Every good chef, whether professional or amateur, knows how important flavor is to a good meal.
One of the best ways to infuse your ingredients with flavor, no matter whether you’re preparing meat, cheese, seafood, or vegetables, is by using a smoker.
Smoking is a great way to enrobe food items in an authentic barbecue aroma while enhancing the tenderness of cooked meats.
However, if you use the wrong pellets for smoking your ingredients, you are likely to produce some disappointing and strange-tasting results. Not all pellets are designed for smoking food, and many can even be destructive to the environment (or even your health)!
Here at hotsmokedmeats.com, we believe in creating delicious, good-quality food, and if we can keep it safe and sustainable at the same time, so much the better!
That’s why we’ve put together a list of the best pellets for smoking, all of which are of excellent quality and will provide a clean, flavorsome smoking experience.
Don’t forget to check out our buyer’s guide for extra guidance on choosing the perfect smoking pellets.
Best Pellets for Smoking
If you’re looking for the best of the best in the smoking pellets market, we recommend the Bear Mountain BBQ 100% All-Natural Hardwood Pellets.
These pellets are formulated using only all-natural hardwood, which means that no artificial fillers or binders have been added to the mix. This allows for a cleaner smoking process and greater peace of mind since you know exactly what you’re infusing your food with.
The Bear Mountain All-Natural Hardwood Pellets come in a variety of flavors, but our personal recommendation is the maple flavor.
This is because maple is a sweet but ultimately subtle flavor that will go well with all cuts of meat, various cheeses, and vegetables without overpowering the organic flavor of the ingredient.
Bear Mountain’s All-Natural Hardwood Pellets are low-moisture, which is important if you’re looking for good levels of combustibility.
Lower moisture content also helps to extend shelf-life, which is always a plus, especially considering the large bags that these pellets come in. You can purchase the Bear Mountain pellets in bags of 20 lbs or 40 lbs, which is excellent if you use your smoker regularly and want to have plenty of pellets in storage.
These pellets are compatible with the vast majority of grills and smokers, including charcoal, electric, and gas smokers, so you don’t have to worry about that side of things.
While we don’t have any real criticisms about the pellets themselves (they’re user-friendly, deliver great flavor, and smoke cleanly), the packaging lets the product down slightly.
There have been reports from customers of packaging being damaged on arrival, which may leave some of the pellets exposed. For this reason, it may be a good idea to have a separate airtight bag or container to transfer the pellets into.
- All-natural wood – No artificial fillers
- Maple flavor – Sweet yet subtle
- Compatible with most grills and smokers – Versatile
- Low-moisture – Good combustion and long shelf life
- 20 and 40 lb bags available – Perfect for stocking up
- Some reports of damaged packaging – Not the best protection
As our runner-up pick, we have chosen the Pit Boss BBQ Wood Pellets.
The Pit Boss Wood Pellets are made from natural, raw oak and mesquite wood without the addition of any extra chemicals, additives, glues, or scents.
These pellets are about as natural as they come, so if you’re concerned about the potential health impact of using pellets to smoke your food, this product should give you some peace of mind.
Pit Boss, like Bear Mountain, provides wood pellets in a range of delicious flavors, but we were particularly impressed by the Hickory blend. If you’re a fan of strong flavors that go beautifully with pork and beef, you won’t be able to get enough of the strong smokiness delivered by these pellets.
Something else we appreciate about the Pit Boss Hickory pellets is that they’re a low-ash blend, so the smoke that they produce is clean, and you won’t find yourself scrubbing ash off your smoker for hours after use.
The Pit Boss BBQ Wood Pellets come in 40 lb bags, so you’ll always have enough pellets for your smoking endeavors. Even better, they retail at a very reasonable price, making them an affordable choice.
Just be prepared to filter through the bag on arrival since this blend does yield quite a lot of sawdust which might need to be sifted out before smoking.
- Natural, raw wood – No additives or glues
- Hickory flavor – Powerful taste infusion
- Low-ash – Clean smoke
- 40 lb bags – Large quantities
- Affordable – Budget-friendly
- Lots of sawdust – May need filtering before use
Although our runner-up pick is very affordable, there are even more budget-friendly pellet options on the market. If you’re looking for the best deal on the market, our recommendation would be the Traeger PEL331 Signature Blend.
