You’ll notice that popular and well-known smoking enthusiasts and pitmasters prefer only to use a few types of wood pellets when smoking. This is because each wood type and brand have specific burning qualities and flavor. So, what are the best wood pellets for smoking?
We’ve broken down the top picks and explained why they are so much better.
Top 5 Best Wood Pellets For Smoking
Bear Mountain All-Natural Gourmet Blend Smoker Pellets
- Great smoke that works well with every meat
- Low moisture content
- If you’re a smoke-a-holic, you may prefer a stronger smoking wood such as hickory
Bear Mountain Gourmet Blend has a well-balanced smoky and sweet flavor. The custom blend of hickory, maple, cherry, and oak balances so well they recommend it for every meat. Bear Mountain has a high standard they hold for low moisture in their smoking pellets. This helps for an easy and even burn, with no problems in the auger and consistent heat.
If you love a strong sweetness or prefer the smoky oomph of hickory, then Bear Mountain also has top quality flavored wood pellets. Top quality, flavor, and performance.
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CookinPellets Perfect Mix
- Top quality hardwood blend
- No fillers
- No bark at all
- More expensive
CookinPellets Perfect Mix wood pellets are made from 100% heart wood, that is, from the very center of the log. They pride themselves on this, and say “never any bark”, which makes for a consistent and clean smoke. They use a base of hickory, then add cherry, hard maple, and apple. They don’t use any oils, and avoid filler words such as oak to not mellow out the flavors. Definitely top quality and a very popular pick.
Traeger Hickory All-Natural Hardwood Grill Pellets
- Strong & reliable smokiness
- Traeger’s top quality
- Made from mill to pellet in the USA
- Nothing notable
If you’ve been around in barbecue space you’ll know the name Traeger. Just like their grills, Traeger Grill Pellets don’t compromise on quality. Traeger’s hickory wood pellets are 100% natural hardwood, no fillers. To ensure their quality of the product is consistent, Traeger handles the process from the mill to pellets with everything in between.
There are a variety of flavors, and although hickory is a top seller, a frequently raved about blend is their Texas Beef Blend. Smoking with Traeger wood pellets you know you can’t go wrong!
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RecTec Grills Ultimate Blend Pellets
- Very dense and tightly compressed
- Classic and traditional smokiness
- Consistently high quality
- More expensive
One process that RecTec Blend Pellets has absolutely nailed is the compression of the sawdust into their pellet forms. With this premium standard and consistency, the wood pellets are able to burn evenly which makes the feeding process so much easier.
Their ultimate blend is a custom mix of hickory and oak. Although RecTec Blended pellets are a bit more expensive, you are paying for a quality made product you can rely on.
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Pit Boss Hickory Wood Pellets
- Rich & smoky hickory
- Low ash content (less than 1%)
- 100% all natural
- Reports that the wood pellets dust more easily
Sourced from across North America, Pit Boss delivers a top quality wood pellet. They have absolutely no additives, and through the careful drying, grinding, and compression process they turn out 100% all natural hickory.
Pit Boss Wood Pellets boast an extremely low ash content. Although it’s pretty normal for high quality wood pellets that have no bark, it’s always very nice to have for easy cleaning & maintenance for the auger. Pit Boss also offers other flavored wood pellets, all at very reasonable prices.
Main Types Of Wood Pellets
When you’re shopping around for wood pellets you’ll come across three main types. Each type, flavored, blended, or standard wood pellets, vary on what wood they’re made from, their burning quality, and their flavors.
Single Flavored Wood Pellets
Flavored wood pellets are made from 100% of one type of wood. These woods can range from strong smoking woods such as hickory or mesquite to sweet or fruity like apple or maple.
Blended Wood Pellets
Blended wood pellets are made from more than one type of wood. They usually contain some strong smoking woods like hickory and some mellow and fruity woods like cherry or maple. Blended woods can be made up of flavored woods and filler wood, such as oak.
Note: In wood pellets, oak is considered a filler as it balances out the other dominant flavors and it’s considered to be one of the cheaper woods. However, oak is a perfectly good smoking wood and is even my top wood choice for smoking wings.
