend of four hardwoods does not give you the option to control your hardwood choice.
The same company also produces a 100% hickory pellet in the same size bag.
Get the latest price on Amazon.
Lumber Jack produces a few different types of smoking pellets including hickory, apple, and my personal favorite, the competition blend which is an equal parts mix of maple, hickory, and cherry.
These pellets have been getting a lot of mentions lately, and have a few interesting features.
These pellets have a smaller diameter which apparently creates a hotter burn and produces more smoke.
During manufacturing, they also leave the bark on the wood, which is where more of the wood smoke flavor comes from.
What We Like:
- Pure – The flavor on the front of the bag is what you get. If it says “Hickory” on the bag, then these pellets ONLY contain 100% hickory wood. No oak filler wood or anything else.
- Variety – Hickory, Cherry, Apple, Pecan, you name it; they got it. They also have a nice variety of blended woods.
What We Don’t Like:
- Availability – Lumberjack has some limited availability on Amazon, otherwise you’ll need to go through dealers.
- Ash – Because they use 100% flavor wood, and they include the bark as well, these pellets tend to produce more ash. This MIGHT be annoying for some, but I think the flavor far outweighs this potential inconvenience.
They are a little more expensive than some of the other pellets we’ve cooked with.
Pit Boss sell a wide range of natural hardwood pellets in both 20 and 40 pound bags.
You’ve got all the classic smoke woods including apple, mesquite, hickory and cherry.
You can also get adventurous with the whiskey barrel blend, or go for the competition or barbecue blends which are made up of a mixture of different barbecue hardwoods.
Pit Boss pellets don’t use any artificial flavors, glues or chemicals and burn hot and clean.
What we like:
- Large range of wood flavors
- Chose between 20 or 40LB bags
With reasonable prices and a great range of flavors
I like that these hardwood pellets from Bear Mountain are available in both 20 and 40lb bags so if you find a flavor you really love you can stock up.
You also get a good choice of wood types, with all the usual plus alder, bourbon, and two different gourmet bbq blends.
You get excellent consistency, with minimal sawdust at the bottom of the bag. All pellets are 100% all-natural hardwoods, and they produce excellent smoke.
You would definitely expect to see Traeger showing up here since they invented the pellet grill.
You can choose from a wide range of different wood flavors. For our money, we are going with the signature blend.
At 20 pounds, this bag of smoking wood pellets features a blend of three savory flavors: cherry, maple and hickory.
This bag of blended pellets does not contain any fillers or binders. The flavors you see are the flavors you will taste!
These three blended flavors make your smoking options endless. Without being limited to one flavor for type of smoking, you can smoke a variety of meats and vegetables with this blend.
What We Like:
- Versatile blend – This blend of flavors goes well with any meat and vegetable combination. This allows you to smoke multiple meats or vegetables at the same time without changing wood pellet flavoring.
- Affordable– With an affordable price, burning through the bag does not have to hurt your pocket book. You can purchase multiple bags at a time!
- No Additional Fillers or Binders- Just like the label says. This blend of wood pellets is 100% maple, cherry and hickory with no hidden fillers. This means you taste the flavors in the smoke!
What We Don’t Like:
- Limited Personal Blending Options – If blending your own flavors of wood pellets are your thing, you have limited options with this premade signature blend.
- Quick Burning – Some users describe this blend of wood pellets as burning faster than other flavors or blends.
Are you looking to sample each wood smoking pellet without breaking the bank? Maybe you are new to smoking and want to test each flavor to find its perfect pairing?
Look no further than the BBQrs Delight Super Smoker Variety Pack.
This variety pack of one-pound bags contains each of the following:
- Jack Daniel’s
Not only does this variety pack give you each flavor individually, but you are also able to blend the flavors for your own customized concoction!
While these sized bags will not give you long-term use, you will be able to find the perfect flavor to fit your taste buds.
Additionally, you may love all the flavors and choose this super variety pack each time!
What We Like:
- Variety Pack Gives You Endless Combinations – The variety pack allows you to choose your favorite flavor without purchasing a large quantity bag. (Purchasing a large quantity bag will potentially leave you stuck with an unappealing flavor. These small one-pound bags prevent that from happening!)
- Mixable Combinations – In addition to the variety of flavors, you are also able to mix these flavors to make your own combination. Each flavor is best paired with its respective type of meat or vegetable.
- Affordable – Lastly, with an affordable price, you can continue purchasing this super variety pack for yourself or even as a gift!
What We Don’t Like:
- Small Bags – While you get six total bags, these bags are only one pound each. With small quantities, it will be easy to burn through each flavor, especially if you find a flavor that you love more than the rest.
Get the latest price on Amazon.
Louisiana Grills have recently teamed up with Joe Traeger, the original owner of Traeger Grills.
Their 40-pound Pennsylvania Cherry wood pellets is a blend of 40/60 cherry and maple. The blend of cherry and maple makes a perfect combination for all meats and vegetables.
These blends are also available: Competition Blend (50% maple, 25% hickory and 25% cherry), Georgia Pecan (100% pecan), New England Apple (40/60 blend of apple and maple), and Texas Mesquite (35% mesquite and 65% maple).
