The best thing about pellet smokers is that unless you’re buying the absolute cheapest models, there are no bad choices. In this list for under $500, you’ll find pellet smokers and grills perfectly suited for dropping a few burgers at home use like the Traeger Junior Elite, for throwing in the back of the van and using anywhere like the Green Mountain Davey Crockett, or for cooking whole turkeys when you have ten people round on Thanksgiving, like the Camp Chef Smokepro.


On Tabletop Models: I didn’t include them here because though extensive, this post is more of an overview of a few select makers of Pellet Smokers I think do a fine job with both manufacturing and product support. The one exception is that I did include a link to where you can find the Rec-Tec mini. That’s Rec-Tec’s answer to the smaller, tabletop or tailgating models.


All of GMG’s like of product lines like the Daniel Boone and Jim Bowie come with similar features. In fact, the Daniel Boone will always be a better alternative to the Davy Crockett. However, the Daniel Boone line isn’t winning any spot in our budget pick due to its higher price tag. With its build and quality, it does become one of our honorable mentions, if not the pick; and the Davy Crockett continues to be the top choice for the grillers on budget.

Camp Chef is a leading manufacturer of camping stoves, dutch ovens, and other outdoor cooking equipment. If you want quality cookware to take on your next camping trip or barbecue in the park, Camp Chef has the solutions - from camp stoves to cast iron dutch ovens. Camp Chef makes cooking gear for campers, hunting, for traveling by RV, even for your next tailgate party. Camp Chef was built around the idea of finding better ways to cook outdoors - no matter the location, from woods to parking lots to campgrounds - and from that philosophy has come a whole line of outdoor cooking equipment, made to let you go gourmet in the wild!
Some cheaper models, such as the Brinkmann, have a controller with only three settings, Low, Medium, High (LMH), and there is no temperature probe in the oven to create a feedback loop. We do not recommend these units. You actually have less control over temp than you do on a gas or charcoal smoker. The whole reason to buy a pellet grill is because it is set-it-forget-it and it hits a temp and holds it regardless of the ambient air temp outside, winter or summer. On these LMH controllers, the temp fluctuates widely and it cannot correct itself for the weather. They just aren't as smart as a digital device. Whether you're smoking a few slabs of ribs on a scorching summer day, or six pork butts during a blizzard, the three position controller only knows auger on and off times for Low, Medium, and High. It has no information on the temperature inside the cook chamber.
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As you can see in this selection of pellet grill reviews, the act of heating pellets and generating smoke in any pellet smoker is pretty much the same. Yes, some pellet grills use thicker metal, have better thermostats, air flow, racks, drip flow, etc. But the ask any professional BBQ cooker who uses a pellet grill, and they’ll tell you that the quality of your smoke really does come down to the pellets themselves. Here’s what one very astute BBQ pro had to say over at the Pellet Smoke Ring:

Kevin- I’m in the process of researching to get my husband a grill for Christmas. I’m torn between the 820 you mentioned above and the Traeger Pro Series. As far as I can tell they are basically the same except that you get a larger cooking area on the pit boss for the same price you pay for a small cook space in a traeger. I would like to spend around $600 on the grill but would possibly go up to $800 and want 500 sq in cook space or greater. Which do you prefer? Pit Boss, Traeger or another brand?

