9 Best Wood Pellets For Smoking – Reviews & Buying Guide

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Last Updated on January 25, 2021

wood pellets

Smoking with wood is the best way to do it, and pellet grills are by my estimation the best way to smoke with wood. The simplicity and ease of use can’t be overstated, and nor can the wide availability of quality wood pellets as opposed to chips (which can be hard to find) or charcoal (good charcoal is even harder, and not as flavorful).

But what kinds of wood pellets are there? And what makes them so good? Well, let’s take a look.

Traeger Signature Blend

Our Top Choice...

Key Features

  • Wood type: blend of cherry, maple, and hickory woods
  • Blend flavoring: strong, sweet, and smoky
  • Optimal pairings: almost any kind of meat or vegetables
  • Total weight: 20 lbs.

For the complete product list, please continue reading...


  Top 9 Best Wood Pellets (2021 Reviews)

1. Traeger Signature Blend Wood Pellets

Pros

Delicious blend of three popular woods
Great quality hardwood pellets produce a thick and clean smoke
Flavor blend works well with pretty much any kind of meat, and even vegetables
Great price for the amount and quality

Cons

Many users report issues with shipping

Specifications:

  • Wood type: blend of cherry, maple, and hickory woods
  • Blend flavoring: strong, sweet, and smoky
  • Optimal pairings: almost any kind of meat or vegetables
  • Total weight: 20 lbs.

It’s easy to see why this is Traeger’s signature blend of woods. It is a great mix of three different kinds of hardwoods, and while it plays it safe (using versatile, popular woods) it’s hard to fault the results.

Cherry, maple, and hickory woods combine in this blend for a sweet and savory flavor that goes perfectly with just about anything. While it excels with fatty cuts (and so goes quite well with pork of all kinds and beef ribs especially), it tastes if nothing else acceptable on anything you smoke with it, from fish to vegetables to more standard smoking targets.

The quality of the wood itself is of course quite nice, hardwood that produces a thick and delicious smoke.

The price for the amount and quality you get is quite great, with the only issue being a supply chain one. Many people report issues with shipping for this product, though they do seem to be easily resolved by customer service, it’s still quite a hassle.


2. Traeger Mesquite Wood Pellets

Pros

Excellent smoky flavor goes well with beef, fish, and poultry
Great price for the quality
Good sized bag
Versatile wood can serve as a core component of many wood blends, for home brewing

Cons

Not a great wood to use for vegetables or lighter flavored meats
Mesquite has a very distinct, powerful flavor and you can get tired of it easily

Specifications:

  • Wood type: mesquite
  • Wood flavoring: powerful and earthy
  • Optimal pairings: beef, poultry, and fish
  • Total weight: 20 lbs.

This is a great bag full of mesquite wood pellets. The pellets themselves are quite high quality, producing a thick and flavorful smoke that works well with a variety of meats. Mesquite is a classic smoking wood for a lot of reasons, flavorful enough to carry a recipe on its own without being part of the blend.

In particular, mesquite is absolutely perfect for steak. It produces a savory, smoky flavor that is what many people associate with specific recipes. Primarily, mesquite is a staple of Southwestern style foods; Tex-mex and the like, so is perfect for making your fajitas and similar foods really pop.

In most wood blends, mesquite is a dominant flavor (though the same can be said for hickory, if it’s present instead of or in addition to mesquite). 

Mesquite is not one of those woods I’d use EVERY single time I smoke, but it’s a great wood to have around as something you’ll frequently use for a lot of dishes, and can serve as the core of a whole lot of wood blends, if you want to experiment with creating your own master blend.


3. Traeger Hickory Wood Pellets

Pros

Classic smoky flavor most people associate with barbeque and smoked meats in the first place
Great starter wood
Can serve as the backbone of a ton of great wood blends
Great price and amount for the quality
Versatile wood is good for almost any food

Cons

Can be a bit too strong and distinct of a flavor for lighter meats like most seafood or lamb

Specifications:

  • Wood type: hickory
  • Wood flavoring: savory and smoky
  • Optimal pairings: beef, poultry, pork, vegetables
  • Total weight: 20 lbs.

