Best Wood Pellets For Smoking in 2023 – [Better Smoke Flavor]

best wood pellets for smoking

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We picked Bear Mountain as our top and best pellets for smoking, but we also included in this article other options and flavors for different meats and recipes.

After testing a few hundred pounds of pellets, I share in this article the best wood pellets for smoking and grilling that you can buy today for your pellet grill or smoker. We will show you ten great brands and flavor pairings to up your grilling game.

As you will see from the images below, we went through several pounds of pellets while testing. To write a good review, we had to. Smoking wood pellets come in many flavors, and some deliver strong results; others are more “daily” wood grilling pellets.

I also cover the various manufacturing methods used by different brands, which have a lot to do with quality. What makes good smoking pellets is a combination of the pellet’s composition, quality, blend, and flavor of the wood.

This article covers wood blends, flavor profiles, meat pairings, and, of course, which brands make good pellets.

Article Contents

Our Top Picks for Best pellets for Smoking

1. Bear Mountain Oak Wood Pellets 100% All Natural – Best Overall

Bear Mountain Oak wood pellets

Bear Mountain Premium Hardwood Pellets are made with 100% natural hardwood and have no additives, binders, or fillers. Their most popular pellet blends are oak and hickory, made entirely from natural recycled hardwood sawdust locally sourced from mills around the United States.

This company has been in business since the 1990s, and their dedication to producing 100% all-natural pellet products and sustainable fuel stems from the fact that they source their primary ingredient from local lumber 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. [1]

Another thing you’ll notice is how sturdy the packing bag is. Other brands use thin plastic bags that easily tear and get punctured by sharp objects around them. BM packaging is made using a plastic film that protects the wood pellets well.

Finally, the reason we picked this brand as our best wood pellets for smoking, grilling, and all sorts of cooking is the product’s quality. I purchased a bag of their Gourmet Blend from my local hardware store. I expected to see a lot of little broken-down pellets and pellet dust in the bag because these bags are usually thrown on the store floor.

However, because these wood pellets are of high quality and have low moisture content, when I opened the bag, I was greeted by an incredible scent, nicely pressed, hard, dry pellets, and very little wood dust. Our Bear Mountain article goes into more detail about the company behind this product.

Why our top choice

We chose Bear Mountain as the best overall wood pellets because their product offers a good balance between quality, flavor, and price. These pellets also worked well with my grill, with zero issues or jams.

What we like:

  • Amazing quality and reasonably priced all-natural hardwood pellets.
  • Flavor is very noticeable which is primarily why we chose Bear Mountain as our top choice.
  • Nice packaging seems to protect the product well.
  • We noticed very little wood dust in the pellets bag.
  • Good for smoking, grilling and even baking, very well “balanced” flavors

What to Consider:

  • Although these are high-quality, they are made using locally sourced (USA) mills timber sawdust; unlike Lumber Jack below, who uses real harvested trees. Still, BM wood pellets offer a fine balance between quality and price.

2. Lumber Jack Hardwood Pellets Competition Blend – Runner Up – Best for smoking brisket

Lumber Jack pellets

Lumber Jack wood pellets are made from actual, “hand-picked,” harvested trees and not sawdust or other manufactured products from a lumber mill. Let’s get that out of the way because it is important. This company has its own log plant and harvests real trees.

This is a huge plus when looking for smoking pellets, as you get lots of flavor and smoke. These pellets pack a punch in terms of flavor which is why I choose Lumber Jack’s wood pellets for smoking meats, specially brisket.

I recommend this product for those wanting the best wood pellets for low and slow cooking or for smoking a brisket and pork shoulders using a pellet smoker or grill.

Another thing that this company does differently is adding and using the tree’s cambium layer, which is below the tree’s bark. Tree bark does add flavor, but it creates dirty smoke. To reduce dirty smoke and ash, Lumber Jack uses the cambium layer for a fine balance of flavor and low ash residue in their hardwood pellet flavors, oak and hickory. So when they say hardwood pellets, they mean it.