If you have an older smoker and need a lot of physical maintenance like changing the hopper and the digital control, then changing those two parts may not help. These two changes may cost you $200 – $250 and with a rusty hopper, you will continuously lose the smoke you produce. This is not safe for your health, so in this situation, you should definitely opt to get a new pellet smoker grill.
So, I say go for the best pellet grill you can get within your budget. I reviewed the little GMG Davy Crockett pellet grill recently and was impressed. At just under $400, it’s a good option. That said, I would like to see them put the unit on fold down legs with casters or some other option to make it easier to move around. You’ll see what I mean in the post. Hope this helps.
Yes, no one likes to read the instruction manual. But there are many advantages of learning the specifics of your grill and reading the manual is key. Generally, you should not use water to clean your pellet smoker, so keep your hose pipe far away. These smokers have digital controllers, a motorized auger, a fan and an igniter rod for the fire pot. These parts will get destroyed if they come into contact with water. You should gently dry scrub the dirt off these parts, making sure not to disassemble any parts. Cleaning the thermostat will also prove to be essential; otherwise, it may read internal temperatures inaccurately.
The Davy Crockett Pellet Grill offers open flame technology which uses infrared radiation to cook your food. The peaked lid not only allows for you to cook tall slabs of meat, but it also helps the convection process within the grill, making sure that your meat is thoroughly and evenly cooked. This top notch technology ensures that you get that consistent and authentic tasting BBQ every time you fire up the grill!
A FOLLOW UP: Traeger has agreed to send me replacement parts for the defective ones and I don't have to return them. However I am not returning the grill. I tried to cook a prime rib and a Boston butt. The grill randomly turned off three times and it had the "mini-explosion" others have talked about where the unit actually has an explosion within the housing lifting off the lid a couple inches and making a loud boom. This is not only a potential safety issue, but the "set and forget" is simply not true. It turned off within an hour after setting the temperature at 225 and leaving it unattended for an hour. This is not what I expected or wanted. Sorry Traeger quality is not what it is cranked up to be and certainly not worth the premium pricing they charge for their name. DON'T BUY THIS IF YOU EXPECT TO GET A GRILL THAT WORKS AS ADVERTIZED.
I think you get the picture. In any case, you can see how pellet smoking really does have its own culture to it. I really hope you’ve found value in this selection of Pellet Grill reviews. If so, please consider sharing it with your BBQ friends! And for sure comment below and let me know about your favorite pellet grills, pellet blends, and methods! 🙂
Hey Ben – thank you for your comment. From a retail user standpoint, I think you’d be happy with either a Yoder or FEC. I really like the PG 500 for the purpose that you’re looking at. Best of both worlds it seems the more I’m looking at it. You can see how they approach grilling steaks in this video. You can incorporate the use of GrillGrates in either pellet grill. Both companies make their units in the USA. Both have great reputations. I’m just partial to Cookshack’s pellet smokers over Yoder as I know more folks who use them.

I think a lot of reviewers here don't have enough experience in pellet grilling to recognize how many features are packed into this unit for the money. I'm not going to talk about the usual advantages of pellet grilling in general in this review (i.e., clean flavor, "set and forget", less ash,). Instead, I'm going to focus on what makes this one uniquely better than the other grills in it's class.

Another avenue that many pellet grill owners use is participating in a bulk buy of their favorite brand.  Many times by ordering as little as a thousand pounds of pellets and having them shipped via pallet can save enough per pound to be worth the effort.  Also, check the websites of the pellet brands listed above, many have local distributors that maybe with an hour drive of your location.  If you are new to the pellet world, the thought of ordering a thousand pounds of pellets may sound excessive or intimidating.  Many felt this way at first, but if you are in a location where it is hard to get pellets, the mantra of keeping at least a hundred pounds of pellets (five 20 pound bags) on hand at all times starts to make sense quickly.

Because the wood pellets are the grill’s fuel, you should pay careful attention to the pellet hopper, the chamber that holds the pellets. You want a large enough hopper to hold all the pellets you need for a single cooking session. Look for a hopper with at least an 18-pound capacity if you want to slow cook for longer periods without having to refill the hopper.
As you can see in this selection of pellet grill reviews, the act of heating pellets and generating smoke in any pellet smoker is pretty much the same. Yes, some pellet grills use thicker metal, have better thermostats, air flow, racks, drip flow, etc. But the ask any professional BBQ cooker who uses a pellet grill, and they’ll tell you that the quality of your smoke really does come down to the pellets themselves. Here’s what one very astute BBQ pro had to say over at the Pellet Smoke Ring:
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