How to Get More Smoke Flavor From Your Pellet Grill

how to get more smoke flavor from pellet grill

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So you purchased a pellet grill for the wood-fired flavor, but after a few test cooks, you’re feeling a little disappointed with the lack of smoke flavor?

Lots of people find food cooked on a pellet smoker has a much more “subtle” smoke flavor.

If you love that more robust, smokey flavor you might even feel cheated. But before you throw your new grill in the trash, check out our list of tips for getting more smoke flavor from your pellet grill.

These tips can be used by beginners and seasoned BBQ professionals alike!

Why pellet grills don’t produce as much smoke

Pellet grills like Traeger are designed to be as efficient as possible. This means that the grill will automatically shut off when it reaches the desired temperature.

This design is totally different from a charcoal or stick burner where the smoke is more continuous.

Wood pellets also burn more efficiently than a wood chunk left on top of some charcoal, which means they produce less smoke while burning.

This also produces a more subtle smoke flavor. Since the grill is not constantly on, it cannot produce as much smoke as wood-fired or traditional charcoal grills.

Diagram showing how a pellet grill works
Source: Pit Boss

While those more used to the richer flavor from cooking on traditional charcoal or wood-fired grills may find this level of smoke to be lacking, many people (including my wife) prefer this more subtle finish.

Since fuel is added automatically and slowly to maintain the temperature, it doesn’t increase the amount of smoke in a noticeable billowing cloud.

However, ideally, you don’t want thick plumes of smoke, but rather a thin blue smoke is more desirable.

However, if you are looking to intensify the smokey taste, we do have some easy to implement tips

How to get the best smoke flavor from your wood pellet grill

To help you get the best rich smoky flavor from your pellet grill, we’ve come up with 6 helpful and easy-to-implement tips to get you smoking!

1. Try different wood pellets

One of the main benefits of working with wood pellets is the ability to change the flavor by using different types of pellets.

two full bags of wood pellets beside a pellet grill

apple, for example, has a mild smoke that won’t overpower your food, while oak will add a more robust smoky flavor.

Experiment with different types of wood, from different brands and find the one that gives you the smoke flavor you are looking for.

We’ve reviewed some of the best wood pellets here for you to choose from.

2. Cook at lower temperatures

Pellet smokers produce a lot more smoke when cooking at lower temperatures.

For example, when cooking at 225°F you can expect to get significantly more smoke than if you were cooking at 450°F.

raw, seasoned spatchcock chicken on the grill

If you are following a recipe that calls for temps above 225°F-250°F you can always give it a few hours at 225°F before ramping the temp up.

This is what we do in our whole smoked chicken on the pellet grill recipe. By starting at 250°F the chicken gets a good smoke flavor, and then you ramp up the heat for the final part of the cook to crisp up the skin.

If possible, try experimenting with lower temperatures and see how this affects the flavor.

3. Take advantage of any “Smoke” setting your grill offers

Some pellet grill manufacturers include a special “smoke” setting for people who want to ramp up the flavor.

The Traeger Timberline and Ironwood series have a Super Smoke mode that ramps up smoke when cooking between 165°F – 225°F.

This is a great way to get more smoke flavor when cooking at lower temps. The smoker will automatically start producing more smoke at these temps and hold it until you reach the desired temp.

You can also use this mode when smoking for an extended period of time (i.e. 12-16 hours). This is what we did for our pellet grill brisket recipe, and that turned out pretty darn good!

Camp Chef Woodwind digital controller

The Camp Chef Woodwind also gives you a Smoke Control number which you can set via the controller or app. These settings change how the pellet grill auger distributes pellets, which is how pellet grills maintain a constant temperature,  and how much smoke is produced.

4. Add a smoke tube

The smoker tube is a stainless steel pipe, filled with pellets, that can be attached to any grill or smoker for smoking. 

The addition of this stainless steel pipe will help increase the amount of smoke that is produced and will add a nice smoky flavor to your food.

Essentially this is the same as putting a smoking wood chunk on the coals of a charcoal grill as it will smolder and produce smoke.

Check out our guide on how to use a smoke tube in a pellet grill.

Another way to add smoke to your food is by using a smoker box. This is a small, metal box that sits on the grill grate and is filled with wood chips or pellets. The heat from the grill will cause the wood chips/pellets to smolder and produce smoke.

5. Don’t wrap your meat

Wrapping food in aluminum foil is a common barbecue technique. Usually, the idea behind wrapping food is to help retain moisture and power through the stall

However, when you wrap your food in aluminum foil it will actually block smoke from reaching that piece of meat.

pork ribs wrapped in foil on a pellet grill

So if you’re looking to add more smoke flavor to your food, then don’t wrap it in foil! Instead, try using a smoker box or even just a piece of aluminum foil folded into a little pouch. This will allow the smoke to reach your food and add a delicious smoky flavor.

6. Fix any leaks

Some cheaper models of pellet grill will leak a lot of smoke, which means you’ll end up with a lot of smoke flavor but also a lot of wasted pellets.

smoke coming from traeger tailgater

If your grill is leaking, then try fixing the leak with some high-temperature silicone sealant or gasket. This will help to keep the smoke where it belongs – inside your grill!

Installing a gasket on your pellet grill is a great way to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your smoke flavor.

Wrapping it up

Pellet grills are excellent at maintaining a constant temperature and are perfect for a set and forget style of cooking.

However, if you want to take your pellet grill game to the next level and get more smoke flavor from your grilling experience then try out these tips and tricks!

If you’ve tried these tips and you still aren’t happy, you might want to consider one of the new “gravity” style charcoal smokers like the MasterBuilt Gravity.  These smokers are digitally controlled like a pellet grill, but use charcoal instead of pellets for a richer flavor. You can also add wood chunks for even more smoke flavor.

A good choice if you want automatic temperature control and good stability combined with the flavor of charcoal and wood. 

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