To start using the grill, pour wood pellets into a hopper (pellets are usually are made from compressed sawdust). Press the start button to ignite the pellets, which are fed into the fire box with an auger, where a controlled number of pellets are lit and burned (depending on the temperature setting selected). The auger adjusts the number of pellets entering the fire box to maintain the desired temperature.

The online research, the model comparisons, the pricing—choosing the right pellet grill can be challenging, so much so that, by the time you settle on a grill, choosing smoker pellets often becomes an afterthought. While some people simply default to the wood pellets sold by their pellet grill manufacturer, too many others settle for the cheapest pellets available. Because, really, how much difference can the pellets make? A lot, actually.

Pellet grills preheat quickly, so you can start cooking almost immediately, and the pellets are available in a number of woods, for different smoke flavors. The smoke has a subtle wood-fired flavor with less of the acrid flavor that comes from standard wood or charcoal. For the maximum smoke flavor, it’s best to cook at a temperature lower than 250 degrees, while higher temperatures cook faster with less smoke.