Meats with tough muscle fibers, fatty, good marbling, high collagen, and a thick fat cap are the best meats to smoke on a pellet grill. When the fats break down due to the grill heat, they help to make the meat tender and soft.
Sunday afternoons are BBQ days in my home, especially during summer. My family loves it, and I get to show off my meat grilling expertise. Over the years, I have used wood pellets, propane, charcoal, and electric grills. However, I can confidently say that wood pellet grills are my favorite.
I explain what a wood pellet grill is in this article. However, even with the best grill, your food won’t taste amazing if you don’t have the ideal meat for smoking. Hence, I present the best meats to smoke on your pellet grill and how to choose them. I discuss the best wood pellets and how to choose them since they add flavor to your meat.
What Is A Pellet Grill?
A pellet grill is a high-tech device that burns wood pellets as fuel. The auger plus firebox, the main cooking chamber, and the pellet hopper make up the pellet grill. A pellet grill operates simply, as seen in the steps below.
- When you turn it on, your pellet grill will draw air into the firebox.
- The wood pellets flow into the firebox by the auger mechanism through the hopper.
- You use an electric igniter to ignite the pellets in the firebox.
- The main cooking chamber receives heat and smoke from the burning pellets, cooking or smoking the food there.
- Your food cooks at a constant temperature while getting flavor from the woodsmoke.
Modern pellet grills have a PID temperature controller, allowing you to set them to the desired temperature. Hence, you can perfectly smoke slow-cooking meats such as brisket.
Which Are The Best Meats To Smoke On Pellet Grill?
Not all meats are suitable for smoking on pellet grills. For instance, as a beginner, you might find brisket meat challenging to smoke on a pellet grill. However, our choice of other top meats will not disappoint. Poultry and pork meat are beginner-friendly.
The table below presents my pick for the best meats for pellet grill smoking and why.
|Type of Meat||Source||Features|
|Beef brisket||Front of the lower chest of a cow.||Highly active muscle, making it tough with moderate amounts of fat.|
|Beef brisket takes 1 to 1.5 hours per pound at 225°F to smoke well.|
|Flavor and texture will depend on the type of smoker, cooking time, and temperature.|
|Unfortunately, it’s the most challenging meat to smoke, especially if you’re a beginner.|
|Tr-tip||Comes from the sirloin primal and is triangular.||Has three different muscles. Hence, the name tri.|
|It’s full of beefy flavor and highly marbled.|
|Best when you smoke it in low temperatures for an hour before searing it for 30 minutes.|
|It usually smokes faster than other beef cuts as it’s leaner.|
|Pork butt||Also known as pig shoulder.||Pork butt has a thick fat cap.|
|Takes longer to smoke as it comes in large chunks.|
|Requires little preparation, trimming, and seasoning before smoking it for quite a long time.|
|Eventually, wrap it in foil paper and continue cooking. Usually, it takes 12 to 18 hours at 225-250°F for an 8 lb piece.|
|Pork ribs||Babyback or side ribs||You only need 5-6 hours regardless of the type of smoker you’re using.|
|Beef ribs||Back ribs (close to the cow’s spine).||Has connective tissue and thus requires slow cooking (smoking).|
|Short ribs (lower section).||Rich in marbling.|
|Chuck roast||Neck and shoulder area of the cow.||Contains a lot of fat and marbling, giving it lots of flavor.|
|It’s a smaller cut, therefore taking less time to smoke.|
|Pork picnic||Upper front leg of the pig.||It has a good flavor due to marbling.|
|This part is hard to overcook as it’s a large cut of meat.|
|Chicken||Whole or parts such as legs, drumsticks, wings, and breasts.||Smoke over low temperatures as it’s lean ( no fat).|
|The best quality is the free-range type of chicken.|
|Marinate the chicken parts before smoking.|
|Turkey||Whole or parts.||Best when you brine it or cut it into smaller parts.|
|Leaner and smokes faster than beef.|
|Preferably smoke a turkey that is under 40 pounds to avoid undercooking.|
How To Choose The Best Meats To Smoke
Because smoking is a slow process, you need the best meats. The tough and fatty pieces are the best, as they can absorb different flavors. A few more qualities to look for are presented in more detail below.
Tough Muscle Fibers
These are often stiff muscle meats with high collagen content. Connective tissues protect the individual muscle fibers. The muscles are common in the shoulders, necks, and legs.
Tough muscle fibers are the body components of an animal that perform numerous tasks or bear the animal’s weight. However, the heat from the smoking process tears down the collagen that gives meat its tough and chewy texture.
The fat prevents the meat from drying out because smoking takes a long time. Fat absorbs flavors nicely and, at the same time, keeps the meat moist.
Triglycerides – the name for animal fat – have a high melting point. After a long period of smoking, the fats will eventually dissolve, leaving your meat moist and tasty. The act of rendering involves the melting of fat.
These are white intramuscular fat flecks common in red meat. The fat makes a marble-like pattern, hence the name. The marbled meat you intend to smoke impacts its flavor, juiciness, texture, and tenderness.
Which Are The Best Wood Pellets?
The best option if you highly value food flavor is using wood pellets as the heating fuel. Usually, they are waste materials from the lumber industry. They will do a perfect job when you want the best pellets for brisket, adding flavor as the meat smokes.
Wood pellets can give different flavors as they come in other forms depending on the type of wood. Let’s examine the various pellet varieties:
Camp Chef Pellets
The Camp Chef pellets should be your first choice if you want quality, inexpensive pellets. The pellets dry in a kiln, reducing their moisture content and dust output. Too much moisture can make your Camp Chef pellet grill malfunction. Read our recent article on how to fix your Camp Chef pellet grill.
