Propane is the cleanest fuel for smoking, but it also means it wouldn’t add any smokey taste to the food. Regardless, you still need wood pellets or chips, like in all types of smokers.
In this article, we will explain how to use pellets in propane smokers. But the short answer is that you simply need to select the pellet types/flavor you want, add the right amount of pellets in the smoking box or aluminum foil, and then start the smoker.
However, it’s easier said than done. We’ll break down the process into easy-to-follow steps and give you the needed tips for doing it right
Can You Use Wood Pellets in a Propane Smoker?
Yes, you can use wood pellets in a propane smoker. You simply need to ensure the pellets are made for smoking or cooking and aren’t treated with any chemical or unnatural substances.
Using pellets in a gas smoker is the best way to add flavor to a wide selection of foods, including vegetables, beef, and ribs.
But many see that the smoking process can take a lot of effort and time, which is not true. Just select the pellet flavor you want, add the pellets to your smoking box, and smoke! But first, what are wood pellets, and what pellet types for what food should you use?
What Are Pellets and the Various Types of Pellet Flavors?
Pellets are small, compressed, hard chunks of wood usually of a single origin that are untreated with unnatural substances. They are alternatives to wood chips and ideal for smoking food.
As earlier mentioned, there are different types of pellets on the market for achieving different flavors and for smoking different foods.
Hickory goes with meat and fish, apple pellets go with poultry, cherry goes with beef and pork, oak goes with fish and red meat.
Olive pellets bring a lighter but spicy flavor. This variety is ideal for smoking poultry, fish, pork, and vegetables. Lemon pellets give off a spicy citrus taste. This variety is ideal for smoking white fish, poultry, and seafood.
Choose Where to Add the Pellets
You can’t just throw the pellets into the burner. They have to be added into a smoking box or aluminum foil.
While some smokers come with a system for adding chips and smoking food, others require the use of a smoking box or a foil. But which one should you choose?
The smoking box
The smoking box is simply a small metal box with a lid that can be removed and replaced. There are holes in the smoker box that allow smoke to escape into the cooking chamber when the pellets are heated.
To use the smoking box, simply fill it with wood chips and place it under the cooking grates, on the burner deflectors, or the grate.
The good thing with a smoking box is that it is usually made of metal, reusable, and very efficient for a propane smoker.
The aluminum foil
You don’t have to spend a lot like the smoking box to use this cooking technique. An aluminum foil also called a papillote, is enough to create your own little box.
You can also use aluminum foil by folding it over to obtain two simple layers. Then, drill holes in it to allow smoke to escape during heating.
Finally, the aluminum foil can be placed above your burners, whether under the grates, on the grate, or the burner deflectors. However, it is not reusable. You have to make a new foil wrap added with smoking pellets each time you want to smoke.
Step-By-Step: How to Use Pellet in a Propane/Gas Smoker
We’ve already talked about the complexities of the process, which are the selection of pellets and the choice of a smoking box or foil.
Now, while keeping it as simple and brief as possible, here is the full step-by-step process on how to use pellet in propane smoker.
Step 1: Choose the wood pellets flavor
Choose the wood pellet flavor that suits your dish based on what we discussed earlier. For example, hickory goes with meat and fish, apple pellets go with poultry, cherry goes with beef and pork, and oak goes with fish and red meat.
Step 2: Fill the smoker box with pellets
Fill the smoker box or aluminum foil with pellets as described earlier. In general, the best propane smokers come with a smoker box or pellet tray for adding wood chips or pellets.
If not, you can buy a smoker box online or from the store. Sometimes, the wood pellets would already be inside. You will need around 1 to 3 pounds an hour of pellets for smoking.
Step 3: Start smoking
Start the gas smoker, place the box with the pellet in the smoker, anywhere around the burner. Wait for the pellets to start smoking. About 10 to 30 minutes after, place the prepared meat on the smoker and cover.
Tips, Tricks, and Warnings when Using Pellet
- Typically, it takes about half an hour for 2-3 handfuls of pellets over direct heat to release their full smoky flavor.
- Contrary to what you may have heard, you should not soak pellets in water or even beer or what have you. Pellets are made of sawdust. Soaking them will make them dissolve and fall apart in water.
- Avoid raising the smoker lid or opening the smoker door to retain the smokey flavor.
- Wood from the garden may look great for smoking. However, it can be poisonous if poison ivy vines have clung to them or if weedkiller has been sprayed on them. Some wood chips are carcinogenic when used for smoking meat.
- Make sure you get a thin, bluish smoke when smoking. White and opaque smoke could give a strong taste to the food due to bad combustion.
- The smoking temperature must be low and even enough to allow the food to cook slowly and soak up the wood flavors. This should be between 200 and 220 degrees Fahrenheit for slow smoking.
- To be sure of the temperature of your smoker, but also that of your pieces of meat, we advise you to get a quality smoker thermometer. The one on your smoker door is not always accurate.
- Finally, you have to wait for the smoke to escape from the smoker box or the papillote to place your pieces on the grill. This usually takes between 10 to 30 minutes.
Yes, you can use pellets in your propane smoker. Most of these smokers are designed to be used with pellets. They add smokiness to the meat. All you need is an aluminum foil or the smoker box.
However, you should only choose certified wood pellets from the store and not just any wood chips from your backyard. Finally, while soaking the chips may help you get more smoke, you shouldn’t do that with pellets as the wood substances will fall apart and may be unusable.