Hickory could be considered the be all, end all of smoking woods. When most people think of the flavor of smoked meat, their general imaginings are probably going to involve hickory. The use of the wood is so ubiquitous that it’s become that deeply associated with smoking in general, and the word “smoky” is often (perhaps erroneously, even if the description fits) used to describe things that taste like hickory, even when the description wouldn’t be used for other woods.

To that end it’s easy to see why you’d want to keep a bag of hickory pellets around to use in your pellet smoker. It’s an “easy wood”, but that’s not necessarily a problem. It’s a wood you can safely throw in your hopper, let it go, and be assured that pretty much whatever you put in there with it is going to come out smoky and delicious.

It can also serve as the backbone of a lot of wood blends, so much like mesquite if you’re planning to make a blend hickory is a good place to start, and is usually better to be the majority share of the wood.

The only issue might come in if you decide to use it for more delicate foods. Lamb and seafood tend to get completely drowned out by the flavor of hickory, so it’s probably best to hold off if you want to smoke most fish (though will be fine for salmon or particularly meaty and strong flavored fish like it).


4. Traeger Apple Wood Pellets

Pros

Perfect flavoring for anything that pairs with sweet flavors
Versatile in use for the most part
Great quality wood
Good price for the quality and amount

Cons

Not good for beef or other strong flavored foods that don’t take to fruit flavors well

Specifications:

  • Wood type: apple
  • Wood flavoring: sweet and fruity
  • Optimal pairings: poultry, pork, vegetables, baked goods
  • Total weight: 20 lbs.

Apple wood is popular for a lot of things, and for good reason. Fruit woods in general keep a distinct fruity flavor, without being overwhelmingly so. Apple wood gives the IMPRESSION of something tasting like apples without making your meat taste like it would be right at home in a flaky crust with some cinnamon and sugar.

Particularly, apple wood is great for pork, hence the huge popularity and availability of applewood smoked bacon. But, it’s quite good for other things as well. I don’t particularly like apple wood for beef, but when it comes to chicken and vegetables, it makes an excellently versatile wood for smoking all sorts of your favorites.

Use your best judgement, overall. Anything that sounds like it might taste good with something sweet and fruity should be good. As a rule of thumb, if you wouldn’t balk at using honey to flavor it as part of some sort of glaze, any kind of fruit wood should be perfectly fine when paired with it.


5. Traeger Cherry Wood Pellets

Pros

Versatile flavoring works with almost anything
Sweet and fruity, but subtle enough to pair well with stronger flavors in both meat and other woods
Great quality for the price and quantity
Perfect wood to experiment with

Cons

While versatile, is the kind of flavor you can get tired of quickly, unlike hickory, so is poor as a solo purchase

Specifications:

  • Wood type: cherry
  • Wood flavoring: sweet and fruity
  • Optimal pairings: beef, poultry, pork, lamb, baked goods
  • Total weight: 20 lbs.

Of the fruity woods, cherry is my favorite. In general, I just have a thing for cherries. Cherry barbeque sauce is one of my favorites, and cherry wood pairs perfectly with something like that, giving it an extra cherry kick.

However, even if you don’t use fruity sauces like that, cherry wood is a good one to keep on hand. Of the fruit woods it’s simply the most versatile, and while it won’t serve as the backbone or core component of most wood blends, like hickory or mesquite, it does serve well to complement those stronger, more savory flavors and give the taste a lot more character than it would otherwise have.

Cherry wood is also notable in that it pairs well with most meats, unlike a lot of fruit woods that need a lighter flavor to mesh well with. Cherry wood smoked beef is to die for, and that’s something I would not say about any experiments you might try with apple wood instead.