What We Like
- Affordable & Abundant– Not only are these wood pellets affordable, you also get a large quantity in the 40-pound bag. This makes quickly burning through the bag less painful on your pocket book.
- Unlimited Smoking Options (Meats & Vegetables)– The Pennsylvania Cherry wood pellet blend of cherry and maple covers all smoking options of meats and vegetables.
- Mixable Blend– This blend of cherry and maple allows you to mix with additional wood pellet flavors for custom blends.
What We Don’t Like
- Seems to produce more ash – Some users have reported heavier amounts of ash from burning these pellets.
What are Smoking Wood Pellets?
Now that you know some of the best wood pellets for smoking, it is time to talk more specifically about the wood pellets themselves. Where do they come from? How are they made?
These are just a few of the questions you may have.
If you were to visit a lumber mill, you would see sawdust and wood pieces scattered all throughout the mill.
This short video does a good job of showing how wood pellets are actually made.
Sawdust and wood pieces are waste from the lumber being cut. Instead of throwing this out, it gets re-purposed!
Wood pellets are created from compressed sawdust. The compression of the sawdust releases natural substances within the wood. During compression, these released substances soften then harden.
This allows the sawdust to stick together to maintain their shape and consistency. These shapes are usually small, cylindrical shapes for easy use.
These cylindrical wood pieces are called wood pellets, and they have different intended functions.
Unlike wood chips, smoking pellets are not required to be soaked prior to use. Soaking wood pellets in water will cause the pellets to disintegrate.
There’s a big difference between heating pellets and smoking pellets
Wood pellets made from hardwoods with chemicals or insecticides are intended to be used only as heating pellets.
Heating pellets are wood pellets made for a pellet stove to heat a home.
Wood pellets made from food-safe hardwoods are manufactured as smoking wood pellets.
These smoking wood pellets are specifically made fuel for pellet grills. Some food-safe hardwoods include apple wood, hickory, or mesquite, to name a few.
This is where the fun begins! There are many flavors, blends and combinations of smoking wood pellets to choose from.
Depending on the type of meat you will be smoking can help you decide which flavor or combination of flavors to use.
What are the Best Wood Pellet Flavors?
Wood pellets for smoking are produced from a variety of hardwoods. Each of these have slightly different properties that can impact the flavor of your barbecue.
The most popular hardwood flavors include:
Smoking wood pellets may be from 100% the specified type of hardwood, or a blended combination of generally 30% flavor with 70% filler.
Blended smoking wood pellets which use roughly 30% of flavored pellets are more affordable. The remaining 70% of the pellet is typically comprised of oak.
There’s nothing wrong with using oak as a smoke wood. Some people take issue with how manufactures use oak because it tends to be cheaper, while still labeling the pellets as something else.
Smoking Pellet Pairings
Pairing your smoking wood pellets with what you are smoking is not a requirement.
However, some people enjoy trying to enhance the flavors of what they are smoking by pairing specific types of wood with different types of meat.
This is a very subjective topic so take the suggestions below as just that. Suggestions that you can play around with.
- Apple – Apple wood pellets are best used for smoking chicken, pork, lamb and seafood. It is mild and can be mixed well with others flavors.
- Cherry – Like Apple, cherry wood pellets are extremely universal and can be used to smoke anything.
- Hickory – When it comes to smoking pork, hickory cannot be beat. In addition to pork, both chicken and beef are also best paired with hickory flavored wood pellets.
- Maple – Best for chicken and vegetables, maple wood pellets are also similar to cherry and a great flavor to keep on hand.
- Mesquite – This flavor is the best wood pellet to use for beef; specifically for beef brisket.
- Oak – While oak is a mild flavor mostly used for filling and blended flavors, it can be used for all proteins and vegetables. It is another universal flavor to keep on hand at all times.
- Pecan – Pecan wood pellets are ideal for smoking chicken. This flavor can be blended with others, especially when smoking chicken.
Keys to Remember
- 100% flavored smoking wood pellets are more expensive than blended pellets.
- Do not soak wood pellets prior to use as they will disintegrate.
- Always use food-grade pellets. Do not use wood pellets that are not recommended for smoking, such as heating pellets.
- Do not use old wood pellets that contain mold or fungus.
Do You Have to Use the Same Brand Pellet as Your Grill?
Most companies that manufacture pellet smokers also sell their own brand of wood pellets for smoking.
Many people believe they have to only use wood pellets that are sold by their pellet grill manufacturer.
As you have seen in the reviews above, Traeger is a brand that makes quality pellet grills and quality wood pellets.
They also claim that the use of other brands’ wood pellets could harm your pellet grill and result in a voided warranty.
There are actually laws that prevent manufacturers like Traeger from enforcing an implied warranty like that.
However, there is no law that prevents them from putting those stickers on the grills.
So long as you use a quality smoking wood pellet, there’s no reason why you can’t experiment with different brands.
How to Safely Store Your Wood Pellets
While it may seem unnecessary, it’s important to safetly store your wood pellets.