You can buy the cherry, orchard apple, hickory, or competition blends of Camp Chef pellets. The pellets are free of chemicals, oils, and binders. Thus, burning occurs more quickly, cleanly, and efficiently.
Traeger pellets are some of the best on the market because their maker was the first to develop pellet grills. The brand gives you a choice of different types of wood pellets. However, the Traeger grill’s proprietary blend is the best Traeger pellets for brisket.
You can get a 20-pound bag of wood pellets in three flavors: hickory, maple, and cherry. Did you know that using poor-quality pellets can cause your Traeger pellet grill not to work properly? That’s why I recommend five of the best pellets in the market based on experience.
The Traeger unique blend has no additives such as binders and fillers, making it pure. As a result, you are not constrained to a single flavor and can smoke various meats and vegetables at once.
Bear Mountain Oak Pellets
The pellets are made entirely of natural hardwoods, which smoke beautifully. They come in various flavors, including bourbon and two unique gourmet BBA blends. The company packages them in 20 and 40-pound bags.
The best pellets for smoking brisket are those from Bear Mountain Oak. They impart a nutty smokiness to your brisket. Combine red and white oak for a richer flavor.
Pit Boss Natural Hardwoods
The company’s selection of hardwood flavors, including apple, mesquite, cherry, and hickory, is excellent. Whiskey and barbeque blends are also available.
Pit boss pellets are free of glues, chemicals, artificial tastes, or spray scents. As a result, they burn hot and clean. They provide your meat with a fantastic natural taste because they come from premium food-grade hardwood.
You can choose between 20-pound and 40-pound bags. Pit Boss pellets also have the advantage of producing very little ash, simplifying cleanup.
Lumber Jack Cherry Pellets
Cherry has a sweet and tangy flavor. The Lumber Jack cherry pellets are the real deal when you want the best pellets for smoking turkey. Larger than chicken, fowl requires a longer smoking period. Fortunately, Lumber Jack pellets have a tiny diameter, resulting in a hot burn and requiring fewer pellets per burn.
You can also buy different flavors from this brand, such as Hickory and Apple. The product you receive is what you see on the packaging’s front. You receive 100% cherry if it says so on the box. Lumber Jack pellets are also available in mixed packages if you want a blend of various flavors.
How To Choose The Best Pellets For Your Pellet Grills
You might have the best meats to smoke on a pellet grill but the wrong choice of pellets. Meat won’t taste great as a result. Keep in mind that the pellets give your meat flavor.
The table below highlights the qualities you should consider when buying pellets.
|High-quality||Look for pellets made from hardwood that are 100% natural food-grade.|
|They should have a higher density and contain no fillers, binders, or bark. High-density pellets burn longer and provide more heat.|
|Lasts longer and has stable temps as well as smoke.|
|Good quality pellets maintain your pellet grill’s efficiency.|
|Higher-quality pellets have less ash.|
|Food-grade pellets||Give your meat a fresh, wonderful wood flavor.|
|Do not contain harmful binders and fillers.|
|Offer a healthier fuel source.|
|Flavor||A unique wood flavor is necessary for each food. Select a flavor that makes your food taste better.|
|The flavor will also depend on your taste preferences. If you want beef with a sweet flavor, for instance, you should consider cherry pellets.|
|Hickory, oak, apple, peach, pecan, mesquite, and cherry are among the most popular flavors.|
|You might not get the meat flavor you want if you choose the wrong pellet flavor.|
|Properly packaged||Go for pellets with good packaging, ensuring they have not come into contact with moisture.|
|Wood pellets have an average shelf life of three months.|
|High moisture content pellets burn unevenly, altering how your food smokes.|
|Burn rate||Confirm how many pellets you require per pound of smoke per hour.|
|A higher burn rate means burning out faster, which might mean using a lot of pellets, which can be expensive.|
|One to three pounds per hour is a reasonable burn rate.|
|The burn rate could vary depending on the pellet grill you’re using.|
|Knowing the burn rate allows you to buy what you need. Storing too many pellets will encourage mold growth and other unhealthy microorganisms.|
|Brand reputation||If you’re new to using pellet grills, look at online reviews on unbiased third-party websites to learn about a brand’s reputation.|
|The quality of the pellets is more likely to be supported by previous customer feedback.|
|Once you’ve chosen the desired brand, search for customer testimonials.|
|Compatibility with your grill||Ensure your pallets work with your grill type.|
Beef brisket and ribs, chicken, turkey, and pork butt and ribs are the best meats to smoke on a pellet grill. Meat with tough muscles, fat, and good marbling will grill effortlessly.
Traeger makes the best pellets in the market. You can try the other brands I mentioned in the article, depending on the meat you want to smoke.
Frequently Asked Questions:
1. How do pellet types impact brisket flavor on a pellet grill?
Different wood pellets will impact the brisket flavor you’re smoking. Hickory and mesquite wood pellets impart a smoky flavor without becoming too sweet. However, pecan, apple, and cherry will give your brisket a sweet flavor.
Of course, the longer the smoking time, the more intense the flavor.
2. What are the key factors for choosing pellets to smoke turkey on a pellet grill?
As you are well aware, turkey has a bland taste. Therefore, you need a wood pellet to add a rich, savory, or sweet flavor to your turkey. An apple, alder, pecan, cherry, or maple will work well.
The amount of time you want to spend smoking the turkey is another essential consideration. Your turkey will quickly get smoked using mesquite. Cherry and apples create gentler smoke; thus, they will burn longer.
If you plan to season your turkey with additional spices, use a wood pellet that won’t overshadow the other flavors.
3. Which Traeger pellets can you recommend for optimal brisket smoking results?
The best pellets for brisket are Traeger pellets. Consider the hickory, maple, and cherry blend from Traeger.