We love recommending and reviewing wood pellet smoker grills, but we also want you to get the most out of them once you purchase. Without proper care and maintenance, even the best pellet smoker is bound to have a shorter lifespan. Therefore, how you use your smoker and how you maintain it after use greatly determines how long it will serve you. A little bit of work will go a long way toward extending the life of your smoker. A thorough cleaning of the smoker should occur at least once a year. If you frequently use it, you should have it done at least three times a year. Buying quality pellets will extend its life as well.
It comes with some unique features, such as its proprietary “Sense-mate” technology that uses a thermal sensor to monitor the ambient temperature. If used in a cold weather, this grill fires up the turbo mode so you won’t have to wait for it to heat up before you start using it. It comes with “fan-only” mode to blow off the ash and automatically clean the grill once it has been shut off.
Pellet grills come in various sizes from the portable types for tailgating to the extra-large units for commercial use. If you are someone who wants to be able to take your smoker on the go, be it camping, partying or any other event you’ll want something that’s easy to lift and has wheels to facilitate movement. If you have lots of parties and gatherings at home, then you might want something bigger. Its all up to what your needs are.
Secondly, make sure you pay attention to the controls and temperature settings. As well as a thermostat, higher quality smokers come with meat thermometers built in. As you cook, the internal temperature of your meat is going to rise, and unless you’ve got a meat thermometer, there’s no way of knowing exactly how hot it’s got. If you don’t know why this is bad, when you let food sit too hot for too long, you run the risk of drying it out. You’ll undo all of your good work, plus it just tastes bad.
Despite being a little complicated when compared to the other types of grilling equipment (because of the automatic pellet auger and fan), they are pretty easy to repair if you have the right parts. You can find these parts right at a home depot or online. It doesn’t matter if you need to replace the auger or the fan, the ignitor rod or the hopper, for the top brands, you’ll find the replacement parts just as easily. Let’s look at the replaceable parts of a pellet smoker:
I say almost idiot proof because I still make stupid mistakes when I'm cooking and I like to blame it on the pellet grill once in a while. The unit is extremely easy to use for a novice such as myself. I just fill the hopper with my favorite wood pellets, set the temperature and add my food. I have owned this unit a little over a year and everything from the first burger I cooked until the smoked pork chops I just had for dinner has turned out really, really well. I find myself wanting to either smoke or direct grill everything. We have cooked pizza, turkey breasts, tri-tips, pork butts, burgers, salmon, cookies, brownies, chicken wings, drum sticks, pork chops, ribs, cornbread, vegetables, meatloaf and many other things. Nobody ever complains. LOL I have used it in all types of weather all year long. Once I learned how to use the damper (didn't take long) the heat stays where I want it and remains relatively stable even on the coldest days. I would buy this unit again and I would recommend it to others.
What we loved most is that it has a trap door to allow burn pot cleaning after every cooking. It lessened our job of cleaning this pellet smoker by 60%. It is more than amazing because from our research we know that a feature like this will cost twice as much as the Camp Chef. Honestly, this has emerged as our key point when we selected this smoker to be the best in our review.
Hi Jennifer, the Traeger grill you purchased should serve you well. You can see a picture of one of them installed here. I think this is the grill style you bought. One thing the sites you’ve researched (including my own article above) might not have stressed is that Traeger recently hired a new CEO and is actively working to attain the name, reputation, and reputation for quality that they once had. I’m confident should you have any problems with your unit that they will stand behind it and take care of them for you.
As you can see from the image of a Traeger Pellet Grill above, pellets move from a hopper (left) via an auger to a burn pot (far right). The rate at which the pellets are fed into the hopper is dictated by your Pellet grill’s thermostat. Extra fuel in the form of oxygen is blown over the burn pot to increase the burn rate and help regulate a nice, steady, and efficient burn. The lower your temp, the more smoke is created.
My brother said his Traeger blanket saved pellets in cold weather, so after talking to him I decided to order one. Used it for the first time today. The blanket went on easily & fit the grill perfectly. The temps this a.m. was below 0 when the meat started smoking. So far so good! The grill hasn't extinguished itself, a problem we always had when cooking in the cold, the temp of the grill is cooking like it does in the summer, & the meat is smoking beautifully. If you Traeger in cold winters this accessory is a must have!
