are wood pellets toxic

Are Wood Pellets Toxic?

People often wonder – are wood pellets toxic? Grilling can be done with different techniques, but of late, pellet grills have claimed the spotlight. It is because people believe that cooking the meat in the smoke and smell of hardwood pellets adds largely to the flavor. It infuses the meat with soft and woody flavors that is impossible to achieve otherwise.  

But are these safe? Well, we’ve decided to make a little research and found the answer to this question.

How Are BBQ Wood Made?

When we want to understand are wood pellets toxic or not, we need to understand how these are made and used. 

Wood pellets are used for various purposes and thus can be made in several ways. But when it comes to wood pellets for smokers, these are made of compacted sawdust. 

Recycled or fresh wood is put under a hammer mill and processed. The hammer mill converts the wood to fin dough-like consistency which then goes through molding. 

These are pressed into holes that are 6 mm in diameter. At this stage, heat is also applied to the pellet grills to help in compressing.   

What are Fillers in Pellets?

Fillers in pellets help to create consistency when it comes to burning. Blended wood for smoking ribs needs fillers as some woods burn faster than others. Fillers try to bring about a balance in all the variety. 

A stable burn rate is brought by the inclusion of fillers. Unlike wood chunks, pellets do not give homogeneity to your fire to feed on.

Wood Pellets vs Food-Grade Pellets: What’s the Difference? 

When it comes to answering questions such as do wood pellets contain chemicals, it’s important to understand the different types of pellets that are available in the market. These come in two varieties- wood pellets and food-grade pellets.

Wood pellets are used in heat sources such as stoves and the latter is used primarily and exclusively for smoking. The former is made of charcoal, different fillers, and softwoods which makes it unhealthy for smoking purposes. It leaves out a chemical-like smell.

Whereas, food-grade pellets are made from leftover wood materials that are natural and safe. So, are wood pellet grills healthy? – Yes, only when food grade pellets are used. 

Are Wood Pellets Safe to Cook With?

Pellets that are made from 100% natural materials will not cause any harm when smoked. There are several companies that promise you food-grade stuff but fail to deliver. So make sure that you lay your hands on a trusted brand. Traeger pellets are best when it comes to smoking and grilling. They are neither toxic nor inauthentic. Also keep in mind that for best results, it’s better to buy your supply from trustworthy brands only. 

Does Grilling With Pellets Cause Cancer? 

People keep asking if wood pellets toxic but to be honest, grilling meat comes with its risks. For years now researchers have been working on the side effects of grilling food with wood or its substitutes. The possibility of cancer is not really nil. 

Whenever we engage in cooking meat with charcoal grills or gas, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are produced along with heterocyclic amines. These are also called PAHs and HCAs respectively. 

HCAs are a result of cooking muscle meats at a high temperature. High temperature causes the chemical property of the meat to change which can cause a change in the genetic material of the consumer. This has sometimes been known to increase the chance of catching cancer in patients according to recent research conducted by the Cancer Institute. 

When fats and juices from the meat drip into the fire while cooking, carcinogenic substances are produced that can be immensely unhealthy. PAHs can also be formed in the smoke, that comes out from charcoal and wood pellets. 

How To Be Safer When Cooking With Pellets 

The chances of having cancer from pellets or wood grilling are very very slim. Having said that, it must also be noted that we can never go wrong with precautions. Below we have listed for you some ways that will make your cooking safer. 

  • Try avoiding uneven heating and flare-ups. You may also use a temperature controller for best results. 
  • Slow and low cooking is not only the best taste-wise but also health-wise. Intense heat will leave your meat dry and also opens up the chances of carcinogenic substances coating your food. 
  • Avoid charring of meat, while cooking with wood pellets.

Final Word

So, are wood pellets toxic? If you’re planning on buying wood pellets for the grill, make sure you get the food-grade one and abide by the safety tips we have included in the article. If you follow these, the chances of your getting cancer or anything remotely toxic through the grilled foods become very slim. 

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