Mike Stines, the author of Mastering Barbecue, has written an introductory article on pellet smokers, the best thing that’s happened to smoking meat in decades. “Over the past 25 years or so there’s been a new sheriff in town when it comes to barbecue…pellet cookers,” he writes. “Pellet cookers use a power-driven auger to feed compressed wood pellets from a hopper into a burn pot that produces heat (and smoke) inside the cooking chamber. The auger is controlled by electronics that determine when more pellets and air flow are needed to hold the desired temperature. Unlike other smokers, pellet cookers will hold a set temperature without manual refueling as long as there are sufficient pellets in the feed hopper. Without pellets in the hopper, the auger will continue to run but the cooker won’t be producing any heat. Some units will sound an alarm if the pellet level in the hopper becomes too low, but most don’t—so they need to be occasionally monitored.”
I own a Yoder pellet smoker and since I’ve had it, I’ve smoked more meat in two years than in the previous twenty–they’re that good. In three and a half hours you can smoke enough ribs and chicken parts to last months. Mike’s full article is here.