Lumber Jack only fully debarks the trees when creating blends or fruity mixes so that the fruit flavor is more prevalent over the base flavor, still 100 percent real wood. Their hickory wood pellets smell amazing!

What we like:

  • Best hardwood pellet for beef brisket.
  • Premium natural hardwood pellets using real trees, made using the cambium layer for maximum smoke flavor.
  • Their oak pellets goes well with beef (and smell amazing).
  • The best pellets for smoking briskets, large meats and any food where “heavy” smoke flavor is needed.
  • Consistent quality through their entire wood pellets line of flavors.
  • You can get 100 percent all-natural hardwoods like oak and hickory, not fillers, just 100 percent real wood.
  • This is what I call “real” smoking wood pellets.
  • These worked well with my pellet smokers and did not experience any auger jams.
  • Zero artificial flavors or additives in these wood pellets.

What to consider:

  • You will pay more for this level of pellet quality.

3. Cookinpellets 40 Perfect Mix Bag or Cherry – Best For Pork Shoulder

Cookin pellets bag

The Cookinpellets makes good blends, and those who like a fruity taste in food, such as cherry, or a smokey mesquite taste will enjoy these blends. They are good quality, and we like that they sell samples or smaller bags, allowing you to test and try them before you commit to a large purchase.

What we like:

  • Cookinpellets grilling pellets are high quality pellets, pure, no mix.
  • Available in mesquite, apple, cherry, hickory and “Perfect Blend”
  • Cookinpellets is a good match for cooking for serious barbecue food.
  • Great smoke, no fillers, you get the wood pellet flavor it says on the bag.
  • Cookinpellets offers small samples so you can try and find the flavors you like.

What to Consider:

  • These pellets are hard to find in local stores.
  • Not as many options as other wood pellet brands.
  • I like to use oak and is not offered by this company.

4. Traeger Grills Signature Pellets – Best for Beef

Traeger grills pellets bag

Traeger makes good pellet grills, BBQ rubs, and wood pellets. Traeger wood pellets are known to produce less ash than other brands. They are manufactured from 100% hardwood and do not contain any additives or binders. Less ash means there will be less mess to clean and less time spent using a shop vac to clean the firepot.

Traeger wood pellets are available in different flavors and work well with other grill brands. I purchased a bag of Traeger’s Signature flavor wood pellets for my tests. The Traeger “Signature” blend works good with a variety of meats. During my testing using my Z Grills 700D4E smoker pellet grill, I noticed these pellets had a pleasant aroma, and I smoked chicken and pork with excellent results and flavor. These wood pellets are also excellent for grilling.

One good thing about Traeger is that they offer a large variety of wood pellet flavors.

What we like:

  • I can find these pellets just about everywhere.
  • Ok quality, great wood pellets for grilling food every day.
  • These pellets are available in many flavors, easy to pair with many dishes.
  • Great for grilling meats without overpowering their tastes or seasoning.
  • Traeger offers many options: mesquite, hickory and even whiskey barrel blends.

What to Consider:

  • Unlike Bear Mountain and Lumber Jack, Traeger uses flavoring oils in some of their blends.
  • I did not notice the same amount of “smoke” flavor I did when I used Bear and Lumber Jack wood pellets.
  • This Traeger 20 lbs bag is a little pricey compared to Bear Mountain and Lumber Jack wood pellets.

5. Camp Chef all-natural hardwood pellets Competition Blend – Good Quality Budget Pick

Camp Chef pellets

Camp Chef’s Wood Pellets Competition Blend goes well with most meats and is a popular mix. This hickory, maple, and cherry mix is made from a selection of premium virgin hardwoods and made in the USA.

Here is what I like about this product. Camp Chef uses real hardwood and not byproducts sawdust to make their pellets. This pellets deliver a lot of flavor and I noticed very little ash in my pellet grill after a long smoking session.

