How long do pellets last? This is probably one of the first questions you’ll ask yourself when you first unpack your new pellet grill.
Usually pellets are used for smoking, but can also be used for regular grilling. Either way, running out of pellets too early is annoying, so knowing how long they’ll last is important.
The burn time of pellets mainly depends on on the temperature you’re smoking at, the pellet type, and grill brand or model your using. Let’s look at how long pellets last.
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How Long do Pellets Last in a Pellet Grill
As a general rule, 1-3 pounds of pellets will burn out per hour at a temperature of 200-300 Fahrenheit. The biggest factors are the temperature, as well as the pellet-type. Hardwood burns for longer than softwood, and the different pellet manufacturers will have have variation in density and size which influences the burn time.
On average, a bag of 20 pounds pellets costs around $20, more or less. This means that a consumption rate of 1-3 pounds per hour will cost you $1-3 per hour.
There really isn’t that much data that explains this, as it is different for every smoker and different for ever brand of pellet grill, and most of these manufacturers haven’t done any extensive testing on this. The only thing we can go by is general rules that can be used as a guideline for your specific smoker.
As mentioned, temperature is a big factor regarding pellets burn-times.
- Smoking at 200-300 °F: 1-3 pounds of pellets per hour
- Smoking at 300-450 °F: 3-5 pounds of pellets per hour
This we found by our own experiment to be fairly accurate. It isn’t very precise, but it’s good enough for knowing roughly how many pellets you need to fill for high temperature smoking or for low temperature smoking.
The quality of pellets can pretty much be divided into two categories: hardwood and softwood. This is largely depend on the brand. Traeger for example, one of the most popular pellet brands, sell hardwood pellets. Hardwood pellets are higher quality than softwood pellets, but also more expensive.
If you’re using hardwood pellets, the consumption rate by the pellet smoker will be closer to 1 pound per hour at around 250 °F. Softwood pellets are likely burn at 3 pounds per hour at the same temperature.
The flavor of the pellets will also matter. Different flavors have different hardness and density.
We haven’t really found any substantial difference in using different flavors.
How Many Pellets Should I fill in my Pellet smoker?
Around 1-3 pounds will burn per hour, so if you’re smoking something for 4 hours at around 250 Fahrenheit or something you will probably need a total of 4-12 pounds of pellets (one bag is usually around 20 pounds).
Having too Many Pellets
If you’re simply sprinkling the pellets or using them in a wood tray or smoker box, too many pellets can cause a huge spike in the temperature. This is both bad for your grill and your meat. They will also cause too much smoke to emanate which will ruin the flavor of the meat.
Too Many Pellets in an Automatic Pellet Grill
If your smoker has an automatic auger, too many pellets won’t really be that big of an issue in terms of smoking. The automatic auger will take the right amount of pellets from the hopper, where you pour the pellets in, and feed them to the smoker.
However, if you put more pellets in than you need for smoking the pellets that do not get used but still in the hopper will go bad. For example, if you fill in 10 pounds of pellets for a smoking session but the the pellet smoker only uses 5 pounds, the 5 pounds left in the hopper are likely to go bad.
How Long do Pellets last in Storage?
In an environment with a humidity below 10%, wood pellets can generally be stored for up to six months. A humidity above 10%, and the storage time is generally around 3 months or less.
How to Check if They’ve Gone Bad
New pellets are usually smooth and they sort of hang together. If pellets have gone bad, they sometimes either crack up and look rough, or totally drizzle into to dust. If you grab a healthy pellet, you should be able to break it in pieces solid pieces. If not, when snapping it into pieces it will either drizzle too much dust or totally disintegrate.