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When it comes to barbecuing like the pros, understanding how to address common problems with your smoker's water pan is crucial for achieving mouth-watering results in your cooking.

The water pan plays a vital role in maintaining moisture and temperature stability within your smoker, influencing the tenderness and flavor of your meats. Without proper care and attention, issues with the water pan can quickly derail your smoking session and lead to subpar results.

There are a variety of challenges that outdoor cookers may encounter when dealing with this essential component. But fear not - in this article, we dive into these common water pan issues and provide you with practical solutions to ensure your smoking endeavors are always on point.

By the end, you'll be equipped with the knowledge and troubleshooting skills needed to overcome any smoker water pan-related hurdles that come your way.


Understanding the Role of the Smoker Water Pan

Using a water pan in your smoker is crucial to creating a conducive cooking environment for your meats. Understanding its significance and how it influences the smoking process is essential for achieving mouth-watering results.

As mentioned above, two of the main benefits of using a water pan are to help keep the cooking temperature stable throughout your cooking session and to help keep the meat moist. It can also help you achieve a perfect smoke ring in brisket and pork.

But, there are some specific things to keep in mind to ensure that your smoker’s water pan can perform these important functions. Let’s take a look at some of the most common problems you may encounter and then how to address them.


Common Smoker Water Pan Problems:

  • Water level fluctuations: Fluctuating water levels can impact the temperature regulation within the smoker, resulting in uneven cooking and affecting the overall flavor of your dishes.
  • Cleaning challenges: Residues and impurities can accumulate in the water pan over time, posing hygiene concerns and potentially altering the taste of the smoked food.
  • Improper positioning: Placing the water pan incorrectly in the smoker can obstruct airflow and heat distribution, leading to inefficient smoking and subpar results.
  • Rusting: One common issue with water pans is rust formation due to prolonged exposure to moisture. This can compromise the integrity of the pan and lead to potential health hazards.


rusted smoker water pan | smoker water pan issues | troubleshooting problems with a smoker water pan


Impact of Water Pan Issues on Smoking

Unresolved water pan problems can significantly affect the outcome of your smoking endeavors. Uneven cooking caused by fluctuating water levels can result in some parts of the meat being overcooked while others remain undercooked. Dry meat due to lack of moisture regulation can compromise the tenderness and juiciness of your dishes.

Inconsistent temperature control stemming from water pan issues can also make it challenging to achieve a harmonious blend of flavors in your smoked creations. Addressing water pan problems is crucial for maintaining the quality and consistency of your smoked dishes.


Troubleshooting Solutions for Smoker Water Pan Issues

Properly maintaining your smoker's water pan is crucial for optimal performance and delicious results. By following the simple troubleshooting solutions below, you can address common issues and keep your water pan in top condition:


Managing Water Levels Effectively

Maintaining consistent water levels in the pan is vital for a successful smoking session. To achieve this, start by filling the water pan to the recommended level indicated by the manufacturer. Monitor the water levels throughout the smoking process and refill as needed to prevent fluctuations in temperature and humidity. 

Using a water pan with a larger capacity can also help maintain stable water levels for extended smoking sessions. By managing water levels effectively, you can create an ideal cooking environment, more easily control the smoke, and infuse your dishes with a rich flavor.


Proper Cleaning and Maintenance

Regular cleaning and maintenance are key to ensuring your smoker's water pan functions effectively. Make sure to empty and clean the water pan after each use to prevent residue buildup. Use a mild detergent, warm water, and a soft sponge to scrub away grease and food particles. Additionally, consider seasoning the water pan with a light coating of oil to prevent corrosion. By incorporating these cleaning techniques into your routine, you can prolong the life of your water pan and continue to enhance the flavor and tenderness of your smoked dishes.


cleaning smoker water pan | smoker water pan issues | troubleshooting problems with a smoker water pan


Dealing with Rust and Corrosion

Rust and corrosion can compromise the integrity of your smoker's water pan if left unaddressed. To combat this issue, start by removing any existing rust with a mixture of white vinegar and baking soda. Apply the mixture to the affected areas, scrub gently, and rinse thoroughly. 

For long-term protection, consider coating the water pan with high-heat paint or seasoning it with oil after each use. Investing in a rust-inhibitor/grill oil product can also prevent future corrosion and extend the lifespan of your water pan.


Enhancing Smoker Performance with a Well-Maintained Water Pan

Maintaining a well-functioning water pan in your smoker is crucial for ensuring optimal performance and enhancing the overall smoking experience. By promptly addressing any issues with the water pan, you can significantly improve the quality of your smoked meats and other dishes.


Tips for Maintaining Your Water Pan:

  • Refill as needed: Monitor the water level in the pan throughout the smoking session and refill it as needed to maintain a consistent cooking environment.
  • Use high-quality water: Opt for distilled water or filtered water to prevent mineral deposits and impurities from affecting the performance of your water pan.
  • Regular cleaning: Make it a habit to clean your water pan after each use to prevent the buildup of grease, residue, and other impurities that can affect its performance. Check out our article on homemade natural grill cleaner that you can make to have on hand.
  • Check for leaks: Inspect the water pan for any signs of leaks or damage. Replace any worn-out parts to ensure a tight seal and prevent water from escaping during the smoking process.


Benefits of a Well-Maintained Water Pan

Ensuring that your water pan is well-maintained can significantly impact the quality of your smoked dishes. By maintaining a stable cooking environment, you can achieve perfectly cooked meats that are juicy, tender, and full of flavor. Additionally, a well-functioning water pan allows you to experiment with different smoking techniques and recipes with confidence, knowing that your smoker is operating at its best.

Taking the time to maintain your smoker's water pan properly is a small yet crucial step in enhancing your smoking experience. By addressing any issues promptly and following the maintenance tips covered above, you can optimize the performance of your smoker and elevate the quality of your smoked creations to new heights.


Be Proactive in Preventing Water Pan Issues to Achieve Great Results Every Time!

Remember, maintaining the right water levels, choosing the appropriate size and type of water pan, and regular cleaning are key to ensuring the optimal performance of your smoker. By keeping these troubleshooting tips in mind that we’ve covered in this article, you can elevate your smoking game and savor the mouthwatering flavors of perfectly barbecued meats.

Have you recently started utilizing your smoker’s water pan? Have some other issues you’ve come across that we didn’t cover above? Leave a comment below!

If you want all of the proven step-by-step barbecuing techniques, insider information, and pro secrets to smoking delicious meats, join the Champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters here at BBQ Champs Academy in our one-of-a-kind online BBQ cooking classes. These easy-to-follow virtual classes are packed with everything you need to know to start barbecuing like the champs. Get your All-Access pass now for the full inside look!

Wood pellet smoking offers a convenient and efficient way to infuse rich, smoky flavors into various meats and dishes. However, like any cooking method, smoking with wood pellets can present its own set of challenges and issues. 

In this troubleshooting guide, we'll break down a few of the common problems that arise when using wood pellets for smoking and provide practical solutions to ensure a seamless and enjoyable smoking experience.

Mastering the art of wood pellet smoking requires a keen understanding of potential hurdles and the know-how to troubleshoot them effectively. By identifying and addressing these common issues head-on, you can elevate your smoking skills and create mouthwatering, savory dishes that leave a lasting impression.


Understanding the Use of Wood Pellets

For many outdoor cookers, wood pellets are an essential element in the art of smoking meat. To truly master the craft of smoked barbecue on a pellet smoker, it's vital to understand the specific characteristics and nuances of wood pellets.


How Are Wood Pellets Made?

Wood pellets are made from compressed sawdust and wood shavings, typically sourced from 100% hardwood to ensure that they are food-grade. During production, the raw materials are condensed into small, dense pellets without the use of additives or binding agents. This process ensures that the pellets burn cleanly and uniformly, generating consistent smoke for the cooking process.


Types of Wood Pellets

There is a wide variety of wood pellets available, each offering distinct flavors and aromas to enhance the smoked food. Hardwood pellets like hickory, oak, and mesquite impart robust and bold flavors, ideal for beef and pork. On the other hand, fruitwood pellets such as apple, cherry, and pecan produce milder, sweeter smoke, perfect for poultry and fish. Additionally, blended pellets combine different wood types to create unique flavor profiles, providing versatility for various recipes.


Influence on Flavor

The type of wood pellet used significantly impacts the flavor profile of the smoked food. Different wood species impart unique characteristics, ranging from smoky and earthy to sweet and fruity notes. Understanding how each type of wood pellet influences the flavor will enable you to tailor the smoking process to achieve the desired taste.

By comprehending the composition, types, and flavor influence of wood pellets for smoking, you'll be equipped to make informed decisions when selecting the most suitable pellets for your smoking endeavors.

