This article is about the best wood pellets for smoking and grilling you can buy today for your pellet grill or smoker. If you found your way here, it is because you are looking for the best. We will show you nine great wood pellet brands and meat paring options to up your BBQ game.
Now that you have gotten your feet wet and are ready to up your meat smoking game using your pellet smoker, you will need to pair that awesome grill with good pellets to smoke good meat to get the most out of your grill.
As you will see from the images below, we went through several bags of pellets while testing several brands.
This article will go over different grilling pellets wood types, wood pellet flavor profiles, and meat pairings. By the end of this article, you will know which wood pellet brands are putting out good products and which wood pellet flavors are suitable for smoking different meats and adding good smoke flavor.
In this article, you will learn:
- What are the different flavors of smoking wood pellets.
- Which brands and pellet grill manufacturers make the best bbq pellets.
- Which foods go well with which flavors of smoking wood pellets.
- Where to find them.
A Quick Intro: What are smoking wood pellets? How are they made?
Wood pellets are a by-product of wood manufacturing, wood processing mills, and forest management. Wood manufacturing plants (lumber mills) generate thousands of pounds of wood sawdust. The sawdust is recycled and turned into wood pellets.
So, if you are sitting on a nice wooden chair, part of the sand dust left behind from its manufacture was most likely converted into the best pellets.
Also, some pellet companies use recycled trees discarded during the forest fire mitigation process, which is environmentally friendly and needed to reduce the risk of forest wildfires. Wood pellets are therefore considered a renewable fuel.
The majority of wood pellet products are manufactured from recycled timber from lumber mills. The wood is shredded into little bits or compressed sawdust that is later dried before being pressed into the thin pencil pellet shape we are all familiar with. The compression allows lignin, a natural polymer in plant tissues, to soften.
Did you know that pellets are a biomass fuel?
Biomass fuel is an agricultural product or by-product, including wood chips, that can be used as a source of fuel or energy. For the product to be considered a biomass fuel, it must be renewable.
How do we choose the best wood pellets?
When selecting the smoking wood pellets, we considered a variety of flavors and varieties. We are aware that certain wood flavors pair better with certain foods, so we have included options that pair well with poultry, pork, seafood, and vegetables.
This list includes some suggestions that may be used in a variety of ways. However, quality is the most important consideration when purchasing wood pellets. For the best results, choose pellets that are completely natural (no fillers or binders), produce minimal ash, and come from high-quality wood.
You should also check for pellets that are compatible with your smoker. If you buy cheap pellets, they may clog your grill’s auger and ruin your dinner plans.
Pellet grill manufacturers will play with the “blend” to find the perfect mix for their grills and taste, but to pick a good wood pellet brand, you want to focus on all-natural hardwood pellets without fillers or additives.
Smoking Pellet Pairings – wood pellet flavor guide/chart
Wood flavor and food pairings are subjective, but here is a wood pellet flavor guide chart to help you get a good idea of what flavors work best with what meats.
Best Wood Pellets for smoking
- Traeger Wood Pellets
- Bear Mountain BBQ 100% All Natural Hardwood Pellets
- Pit Boss Pellets – BBQ Wood Pellets in many flavors
- Camp Chef Smoker Grill Competition Blend Hardwood Pellets
- Asmoke Apple Wood Pellets
- BBQrs Delight Wood Smoking Pellets
- Cookin’ pellets 40 Perfect Mix Smoking Pellets
- Louisiana Grills Pennsylvania Cherry Grilling Pellets
- Rec Tec Grills Ultimate Blend Pellets
Traeger makes amazing pellet grills and makes great accessories for their grills, including cooking pellets.
Traeger grills BBQ pellets are known to produce less ash than other wood pellets. These pellets are manufactured from 100% hardwood and do not contain any additives or binders. Less ash means there will be less mess to be cleaned and less time spent using a shop vac to clean the firepot.
