Natural wood pellets are one of the best fuels for delicious barbecue, but what’s the best way to store them? Here’s how to store wood pellets for smoking.
Using wood pellets is one of the most energy and cost efficient means of barbecue, so it’s no surprise that pellet smokers have become popular in a big way.
Pellet smoker grills use about one pound per hour of cooking, which makes it cheaper to use than charcoal, electric, and even propane gas. It doesn’t take long for this saving to add up, especially if you love pellet smoking big meats like chuck roast, brisket, or pork shoulder.
One of the best ways to make even more of a saving is to bulk buy your smoking wood pellets. It’s easy to buy bags in excess of 20 (sometimes even 40) pounds to make a saving.
But what do you do with all the pellets that you haven’t used? Just like with any type of wood, pellets can degrade quickly if not given the proper care they need. The good news is that storing them properly couldn’t be easier. In our guide, we’ll show you the best way to store them, as well as the things you need to avoid.
Do wood pellets go bad?
Wood pellets can go bad and rot easily because they are made of natural hardwood that can absorb moisture easily. Bad wood pellets start to lose their flavor, and also their energy efficiency. This can mean not only dull food, but you’ll have a bigger challenge trying to maintain good heat levels as you cook.
Moist or degraded pellets can also become soft, which can lead to them clogging your hopper or auger. If bad enough, this can lead to mechanical failures and – even worse – a broken smoker.
The best way to store wood pellets for smoking
Once you have your bags of wood pellets, instead of simply leaving them in the bags they came with, follow these simple rules for the best results.
Use multi-gallon plastic containers. The pros swear by these, and if they’re good enough for them, they’re good enough for us. As soon as you get your pellets, pour them into the containers and secure the lid. These containers are built to lock out moisture, keeping your pellets as fresh as possible. For the best results, make sure they are listed as airtight and FDA approved. If they can help protect food from bacteria then they can protect our pellets from moisture.
I recommend the Buddeez Kingsford Kaddy (see prices on Amazon). It’s originally designed with charcoal in mind, but also airtight and can perfectly accommodate a 40lb bag of pellets
- Recycled polypropylene container body and High-Density polyethylene lid
- Great for other storage needs such as kitty litter, Ice melter, grass seed, sand and fertilizer
- Comfortable heavy duty handles make the kaddy easy to carry and use
Here are some other great containers. These are widely available in many stores, but I’ve provided Amazon links for convenience:
Just like with food items like rice or pasta, it’s crucial that you store your pellets in a dry environment. Even with the containers, we want to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to prevent any form of moisture finding its way into contact with the pellets and make them wet or squishy. This includes air moisture.
100% natural pellets are always the best fuel option for using in your pellet grill or smoker, but their composition means that moisture can expand the wood in them and ultimately break them down. This means that keeping them dry is of utmost importance.
The good news is that they can be stored inside or out, just as long as you avoid moisture. Outside can create problems with humidity, so often your best bet for outside is during the winter months.
Steer clear of open storage in damp basements or leaky sheds. Cabinets or cupboards are often your best bet. If you have a dry garage, then consider setting up cabinet storage in there for your pellet containers. If you’re lucky enough to have access to a pantry, then this could also be a viable solution.
Don’t use ziploc bags. Despite what people might think, they’re not actually airtight.
Don’t store your pellets near any heat source. Storing them near fireplaces, water boilers, water heaters, and even cars, can produce enough direct or radiation heat to cause problems. They can either exacerbate moisture problems, or even create a fire hazard.
Don’t allow your pellets to be stored on the floor. Floor surfaces can easily find themselves wet, even without spillages or exposure to rain. Keep your pellets stored off the ground, ideally on a shelf or in an elevated cabinet.
If you’re short on shelf or cabinet space, try using a pallet or even just a simple piece of 2×4 on the floor. As long as they’re not coming into contact with the wet floor then you should be fine.
Only open when ready to use
One of the best ways to ensure the longevity of the pellets is to only open the pack when you’re ready to use them. Don’t put them into containers for the sake of it.
Also, if you have several bags of pellets, go by a first-in-first-out principle by filling your containers with pellets from the oldest bag.
If you do find yourself with more than one bag of pellets, be careful how you pile them. Stacking them on top of each other can cause undue stress on the pellets, putting them at risk of warping.
The best way to pile them is in a criss-cross pattern. This will help to reduce pressure on the bags, and also increase good airflow between them to reduce moisture.
Test the pellets
Remember to examine the pellets before smoking. Pick up a couple before loading the hopper and try to snap them. If they don’t snap, they might be moist or simply not fresh enough to use. If they have soaked up too much moisture then they won’t be usable.
Other signs to look out for to know that your pellets are bad is if they lack a good shine on them. Also look out for any crumbling. If they shine and snap, they’re good for the hopper.
Can you leave pellets in the hopper?
No. Leaving unused pellets in the smoker hopper can expose them to air moisture, humidity, or even rain. Any of these factors can result in the pellets absorbing moisture and rotting. Many pellet smoker grills have a door or clean-out feature in the hopper, which makes it easy to empty out any remaining pellets. Use this to empty the hopper after each use, and transfer the pellets to an airtight container to be used next time.
How long do wood pellets last in storage?
If exposure to humidity is kept to a minimum, stored wood pellets can last for about 6 months before they start to wane. If they are stored in a high humidity environment, they will only last for 1-3 months.
Can you leave wood pellets outside?
Storing your pellets inside is the best way to ensure they are protected, but this isn’t always possible. If you don’t have access to a dry garage or indoor storage, you can store them in a shed or outdoor shelter so long as they are positioned in a raised and dry place, and away from any heat source or vehicle. Also ensure that the plastic shroud they arrive in does not have any tears or holes. If they do, make sure you repair or seal these.
Last update on 2021-02-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API