How to Cook Steak on a Pellet Grill: The Ultimate Grilling Medium

The Pellet Grill is an often overlooked yet highly useful piece of gear for any grilling or BBQ enthusiast. First introduced by Traeger back in 1986, these grills have evolved into beneficial cooking machines. As a chef, fewer items I have come across impress me more than the Pellet Grill and the ways they can be used. 

The Pellet Grill is a high-functioning piece of cooking gear as it can smoke whole cuts for BBQ, roast, and also grill. Many pitmasters at home love the Pellet Grill for the smoking and BBQ aspect of it, but in this article, we will focus on the grill. 

The idea behind the grill is to use wood pellets and automation to achieve consistency in the grilling method. They were also invented to impart beautiful smoky flavors and aspects to whatever meat they were cooking. This grill is a dream for any avid cook, and today I want to share how you would go about cooking a steak on one. 

ribeye steak

The Bottom Line Up Front

Between grilling, searing, roasting, and even smoking, the few delicious opportunities for cooking a steak on a pellet grill are sure to leave any steak lover satisfied. This article will dive into how to cook delicious and appealing steaks on this ingenious machine. The bottom line is that the pellet grill is very versatile, and there are a few ways to cook a steak on one. I will show you the best ways.

How Pellet Grills Work

Before we get into the recipes for cooking a steak on these grills, we first need to break down how a pellet grill operates. There is some complexity underneath the grill, but they are relatively easy to use from a user standpoint. But understanding exactly what is going on with your grill is essential when trying to master it. 

Fuel Type

As the name suggests, the fuel for this grill is pellets. These pellets are made of hardwoods and offer consistency in heat distribution, flavor, and smoke levels. They are specially made to process through the grill and burn at the correct level for the grill to function how it is intended to. 

The type of wood you choose is essential and can be fun based on your flavor preferences and the goal of the final taste of your product. Some of the different kinds of wood pellets you can buy are:

  • Alder
  • Cherry
  • Hickory
  • Mesquite 
  • Maple 
  • Pecan

On top of which type of wood you choose, the brand you choose is also significant. You want to look for premium pellets designated as “food grade.” These pellets offer a fire safe for consumption and can be used in your grill. They will also perform how the grill needs them to avoid complications. 

Poor-quality wood can be harmful to your health and damage your grill. If the wood is low quality or is filled with artificial stuffers, it can break down the grill over time and cause complications in the cooking process. Focusing only on high-quality, dependable pellets are key. This product from Traeger is an example of a product you can rely on.

alder pellets

How the Pellet Grill Burns Fuel

Each pellet grill contains a container into which you will put the pellets. An auger will then push the pellets automatically to an ignition site, where a hot rod or another lighting device will ignite the pellets. Most of the grills on the market are automatic. You simply set the temp, and the grill will do the rest. 

These systems within the grills have been designed to work automatically, free of your needing to feed them besides keeping the hopper full of pellets. The grills often have smartphone apps that will allow you to adjust the temperature, smoke levels, and the amount of flame you want in the grill itself. 

This automation is critical to understand as it gives you the tools to be precise when cooking a steak on this grill. How you set the grill and have it run when using it is a crucial aspect of how your steak will turn out. So being mindful and educated on your specific grill’s settings is vital when operating this gear. 

pellets burning

The Benefits of Using a Pellet Grill

There are countless reasons for using a pellet grill, and before I get into how to cook a steak on one, I just want to share some of the specific reasons they are so great. Here are some below:

Even Heat Distribution

Pellet grills are designed to have even heat distribution and moderation of flame when they are in use. Automating the auger feeding the flame allows complete control over the cooking method and provides an equal temperature and control surface. 

Beyond that, pellet grills are known for not having as many flame flare-ups. The continuous feeding of fire offers stability that other grills may not have. 

Ease of Use

If you have tried lighting a gas grill or starting a charcoal grill, you will know how difficult they can be. The pellet grill starts with the push of a button. This ease of setup makes this grill accessible and allows proficiency in the grilling process. 

Beyond that, the control you have through your smartphone on how the grill operates is a complete game changer. Giving the grill exact settings on an easy-to-use, wireless interface provides the user with complete control and a thorough understanding of the level their grill is operating at. 

Excellent Temperature and Smoke Range

The range of temperature and the control of smoke on these grills is the last big draw that makes a lot of BBQ enthusiasts excited to get their hands on one. These grills are made for all temperature preferences, from slow cooking to all-out sear. This, plus the smoky effect of the wood pellets, really makes them shine through. 

steak smoking

Cooking Methods for Steak on a Pellet Grill


To start, I believe it makes the most sense, to begin grilling a steak on one of these grills in a traditional way. In setting up the Pellet Grill, you must remove the cover over the flame. This is so that you have a direct flame hitting your grill grates. That cover is used to distribute the heat during smoking but is not needed in grilling. 