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Common Issues When Using Wood Pellets for Smoking

When using wood pellets for smoking, encountering common issues can disrupt the cooking process and affect the quality of the food. Understanding these issues and their solutions is crucial for achieving the desired results. Here are three of the ones encountered most frequently:


Inconsistent Temperature

Fluctuating temperatures can hamper the smoking process, leading to unevenly cooked food. Inconsistent cooking temperatures often occur due to poor air circulation, improper pellet combustion, or external factors such as weather conditions  (especially cold weather). These fluctuations can impact the flavor and texture of the food, making it essential to address the root cause and maintain a stable smoking environment.


Excessive Ash Buildup

An excess buildup of ash in the smoker can impede airflow, leading to inefficient combustion of wood pellets. This buildup not only affects the temperature regulation but also impacts the flavor of the food being smoked. It is crucial to understand the factors contributing to ash buildup, such as the type of smoker used and the quality of wood pellets, to effectively mitigate this issue.


Poor Smoke Production

Inadequate smoke production can result in underwhelming flavors and aromas in the smoked food. Factors such as moisture content in the wood pellets, airflow within the smoker, and combustion efficiency can impact smoke production. Addressing these factors and optimizing the smoking environment can help enhance the overall smoking experience and ensure the desired flavor infusion in the food.

By identifying and addressing these common issues when using wood pellets for smoking, you can elevate your smoking techniques and achieve consistent, high-quality results.

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Solutions for Issues When Smoking With Pellets

When using wood pellets for smoking, encountering issues is not uncommon. However, understanding how to troubleshoot these problems is key to ensuring a successful smoking experience. Here are some solutions to address the common issues we covered above:


Calibrating the Smoker

As mentioned above, maintaining a consistent temperature is crucial for achieving the desired results when smoking with wood pellets. Calibrating your smoker ensures that the temperature remains steady throughout the smoking process. 

To do this, start by thoroughly cleaning the smoker and ensuring that all vents are clear of any obstruction. Then, light the smoker and allow it to run at the desired temperature for approximately 30 minutes. Use a reliable digital thermometer to monitor the internal temperature of the smoker and make necessary adjustments to the controls as needed to achieve and maintain the desired heat level.

Following this calibration process will allow you to find out exactly how many wood pellets to use and the precise settings for the controls to ensure that you can maintain consistent temperatures once your food is on the grill.


Managing Ash Buildup

As you use your smoker, ash buildup can disrupt the airflow and affect the performance of the unit. To manage ash buildup effectively, it is essential to use high-quality wood pellets that leave behind minimal residue. 

Additionally, regular cleaning of any residual ash from the smoker's fire pot and ash pot is crucial in preventing any blockages that may impede the efficiency of the smoker. By ensuring that the smoker is free from excessive ash buildup, you can optimize its performance and prolong its lifespan.

cleaning wood pellet ash | issues with wood pellet smoking | tips for wood pellet smoking


Enhancing Smoke Production

To enhance smoke production when using wood pellets for smoking, consider employing techniques to maximize the generation of flavorful smoke. One effective technique is to position the wood pellets closer to the heat source, allowing for more efficient combustion and smoke generation. 

Additionally, periodically inspecting and cleaning the smoker's components, such as the auger and venting system, can help maintain optimal airflow and improve smoke production.

Keep in mind that one barbecue-cooking myth you may come across is that adding moisture to wood pellets helps them produce smoke. DO NOT do this! Doing so will quickly disintegrate the pellets as they are not made to get wet at all. 

By implementing these troubleshooting solutions and optimizing the performance of your pellet smoker, you can elevate the quality of your smoked dishes and enjoy an enhanced smoking experience.


You Can Master the Art of Smoking With Wood Pellets

By understanding the common issues when using wood pellets for smoking and their solutions, you can now approach your smoking sessions with more confidence and the ability to overcome any obstacles that come your way.

Troubleshooting common issues when using wood pellets for smoking is crucial for maintaining consistency and achieving desired results. By proactively addressing these issues, you can ensure that your smoking sessions are free from unexpected disruptions, allowing you to focus on the art and enjoyment of creating delicious smoked dishes.

Embrace these strategies, adapt them to your specific needs, and enjoy the delightful aromas and flavors that wood pellet smoking can bring to your culinary creations.

Make sure to also check out our article on 12 pellet grill tips and tricks to get even more info that will help you maximize the success of your pellet smoking. 

Did you recently have success with any of the solutions we covered above? Know of any other common issues with pellet smoking that you want to add? If so, leave a comment below!

Want to get more insider information like this, as well as proven step-by-step barbecuing techniques and secrets? If so, join our Champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters here in the one-of-a-kind BBQ Champs Academy online BBQ cooking classes. Our easy-to-follow classes are packed with everything you need to know to start barbecuing like the pros. For the full inside look, check out the All-Access pass now! 

With the weather starting to warm up in many parts of the country right now, you may be looking to do more outdoor cooking. And for many people, this also means buying a new grill. But, with the variety of grills and types of smokers available, you may be wondering what type may be the best fit for you.

We’ve previously covered pellet vs charcoal grills/smokers, so in this article, we’re breaking down another popular comparison: charcoal vs gas grilling. Both have their pros and cons, and choosing the right one for you will depend on what you want out of your grilling experience.


The Pros and Cons of Charcoal Grilling:


There's nothing quite like the taste and smell of food cooked over charcoal. Charcoal grilling is great for searing meat and imparting a smoky flavor that's hard to replicate with a gas grill. The smoky flavor is the result of the briquettes burning and the smoke that is created when fat and juices from the food drip onto the hot coals. 

Charcoal grills are also fairly easy to use overall. The charcoal can be lit with a lighter or with a chimney starter. They are also relatively inexpensive and easy to find at most hardware stores. Finally, charcoal grills also tend to be smaller and more compact than gas grills, making them great for small spaces.


Charcoal grilling does require more time and effort than gas grilling, both on startup and during the cooking process. You'll need to wait for the coals to heat up and be ready to cook on, and you'll need to monitor and control the temperature carefully to ensure even cooking. Since you are dealing with a natural flame, charcoal grills can be difficult to regulate the temperature, making it hard (especially for “newbie” grillers) to get the right cooking temperature and maintain it. 

After you are done grilling, you’ll then need to wait longer for a charcoal grill to cool down compared to a gas grill. Finally, charcoal grills can be messier and require more cleaning than gas grills since they require the cleanup and disposal of ashes.


charcoal grilling | charcoal vs gas grilling | charcoal grill or gas grill


The Pros and Cons of Gas Grilling:


Gas grills are a great option for those who want an easier and more convenient grilling experience. With the push of a button, your grill is ready to go, and you can control the cooking temperature with precision. This is especially convenient when cooking with a two-zone grill setup.

Gas grills also heat up much faster than charcoal grills, so you don’t have to wait as long for the grill to be ready to cook. They are also easy to clean and relatively low-maintenance. Gas grills are a great choice for those who want to grill without much hassle.


On the other hand, gas grills don't impart the same smoky flavor to your food that charcoal grills do. Of course, you can add wood chips to a gas grill to get a smokier flavor, but it's still not the same as cooking over charcoal. Additionally, depending on the specific gas grill, it may not get as hot as a charcoal grill, which can affect the searing and caramelization of your food.

Also, a gas grill is usually more expensive than a charcoal grill and they require more initial effort to set up properly. They also require the use of a propane tank, which can be a hassle to store and transport. In addition to the initial cost of the propane tank itself, gas grills also require more frequent maintenance, including refilling (or replacing) the propane tank periodically.


Charcoal Grills Are Best For: 

  • More experienced grillers who enjoy the process of lighting the charcoal and managing the temperature.
  • Those who prefer the smoky flavor associated with charcoal grilling.
  • Those who want or need a more portable grilling option.
  • Those who are looking for a more economical type of grill.
  • Those who are looking for a more traditional grilling experience. (Those who think that unless you’re grilling with charcoal or wood, it isn’t real barbecue.)


Gas Grills Are Best For:

  • Those who want precise temperature control easily.
  • Those who are short on time and want a quick grilling experience.
  • Those who don't want or need to have the distinctive smoky flavor of a charcoal grill.
  • Those who want to more easily cook for large groups of people.
  • Those who don't want to deal with the mess of ash and embers.


gas grill | charcoal vs gas grilling | charcoal grilling or gas grilling


Between Charcoal or Gas Grill, Which One Should You Choose?

Ultimately, the decision between charcoal vs gas grilling will come down to personal preference. If you value flavor above all else (specifically the classic smoky flavor) and don't mind putting in a bit of extra time and effort, charcoal grilling is the way to go. On the other hand, if you want convenience and ease of use, gas grilling is the better choice.

As you can see above, both types of grilling have their pros and cons. It's up to you to decide which one is right for you and your grilling needs. Whatever you choose, be sure to have fun and enjoy your grilling experience!

Can you think of some other pros or cons to add to either charcoal or gas grilling? Leave a comment below. We want to hear all about it!



