If you are like me, you’re used to smoke being a prominent flavor in your final product. Mesquite smoker pellets can typically be way too strong, but lucky for us, pellet pits by their very nature produce a gentler smoke flavor profile. I have found that Mesquite in a pellet smoker grill is awesome and it has become my go-to.
Hickory is strong, but not as strong as Mesquite but I recommend it for much the same reasons as I recommend Mesquite.
Cherry & Apple
I know, I know I listed two here. It’s because I use them interchangeably, but if I had to pick just one, I’d pick Cherry. It’s widely known for producing a great smoke ring and great color on your meat, but is still very, very mild.
Last but not least, Pecan. I love Pecan. Pecan is just a fantastic mix of what Hickory can do but with a nice vanilla, nutty finish. Pecan to me is what good bourbon is to most other folks. It hits all the same flavor notes and is so palatable that it suites all occasions. Rather than using Oak, I find Pecan works in its place.
One flavor is great for the backyard, but during competition, I’ll mix two pellet tastes. I love taking 6lbs of Mesquite pellets and mixing them with 4lbs of Cherry pellets. This mellows the Mesquite just a bit yet gives me the smoke ring and color benefits of Cherry.
Choose for You
So which should you choose? Well, I first and foremost recommend everyone experimenting to find what works best for you. That said, here is a list of what I like to use when cooking various things at home:
- Burgers / Brats – Hickory, Mesquite or Pecan – You want to hit the burgers with as much smoke flavor as possible since it is a shorter cook time.
- Pork Ribs – Cherry or Mesquite
- Pulled Pork – I really like Pecan here, but Cherry, Hickory, Apple and Mesquite would be great as well
- Brisket – Mesquite and Hickory – When it comes to big, beautiful beef, go strong with flavors
- Chicken – Pecan, Apple and Cherry – Chicken is not a very strongly flavored meat so you can go lighter
- Veggies – Hickory and Mesquite – Again, it’s a short cook time so I like stronger flavored woods here like
- Steaks – Pecan, Hickory, or Mesquite.
- Salmon – Apple and Cherry, or in a pinch, Pecan
- Whole Turkey – Cherry and Apple over Mesquite – If you are serving this for Thanksgiving, I wouldn’t go super heavy with smoke flavor here
- Pizzas – Pecan
When In Doubt, Foil It Out
What do you do when you only have a strong-flavored pellet but don’t want to over-flavor the meat? Solve it by the old Texas Crutch a.k.a. wrapping with aluminum foil. Many times I’ve wrapped meat once I was happy with the color or to keep the meat from taking on more smoke than desired. It’s a great technique.
You do what works for you and what creates the best results. People will remember the meal, the flavors, and the fellowship, not what pellet flavor you chose.
Remember the first rule of your barbecue – it’s YOUR barbecue.