Building a covered porch, patio or deck is a great investment for your home. Not only does it add value, but it also provides a space to relax and entertain outdoors. If you have got a pellet grill or electric smoker and are wondering whether you can use a pellet grill under a covered patio, porch, or on deck, this blog post is for you. I’ll highlight all the risks associated with lightning up a pellet grill on a deck or patio so that you’re aware of the safety precautions of firing up an electric smoker under a covered porch and make an informed decision.
So, what about using pellet grills or electric smokers on a deck or patio? Pellet grills and electric smokers can be used under a covered porch, patio, or deck. However, there are a few things to keep in mind before firing up the pellet grill on a deck. First, be sure to place a pellet grill at a certain distance away from the combustible structure like wood rails of deck or patio. Second, the ceiling of the porch should be high enough that smoke does not accumulate. Third, the heat and smoke can discolor the overhead cover. Lastly, place the pellet grill such that the chimney lies in downstream of wind to avoid too much smoke rising.
Also Read: Leaving grill outside in rain
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Are Pellet Grills Considered Open Flame?
Pellet grills don’t use an open flame. They use electricity to heat the ignition rod and burn the wood pellets. Pellet grills are a great option for those who want to grill outside but don’t want to deal with the hassle of charcoal or propane.
Although a flame is produced when wood pellets are burned in the firepot of a pellet grill, the food is not directly exposed to the fire inside a pellet grill. The heat to cook the food comes from convection (hot air), not radiation like an open-flame grill. Learn more about the working of pellet grill in this article.
However, some companies like Pit Boss have equipment called a “frame broiler” in the pellet grill for a direct flame option. It has a cover plate that you can slide to expose the fire. I’d advise you to keep the frame broiler slots closed when using pellet grills on deck and patio.
The convection heat transfer inside the pellet grill takes place through the induction fan. The flame coming out of the firepot warms the air beneath the heat diffusion plate. This plate diffuses the convection area uniformly inside the grill, which serves as a heating source of the food in the pellet grill.
In the picture below, I’ve made a simple illustration that will help you understand better about heat transfer inside the pellet grill.
Furthermore, keeping the pellets dry is another important factor when cooking on a pellet grill. Although pellet grills are not open flame, the wet wood pellets can cause serious fire threats in the pellet grill. If the pellets get wet for any reason, make sure to let them dry out before using them again. Wet pellets will produce poor quality food, and may even cause clogs within the machine that will affect performance.
Also, wet or poor-quality wood pellets will produce a lot of smoke which can damage the ceiling of the deck and patios. This is because of the incomplete combustion of the wood pellets which produces excess carbon.
What Are the Fire Risks Associated With the Pellet Grills?
There are two types of fire risks associated with pellet grills:
- Grease fires
- Too many pellets, ash, and sawdust is accumulated in the firepot
Grease fires are caused when hot fats, oils, and cooking juices are exposed to high temperatures inside the pellet grill. They can quickly spread to cabinets, walls, and floors. If you have a pellet grill, it’s important to keep the area around it clean and free of any combustible materials.
Accumulated pellets, ash, and sawdust can smolder for hours before igniting. If the firepot is full or clogged, the grill could easily start a fire. Be sure to empty the ashes after each use and keep an eye on the number of pellets in the hopper.
Things to Keep in Mind for Using Pellet Grills on Decks, Patios or Covered Porch
Here are a few considerations you should keep in mind for lightning pellet grills on the porch, patio, or deck.
Follow Owner’s Manual for the Safe Distance from Combustibles
Be sure to follow the owner’s manual for your pellet grill. Many units require a specific distance between the grill and any combustible materials, like decking or siding. If you are unsure of the recommended distance, contact the manufacturer before setting up your grill.
For instance, for the Traeger pellet grill, there should be a minimum distance of 12 inches from walls of the Traeger pellet grill to combustibles. Moreover, the minimum distance between the roof of the deck and patio is Traeger upper is 40 inches. If possible, try to move it upwind so that any smoke is carried away rather than towards your deck or patio.
For Traeger pellet grills with PID controller, such as Pro 575, a minimum distance of 18 inches is recommended from the ends of a Traeger pellet grill to the combustible materials. The overhead clearance is the same i.e. 40 inches.
Similarly, the Pit Boss pellet grill, in its manual (PDF), also recommends a minimum clearance of 12 inches from combustible constructions. On the other hand, in Campchef Pellet Grill manual (PDF), a minimum clearance of 18 inches from the sides, front, and back of the appliance.
