Pellet grills are an amazing innovation in food smoking. They allow you to cook your favorite meats with a lot less fuss than traditional methods. One problem that some people have is getting the right level of smoke flavor from their grill. If this sounds like you, then read on for 15 tips to get more smoke flavor from your Pit Boss pellet grill!
Increasing the smoke flavor on the foods you cook is not difficult. We realize everyone has a preference for different levels of smokiness in their foods. Whether you want to increase the smokiness a little or a lot, these tips will help you do that.
- The Type of Meat Matters
- Use Premium Pellets
- Low and Slow Is The Way to Go
- Use Indirect Heat
- Keep the Lid Closed
- Use A Smoke Tube
- Monitor Temperature Swings
- Use the Correct Pit Boss Setting
- Trim the Fat Before Smoking
- Don’t Rush the Process
- Use The Right Rubs
- Aim for Clear Blue Smoke
- Have the Right Tools
- Use Cold Meat
- Clean the Pit Boss Before Smoking
All this may sound confusing (at least it was to me when I first got my Pit Boss), so I’ll break down the steps in further detail below.
Choose Premium Meats
Infusing more smoky flavor into your food starts by choosing the right cuts of meat. Avoid meats that are too fat or lean. Whenever possible opt for organic, grass-fed, heirloom, and local meats. There are plenty of different cuts of meat you can smoke, but the less tender cuts will be best for smoking for several hours.
Use Premium Pellets
Hardwood pellets affect the flavor of smoked meats. If the foods you’re cooking aren’t infused with meat, experiment with different flavors. The best pellets for smoking meat are forest woods such as; alder, hickory, mesquite, oak, beech, and etc.
These pellets are strong and produce more bold wood flavors which produce a better smoke flavor. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different flavors to get the taste you want.
You can even try combining different flavored pellets to enhance the flavor.
Regardless, make sure you’re using food high-quality food-grade wood pellets, also referred to as BBQ pellets. These pellets do not contain any additives or fillers and will help your food taste much better.
Low and Slow Is The Way to Go
Filets, burgers, hot dogs, etc can be grilled quickly. But Briskets, ribs, lamb, etc need to be cooked at a low temperature to ensure it is infused with the right amount of smoke. For example, expect to smoke a brisket for about 3-4 hours (depending on the grill temperature and size).
Check out this article on smoking a flat brisket to get an idea of how long it takes. Every grill is different, just know the bigger the cut of meat, the more smoking time it’ll need to infuse the smokiness flavor.
Use Indirect Heat
Direct heat occurs when the temperature of the grates reaches 450°F or higher and is best for foods such as hot dogs, burgers, steaks, etc. But to smoke, you’ll be using indirect heat. For indirect heat, close the slide plate on the Pit Boss flame broiler.
This allows the pellet grill to be used as an oven. It creates an even temperature throughout the cooking chamber so the meat gets cooked evenly while infusing it slowly with pure smokiness.
Keep the Lid Closed
When smoking foods on the pellet grill, keep the lid closed. Every time you open the lid, the temperature fluctuates and affects the smoking process. It’s normal to want to peek inside to make sure the meat is smoking. However, it’s best to use the Pit Boss meat probes, SMOKE IT app, or set a timer to monitor the temperature of both the grill and meat.
Use A Smoke Tube
A smoke tube is one of the easiest methods for infusing more smoke flavor into your foods. It is exactly what it sounds like, it’s a stainless steel tube (with holes), when lit the smoke escapes the tube through the holes and infuses the food with more flavor.
The purpose of the tube is to allow you to hot smoke and cold smoke on any type of grill, including gas and charcoal grill. They come in different come in many shapes and sizes from hexagonal, tubes, rectangle, and can smoke foods from 2.5 to 12 hours.
I’ve used the A-Maze-N smoke tube and walked through step by step how to light it.
