Last updated on November 1st, 2018 at 03:58 pm
If you’ve never cooked with a pellet grill before, you’re missing out. This fantastic form of outdoor smoker marries high technology with the primal thrill of cooking outdoors, creating great meals in outdoor spaces across the globe. Not quite as popular as charcoal and propane grills, these smokers are gaining in popularity among those who want more control over their cooking experience while still retaining all the best parts of cooking outdoors.
If you’re ready to take the plunge, there’s plenty of information out there that can help you find the right grill. From quick notes on the best grill to an all-inclusive buying guide, making use of the information here will give you all the information you need to make the right purchase.
Shopping for a good pellet smoker can be tough. It’s not because they’re hard to find, but rather because there are so many pellet grills on the market today. You can, however, find a great grill if you already know what you’re looking for. Below is a brief buying guide that will help you to figure out which qualities make the most difference in a pellet grill and which will help you to find a smoker that will meet your outdoor cooking needs without causing you to break the bank.
A good place to start with your search for an outstanding pellet grill is to start looking at brand names. A brand name doesn’t necessarily make one grill better than another, of course, but it does do something important – it gives you a shortcut when it comes to figuring out how well your smoker is actually going to work. Every brand has its own reputation, some of which are more deserved than others. If you can figure out what others think of a brand, you can mark that down as a factor in favor of buying the grill or looking at another product.
Brand also tells you a great deal about warranties and customer service. Every brand has its own philosophy when it comes to dealing with refunds and repairs and some are simply easier to work with than others. Does this mean that you need to start planning for problems before you buy? Of course not – but it does give you a good idea about whether or not the company that makes your smoker actually stands behind its product. If a brand has a bad reputation for customer service, you should know that any issues you encounter with your smoker are going to end up as your own responsibility.
In the grand scheme of things, brand should be a small consideration when buying your pellet smoker. Use it as a factor to determine the difference between two equally good grills, not the deciding factor when going out to shop. Strong brands are good, but it’s the individual grill that matters the most.
More important to the average cook is size. This will determine not only how much you can cook, but how long it’s going to take you to smoke meat. The more surface area on a grill, the more you’ll be able to do – but be aware that a larger area also means longer cook times, more fuel spent in the cooking process, and ultimately a more expensive grill that might be giving you more than you need. If you’re looking into buying a pellet smoker, automatically going for the largest grill can be a good way to waste money and get an inefficient process.
The ideal pellet smoker is one that’s going to give you a little more area than you’ll need for your most common cooking events. If you are just planning on using a smoker for a small family gathering, there’s no need to buy something huge. If you plan on doing large neighborhood cookouts, though, you’ll obviously need quite a bit more space. The more you actually plan on doing at once, the larger the cooking area of the smoker will need to be.
Size is an incredibly important factor for buying a smoker of any type. If you have the ability, try cooking on as small a grill or smoker surface as possible to feed your guests. This should show you what it would be like to cook on a space that’s just too small, as well as letting you put together enough food to figure out how much space it would take it to cook the food all at once.
How are you planning on using your smoker? This can be a huge factor in choosing what to buy, as there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all pellet smoker. It’s important that you know if you’re going to be using the device as a frequent family cooking surface, a once-a-year barbecue centerpiece, or something that you might want to take on the road. Only you know exactly what kind of usage you can expect out of the smoker, so don’t let yourself get distracted by fancy marketing. If you know how you’re going to use the smoker, you’ll be able to find a model that actually fits your needs.
Start by sitting down and thinking about when your smoker will most-often be used. This is a useful step for considering most of these factors, so it’s time you should already plan on spending. From there, think about the balance between your most common usage and the least. If you plan on mostly using a smoker to cook during the summer in your own backyard, for example, how important will it be to have a smoker that can also be taken out to tailgate during football season. It’s hard to find a grill that can do everything, so figure out which type of usage is the most important.
Knowing exactly how you are going to use your grill is a good way to narrow down your choices early in the shopping process. You can remove certain types of smoker from your search immediately and start looking at those that might better fit your needs. Try to prioritize your main usage when shopping, using those less-important types of usage as a good way to differentiate between those decisions that otherwise seem identical.
