Are Pellet Grills Safe? (2023)
Deciding which pellet grill or smoker to buy is the first big decision in your pitmaster journey, but understanding whether pellet grills are safe may be a big part of your decision-making process.
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If you plan on getting into competitive barbequing, modern pellet grills might not be allowed. And of course, this is the exact same reason that modern pellet grills are perfect for the rest of us. Their advanced features, digital controllers, and app compatibility all make the grills much easier to use.
Your favorite cuts of meat taste best when cooked"low and slow" with indirect heat, and while traditional smokers require constant monitoring of the grill's internal temperature, newer pellet grills are advanced enough to send many of these signals to your phone. Obtaining the perfect smoky flavor shouldn't require sacrificing a night of sleep, and now you don't have to do so.
But before you make a purchase, it is worth considering whether or not pellet grills are safe so let's consider everything you might need to know before buying your first Traeger pellet grill, or another brand of choice.
Are Pellet Grills Safe?
While there are many benefits to grilling with pellet grill and smoker, one of the benefits is that they are very safe. This is especially true in comparison to a charcoal grill that generally requires accelerants to get started. Plus, the design of most wood pellet grills separates the chamber where the fire burns from the cooking area.
Of course, with any type of grill, there are a few things you can do to ensure you are minimizing risk. The biggest thing to do is to be attentive. In many ways, pellet grills are known for their "set it and forget it" ease of use, but you should still be careful to properly set up and maintain your pellet smoker to avoid issues.
For example, if you restart your grill before cleaning out excess pellets, a "flameout" can occur in rare instances. Taking the time to clean out excess pellets may reduce the chances of this happening. Another way to reduce the risk of fire is to always clear out your drip pan. A drip pan that is full of grease from the last time you cooked can be very dangerous, as it is obviously very flammable.
Lastly, make sure you follow manufacturer guidelines to properly shut down your pellet smoker grill. More pointedly, you can't just unplug your grill as soon as you are done cooking, and walk away. The auger tube can reach extremely high temperatures while pellet cookers are in use, and when you simply unplug your grill, the auger tube may still be very hot. The result is that phenomenon is known as "burn back" can occur, which simply means the auger tube may smolder, or even flame up, due to the excess heat and the lack of release. The best way to avoid this is to reduce the grill temperature down lower and allow it to run for 15 or 20 minutes before you shut it down.
Again though, we can't stress enough how important it is for you to read and follow your grill's instructions, even after reading these high-level guidelines.
Are Wood Pellets Toxic?
Wood pellets can be toxic, so it is important to know what you are looking for before you buy. Cheap pellets may include filler that can be toxic, so an important place to start is by looking for all-natural hardwood pellets that are marked as safe for cooking.
The main thing you need to know is that there is more than one type of pellet. Some people use wood pellets to heat their houses, but those wood pellets are designed to be used at a higher volume than the amount you would use in a wood pellet grill. This means that those pellets used for heating your house are of a much lower quality, and therefore, much cheaper as well. The lower quality means that they are not safe to cook with, we recommend avoiding cheaper pellets.
Fortunately, the wood pellets designed to work with your new Traeger or Pit Boss are considered food-grade pellets and should be marked as such. When in doubt, look for "food safe" or "safe for food" on the pellet packaging.
Are Pellet Grills Safer Than Propane?
Pellet grills are usually considered safer than propane grills because there is always the risk of a propane leak when you use gas grills. Pellets are much more stable as a fuel source than gas or propane, and so for this reason alone, pellet grills are safer than propane grills.
To minimize the risk associated with propane grill cooking, check to ensure there are no leaks before you fire up the grill. The easiest way to do this is with soap and water. Simply mix some dish soap in a cup of water, and then rub the solution over the entire hose. Pay extra attention to where the hose enters the regulator or cylinder. If the soapy solution starts to bubble up, then you know you have a problem, and the hose may need to be professionally repaired.
Is Wood Pellet Grilling Healthy?
There is no scientific evidence that wood pellet grilling is healthier than any other type of grilling. Theories abound, but they are just that: theories. If you are choosing to purchase a wood pellet griller, do so because of the ease of use and because of the smoky barbecue flavor that you love. Don't buy a pellet grill because your friend's neighbor told you they are healthier than traditional grills
Why is this even a question? Well, there is scientific evidence that cooking meats at high temperatures create potentially carcinogenic substances. In academic terms, these carcinogenic substances are called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic amines (HCAs).
