When I first came across a brisket recipe that had a cook time of 14 hours, I started to wonder if I could use my pellet grill overnight.
After all, if you start smoking a brisket late in the night then the brisket will be ready come lunchtime the next day.
So can you cook overnight on a pellet grill?
It’s NEVER safe to leave any grill unattended for long periods of time. However, pellet grills can cook food overnight with a hopper full of pellets and a reliable power source.
Personally, I have smoked a 12-pound brisket for 14 hours overnight on my Traeger lil tex pellet grill. Beforehand, I made sure that the pellet grill was clean, had a hopper full of pellets, and placed the grill away from my house on a cement patio.
Now let’s cover some tips to successfully cook overnight on a pellet grill.
1. Safety First – Place The Grill Away From Home
The most important step when using a pellet grill overnight is to play it safe.
Make sure to place the grill a safe distance away from your home and also try to place the pellet grill on top of rocks or cement. Ideally, you do not want to place the pellet grill on a wood deck, grass, or anything flammable when left unattended.
Personally, I use an extension cord to place my pellet grill about 15 feet away from my home.
Make sure to use an extension cord that is rated for outdoor use and is weather resistant.
See this guide for the best extension cords for pellet grills.
2. Clean The Grill And Drip Tray
The next most important step is to clean the pellet grill and drip tray.
The biggest risk with leaving a pellet grill unattended is that a grease fire breaks out. In order to prevent a grease fire, the pellet grill needs to be cleaned.
Make sure to clean the grill grates, vacuum out any ash in the firepot and grill, as well as scrape the drip tray clean.
Here’s a step-by-step photo guide on how to vacuum out the ash from the firepot if you have never done this before.
Cleaning the firepot can seem intimidating at first since you need to disassemble some components of the pellet grill. However, cleaning the pellet grill after every 2 to 3 cooking sessions will keep the pellet grill running properly and prevent grease fires.
3. Fill Hopper With Pellets
Pellet grills need wood pellets and electricity in order to create heat and smoke.
So make sure to fill the hopper full of wood pellets before cooking overnight. Generally, pellet grills use 1 pound of wood pellets per hour at 225°F so a 20 pound bag of wood pellets will last for about 20 hours of cooking.
Fill the hopper to the very top with wood pellets so that the pellet grill does not run out of pellets mid-smoke.
4. Use Low Cooking Temperatures
When cooking or smoking food overnight, make sure to use lower cooking temperatures. Cooking temperatures such as 225°F are frequently used to smoke meat “low and slow.”
The major benefits of using lower cooking temperatures are:
- Maintaining a low cooking temperature is easier for the pellet grill
- Pellet consumption will remain low at 1 pound per hour so the grill does not run out of pellets
Depending on how cold the weather gets overnight, it can be helpful to use an insulated blanket to help the pellet grill retain heat while cooking.
See this article for more tips on using a pellet grill in cold weather.
5. Monitor The Cooking Temperature Remotely
Having a way to check on the cooking temperature remotely is helpful when cooking overnight.
Instead of having to get out of bed to physically check the meat or cooking temperature, you can use an app on your phone to see how the grill is doing.
Newer pellet grills can have WiFi capabilities which allow the cooking temperature to be changed and monitored remotely. Not to mention that alarms and timers can be set so that you can make sure that the temperature does not get too hot or cold while smoking.
If you have an older pellet grill, you can still use wireless thermometers to measure the internal temperature of the grill and the temperature of the food being cooked.
6. Check The Weather
Before cooking overnight, make sure to check the weather forecast to plan for any harsh conditions.
Generally, pellet grills should not be completely exposed to rain or snow. Rain and snow will cool down the pellet grill’s barrel which affects the internal cooking temperature.
If you want to still use a pellet grill overnight when it’s going to lightly rain, you can use an EZ up or canopy to protect the pellet grill from water. However, it’s best to not use a pellet grill overnight in wet conditions.
Cooking overnight on a pellet grill is a great option when it comes to smoking a brisket and having it ready before lunchtime.
Make sure to check the following 5 things before cooking overnight with a pellet grill:
- Place the grill away from home
- Clean the grill
- Fill the hopper with pellets
- Use low cooking temperatures
- Monitor the cooking temperature remotely
- Check the weather forecast
Keep in mind that using a pellet grill unattended is risky since these grills do have a flame inside the grill. Not to mention flareups on a dirty grill can lead to grease fires on pellet grills.
The safest way to use a pellet grill is to periodically check in on the grill or monitor the grill the entire time. So overnight cooking has risks but can be the only viable option when trying to get food cooked before an early football game.