‘Round the Table: A Pellet Grill Thrill

In 1985 Joe Traeger introduced the first pellet grill to the world. Since then the pellet grill has collected a huge cult following and as a result, pellet grills are now the hottest thing going as far as outdoor cooking. And rightly so, a good pellet grill will grill, roast, bake and smoke. It does not, however, wash dishes, which was slightly disappointing; I had high hopes.

Pellet grills are electric outdoor grills that are fueled by hardwood pellets. Pellets serve as both a fuel for cooking and smoke for enhancing flavor. Pellets are capsule sized bits made from compressed sawdust (and will revert to sawdust if they get wet). Unlike charcoal briquettes, they do not contain additives and fillers. Pellets come in many flavors, from hickory, oak and mesquite to fruitwoods such as apple and cherry. Pellets are inexpensive and burn cleanly.

Because these little backyard marvels combine the abilities of a grill, smoker and oven there is really no limit to the things you can cook on a pellet grill.  Obviously you can grill burgers and steaks, hot dogs, chicken and seafood. You can also smoke authentic barbeque like ribs, Boston butts or brisket. You can slow-roast or smoke a turkey; braise short ribs, bake a pizza and low and behold…you can make dessert. Chocolate chip cookies are a popular option, but really anything you can bake in the oven you can bake on a pellet grill.

You CAN bake cookies on a pellet grill. But SHOULD you? Give it a try and let me know your thoughts.

I have one of these little miracles in my backyard, so I got right down to work.  I thought hamburgers or even steak would be easy enough, so I decided to try something new. In the end I decided to make Jambalaya, Mexican Cornbread, Smoked Salmon and Chocolate Chip Cookies on my pellet grill.

The Jambalaya and Mexican cornbread were fantastic but the Smoked Salmon was the run-away winner of this little experiment. The chocolate chip cookies did bake, but in the end I decided they were overrated and I think I’ll stick with the oven for desserts.

Jambalaya on the Pellet Grill

Yield: 6 servings

  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cubed
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teapspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Cajun seasoning (I like Tony Chachere’s)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound of Andouille, cooked and sliced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ cups of chicken stock
  • 2 cups of V-8 juice
  • 3 cups of rice, cooked al dente
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 pound of shrimp, peeled and deveined

While not traditional grill food, Jambalaya and Jalapeno Cornbread are divine on a pellet grill

Set the pellet grill to smoke and leave the lid open until the fire has been established.

In a large bowl, toss the chicken thighs, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, paprika, black pepper, garlic powder, creole seasoning, salt and Andouille together. Arrange the seasoned meat on a baking sheet and place the baking sheet on the grill. Increase the heat to 220°F; close the grill and allow the meat to cook for 30 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165°F.  Remove from the grill and set aside.

Turn the grill heat to high and place a Dutch oven or other large pan on the grill to preheat for 10 to 15 minutes with the lid closed.  Add 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil to the preheated pan on the grill; add the onion, celery and green pepper and sauté for about 5 minutes.  Add the minced garlic and sauté until the garlic is fragrant, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the chicken stock, vegetable juice, rice and bay leaves. Close the grill and simmer the mixture for 10 to 15 minutes or until the rice is tender.  Stir in the shrimp; close the lid and continue cooking for about 5 more minutes or until the shrimp are cooked through.

Aunt Jo’s Jalapeno Cornbread

Yield: 8 servings

  • 2 Tablespoons bacon drippings or vegetable oil
  • 1 cup plain yellow corn meal
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup cream corn
  • ½ lb. sharp cheddar, grated
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 3 jalapeno peppers, chopped fine; for less heat, use a 4.5 ounce can of chopped green chiles

Set the pellet grill to smoke and leave the lid open until the fire has been established. Add the fat to the cast iron skillet and place the skillet on the grill. Cover and increase the heat to 400°F.

Mix the dry ingredients; then mix the wet ingredients. Pour all together and stir until just mixed.

Pour into skillet and grill at 400°F for 30 minutes.

You can use self-rising corn meal and delete the salt and soda.

Smoked Salmon

Yield: 6 servings

  • 1 (2 to 2 ½ pound) Salmon filet, any pin bones removed
  • 2 cups of brown sugar
  • ¼ cup onion powder
  • ¼ cup garlic powder
  • ¼ cup kosher salt
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly ground black pepper

Use your pellet grill to hot smoke salmon and you’ll end up with the most delectable, smoky, sweet salmon you’ll ever taste.

Wash and pat dry the salmon; remove any pin bones. Mix the spices together in a small bowl. Generously sprinkle the dry brine over the salmon, patting into each side. Wrap the salmon in plastic wrap, place in a dish and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.

When you are ready to cook, remove the salmon and carefully rinse the dry brine off. Pat the filet dry. Lay the filet on a wire rack to come to room temperature, about 1 to 2 hours.

Set the pellet grill to smoke and leave the lid open until the fire has been established. Then close the lid and allow the grill to continue preheating for 10 to 15 minutes. Arrange the salmon filets on the grill and smoke for 2 ½ to 3 ½ hours, or until the internal temperature of the salmon reaches 160°F.