Whether you end up with a charcoal or gas grill (or a pellet grill or smoker), enhance your outdoor cooking skills with the virtual Championship Backyard BBQ Classes available exclusively here at BBQ Champs Academy. In these classes, the competition-winning Grillmasters and Pitmasters will teach you 20 different delicious recipes plus share valuable insider tips. With these classes, you can master your grill or smoker in no time! Don't miss out on this opportunity to elevate your outdoor cooking and become a true grillmaster with BBQ Champs Academy.

Be sure to also subscribe to the BBQ Champs Academy YouTube channel. Stay informed on the latest competition barbecue news and receive insider information straight from the pros!

Smoking meat low and slow will deliver some great tasting food. But, to ensure that you end up with a good result, it is important to do what you can to keep the meat moist and tender and prevent it from drying out during a long cooking session. This is where a water pan comes in.

Using a water pan in your smoker is an extremely beneficial method, no matter if you are using a stainless steel one from the grill manufacturer or a disposable aluminum pan. But, the benefits go much farther than just helping to impart more moisture to the meat. In this article, we’ve broken down five reasons you should be using a water pan in your smoker, plus how to use a smoker water pan properly. 


5 Reasons for Why You Should Put a Water Pan in a Smoker

A properly positioned water pan provides some great benefits to your smoking session, all of which will help ensure that you end up with a delicious final result. These benefits include: 


Stabilizing the Smoker’s Cooking Temperature

Water takes longer than air does to rise or fall in temperature. So, a water pan is extremely effective at helping to stabilize the internal temperature of the smoker/grill.

Once the water inside the water heats up, it will then radiate heat upwards into the grill if the grill temperature begins to fall. The water can also absorb excess heat if the grill begins to get too hot.


Helping to Keep the Meat Moist

As we mentioned above, using a water pan in your smoker is also an easy way to help keep the meat moist. This is because the water in the pan will start to slowly evaporate once it heats up, creating steam. This keeps the air inside the cooking chamber humid and helps prevent the meat from drying out or beginning to burn.

This moisture in the air will also slightly cool the meat, helping it cook slower. This means the fat and connective tissues in the meat have more time to render and melt, helping to keep the meat moist and tender.


brisket smoked using a water pan | water pan in smoker | smoker water pan


Blocks the Direct Heat & Flames

Depending on the type of smoker you are using, your water pan may be directly above the charcoal or wood and just below the meat. In this scenario, the pan serves as a buffer between the meat and the direct heat and flames. Thus, helping to eliminate the potential of the meat to burn. 

This setup also eliminates the opportunity for dripping fat to hit the heat source and potentially cause a flare-up.


Getting an Even Better Flavor

As the smoker heats up and the water pan starts to create steam, that steam will condense on the colder surface of the meat. This condensation naturally becomes somewhat of a magnet for the smoke particles—and smoke flavor. The result is an even more delicious, smokier flavor.


Helps Create a Good Smoke Ring

One of the common goals when smoking meat, especially things like brisket and pork shoulder, is a beautiful pink smoke ring. Moisture in the air inside your smoker and on the meat will help you achieve this.

When the surface of the meat remains moist, the formation of crispy exterior bark is delayed. This allows more smoke and more time for the chemical reaction between the meat’s pigment and the gasses produced from the burning wood or charcoal to form the smoke ring.

Keep in mind that a smoke ring doesn’t enhance the flavor of the meat but it sure looks good.


How to Use a Smoker Water Pan Properly

The ideal time to use a water pan in your smoker is anytime you are going to be cooking at a constant, lower temperature for a long period. It doesn’t matter what type of meat you plan on cooking, whether it is brisket, pork shoulder, ribs, prime rib, etc. If you’re going to be smoking meat for several hours, you’ll benefit from using a water pan.

So, when it comes to how to use a smoker water pan properly, the main concern is about where exactly to place it in your smoker. This will largely depend on the type of smoker you have. Different smokers have different orientations (horizontal vs round vs vertical), different grate sizes, and different airflow.


smoker water pan | water pan in smoker | why put a water pan in a smoker


Some smokers come with the water pan already in place for you and you just add the water. If yours didn’t come with one, here is a breakdown of where it should be placed based on the type of smoker:


Where to Place the Water Pan in Your Smoker

Because water pans help generate radiant heat, placing them directly above the heat source and beneath the meat is ideal. But, depending on the type of smoker, it may need to go in a different place. Here is a breakdown of exactly where to plan a water pan in different smokers:

In an Offset Smoker:

If you are using an offset smoker, you won’t be able to put the water pan directly over the heat source because it isn’t in the same chamber as your food. In this instance, put the pan on the cooking grate between the fire box and the meat. Then it will intercept the air flow from the heat to your meat.


In a Charcoal Grill/Smoker:

If you’re using a charcoal smoker, set it up for two-zone cooking (indirect cooking). Arrange all of the charcoal (and wood chunks) on one side of the grill and then put your water pan on the other side.

Another placement option for a charcoal cooker, especially if the smoker is not very big,  is to place the water pan on the grill grate directly over the charcoal.


In a Gas Grill/Smoker or a Horizontal Electric Grill/Smoker:

If you’re using a horizontally-oriented gas or electric smoker, set up the grill for two-zone cooking with half of the burners lit and put the water pan directly over the burners that you will be using for heat. Then place the meat on the grates above the inactive burners.


In a Vertical Smoker:

In a vertical smoker, the heat source is going to be at the very bottom and several grates/racks will be above that. So, your water pan should go on the bottom rack, just above the direct heat and your meat will go on the racks above that.


Additional Tips

There are a couple of other tips to keep in mind that will help you get the most benefit from using a water pan in your smoker:

  • Don’t use cold water to fill the water pan. Doing so will lower the smoker’s temperature too much.
  • Fill the water pan slowly, being careful not to splash.
  • Don’t over fill the pan. You only want to fill it about halfway. 
  • Periodically check the water level and add more hot water if it is running low.


water pan in smoker | smoker water pan | why put a water pan in a smoker


When Not to Use a Water Pan

A water pan is effective when you are smoking low and slow. So, it will not be of much benefit if you’re grilling at a high heat for a short period. If you are searing steak, for example, the water in a water pan will rapidly start to boil and evaporate all together. Thus, providing very little, if any, benefit to your meat.

Also, when smoking skin-on chicken, turkey, or other poultry, a humid cooking environment from a water pan can prevent the skin from ever getting crispy. And the last thing you want on a bird is soggy skin.


To Flavor the Water in the Water Pan or Not?

This is a common question when it comes to how to use a smoker water pan. Your best bet is to just use hot water in the pan. You may hear of some people adding juice, beer, wine, herbs, and other flavoring to the water pan. Doing that will definitely make it smell great while you’re cooking, but it actually does very little to add to the flavor of the meat.


Use a Water Pan in Your Smoker Today to Help Achieve the Best Results!

As you can see, there are a variety of reasons that using a water pan in your smoker can help you get great results during low and slow smoking sessions. It is very easy to use one, no matter what type of smoker you have. Just make sure to follow the tips that we covered above and you’ll be well on your way to cooking some moist, tender, and delicious meat!

How about you? Do you use a water pan in your smoker? Have some other tips to add? Leave a comment below. We want to hear all about it!


Do you want to take your meat smoking skills up to a whole new level? If so, grab your All-Access pass from BBQ Champs Academy today! These online video classes, all taught by Champion Grillmasters and Pitmasters, show you exactly how to cook competition-caliber brisket, pork ribs, pork butt, and chicken step-by-step. 

These in-depth, online BBQ classes will teach you how to cook these cuts of meat perfectly in your smoker or grill, like you won’t find anywhere else online. You’ll also get valuable cooking secrets and insider information straight from the pros.

Also, make sure to subscribe to our BBQ Champs Academy YouTube channel to stay on top of all the latest insider info and competition BBQ news!

**Feature image courtesy of Weber Grills

Pellet grills continue to grow in popularity due to their ease of use and versatility, especially compared to charcoal grills. They take some of the complexity out of smoking meat (mainly by being able to maintain consistent cooking temperature more easily) and provide an easy way to smoke a huge variety of different foods.

But, there are some important things that you need to know to ensure that your cooking sessions on a pellet grill are successful every time and to help extend the life of your grill. In this article, we’ve put together 12 pellet grill tips and tricks straight from Champion Pitmasters to help you master the art of smoking food using a pellet grill:


#1 - Only Use High-Quality Pellets

This is one of those situations where the old saying “you get what you pay for” is applicable. To get the best results when using a pellet grill, you should only use high-quality wood pellets. Doing so will result in better smoke and better flavor.

No matter what kind of pellets you use, you need to make sure they are only made from hardwood and aren't using other additives or flavor oils. The wood’s flavor should be all-natural.

Remember, there are a variety of different flavor profiles for wood pellets, and not every type complements every kind of meat/food. Usually, bolder flavor profiles of wood go with heavier meats, while lighter flavor profiles go with the more delicate items.

Check out our article on how to use wood pellets for more in-depth info on the pellets themselves.


