The main benefit of a pellet grill is the ability to create amazing barbecue without having to watch the temperature the entire time. No playing with charcoal or opening and closing any vents to find that sweet spot.
So if you’ve got a long cook coming up like a 12+ hour brisket or pork butt, then you may be wondering just how hands off you can get with your pellet grill.
Here we go through how long you can leave a pellet grill on for, if it’s safe to leave your pellet grill running overnight or unattended, and some of the best safety tips for long cooks.
Typically how long you can leave a pellet grill on for is limited to how many pellets in the hopper. Although it’s not advised to keep your pellet grill on for 24/7 (I mean why would you?), top quality pellet grills would have no problem continuously running.
A pellet hopper typically holds between 15-25 pounds of wood pellets. If you’re going for low and slow 200-250°F, you should be burning through roughly 1.5 pounds of wood pellets per hour — which means you can easily go up to 10-15 hours without tending to your grill and refilling the pellets.
Aside from the wood, pellet grills require electricity to power the digital display, auger, and the induction fan. But, if you keep it plugged in, on, and feed it a steady flow of high quality wood pellets you’ll be able to keep it going for at least 24 hours safely.
It’s likely to function a lot longer than 24 hours, but for safety and to give it a bit of a break I wouldn’t suggest stress testing it unless you have to.
This is great for when you are looking to do a long smoke, such as a full brisket, but it does beg the question: can you leave your pellet grill running unattended, or overnight.
Can You Leave Your Pellet Grill Running Overnight?
Although pellet grills are very capable of continuous use for up to 24 hours if you keep the wood pellets topped up, is it really safe and responsible to leave it running overnight?
The truth of the matter is that using a pellet grill overnight has no more risk than a charcoal smoker or electric smoker. In fact, some would argue it’s actually safer as a pellet grill can control the temperature much more easily, and has its own safety features to turn it off if your pellet grill is getting too hot.
Anyone who has done an overnight brisket will tell you that it is completely safe – so long as you take extra precautions to be sure there is no risk of a fire or damage to any surrounding area.
So if you are looking to do an overnight smoke on your pellet grill, you should always ensure:
- You’ve moved the grill at least one meter away from any wall, overhanging, or anything flammable.
- Set regular alarms throughout the night to give the pellet grill a look and maybe even to spritz your food.
- You’ve adequately stocked up the hopper so that you don’t run out mid-smoke.
Can You Leave Your Pellet Grill Running Unattended?
As we know, pellet grills are at the pinnacle of convenience for barbecue. Although it’s not quite as simple as setting the temperature and letting it smoke away — it’s as close to that as we’re going to get.
Believe me, I’ve been in this exact situation. I’ve had my Traeger grill going and I’ve needed to scoot out to the shops to get some other ingredients for dinner. I’ve literally thought to myself, is it safe to leave my pellet grill running unattended?
The good news is, you can leave your pellet grill running unattended, so long as you’ve taken the correct safety precautions. Safety is key, right? You don’t want to come home to a burnt-down house.
So, if you are going to leave your pellet grill or pellet smoker running unattended you should first make sure:
- Your pellet grill is at least one meter from any wall or object, and not under any covers that could catch fire in a worst-case scenario.
- Ideally make sure you have a wireless temperature monitor so that you can check the temperature even when you are away from the grill.
- Do not leave your pellet girl unattended for extended periods of time, the shorter the safer.
- Make sure you fill the pellet hopper up so you don’t run out of fuel mid cook!
Safety Precautions For Long Cooks Using A Pellet Grill
Before performing any long cooks using your pellet grill, whether it’s overnight, unattended, or whether you’ll be watching it, there are a few steps you can take to make it safer and improve the quality of the cook. This goes for any pellet grill, even smaller portable pellet grills.
Clean Your Pellet Grill
Over a long smoking session a pellet grill can accumulate lots of wood dust and ash in the fire pot as well as in the bottom of the smoking chamber.
Over the course of a cook, some of the wood dust can actually circulate and end up on your meat. But, if the fire-pot is already backed up with wood dust it can actually cause temperature issues at the start or during the cook.
So, before any long cook it’s always best to clean and vacuum your pellet grill thoroughly. This will just make sure the quality of the cook is at its peak and you have no unwanted wood dust particles flying all over your meat.
This also means to make sure the grease tray is placed in correctly, so that you avoid every chance of a possible grease fire.
Check The Pellets
Make it a habit to always check the quality of the wood pellets you are about to use. Here you are really just checking moisture content, because as we know moist or wet pellets can really cause issues in a pellet grill. From problems in the auger to wider temperature swings.
Simply take a medium-to-long wood pellet, holding each end with your thumb and index finger of each hand. Begin to bend it inwards until it snaps. You should hear and feel a distinct “snapping” sound as it breaks.
If you don’t hear or feel this effect then it’s likely your wood pellets are too damp to use. I always do this when I pop open a fresh bag, regardless of whether it’s Traeger wood pellets or BBQr’s delight, or Bear Mountain.
Put It Away From The House
As a safety precaution, never place your pellet grill right next to the wall of your house. Although pellet grills are rather safe in comparison to a gas grill or charcoal grill, there’s no point risking any damage to your property.
Even if you have to get an extension cord for your pellet grill, it’s always best to wheel it about one meter from any wall or potentially flammable object. This goes for using a pellet grill on a balcony too.
Ideally Have A Wifi Or Blue-Tooth Temperature Monitor
If you are doing any sort of medium or long smoking session on your pellet grill it’s wise to have a wifi or blue-tooth temperature probe.
Something like Meater+ or even a built-in wireless probe can work beautifully.
Really, this means no matter where you are around the house or elsewhere you can check the internal temperature of your meat. This also helps as a safety precaution as it will be very clear that something is wrong if the temperature is way higher than you’d expect!
Just like when doing any kind of cooking it’s always best to keep a close on things. However, when it comes to safety in the backyard, a quality made pellet grill is about the safest smoker you can find.
This is because it controls the temperature exceedingly well, and has internal features that will shut off the fan and auger if things start to get out of hand.
So, as long as you take the right safety precautions you can leave your pellet grill running overnight, or unattended for short periods of time. Always remember to set alarms to regularly check on the cook, from a safety perspective but also to see how your barbecue is coming along!