Still, while it is important to be mindful of how the choices you make impact your health, keep in mind that there are many factors involved. Many vegetables have anti-cancer properties are known to slow cancer growth. This is particularly true with items such as spinach and broccoli.
To be clear, we aren't suggesting that wood pellet grilling is any worse than any other type of grilling, but the idea that it is healthier isn't necessarily true either. What may have a larger impact than the type of grill that you use, is what you choose to grill up. Animal fat may add delicious flavor to your dishes, but we also know that it isn't all that great for you. Lean meats are generally considered preferable, and the reality is that a diet that has higher concentrations of fish than red meat may also be healthier in the long run.
We love some good barbecue but are also proponents of wise decision-making. You should always choose food-grade wood pellets, and be mindful of your eating habits. This is especially true if you are hoping wood pellet grilling is healthier than the alternatives.
Are Pellet Grills Environmentally Friendly?
If you are looking for a justification to invest in a new pellet grill or smoker, wood pellet grills may be more environmentally friendly than the alternatives. Why? Well, pellet grills use renewable wood pellets as the ignitable fuel source, and electric pellet grills use minimal amounts of electricity to operate. One other big consideration is that pellet grills don't require fluids, lighters, or gas to get the fire starter.
As noted above, this is one of the major factors that contribute toward pellet smokers being safer than charcoal or gas grills, and here we note it is the same reason that pellet grills are more environmentally friendly than standard grills.
The other thing to keep in mind is that wood pellets are made from compressed sawdust and wood chips. These are by-products of other milling processes and would have gone to waste without their inclusion in products such as wood pellets. The good news here is that it's not like the industry is cutting down forests just to create wood pellets.
Quality wood pellets also avoid chemicals, glues, and additives that may be toxic to burn off. So all in all, wood pellet grills may indeed be more environmentally friendly than charcoal or gas grills.
Are Pellet Grills Safe For Apartments?
Pellet grills can not be used inside. Not only do pellet grills (and any grills) introduce a fire hazard, but they also generate smoke, carbon dioxide, and other chemicals, which could be deadly if you don't have proper ventilation.
With this in mind, pellet grills and pellet stoves should be allowed on balconies where gas or charcoal grills are allowed, but every lease agreement is a little bit different. In fact, there may be some leases that allow for propane grills or charcoal grills but expressly prohibit pellet grills and smokers. The best course of action is to first read your lease and then speak with your apartment manager to get express permission.
And look, if we are being honest, if I owned an apartment building, I wouldn't allow any grills on the balcony. Not only is it a fire hazard, but as wonderful as wood smoke is, some neighbors may not appreciate it. Of course, we love smoking meat and eating good barbecue, so we are rooting for you but definitely check with your lease manager after reading through the fine print.
Outdoor Cooking At Its Best
Outdoor cooking is an entire culture in and of itself. And we love it. People spend hours deciding between Pit Boss vs Traeger, and considering the other alternatives. Loyalties run deep, too, so people spend hours researching where Traeger grills are made, where Pit Boss grills are made, and fretting over whether it is acceptable to use Pit Boss pellets in a Traeger or vice versa.
Pellet smokers are an excellent asset to have, especially if you love good barbecue or big gatherings, and modern smokers feature technology and advancements that represent outdoor cooking at its best. It is very convenient to prepare your meats, and then let them cook low and slow over a period of time, without needing to constantly monitor your cooker.
Still, many of you love your gadgets and cooking options, so you may not stop at your new pellet grills, and you may find yourself researching the best smokeless fire pits for grilling, or comparing Roccbox vs Ooni outdoor pizza ovens. Here are our favorite products for outdoor cooking:
Charcoal Grill - Weber Charcoal Grill
Outdoor Pizza Oven - Ooni Pizza Ovens
Smokeless Fire Pit With Sear Plate - Breeo X Series With Outpost Grill Grate
Best Wood Pellet Grills
There are a growing number of pellet grills and smokers, but two of the original companies were Traeger and Pit Boss, and they are still two of our favorite brands to this day. In comparing Pit Boss vs Traeger, determining your intended use is one of the most important considerations you should have. These are our favorite options:
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