#2 - Make Sure You Have Enough Pellets on Hand

It’s important to plan ahead with the amount of pellets you have to ensure you have enough to get you all the way through your cooking session. A good rule of thumb is to expect to use roughly 1 lb of pellets per hour at the usual “low and slow” smoking temperatures. The amount of pellets needed will increase as the cooking temperature increases.


using wood pellets | pellet grill tips and tricks | using a pellet grill


#3 - Never Allow the Hopper to Run Out of Pellets

To avoid a lot of hassle and ensure you end up with properly cooked food, you never want to let the pellets in the hopper run out. When this happens, your grill’s internal temperature can quickly start going down and it may shut itself off. 

If you have run out of pellets mid-cook, check your grill’s owner’s manual before reloading the hopper and relighting the grill. Some pellet grills have a built-in low pellet level notification, but if yours doesn’t, set yourself a timer to help stay on top of the pellets.


#4 - Pinpoint Any Hot Spots on Your Grill

Most grills have hot spots where the temperature ends up slightly hotter than the rest of the grill. You need to determine where these are on your grill. Even a small unknown difference in temperature can greatly affect the results of your cooking.

One easy way to figure out where any hot spots are is by using cheap white bread. Preheat the grill to medium-high and place the slices of bread across the grates shoulder to shoulder. Keep an eye on them carefully and flip them after a few minutes, leaving them in place long enough to take a photo of the results.  

The darkest slices of bread will show you where the temperature is hotter than the rest of the grill. Make sure to save the photo somewhere readily accessible or print it out and keep it with your grill’s owner’s manual.


#5 - Start on the Low/Smoke Setting

It is important to point out that pellet grills/smokers produce more smoke at the lower temperature settings and less smoke as you increase the temperature. So if you want more smoke flavor, start your cooking off on the lowest setting (or special “Smoke” setting) for 30 minutes to an hour and then turn it up closer to 225°F - 250°F, which is the normal cooking temperature for many different low and slow smoking recipes.


#6 - For Even More Smoke Flavor, Use a Smoke Tube 

Pellet smokers are very efficient at burning wood. So you may feel like even after starting at the lowest setting for a little bit, you’re still not getting as much smoke flavor as you really want. This is where a smoke tube comes in handy. 

This affordable accessory is a round or hexagon-shaped metal tube that is perforated with tons of little holes. You just fill it with pellets, light it, and set it on your grate just inside your grill. It will then produce smoke for several hours, giving you an extra smoky flavor.


smoke tube on pellet grill | pellet grill tips and tricks | tips for using a pellet grill
Source: Mountain Grillers


#7 - Don't Chase the Grill’s Temperature Gauge! 

Just like the oven in your home, a pellet grill’s cooking temperature can fluctuate up and down by 20 degrees or more. So your set grill temperature is essentially an average. Don’t worry about the fluctuations or try to constantly adjust the temperature. Just set the grill and keep an eye on the meat’s internal temperature for easy, stress-free cooking. (Make sure to have a digital meat thermometer on hand!)


#8 - Utilize the Reverse Sear Method 

For a deliciously caramelized exterior on the meat, don’t be afraid to utilize the reverse sear method. This two-step approach means smoking the meat at a low temperature first and then finishing it at a higher temperature. This method is great for when you are smoking whole chicken, roasts, and thick-cut steaks.


#9 - For Foods That are Prone to Drying Out, Use the Upper Rack

Pellet grills utilize both radiant heat and convection heat for cooking. So, if you are cooking more delicate meats and food items that are prone to drying out, like flaky fish fillets, shellfish, or chicken breasts, put them on the upper rack. This will ensure that they are cooked mainly by convection heat and protected from the more intense radiant heat coming from the bottom.

If your grill didn’t come with an upper rack, there are aftermarket options available or you can use a wire rack balanced on fire bricks. Placing a water pan to the side on your main grill grate will also help to generate extra moisture if needed.


#10 - Make Sure Your Stock of Pellets are Stored Properly

It’s very important to make sure that you always store your pellets in a cool, dry place. If you don’t and they get moist, they will quickly disintegrate into sawdust. This also means not leaving unused pellets in the auger. If they get wet and break apart in there, it will be similar to cement stuck in there.


#11 - Keep Your Pellet Grill Clean

This may be the most obvious and simple tip on the list, but it is one of the most important and often slacked on. For the best performance and results, it is imperative to keep your pellet grill as neat and clean as possible. The cleaner your grill, the more sanitary the cooking surfaces are and the smokier and tastier your food is.

Ideally, you should thoroughly clean all of the surfaces of your grill once every 3 to 5 uses. Make sure to check and clean all corners, rims, and racks to properly clean up any food waste and grease.


clean pellet grill | pellet grill tips and tricks | tips for using a pellet grill


If you scrape off the grill grates before and after each cooking session, while the grill is hot, it will be much easier to keep them properly cleaned.

You should also empty the ashes in the hot box after each cook to prevent a buildup of char which can negatively affect the taste of your food.

Check out our article on natural homemade grill cleaner that you can use to keep your grill/smoker properly clean.


#12 - Remove the Grease Trap After Each Cook.

After every time you are done using the grill, remove the grease trap and store it somewhere that will keep it out of reach of dogs, raccoons, and other hungry critters. The last thing you want is animals tearing apart your grill overnight. This is another reason it is important to keep your grill clean. 

It is recommended to clean the grease trap every 2 to 3 cooking sessions if you are using it daily or once a week if you are using it every 4 to 5 days.


You Can Master Using a Pellet Grill Today!

With the tips for using a pellet grill that we’ve covered above, you’ll be well on your way to mastering your cooker and smoking some delicious food. Each of the things above is important to keep in mind to not only help ensure you end up with a result you're happy with each cooking session but will also help protect your investment and extend the life of your grill.

Have you recently gotten a new pellet smoker and tried some of these tips? Do you know of some other pellet grill tips and tricks that we left out? Leave a comment below, we want to hear all about it!


If you are ready to really up your smoking game and start cooking competition-caliber meat, check out our All-Access passes. These include in-depth BBQ cooking classes like you’ve never seen before, taught by Champion Pitmasters. You can learn exactly, step-by-step how to cook 4 different cuts of meat to delicious perfection. Join BBQ Champs Academy today!

Also, make sure to subscribe to the BBQ Champs Academy’s YouTube channel to stay on top of all the latest competition BBQ news and insider info straight from the barbecue pros!

*Feature image courtesy of Traeger Grills.

Properly controlling the cooking temperature is a critical part of successful outdoor cooking. Pellet smokers, gas grills, and electric smokers/grills all have one thing in common—the ability to easily and automatically control the temperature of the heat.

But, cooking over a traditional charcoal or hardwood fire is still favored by many barbecue lovers. Controlling the temperature of a wood-fire (including charcoal) grill will definitely take some more hands-on effort, but it’s actually easier than many people think. You just have to understand how it works to learn how to really gain control of a wood fire.

In this article, we’ve broken down exactly what you need to know about how to control the temperatures on a charcoal grill (or wood-fire grill) properly and help ensure you end up with a good final result for your grilled food.


The Two Things That Affect the Cooking Temperature

Two simple things affect the cooking temperature in a charcoal or wood grill/smoker. First, there is the combustible material (charcoal or wood) that serves as the fuel source. Secondly, there is the flow of oxygen. You control the cooking temperature by controlling one or both of these things.

But it’s important to know how these two things work together to understand how to control them.


How the Combustible Material and Airflow Work Together

Almost every grill and smoker will have two airflow controls/vents: the intake damper and the exhaust damper. The intake damper is the engine that drives the system and brings oxygen into the fire. You’ll find it towards the bottom of the cooker near where the combustible material (charcoal or wood) sits.

The exhaust damper (aka vent, chimney, or flue), which is found at the top of the grill or smoker, has two important jobs. First, it allows the combustion gasses, smoke, and excess heat to be released from the cooker. Secondly, it pulls oxygen into the cooker through the intake damper. 


exhaust damper | How to control charcoal grill heat
(Exhaust damper on a Weber charcoal grill)

Source: Weber Grills


This pull, which is referred to as draft, is created when hot gasses rise to the exhaust damper trying to escape. As these hot combustion gasses and smoke exit the exhaust damper/chimney, low pressure is created inside the cooker, which then pulls in fresh oxygen through the lower intake vent.

The more airflow there is flowing through the grill, the faster and hotter the combustible material will burn. So, how exactly do you control the heat that is generated from this process?


How to Use the Vents to Control the Grill Temperature

Both the intake damper and exhaust damper can be adjusted to help raise or lower the temperature of your charcoal or wood-fire grill. 

As mentioned above, the fuel source needs oxygen to burn. So, if you totally close off the intake damper, you starve the fire of oxygen and it will go out, even if the exhaust damper is totally open. Alternatively, if you open the intake damper all the way, the grill’s temperature will rise. So, you can largely control the temperature by mainly controlling how open the intake damper is.

But, that doesn’t mean that you totally ignore the exhaust damper. Oxygen can’t sufficiently reach the charcoal/wood if there is no place for the combustion gasses to go. So, that upper damper/vent needs to at least be partially open at all times. This will keep the gasses from smothering the fire and causing it to burn out.

