Wood Pellet Grills are very different than other products we commonly refer to as grills, smokers, or BBQs. And to understand this wood pellet grill difference, it is important to first understand the difference between Smoking, BBQing and Grilling.
The Difference between Smokin' and Grill'n
We often think of smoked products being cooked in "smoke". Well, meat can be given flavor by smoke (i.e. hams), but the difference between smoking, BBQing, and grilling is only TIME and TEMPERATURE.
In a wood pellet grill, the food is cooked by the hot air produced by a wood fire. "Smoke", regardless of the source, is a residual of a fire and has a temperature only about 100º - much too low for cooking.
Let's use a Salmon filet as an example:
- If you brine the Salmon overnight (see recipes), dry it, then cook the filet at a temperature of 180º for 7 - 8 hours you end up with 'SMOKED' Salmon - wonderful for snacks ( I can't spell 'hors d'oeuvres') but not so good if you're looking for a dinner.
- But if you take that same Salmon filet and, instead for brining it, season the filet with lemon, butter and herbs and place it in you wood pellet grill at same temperature (180º) for an hour or so, and you'll get 'BBQ' Salmon and a wonderful dinner.
- Then if you want a different taste, season the Salmon filet the same but instead of cooking the filet at 180º for a hour, cook it at 375º for 10 or 15 minutes. Presto - you've got 'GRILLED' Salmon for your wonderful dinner.
Again, in the three examples, it is the hot air surrounding the food that actually does the cooking. Of course, the longer any food is exposed to smoke, the more smoke flavor - like standing beside a bonfire and that is part of the reason we call Smoke Salmon, Smoke Salmon.
Wood Pellet Grills do all three by merely setting the temperature control.
As a result, a wood pellet grill is considered a Smoker, a BBQ, and a Grill.
So why can't you do this in other BBQs?
This is important! Gas and charcoal dry the air, whereas a wood pellet grill using real wood pellets, adds moisture to the air. It's like walking into a room heated with a fireplace rather than gas. The room feels "warmer" with the fireplace because of the humidity in the air.
The same with cooking. Foods cooked with higher humidity will tend to cook faster and be more moist. With gas grills, some people will add a pan of water or soak wood chips in water, the purpose being to add humidity.
By design, wood pellet grills add humidity. How much humidity depends on the type of wood pellet being used (see Cooking with Wood).