When you purchase pellets for your Pit Boss smoker, it’s not always easy to know how long they will last. Pellet grills have become extremely popular because they allow amateur grillers to cook smoky flavored food from the comfort of their backyard. But you want to make sure that your grill is running at peak performance and doesn’t run out of fuel mid-cook, so let’s take a look at how long do pellets last in a Pit Boss.
How Long Do Hardwood Pellets Last In A Pit Boss Pellet Grill?
There are several factors that affect the burn rate of the wood pellets and they are:
- Cooking Method
- Hardwood pellet quality and brand
- Ambient weather
- Hardwood pellet storage
- Bag size
- Cooking Space
This list doesn’t mean much, especially if you’re new to owning a Pit Boss smoker. So let’s take a closer look at each factor closely. But first, let’s answer some basic questions regarding hardwood pellets.
What Are Hardwood Pellets?
Hardwood pellets are the type of fuel used for the majority of pellet smokers. They are cylindrical in shape and made from compressed sawdust of various hardwood trees, such as hickory or maple. Food-grade pellets are the only suitable fuel source for pellet grills.
Heating pellets are made from woods such as pine, or spruce that will ruin the flavor of your food. In addition, they have additives and fillers that can be harmful to more than just the food. Always cook with food-grade pellets.
Can You Use A Pit Boss Without Pellets?
No, the pellets are the fuel source that power the smoker. When the grill runs out of pellets mid-cook, you’ll need to replenish the supply before you can resume cooking. The restarting process will depend on whether the auger burnt through all the pellets.
This is no different than using a gas grill. When the propane tank runs out, the grill doesn’t work anymore until the tank is refilled. All grills regardless of the type of grill, require a fuel source before they can be used to cook.
How Many Pellets Does The Pit Boss Hopper Hold?
Most Pit Boss hoppers can easily hold 18-19 pounds of pellets, which will last several cooks. The newer models such as the Pit Boss Sportsman 1100 have a 30-pound hopper capacity, while the Navigator 1150 has a 32-pound hopper capacity.
Without the protective grid (which isn’t recommended removing) I can easily get a full 20-pound bag in the hopper, in my Pit Boss Pro 820 Series.
That said, you don’t have to fill the hopper all the way to the top. I usually fill mine up halfway, because filling it too much makes it heavy to pull into the storage building after use.
As long as you monitor the pellets during the cook it’s fine. The funny thing about the Pit Boss is that it doesn’t burn through the pellets evenly. Instead, the pellets tend to create a funnel, which can cause the grill to shut off, even though there are still pellets left in the hopper.
Does The Pit Boss Grill Use A Lot of Pellets?
I’ve listed several factors that affect the burn rate (in no particular order) and what if anything you can do to help make the pellets last longer.
#1 Grill Age
At the time of this writing, there are over 25 different pellet grill models on the official Pit Boss website. All Pit Boss pellet grills are manufactured with the same electrical components, the only difference is the newer grills come with the Smoke IT Wi-Fi controller.
As a smoker ages, it goes through normal wear and tears, which makes it less fuel-efficient.
For instance, a newer pellet grill will have brand new electrical components that will help it heat up quickly, and burn more efficiently.
While an older smoker can have an RTD probe that can’t read the temperature of the grill, therefore, which results in the grill burning more fuel than it has to.
This doesn’t mean you have to buy a new pellet grill every year.
However, it does mean you need to make sure you’re properly maintaining it and keeping it clean to ensure it’s running as efficiently as possible.
A clean grill will always burn more efficiently than a dirty grill. A dirty Pit Boss is going to have a lot of ash buildup, grease, creosote, and other debris that will require it to use more pellets to keep the grill working properly.
If your firepot has a lot of ash in it, the grill may struggle to heat to grilling temperatures. A clean smoker will heat up faster and allow the heat to be evenly dispersed throughout the cooking chamber resulting in fewer pellets being used.
Not only that but a dirty grill poses a risk to grease fires and contaminating your food. One of the easiest ways to increase your pellet fuel consumption is to keep it clean.