Until you feel that you have really mastered your cooker and can confidently control the temperature (especially in extreme weather, like during the winter), your best bet is to leave the exhaust damper totally open. To practice, you can do some dry runs of your cooker without food. Play with just adjusting the intake vent and try to hit temperatures between 225°F and 375°F. 

You don’t want to start adjusting the upper exhaust vent unless you can’t reach and maintain those temperatures by adjusting just the intake vent.


How to Control the Grill Temperature with the Charcoal/Wood

The amount of charcoal or firewood you use will also greatly affect the cooker’s temperature. Too little and your grill won’t get hot enough. Too much and your grill will get too hot too fast and you’ll have a hard time bringing the temperature down. 

When using charcoal, use a charcoal chimney to light the coals and make sure to fill it to the same level every time. Using a charcoal chimney will bring your coals to a peak, stable temperature before they go into your grill. And starting with the same number of fully lit coals will enable you to be able to properly and consistently control the temperature.


charcoal chimney | how to control the temperature on a charcoal grill


For charcoal briquets, they should be hot and covered in gray ash before they go into your cooker. For lump charcoal, you should see a mix of white ash and red glowing embers. 

If you are using wood logs as your fuel source, it is best to start burning logs on the side and then put the glowing embers into your cooker to be able to properly control the temperature. As you become more experienced, you can start to experiment with unlit logs.

Keep in mind that the lit charcoal or wood’s temperature will slowly decline as they are consumed by combustion.


Adding More Charcoal/Wood Fuel During Your Cook

If you find that much of your charcoal or wood has been burned up, the temperature is starting to decrease, and you need to add more, the best thing is to only add fully lit coals/wood as soon as you notice the temperature dropping. You will need to experiment to learn exactly how much to add. 

The problem with solely focusing on adding more lit coals is that you have to watch your grill like a hawk and as soon as you see the grill’s temperature start decreasing, light more coals and wait for them to fully ash over. In most cases, you’ll end up needing to do this multiple times during your cooking session.

Of course, you technically could add unlit coals/wood, but it will produce a lot of excess smoke and as they ignite it will quickly raise the temperature of your grill, leaving you wondering how to cool the temp on your charcoal grill. In all likelihood, you’ll end up needing to lessen the opening of the intake damper as the fresh coals become fully engaged.

When you start with a good amount of coals that are fully lit and steadily burning, it is much easier to control the temperature by using the vents to control the flow of oxygen to the coals. Then you only have one variable to adjust. The fewer variables the better when it comes to trying to control the temperature of your grill.


Check for Leaking Air

If you are having a lot of trouble reaching the desired grill temperature and maintaining it, your cooker may have an air leak. Cheap grills or smokers often have lids and doors that do not seal very tightly. This means that extra oxygen can enter through gaps or that heat/combustion is escaping through false “vents”. 

To help mitigate this, you can use gaskets or food-safe silicone sealant to seal any gaps that are causing a leak. If you’ve sealed any leaks and are still having a hard time with the temperature, then start experimenting with adjusting the exhaust damper more than the intake damper. Doing so will change the level of suction from the draft caused by the heat.


grill gasket | how to control temperature on a charcoal grill
Source: Z Grills


Take Advantage of a Two-Zone Setup to Get More Flexibility

Using a two-zone grill setup with your charcoal or wood, with a direct heat side and indirect heat side, will greatly help with maintaining a consistent temperature. Doing so gives you even more control over the flow of oxygen, giving you more control of temperature.

A two-zone setup will also give you more flexibility by having multiple temperature zones to move your food around to as needed. For example, you can slow-roast the meat on the indirect heat side and then quickly sear it on the direct heat side just before it is done. Or food that is almost done can rest on the indirect heat side while the rest of your food finishes on the direct heat side.

Check out our article on two-zone cooking for more information on this type of grill setup.


Start Mastering the Temperature on Your Charcoal or Wood-fire Cooker Today!

Understanding how to control the temperature on a charcoal grill / smoker (or wood-fire) is not rocket science. It’s just a matter of knowing what affects the temperature and how to control those variables. Hopefully after reading this article, you have a better idea of how to control charcoal grill heat. Cookers can vary significantly in design, so mastering yours will just come down to practice and calibrating the vents and fuel as needed. 

Grab a digital thermometer to keep an eye on the grill’s temperature and practice by doing some dry runs without anything in your cooker. Make sure to write down what you are doing so you know what works to help maintain proper temperature in your grill. 

Have you been experimenting with temperature control in your charcoal or wood-fire cooker? Do you know of some other tips to share? Leave a comment below and tell us all about it!


Want to learn more pro tips and new grilled or smoked recipes to elevate your backyard cooking game? If so, join the barbecue pros in our Championship Backyard Cooking Classes here at BBQ Champs Academy! Taught by Champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters, these step-by-step outdoor cooking classes will show you exactly how to cook 20 delicious recipes.

And if you want to take it to the next level with competition-caliber smoking and grilling, grab your All-Access pass today! With this pass to the most in-depth, tell-all online BBQ classes available, Champion Grillmasters and Pitmasters will show you exactly how to master smoking or grilling several different cuts of meat, provide pro cooking secrets, and more. You’ll be cooking competition-level barbecue in no time!

Don’t forget to subscribe to BBQ Champs Academy’s YouTube channel today to get all the latest competition BBQ news and insider scoop straight from the barbecue pros!

If you just got a brand new outdoor cooker, making sure it is properly seasoned is crucial to ensuring the best results for your outdoor cooking. Seasoning a smoker or grill is one of the essential first steps before any meat touches the grates.

But, you may be wondering exactly how to season a smoker / grill properly? We’ve got you covered. In this article, we break down what seasoning is, why it is so important, and how to season a smoker or grill the right way.


What Does “Seasoning” Mean & Why It’s So Important

Seasoning, sometimes called curing or pre-seasoning, involves applying a coat of oil to the inside of a smoker or grill and heating it at a high temperature for several hours. Simply stated, seasoning a smoker or grill ensures that it is ready for use. According to Oklahoma Joe’s Smokers, “Seasoning a new smoker before initial use is crucial to laying the foundation for great BBQ results”. 

This process is also a good opportunity to get to know your new smoker/grill and how to control the temperature, without worrying about ruining a good piece of meat.


Why Seasoning is So Important

There are two main reasons why seasoning a smoker is essential before your first cooking session:

  1. Post-manufacturing cleaning
  2. Rust and corrosion prevention

The manufacturing and shipping process of smokers and grills usually leaves some forms of debris inside the cooker. This can be dust, metal shavings, oils, grease, metal shavings, wood splinters, or cardboard. This is totally normal and occurs with many different types of products. But none of these things you want in your food. 

The inside of the grill may also be lightly coated with oil that the manufacturer applies to prevent any rusting until it reaches its new home. 

So, seasoning your smoker or grill helps get rid of any debris, eliminates contaminants, removes unwanted odors, helps seal the interior surface, and cures the paint. This leaves a proper interior condition that is ideal for cooking over heat and prevents anything from tainting the taste or condition of your food.

Because seasoning cures the interior surface and the paint of your grill, it will also help protect it from any rust and corrosion building up. This greatly helps to keep it in optimal condition and extends the life of your cooker.


seasoning a smoker | how to season a smoker | seasoning a grill
Source: Oklahoma Joe’s Smokers


How to Season a Smoker or Grill For the First Time

Of course, there may be variations in the seasoning process depending on the specific type of smoker or grill, but in general, it follows a pretty standard process. Make sure to look in your cooker’s information/instruction manual for the manufacturer’s recommendations. (This book is always a good thing to read through in its entirety.)

The general process of seasoning a smoker for the first time follows these steps:


#1 - Clean the Inside Thoroughly

Before you get out the oil, it’s important to clean the inside of your smoker/grill well. The goal is to remove anything that could contaminate your food or leave unwanted flavor.

To clean the inside thoroughly:

  1. Remove all of the grates, racks, and pans from the smoker or grill.
  2. Use mild dish soap and water to wash all the grates, racks, etc that you removed.
  3. Use the soap and water to wash the inside of the smoker/grill, including the firebox.
  4. Allow to completely air dry.  

Check out our article on properly cleaning a grill or smoker for more info on this.


#2 - Apply a Coat of Oil

After the cooker has been cleaned, you want to grab a high smoke-point oil like refined avocado oil, canola oil, or grapeseed oil. You want to use one that has a smoke point of at least 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Using an oil like this will leave a nice, hard protective surface after it has been heated inside the grill, which is a process known as polymerization.

If you feel like experimenting with the oil you choose, other options that people use include red palm sunflower oil, flaxseed oil, bacon fat, suet, (raw beef fat), and lard.