One of the great things about pellet grills becoming so popular over the last few years is that the market has grown in size, with many brands trying to outdo one another in terms of engineering and technology. There are dozens of different pellet smokers out there today, some of which stand out from the pack only by dint of the extra features they manage to pack into the design of the grill. While it’s not always a great idea to look at these extra features as the reason to buy a particular smoker, looking at them can help you to differentiate between two similar grills.
It’s a good idea to think about what kind of features are likely to be important to you and that are likely to actually be used. Is there are a good chance that the average buyer is going to appreciate extra safety features? Yes, and they’ll get used frequently. Does the average buyer necessarily need a wi-fi enabled grill, though? Probably not, and many would just see such a feature as a novelty. Try to separate out the features that might matter from those that might be ignored.
Definitely consider safety features when it comes time for you to buy a grill. Everything else is secondary unless you have very specific needs. If you are ready to look at a good grill, don’t be afraid to look deeper into the feature list to determine if it is worth your money. Extra features are just that – extras, and they shouldn’t be the primary factor in deciding which girl is really the right one for you.
Construction is one of those factors that’s easy to overlook and hard to judge. It is, however, the factor that will probably have the most impact on how long your smoker is likely to keep working. Your goal should always be to find the best-made smoker that fits within your budget, even if that means sacrificing a few other features along the way. While extras are definitely good, they’re not worth it if the grill itself won’t stand up to repeated use. Unfortunately, figuring out how well a pellet smoker is made isn’t as easy as one might hope.
The bad news is that most of the actual construction information available about these smokers is going to go over the head of the average buyer. There are terms that can be used, however, that might be useful. If you see that a grill is rust-proof, for example, you can probably assume that it’s going to stand up to the weather with relative ease. Grills that use mostly metal parts tend to be a bit stronger and more heat-resistant than those that use plastic, though there are some parts that might benefit from being made out of plastic or even wood.
The best way to figure out if a grill is well-made is to look at comments from other buyers. They will let you know if certain parts have a tendency to break or fall off, as well as what happens to the smoker if it is outside for longer than expected. If you are able to invest in a well-made, well-constructed grill, you’ll get to enjoy the pellet-smoked flavor for far longer.
Somewhat linked to the features included on a grill, your personal considerations play a major role when it comes to finding the smoker that best fits your needs. Personal considerations range from factors like your height and ability to move the grill to your own comfort with using technologically-advanced grilling machines. These are factors that no one else can quantify or speak to, but they play a huge role in whether or not you’re going to enjoy the grill you’ve chosen. The other factors on this list matter in terms of getting an objectively good grill, but this factor matters the most when it comes to finding a grill that matters to you.
It’s actually possible to tell a good deal about how well a grill’s going to work for you just by reading a product information. Is it important to you to find a grill that can be moved back inside aftery ou use it? If so, you’ll want to look for a model with wheels. Do you need something a little shorter or taller than average due to your height? Check out the product specifications. These bits of info might not be important to everyone, but they might matter to you.
Again, produce reviews can help you figure out this factor. If you’ve got a medical condition that will impact your use of the grill, check on forums dedicated to people with that condition to see how they’ve been able to adapt to certain challenges. Whether your needs are due to physical circumstances or the nature of where you live, you can still find a pellet grill that fits your needs.
Price is the factor about which no one wants to talk. After all, the common wisdom is that you shoud always buy the best product. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford to buy something that’s top of the line and frankly some of those grills aren’t worth the money for some buyers. Your goal should be to set a budget and then prioritize the features that are the most important to you so that you can get the best grill for what you can afford.
The best way forward is to make a list of all the features that are important to you. Look at this buying guide, assigning a priority to all of the differnet factors so that you can get a good idea of what you want. Once that’s done, set your budget. Then you can then start comparing the grills in your price range against the list of important features that you have made.
