Wood Pellets in a Smoker
P. Michael Henderson
This is something I learned from another beekeeper. One problem in beekeeping is the smoker - finding a good fuel that's easy to light and maintains smoke for a long time while working in the beeyard. At a class I went to one of the presenters said he used wood pellets and lights them with a MAPP torch. So I tried it. Here's a bag of the wood pellets. They were less than $6 for a 40 pound bag. I figured if it didn't work, I'd use the pellets as mulch.
Here's a closer look at the pellets.
This is the MAPP torch that I bought to light the pellets. It was about $50 at Home Depot, which included a bottle of gas. Replacement bottles are about $10. The torch ignites automatically when you pull the trigger.
I put some pellets in the bottom of the smoker and light them. Then add about a handful of pellets and light those. For this picture, I only lit the bottom pellets since I wasn't going to the beeyard.
When you light the pellets, you'll get a fire in the smoker. Let it burn for a bit before you close the top. You want a good bed of hot coals in the smoker. Eventually, close the top and the fire will go out - the coals will just glow and smoke.
Here's some of the smoke from the pellets. I get better smoke when I go through the whole process, rather than just lighting a small amount of pellets, as I did here.
I'll keep working with the pellets and add to this note as I learn more.
[Update 1/15/2018] I found a modification to the above idea that works better. Use charcoal in the bottom of the smoker to keep the smoke going. I have three pieces of charcoal here but two would probably be enough.
Put the charcoal in the smoker and then use the torch to get it going.
Let the charcoal really get going - five minutes is plenty. Pump some air into the smoker occasionally to help it along.
Then get a good handful of wood pellets. I put a bit more than one handful in.
The hot charcoal will cause the pellets to smoke as they char. The smoker will produce a copious amount of cool white smoke and it will continue to produce lots of smoke for a long time.
When finished, plug the top of the smoker and the charcoal and pellets will extinguish. You can use both the charcoal and partially burned pellets next time you go into the beeyard.