8 Best Wood Pellets for Smoking 2024

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Level up your pellet grilling, cold smoking, and charcoal cooking with these best BBQ wood pellets.

oak smoker pellets

Smoker wood pellets offer a reliable, consistent, pure smoke flavor that no other type of wood fuel does. With their uniform size, and 100% hardwood composition, wood pellets provide easy temperature control and a long, clean burn.

And while primarily used in pellet smokers, the reliably long smoke that pellets yield makes them perfect for using for cold smoking cheese and fish, as well as in smoker tubes used in charcoal and gas grills.

With a variety of brands and flavors out there, there’s more choice out there than there has ever been. So we’ve cut through the noise and tested the very best pellets for smoking to see how they deliver on clean burn, smoke length, and flavor.

Traeger Signature Blend

traeger signature blend wood pellets

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Traeger’s Signature Blend series does away with much of the confusion that arises from flavor matching. Instead, it delivers with a blend of hickory, maple, and cherry. The blend delivers the perfect combination of smoke, savory, and sweet that matches almost any meat.

While well-suited to any of Traeger’s pellet grill range, the Signature series has become our go-to wood pellets for cold smoking cheese, and for using in smoke tubes during charcoal grilling.

Traeger Signature Blend
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Bear Mountain Mesquite

bear mountain bbq pellets mesquite bag

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Formed in the 1990s, Bear Mountain has grown its range of smoking pellets to an incredible variety of flavors. But our favorite of the range has to be its mesquite offering.

In general, mesquite has long been well-paired with fattier cuts of beef since its rich flavor tends to complement the intense earthy flavor of mesquite smoke. Not only that, but mesquite smoke can provide a unique mahogany-like bark that looks amazing on large beef cuts like brisket or chuck roast.

While mesquite traditionally has been an intimidating wood to use because of its intensity, Bear Mountain’s mesquite uses an oak or alder base to help make the mesquite more palatable, and can help temper mesquite’s faster burn rate. Some might think this goes too far, but this blend means that we can expand the use of mesquite to fattier pork cuts, like pork butt or ribs.

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Lumber Jack Fruitwood

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Lumber Jack have flown relatively under the radar compared to other big-name pellet brands but, since their inception in 2005, they’ve done an amazing job of toeing the line between quality and cost. By using pure wood and not recycled sawdust, Lumber Jack pellets tend to carry a more authentic and stronger wood smoke flavor than many of their more premium counterparts.

Lumber Jack avoids fillers and artificial ingredients completely with their pellets, only using 100% of their listed wood species (as opposed to using an oak or alder base infused with flavored oils). This allows a fuller and certainly more authentic wood flavor coming through the smoke, while the smaller diameter of the pellets allows for hotter burning (although this might be tempered by what pellet grill you’re using.

Our go-to from Lumber Jack has been their fruitwood blend series, which uses an 80:20 ratio of pure cherry to applewood. This blend provides a subtle sweet smoke that goes perfectly with most pork and poultry cuts and imbues the cherry with a nice red color.

Note: Lumber Jack pellets aren’t always the easiest to find, but they have set up a helpful retailer site for help locating sellers for BBQ fans in North America.

Lumber Jack Fruitwood Blend
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Camp Chef Competition Blend

Camp Chef Competition Blend

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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

CookinPellets Perfect Mix Smoking Pellets

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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.

Camp Chef Premium Applewood

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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

Pit Boss BBQ Competition Blend

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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 Barbecue Hickory

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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.


Important Features

Not sure where to start when choosing your pellet smoker fuel? Here’s what to look out for when choosing your wood.

Hardwood

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.

Flavors

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.

Light-Up Time

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.

Wood Pellets Flavors

BBQ pellet flavors can be developed in a few different ways. In the case of brands like Lumberjack, they tend to use only pure fruitwoods or hardwoods to create a given flavor blend. In the case of larger brands, they often use an oak or alder base and infuse it with flavor oils or liquids to create that added flavor. While there’s an argument to be had about authenticity here, the end result is largely the same (although pure woods might be a touch stronger).

Different woods yield different flavors and, therefore, suit different meats better. For example, if you’re smoking turkey on a pellet grill, you’ll want something a lot lighter than if you were cooking brisket.

Here’s our easy reference table for which pellets go best with which meats:

WoodFlavorBest Combinations
Aldervery light, delicatewhite fish, salmon, vegetables
Applesubtle, lightly sweet, fruitychicken, turkey, pork
Cherrymild and fruity smoke; can add a rich mahogany color to smoked meatspork, chicken, turkey
Hickorystrong, hearty, bacon-likepork, beef, venison
Maplemild, slightly sweetpoultry, pork, vegetables, cheese
Mesquiteintense, earthy flavorfattier cuts of beef
Oakversatile with a medium, classic smoky profileall meats; often blended with other wood
Pecannutty, rich with notes of butter and vanillabeef, pork, poultry, nuts

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:

Flavored Wood

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.

Blended

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.

Standard

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 2024-06-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

About the Author

Ben Isham-Smith

A BBQ obsessive, Ben is behind 250+ of The Online Grill’s recipes, as well as countless barbecue guides to help barbecue newbies get to grips with the world’s best form of cooking.


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