Again, we’ve chosen these pellets because they don’t feature any additional filler chemicals or binders, and they’re also low-ash, so you get to enjoy a clean smoking experience with minimal clean-up afterward.
What’s interesting about Traeger’s Signature Blend is that the flavor combines hints of cherry, maple, and hickory. While the flavor transfer is very mild, meaning that this may not be the best choice for fans of very powerful, smoky flavors, it is extremely versatile and will pair with almost any ingredient you want to smoke.
These pellets have been formulated with a balanced moisture content for optimal combustion and smoking without compromising shelf life.
The outstanding quality of the Traeger pallets combined with their affordability means that they’re not only a good budget option but also excellent value for money.
- 100% natural – No binders or added chemicals
- Cherry, maple, and hickory blend – Versatile flavor
- Low-ash formula – Clean-burning
- Balanced moisture content – Combusts and smokes optimally
- Highly affordable – Best budget buy
- Very mild flavor – Not for lovers of strong flavors
If there’s something worth splashing out for in the name of food, it’s the perfect, smoky flavor. That’s why our premium pick is the CookinPellets Perfect Mix.
This pellet blend is made from four different types of hardwood: maple, cherry, hickory, and apple.
There are no fillers, additives, or bark in the blend, so you know that you’re paying for exactly what you get in terms of high-quality wood pellets.
The combination of the four wood types produces a very smooth yet distinctive flavor that can be applied to a wide variety of ingredients.
Since the blend is low-ash, you’ll have an easy time cleaning up your smoker after use, although we do recommend filtering the pellets before loading them into the smoker because the blend does release quite a lot of sawdust, which can get messy.
The CookinPellets Perfect Mix is available for purchase in large, 40 lb bags, so you’re getting a lot of product for your money and can always be prepared for a last-minute smoked meal.
- Hardwood-only formula – No additives or bark
- Hickory, maple, cherry, and apple – Smooth taste
- Low-moisture – Effective combustion
- Low-ash – Easy cleaning
- 40 lb bags – Large supply
- High sawdust production – Filter before use
Another pellet blend that we’ve thoroughly enjoyed is the Pecan Flavor BBQr’s Delight Smoking BBQ Pellets.
We really love the pecan flavor for the sweet, nutty taste that it contributes. The flavor is mild because the pecan has also been blended with oak, but it still comes through beautifully, especially with poultry, pork, and beef.
The oak blended in with the pecan also helps to produce cleaner smoke, while the high BTU rating of the pellets ensures effective combustion that you won’t struggle to get going.
These pellets are compatible with all smokers, grills, and cookers that are designed to use pellets as fuel, so no matter which type of cooker you use to prepare your smoked goods, you can work with these pellets.
BBQr’s Delight only provides these pellets in 20 lb bags, so they’re not such a good option for bulk buying as some of the other pellet blends on our list. With that being said, though, they are affordably priced, so they are definitely worth a try.
- Pecan flavor – Sweet, nutty taste
- Blended with oak – Mild flavor and clean smoke
- High-BTU – Burns efficiently
- Suited to all smokers and pellet grills – Widely compatible
- Affordably priced – Works on a budget
- Only available in 20 lb bags – Not for bulk-buying
Buyer’s Guide: Choosing the Best Pellets for Smoking
While the right choice of pellets can elevate the taste and consistency of your smoked meats and other ingredients, the wrong choice can have disastrous implications for the quality of your food.
That’s why we’ve put together this buyer’s guide so that you can more easily recognize which pellets will work best for your smoking needs.
The first thing you will want to make sure of when choosing pellets for your smoker is that the pellets you are considering buying are compatible with your smoker.
Not all pellets are designed for smoking food. Some are produced primarily to produce heat or steam, and these pellets will not have the desired effect in terms of infusing ingredients with flavor. So, you should always make sure that you’re looking at pellets formulated for flavor enhancement as opposed to standard wood pellets.
It’s also worth checking what kinds of smokers, grills, and cookers a given pellet brand is designed to be used with. Most of the pellets in our selection are universally compatible, which means that they’re formulated for use in the majority of pellet-fuelled cooking appliances, including smokers.
