How Does a Pellet Smoker Work and How Is It Different From Others

how does a pellet smoker work

Are you looking to buy a smoker or want to replace your old one?

Do you spend more time tending the grill instead of spending time with your family? 

If yes, it’s time to buy a pellet smoker.

As technology changes over time, manufacturers introduce many features in smokers, which adds more convenience. 

After learning about the pellet smoker, how it is different from other smokers, and how does a pellet smoker work, you will know it has a lot to offer.

What Is a Pellet Smoker?

A pellet smoker is an outdoor cooker that not only does smoking but also roasting, baking, and grilling.

On the contrary, a conventional smoker mostly does the grilling in an open area and produces a lot of smoke. 

Pellet smokers use natural hardwood pellets compressed from sawdust, for instance, apple, cherry, mesquite, and wood shavings while the other smokers use charcoal or pieces of wood as a fuel.


With so many amazing features, a pellet smoker is more cost-effective than other smokers. 

Instead of using any type of fuel like propane and gas, a pellet smoker doesn’t require any kind of fuel.

Like old-school barbeque smokers, you only have to buy pellets instead of charcoal or wood, which is quite cheaper. 

The pellet smoker gives you the same smoky flavor and juicy meat.

Electricity Need

A pellet smoker requires electricity to function.

When you plug-in the smoker, it uses electric ignition to start the pellets burning.

An electric auger feeds pellets to the firepot.

 A small fan blow on the pellets, keeping them burning consistently.

Most pellet smokers are adjustable to control the flow rate of the pellet; high-end pellet grills have full digital temperature control.

A temperature-controlled smoker will run at maximum until it is preheated and then slow the consumption rate down using less electricity and fewer wood pellets.

The smoker consumes more power when a higher temperature is set.

Therefore, high electricity use somewhat depends on temperature.

Not every smoker is identical, but these are the basics of how a pellet smoker uses electricity to operate.

Wood Pellet Smoker vs. Gas Smoker

Although both types of smokers provide great convenience, there are a few reasons why we think pellet smoker is better than a gas smoker.

A gas smoker is usually connected to a propane tank, which means you need to buy a propane tank every time you intend to grill. 

In a wood pellet smoker, you don’t have to buy a gas tank but a bag of pellets. 

The price of the tank is higher than the pellets. 

Also, purists say that propane adds a bad taste to your food, we agree, but it is a tradeoff.

Wood Pellet Smoker vs. Electric Smoker

Both smokers use electricity; why is wood pellet better? 

The reason behind a pellet smoker is not the use of power, but results.

An electric smoker operates more like your kitchen stove with a pan full of smoking wood chips.

As the wood chips slowly burn away, they produce smoke that flavors your food.

When the wood chips in the pan are burned, and the smoke stops, you have to reload the pan with new wood chips.

In many electric smokers, you will need to remove the pan and empty the ashes for the best results.

Removing the chip pan can cause a drop in temperature and slow cooking. Also, it is a headache.

A pellet smoker can be a bit milder smoke, but it is very consistent.

In most cases, you will load the required amount of pellets at the beginning of your cook.

Then running your smoker can be as simple as set it and forget it as the machine controls the smoke and the temperature.

That said, there is a way to smoke ribs using the electric smoker.

On the opposite side, if you like an intense smoky flavor, an electric smoker might be better for you.

Summing it up, Pellet smokers are far more automatic to cook with, producing consistent results.

Wood Pellet Smoker vs. Charcoal Smoker

The best thing about a charcoal smoker is the flavor, but looking at the aspects like how inconvenient and messy it becomes, it’s a no-no for us.

A wood pellet is an excellent alternative to the charcoal smoker. 

Not only does pellet smoker provides the same flavor as a charcoal smoker, but it also gives you more convenience and grilling options.

Also, it was quite tricky to tackle a charcoal smoker, while a wood pellet is quite easy to use. 

The cleaning process of a charcoal smoker is not less than a nightmare while you can quickly clean the wood pellet.

Why Should You Prefer a Pellet Smoker?

how does a pellet smoker work

Comparing the pellet smoker with the other types of smokers, you can see that there are many reasons you should prefer a pellet smoker over other smokers. 

Not only is it versatile but easy to maintain, as well.

1. Easy to Operate

One of the best features of a pellet smoker is it is easy to operate. 

Everything in the smoker is automated.

Unlike other smokers, you don’t have to babysit the smoker to keep its temperature steady. 

Just set it once, and the smoker will automatically adjust.

2. Temperature Controller

The digital temperature controller in a pellet smoker will make your smoking experience a lot better. 

Gone are the days when you have to maintain the temperature of the smoker yourself. 