Avoid using ANY heating pellets. These are made for wood stoves for heating. The wood pellets aren’t made to release the smoky flavors, and often have non-food grade oils, and combust differently.
What Makes The Best Wood Pellets For Smoking
There are three main qualities experienced and professional users look for when choosing their wood pellets. These qualities influence how the wood pellets burn, which affects the overall cook.
Properly Compressed Pellets
If you’ve ever bought budget or low quality pellets you will have noticed they are much more fragile and tend to break apart and dust more easily. High quality wood pellets should be properly compressed, and held together with the natural materials within the wood. This helps keep a consistent heat, and avoids any problems in the auger.
More Wood, Less Bark
Although there is a bit of debate here, if we are looking at burn quality and consistency wood pellets made from heartwood (the center of the log) take the cake every time. Some enthusiasts prefer a little bit of bark for added flavor, but too much will do more harm than good.
Bark has a higher amount of Lignin than heartwood. Lignin when it burns produces more heat, which makes it harder to keep consistent heat, and it leaves more ash.
Not Too Oily
The natural oils of the wood are great, but during the pellet forming process some manufacturers will add oils to help the formation and to keep the shape. Generally some oil is okay, as long as it’s food-grade, but you can find perfectly good wood pellets that don’t rely so much on this.
Other Things To Consider
Price should not be overlooked when you’re looking at grabbing some more wood pellets. You can have amazing top quality wood pellets, but if you use your smoker on the regular you can burn through a lot of wood and money! Do a little bit of research before purchasing wood pellets and you should be able to find decently priced, top quality wood pellets without breaking the bank.
If you’re an avid barbecuer and smoke lover you will know first hand what difference wood flavors can make. Compare the strong distinct richness of hickory, with the subtle, mellow, and fruitiness of apple. In the end, it really is up to you, but it’s great to know which flavors to use to best complement each meat.
Best Flavors Of Wood Pellets
Even though it definitely comes down to personal preference, there are some key favorites that best compliment the different meats you are smoking. If you want to get experimental you can, but sometimes you can’t beat classic barbecue.
Popular Smoking Woods
Traditional, strong, and distinct savoury smoke. Almost bacon-like. One of the most popular smoking woods that is reliable in delivering smokiness, and versatile in what you can use it for.
GrillSimply’s Pick For: Smoking Ribs, Smoking Brats, Smoking Brisket
Classic, versatile, and known for its mildly sweet and fruity smoke. Burns well and releases a good amount of clean smoke. Works well by itself, or is often blended with stronger smoking woods.
Cherry wood is quite sweet and fruity and works wonders when blended with hickory, mesquite, or oak. Definitely, a fan favorite that burns hot and consistently.
GrillSimply’s Pick For: Smoking Pork Butt
One of the more mild smoking woods which isn’t overpowering at all. This makes it ideal when you want to go for a subtle smoke, and when dealing with subtle and delicate flavored meats, such as turkey. Blends well with stronger smoking woods too.
GrillSimply’s Pick For: Smoking Turkey
Famously potent and delivers a true oomph of smokiness. If you’re a smoke-a-holic I’d expect to find at least one bag of mesquite in your shed. Due to its strength, it can risk over-smoking the meat, however, when controlled well and used conservatively it shines. Definitely packs a punch!
Another classic pick, known to deliver a consistent medium smokiness. Because oak is so easily sourced it’s readily available and always reasonably priced. If you like diversity in flavor, oak works wonders when blended with any flavored woods such as cherry, apple, pecan, pretty much anything.
GrillSimply’s Pick For: Smoking Chicken Wings
The most popular nutty-flavored smoke which is more on the mellow side. Definitely produces a smokey taste, and is able to work it’s magic even on shorter cooks. For those that love the nutty smokiness of pecan but love the complexity of a strong smokiness, pecan can be blended well with oak or hickory.
The best wood pellets for smoking should be compressed properly, be made primarily of heartwood, and have low moisture and low oil contents. When it comes to flavor it’s really up to you, but each wood type does pair better with some meats over others. Our top pick was Bear Mountain All-Natural Gourmet Blend, what’s yours?