I have put together the best pellet grill review of the top 10 pellet grills in the market today. Mind that this list was not just put together in a jiffy; all the names in this list have been carefully picked and chosen through strict inspection on performance, ratings and consumer preferences. Let’s take a look at the pellet grill review I have for you:
In fact, 80 to 85% of pellet smokers in the USA are Traegers. The consensus is that they are reasonably well built, though some buyers complain that quality has dropped since manufacturing moved to China. But of course we hear more complaints—as well as more praise—about Traegers, since eight out of 10 pellet smoker owners have one. Traeger can be found in many national chains, like Cabela's and Costco. It's not unusual to find special deals on this popular product line, so keep your eyes open.
Editor-in-Chief Sean McCoy is a life-long outdoorsman who grew up hunting and fishing central Wisconsin forests and lakes. He joined GearJunkie after a 10-year stint as a newspaperman in the Caribbean, where he learned sailing and wooden-boat repair. Based in GearJunkie's Denver office, McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.
The flame broiler uses a digitally controlled burn system. Its Digital Control Center lets you set the temperature ranging from 170F to 600F with ease. The desired temperature is set and maintained through an electric auto-start and fan-forced air mechanism. These, in addition, give that flavorful smoky taste to all of your foods. The auger automatically feeds pellets into the smoker, so you can pretty much let it take care of everything.
Kevin, appreciate your reviews and insights. I am currently looking for my first pellet cooker which will be primarily used for camping, therefore I will likely purchase a portable unit. Your review on the GMG Davy Crocket answered some questions for me. I was initially contemplating the Traeger Junior Elite and GMG Davy Crocket, but after doing some homework I’m now considering the Rec Tec Mini as well. I can purchase the Traeger and GMG now for $350 and the Rec Tec for $500. My dilemma is that I (like many others) take very good care of my gear/equipment, so whatever I purchase, I expect to get a great deal of use out of. With that said, making the wrong decision could be a 7-10 year mistake. There are aspects of each that I like, I guess my question is whether spending another $150 on the Rec Tec, in your opinion, would be worth it to you? I understand if you would rather stay away from specific recommendations, and if that is the case, any other thoughts you have would be appreciated.
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!
Hey DW – I think it’s a good call either way. Reports from users re: customer service are tops for both Rec-Tec Pellet Grills and GMG Pellet Grills. GMG offers a wifi option that now runs on your home network, and will eventually allow you to monitor via a cloud option, meaning monitoring your grill as you are out shopping etc. The extra large hopper size on the Rec-Tec Pellet Grills could be a bonus for you if you plan on doing some really long cooks. Other than that I really think it comes down to things as simple as how the unit looks. I know that sounds silly, but they are both great grills otherwise. So, what’s your gut tell you?
So what about the question of blends versus 100% pure species pellets? Should you avoid blends? Should you only use 100% pure? That is a web to unweave and depends greatly on what you are cooking as to the correct answer. Through our testing we found many blends to work very well. We liked them so much that we incorporated them into what we offer. Not all blends are created equal though and the amount of hardwood versus flavor wood varies widely across brands. We also found that some 100% pure pellets such as cherry and apple had harder times reaching higher grilling temperatures and lacked the harder core flavor punch of hickory or mesquite. Coming from the world of stick burners many new pellet grill owners assume that going 100% cherry or apple is going to work for them since that is what they have grown accustomed to. At the end of the day, they end up moving to a pellet with a deeper flavor like hickory or mesquite to get the results they are used to.
You want longevity in a pellet grill: As the Traeger brand name has been around for a few decades, you can have some peace of mind that you’re purchasing a grill that should have replacement parts available for the foreseeable future. And Traeger grills tend to have good longevity ratings, working in top condition for several years, as long as you follow the manufacturer’s maintenance recommendations.
I would make that decision based upon desired temperature. Very few of the smokers on your list can surpass the 485 to 500 degree mark. You’ll read a lot of discussion about grill grates helping you get into those higher temperatures and that product does work. I would simply pick a smoker that can get to the desired temperature you want like the Louisiana and the Memphis. Both can exceed 500 degrees and both can hit 600 degrees without problems.