Never spend more than you have to on a grill. While it’s nice to have the best pellet smoker out there, it’s not worth it if you’re too broke to buy the food for which you need the smoker in the first place. There are pellet grills out there for people at all budget levels, so don’t be fooled into thinking you have to overspend just to get something good.
1. REC TEC Bull RT-700
Already listed as the best pellet grill on the market, this smoker from REC TEC is a great example of how one smoker really can do it all. It’s not just well-built – it’s got all the technological odds and ends that a cook needs to ensure a perfect cooking experience. While it might be a little more advanced than some purists might want, this is a great piece of machinery that will help you to cook your food more evenly, more regularly, and with more flavor than almost any other smoker on the market. This is definitely the best grill with which to start your search.
It’s possible to look at the RT-700 through a few different lenses. The first is through construction – this is a very well-made pellet smoker that has been shown to stand up to the elements and frequent use. The other, which might be more interesting, is through the lens of technology. This is about as high-tech a grill as you’re going to find, with wi-fi controls that actually work. It’s an amazing look into what the future of pellet smokers will be like, all wrapped up in a package that actually works today. If you’re looking for a solid grill with great tech, this is where you have to start.
If you’re going to go hunting for flaws, you won’t find many here. The biggest knock against the grill is that you’ll have to learn how to use it. That’s true with every pellet smoker, of course, but it does take a little time to get used to all the features here. Once you’ve figured out how it works, though, you’ll get access to an amazing pellet smoker that will absolutely set a new standard in grill for you and everyone else who uses the grill.
2. Camp Chef SmokePro DLX With Sear Box PG24-PGSEAR
It’s never a bad idea to look for a good value. That’s certainly waht you get with the Camp Chef SmokePRO DLX, a smoker that bills itself as the best value on the market. While it’s certainly not a budget-priced item, it’s hard to deny that this unit really does present a good value in terms of construction and performance. This is the kind of smoker on which you can rely all throughout the year, never having to worry about minor mishaps or any kind of mechanical failure. Well-reviewed, it’s also a favorite among consumers.
One of the biggest draws for this smoker is its higher temperature. With an upper range of five hundred degrees, it definitely blows most of its competitors out of the water. It’s not just a hot smoker, though – it’s one that works well. There are relatively few complaints about the cooking process, and even those who tend to flock to higher-priced brands can’t find enough good things to say about this grill. The overall aesthetic looks great, of course, but where it really shines is in construction. This is a well-made smoker that’s not going to let you down when it’s time to start cooking.
The only real downside to this grill is that it’s really hard to put together on your own. It definitely helps to have a friend available during the process, if possible. Once you get it put together, though, you won’t have to worry about any other problems. Consider this smoker if you’re looking for something that’s not only a great value but something that’s going to give you a great cooking experience every time it is fired up.
3. Z Grills ZPG-550B
One of the coolest parts about using a pellet grill is the level of technology involved. This isn’t a device that just makes use of wood pellets to provide heat – it’s a fairly advanced tool that, in the best circumstances, can help to ensure that your food is cooked at a perfect temperature even when you’re not minding the grill. The Z Grills ZPG-550B is a great example of stellar technology at work, allowing home cooks the chance to get the most from their pellet grills while still offering precision control to those who are a bit more advanced.
The star feature of the ZPG-550B is the Smart Smoke technology. Billed as something of a fire-and-forget type of grilling solution, the smoker can actually maintain your chosen temperature within a range of about twenty-degrees at all time, providing for even heating throughout the cooking experience. The grill is also big enough to handle anything from a family dinner to a neighborhood party, with enough grill area to cook around ten hamburgers at a time. Coupled with a fantastic lifetime warranty, this is the kind of pellet smoker you buy when you want to get some serious cooking done.
There are a couple of minor flaws that keep this grill from being perfect. The big one is the lack of a pellet removal system – something that absolutely won’t impact your average home cook, but that might rub a true grillmaster the wrong way. There have also been very isolated reports of electrical components burning out, but getting those fixed is really just a matter of getting on the phone with customer service. If you can deal with some very minor imperfections, you’ll find that the ZPG-550B is actually a fantastic unit.