These Pellets are available in different flavors and work well in many smoker brands. I purchased a bag of Traegers Signature pellets for my tests. The “Signature” blend is perfectly suited for a variety of meats. During my testing, I noticed that these pellets had a pleasant aroma, and I smoked chicken and pork with excellent results and flavor. These pellets are made with 100 percent virgin hardwoods and natural hardwood pellets, with no base fillers.
Bear Mountain BBQs pellets contain 100% natural hardwood without any additives, binders, or fillers. Their most popular pellets include oak and alder, made entirely from natural recycled hardwood sawdust locally sourced from mills around the United States.
This company has been in operation since the 1990s, and their dedication to producing a100 all natural hardwood and sustainable fuel stems from the fact that they source their primary ingredient from local wood mills: sawdust. This company even utilizes #4 LDPE plastic for its packaging bags and provides its customers with information on where to take their plastic bags for recycling.
Another thing you’ll notice is how sturdy the packing bag is. Other brands use thin plastic bags that easily tear and get holes from anything around them. Bear Mountain Bags are made using a kind of plastic film that protects the pellets well.
Finally, the reason we picked this brand as our runner-up, is the product’s quality. At my local hardware store, I purchased a bag of Bear Mountain Gourmet blend. I expected a lot of little broken-down pellet bits, dust, and “loose” pellets because pellet bags are usually thrown on the store floor. However, because the product is of high quality and has a low moisture content, when I opened the bag, I was greeted by an incredible scent and nicely pressed, hard, and dry pellets.
I have opened a lot of pellet bags, and it is usually disheartening to find broken, crumbs, and loose pellets that turn to dust on your hands, but not with this brand. Check out the photos of the most recent bag I purchased for testing purposes for this article.
Pit Boss is another big name producing good wood pellets. Pit Boss Wood Pellets are available in popular flavors and blends, including Oak.
These pellets work on Pit Boss grills and smokers as well as other grill brands. The wood used to make these pellets is sourced from all around the USA and does not contain chemicals or binders. We like the Pit Boss competition blend, it goes well with everything and Pit Boss pellets are reasonably priced.
Camp Chef’s Pellets competition blend goes well with most meats and is a popular mix. This hickory maple and cherry mix combines wood pellets made from a selection of premium virgin hardwoods and made in the USA.
All Asmoke wood for their pellets is sourced directly from real fruit orchard trees. The apple trees are harvested, brought to their plant, and processed within a few days to preserve their flavor and freshness. Asmoke apple wood pellets are packaged in tear-resistant bags. Asmoke knows a thing or two about pellets, they make one of the finest portable pellet grills on the market today.
A few days after our trees are harvested, they are chipped and turned into wood pellets. One of Asmoke’s highest priorities is the protection of the environment. All Trees that are cultivated are replanted right away, So That Future Generations May Enjoy Them.
BBQrs Delight wood pellets are another great selection and quality pellets for barbecuing. Their flavors include cherry, pecan, mesquite pellets, hickory pellets, apples, and Jack Daniel’s pellets( yes, as in the whiskey brand ).
I use Jack Daniel’s wood scraps, and the flavor is amazing. When the wood pellets burn, expect a strong, smell and taste. This product is also made here, in the USA.
The Cookin’ Pellets brand makes good smoker pellets blends, and those who like a fruity, smokey taste will enjoy these blends. These pellets are made overseas unlike the top brands on this list.
Louisiana GRILLs is a 25-year veteran of the BBQ manufacturing game. There is a good choice of flavors available: oak-hickory, peaches, whiskey cans, cherry, and apple. All flavors are available in 20 lbs and 40 lbs bags.
We recommend the slightly sweet Cherry Blend or the Competition Blend Pellets as a good all-rounder. This blend pellets combine maple, hickory, and cherry, making them ideal for almost every food.
Rec Tec Wood Pellets are good pellets. Their blends fit every type of smoking and grilling style. It burns much better than a traditional pellet, and its flavor is strong but not overpowering. The final results are great for different types of fish and meat, with a natural smoky taste throughout. The oak and hickory mix is much better than you may think. They could last several hours and can be used for cooking and smoking a broad selection of foods. The ash output is minimal, with good heat energy compared to other brands. The wood pellets smell nice.
