For those new to pellet grills or even those who have used theirs for a while, there will always be a desire to up their game and deliver better bark , bigger smoke rings, and an abundance of smoke flavor. If you use a pellet grill and are disappointed at your results thus far, don’t be discouraged! Follow these few simple tips and you’ll be on your way to enhancing the rustic, smokiness of your food. You’ll be surprised that just these little changes can make a BIG difference.
The following tips will help you deliver more smoke flavor to your food. Smoke on!
Yes, you do want a decent amount of fat to muscle ratio in the subcutaneous layer of meat, but what you DON’T want is too much fat on the surface of the cut on the layer below the skin. Too much of that fat will absorb the smoke and block it from infusing the actual meat. If there is a thick layer of fat, trim it down so there is no more than ¼ inch of fat above the muscle.
First things first.
Before you even put your meat on the grill, it’s important that your meat be as cold as possible (without it being frozen of course).
Well the theory (sorry, we haven’t funded a true scientific study on this) goes like this:
Since meat stops absorbing smoke at around 135°F internal temperature, then a colder slab of meat will take longer to reach that temperature, thus being under smoke longer and absorbing more smoke.
That’s the theory anyway. Next time try it for yourself and see if you get the results you want.
Mesquite and Hickory hardwoods tend to have a much more robust smoke flavor than the lighter fruitwoods or even the hardwood blends. If a stronger smoke flavor is what you desire, then use Mesquite for beef or chicken, and Hickory for pork.
As your auger feeds pellets into the burn pot, temps may swing above and below your set temperature, which is perfectly normal. That is how the smoke is produced after all, but your grill shouldn’t be set above 225°F until your meat has reached 135°F. At that point, it has stopped absorbing smoke, and you’re free to turn up the temp if needed. It’s okay to leave it at 225°F and cook until it reaches your desired internal temperature as well. It will depend on your recipe and what you are cooking.
Some say it is safe to set your grill at 250°F and even 275°F and you can still get smoke, but in our experience, if you want that nice, thin blue smoke, then 225°F or below is the way to go. Which brings me to tip #5....
If you see a large amount of dense, white smoke billowing from your grill, then you are not achieving the type of smoke you need for amazing smoke flavor. The whitish-grey smoke, also known as creosote , is the result of incomplete combustion of wood and can make your food taste burnt or bitter.
What you DO want is a nice, almost clear “blue” smoke emanating from your grill. Over time this is the type of smoke that will give your food that amazing smoke flavor. Also keep in mind that your pellet grill doesn’t need to be smoking the entire time it is cooking. There should be a nice, casual dance between smoke and air that kisses your meat and seasons it as it cooks. Just like with too much spice, too much smoke can ruin your food.
This is more for the beginner, but any time you want to “smoke” your food, it should be done without it being in direct contact with the flame. Too much contact with the flame will cause the surface temperature of the meat to rise too fast and lock out the smoke from infusing with the meat. Remember, smoke your meat low and slow with the Flame Broiler Plate closed.
Stop peaking at your meat! It’s not going to cook any faster, so you might as well set a timer and go inside or whatever it is you need to do.
Don’t worry, it’ll be there when you get back.
For larger pieces of meat like a Brisket or Pork Shoulder, there can be a period where the meat’s internal temperature just seems to stop rising. Some people panic and decide to do what is known as the Texas Crutch. This is where you wrap your meat in foil and throw it back on the grill in hopes that the steam will cook the meat faster. The problem can be that the steam melts off some of that delicious and smoky bark that has developed while it was bare naked on the grill.
Instead, try to spritz or mop a small amount of a liquid every half hour to hour during the stall and just wait it out. In our opinion, a great bark is worth the wait.
The longer your meat rests, the more time all those smoky juices have a chance to settle back into the meat. If you slice it too soon, the juices will spill out onto the plate or carving block and you’ll lose a ton of flavor.
If you need to, you can wrap your meat in butcher paper or foil and then wrap that in a towel. Then place it in a cooler where it can rest safely for a few hours.
If you’ve tried these steps and still can’t get enough of that intense smoky flavor, you can always try an A-MAZE-N Smoker Tube or Maze. Fill one with some pellets, light at one end and set alongside your meat on the grill. Your grill will fill up with smooth blue smoke for hours while your meat cooks, giving it even MORE robust flavor.
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