To oil your smoker/grill: 

  1. While your grates and racks are out of your cooker, thoroughly apply a thin coat of oil on all of the inside walls and door or lid. You can do this with either a clean, soft cloth or a can of spray oil.
  2. Apply a thin layer of oil to the grates and racks. Don’t coat the inside of the water pan, but you can lightly coat the outside of it to help keep it protected.
  3. Allow the oil to soak in for 5 to 10 minutes before beginning the heating process. (See below)


smoke point of oils | seasoning a smoker | how to season a smoker
Source: Chosen Foods


#3 - Heat the Oil in High Heat

For this step of the seasoning process, you want to bring the smoker or grill to a high internal temperature (at least 275-300 degrees Fahrenheit) and keep it there for anywhere between 1 and 4 hours. The temperature should be higher than it would be for a normal cooking session to get a proper seasoning on your smoker/grill. Do not put anything inside except for the oil you’ve already applied or wood chips or chunks, see below.

There are many different recommended desired temperatures and times for this step, but a general rule of thumb is to bring the temperature up to the maximum temperature rating of your smoker and leave it there for a couple of hours. *Remember, make sure to check your cooker’s instruction manual for the specific seasoning instructions suggested by the manufacturer. But, in general:


For Charcoal Smokers/Grills:

Use a chimney starter to get your coals up to the desired temperature. Then fill the pan with the hot coals and add some hardwood chunks or chips. If you have oiled the exterior of the water pan, leave it in without water, if it is not oiled take it out. Open all of the vents wide to let the air flow through and generate a good high heat inside. Let the charcoal burn hot until it's reduced to ash. Once it’s cool, dump the ash and brush out the pan.

Pro Tip: Make sure that for the first seasoning, when using wood, use a lighter type/flavor, like oak, pecan, or Applewood. Strong wood flavors like Mesquite and Hickory can end up adding a much stronger flavor to your foods than you were intending in the next few cooks.


For Pellet Smokers:

Load the hopper with your wood pellets and set the temperature dial to a high heat. Leave it running like this for at least an hour (usually 2-3). Remember, go with a lighter flavored hardwood.

(Check out our article on pellet versus charcoal smokers/grills!)


For Electric Smokers: 

Set the temperature dial to high and leave it running for about 2 -3 hours. You can load wood chips into the smoker box with about 45 minutes to go and add that great wood smoke flavor as well. 


For Gas Smokers/Grills:

With a propane gas smoker or grill, set it to the highest temperature and leave it running for at least an hour. For the last 30-45 minutes you can add wood chips or chunks to a pan to get the wood flavoring.

Pro tip: No matter what type of smoker or grill you have, after the set time for heating during the seasoning process, you want to make sure you slowly bring the cooker down to air temperature. This will ensure that the relatively thin metal of the smoker (most smokers) does not warp.


seasoning a smoker | seasoning a grill | how to season a smoker
Source: Green Mountain Grills


Pro Tips for Seasoning a Smoker

There are some insider tips and tricks you can follow to help ensure your seasoning process goes as smooth as possible:

  • For a large smoker, pour liquid oil into a spray bottle and apply it that way versus using a bunch of spray oil cans. Then use a clean, soft cloth as needed to spread the oil around evenly.
  • Clean up any excess oil that may have pooled at the bottom of the smoker before heating. Remember, the goal is to have a thin even coat.
  • Make sure the smoker/grill is on a level surface before you begin. You don’t want all of the oil to run to one side or the back.
  • With an electric or gas smoker, it is important to avoid getting any oil on any of the heating elements.
  • Only season your smoker’s/grill’s grates before you use it for the first time. They do not need to be and should not be reseasoned. Just make sure to clean and wash them after each use.


Properly Season Your Smoker / Grill For Best Results & Longevity

Seasoning a new smoker or grill is an essential first step to great outdoor cooking. As you can see, it is not a complicated process. You can have your new cooker cleaned, protected, and ready to go in just a few hours!

Do you have any other seasoning tips you’ve discovered? Have you developed your own seasoning method? Have questions on the process? Leave a comment below, we want to hear it!


Once you’ve finished seasoning your smoker or grill, chances are you’re anxious to get cooking. If you’re ready to become barbecue king or queen of your culdesac, check out the virtual Championship Backyard BBQ Classes here at BBQ Champs Academy. You’ll learn a variety of great recipes step-by-step straight from some of the top pros in the game, as well as get all the insider tips you need to know. Start mastering your smoker or grill today!

Ready to take your outdoor cooking up a level and learn competition smoking and grilling techniques for a variety of meat cuts? Grab your All-Access pass now and join Champion Pitmasters and Grillmaster in these first-of-their-kind in-depth virtual BBQ classes here at BBQ Champs Academy. You can be cooking competitor-caliber barbecue in no time!

Don’t forget to check out our YouTube channel! Click Subscribe to stay on top of the latest competition barbecue and outdoor cooking news, as well as insider info straight from the barbecue pros!

Maybe you are wanting to get into backyard cooking or maybe you are wanting to step up your game with a higher quality grill. In either of those circumstances, you may be wondering what type of grill or smoker you should get. With so many different options available these days, it can be overwhelming to think about. 

One common question lately is which is better, pellet vs charcoal grill? This is a tough question to answer definitely because they operate very differently from each other. Pellet grills have been growing in popularity over the last several years and are a favorite of many cookers. But, of course, there are still faithful supporters of charcoal. Both types of grills have their own set of advantages and best use-case scenarios.

So, in this article, to help you pinpoint which grill would make a better fit for your cooking needs, we’ve broken down the comparison of a pellet vs charcoal grill, including the differences between the two and the best use cases.


Pellet Grill vs Charcoal Grill - How They Differ (and Similarities):

Ease of Use

In general, using a pellet grill is very easy. It’s as simple as filling the hopper with your wood pellets and setting the desired cooking temperature. The internal auger that is attached to the hopper then feeds the pellets at a controlled pace down to the firebox where they are burned. So, turning up the temperature would increase the rate that the pellets are being fed into the firebox and create a hotter fire.

Pellet grills do run on electricity, so you will need to have an outlet nearby your cooking area outside. This is no big deal for some people if they have multiple outlets outside, but for others, this can be a significant drawback, since it would require having a new outlet put in outside.   

Using a charcoal grill does require a little more work and there is a significant learning curve when it comes to cooking with charcoal properly. You’ll need to light the charcoal first (using a charcoal chimney is the best way!) and then it will take 20-30 minutes for them to be ready to cook over. Learning how to set up your charcoal grill to reach and maintain the desired temperatures will definitely take some practice. But once you’ve got it down, you can utilize multi-zone cooking to cook low and slow and sear at high heat.


green mountain grill | pellet vs charcoal grill | pellet grill vs charcoal grill
Source: Green Mountain Grills


Flavor Impact

Since pellet smokers are technically cooking with raw wood, a more nuanced and refined taste of the wood flavor comes through in the food you are cooking. And different flavors/types of wood pellets mean different flavors imparted on your meats and other food.

When it comes to charcoal grills, you will always get the unmistakable char flavor that comes from cooking over charcoal. Because of the charring process used to create charcoal, most types of wood will give a similar flavor, unlike the differences you can taste from wood pellets.

Some people do complain that cooking on a pellet grill will not give the food as smoky a flavor as when it is cooked on a charcoal grill. Adding wood chunks or chips to the charcoal will give a strong wood flavor.

Another thing to note when it comes to the flavor differences in a pellet grill vs charcoal grill is that because of the higher temperatures you can achieve on a charcoal grill, the food can be seared more than on a pellet grill. This will give you more of that Maillard reaction on the exterior of the meat. (Unless the pellet grill has a searing station as an attachment/accessory.)


Temperature Control

You’ll never have an easier time controlling the cooking temperature, especially during a low and slow smoking session, than you will with a digital pellet grill. As mentioned above, all you have to do is turn a dial to the desired cooking temperature and sit back.

With a charcoal grill, the temperature control is totally done manually, either by opening and closing air vents or manually adding more charcoal. The more air you allow to flow through the grill, the hotter it will get. So, controlling the cooking temperatures in a charcoal grill is definitely a learned skill, especially when trying to slow-smoke meat. Setting up a two-zone cooking setup, with a direct heat side and an indirect heat side can help when cooking with charcoal, but it will still have to be manually controlled.


Temperature Range & Versatility

Pellet grills are most often used for cooking/smoking at lower temperatures versus high heat grilling since they excel at being able to hold a steady smoking temp of 250 °F. The temperature range in most pellet grills will not go much higher than 550 °F, with some having a hard time getting that hot.

One thing you can do to increase your surface cooking temperature in a pellet grill is to utilize a GrillGrate. This is an accessory that can either sit on top of the existing grill grates or temporarily replace the normal grates and get up to 100 °F hotter.

Charcoal grills do have a wider temperature range and can get much, much hotter very easily. They can be used to cook at lower temperatures for smoking as well as high temperatures for quick grilling, like putting perfect sear marks on a thick steak. Depending on the type of charcoal you are using (lump charcoal tends to burn hotter than briquettes) and the size of the grill, it is possible to get to temperatures over 800 °F. 