Bonus: Lumber Jack Competition Blend Maple-Hickory-Cherry BBQ
Lumber Jack is another hickory wood pellet mix. These smoking pellets blend is made out of virgin trees.
What makes smoking pellets better than others
In short, the types of wood, tree origins, and blend composition all contribute to the quality of the end products, pellets. Mainly, poorly compressed pellets are low quality and easy to spot because you will see lots of dust in the bag and they break down easily. Grab a handful and squeeze gently. If the pellets break down, you know you have a lesser quality batch.
Other aspects are moisture content and some brands use natural flavoring oils to alter the flavor of the blend.
Regarding pellets and smoking meat, wood flavor is important. You can buy the best smoking pellets, but if you don’t match the wood flavor to the meat you’re smoking, even the best pellets won’t help.
So there are two aspects of picking the best smoker pellets ( or grilling ):
- The quality of the pellets itself.
- What flavor wood you pair your food with.
Hardwood Pellets VS Softwood Pellets
The controversy over hardwood vs. softwood has been waged for a long time, and it also pertains to wood pellets. In the arena of smoking wood pellets, however, hardwoods and softwoods do not make much of a difference in terms of density.
When it comes to firewood logs and lump charcoal, hardwood burns hotter and longer because the wood is denser, and you are burning the direct product of nature. But when the wood is turned into dust and then compressed into pellets, the density factor balances out, and density is almost the same in hardwood and softwood pellets.
However, the manufacturers can control the pellets’ density by adding other products to their mix and alternating the pressing process. Wood pellets for smoking are those that are 100 percent natural, contain no fillers or binders, yield a minimum ash production, and premium wood pellets burn cleanly.
The main difference between hardwood pellets and softwood pellets is BTUs of heat output. Softwood pellets contain more lagin, so they do burn hotter. As a result, softwood pellets are ideal for use in a pellet stove.
Finally, the pellet quality will vary based on the quality of the wood, the manufacturing process, and the blend. Some manufacturers do an excellent job of selecting the best wood, but others use reclaimed wood with disappointing results.
Good pellets burn longer and come in a variety of flavors. Hardwood pellets can be found in great flavors: applewood pellets, mystique wood pellets, and oak wood pellets.
Softwood pellets burn hotter, faster and produce less ash. Softwood pellets are an excellent fuel source for home heating equipment, heating stoves, and commercial heating systems.
There’s a big difference between smoking ( Food-grade ) and heating pellets.
Smoking ( food quality) wood pellets are made from hardwoods like hickory, maple, apples, mesquite, and oak. Food-grade wood pellets are made out of natural woods, and good brands produce a natural product without fillers, binders, or preservatives.
The manufacturing process is also different, and food-grade pellets are manufactured using food-safe machinery and methods. These pellets are intended for use with pellet smokers and grills to cook food. Common blends are pecan wood pellets, applewood pellets, hickory wood pellets, and Oak pellets.
Heating pellets are solely used for heating and as a fuel source in pellet stoves and home heating equipment. The pellets are created from a blend of softwoods and turned into a fuel source, and they contain charcoal and fillers, which might leave a chemical flavor in your food.
You do not want to use these pellets in pellet smokers, they are fuel for heating equipment. Also, because the heating pellets are not intended to be used to cook food, the production method differs from that of food-safe processing.
Instead of interacting with food, these pellets are burnt as fuel so machinery and other components that come into contact with the pellets during manufacturing might not use food-safe lubricants for example.
Although heating pellets are less expensive, they should not be used for cooking ( food grade ) in your pellet smoker or pellet grill.
The Benefits of Using smoking wood pellets
Besides the point that wood pellets are a renewable energy fuel source, wood pellets are a natural way of cooking food and getting that sought-after wood fire flavor. If you use 100 percent natural pellets, you are cooking with the closest natural fuel to real wood.
