The more time and care you put into low and slow barbecue, the better the end result will be. Using only the best quality, freshest, and purest fuel will naturally enhance the smoke. A highly debatable topic in the pellet grill community is: can you leave pellets in the hopper between cooks?
Let’s break it down simply, covering all the variables so you can make the informed decision on how long to keep your wood pellets in the hopper.
Can You Leave Pellets In The Hopper?
Leaving your pellets in the hopper between cooks is absolutely fine. However, it all depends on how long you’re waiting between sessions, how well stored your pellet grill is, and the quality of your wood pellets.
Even Traeger Grills agrees that there is no harm done by not emptying the pellets after every cook, so long as it’s not for extended periods of time. Although Traeger Grills gives a round figure of one week, if you store your pellet grill covered and in a dry, secure location, then you can easily keep them for longer.
High quality hardwood pellets will naturally hold together longer too, and can absorb a certain amount of moisture before it starts to break down. If you’re using everyday run-of-the-mile branded wood pellets you always need to be more careful when leaving pellets in the hopper.
Even though you can leave wood pellets in the hopper between cooks, if you want to maintain the quality of both the wood pellets, and your prized pellet grill, it’s always better to empty them after each cook.
How Long Can You Keep Wood Pellets In The Hopper?
The length of time you can keep wood pellets in the hopper depends on a few very important factors. Keeping your pellet grill covered with a weather resistant cover and stored inside a shed or garage will significantly extend the amount of time you can keep your wood pellets in the hopper. Using the best wood smoking pellets will also help them hold together and resist the moisture in the air.
If you’re using quality made wood pellets, and you’re storing your pellet grill, covered, in a dry spot of your garage or shed you should be able to keep your wood pellets in your pellet grill for a lot longer. Depending on the humidity where you live, this could be between 2 weeks to 2 months.
However even in these conditions, if you know you’re not going to be using your pellet smoker in the next month it’s always better to empty them before storage. Most pellet smokers come with an small latched door on the bottom of the hopper, which can be easily opened to clear out the wood pellets. Simply get a large food-grade plastic bucket and place it directly under the latch before opening it. Once the pellet hopper is empty, seal your bucket with the lid, tightly, to make sure no moisture can get in.
For more about wood smoker pellets, check out BBQr’s Delight Vs. Traeger Pellets to find out who settled the score.
What To Do If You Are Storing Your Wood Pellets In Your Hopper
If you know you’ll be using the grill next week and you’re wanting to store your wood pellets in the hopper, just be sure you do the following to keep the quality:
- Cover: Never skimp on the cover. Make sure it’s a heavy-duty vinyl, nylon, or canvas cover that properly fits your pellet grill.
- Store: Always store your pellet grill undercover and out of the weather. Ideally, this would be in a garage or shed, but if you can’t, then at least under a veranda or other protection.
- Climate Matters: If you live in a specifically humid area, then it’s always recommended to take all precautions possible to prevent any moisture from damaging your pellets.
Testing Your Wood Pellets Before Use
A fail-safe way to test your wood pellets before use is by doing the snap test.
- Take a medium to long wood pellet gripping it between your thumb and index finger of each hand.
- Slowly start to gently bend the wood pellet and you should feel the pressure build up, and the definite snap when it breaks in half.
- If the wood pellet gives in too easily and starts to mush, crumb, or break down then your wood pellets have absorbed too much moisture. If in doubt, always better to use a fresh dry batch for the smoke and flavor, but also to protect your pellet grill from an auger fire.
You should do this to one wood pellet every time you get a new bag, and it will give you a good frame of reference when testing the wood pellets before use. This process should be followed whether you’re using a Rec Tec Grill, Pit Boss Pellet Grill, Traeger Pellet Grill, or even a portable pellet grill.
Do You Need To Empty The Auger Too?
Emptying the hopper does get the majority of the wood pellets out of the grill, but there are also those pellets that the auger has taken from the hopper. Honestly, if you’re using your pellet grill every other weekend it’s absolutely fine to not empty the auger.
However, if you know you won’t be smoking in the next month or so then it’s going to be worth it, especially since it’s so easy to empty. Once you’ve emptied to hopper as much as you can, you’re going to want to run your pellet grill on low until you visually see the pellets stop coming into the fire pot. Switch it off immediately after and you’re done.