The reason for overhead clearance of pellet grills is due to the following reasons:
- To ensure ventilation
- To protect the roof from smoke
Although good quality wood pellets produce a cleaner smoke as compared to the normal wood chunks, still the smoke of wood pellets contains carbon monoxide, ash content, and Sulphur dioxide. These particles will impart black smoke residues on the ceiling of the porch and deck. Furthermore, the accumulation of smoke on the porch of the deck area will also be dangerous for your health.
Moreover, if the porch has a vinyl ceiling, the heat of pellet grill smoke can warp the shape of the ceiling.
Use Grill Mat
For the concrete floor, there is no need for grill mats. But, if the grill is placed on a wooden floor, using a grill mat under the pellet grill becomes important.
Wood can easily catch fire. If the wooden floor is layered with grease and ash, it can create an even bigger fire hazard as the fire from the floor can spread towards the railing. Grill mats are available at most home improvement stores and are easy to use and clean.
The grill mat is made of a special insulating material, which can absorb grease and ash, and prevent fire.
Check the Weather
Before lighting your pellet grill, be sure to check the weather conditions. Pellet grills produce a lot of smoke, so using them on a windy day can cause problems for your neighbors. Make sure you are aware of any ordinances or restrictions in your area that may prohibit pellet grilling.
Don’t Leave Grill Unattended for Too Long
Although the pellet grill is a kind of “set and forget type” cooking appliance, you should not leave it unattended for a long time if you’re using a pellet grill on deck, porch, or patio. Pellet grills will produce a lot of smoke while it is being used, so if you leave them unattended for a long time, your neighbors may complain. Moreover, the grill should be monitored closely in case something goes wrong with the pellet grill or there is a fire hazard that can cause damage to the deck or patio.
Keep the Pellet Grill Clean
There must be no accumulation of grease, ash, and sawdust in the pellet grill. Be sure to clean the pellet grill after every third short cook and after every long cook. A wire brush can be used to clean the cooking grates, and a vacuum cleaner with a hose attachment can be used to clean ash and sawdust of wood pellets out of firepot, hopper, and auger. Also, change the foil of the drip pan regularly to avoid flare-ups.
Have a Grill Cover
When you’re done with grilling and have decided to leave the pellet grill on the deck or patio, make sure to cover it with the grill cover. While putting the cover on the grill, it should be cool enough. Otherwise, it will melt the grill cover. The grill cover will protect the metallic parts of your pellet grill from rain and prevent them from rust.
Have a Fire Extinguisher
Despite having all safety precautions, it is important to have a fire extinguisher while using wood pellets on the patio or deck as we can’t predict when the wooden railing of the deck catches fire due to high temperature.
Wash Porch Ceiling Regularly
There is a black buildup of smoke on the ceiling of the porch or deck if you have been using a pellet smoker for a long time. This can weaken the ceiling material. So, you should power wash the deck and patio regularly to prevent the accumulation of smoke particles.
You can power wash both wood and vinyl ceilings. However, high pressure can put dents in the vinyl ceiling. So, make sure to ask for recommended pressure from the manufacturer of the power washer before you use it for cleaning smoke ash, and soot on the deck ceiling.
What About Using a Pellet Gill on a Screened Porch?
You can use a pellet grill on a screen porch as long as the deck or porch is screened from all three sides, there is enough room and an outdoor ceiling fan that would blow the smoke out. This would ensure proper ventilation as you would not want to accumulate the smoke in a deck, which can cause several health issues. For regular 1-2 hrs of grilling, it is fine to use a pellet grill under a screened porch. But, you should avoid long hours of smoking in a pellet grill under a screened porch.
Preventing Excessive Smoke Coming out of Pellet Grill
Excessive smoke can not only damage the ceiling and railing of the porch and deck but is also harmful to the health due to smoke accumulation. So, to prevent excessive smoke coming out of the pellet grill, you should note the following points:
- Ensure proper startup procedure for igniting wood pellets. You should read the owner’s manual for detailed instructions on starting a pellet grill.
- You should use dry and high-quality wood pellets. Avoid wood pellets that are holding moisture, break easily or have a lot of sawdust in the bag. Traeger and Lumberjack are good-quality wood pellets.
- Avoid cooking on the smoke setting as it can sometimes produce too much smoke.
- Make sure the pellet grill is completely dry.
- If you switch the pellet grill from a high-temperature setting to a smoke setting, it also produces dense white smoke due to leftover wood pellets in the firepot. So, first, turn the knob to the shutdown setting. Wait for 10 to 15 minutes to cool down the pellet grill, and then, start the pellet grill according to the instructions in the manual.