This particular batch of cherry wood pellets is good, as are all of the Traeger pellets we’ve covered. It’s good solid hardwood that burns light and well, lasts a long time, and creates the flavor it’s supposed to based on its wood. The price is good, and the amount you get for it is plenty for most purposes, though you’d probably be better off buying two of some of these more common woods if you intend to experiment with a variety of blends.


6. Traeger Alder Wood Pellets

Pros

Versatile and works well with any kind of meat and most other things
Light and subtle flavor compliments but does not cover over the component flavors of what you’re cooking
Great quality pellets
Good price for the quality and amount

Cons

Wood has a very light flavoring, so doesn’t bring much to the table as a solo act on anything with a lot of inherent flavor

Specifications:

  • Wood type: alder
  • Wood flavoring: light and subtly sweet
  • Optimal pairings: beef, poultry, pork, fish, baked goods, vegetables
  • Total weight: 20 lbs.

Alder is an interesting wood. In some ways it is as recognizable and iconic as hickory or mesquite; alder makes a common component in many wood blends, bringing a light and almost refreshing flavor to the smoke that’s hard to describe.

On its own, it pairs well with lighter flavors that can compliment its own. In terms of meats, that means white fish, salmon, chicken, and pork. It’s not too shabby on beef either, if you want something that smokes well but doesn’t really add a flavor, just bringing out the inherent qualities of the meat.

In terms of other complimentary flavors, think citrus, and other refreshing and tangy flavors that can provide a flavor the wood won’t.

If you smoke a lot of fish, you won’t go amiss getting a big bag of good quality alder wood like this. However, this is a wood I would strongly recommend you only get once you’ve loaded up on the more general use, highly flavorful woods.


7. Louisiana Grills Georgia Pecan Wood Pellets

Pros

Versatile and usable for almost any kind of food
Very tasty, with a less in your face flavor than hickory, but strong enough to flavor strong meats
Great quality wood for the price and amount

Cons

Less powerful flavor means it won’t have as satisfying results on beef

Specifications:

  • Wood type: Georgia pecan
  • Wood flavoring: smoky, savory, and subtly sweet
  • Optimal pairings: beef, poultry, pork, lamb, baked goods, vegetables
  • Total weight: 20 lbs.

Pecan wood is a strange one, compared to certain others. Much like hickory or mesquite, it makes a good wood to use in a solo act, or as part of a blend of milder woods. On the flavor spectrum it falls somewhere between fruit woods and the more savory ones mentioned above, but by no means is the flavor mild or bland as a result; it’s simply versatile and pairs well with just about anything you’d care to mention, save maybe seafood (but even some kind of fish should be quite good with it).

The quality of the wood is excellent, and made from Georgia Pecan trees; they produce probably the best pecans around, and the wood is similarly top notch.

If you want something a little more out of the ordinary than hickory, that you can use as your go to smoking wood, this is a great candidate. Tasty, versatile, and reasonably priced is about as good as it gets.


8. Louisiana Grills Tennessee Whiskey Barrel Wood Pellets

Pros

Delicious smoky sweet flavor is excellent on a lot of stuff
Works great both alone and as part of a blend
Great quality and price for the amount

Cons

Distinctive flavor makes it harder to pair with other woods for blending, so it’s a bit harder to experiment with

Specifications:

  • Wood type: oak from aged whiskey barrels
  • Wood flavoring: deep, rich, and sweet
  • Optimal pairings: beef, poultry, lamb, stronger fish (like salmon)
  • Total weight: 20 lbs.

Oak is a good, reliable wood for cooking most things. Much like pecan, it falls somewhere on the spectrum between the intense flavors of hickory or mesquite, and the sweet, fruity flavors of cherry and apple (or other fruit woods), though with less of its own unidentifiable panache as that wood.

Oak is therefore generally not great as a solo act, excelling mostly as part of some kind of blend.