Run Time

Most pellet grills are designed to easily be able to cook for 8 or more hours without needing to add more wood pellets. If the pellets do start to get low during a cooking session, all you have to do is simply open the lid to the hopper and add more pellets.

With a charcoal grill, during a low-temp smoking session, you can easily cook for over 12 hours on a single load of charcoal. But, if you are grilling hot and fast, you can quickly burn through all your charcoal in just a couple of hours. So, depending on your cooking temperatures, it’s important to always have enough charcoal on hand to get you through your whole cook.


charcoal grill | pellet vs charcoal grill | pellet grill vs charcoal grill


Level of Cleanup Needed

There’s no denying it, charcoal can get messy fast. The carbon from the charcoal itself can get on your hands, your clothes, and definitely all in the bottom of the grill. Alternatively, when using wood pellets, there is virtually no mess. In fact, when you get high-quality pellets, there will be almost no dust in the bag. 

With a pellet grill, you’ll have to do regular cleaning every couple of cooking sessions to help extend the life of your grill. A charcoal grill will require cleaning out the ashes after every cook. No matter what type of grill you use, it’s important to keep it properly clean


Initial Cost

In general, a good pellet grill is going to be a bigger investment than most charcoal grills. Pellet grills can range anywhere from $499 (check out this one from Green Mountain Grills) to $2200 (like this one from Traeger). Though, with increases in competition between grill manufacturers, high-quality pellet grills are not as high-priced as they first were.

Of course, some high-quality charcoal grills, like a Kamado grill, can cost just as much. But, in general, charcoal grills will usually be slightly less expensive compared to pellet grills. For example, you can get a good kettle grill from Weber Grills for less than $300. Compact charcoal grills, which are perfect for tailgate parties, are less than $100.


wood pellets | pellet vs charcoal grill | pellet grill vs charcoal grill

Source: B & B Charcoal


Operating Costs

Wood pellets are often more expensive than charcoal. And like with high-quality charcoal, the best pellets for smoking are going to be more expensive than others. In pellet grills, if you can, you want to go with high-quality pellets to prevent the auger from jamming.

For charcoal, briquettes are cheaper than lump charcoal and can be used for cooking low and slow or grilling hot and fast. Lump charcoal tends to burn a little hotter and faster. Many people prefer to use lump charcoal just for high-heat grilling due to the added expense.

But, the thing to keep in mind is that wood pellets burn slower than charcoal. So, if you are cooking frequently, the cheaper cost of charcoal can add up very quickly compared to a large bag of pellets that will last five times longer. Long-term costs of fuel will just come down to how often you are cooking.

The other thing to consider with pellet grills is the cost of replacement parts if they break down the road after your grill’s warranty has run out. With so many electric and mechanical parts, this is always a possibility.

Outside of fuel, there aren’t really any other costs associated with the charcoal grill itself.


Pellet Grills are Best For Those Who:

  • Value the convenience of mainly hands-off cooking.
  • Are primarily interested in smoking meat slowly at lower temps.
  • Like the added flavor of wood smoke, but not the char flavor.
  • Want to be able to use different types of wood pellets to change the flavor.
  • Want to cook with fire but also want the convenience of not having to actively manage a fire. 
  • Want to still be able to occasionally turn the temperature up and sear meat with direct heat.


Charcoal Grills are Best For Those Who:

  • Really love the idea of building and actively maintaining a fire.
  • Want that classic char flavor with the ability to add different types of wood-smoke flavor as well.
  • Want to be able to not only cook low and slow but also reach much higher temperatures for high-heat cooking and searing.
  • Want to cook directly over a real fire.
  • Think it isn’t real barbecue without charcoal and wood.
  • Want to have a more portable option when it comes to outdoor cooking.


Determining Which Type of Grill is Best For You - Pellet vs Charcoal Grill

As you can see, there are pros and cons to both pellet grills and charcoal grills. If you have to choose one over the other, try to find the best-quality options. When trying to decide between a pellet grill vs a charcoal grill it’s really going to come down to what is most important to you (ie. ease of use, cost, etc.). You should especially consider what you are cooking, the cooking temperatures you need to cook at, and what kind of flavor you want to achieve. 

We want to hear your opinion on the pellet vs charcoal grill. Do you prefer the ease of use of a pellet grill over charcoal? Or do you prefer the taste and method of charcoal? Leave us a comment below!

Once you get your grill, whether it be pellet or charcoal, if you want to elevate your outdoor cooking game, check out the step-by-step virtual Championship Backyard BBQ Classes here at BBQ Champs Academy. You’ll learn a variety of great recipes, along with all the insider tips you need to know, directly from some of the top competition Grillmasters and Pitmasters. Start mastering your grill or smoker today!

Make sure to also check out the BBQ Champs Academy YouTube channel! Click Subscribe to ensure you never miss the latest competition barbecue news and insider info straight from the pros!


*Feature image from Food & Wine Magazine

Your grill or smoker and the BBQ tools to go with it are an investment. Especially if you are a frequent outdoor cooker and want quality things that will last. So, it only makes sense to do what you can to protect them and extend their life as much as possible. After all, you don’t want to have to be replacing things every year. 

If you’re wondering how to make your grill last longer, along with all of the BBQ accessories you use, we’ve got everything you need to know. By following the suggestions below, you can keep cooking with much less worry about what you’re going to have to replace next.


Keep Everything Clean

A build-up of food residue, grease, and carbon is your grill and tools’ worst enemy. So, being proactive and keeping everything clean is critical to extending the life of your equipment. Make sure you are taking the time to properly clean your grill.

Before and after you use your grill or smoker, crank up the heat and use a metal-bristle grill brush or ball of aluminum foil to clean off any leftover food particulars and build-up. Then, if you are frequently using your grill, do a deep cleaning every 4 to 5 months.

Avoid harsh chemicals and save money on expensive cleaners by making your own homemade natural grill cleaner.


how to make your grill last longer | extend the life of your grill | cleaning grill


Keeping the food grates of your grill or smoker clean will not only help them last longer but will also help ensure your food tastes good. A leftover build-up of grease and carbon can cause your cooker to smoke more (not the good smoke), tainting the taste of your food. It can even cause a flare-up in your grill, which will totally ruin anything you’ve got in there.

Make sure to also thoroughly clean and dry your tools after each use to reduce the chance of them wearing down too soon as well. The last thing you want to do is go to cook and discover that your tongs or spatula have rusted.

Important note: If you are going to use a metal bristle brush, use a high-quality stainless steel or copper bristle brush. The bristles in cheaper brushes can become loose, stick to the grates, and end up in your food. Always make sure to use a damp paper towel to wipe down the grates after brushing to ensure any loose bristles are picked up.


Make Sure Your Cooker is Seasoned

An important part of helping extend the life of your grill or smoker is to ensure it is properly seasoned before use. Moisture and premature wear will quickly break down your grill grates and the interior of the cooker. Keeping it seasoned will protect your grill, prevent food from sticking, and make cleaning easier in between cooks. 

You always want to season a brand new grill before using it and also after you deep-clean your grill. It’s also a good idea to re-season it occasionally if you’ve been cooking frequently. Especially if you notice food starting to stick more than usual. 

When it’s time to season your cooker, coat the grates and interior of your grill with a high-heat-resistant oil like canola oil. Then, turn up the heat on your cooker to high-heat and let it sit for about 30 to 40 minutes. 

One easy method to quickly re-season your grill is to turn up the cooker’s heat, cut an onion in half, dip it in the oil, and rub it over the grates before adding your food.


seasoning grill | how to make your grill last longer | extend the life of your grill


Store Everything Properly

Properly storing your BBQ tools and your cooker itself will help keep everything protected from the elements that can quickly break down metal items and components. Many tools and parts of your grill are usually made of stainless steel. While stainless steel is more resistant to rust than other metals, it is not completely immune to it. 

So, storing everything properly will involve several things:

  • Cover your cooker: The natural elements can quickly wear down the exterior of your grill. So, invest in a good quality grill cover to keep your cooker protected between uses. Keeping your grill covered can add years to its life.
  • Store your grill properly: If you are going to be storing your cooker away for the winter or for a while without use, keeping it covered with a grill cover outside may not be enough to properly protect it. Prep it for storage and, if possible, store your grill in a garage or shed.  
  • Keep accessories put away when not in use: The same things go with your BBQ tools and accessories. Many of these things are metal also. So, it’s just as important to keep these protected from the elements when not in use. 


Only Use Tools For What They Were Intended For

One of the fastest ways of damaging or breaking BBQ tools is to try and use them for things that they were not intended for. For example, using your metal spatula to try and lift up the grill grates. So, to get the full life expectancy of your tools, only use them for their intended purpose. 


Check Parts & Tools Frequently

It’s important to perform regular checks on all of the components of your grill or smoker. are important. Yes, a cooker will probably still work even if one or two parts are damaged but that can further degrade the unit and even lead to dangerous usage. So, inspect your cooker often and if something needs to be repaired or replaced, don’t wait. Fixing small issues now will prevent larger, more costly issues later.