4. Traeger Lil Tex Elite 22
Traeger’s a name with which you should become familiar with if you are interested in pellet smokers. The company is well-known in the industry not just for making excellent smokers, but for making smokers that are incredibly fool-proof. This is the company that you want to follow if you’re really looking for a great cooking experience – especially one that won’t require your constant supervision. The Lil Tex Elite 22 is a great example of the kind of quality that you should generally expect from Traeger and from better pellet smokers in general.
Calling this unit the Lil Tex is a bit confusing because it’s got quite a nice cooking surface. It’s definitely big enough for daily use and even parties, so don’t be fooled by the name. What you should focus on, though, is the ease of use that this grill brings with it. This grill is consistent, allowing you to set a temperature and generally forget about it until it’s time to flip the meat. It’s one of those grills that tends to work quietly in the background, giving you a great experience without calling attention to itself.
There is one fairly common complaint with the grill, and that it’s apparent ‘cheap’ feel. While the grill might not feel as solid to the touch as some others, it’s actually well-made. It doesn’t quite have the aesthetic appeal that one might hope for something of its caliber, but that’s a problem that you probably won’t notice once you start cooking.
5. Camp Chef Smoke Pro DLX PG24
If you’re looking for a good pellet smoker, what you’re probably concentrating on is the experience of cooking. Not just the quality of meat you can smoke, but rather the amount of work that you’ll have to put into the whole experience to make it worthwhile. If there’s one thing that the Camp Chef Smoke Pro DLX PG24 is great at, it’s making the smoking experience just a little easier. It has a host of quality-of-life features that are so good that you’ll wonder why they aren’t more common. This grill is definitely a good example of how convenient a smoker can be.
If there’s a single stand-out feature for this grill, it’s got to be the hopper clean-out system. This isn’t exactly the kind of thing that is going to sell a grill on its own, but it’s so convenient that you’ll seek it out in every other grill you use. The hopper clean-out system makes it easier to remove pellets and keep your smoker clean, reducing the amount of maintenance that you have to do on the unit. Alongside this feature are a few other great technological bits like an included meat probe, a shut-off system, and an ash cleanout cup, all features that are just as good at making maintenance minimal.
The big problem with this unit is how it loads pellets. It’s not that the grill can’t load pellets at all, but rather that it doesn’t tend to use generic, low-end pellets very well. This means you’ll have to really monitor the grill every time you switch brands. Once you find something that works, though, you’ll be able to enjoy a problem-free grilling experience.
6. Traeger Texas Elite 34
It’s always good to pursue a grill that’s got all the features you need. You certainly want to concentrate on those features that are most useful to you now, of course, but there’s no reason not to look to the future. If you’ve ever got the goal of cooking for a large group of people – or preparing a good deal of meat directly at your grill – the Traeger Texas Elite 34 might be the best smoker for you. Consider is to big step up between a small family grill and something meant for larger groups.
There’s a lot to say about this grill. One of the big features is the enhanced preparation space, which folds out nicely from the rest of the grill. This makes it easy to prepare tougher dishes without requiring you to step away from the smoker. At the same time, you’re still getting a huge cooking space – one that’s got more than enough room for virtually anything you could choose to cook. This grill even comes with a very nice cover, which will help you to keep it in good shape no matter what the weather outside.
The only big downside to this smoker is the shipping process. A number of consumers have reported that their boxes don’t get to them in good shape. Customer service generally does a good job replacing anything that’s been damaged, though, so you won’t have to suffer because your shipper didn’t choose to take care of its products en route.
7. Z Grills ZPG-7002
One of the big advantages that pellet smokers have over their competition is versatility. Anything you can do with a typical smoker or grill, you can do with a pellet grill. The only difference, of course, is that the process is usually far easier with a pellet grill. The Z Grills ZPG-7002 has more than a few features that show off just how easy it is to get great performance out of a smoker, all without requiring the cook to be a professional or even to know much about how these pellet grills work.
