It’s no secret that heating pellets are more affordable than smoker pellets.
They even look the same, and appear to be made of 100% wood, just like smoker pellets too.
So what gives?
Are we really paying a premium on smoker pellets for no good reason, or are heating pellets and smoker pellets actually completely different?
Here’s whether you can use heating pellets in a pellet grill or pellet smoker and what the key differences between heating pellets and smoker pellets are that make them unsuitable.
As tempting as it is to try out heating pellets in a pellet grill, it’s incredibly important that you don’t.
Not only can heating pellets cause issues in your pellet grill, but heating pellets are not considered food safe and can produce some pretty unsuitable and unhealthy smoke.
When used in a pellet grill or pellet smoker, heating pellets can cause auger issues or backfires, will produce a foul tasting smoke, and may contain additives and chemicals which can be unsafe to consume.
For these reasons, you CANNOT use heating pellets in a pellet grill.
Sure, it costs a few extra bucks for smoker pellets, but it’s all for good reason. Smoker pellets go through a much more thorough process and quality control to ensure they are 100% food-safe.
Heating Pellets Vs. Smoking Pellets
By the physical appearance, you can hardly tell the difference between heating pellets and smoking pellets (sometimes called cooking pellets too).
So what makes them so different that you can’t use heating pellets in place of smoking pellets?
Well, it comes down to their composition:
Smoking pellets are food-grade, meaning the material is suitable to come into contact with food products for consumption.
They are made of 100% hardwood sawdust, bound together with food-safe oils and binders.
Most importantly, they don’t contain any fillers, glue, or chemical additives.
Unlike smoking pellets, heating pellets are made of all kinds of recycled wood products, such as pallets, chips, and wood offcuts.
All these wood products are processed down into sawdust-like material and bound together using non-food-safe oils and binders.
This whole process helps keep costs low and all these wood materials and compounds are absolutely suitable for producing heat – but not for cooking.
So don’t be tempted to use heating pellets if you’ve run out of smoking pellets!
Why You Shouldn’t Use Heating Pellets In A Pellet Grill Or Pellet Smoker
Although the base is still wood, it’s quite clear that heating pellets and smoking pellets DO NOT have the same composition.
This makes all the difference in the world when it comes to flavor, safety, and how the pellets actually burn in a pellet grill or pellet smoker.
In a nutshell, you shouldn’t use heating pellets in a pellet grill or pellet smoker as they:
- Produce dirty smoke
- May break or cause issues in your smoker
- Include non-food-safe materials and substances
Produces Dirty Smoke
Heating pellets are made from all sorts of recycled wood, and not 100% hardwood like smoking pellets.
Plus, heating pellets can have substances like terpenes, sap, glues, paints, and other chemicals.
In combination, the smoke byproduct you get when burning heating pellets is anything but clean, and can have several nasty-tasting and unhealthy compounds.
May Cause Issues In Your Smoker
Smoking pellets undergo a forming process that compresses the sawdust into uniform wood pellets, made with the intention to burn evenly and consistently.
Heating pellets on the other hand don’t go through the same rigorous testing. If you use heating pellets in a pellet grill they can more easily disintegrate or burn too quickly which can cause wild temperature fluctuations, backfires, or even cause your auger to break down.
Includes Unsafe Substances
Instead of adhering to the strict food-safe quality standards that cooking pellets go through, heating pellet manufacturers can pretty much do whatever’s necessary to form together the compressed sawdust.
This involves using things glues, chemicals, and non-food-safe oils.
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you twice about how unhealthy and unsafe these substances can be for consumption.
The Bottom Line
All in all, you should never use heating pellets in a pellet grill or pellet smoker.
Not only is it not worth the risk to your smoker, but it can be incredibly unsafe to consume any foods that have been engulfed in the smoke produced by heating pellets.
Although heating pellets are much cheaper, the extra dosh you spend on smoking pellets is paying for the quality and the food-safe ingredients and process it goes through.
Here at GrillSimply, we know our wood pellets. Check out this guide to the best wood pellets for smoking!