Barbecue wood pellets elevate food and meat to a new level, infusing them with a range of delicate flavors. From hickory to apple, learn which BBQ smoking pellets will complement which types of food. Complete your pellet smoker setup with our guide to the best wood pellets for smoking.
Smoking wood pellets are a cleaner and efficient alternative to traditional gas or charcoal fuels. Still, it’s essential to know what to get for the right conditions. Some burn longer, some burn hotter, and some offer different kinds of flavor. Depending on what meat you’re smoking, you might want different pellets.
You can have the right pellet smoker setup, but if you’re not using the right kind of wood you risk ruining your food. You don’t want to invest in a big batch of pellets to find out that it’s not compatible with your grill, or poor quality.
My guide to the best wood pellets for smoking will make using your pellet grill a breeze. I’ll show you my top 5 choices before walking you through the key things to look out for in barbecue wood. Let’s get into it.
Camp Chef Competition Blend
Camp Chef has been in the wood fuel game for a long time, and these smoker pellets are the perfect example. They’re a beautiful blend of 100% natural pellets that burn cleanly and smoothly.
In the mix is a blend of premium hardwoods containing cherry, maple, and hickory. These combine beautifully to give a balanced and subtle flavor that matches most barbecue smoked meats.
Some people prefer to mix their own hardwoods, but Camp Chef has done a fine job of blending these for a natural flavor.
One of the best signs of good wood pellets is that they leave little in the way of ash or dust after use. These pellets from Camp Chef are no different. Their reputation as an excellent all-round fuel is well-deserved.
CookinPellets Perfect Mix
This is another wood pellet blend, but this time with a mix of four different types of wood to give a nuanced and layered flavor profile. It combines maple, apple, cherry, and hickory to provide a smoking wood that complements a range of barbecue meats.
CookinPellets is a premium brand, and these smoking pellets don’t disappoint. They’re free of any kind of filler, so no oil or low-quality wood (like alder). It’s nothing but good quality wood fuel for your smoker.
It’s called the perfect mix and it’s hard to disagree.
- Top 4 hardwoods only
- 100% of what we say it is NO oak or alder filler
- 100% hardwoods
Camp Chef Premium Applewood
Another Camp Chef wood pellet, but this time it’s not a mix. Instead, we have pure applewood grill pellets that match perfectly with any brand of the grill. Made of pure applewood, this packs in a bit more flavor than any combination packet you could get. Still, if you want something with a smoky apple aroma, then this is the one for you. It’s the perfect choice for pork and poultry, and also smoked cheese. It can be blended with alder wood for a smokier and balanced aroma.
It contains no fillers and is strictly high-quality apple hardwood. It leaves almost no ash or dust, and its hardwood composition ensures that the smoke will be minimal and clean.
Pit Boss BBQ Competition Blend
With a name like ‘Pit Boss’, you’re going to be noticed. Sure enough, they’re a big name in the smoker world and are responsible for some of the world’s best grill wood pellets.
Their blend BBQ wood pellets come in two types: Hickory or apple. There’s no difference between the two in terms of quality, just what your personal preferences are for taste.
Their North American wood is completely free from any fillers or chemicals, giving you superior pellets that burn hot and clean. This gives you excellent aroma quality and almost no leftover ash to deal with after smoking.
Its competition blend is a mix of hickory, cherry, and maple hardwood, making a great alternative if you can’t decide between hickory or apple.
Traeger Barbecue Hickory
Traeger is the brand behind one of my favorite wood pellet grills, so it stands to reason that they’re behind some of my favorite BBQ wood pellets.
These pellets are some of the purest you can get. They contain no fillers and are 100% hardwood. They burn cleanly while still imparting a beautiful smoky flavor to your food.
They’re pure hickory rather than a blend, but still go well with beef, pork, and game.
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Not sure where to start when choosing your pellet smoker fuel? Here’s what to look out for when choosing your wood.
When choosing your pellets, choose something that’s 100% hardwood. This means that it is free from fillers and chemicals, and that it will burn cleanly and have minimal impact on the environment or your food.
One of the best things about barbecue is the opportunity to use wood pellets or chips for infusing your chosen meat with extra flavor. Added to the smokiness can be woods like apple, maple, and hickory, which can be combined to take your meat to the next level.
Wood pellets’ popularity is partly down to how quickly they light and warm-up compared to charcoal. In fact, the time they reach optimal temperatures is almost on par with gas. This is amazing considering that it is much more of an ‘organic’ fuel source.
What Are Smoking Wood Pellets?
What I love about wood pellets is the flavor that they impart on your grill. You simply don’t get that range of choice with gas or charcoal grills.
These small pellets are made from recycled wood and sawdust, usually taken from the leftover wood found in wood mills. The wood is broken down into tiny pieces before being remolded into small, dry pieces.
Make sure you don’t buy heating pellets, confusing them for wood grilling pellets. These are designed for heating homes and not for being thrown into your grill.
What Flavors Are There for Wood Pellets?
This is where you can really experiment. Finding the right flavor pellet for you will have to involve experimenting and trying different ones until you land on what you like.
That said, some undoubtedly complement different meats better than others.
For example, if you’re smoking turkey with wood pellets, then you’ll want something a lot lighter than if you were cooking brisket.
Here are some combinations you might want to try.
|Alder||beef, pork, salmon, poultry, fish, wild game|
|Apple||poultry, pork, lamb, seafood, vegetables|
|Cherry||pork, poultry, beef|
|Hickory||pork, beef, wild game|
|Maple||poultry, beef, pork, vegetables, cheese|
|Mesquite||beef, wild game, poultry, fish|
|Oak||all meats; often blended with other wood|
What Types of Wood Pellet Are There?
The choice doesn’t just stop at choosing between different aromas of wood. There are also three broad types of pellet:
In my opinion, the best type of wood. I’ve outlined the different flavors above, and this type of wood lends itself best to it.
With a 100% composition, the flavors in the pellets really come to shine when cooking. The downside is that these types of pellets are a little more expensive. My counterargument is that BBQ is all about the flavors and aroma, and flavored wood gives you the best experience.
This is an ‘economy’ level of wood pellet that combines flavored wood with a filler agent to make it cheaper. Unfortunately, this ratio is more in favor of filler than it is wood. We’ve seen filler used in fuel like briquettes for charcoal grills or smokers, and sadly it’s not uncommon with wood pellets either.
In the case of pellets, filler tends to be comprised of oak. This is because it burns very well. However, it doesn’t really provide any flavor to the barbecue.
I might seem very down on blended pellets, but I’m a purist at heart and would much prefer to use something pure. For you to enjoy a clean, authentic taste to your BBQ, I’d recommend you do the same too.
These pellets carry no flavor at all and are generally made of oak. They burn well but don’t impart any taste to your food. As a result, they’re best used for heating rather than cooking.
What to Avoid
Keep an eye out for dust. Cheap pellets tend to decompose and fall apart very quickly, and a clear indicator of this is if a pile of dust has gathered at the bottom of the bag. When choosing your pellets, try to see how much dust is nestling in the bag.
Avoid anything containing chemicals or additives. The vast majority of hardwood pellets are safe and clean, but the same can’t be said for chemically enhanced pellets.
Avoid bark. While we like to see bark gathered on our brisket, we don’t like it in our fuel. This type of wood doesn’t burn in the same way as pellets, and can play havoc with the cooking temperature and heat consistency in your grill. It creates a lot of ash, which can make your grill a mess.
Last update on 2023-12-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API