Differences in taste and texture using pellets vs charcoal?

BFletcher

TVWBB All-Star
For you who currently use a pellet, can you describe the differences in taste and texture compared to using charcoal?
 

Rich Dahl

TVWBB 1-Star Olympian
I don't own one yet but my daughter has a Traeger and I have had ribs and brisket smoked on it. Really couldn't notice any difference in flavor or texture to those I have done on my WSM. Although she uses a different rub than I do. And the pellets are a different smoke than what I use.
 

Jon Tofte

TVWBB Platinum Member
My observations are that there isn’t a big difference. Maybe a little less smoke taste, but not that much less. It is really important to use high quality pellets (eg. Lumberjack, Cookin’ Pellets.com). Some sold in general retail stores are not as good. Also, pellets need to be kept dry as possible. I think the pellets are as or more important than the grill itself.

I made bbq chicken today. Used my phone to control temperature (while sitting at church :coolkettle:!). Plenty of nice smoke taste and smell to me, but not overboard like it was pulled out of a burning house.
 

timothy

TVWBB Hall of Fame
Since pellets are compressed sawdust, do you get a constant amount of white smoke since these are the primary fuel and flavor?

Tim
 

Jon Tofte

TVWBB Platinum Member
Here are some pictures of my Rec Tec in use:

This is typical smoke pattern. You get a lot when it first starts up then it simmers down. There are ups and downs in the amount of smoke, probably when it is pulling in new pellets and ramping up the fan to bring the temperature up.



Here is what the control panel looks like:



Here is an example (different cook with only one meat probe used) of what you see on the phone app:



Here are some things I have done so far:

CHICKEN (I like it brown and DONE!)



RIBS: (You can fit 6 racks on the main shelf and with the extra stainless upper shelf that came with my bargain used purchase probably 4 more for a total of 10 rack laid out flat!



Here is chuck roast getting ready and then turned into burnt ends:





Finally, here is a burger. You can see that it doesn't sear too well, but the flavor is a lot richer and smokier than regular gas grill burgers. It's a trade-off, I guess. I think, maybe, you can see a little bit of smoke ring in my well done - but not dried out - finished burger:





I am not holding out these examples as the best of grilling but just some real-life examples on my own Rec Tec pellet grill. I am learning and hope to do even better.
 

Rich Dahl

TVWBB 1-Star Olympian
I really don't know how much better those cooks could get. They look great to me, thanks for sharing.
 

Jon Tofte

TVWBB Platinum Member
If you have Amazon Prime you can get a pick three of 20 pounds each (60 pounds total) for $65 with “free” shipping. Or pick six of 20 pounds each (120 pounds total) for $114. Certainly it would be better if you can find a local dealer or do like I did and buy some on a trip.

Amazon also has 40lb bags of Cookin Pellets.com “Perfect Mix” which I can recommend for just over $40 with free shipping if you have Prime.
 

BFletcher

TVWBB All-Star
In the article linked in the "New Weber Pellet Grills for 2020" thread they speak to fuel efficiency of current pellet grill offerings and remark that they burn about a pound every 2-3 hours at low temps but Rec Tec and Traeger indicate on their sites an approximate consumption rate of 1 pound per hour. Do you guys who sometimes use pellet grills have concerns about the fuel cost?

 

Jon Tofte

TVWBB Platinum Member
I admit that I have not tried to measure consumption with any detail, but I will say that my pellets are lasting longer than I anticipated. That is based on doing 225 - 245 degrees. When you step up the heat to full blast, the consumption does go up pretty dramatically. Probably NOT an efficient way to grill a few burgers, especially compared to something like the Weber Q.

I think it is cheaper to use pellets than high grade charcoal and wood chips, but I have no analytical evidence to support that thought. One thing is that once your pour out charcoal and use it, while you can sometimes get another use it is still not "fresh." Pellets are only consumed as they are actually used while the rest sit, still "fresh" in the hopper.
 

BFletcher

TVWBB All-Star
One thing is that once your pour out charcoal and use it, while you can sometimes get another use it is still not "fresh." Pellets are only consumed as they are actually used while the rest sit, still "fresh" in the hopper.
This is a very good point!
 

MikeCantell

TVWBB Super Fan
I get the LJ pellets at rural king for $8.99 a 20lbs bag, during the summer it sips around 1lbs per hour running 225, as the temps get turned up or the temps fall mileage gets worse, I have a moving blanket I drape over it during the winter that helps a lot. having a smoke stack makes that easy, I have a little over 1000" of grate space, a smaller cooker would use less I'm sure
 

Bob Bass

TVWBB Guru
For you who currently use a pellet, can you describe the differences in taste and texture compared to using charcoal?
While I do not own or use a pellet smoker, I have judged teams that use pellet smokers as well as WSMs and log burners, and everything in between ! All kinds of smokers !

Unless a team lets their particular smoker get out of control, especially way over temperature, I 'generally' can not tell you what each bbq sample was cooked on ! This includes taste and texture.

Just for kicks... as far as 'number of samples' we're talking about here... Lets say 60 pro contests x (6 chicken samples + 6 pork rib samples + 6 pork butt samples + 6 brisket samples) or about 1,440 "samples", give or take a few ;)
 

Jason in CA

TVWBB Pro
While I do not own or use a pellet smoker, I have judged teams that use pellet smokers as well as WSMs and log burners, and everything in between ! All kinds of smokers !

Unless a team lets their particular smoker get out of control, especially way over temperature, I 'generally' can not tell you what each bbq sample was cooked on ! This includes taste and texture.

Just for kicks... as far as 'number of samples' we're talking about here... Lets say 60 pro contests x (6 chicken samples + 6 pork rib samples + 6 pork butt samples + 6 brisket samples) or about 1,440 "samples", give or take a few ;)
So another words,





No.
 

Jason in CA

TVWBB Pro
While I do not own or use a pellet smoker, I have judged teams that use pellet smokers as well as WSMs and log burners, and everything in between ! All kinds of smokers !

Unless a team lets their particular smoker get out of control, especially way over temperature, I 'generally' can not tell you what each bbq sample was cooked on ! This includes taste and texture.

Just for kicks... as far as 'number of samples' we're talking about here... Lets say 60 pro contests x (6 chicken samples + 6 pork rib samples + 6 pork butt samples + 6 brisket samples) or about 1,440 "samples", give or take a few ;)
I think you just gave a definitive what's better answer.
 

BobJ

TVWBB Fan
It would be interesting to see a breakdown of grill types of the winners to see if it has any bearing on the finished product.
 

Jon Tofte

TVWBB Platinum Member
One nice thing about a large pellet grill is capacity. I did a midnight cook starting midnight Saturday in order to be ready for a Sunday School lunch gathering. Over 20 pounds of brisket! Overall, they came out well, even though my timing was a little off. Here's a picture of one piece just being sliced. Definitely produces a "smoke ring" although I am told that this is purely a chemical reaction unrelated to smoke itself.



 

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