The ZPG-7002 is an 8-in-1 unit, which means that you can do anything from grill to bake with the unit. It’s fairly common among higher-end pellet smokers, but what the claim really shows you is that the grill is good at maintaining a constant heat. This is accomplished by some outstanding technology, including everything from easy-start to digital controls. You’ll even get a free cover with the grill, which is just icing on the cake. This is one of those pellet smokers that goes above and beyond to ensure that the cooking experience of the buyer is as painless as possible.
The only bad news about this grill is that the customer service is sub-par. The company will absolutely honor its warranty and help out its customers, but only if you can actually find the contact information. The only reliable way to contact the company is through email, so be aware that the problems you might encounter with the grill definitely won’t be solved quickly.
8. Camp Chef Woodwind SG
If you buy a product from Camp Chef, there’s a fair chance that you already know what you’re getting. You’re going to get a pellet smoker that’s not just easy to use, but one that’s easy to maintain. You’re definitely not going to get a cheap grill, but you will get one that’s going to last for years to come. The Woodwind SG is a really great example of Camp Chef’s products in general, both as an easy-to-use grill and as a device that seems tailored to make sure that users spend more time cooking and less time worrying about maintenance.
The big draw here, as with some other Camp Chef products, is the Smart Smoke technology. It’s not that much different than what you’d find in other high-end smokers, to be honest, but it’s still a great feature. Anything that helps you to spend less time babysitting the pellet smoker is a bonus, and this feature definitely does exactly that. The other big selling point is the Ash Cleanout System. You can literally just pull a lever and be done with ash – something that you won’t get from any other grill company.
As always, there are a few things to look out for with this grill. The set-up is a little harder than you’d hope, which is a problem when it can impact features like the Ash Cleanup. If you follow the directions carefully and don’t try to just use your best judgment, though, you’ll end up with a spectacular pellet grill that will allow you to cook great food without too much work.
9. Green Mountain Grills Davy Crocket
One issue that tends to crop up with pellet smokers is that they aren’t all that portable. While it’s possible to find a portable model, it’s true that those models that actually work well are few and far between. A great example of a good pellet grill that actually works is the Green Mountain Grills Davy Crocket. While it’s a little on the small size, it’s perfect for those who want to bring their smoker on the go. Consider this one the ideal pellet grill for tailgating and for going on the road.
You might be surprised by all of the technology crammed in this grill. It’s actually wi-fi enabled, which isn’t all that common yet but that is increasingly included in newer grills. This means that you can actually control the heat of the grill when you’re elsewhere, allowing you to enjoy a party without having to babysit the grill. The grill is also incredibly easy to move around, thanks to a great set-up that is as easy to put away as it is to get set up. The grill does still have a reasonable cooking surface, which makes it easy to cook for multiple people even on a portable smoker.
The only downside to this grill is that it tends to have a few hot spots, which means that it’s harder to cook your food evenly without rotation. That’s fairly typical of grills in general, but it does take away from the cook-and-forget factor you get with the wi-fi. If you’re willing to look after your food, though, you’ll love the experience this grill provides.
10. Cuisinart CPG-4000
Yes, Cuisinart is actually in the pellet smoker game. While you might think of the company more in terms of stand mixers and kitchen gadgets, it actually has a fairly strong presence in the pellet grill market. The CPG-4000 is actually indicative of the quality you can expect from Cuisinart, providing a strong cooking experience without a ton of extra bells and whistles. It’s possible to look at this grill in particular as kind of a baseline when it comes to what a pellet smoker should do.
While you aren’t getting all kinds of cool tech with this pellet smoker, what you are getting is a lot of room. It has a deceptively large cooking surface, making this an ideal smoker for big family get-togethers or for neighborhood parties. It also has a large, fifteen-pound hopper so you can keep cooking for quite a long time without having to worry about reloading new pellets into the grill. Add in the wheeled base and you get a pellet smoker that allows you to not only cook for big parties but to move your grill to the perfect spot in order to be in the center of the action.
The lack of cool extra features does hurt this grill a little, to be honest. In an era where easy-cleaning and wi-fi controlled temperature are becoming more common, finding a grill without the extras can be a little disappointing. If you want to have a good cooking experience that won’t be ruined by a lack of space, though, you’ll enjoy this smoker.