Proper storage is essential for guaranteeing your wood pellets’ shelf life is maximized.
Proper storage will prevent mold, fungus, or other toxins from entering or growing on the pellets.
When it comes to safe storage, try to remember the BOOM method. If it doesn’t boom, then you’re doomed.
B – Buckets or Bins
If you are purchasing bulk bags of smoking wood pellets, try not to leave them in the bags they come in.
Some manufacturers such as CookinPellets recommend leaving these pellets in their original bags.
I would always recommend removing pellets from their bag though.
Leaving wood pellets in their original bags may become punctured. Puncturing a pellet bag exposes them to oxygen or moisture.
Original bags with pellets that become damp or wet will deteriorate, resulting in a wasted product.
In addition to deteriorating, these pellets can also grow mold or fungus if they become wet. Smoking wood pellets with mold or fungus can penetrate your food and potentially make you sick.
A five-gallon bucket with a lid ensures the pellets stay dry and sealed. This gives you optimal cooking quality, both safe and tasty!
Oklahoma Joe’s have a 20lb pellet bucket which comes with a wire-mesh filter to separate the wood dust. This way you can dump pellets without worrying about pouring dust in your hopper and causing potential issues.
O – Off the Ground
Bags of smoking wood pellets that are stored directly touching the ground are run a high risk of being exposed to moisture.
Moisture from rain or a leak will start from the ground up. Placing your bags of pellets on an elevated, open surface will keep them off the ground and keep moisture from building up around them.
O – Open when Needed
Do not open your bag(s) of smoking wood pellets until you are ready to use them.
Bags of pellets that are opened and unused for an extended time will become oxygenated.
Oxygen contains moisture which will break down the wood pellets from the hardened capsules they are and cause them to crumble.
Additionally, once opened, use the opened bag of pellets first before opening the next one.
M – Moisture Avoidance
Did you notice the overall theme to the above? Moisture. Moisture is a wood pellet’s nemesis.
Not only will moisture break down the product, but it will also become a mold or fungus’s new habitat.
When avoiding moisture, you must also consider humidity. Humidity is just as dangerous as acute water exposure from a leak or rain.
If you choose to store your wood pellets in an area such as a basement, consider a dehumidifier for the area to keep the air as dry as possible.
The reason moisture is so detrimental is because it can cause you to spend extra money. 100% flavored wood pellets are expensive. You do not want to waste your purchase by having to replace your inadequately stored pellets.
The more hazardous risk that moisture imposes is its potential for growing toxins, such as mold or fungus.
Smoking wood pellets that are burned with these toxins will penetrate the food you are cooking through the smoke from the pellets.
Consuming food that has been exposed to these toxins has the potential to make anyone who eats the food sick.
It is imperative to store your smoking wood pellets in an area that will protect both your health and your wallet.
Wood Pellet FAQ
When it comes to finding the best wood pellet for smoking, we want to make sure all your bases are covered. Here are some of the most asked questions users ask when finding the perfect pellet.
How Long Do Wood Pellets Last in a Smoker?
A pellet grill will use between one to three pounds of pellets per hour.
However, wind or cooler temperatures may increase how many pellets you typically burn.
Some wood pellet types have a quicker burn rate. This means you may go through more pellets of one flavor versus another flavor.
Last, the size of the meat you are smoking can also speed up the rate at which you are burning pellets. A larger piece of meat, such as a beef brisket that needs to be smoked for 12 hours, will go through more wood pellets than a small pork shoulder.
Are Wood Pellets Safe?
Wood pellets that are food-grade and made from consumable hardwoods are safe for consumption.
Do not purchase heat pellets for food preparation and consumption. These pellets may contain contaminants such as insecticides or chemical treatments.
Using heat pellets rather than food-grade wood pellets will not only worsen the taste of your food, but also make you sick.
It is imperative that you use food-grade smoking wood pellets when fueling your pellet grill.
Additionally, smoking wood pellets are safe as long as they have been adequately stored.
Do not burn wood pellets that have been exposed to moisture. Moisture may have created a toxic habitat within the pellet, potentially housing mold or fungus.
This mold or fungus is unsafe for food preparation and consumption, increasing the risk of illness if consumed.
Do Wood Pellets Need to be Soaked Before Use?
Wood pellets do not need moisture. In fact, moisture is the enemy to wood pellets.
As wood pellets are made from sawdust, soaking them in water breaks down its composition and causes them to disintegrate.
While this may make wood pellets seem fragile, it is actually the opposite.
Without requiring to be soaked in water, they require less maintenance. This means immediate bag-to-smoker use!
Wrapping it up
As you can see, there is more to smoking the perfect meat than just firing up a grill and turning the temperature to low. It is a beautiful science. It’s simple enough to enjoy, but complex enough for you to formulate a perfect blend of flavors, temperature and protein type.
Wood pellets are a great way to quickly fire up your smoker without the worry. By purchasing a universal blend or flavor of wood pellets and keeping them on hand, you can have delicious tender smoked meat anytime you want.
Remember that proper and safe storage of your wood pellets will keep them long lasting and great tasting!