All the same, it’s a good idea to verify for yourself which appliances the manufacturer has stated compatibility with, especially if you’re using a smoke box in a grill as opposed to an actual smoker.
Once you’ve established that the pellets you are looking at are compatible with your smoker or grill, it’s time to consider the aspect of flavor.
As you can see from the pellets we’ve included in our top 5, smoking pellets come in a wide range of different flavors, so you have plenty to choose from in terms of what will work best for your chosen ingredient and personal preferences.
If you’re a fan of mild, sweet flavors, we would recommend either maple or pecan. Maple is a very subtle flavor, but it delivers a lot of sweetness. Poultry and pork take particularly well to maple flavoring, so if you’re smoking either of these meats and want to infuse the result with a mild hint of sweet flavor, maple is a great choice.
Now, if you want to stick with the milder end of the flavor spectrum but want something with a bit of a nutty aftertaste, we would recommend pecan. It’s sweet in the same way as maple is, but you get to enjoy that added nuttiness as well. Like maple pellets, pecan pellets work well with pork and poultry, but they also work wonderfully with beef.
On the other hand, if you’re after something that packs a bit more of a punch of flavor, hickory pellet blends might suit you best. Hickory does deliver some sweetness, but it’s also intense and smoky. Hickory is an excellent choice when you want the smoky flavor to come to the foreground of your taste experience, and it works especially well with pulled pork as well as chicken and turkey.
However, there’s no need to stick to just one flavor! You can definitely experiment with mixing different pellet flavors. Alternatively, you can go with a mixed blend from a trusted brand. This will help to ensure that the flavors are blended seamlessly and produce the desired effect.
If you’re looking for a pellet blend that will produce a versatile flavor (which is usually the goal when mixing pellets), we would recommend choosing something that incorporates cherry or apple wood. Both cherry and apple are sweet but light flavors that blend well with other wood types as well as a vast range of meats and other ingredients.
Whether you’re smoking poultry, pork, beef, lamb, or even fruits and vegetables, these pellet types will work for you.
Aside from flavor, there are some other factors related to pellet formulation that you should consider before selecting ‘add to cart.’
First of all, it’s a good idea to choose a low-ash formula. This will help to ensure that the smoke produced is as clean as possible and that you don’t have to spend hours cleaning the crevices of your smoker after each use.
Moreover, a low-moisture formula is likely to burn better than high-moisture formulas, so if you want to have an easy time during the smoking process, this is definitely something to prioritize. The lower the moisture content of your pellets, the less likely they will be to split apart and expand, which increases their shelf life and ensures that they remain fit for purpose for longer.
The higher the BTU rating of the pellet blend, the quicker and more evenly it is likely to burn, which is important if you want the flavor to be infused evenly throughout your meats or other ingredients. So, where possible, choose a pellet blend rated as high BTU.
If you can, try to avoid formulas that include additives, fillers, binders, glue, or any other form of artificial chemical. These will minimize the cleanliness of your smoke and can negatively impact the taste and healthfulness of your food. Oakwood filler can be acceptable since this is often used for the purpose of enhancing flavor and producing cleaner smoke.
Finally, it’s also worth thinking about what quantities you want from your smoking pellets.
The most common bag sizes for smoking pellets are 20 lb and 40 lb. 20 lb bags should provide you with plenty of pellets for a few smoking sessions since the average smoker uses about 2 lbs of pellets per hour. However, if you prefer to buy in bulk, choose the 40 lb option.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do pellets smoke better than wood chips?
While you can absolutely use wood chips to smoke food, pellets are likely to be a better choice all around.
The reason for this is that pellets and designed to burn hotter and more evenly than chips, partly because they have been so tightly compressed. This will benefit your food because the flavor and heat will be distributed more quickly and evenly.
Pellets also have a longer shelf life than wood chips, so if you’re planning to store your smoker fuel for a while between uses, pellets are definitely your best bet.
Do you soak pellets before smoking?
No, you should not soak pellets before using them to smoke food. In fact, doing so is likely to significantly impair the pellets’ ability to combust.
In most cases, soaking pellets will cause them to expand and break apart, which will make them useless for smoking purposes. Pellets are usually manufactured with low moisture contents for this very reason.