Bought Junior Elite 20 pellet grill at Costco special sales event. Took it home and it simply wouldn't get up to temperature to ignite the pellets. Auger made extremely loud noises and then simply refused to operate. Packed it back up and returned to Costco with no problem. They had no inventory so I called Traeger. Woman on phone was very pleasant and helpful. Asked if I could get Traeger to simply replace the grill at the same price I purchased it for. Her supervisor said no and if I wanted it for that price I would have to drive to another state and purchase it at one of their event presentations. Made no sense to me why they would sell it to someone else for the "event" price but not to me who had already done. Poor customer support and silly supervisor. I will look elsewhere.
Aside from durability, a well-built pellet grill has another significant advantage: It will perform better. High-quality materials and good construction allow the grill to retain heat better, making it more efficient and providing better pellet consumption, even in cold weather. Furthermore, it's unlikely that a brand offering a cheaply made grill invested much time designing it to maximize airflow or engineering a control board that can hold a tight temperature.
Its advanced cooking system comes with a “set and forget” temperature control system that is monitored using its programmable meat probe. Its flame broiler allows for direct and indirect cooking. It has an automatic start up and cool down feature and LG’s proprietary exhaust mechanism for even second tier cooking. Its adjustable temperature can be set from as low as 170 F to 600 F.
The argument against bark is that it can cause an inconsistent burn and produce excessive ash. Again, consider a log on a fire. Because they have different compositions, the bark and hardwood burn at different rates and produce different amounts of heat. Furthermore, bark doesn’t burn cleanly, it creates more ash than the hardwood. When that ash builds up, it interferes with your grill’s ability to accurately read the temperature, causing large swings. If too much of that ash builds up in the fire pot, it can cut off the oxygen and snuff out the fire.
Wood pellets that are tailored for pellet stoves or fireplaces usually contain tree barks and binding agents such as glue. When used in pellet smokers, these wood chips can expel some harmful chemical substances infused with the food. But since the dawn of Traeger pellet smokers, different manufacturers have been producing food-grade wood pellets to be used in pellet smokers.
Buying factory direct means that you are purchasing a product directly from the manufacturer, which eliminates the need for a middleman. There’s no need for the product to go through any kind of supply chain and acquire additional costs in order to reach you. The price tag that’s displayed on factory direct products doesn’t contain any markup to compensate for additional costs. Buying factory direct gives you the best chance at receiving the lowest price possible for the product you’re purchasing.
Hey Jim, first – thank you for commenting on this post! As you probably know from reading the contents, pellet smokers are a great choice for set it and “nearly” forget it BBQ. Of course, you’re not going to get the same smoke profile with “pellet poopers” that you are likely getting with your other smokers. That said, the smokers listed here are all going to hold temp very well – even in lower temperature or windy weather. I do see instances where temps and wind effects pellet grills, but solutions including a fireproof blanket over the top of the smoker seem to mitigate things well enough.
Another “set it and forget it” pellet grill, the Camp Chef allows you to set the temperature controls for up to a range of 500 degrees F, and leave it to do the regulating. With its efficient auto-dispensing pellet hopper and digital temperature controls, the pellet grill sets, maintains and adjusts the desired temperature for even cooking each time. With consistent and fuss-free temperature control, you’ll sure to have the most perfectly grilled foods.
In reading through the comments section, it seems the recommendations have shifted over time. As it stands today, which smoker would you go with and why: GMG Jim Bowie, Traeger Pro 34, or the RecTec? I like the cooking space of the Traeger Pro 34, but the other 2 seem to have more bells and whistles. I’ve been smoking about 5yrs, so not a pro but not a beginner. Currently have a 10+ year old Traeger Lil Tex elite hand-me down that is ready to give up the ghost. Would appreciate your thoughts!
How much food are you going to smoke? This is important because some of the top pellet smokers are relatively large. And if you’re not looking at smoking a lot of meat, you might purchase a unit that’s too big. Conversely, if you buy a unit that’s too small, you are going to be frustrated because you’re going to make some delicious meat just not as much as you need.