Monitor Temperature Swings
Pellet grills are known for their temperature swings. Monitor the temperature of the grill closely, to ensure it doesn’t get too hot. When smoking on cold days, you may need to adjust the P-setting to get more smoke. On hot days, set the grill in an area that doesn’t get too much direct sunlight, otherwise, it will get too hot.
If you know it’s going to take you several hours to smoke during the summer, make it a point to start early in the morning before it gets hot outside. Some people will also smoke their meat at night so the grill isn’t affected by the temperature.
Remember this simple rule. Lower heat produces more smoke, higher heat produces less smoke.
Use the Correct Pit Boss Setting
The Pit Boss has an “S” or “Smoke” setting that makes it easy to know the foods are smoking. The smoke setting temperature ranges from 180-210°F / 80-100°C. If you have a different type of pellet grill, refer to the owner’s manual to find out how to use the smoke setting.
Trim the Fat
Some cuts such as brisket have a layer of fat. I’ve found that trimming the fat down to ¼ layer helps speed up the cooking time, and produces a better bark.
If the layer of fat is too thick, it will prevent the nitrogen and carbon dioxide from penetrating the myoglobin, which is responsible for the development of the smoke ring.
Have the Right Tools
Smoking food is an art and requires certain tools to make your job easier. The pellet grill does most of the work, but there are some smoking tools that make the job easier such as. If you’re new to smoking foods the most important tools to start with are a water pan, and thermometer.
After you’ve smoked a few times, you’ll learn which other tools are necessary and you can purchase them over time.
Don’t Rush the Process
Understand that smoking foods take time. If you’re in a hurry, then cook some chicken or burgers on high heat. Allow the meat to sit for as possible on the smoke setting, without overcooking the meat. According to Amazing Ribs, the meat will continue to absorb the smoke flavor. However, the smoke ring stops growing when the internal temperature of the meat hits 170°F.
Use the Right Rubs
When smoking foods, use a rub you’ll enjoy. If possible avoid using a commercial rub, as they are loaded with salt. This is the rub we use for most of the foods whenever we cook on the pellet grill. It has a great flavor without a lot of salt.
For the best flavor, apply the rub the night before smoking or one hour before putting it on the grill.
Use Cold Meat
Instead of allowing the meat to sit on the countertop while you prep the grill, allow it to sit in the refrigerator until the grill heats up. This allows the meat to take longer to heat up, therefore, it will absorb more smoke flavor before starting to cook.
It may not sound like it’ll make a huge difference, but a cold brisket can take 10-20 minutes longer to heat up in the grill than one that was allowed to reach room temperature.
Aim for Clear Blue Smoke
The smoke a pellet grill produces comes in many different colors, based on the temperature of the grill. Right after ignition or smoldering pellets, will produce a thick white smoke that will cause your food to taste bitter.
Once the pellet grill reaches the proper temperature, the smoke will gradually become hazy, pale with a faint hint of blue. This blue smoke is the sweet spot for producing flavorful smoked foods.
Waiting for the grill to preheat properly before placing the food on the grill will ensure the food doesn’t get infused with the wrong type of smoke. Preheating the grill when you’re prepping the food, will ensure you don’t have to wait on the grill to heat up.
Clean the Pit Boss Before Smoking
Before every long cook, ensure the grill is properly cleaned out and free of ashes. Cooking on a dirty grill will affect the smokey flavor. Plus, the leftover bits of food from the last cook are a magnet for bacteria, which can produce odors and flavors that affect the taste of the food you’re smoking.
It’s important to clean the pellet grill after every 2-3 cooks. But you’ll want to vacuum out the ashes and clean the grates before a long cook.
Don’t Smoke Everything
While it’s possible to smoke cocktails, cheese, poultry, meat, etc. It doesn’t mean you should always smoke everything. Some foods will taste better when grilled.
Foods cooked at higher temperatures will still have a hint of smoke flavor, but don’t expect all the food that comes of the Pit Boss to have a huge smokey flavor.
Getting more smokey flavor from your food takes some time to learn. Hopefully, the tips above will help you out. There’s nothing like the delicious flavors of food cooked on a pellet grill.