#3 Pellet Quality
Not all pellets are created equally, therefore, some brands will burn more quickly than others. For instance, Lumberjack pellets are very popular in the smoking community so I bought a 20-pound bag to try them out in my Pit Boss. I went through a 20-pound bag in about 3 cooks, which was about a total of 15-20 hours.
The Lumberjack pellets burn hotter than the Pit Boss pellet grills because the bark is left on the wood chips.
Similar to the Pit Boss pellets, they are food-safe pellets that are made of 100% all-natural wood, but they burn a lot hotter and will leave a lot of ash behind, you can read my Lumberjack pellet experience here.
Pit Boss pellets are designed for Pit Boss smokers, therefore, you’ll likely get the best fuel efficiency from using the company brand. But it doesn’t hurt to test out other brands in the Pit Boss, to see which ones you prefer.
#4 Ambient Weather
A Pellet grill that isn’t insulated properly, made of thinner material, or has leaks will use more fuel on colder days. The wind is a huge factor that will cause a pellet grill to use more pellets.
This doesn’t mean you can’t cook year-round. However, for cold days, you’ll want to use a thermal blanket to insulate the grill cavity, preventing it from using too many pellets.
On windy days, before using the grill, move it to a level area that doesn’t get too much wind. Otherwise, you’ll have a hard time maintaining a consistent temperature, causing the grill to use too many pellets and will cause the food to cook unevenly.
#5 Hardwood Pellet Storage
Make sure you’re storing the pellets in a warm, well-insulated area. Improperly stored pellets will burn more quickly, and can ruin your smoker. Never store the pellets in the original bag, instead use an air-tight container to prevent them from absorbing moisture.
It’s perfectly fine to leave them in the hopper, as long as the grill is covered or is shielded from humidity, rain, snow, and etc. Read this article for a more in-depth guide on how to store hardwood pellets, based on different climates.
#6 Bag Size
A 40-pound bag will last longer than a 20-pound bag. It’s best to buy the bigger bags, as they’ll last longer. It also ensures you’ll have some stored nearby, this way, if you start running out during a cook, you have some extra on hand.
As long as they are stored properly, you won’t have any issues with them ruining. Plus, it will save you the headache of running out during a cook.
#7 Cooking Method
The hotter the grill, the faster the pellets will burn. Therefore, grilling on high heat, and searing will burn through the pellets faster than smoking.
Both Traeger and Pit Boss have said the grills will burn 3 pounds of pellets per hour on high heat, and about 1 pound when cooking low and slow.
This is because, at a higher temperature, the auger pushes more pellets into the fire pot to keep the grill hot. At lower temperatures, the grill doesn’t need as much fuel to maintain lower temperatures.
If you’re wanting to save money on pellets, then use the pellet grill for long slow cooks. Then you can use your regular gas or charcoal grill for the fast cooks.
#8 Cook Space
A bigger cooking chamber requires more fuel to heat than a smaller chamber. For instance, the Pit Boss 700FB pellet grill has 700 square inches of cooking space, while the Pit Boss 1150 Series has 1,158 square inches of cooking surface.
A larger cooking chamber will also take longer to heat up. Unlike gas grills, you don’t have the option to turn on just one burner. A smoker works by heating up the entire cooking chamber, even if you’re only cooking on one side of it.
A smaller grill will use less fuel because it doesn’t have as much cooking space to heat. Bigger is not always better, and this is why it’s important to do your due diligence before buying a smoker.
You want one that is big enough to cook for your family and friends, but not so big that it burns through fuel too fast and becomes costly.
Boss grills are designed to burn through fuel efficiently, but the newer models with updated technology make them easier to maintain a consistent temperature resulting in more fuel efficiency. That said, if you have an older model, keeping it clean and using high-quality pellets can increase fuel efficiency.
Like traditional grills, there are certain expenses you can’t avoid when using a Pit Boss. That doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money on pellets. If your Pit Boss is going through pellets too fast, the tips above should increase fuel efficiency.