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Old 06-30-2011, 06:25 PM   #1
Cabin Fever
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Join Date: 06-23-11
Location: Orange, VA
Question Smoke flavor from pellet grills?

I've been browsing a few different pellet grill forums trying to learn as much about them as I can, but one thing that isn't talked about much is smoke flavor. What little I have been able to find on the subject seems to break down into three different opinions.

1. Zero smoke flavor at all even when something is cooked for hours on "smoke mode".

2. Just barely a hint of smoke which most describe more as a wood fired taste than a smoky taste.

3. They provide plenty of smoke flavor with some owners even saying that food smoked on their pellet grill tastes the same as food from their stick burner.

I'm asking this because if I was to buy a pellet pooper, 99% of the time I would use it as a smoker and keep the old propane grill around for steaks/burgers/dogs. Are there any pellet grill owners out there who can shine a little light on this subject? I'd really appreciate it folks.
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Old 06-30-2011, 06:35 PM   #2
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This whole discussion is a matter of taste and expectations.

Folks who are used to heavily smoked meats from a stickburner say "no flavor".

I have been pure pellets since 2007 with the FEC 100 and the Traeger.

My smoke flavor is plenty enough to please most people, including a lot of comp judges.

Other peoples opinion will do you no good whatsoever.
Find someone who knows how to cook on a pellet machine and make up your own mind.

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Old 06-30-2011, 06:46 PM   #3
is one Smokin' Farker
Join Date: 05-31-08
Location: Tucson, AZ

I've had a Traeger for many years and now also an FEC100. I've had a Klose stickburner, I own two WSM's so I've tried it all. I love the pellet smokers for the ease of use and consistensy. The pellet smokers make a milder smoke product that I think is just right. It is too easy to oversmoke meat on a WSM and especially the stickburners. The rule of thumb with the pellet smokers is that the lower heat setting you use the heavier the smoke because they burn much cleaner at high heat. You will have much more smoke at 225 degrees than cranking it up to 325 or higher. You also have an option if you want a little heavier smoke to smoke for a few hours at a very low temp like 170 degrees then up it to your cooking temperature. Nothing you would do would normally oversmoke meat except for chicken which is a good thing. Also, using Hickory or Mesquite will give a stronger smoke flavor than say Apple or Oak.
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Old 06-30-2011, 06:48 PM   #4
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I have three Traeger's and as said above, it depends on your taste. The flavored pellets don't seem to make a big difference from one to the other as far as taste, but in my experience, they do impart a very nice light smoke flavor. Very easy to use and I have no complaints.

If I want a "heavier" smoke flavor, I use my Big Green Egg or Weber Smokey Mountain. The plus on these two is that you can regulate the smokiness whereas you can't with the pellet grills. Hope this helps!
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Old 06-30-2011, 07:15 PM   #5
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I use a Memphis Pro and really love it. It smokes at 180 degrees and up... and also grills at 650F.

The smoke flavor is lighter than my horizontal wood burner, drum or block pit but it's still there.
Here are a couple of pork butts I smoked not long ago..

I really love the thing.

I forgot to mention... Brethren Big Poppa has a great selection of smokers if you're interested..
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Old 06-30-2011, 08:44 PM   #6
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The smoke flavor is lighter than an offset or a vertical like a Backwoods or similar, but as Tim said, a lot of people and judges like it. I've been using an FEC-100 for four years and a Memphis Pro for two years and love them both. I also had a chance to taste food from a Jambo pit recently and I was surprised at how similar it was to the food from my FEC-100. I think the fire in the FEC and the Jambo burns so cleanly that you get a lighter, cleaner smoke.

But, the best thing is for you to try it yourself. Maybe you can find a Brethren member near you who will let you come by and taste the food off of a pellet smoker. That way you can tell for yourself.
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Old 06-30-2011, 10:54 PM   #7
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We use a MAK and I think we get the smoke flavor no problem - it's just not a heavy smoke. And the smoke ring is there, there's no denying it. And we love the consistency that comes with our MAK, which allows for some sleep!
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Old 07-01-2011, 06:14 AM   #8
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What it boils down to is your personal taste for smokiness in your meat. If you want/need heavy smoke you won't be happy with a pellet cooker. Good pellet cookers, fueled with good quality cooking pellets produce excellent smoke at low temperatures, but not intense, acrid smoke. This goes well if you like to taste a BALANCED combination of the meat flavor, the spicing (rub, sauce, injection, mop, etc.) and the cooking method (smoking).

I've had the exact meat, prepared exactly the same way, then cooked in an FEC100 and a Jambo side-by-side. No significant differences at all.

Major Point: If you get a pellet cooker, take your time learning it and adapt your recipes and methods to its strong points. This takes a little time but is really fun learning because you get to eat your tests! If you do this, you'll be loving the reliability and ease of cooking maintenance pellet cookers provide. If, on the other hand, you have to have heavy smoke, you'll either need charcoal and chunks or a stick burner.
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Old 07-01-2011, 07:56 AM   #9
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Pellets burn cleaner, pretty simple. It's food grade wood pellet, no creosote taste. The majority of pellets, aside from gourmet pure pellets are made from a base of the most prevalent pellet from their region. Traegers are mostly alder in the northwest. I get outstanding flavor from mine all the time. Smoker bias and brand bashing are common in bbq, we all know that. It helps people deal with cognitive dissonance.
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Old 07-01-2011, 10:47 AM   #10
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I had pulled pork from a pellet pooper (catered) the same weekend I cooked a couple of butts on my WSM using hickory chunks. Hard to compare since I don't know how it was prepared (rub, injection?), but mine definitely had more smoke flavor. Not better, just different.
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Old 07-01-2011, 02:10 PM   #11
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I know that smoke ring has nothing in the world to do with smoke flavor.

But, here is a brisket cooked for my son in early June on my FEC100.

It was "dry" but that was my fault and I fixed it before vacumn sucking.

Attached Images
File Type: jpg brisket.jpg (39.0 KB, 486 views)
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Former owner of a WSM, a Smokey Joe, a Charbroil Commercial gasser (junk), the legendary "StudeDera", a FEC100, a Fast Eddy PG500, and Sherman the Wonder Trailer.
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Old 07-03-2011, 11:00 PM   #12
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All you need you need to do is add a few large cans, with charcoal and wood chunks in it.. toss it on the bottom the fec and sit back. You will be surprised how much more flavor comes through,
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Old 06-15-2013, 12:35 PM   #13
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Haltech, I just bought a used FEC100 pellet smoker. I've been cooking on a Lang 60 for years and have developed a consistent flavor profile I like for my pulled pork. My first cook on the FEC 100 was disappointing. I love the ease of use, but the flavor was nowhere near what I get on my Lang. You posted about putting cans of charcoal and wood chunks in the bottom which improved flavor. Would you mind elaborating on that some? How many cans and what size? Any other help would be appreciated.
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Old 06-15-2013, 12:47 PM   #14
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Just put a piece of wood on the top edge of the firepot. It should help.
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Old 06-15-2013, 03:30 PM   #15
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I lovesors my FEC-100. I also wanted the ability if i so chose to get some additional smoke flavor into my product.

I made the easiest addition of all time and put a little expanded metal on the firebox using the existing screws. I have zero-point-zero-zero metal working skills and I was able to cut it with my dremmel.

Here's what it looks like. Similar modifications can likely be made to most pellet poopers if you want some extra smoke or you can always use a smoke box, foil pouch etc.

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