Let’s cover one of the fundamental topics of smoking food — wood pellet storage. This article gives you the dos and don’ts to get the maximum life out of your unused pellets.
Martinis, champagne, humor — some things are better when they’re dry. You can add wood pellets to that list.
If you own and use a pellet grill for smoking, pellets are your source of fuel. And proper storage is essential to get the most bang for your buck from your wood pellets for smoking meat.
Stick with us to learn why pellets go bad and how and where to store them to keep them fresh as long as possible. We’ll finish with an FAQ on pellet storage that’s going to save you money, time, and frustration.
Keep scrolling to see what we have “in store” for you.
Contents (Jump to Topic)
- 1 Moisture — the Number One Enemy of Pellet Storage
- 2 Store Indoors if You Can
- 3 Wood Pellet Storage Tips
- 3.1 Don’t Store Pellets in Original Packaging
- 3.2 Use Airtight Containers
- 3.3 Keep Out of the Rain
- 3.4 Avoid all Water Sources
- 3.5 Remove Pellets from Your Hopper After Use — Put Back Into Storage
- 3.6 Far Away from Heat Sources
- 3.7 Raise Them Off the Ground
- 3.8 Do Not Mix Old and New Pellets
- 3.9 Label Pellet Containers; Use Oldest First
- 4 Frequently Asked Questions on Pellet Storage
- 5 Final Thoughts
Moisture — the Number One Enemy of Pellet Storage
Dry wood will last a very long time. For proof, look no further than your nearest desert ghost town.
Wet wood, not so much.
Moist conditions can lead to rotten or moldy wood; certain types of fungus that thrive in wet conditions will break down wood or leave it unfit for cooking.
Even aside from rot, damp pellets don’t burn efficiently — they may cause temperature fluctuations, produce little to no smoke, or simply refuse to light. Mushy pellets can clog up the workings of a pellet grill too, such as your hopper or auger, leading to blockages and your grill stopping working.
Watch this video for a time-lapse look at what direct contact with water can do to wood pellets. It’s all your soggy cereal nightmare come true.
All in all, wet pellets are a disaster for smoking food. So, to keep your pellets from going bad, the key is to keep them protected from moist or damp conditions.
Store Indoors if You Can
Before we get to the details, let’s start with the big picture. Storing your smoking wood pellets indoors gives them the best chance of long-term survival.
Depending on where you live, you have either a heating or cooling system or both. That means a consistent temperature year-round. You may even control the humidity with a humidifier/dehumidifier combo. Since wood pellets will absorb moisture right out of the air, a low humidity environment is best for pellet storage.
A garage is an ok option; though if yours is like mine, it’s cold in the winter, and hot and humid in the summer. Sheds are acceptable, too, but they also experience fluctuations in temperature and moisture levels, depending on how well insulated they are.
Any shelter from the rain is better than nothing, but a climate-controlled environment is best.
Wood Pellet Storage Tips
Beyond keeping them indoors, here are some hints for storing your wood pellets that will make them last.
Don’t Store Pellets in Original Packaging
Wood pellet packages aren’t exactly contractor-grade garbage bags — the material is typically pretty feeble and may allow moisture in through holes in the bag and the open top.
It’s also easier to break pellets in one of these bags; they’re not easy to move around, and they crinkle up and subject pellets to a rough ride. All that abuse can break pellets and erode them into worthless dust.
Use Airtight Containers
Your best bet is any rigid container. Good-quality plastic totes with lids are best for wood pellet storage — durable, stackable, and waterproof. Although any tote will do in a pinch, I recommend one with an airtight lid.
Keep Out of the Rain
If you can’t store your wood pellets indoors, at least shelter them from the rain in a carport or under a canopy. Even airtight, waterproof containers should be kept out of the rain — rain pooled on a lid could accidentally get into your pellets the next time you open it up, and then it was all for nothing.
Avoid all Water Sources
The average yard has many sources of moisture: Hot tubs, swimming pools, sprinklers, garden hoses, window AC units, eavestroughs, and downspouts … You get the picture.
Find a place away from all sources of household water.
Remove Pellets from Your Hopper After Use — Put Back Into Storage
Far Away from Heat Sources
Wood pellets are, obviously, highly flammable. To avoid accidental ignition, do not store your wood pellets near your barbecue (especially not under it if it has a storage area), furnaces, heaters, fire tables, or any other source of heat or flame.
Raise Them Off the Ground
No matter the surface, it’s usually either colder or hotter right against the ground relative to the ambient temperature. Either way, there’s a microclimate at ground level that can adversely impact your pellets.
Moisture is also a concern on the ground, especially if the surface is earth or cement. Moisture wicks up through dirt, cement, and concrete because they are all porous. There’s a reason why basements are often damp.
Boosting your pellets even a few inches off the ground will keep them safe from surface-level dampness and temperature variations.
Do Not Mix Old and New Pellets
If your pellets have taken on some moisture or fungal rot, mixing them with new pellets can spread the problem.
Even in the best of conditions, pellets may deteriorate over time. Using old and new pellets in your smoker can cause temperature fluctuations that will wreak havoc on your smoking session.
Label Pellet Containers; Use Oldest First
If you’re storing more than one batch of pellets, it’s a good idea to make up a label with the date on it and affix it to the container. This way, you can be sure to use up your oldest pellets before they have a chance to turn on you. (Nothing fancy required — a strip of masking tape and a marker will do.)
Frequently Asked Questions on Pellet Storage
How Long do Wood Pellets Last?
There is a bit of moisture in all wood pellets, usually below 10%. Over time, though, even in perfect conditions, they’ll start to break down.
In a low humidity environment, wood pellets are good for as long as 6 months. However, consistent exposure to more than 10% humidity could reduce that to 3 months or less.
How Can You Tell if Pellets Have Gone Bad?
First, look them over to check their appearance. Good pellets are smooth and may even be shiny, and should be free of cracks. Bad pellets are dull and cracked.
Still not sure? Give your pellets the snap test! A good pellet should break in two with minimal dust and debris. A bad pellet will break into several pieces and leave a good bit of crud behind. Toss those bad apples out — you don’t want them gumming up your smoker.
Can You Leave Wood Pellets in Your Pellet Grill Hopper?
Can you? Sure. Should you? Hell no!
A hopper offers minimal protection for your pellets; they are neither moisture-proof nor airtight, and your pellets will go bad in no time.
If you have pellets left over after smoking, remove them with the pellet dump (if your smoker has one), burn them off, or vacuum them out.
Can You Store Wood Pellets Outside?
If you live in a very dry place, like the southwestern States, where humidity and rain aren’t significant issues, you might get away with it.
For everyone else, constant changes in temperature and, worse, rain and humidity make outdoor storage of wood pellets unadvisable.
Proper storage of wood pellets will spare you a ton of aggravation and save you money. Make it part of your routine to get even more enjoyment out of your smoker.
As we put a lid on this topic, I invite you to read more about smoking and smokers — browse our articles or do a search for life-enhancing tips and tricks and learn to love your smoker even more!
Cheers all, and thanks for picking and clicking us.