When I first got my pellet grill, one of the first things I noticed–besides better tasting grilled food–is that it takes somewhat longer to grill food on a pellet grill than on a propane grill. For the better flavor, I think its definitely worth it. Remember, the main purpose of grilling with wood pellets in the first place is flavor, not speed of cooking.
If you are entertaining a large group and need to budget the grilling time to whatever schedule you have, it helps to have a reference. So, I researched the topic to find out.
What are pellet grill cooking times? Pellet grill cooking times are longer than grilling with propane. Pellet grill cooking times can vary based on several factors, such as mass of the food, frozen vs fresh, bone in or out, fat content, and whether marinade was used. Refer to the following table for general cooking times.
|Meat or Food||Grill |
|Final Meat |
|Beef Jerky||180-200°F||n/a||1-2 hrs|
|Beef Prime Rib||250°F||135°F||~15 mins/lb|
|Beef Short Ribs||225-250°F||200-205°F||4-6 hrs|
|Beef Tenderloin, 3-4 lbs. (Rare)||225-250°F||120-125°F||1-2 hrs|
|Beef Tenderloin, 3-4 lbs. (Medium Rare)||225-250°F||130-140°F||2.5-3 hrs|
|Beef Tenderloin, 3-4 lbs. (Medium)||225-250°F||150°F||3-3.5 hrs|
|Beef Tenderloin, 3-4 lbs. (Well Done)||225-250°F||160°F||3.5-4 hrs|
|Beef Tri-Tip (Rare)||225-250°F||120-125°F||1-2 hrs|
|Beef Tri-Tip (Medium Rare)||225-250°F||130-140°F||2-3 hrs|
|Beef Tri-Tip (Medium)||225-250°F||150°F||3-3.5 hrs|
|Beef Tri-Tip (Well Done)||225-250°F||160°F||3.5-4 hrs|
|Breakfast Sausage||250°F||165°F||2 hrs|
|Brisket (Pulled), 8-12 lbs.||225-250°F||205°F||1.5 hrs/lb|
|Brisket (Sliced), 8-12 lbs.||225-250°F||200°F||1.5 hrs/lb|
|Chicken Breast, 5 to 8 oz.||250°F||165°F||1-2 hrs|
|Chicken, Leg Quarters||250°F||165°F||2.5 hrs|
|Chicken, Thighs||250°F||165°F||1.5 hrs|
|Chicken, Whole||250°F||165°F||4 hrs|
|Chicken, Wings||250°F||165°F||1.25 hrs|
|Chuck Roast, Pulled||225-250°F||195°F||1.5 hrs/lb|
|Chuck Roast, Sliced (Rare)||225-250°F||125°F||1 hr/lb|
|Chuck Roast, Sliced (Medium)||225-250°F||155°F||1.25 hrs/lb|
|Chuck Roast, Sliced (Well Done)||225-250°F||185°F||1.5 hrs/lb|
|Ham (Bone In)||225-250°F||160°F||1.5 hrs/lb|
|Hamburgers (Medium)||225-250°F||150°F||30-40 mins|
|Hot Dogs, All-Beef||225-250°F||150°F||30 mins|
|Meat Loaf||250°F||150-160°F||3-4 hrs|
|Pork Butt, Pulled||250°F||200°F||1.5 hrs/lb|
|Pork Butt, Sliced||250°F||185°F||1.5 hrs/lb|
|Pork Chops||225-250°F||160°F||1.5 hrs/lb|
|Pork Loin||225-250°F||150°F||2.5 hrs|
|Pork Loin, 8-10 lbs.||225-250°F||160°F||4-6 hrs|
|Pork Sausage 1.5 to 2.5 inch||225-250°F||165°F||1-3 hrs|
|Pork Shoulder||250°F||198-203°F||1.5 hrs/lb|
|Pork Tenderloin, 1.5-2 lbs.||225-250°F||160°F||2.5-3 hrs|
|Ribs, Babyback||225-250°F||until tender||5 hrs|
|Ribs, Spare||225-250°F||until tender||5 hrs|
|Rump Roast||225-250°F||145°F||30 mins/lb|
|Scallops||190°F||turns white||1-1.5 hrs/lb|
|Shrimp||200-225°F||turns white||15 mins/lb|
|Sirloin Tip Roasts||225-250°F||160°F||8 hrs|
|Smoked Corn||250° F||n/a||1.5 hrs|
|Turkey, Legs||250° F||165°F||3-4 hrs|
|Turkey, Whole||250-350° F||165°F||3-4 hrs|
|Turkey Breast, bone-in||250° F||165°F||4-5 hrs|
When using the above cooking times, make sure you use them as a general reference only, and not like a timer to indicate when your food is done. You should always use an internal temperature probe for that.
Also, the above grill temperature settings are a reference. You can speed up your cook time by using a higher setting. For example, the above table says it takes 30-40 minutes to cook hamburgers at 250 degrees. For hamburgers, I frequently use 350 degrees to reduce the cook time. A shorter cook time will reduce the flavor influence from the wood, but I don’t care as much when it comes to burgers.
What Affects Cooking Time?
So, beyond the obvious factor of temperature, what affects the cooking time? There are a few things:
- Mass – if you throw a 15 pound turkey onto your grill, you can’t expect it to cook faster than a few hot dogs. Or many hot dogs, for that matter. It’s going to take a while for the heat to permeate into the meat and cook it. The larger the mass of meat, the longer it will take. You can reduce the mass by cutting a large chunk of meat up into pieces. The total mass is the same, of course, but the surface area exposed to heat is increased, and the cooking time is reduced.
- Frozen vs Fresh – obvious, if your food is frozen, it has to thaw first before it can cook. As a consequence, it will take longer than fresh. Duh.
- Fat Content – you want the fat to melt into the rest of the meat instead of staying as one glob. To achieve this, its going to take longer to cook.
Difference in Cooking Time Compared to Propane Grilling
The purpose of grilling with wood pellets is to introduce a richer flavor profile into your food. While it can be quicker and easier than grilling with charcoal, it is definitely slower than grilling with propane. For a propane grill, you turn the knob, press a button to ignite the grill, and wait a few minutes for the grill to heat up. Throw your food on, and in a few minutes your food is done.
A wood pellet grill takes a good 10 to 20 minutes to startup and come to temperature. And because you are typically cooking at lower temperatures than Mr. Propane, food will take longer to cook. It’s as simple as that.
But ask many people who grill with wood pellets, or even the people that eat food grilled on a pellet grill, they prefer the flavor of the food over that cooked on a propane grill.
How long does it take a pellet grill to heat up? A pellet grill can take 10 to 15 minutes to heat up to the desired temperature. Depending on the make of your grill, you may need to set it to smoke for 5 minutes or so, before increasing the temperature setting. This can add to the start-up time.
How hot do pellet grills get? A pellet grill’s top temperature ranges, depending on the brand and model. Typically, the max temperature ranges from 450F to 700F. Read more about how hot Traeger grills can get.