Now you can easily set the desired temperature and leave the rest on the smoker.

When the smoker reaches the set temperature, the auger stops providing more pellets, resulting in less fire. 

In this way, the food cooks perfectly even if you leave the smoker unattended.

3. Versatility

You will not find a smoker that can do BBQ, roast, grill, and smoke. 

Only a pellet smoker is capable of doing all these things. 

Instead of buying different appliances, you can buy a pellet smoker, which does the job.

4. Preheating

Some smokers take a long time in preheating, which becomes frustrating at times. 

Thankfully, a pellet smoker quickly preheats. 

When you turn on the smoker, it takes hardly five minutes to preheat.

5. Smoky flavor

There are lesser chances of over-smoking your food. 

If you like your meat with more flavor, in some smokers you can place pellets directly on the diffuser plate.

6. Easy to Clean

It is quite easy to clean a pellet smoker than other smokers. 

There is an ash bucket that you need to empty after every use.

The cooking grate needs the cleanup, too. Take out all the racks, cooking grate, and a dripping tray.

Clean all the trays with soapy water, and put them back once they are dry.

Always remember to reseason your smoker after a deep cleaning.

How Does a Pellet Smoker Work?

It’s quite easy to understand the working of a pellet smoker. 

That said, we have described the complete working process and the function of each part of the smoker.

1. Hopper

Hopper is a part of the pellet smoker, which contains the pellets and where you put the hardwood pellets in.

You should fill it according to the length of your cooking and the temperature.

2. Controller

After filling the hopper, turn on the smoker. 

Set the temperature on the controller at which you want to cook. 

There is a digital controller on the smoker, which allows you to control the temperature.

3. Auger

A long screw, which carries the pellets from the hopper and delivers them to the fire pot, is usually termed as an auger. 

The speed at which the auger delivers the pellets depends upon the unit’s thermostat.

4. Fire Pot

The auger then delivers the pellets into the firepot, where the pellets burn and create a fire. 

As soon as the pellets reach the fire pot, the auto-ignition starts and burns the pellets.

5. Rod

The fire starts when the auto-ignition signals the hot rod. The rod is responsible for igniting the pellets in the firepot.

7. Fan

The fan plays a vital role in keeping the fire burning. 

It maintains the constant flow of air, which keeps the fire burning inside a firepot. 

Also, it circulates the smoke and heat around the food you are cooking.

How Meat Gets the Smoky Flavor?

You must be wondering how the meat will get the flavor as there is no use of fuel? 

It is quite easy to give the food your cooking the desired smoky flavor, and the food will taste the same or even better than other smokers.

The type of wood pellets you put inside the hopper will give flavor to the food. 

There are several types of wood pellets with different kinds of flavor, and you can either use them separately or mix them.

If you want a strong flavor, just close the lid while the food is being cooked. 

It will not only enhance the taste but makes the meat more tender.

Recommended Wood Pellet Pairings

As mentioned, you can give different flavors to your meat by using a mixture of wood pellets. 

Every type of wood has a unique flavor that suits only a specific kind of meat.

Wood pellet pairings will be base on your preference, whether you need a mild or strong flavor. 

If you want to add a bit of sweetness with little aroma, you should add alder wood. 

What's better is that alder wood is excellent for every type of meat.

Applewood, on the other hand, is one of the most popular and mild flavors. 

It provides a bit of sweet, mild, and smoke flavor. 

You can use Applewood to grill pork, poultry, and lamb, but our favorite use is fish.

For a sweet rosy flavor, you can add cherry wood to the hopper. 

Cherry wood is great for grilling pork, poultry, and fish. 

If you want to add that familiar bacon flavor to you beef, you can add hickory wood. 

Hickory is one of the most commonly used woods, which is affordable, as well.

For a more spicy and tangy flavor, mesquite is the best wood and pairs well with beef.

You can pair it with alder to create a yummy taste.

Oak is the perfect wood to grill a fish when used lightly. 

If you want a stronger fruity flavor with a bit of smoke, oak is excellent for you.

Just remember that you can mix more than two wood pellets to give a combined flavor of each.

Click here for our article on How to Match Your Smoking Wood to Your Meat.

Final Verdict

If you want a smoker that can do multiple things, buy a pellet smoker

Pellet smokers aren’t costly; in fact, they are more affordable than a gas smoker. 

The only downside of a pellet smoker is portability. You can’t take it anywhere as it is quite heavy and require an electric connection.

Otherwise, it is one of the best smokers.

We are sure you now have complete knowledge about how does a pellet smoker work and how to ensure it gives the flavor that you want.

The thought of grilling with flavored wood is enough to excite us.

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