Wood pellet grills are remarkably more efficient than traditional smokers. This is thanks to the way the internal auger feeds a carefully metered stream of wood pellets from the hopper to the internal fire pot. A small electric fan then helps the hot smoke waft up to the primary cooking chamber, while also ensuring that the burning wood pellets receive the oxygen they need to burn consistently.
When the weather starts to turn cold a lot of people with conventional smokers tend to put them away for the winter months. Most find that most conventional smokers don’t have the ability to maintain a consistent temperature and smoke density as the outside temperature dips down toward the freezing mark.
Cold outside temperatures, snow, and wind just end up stealing too much heat energy from the conventional smoker’s primary cooking chamber. You end up having to compensate by turning up the flame past the point of what most people would consider to be “Slow and Low.”
Though consistency, temperature regulation, automation, and the fact that a lot of the best models have double-walled construction might have you wondering if you can use your wood pellet grill in cold weather.
The good news is that a lot of high-quality wood pellet smokers like the Pit Boss Grills 77700 the Traeger Timberline 1300 and the Camp Chef Woodwind Classic have the Engineering, and material build quality to work in cold weather, better than most conventional smokers.
Though there are some important things you can do to optimize your wood pellet grill’s performance in cold weather.
Tip #1 Use a Grill Blanket
Wood pellet grill blankets serve multiple purposes when you want to grill or smoke meat in cold weather. This starts with providing a physical barrier that keeps things like snow and rain from touching the metal of the primary smoking chamber. A good grill blanket also makes it hard for cold winds to blow through seams in the wood pellet grill’s housing.
Grill blankets also help hold in the smoke which can seep out of the primary cooking chamber over time. This helps maximize smoke density inside the chamber which enhances the flavor of the meat.
Though the most important thing a grill blanket does for a wood pellet grill in cold weather is to help trap heat energy. The internal thermostat has an easier time maintaining a consistent flow of wood pellets to support a vigorous fire, and you have less risk of burning the exterior of the meat before the interior is done.
Some wood pellet grill manufacturers offer branded grill blankets that are designed to fit their most popular models perfectly. These are your best option. Though there are certainly some generic grill blankets out there that will do the trick.
Just keep in mind that there is a big difference between a grill cover and a grill blanket. Most grill covers are made from vinyl, PVC, and other materials that will melt or scorch when improvised as a grill blanket.
The Best Grill Blankets for a Wood Pellet Grill
Tip #2 Place Your Wood Pellet Grill Wisely
Even with a high-quality custom-insulated grill blanket in place wind, snow, and rain can still rob your wood pellet grill of heat in deeply cold conditions. Something as simple as positioning your wood pellet grill around the corner, out of the wind, or under a roof like a garage or a pergola can preserve 10 to 15% of its original thermal efficiency.
Tip #3 Adjust Your Wood Pellet Grill’s Auger Speed
Some newer wood pellet grills give you the ability to adjust the stream rate of the auger. You see this with a lot of Traeger wood pellet grills that let you adjust the P-setting. You can then decrease the amount of time the auger pauses when delivering the wood pellets from the auger to the fire pot. Though not all grills let you adjust the P-setting or the auger rate. So be sure to check your owner’s manual.
With a lot of Traeger wood pellet grills, you can adjust the P setting or “Pause Cycle” to get it to run a little hotter. The thing to keep in mind is that the lower the P-setting is the hotter your wood pellet grill will run. You can typically find the P-setting control button on the upper right corner of the control panel. It’s usually hidden a sticker next to the LED light, it might even say “Call Service.”
Carefully Peel back the sticker, which will expose a small hole, which conceals the P setting button. You just need to find something like a paper clip, or a micro-screwdriver, that will fit inside the tiny hole to press the button.
Keep an eye on the display screen. Every time you press the button it will take the P-setting up a notch until it reaches the highest setting and resets back to one or zero, which will be the shortest pause duration for the auger.
Tip #4 Use High-Quality Wood Pellets & Sift Them
Not all wood pellets are created equal. Some have higher heat potential, which helps them burn more vigorously in cold weather. Some have a higher percentage of named accent woods, or bark particles, which give you superior smoke density when using your wood pellet grill in cold weather.
Even with the highest-quality wood pellets, you still need to sift them before adding them to the pellet hopper. This will catch any stray wood dust or wood fibers that might be lingering in the bag. If too many fibers end up in the pellet hopper it can cause an auger jam.
During a longer, hotter grilling session the wood fibers could even start to smolder in the auger shaft causing a burn-back fire. Not only can this damage your wood pellet grill, but it can make it very hard to maintain the kind of consistency you need to run your wood pellet grill in cold weather.
The Best Wood Pellets For Smoking & Grilling in Cold Weather