Imagine taking a bite of perfectly smoked brisket, the flavors exploding in your mouth. But what’s the secret to achieving that mouthwatering taste?
It’s all in the smoking process. The key to achieving a perfect dense smoke flavor is by using only the best quality, freshest, and purest wood pellets.
Do you find yourself wondering if can you leave pellets in the hopper? If so, you’re not alone.
In this grillcuisines.com guide, we’ll cover:
- Can you leave pellets in hopper or dump them between cooks?
- How long can pellets stay in hopper
- Factors that affect the decision to keep pellets in the hopper and much more!
Table of Contents
How Wood Pellets Are Made?
Wood pellets used in pellet grills are made by compressing sawdust, wood shavings, or other wood waste materials at high pressure.
Most of the time no chemical binder is added to them. The process is known as pelletizing, which involves heating and compressing the wood waste until it forms small, cylindrical pellets.
The first step in pelletizing involves collecting and sorting the raw wood materials.
The materials are then ground into a fine powder, dried, and then passed through a pellet mill. In the pellet mill, the wood powder is exposed to high pressure and heat, causing the natural lignin in the wood to melt and bind the material together.
Now the wood pellets are cut into the desired length and cooled.
The resulting wood pellets are uniform in size and shape, making them easy to handle and transport. They are also highly energy-dense and burn cleanly, making them an ideal fuel source for pellet grills and other biomass heating applications.
The quality of wood pellets can vary depending on the type of wood used and the manufacturing process.
Premium wood pellets are typically made from hardwoods, such as oak or hickory, and have a low moisture content, ensuring consistent burning and minimal ash production.
Cheaper wood pellets may be made from softwoods, such as pine or spruce, and may contain higher levels of moisture or impurities, which can affect their performance.
Leaving Pellets In Grill/Smoker Hopper
Wood pellets are processed from sawdust, wood shaving, and chip, they do not behave the same way as unprocessed wood.
Unlike natural wood, which has a high moisture content, wood pellets are typically manufactured with a moisture content below 10%, which makes them highly energy-dense and stable.
This low moisture content also means that wood pellets are highly susceptible to moisture damage.
For example, if an unprocessed piece of wood gets wet, it will swell and not lose its form. Wood pellets are only fit for use if they don’t get wet. Once pellets are wet or dampened, they will turn back into sawdust and be unusable.
Therefore moisture is the number one enemy to any wood pellets because it can not only ruin the pellets but also damage your pellet grill/smoker.
Also, leaving unused pellets in the hopper can decay, moldy, and become a breeding ground for pests such as mice or insects.
Related > > How To Clean Mold Off My Grill – Best Way
If water gets into the hopper, pellets will absorb the moisture. This could lead to some serious problems. As pellets absorb moisture, they become damp and start to expand, and can block or jam the auger. Usually, there won’t be a problem with it. You’ll just have to spend a bit of time cleaning it before you can use the pellet grill/smoker again.
Can You Leave Pellets In Hopper or Dump them Between Cooks?
Most people are unsure about this question and there are two schools of thought: leaving pellets in the hopper or dumping them out between cooks.
Leaving your pellets in the hopper between cooks is usually not a problem as long as it’s not for extended periods of time. Traeger Grills estimates that you can leave pellets in a pellet smoker for up to one week when the smoker should stay in a dry, safe, and secure place. Even though you can leave the wood pellets in the hopper between cooks to save time, dumping them out after each cook is a more popular strategy. This will elevate both the quality of the pellets and your pellet grill.
How Long Can Pellets Stay In Hopper?
How long can you leave pellets in hopper? The length of time that pellets can stay in a hopper depends on various factors, such as the type of pellets, the size of the hopper, and the environmental conditions.
I’ve included excerpts from official advice from pellet grill and smoker manufacturers Traeger and Pitboss.
Can you leave pellets in Traeger?
Are you wondering Can I leave pellets in the Traeger hopper?
Then acccording to Traegergrills.com
‘Before you grill, always remember to remove the pellets from the hopper. If you’ll be away for an extended period of time, you’ll want to replace them so they’re fresh when you get back.‘
According to Pitboss pellet grill
‘‘Leaving unused pellets in the hopper can lead them to rot. They are exposed to the elements of your outdoor environment. Always empty hopper after each cook and store any leftover pellets in a secure, sealed container. This way, your pellets are less likely to go stale or create jams with the auger.’
The above quote shows a little bit of a difference between the two pieces of advice. Pit Boss recommends emptying the hopper after each cook.
Over time, these pellets might absorb moisture from the environment, leading to poor performance and even potential damage to your grill. Moisture absorbed by the pellets can cause them to swell, leading to hopper jams or other damage to your Traeger grill. So it is always recommended to empty Traeger hopper.
Related > > Wood Pellet Storage Ideas [5 Tips For Storage]
How Long Do Pellets Last in a Pellet Grill?
The lifespan of pellets in a pellet grill depends on various factors:
- Cooking Temperature: Higher temperatures burn pellets faster. Cooking at lower temperatures extends pellet life.
- Grill Size: Larger grills may consume more pellets due to their size and heating capacity.
- Hopper Capacity: The size of your hopper determines how many pellets it can hold and thus how long they last.
Generally, a standard hopper (around 18 lbs capacity) on a pellet grill running at moderate temperatures can last anywhere from 10 to 20 hours.