Their Competition Blend is well balanced and yields good amount of smoke.

What we like:

  • You get well balanced flavor from these pellets.
  • These pellets are made from hardwoods not recycled sawdust.
  • Affordable.

What to Consider

  • We couldn’t find anything negative to say about this product. Their price is good and so is their product. However we good taste more “smoke”flavor when we used our top top choices.

6. Pit Boss Hardwood pellets

Pit Boss Wood pellets

Pit Boss is another big name producing good pellets. Their pellets are available in popular flavors and blends, including oak.

These pellets work on Pit Boss equipment as well as other pellet 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 their Competition Blend pellets; they go well with everything, and these pellets are reasonably priced.

What we like:

  • Ok quality and flavor.
  • Great price making them good grilling pellets for frequent use.
  • Available in local stores.
  • Many options available including mesquite, hickory, pecan, and others.

What to consider:

  • The competition blend gives out a strong hickory flavor but no well balanced for smoking.

7. Asmoke Apple premium grilling pellets – Best for Ribs

Asmoke pellets wood pellets bag

All the 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.

One of Asmoke’s highest priorities is the protection of the environment. All harvested trees are replanted right away so that future generations may enjoy them. These apple grilling wood pellets pack a lot of flavor and go well with ribs and pork shoulders. Apple gives pork a nice, sweet taste.

What we like:

  • Noticeable apple flavor- sweet.
  • I used it on barbecue ribs and the sweetness was noticeable.
  • This apple blend goes well with pork.

what to consider:

  • Goes well with pork recipes but too much sweetness for other meats.

8. BBQrs Delight Wood Grilling Pellets ( mesquite, Pecan, Jack Daniels wood pellets )

BBQrs Delight pellets wood pellets bag

BBQrs’ Delight Pellets are another amazing selection and quality pellets for barbecuing. BBQers Delight wood grilling flavors include cherry, pecan, mesquite pellets, hickory pellets, apples, and Jack Daniel’s wood pellets (yes, as in the whiskey ). BBQ Delight offers a variety pack, making it easy to try different flavors, including mesquite wood pellets.

I use Jack Daniel’s wood chips, and the flavor is amazing. When the pellets burn, expect a strong smell and taste on food, hence the name “Delight!”. This product is also made here, in the USA. I have used Jack Daniel’s wood chips to smoke turkey, and man, what a treat.

What we like:

  • I love their Jack Daniel’s flavored wood pellets. Food gets a nice tone of smokey, spicy oak taste and a nice color.
  • BBqer offers premium grilling pellets for a variety of proteins including, pork, beef, poultry and fish.

What to consider:

  • Besides their Jack Daniel’s flavor, everything else was pretty “ok”.

9. RecTeq Ultimate Blend Barbecue Wood Pellets

rec tec pellets bag

Rec Tec grills wood pellets are a good product. Their blends fit every type of smoking and grilling style. They burn much better than other brands, and the flavor in the food is strong but not overpowering. The testing results were satisfactory with various types of fish and meat, with a noticeable smooth smoky flavor.

The oak and hickory mix was much better than I expected. The ash output is minimal, with good heat output compared to other brands. I simple terms, they are good but not as good as our top options.

What we like:

  • Good flavor, I could see a nice color on the food.
  • Good wood pellets for Rec Tec equipment.

What we don’t like:

  • I find the price to be high compared to other brands.

How are good wood pellets made

The majority of smoking pellets are manufactured from recycled timber from lumber mills. The lumber is shredded into little bits or compressed sawdust that is later dried before being pressed into the thin, pencil-shaped wood pellets that we are all familiar with. The compression allows lignin, a natural polymer in plant tissues, to soften. [2]

Food-grade pellets or not the same as heating pellets. Heating pellets are made with softwoods, binders and other components not meant for cooking food. These components would add a chemical taste to your food.

What are BBQ Wood pellets?

