Can You Use Pellets in an Electric Smoker?

Everything you need to know about how to use pellets in your electric smoker.
Milton Greenaway

You have plenty of choices to make when it comes to your electric smoker. If you’re new to the world of smoking your meat and locking that smokey flavor in then you’re probably asking can you use pellets in an electric smoker?

The short answer is yes, but it’s not quite that simple.

Sure, it is arguably the best wood for creating that rich, thick smoke that you can use to your advantage, but it’s not for everyone. If you’re anything like the rest of the community, then you probably have questions about wood chips, compatibility, and when it’s not a good idea to use pellets, so we’re going to cover it all.

What Is An Electric Smoker?

Known for being a reliable way to smoke your meat, electric smokers have never been so popular.

They provide a consistent temperature to allow your food to cook and smoke like an oven and involve little guesswork compared to cooking with gas or trying to work with charcoal on a BBQ.

They’re ideal for beginners compared to other options but do need to be near a power source. But which is the best wood source for creating that thick, flavorsome smoke we’re all after?

Pellets vs Wood Chips

These are your primary choices for smoking food in an electric smoker, and both have a lot to offer. You’ll find that both smoke up nice and thick, and provide a natural smoky flavor, and there isn’t a big difference in terms of price.

But there are a few differences that anyone using an electric smoker should be mindful of.

Firstly, pellets burn hotter and slower than wood chips. This makes them easier to control, and if you are cold smoking, then they hold the advantage. 

Opt for natural wood pellets as they only create a small amount of ash and provide consistent smoke for that delicious flavor that everyone around the grill is craving. They also produce a flavor that is much deeper than wood chips and can even be purchased in a variety of smoky flavors. These include hickory, bourbon oak, maple, mesquite, apple, and more.

Although they are made from the same hardwood, wood chips are not as finely ground but create a slightly bitter smoke with lots of flavors. The problem is that they burn faster than most pellets and using them can mean more prep time as they may need to soak before you can use them. 

However, there are also plenty of wood chip flavors available, each one ideal for different types of meat and including cherrywood, oak, Alderwood, hickory, pecan, and mesquite.

Using Pellets In An Electric Smoker: Compatibility

Take one look at the manufacturer’s website and you’ll soon see that many recommend using pellets with their electric smoker. 

Some brands do not openly encourage the use of pellets, and two of the most notable are Masterbuilt and Pit Boss. Their websites say that pellets should only be used in their pellet smokers. However, there are plenty of resources online that have a comment on a positive experience of using pellets in both Masterbuilt and PIt Boss electric smokers, so a little research can go a long way.

What Is The Best Wood Pellet Brand For An Electric Smoker? 

Variety is the spice of life, and when the same applies to the flavor of your smoke. There are numerous wood pellet brands out there making a handful of flavors that offer plenty of options. But some well-known brands will quickly become your go-to when flavoring your meat.

Start by choosing the flavor option that combines best with the food you intend to cook and then pick up a bag from a reputable company. The best, readily available wood pellet brands are Trager, Louisiana Grills, CampChef, CookinPellets, RectTec Grills, and BBQrs Delight. 

How To Use Wood Pellets In An Electric Smoker

Here are a few useful tips to help you get the most out of your wood pellets when using them in an electric smoker:

  • Feel free to use wood pellets the same way you would wood chips
  • It is recommended that you try cold smoking as pellets ignite quickly
  • Never leave them unattended, especially when first igniting pellets
  • Don’t overdo it by adding too much too soon – wood pellets create a lot of smoke in a short amount of time.
  • Try placing pellets in a tinfoil pack, poking holes in to allow smoke to emit without going overboard
  • Pick the wood pellets that complement the food you’re smoking. We’ll have more on that in a minute…
  • Avoid making “Pellet Crepe” by storing them in a dry area. 

Finally – always follow the guidelines of the manufacturer of your electric smoker, and remember that if they advise against the use of wood pellets, then you may void your warranty.

Why You Shouldn’t Use Damp Pellets

Store wood pellets in a dry area or risk working with damp wood. They can be tricky to ignite, and when they get going they will create more smoke, and possibly even creosote. 

You may find them difficult to work with because they break apart easily, and should consider replacing them with fresh pellets for best results.

Wood Pellet Flavor Guide

Smoking food in an electric smoker is an art. And you can enjoy flavors that complement different meats when you cook with consistent temperatures and the right wood pellets.

The following hardwoods are good when smoking pretty much anything, but taste particularly great with the following meats:

  • Alder – Beef, poultry, pork, and seafood
  • Apple – Poultry and pork
  • Cherrywood – Beef, poultry, pork
  • Hickory – Beef, poultry, pork,
  • Maple – Beef and pork
  • Mesquite – beef, poultry, and seafood
  • Oak – Beef, and seafood
  • Pecan – Beef, poultry, and pork

Final Word

An electric smoker is a reliable way of locking in that smokey taste for you and your guests to enjoy. Wood pellets are some of the most convenient hardwood options out there, and with plenty to choose from, it is easy to find the most suitable brand and flavor for your next meal.

Be sure to follow the guidelines on your electric smoker so you can safely enjoy the smokey goodness of pellet smoked meat.