Here is a sample pellet consumption chart.
Do You Keep Your Pellets In The Hopper Between Uses?
Whether to keep the pellets in the hopper between uses or the length of time wood pellets can be stored in the hopper depends on a few important factors.
1. The time between cooks
If you’re confident you’ll be using your grill next week, you can store the pellets inside the hopper. Just make sure to cover the grill.
When you shop for a cover for your grill, make sure it’s the right size and made from strong, waterproof material. It can be made of heavy canvas that snugly fits your grill.
Store your pellet grill undercover and outside of the weather. If you can’t store it under a veranda or in a garage, then make sure it is at least under some sort of cover.
Wood pellets lose their quality after about two months of being stored. You won’t be able to use them as the right kind of fuel and will have to buy a new batch, wasting your time and money.
2. The quality of your pellets
Always use 100% pure wood pellets. The best smoking pellets often contain natural hardwood, which strengthens dries them, and helps them resist moisture.
Best wood smoking pellets will ensure your next cooking session is a success. The decision to go with the best wood smoking pellets is sure to change the way you cook forever.
These pellets offer a higher heat than most and will provide you with more smoke, taste, and flavor.
3. How well you’ve stored your pellet grill
Covering your pellet grill and storing it in a shaded area will significantly prolong the amount of time you can keep your pellets in the grill.
Storing your pellet grill in a dry spot in your garage or shed, and using quality wood pellets, you can leave the pellet in the hopper for much longer.
4. General Climate
Humid climates are more vulnerable to moisture so it’s always recommended to remove the pellet after each cook.
If you’re not going to be using your smoker anytime soon, you should empty hopper before storing it. Most pellet smokers have a small door on the bottom of their hopper, which you can easily open to get rid of the pellets.
Get a large food-grade plastic bucket and place it under the latch before opening it. When the pellet hopper is empty, seal the bucket tightly to avoid getting any moisture inside.
Do You Need To Empty The Auger?
While clearing the hopper does get most of the pellets out, you also need to check the auger. Actually, it’s not a big deal if you are using the grill regularly and you never empty the pellet hopper or clear the Auger.
However, if you know you won’t be smoking for the next few months then it will be worth emptying the auger since it is such a quick & easy process.
You can also use a vacuum or a small pellet scoop to remove any residual pellets from the hopper. I like to use a Snow Joe ash vacuum and this pellet scoop to empty the hopper.
Once the hopper is empty, run the grill on low heat until you can see pellets stop coming into the firepot. Switch it off ASAP and you’ll be done.
Conclusions: Can I Leave Pellets In The Hopper
Overall, it is recommended to empty and clean the hopper after every use to ensure that the pellets remain fresh and to prevent any buildup of debris or dust in the hopper that could cause issues.
Leaving pellets in the hopper can lead to a number of problems. The pellets can become damp and ruin your pellet grill. Another problem is that the pellets can create an attractant for pests which will then damage other goods as well.
Do you have to empty pellets in a Traeger grill?
Yes, it is recommended to empty the pellet hopper of a Traeger grill when you’re done cooking.
To empty the pellet hopper, simply remove any remaining pellets and store them in a dry, airtight container for future use.
You can also use a vacuum or a small pellet scoop to remove any residual pellets from the hopper.
Related >> How often do you Vacuum your pellet grill?(3 BEST PELLET GRILL VACUUM)
How to empty Traeger hopper?
Emptying the hopper on your Traeger grill is a straightforward process that can be completed in a few simple steps. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to empty your Traeger hopper safely and effectively:
Gather Essential Materials:
Before you begin, ensure you have a suitable bucket or container to collect the pellets, a shop vac or broom for cleaning, and a wet-dry vacuum for thorough cleaning (if desired).
Turn Off the Grill: Safety first! Always turn off the grill and allow it to cool completely before attempting to empty the hopper. This prevents accidental burns or pellet ignition.
Locate the Hopper Cleanout Door:
On most Traeger models, there is a dedicated hopper cleanout door at the back of the grill. Open the door to access the pellets.
Place the bucket or container directly under the hopper cleanout door. Using a gloved hand or a scoop, carefully remove the pellets from the hopper and transfer them to the container.
Vacuum Remaining Pellets: For a more thorough cleaning, use a shop vac or broom to remove any remaining pellets from the hopper, auger tube, and surrounding areas.
Wipe Down the Hopper: For a deeper clean, wipe down the inside of the hopper with a damp cloth to remove any dust or debris.
Close the Hopper Cleanout Door: Once the hopper is empty and clean, securely close the hopper cleanout door to prevent pellet spills and maintain optimal grill performance.
Dispose of Pellets Properly: Dispose of the used pellets responsibly, either by composting them or using them as garden mulch. Do not place them in your regular household trash.
I hope this post has helped you. Yes, I have been able to offer some help with other questions that are similar to those you’ve been asking.
I’ve also been working on answering other common questions like:
I am a writer, editor, and publisher of Grillcuisines.com – an online blog dedicated to sharing grilling tips, accessories, and recipes to encourage more people to get outside and grill.
I’m off to find out the different types of grill foods, their seasons, and how to conduct outdoor cooking properly. I’ll also show you some of my grill-worthy cooking tools & accessories!