Smoking pellets are denser, and the best, are made with real hardwoods to deliver maximum smoke and flavor. Some manufacturers harvest real trees to produce high-quality hardwood pellets, which are best for smoking meat.

Other brands use recycled trees or recycled wood dust. Smoking and grilling pellets are by-products of wood manufacturing, processing mills, and forest management. Manufacturing plants (lumber mills) generate thousands of pounds of timber sawdust. The sawdust is recycled and turned into wood pellets.

How we Test and Our process for selecting pellets

When selecting wood pellets, we consider a variety of factors, including flavor, blend or mix, and manufacturing process. For the purposes of this article, we are going to refer to the three manufacturing methods as Method A, B, and C.

We are aware that certain flavors pair better with certain foods, so we have included options that pair well with poultry, pork, seafood, and vegetables.

However, quality, manufacturing, and the wood pellet blend are the most important considerations when purchasing wood pellets. Not every pellet manufacturer makes their product using the same process or pure blends.

What should you consider when looking for wood pellets for grills

In short, the type of wood, tree origin, blend composition, density, and most importantly, moisture content, all contribute to the quality of the pellets. The best wood pellets are made using high-quality timber.

Flavor is subjective, and flavor has nothing to do with the quality of the end product. However, the quality of the product will impact how much flavor you get out of them. Remember that!

In addition to the mixes and manufacturing methods discussed previously, moisture content also affects the pellet’s quality. A pellet with low moisture content will burn hot and quickly because less energy is consumed burning moisture.

Accordingly, wood pellets with a higher moisture level will burn slower and lower, but produce more smoke due to their moisture and water content. Thus, a delicate balance of moisture is optimal unless you have a specific need.

Traeger pellet hopper

Poorly compressed and low-quality wood pellets are easy to spot because you will see lots of dust in the bag and they break down easily. Grab a handful and squeeze gently.

When comparing wood pellets, it is important to know and understand the actual composition of the pellet. While pellets can be pure hardwood, they can also be a “mix,” especially when creating flavors such as pecan, cherry, apple, or “special blends.”

Therefore, understanding what you’re getting in the bag is helpful. For instance, let’s say you want to use cherry wood pellets for smoked ham, are you getting 100 percent wood or are you getting a mix that contains a small amount of cherry.

Say, is the cherry flavor coming from flavoring oils? To understand these variations better, I explain the common pellet compositions below.

Smoking wood pellets vs Heating Pellets

There is a bit of talk around this topic and the answer is simple. Heating pellets and grilling pellets are not the same. Heating pellets are made using different woods that burn differently and would not yield a good taste on food nor would work well with your pellet grill. Barbecue wood pellets are mostly made out of hardwoods or woods like apple, maple, alder, oak and hickory.

Method A: Top Quality – 100% Natural hardwood blend Wood pellets | Most Pure

manufacturing method a

There are companies that use 100 percent hardwoods that are shredded into a perfect size and compacted down to wood pellets using absolutely nothing but heat, pressure, and wood—no binders, fillers, or flavoring oils—just real wood.

This is what we consider a 100 percent natural hardwood blend of smoking wood pellets. Some companies employ this manufacturing process but might source their “wood dust” from lumber mills.

Pure hardwoods like oak or hickory provide a clean and constant burn, plus lots of smoke and flavor. So, if you are wanting to smoke meat “low and slow,” wood pellets made of a pure blend of oak or hickory should be at the top of your list.

Hardwood pellets will deliver tasteful and strong flavor. These are primarily your oak and hickory smoking pellets, and they’re as close as it gets to smoking with real wood sticks using a pellet grill.

Pros

  • Maximum smoke flavor
  • Pure Wood, 100 percent natural
  • Burns hotter

Cons

  • More expensive wood pellets
  • Harder to find in stores
  • Some can produce dirtier smoke if the mix includes tree bark. ( but bark = flavor / smoke )
  • More ash production

Method B: 100 percent natural (not As pure); includes a hardwood base

manufacturing method B

Then there are brands that use an “oak base” and then add a mix of other woods like apple, cherry, or pecan flavor, for example, or create their own blend mix or create custom flavors like “Gourmet,” “Signature,” and others.