You also want to be checking your cooker and tools for any early signs of rust and eliminating it as soon as you notice it. Rust can be removed fairly easily if caught early and will prevent it from spreading. 


cleaning grill | how to make your grill last longer | extend the life of your grill


Also, if you are using a metal grill brush, check that the bristles are not starting to come loose and fall out. If they are, throw it out and buy a new one.


Have a Dedicated Space for Outdoor Cooking

If you are grilling or smoking often, it will be advantageous to the life of your cooker if you set up a dedicated outdoor cooking area. The space needs to be somewhere where you don’t have to worry about chemicals from the lawn, a pool, or even natural elements from trees. All of these things can damage your grill. So, make your own grilling space to give you a place to enjoy cooking while also keeping your grill protected.


Use Your Cooker

Like any appliance or machine, your cooker will operate best when it’s actually being used regularly. So, enjoy some time outside and fire up your grill often. This will not only keep everything running smoothly but also allow you to check for any issues with components that may need to be addressed. 


You Can Extend the Life Of Your Cooking Investments

By following the simple things above, you can extend the life of your BBQ tools and cooker. The biggest take-aways to remember are to keep things clean and protected. In doing so, you’ll be able to enjoy your outdoor cooking much longer!

Do you have a trick you use to help protect your grill? Have you come up with a creative way to store your BBQ tools? Let us know below in the comments. We want to hear from you!


Want to learn how to really put your grill to good use and up your backyard cooking game? Check out our Championship Backyard Cooking Classes here at BBQ Champs Academy. You can learn directly from Champion Grillmaster and Pitmasters how to cook a variety of different BBQ favorites.

If you want to take it up a level with the pros and get all the best smoking and grilling techniques, competition-BBQ tips, and more, get your All-Access pass now for our one-of-kind online BBQ cooking classes. Start cooking like the pros today! 

Also, Subscribe to our YouTube channel to see recaps of all the latest competition BBQ news and get insider info straight from the Champions Pitmasters and Grillmasters.

Are you wanting to expand your barbecue skills and tackle cooking a large piece of meat? Try your hand at cooking on a rotisserie grill or smoker attachment. This tool opens up the possibilities of what you can cook and makes cooking even entire animals easy.

Sometimes referred to as spit roasting, rotisserie cooking on a grill can be done on gas grills, charcoal kettle grills, or smokers. Many of the grill manufacturers now make rotisserie attachment kits that can be easily mounted to the cooker. So, this type of cooking can be done using propane gas, charcoal, wood, or even infrared as your fuel source. 

In this article, we’ll dive deeper into using a rotisserie grill or smoker and give you some must-know tips on how to use a rotisserie grill, ensuring your rotisserie cooking is successful.


How Does A Rotisserie Grill Work?

The main component of a rotisserie is a long metal rod that sits horizontally across the grill. Your meat goes on this rod and is suspended over the heat source. The rod itself is referred to as either a spit or skewer (or you may even hear “turn spit”). Then, large metal forks or prongs at either end of the food item secures it to the spit so it stays in place. 

Within the closed chamber of the grill or smoker, the spit is turned at a constant speed over the heat, either by an attached motor or by hand, roasting the attached meat. This allows your food to cook evenly at the same degree of heat the entire time it is cooking, which will often be quicker than slow cooking the traditional way directly on the grates.

Because the meat is being turned constantly, it bastes itself through the whole cooking process while it is being slowly roasted. This creates some of the most succulent pieces of meat you’ll cook. The exterior of your food on the spit will sear quickly and lock in all of the natural juices while it cooks to temperature on the interior.

As we mentioned above, rotisseries are generally used for cooking large cuts of meat, entire animals, or even whole fruits. (See more on what you can cook below!) 


parts of a rotisserie attachment | rotisserie grill | rotisserie smoker
Source: Weber Grills


Using the Right Rotisserie

There are a variety of different options when it comes to how to cook on a rotisserie. Most of the time you’ll see the horizontal rotisserie attachments that are made by several different companies to fit into your existing grill or smoker. For example, Char‑Broil offers a universal electric rotisserie attachment that can fit a variety of grill models, from two to six-burner sizes.

But, there are also portable, stand-alone rotisseries that have a battery-powered spit motor. These make for great outdoor cooking while camping or at tailgate get-togethers and similar events.

No matter what type of rotisserie you are using, it is important to make sure the one you get will turn at a constant speed without interruption. This is critical to ensuring that your meat sears properly and is cooked evenly and quickly.


Tips for Rotisserie Cooking on a Grill or Smoker Successfully

Though cooking on a rotisserie grill is fairly easy overall, there are a few tips to keep in mind to help ensure you do it successfully. These include:

  • Keep things equal:

    You want to make sure your food is sized as equal as possible from end to end on the spit rod. This will keep things consistent and even while cooking.

  • Make sure it’s centered and balanced:

    The food should always be centered and balanced on the spit. If it is not, your food won’t cook evenly and it can put excess strain on the spit motor since it won’t turn smoothly. After putting your meat on the spit, roll the spit in your hands before putting it on the grill to check the balance.

  • Tie up the meat:

    Use butcher’s twine to truss (tie up) the meat to prevent any of the meat from falling apart or burnt chicken wings or legs etc. Make sure to trim any excess twine with scissors and do not use cotton twine. The cotton will burn very quickly.

  • Indirect heat is the key:

    Make sure that the food is not directly over the heat source. You want the coals on the other side of the grill or the burners to the side of the meat on.

  • Keep the lid closed:

    The lid of your grill or smoker needs to be kept closed as much as possible during your cook. This allows the convection currents to cook your food evenly.

  • Use a drip pan:

    Make sure to place an aluminum drip pan below the meat with a little bit of water in it to collect drippings and reduce flare-ups. Beer, fruit juice, and even wine can also be added to the pan for extra flavor infusion with the meat. You can even put vegetables (onions, etc.) in the pan and use what’s left in the pan after cooking to make a gravy.

  • Check the speed:

    Some rotisseries allow you to adjust the rotating speed of the spit. A speed setting of 4 to 6 rpm (revolutions per minute) is good for cooking smaller meats like chicken, ribs, etc. A lower speed, from 1 to 3 rpm, is best for larger items like a whole pig.

  • Be careful with sugar:

    Even though the meat is self-basting on a rotisserie, barbecue sauce or rubs can still add any additional flavors you may want. If you go with a sugar-based sauce, wait until the last ten minutes to brush it on. Sugar will char quickly and can cause the exterior of your meat to burn if done too early.

  • Cook to temperature:

    Like when grilling directly on grill grates, the air temperatures, wind, and humidity can affect how long it takes to cook. So, you’ll still want to have a good instant-read meat thermometer on hand. It can be harder to test the temperature of the meat when cooking with a rotisserie. To avoid overcooking, about 15 to 20 minutes before your estimated cook time is up stop the rotisserie motor and test the meat’s internal temperature.

  • Keep the fuel going:

    There is not much checking or flipping needed when rotisserie cooking, so just make sure the fire stays consistent through the whole cook.

  • Let it rest:

    Don’t immediately start carving the meat after you take it off the rotisserie. Let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes to allow the interior juices to settle, keeping the meat tender and making the carving easier.


What Can You Cook on a Rotisserie Grill?


cooking on a rotisserie grill | rotisserie grill | rotisserie smoker

Source: Dad Cooks Dinner


Rotisserie grills make it possible to cook a wide variety of things, even large meats and multiple things at the same time, to a delicious and tender finish. And you can do it without it taking hours and hours. Here are some of the things you can cook on a rotisserie grill or smoker:

  • Whole chicken
  • Whole turkey
  • Ribs
  • Prime rib
  • Pork roast
  • Brisket
  • Whole pineapple
  • Legs of lamb
  • Whole pig


Add a Rotisserie to Your Grilling Toolbox

Using a rotisserie attachment on your grill or smoker (or even getting a dedicated rotisserie cooker) is a great way to expand your outdoor cooking repertoire. As you can see, a rotisserie grill makes cooking large pieces of meat and even whole fruit easy. Follow our tips above to turn out some deliciously tender meat!

Do you cook on a rotisserie? Have a favorite when it comes to cooking on a rotisserie grill? Let us know in the comments below. We want to hear from you!


If you are interested in learning even more outdoor cooking techniques and BBQ secrets straight from the pros, join us here at BBQ Champs Academy. Our one-of-kind online BBQ cooking classes with Champion Grillmasters and Pitmasters will show you exactly how to cook everything from a deliciously cooked brisket to a perfectly grilled steak and more.

Make sure and also check out and subscribe to the BBQ Champs Academy YouTube channel. You can catch all the latest competition BBQ news and insider info straight from the pros!

* Feature image from SeriousEats.com

Looking for a great place to buy rubs, sauces, charcoal, accessories, & more with fast shipping? Click the logos below!

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