I suggest setting the grill at 400F and letting it get nice and hot. You will want to temper your steak first, leaving it at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Keep the cover on at this point to collect smoke in the grill. In the meantime, you can choose the best wood for your cut of meat and start the grill. 

When the steak is tempered, and the grill is hot, pat the steak dry and season the steak with salt and pepper. Add whatever other spice you want as well. Open the lid and lace the steak on the grill and sear for 2-3 minutes or until caramelized. Flip and do the same for the other side. When this is complete, you want to cook until your desired doneness, preferably 130-140F. If you find the grill is too hot when trying to do this, turn it down to 350F. 

When you are done, remove the steak and allow ample time to rest. You should have a perfectly grilled steak with great caramelization and an even inside coloring. You will also have the added flavor of the smoke from the pellets you have chosen. 

Steaks with good marbling are ideal for the pellet grill, as the smoke can seep into this intramuscular fat and deliver a killer flavor. One cut that comes to mind is the Wagyu Picanha, and this article (insert link) will teach you more about this great cut.

Smoking and Grilling Method

The excellent part of the pellet grill is that it can act like an oven or smoker. To begin, you will want that cover we removed over the grill’s open flame, so that heat circulation is as even as possible. You will want to choose a delicious wood pellet for this method and a fatty, nicely marbled steak. 

Heat the pellet grill on low heat, around 200F, and let it heat up and build smoke with the lid on. This will create a very smoky environment and lead to delicious results. When the grill is hot, and smoke has been made, place in your steaks (seasoned and tempered) and sit for 15 minutes. This will allow the smoke to enter the steaks and create a dry outside for a great sear. 

Once the time is up, remove the steaks, turn the grill up to 400F and let it get hot. At this point, put the steaks back on the grill and sear for 2-3 minutes on each side. Then turn down the temperature to 350F and cover the grill. Cook until 130-140F. 

This method introduces smoking, searing with continuous heat, and baking until the steak is finished. While it mirrors the Grill method, it adds a layer of smoke and a longer cooking process to ensure a tender, smoky, delicious cut of meat. 

meat cooking grill

Which Cuts of Steak Are Best for This Grill?

When grilling on this cooking equipment, you want to choose steaks with solid marbling that can be seared and caramelized quickly. Below are a few I would prefer if grilling on the Pellet Grill.

  • Ribeye
  • Strip Steak
  • Picanha
  • Skirt Steak
  • Flank Steak

Why Steaks Are Ideal for Pellet Grills

As with any cooking equipment, choosing what to cook on the gear is just as important as how you cook it. Steaks are ideal for Pellet Grills because they can capture smoky flavors, hold up to the heat and thrive in hot and quick scenarios. 

The flavors you can build in a Pellet Grill are unmatched compared to other grilling mediums. If you were to take a burger and grill it on this equipment, the effects wouldn’t be too different compared to elsewhere. But grilling a steak on a Pellet Grill is a cook’s dream for those fans of smoke and BBQ.

The opportunity with the flavor of wood and how it is delivered is one of the big draws. Precision heat control and a consistent heat source is another powerful reason to invest in one of these grills. 

steak on grill


Question: How Much Does A Pellet Grill Cost

Answer: As with everything, the price fluctuates with quality. The lower-end models of this grill can cost anywhere from $300-400. With brands like Traeger, the higher end can easily reach and even exceed $1,000. The use case, time spent, and goals of buying this grill should be considered before investing.

Question: Are Pellet Grills Better Than Charcoal?

Answer: In my opinion, the Pellet Grill offers far more control than a charcoal grill ever could. Charcoal is known for burning fast and hot and is often not very impactful on the overall flavor. Wood Pellets burn uniformly and deliver a ton of flavor; therefore, I believe they are better options than a charcoal fuel source. 

Question: Are Pellet Grills Hard To Maintain?

Answer: If you regularly clean the grates and check the chimney, auger, hopper, and other parts, then this grill is not that complicated. There is a little more care than a gas grill required, but once you find your cleaning routine, it will go by smoothly. Also, the wood quality you use impacts the grill and cleaning considerably, so being smart when purchasing the fuel source affects any cleaning outcome.

pellet grill

In Conclusion

Cooking a steak on a Pellet Grill is great because you can play with smoke and a quick cooking method. Utilizing high-quality, marbled steaks with quality wood delivers a finished plate that is hard to beat elsewhere. 

When you start to nerd out about the different fuel sources, cuts of meat, and ways to season you have, the Pellet Grill opens up so much to the user. The potential of so many tasty ways to grill a steak makes me such a fan of these grills. Use the basics in this article with your fuel source and seasoning decisions for tender, juicy, and beautifully cooked steaks.

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