However, this specifically is made from whiskey barrels, and that changes things somewhat. The Louisiana Grills tennessee wood pellets here retain a ton of the flavor of that whiskey that has soaked into the wood throughout the years the aging process requires. As a result, the flavor of the oak is amped with the taste of Tennessee whiskey, which is relatively similar to bourbon. This oak is therefore a lot sweeter than the flavor you’ll usually get from oak.

In terms of versatility it’s a bit limited, but when it’s good it’s quite good. You’ll find it to be excellent with beef steaks, salmon, and other strong flavors, though it will fall down a bit with, say, vegetables or weaker flavored foods like most white fish.


9. Traeger Texas Beef Wood Pellets

Pros

Amazing and powerful flavor perfectly draws out the natural strengths of beef
High quality Texas native hardwoods
Great price and quality

Cons

Highly specialized for smoking and grilling beef. Not recommended for anything else

Specifications:

  • Wood type: blend of oak, mesquite, and pecan
  • Wood flavoring: strong and smoky
  • Optimal pairings: beef (only)
  • Total weight: 20 lbs.

Another blend, this time specialized for cooking beef. Consisting of a mix of oak, mesquite, and pecan, it is a mélange of three savory and lightly sweet woods that complement each other’s flavors perfectly, resulting in a flavor that’s hard to describe unless you’ve had it before.

As the name implies, this is a mix of hardwoods native to Texas, and is a blend of woods used all over the state to impart that distinctive flavor that makes Texas barbeque stand out just as much as other traditions in places like the Carolinas.

It’s well worth trying out, or picking up a bag if you know you like it, but does come with some drawbacks. Namely, this is a blend that is highly specialized to wring out the best flavors from a cut of beef and enhance, not overpower the strong flavors of it. As a result, while usable for other things…it’s not exactly ideal as a wood to use for cooking your favorite chicken dish, as an example.


Final Verdict

Traeger Signature Blend

All of these wood pellets are great alternatives for those who use lump charcoals for grilling. They represent a variety of different delicious and highly versatile woods that are comparable only to the top quality charcoal briquettes. All are pretty much the same price and weight, leaving only the individual woods (or blends, in two cases) to differentiate them, giving a perfect comparison ground.

To that end, I think the Traeger Signature Blend is the best option, but it was a hard choice. Ultimately the tipping point was versatility. Two major factors: how many foods can I use this on, and how often can I use it without getting tired of it? The blend ultimately came out the best in those two comparisons, so if you only buy one, it’s the one I’ll put my money on.

However, all of these are worth buying in their own way, and whenever you’re looking to change things up with a different wood, they should represent a high quality option.


What to Look for in Great Wood Pellets

Good wood pellets should be made of wood. That is the primary factor for determining quality.

That sounds a bit overly simplistic, but it really is all that’s needed in a lot of ways. Wood pellets can often cut cost by using fillers; sawdust from softer woods, resins as a binding agent, that sort of thing.

A good wood pellet will be made purely from hardwood, pressurized to the point that it binds itself together using only the natural binding agent already found in the wood. All of the wood pellets on this list are made using that process, or a similar one, that ensures maximum quality,

Once you’ve narrowed it to those, you really just need to choose what kind of wood you want.

Wood pellets come in a variety of different flavors, just like wood chips. Any hardwood you’d care to cook with can be found, though for less commonly used ones like olive wood, peach wood, or similar you may need to do some searching.

But for the common woods, you’re pretty much golden.

The general rules here apply: match the wood to what you’re cooking or grilling. As a general rule of thumb, everything is good for chicken. Sweeter woods (fruit woods like apple and cherry, as well as others like maple) are better for pork, stronger flavored woods (like hickory and mesquite) are better for beef and salmon, and more neutral flavored woods (like alder or pecan) are good for a variety of purposes, and make a great “bridge” between flavors when you’re buying or making a blend of different woods.

Thankfully, if you’re not sure what you want off the top of your head, wood pellets tend to be fairly priced. You should expect to pay something on the order of $1 per pound, so you’re not out too much if a certain wood isn’t to your liking.