11. Traeger Tailgater 20
It’s hard to do better than Traeger, at least where pellet grills are concerned. A leading company in the pellet smoker world, it often sets the standard for what you should expect from a good smoker. The Tailgater 20 is a fantastic example of what you can get out of a portable grill, with plenty of space backed up by a spectacular amount of portability. It’s the kind of portable unit you’ll be happy to use as your main smoker even when you’re at home.
The portability factor here is pretty straightforward. Folding legs and wheels make the unit easy to move from place to place, as does the relatively light weight of the grill. Beyond that, though, you get all of the features that tend to make Traeger so popular. The grill is great at maintaining an even temperature while cooking, allowing you to spend less time rotating food and more time concentrating on cooking. It’s also fairly easy to clean, though it’s short on easy-clean features.
The downside with this pellet grill is the size. It’s small, as you might expect, but it also sits quite low. If you’re not going to put it up on a truck bed, you’re going to either have to bend down or sit to cook. While the cooking surface itself is fine, be warned – this unit may not be fit for those who have bad backs.
12. Traeger Bronson 20
One of the downsides of grilling has always been that it seems limited to those who have a big backyard. If all you have is a porch, though, you’re in luck. the Traeger Bronson 20 seems tailor made for those with less space, providing a fantastic grilling experience without an open flame. The pellet grill might seem like it’s on the small side from the outside, but it actually provides a fantastic grill experience once you open it up.
If you want a good reason to look at this grill, you’ll want to open it up. Despite the fact that the grill looks small and that it’s easy to move around, it actually features a huge cooking surface. Big enough to cook twelve hamburgers at once, it’s perfect for those who are cooking for a large family. Combined with the no-flame design, it’s a great pick for those with no yard or who have to cook on a balcony.
There are, unfortunately, some common shipping issues with this unit. It isn’t anything that can’t be fixed with a quick call to customer service, but the damage from shipping can keep you from using the grill longer than you’d like. These issues happen less often than those on the internet might make it seem, though, so most users won’t run into any problems with the grill.
13. Traeger Grills Junior
When most people see the name ‘Junior’ on a grill, they’d assume that they’re looking at something small. The Trager Grills Junior certainly is small – at least, by Traeger standards. With a 300 square inch cooking surface, though, this is a fairly substantial grill by any other standards. While you won’t see a lot of fancy extras on the Junior, you will get the same great cooking experience that most have come to expect from Traeger.
The best thing about this unit is definitely the quality of construction. though it’s one of Traeger’s smaller models, it’s definitely not one that’s been overlooked. Built to last, it can stand up to repeated use. If you want to use this grill every day, the only real obstacle you’ll have is cleaning it off. Beyond that, you can be sure to get an even cooking experience no matter how often the grill is used.
This grill does suffer from the usual problems, though. It’s easy to damage in shipping, something that the company does fix as quickly as possible. Always make sure to contact customer service quickly after you find a problem – it’s the best way to get back to cooking.
14. Pit Boss 77550
One of the more confusing things about buying a pellet smoker is the average pellet smoker looks a lot more like a grill than what one might think of as a smoker. If you’re looking for something that’s got the characteristics of a more traditional model, you’re in luck – the Pit Boss 77550 combines a strict smoker design aesthetic with all the technology you love from pellet smokers. When combined, you do get the best of both worlds.
The stand-up design of the 77550 makes for an incredible amount of cooking versatility. With over eighteen hundred square inches of cooking surface available, the sky’s the limit when it comes to preparing smoked foods. The smoker also features a hopper capacity of over forty pounds, which means you can theoretically keep this smoker working for over twenty-four hours without having to resupply it with new pellets. When you’re done, you can quickly purge the pellets and either cleanup or start over with very little fuss.
The downside here is, of course, that you don’t get to grill with this unit. It’s strictly a smoker, with all the positives and negatives that smokers entail. If you are looking for something closer to a traditional smoker and that has all the utility of a pellet smoker, though, you’ll find exactly what you need here.
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