This brands are still making a 100 percent natural product just not as pure of a blend as the pellet “manufacturing model A” described above. They are using a base and then adding other woods for actual flavor.

In some cases this method is a common and necessary practice. For example, cherry would burns fast, and is not a dense as other hardwoods, so in order to create a better pellet that burns consistently and longer an oak “base” is used. Again, this is not always a problem as long as no additives or chemicals are used.

Pros

  • Less expensive than pure hardwood
  • More available.
  • More custom flavors and blends
  • Less ash production
  • Good “daily” bbq grilling pellets

Cons

  • Less smoke, less smokey flavor.

Method C – Still Natural | not real wood, more oils

manufacturing method C

Lastly, we have the third variation of manufacturing method, which involves using binders and natural flavoring oils such as soybean oil and other flavor infusers. Although still natural, they have less of the real thing, hardwood flavoring. Sometimes the flavor you read on the pellets bag is far from real wood and more like “oil flavors.”

The binders and oils are natural but not the real deal, so in most cases, you get less smoke and flavor, but these types of blends tend to be cheaper wood pellets.

Pros

  • These wood pellets are east to find in stores.
  • Can be found cheap
  • Since the blend is heavily controlled during manufacturing, most blends produce very little ash.
  • Natural flavoring oils also act as a lubricant and help “weaker” auger systems.

Cons

  • Least amount of flavor.

There are many pellet flavors and many options to pair with just about any recipe. You will find everything from competition blend wood pellets. Some companies even try to blend wood pellets with exotic fruits and oils, but the most common flavors are apple, cherry, pecan, oak, hickory, mesquite, and maple.

Wood Pellet Flavors Pairing Chart – By Protein types

Smoke flavor and food pairings are subjective, but here is a wood pellets flavor guide chart to help you get a good idea of what flavors work best with what meats.


Beef

Pork

Poultry

Seafood

Vegetables
AlderXX
AppleXX
CherryXX
CompetitionXXXXX
HickoryXXX
MapleXX
MesquiteXX
OakXXXXX
PecanXXX

How to Store and Protect pellets

Storing pellets properly is important and if left out in the open the can absorb moisture and loose their burn efficiency. Wood pellets are like tiny little sponges and when moisture is introduced they bulge up and break apart.

If you feed bad or damp pellets to your grill, they will burn quickly, can jam the auger, and will be mostly flavorless wood smoking pellets.

Wood pellet grills are not meant to store pellets for long periods. It is best to store the pellets in a proper pellet container to keep them dry and preserve their freshness.

Conclusion

Our research to find good smoker pellets led us to physically test over a hundred pounds of wood pellets with different types of meat. Yes, as you saw in the images above, we purchased multiple pellet bags and cooked with all of them. I actually own a pellet grill and was able to test as many wood pellets as I could.

Our testing led us to pick Bear Mountain as the best wood pellets for smoking most meats and our top choice in wood pellets, with a very close second choice being Lumber Jack pellets as our choice for smokers and smoking meats. The flavors that wood pellets can add to food are amazing.

Wood pellets are one way of getting wood-fired flavor on food. Experiment with different combinations of meats, and vegetables with several flavors. In our test to find the best, we found that Bear Mountain wood pellets are an amazing product that produces the best flavor, and yes, they are affordable.

FAQs

Do you have to use the of Grilling wood pellets as your grill?

Absolutely not. However, many people don’t think there can be an alternative to purchasing the pellet grill manufacturer. Manufacturers sometimes recommend against using other wood pellets except their own.
You can use other brands in your grill as long as they are good quality. Sure cheap brands can damage your grill but any good wood pellet product will work.

Refrences:

[1] https://sciencing.com/ldpe-plastic-6001216.html 
[2] https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/lignin

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