This blog post is brought to you with support from our sponsor, Green Mountain Grills, who provided advertising support.
When I wrote the Barbecue Bible in the mid-1990s, there was no such thing as a pellet grill. There were charcoal grills, wood-burning grills, and gas grills. And when pellet grills finally appeared on my radar, I admit I was a bit dismissive of them. “Too easy,” I thought to myself. Barbecue is supposed to be hard work. If you’re not chopping wood, you should at least be breathing in charcoal dust or smoke, right?
Now I wonder what I was thinking. What’s wrong with easy? What’s wrong with the “set it and forget it” philosophy? Not a thing.
Pellet grills, if you’re unfamiliar with them, are one of the newest breeds of grills on the market. The Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association (HPBA) reports they are one of the fastest growing segments of the grill market. They are all similar in design. You pour wood pellets—they are about 1 inch long, ¼-inch wide, and are made of compressed hardwood sawdust—into a hopper attached to the side or back of the grill. Most pellet smokers resemble a small offset barrel smoker. An augur delivers the pellets to an igniter at a speed you choose—fast for a hot fire, slower for a smokier, slower fire. A fan disperses the heat, which you preset using a digital controller.
One brand that recently snagged my attention is Green Mountain Grills. This company, based in Reno, Nevada, builds a sturdy pellet grill that has a useful and interesting feature: you can download a free app that will link the grill’s digital controller to your smartphone via WiFi. So play with the kids, watch the game, or take a nap while your food smokes and cooks to perfection. You can barbecue, roast, grill, bake, or braise on this versatile grill. It combines the convenience of gas grills with the amazing flavor of wood smoke. (A thermostat in the cook chamber sends precise signals to the controller, enabling you to regulate the temperature.) It works like a convection oven.
The smoke flavor generated by the Green Mountain Grills (they manufacture three models) is subtle. You’ll never have to be worried about acrid-tasting food, which is a possibility when you rely on charcoal or wood. Pellets come in a variety of flavors, too, which can be matched to the food you’re cooking.
Nearly all the recipes on my website, such as Smoked Beer-Can Burgers and Thai Chicken Curry Poppers, and in my latest book, Project Smoke, can be cooked using this versatile smoker—everything from appetizers to desserts. Maybe you’ll get one for Father’s Day.