Most grills feature a primary cooking area (the main grate) and a secondary cooking area (additional racks). In a pellet grill, there’s less difference between the two grilling areas because it mainly cooks by indirect heat, so the temperature is the same throughout the grill. It’s best to pay attention to a pellet grill’s total cooking area because it is the sum of the primary and secondary cooking areas.
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.
You now know more about the perplexing pellet predicament, but where do you actually buy them? Afterall, none of this matters if you cannot get them when you need them. If you are lucky you have a local store that sells one of the brands mentioned above. Definitely take the time to visit the web pages of these manufacturers and see what is available in your area. If you are not one of the fortunate grill owners who live near an Academy Sports, Dicks Sporting Goods, Rural King, etc there is a chance your local Wal-Mart, Lowes or Home Depot may carry a reputable brand.
We were surprised to see that the pellet grill was WiFi-compatible. Usually, grills come with basic remotes, but this one comes with a digital WiFi controller. It allows you to control and monitor your cooking through an app on your iOS or Android phone. We found this convenient, since we didn’t have to get up to check on our grill every few minutes. This is probably why it’s one of the top pellet grills in the market.
Hey Oscar, based on what I think and my discussion with my buddy Shane Draper of Draper’s BBQ, you’ll probably only need to run 14 hours for a brisket cook – given the convection nature of your pellet grill. You’ll probably go about 1 lb per hour or a little less – depending on the weather and other variables you mentioned. Again, pellet cooking is a little bit give and take where you’re getting ease and a more set it and forget it cook experience in exchange for some additional fuel use.
I only just learned about “wood pellets” recently when my husband and I were researching ways to heat the small mountain cabin we just moved into a few months ago, and I had no idea there were so many options for pellet grills. Wow! I hadn’t even know these existed to consider them, and now your reviews have me wanting to try one out. You’ve offered amazingly detailed and positive information on each model listed to help buyers make an informed decision. Your writing style is so fun and upbeat, I can only imagine that your backyard and backyard gatherings rock! Thanks for giving me food for thought on our next grill, Nate. (And for making me hungry, too! lol)
Seeking to produce the pellet cooker that is both a great smoker and a powerful grill. The truth is that burning pellets in a controlled way is not the best method for producing high grilling temperatures. Most pellet grills top out at 500 degrees F while the hottest units can hit 600 degrees F. This pellet cooker is in reality, a combination grill with a large smoking space, and a small but powerful direct grilling area. Reasonably priced with quality construction, this is definitely a pellet grill to look at.
The wifi functionality displays both the temperature of both the grill and meat probe, using the same on your smartphone app you can tweak it according to your needs. The App also lets you set up profiles which you can configure once and use in the future as well. This adds a great accessibility feature that none of the big smokers have comparatively.
JUNK!!!!! Major defects and powder coating coming off and possibly getting my family sick. Very rude customer service telling me to just take it back to Costco! Did I mention I bought the biggest one and will need to disassemble the entire thing to fit it in my explorer! I will be sending the paint chips that came off to a lab to determine what the stuff is and if my family has been exposed to carcinogenic chemicals. A $1,000 for Chinese junk....Stay away for your families sake!!!!!
Another pellet smoker from industry leaders Traeger. The Lil Tex Elite is an upscaled Junior Elite, and whilst it’s still a good quality smoker and grill with a powerful burner and excellent heat output, plus all of Traeger’s usual electronic gizmos. There’s just not enough of a difference between this and the Junior Elite, especially not when you consider the increased price tag, which is disappointing.
In the Grills Bull we have another large, unwieldy, but fully loaded grilling system. With a price that would make most grillers wince, this Pellet Grill comes complete with all sorts of bells and whistles. Aside from the large, wifi-enabled grill itself, Rec Tec throws in a terrific 6-year warranty as well as over 150 pounds of Pellets, which goes a long way towards justifying the cost. The Bull also has a large, 100% stainless steel cooking space which offers terrific durability long-term.
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Wattage – With the right amount of wattage by your side, you will easily reach the temperature required, and it will stay there provided that you are providing enough pellets for it to make use of. Anything north of 1200W will easily be able to cover all your requirements, but as a rule, it’s ideal to be sheltered than sorry, so it can’t hurt to purchase a unit with a bigger Wattage than you might suspect you’ll require.