Unlike other fuel types, natural wood pellets have no preservatives or additives to get in your food. This means your food tastes better.
- Renewable fuel.
- Woodfire smoky flavor.
- Many brands and different wood pellet flavors are available.
Which are the best wood pellet flavors?
Smoking wood pellets are available in many favors and are not one taste fits all. Wood pellets flavor will vary based on your taste and preference, but Oak and hickory are two prevalent flavors for smoking meats.
However, there are main categories of flavored wood pellets:
- Mild, neutral flavor: Mild flavor smoke taste, but leave no smoky aftertaste in your mouth. Flavors include Maple, Ash, and Alder.
- Mild and Sweet flavor or Fruit Wood Pellets”fruity” flavors: A slightly sweet or nutty taste. Blends include Cherry pellets, Pecan, Apple, Pear, Fruitwood Blends, and Maple pellets.
- Robust and strong smoky flavor: Strong barky smoke aftertaste. Best at coloring meats and creating “smoke rings.” Savors include Mesquite wood pellets, Hickory smoking pellets, and Oak.
There are other wood types and flavored wood pellets, and you can read more about all the different woods and their flavor profile in our wood for smoking guide.
Wood Pellet FAQs
Are wood pellets safe?
Food grade and quality wood pellets are safe to use in your pellet grill. Properly store wood pellets to avoid getting mold on your pellets. If you have moldy pellets, do not burn them and discard the
How long do wood pellets last in a smoker?
The average pellet grill will burn about one pound of pellets per hour at normal cooking and grilling temperatures. It will be fine if you leave pellets in your wood pellet smoker overnight in dry conditions. However, if the pellets are exposed to moisture or get wet, they will expand and turn into crumbs, not work, and even damage your grill.
It is the best idea to store pellets in an air-tight container.
Do you have to use the same brand of pellet as your grill?
Absolutely not. However, many people don’t think there can be an alternative to purchasing wood pellets from a pellet grill manufacturer. Wood pellet manufacturers sometimes recommend against using other brands of wood pellets except their own.
You can use other brand pellets in your grill as long as they are good quality pellets. Sure cheap brands of wood pellets can damage your grill but any good pellet brand should work. You can check with the pellet grill manufacturer and ask them specifically what type of pellets to avoid.
Other things to consider when choosing Smoking wood pellets?
Besides looking for good flavor food grade pellets and good manufacturing, here are other aspects you should consider besides the pellets themselves.
Wood pellets can be used in different types of pellet grills, and pellet smokers including offset smokers, kamado grills, and even in some electric smokers. However, certain smokers might have direct specs from manufacturers to only use specific wood pellets. This is rare, and most grills will work with any standard wood pellets.
Flavor Profile – Strength
Wood pellets are available in many flavors varying from mild and strong. Blended pellets might yield different results, so be sure to try a few flavors to find what you like.
Manufacturing Process and Origin
We like products built and manufactured in the US mainly because we understand the laws and guidelines governing food manufacturing and processing.
How do I store wood pellets?
Although it might appear unnecessary to some, the proper safe storage of your wood pellets is important. Proper storage prevents mold, soil fungus, or other toxins from entering or growing on pellets. Store smoker pellets in a container that will keep them dry.
Moisture is the nemesis of wooden pellets. Not only will the moisture break down the pellets, but it will also introduce mold and fungus. Some wood pellets can be expensive, so invest in a proper pellet storage container.
Use Buckets or Bins
Storing wood pellets in air-tight buckets or bins is one way of preserving the pellets. A wood pellet container is preferred but a good bucket will do. Pretty much any air-tight container will do better than the shipping pellet bag.
Keep Them Off the ground
Bags of wood pellets in direct contact with the soil are prone to moisture exposure.
Wood pellets are a great way of cooking and getting a great wood-fired flavor. Experiment with different combinations of meats, and vegetables with several wood pellets for smoking. In our research, we found that Traeger and Bear Mountain pellets are the best wood pellets for grilling.