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.
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.
Regarding getting a good draft, this is a common misconception for pellet grills. The burn pot on pellet grills receives oxygen via a fan unit. As such, there’s no need for a draft to get a measured burn in the traditional sense. Most pellet grills lack sufficient insulation / gaskets, etc to prevent smoke from leaking out of the body. So, unless you’re going with the Memphis or something that uses oven style insulation, you don’t really need a chimney at all IMHO.
PID Controller–PID Controllers (Proportional Integral Derivative) are devices that most of the grill manufactures don’t fully utilize yet. They can be found as a separate device attached to the grills if you’re handy enough, but all the manufacturers aren’t fully considering them yet. Using a PID controller, you can accurately maintain the temperature while cooking and ensure that the food is cooked automatically to perfection without much supervision.
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.
One-Touch Non-PID Controller - Featuring a LCD display and one-touch buttons for setting the cooking temperature in 5° or 10° increments, these controllers allow you to more accurately set a desired cooking temperature. However, like multi-position controllers, they use fixed cycles for delivering pellets and so are limited in accuracy to +/-15–20°F. These controllers may have inputs for meat probes that monitor the internal temperature of food.
As we started to learn more about pellet grills we realized that we had to take different aspects into consideration when it comes to the quality of the grill. With that said, we are eager to share with our readers the criteria that we used to come up with this top ten list. With this, we can say that all of the grills we share are made of the best quality materials and craftsmanship to be able and withstand the test of time and provide a delicious meal. Other than that, we share this criterion so individuals can find the best pellet grill that suits there needs.
I have found that using the upper shelf gets more airflow around the meat than the lower shelf. I asked the AmazingRibs.com science advisor Prof. Greg Blonder about the problem (he has a MAK 1 Star). He explained that smoke sticks to cool surfaces and wet surfaces, and the surface of meat warms and dries out after a few hours. When he wants more smoke flavor he uses a strong smoke wood like hickory or mesquite, he starts with cold meat, and then he keeps the meat moist by painting or misting it with apple juice or a mop like Lexington Dip or East Carolina Mop or Texas Mop Sauce. A awter pan can help because the water condenses on the cool meat and attracts smoke. Read his detailed research on the subject in my article on the Science of Wood and my article on Basting.
Operation of your Pit Boss Deluxe Wood Pellet Grill is easy. Simply load the pellet hopper with your favourite all-natural hardwood pellets and turn the dial to your desired pre-set temperature. Within minutes, the grill automatically lights the pellets, and adjusts itself to your desired cooking temperature between 180° to 500°F. The grill can maintain that temperature all day, granted there’s always pellets. It’s that easy. Experience real wood-fired flavor with Pit Boss.
So which pellet smoker is worth your hard-earned dough? We've put together a list of the ones we think make the cut, organized from lowest to highest price. Sorry for the sticker shock—even a low-priced pellet smoker will cost more than many grills, and our first selection lists at $333. These motorized, digitally controlled devices just plain cost more, but believe you me, they are worth it! And all of these selections have won the AmazingRibs.com Best Value Gold or Silver Medal.
By far, the two most popular pellet flavors are hickory and apple. Both are classic BBQ woods, and between the two you can cook just about anything. Hickory produces a moderate smoke that’s strong enough to stand up to the bold flavor of beef, but isn’t so strong that it overpowers pork or poultry. Apple, on the other hand, produces a sweet and mild smoke that complements lighter foods like seafood and vegetables, but also has enough backbone to be used with poultry and pork. Although hickory and apple are the most popular flavors, you can also pair other combinations of moderate and mild woods (such as pecan or oak with cherry or peach) to sufficiently cover all your BBQ bases.
Loved the article and read the entire thing. Thank you so much for taking the time to write such an in-depth piece to help the rest of us out. With that said, I now want one of each!! It’s really so difficult to purchase one without being able to compare the taste side by side for each. We also just bought one of the Traeger’s on the last day of a Costco show. We have LOVED the taste, and aren’t looking back, from a pellet perspective that is. However, we’ve already had a couple of issues that concern me from a longevity and a safety perspective. So we’re going to return it, and ‘upgrade’ to something more substantial. I was leaning pretty hard toward Yoder, and then after reading the article, the Memphis really intrigued me (could have something to do with being born there, and raised on southern pulled pork). And then, Fast Eddy came into the picture. Any advise on how to make a decision without being able to conduct taste comparisons, which is really the most important thing. (We’ve been smoking a brisket and pork shoulders every week, with the occasional steak and veggies. So we’d like something that does both smoking and grilling, so both important, with the smoking component being the feature we’ll use a bit more of.)
Hey Eric! Man, thank you for the kind words. While I don’t post every day, I do try to make what I share with you guys as informative as possible. To that end, your words mean a lot. Now, the pellet release option is a great feature to have on any pellet smoker. In cases where you don’t have one, I suggest using a small shop vac you use just for pellet removal. Works great. But the quick release chute option saves a ton of time and effort for sure. Not what I’d call a deal breaker if a pellet smoker you like doesn’t have one. However, I’d like to see it become standard on pellet smokers for sure!
With that being said, it’s necessary to understand how much wood pellet would last you and for how long. A 40-pound bag of wood pellets would last you for approximately 24 hours if burned at 250 F. Therefore, if you’re trying to slow-cook a large piece of brisket for 14 hours straight, your 6-9 lb hopper capacity just won’t cut it. You’re going to have to refill it in the middle if you wanted to continue cooking.
The online research, the model comparisons, the pricing—choosing the right pellet grill can be challenging, so much so that, by the time you settle on a grill, choosing smoker pellets often becomes an afterthought. While some people simply default to the wood pellets sold by their pellet grill manufacturer, too many others settle for the cheapest pellets available. Because, really, how much difference can the pellets make? A lot, actually.
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.
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.
Typically, most portable grills would give up certain features just to maintain their portability, but this wood pellet grill from Traeger actually had more than what other top grills have to offer. Out of all of our features, it managed to tick 85% off the review. Its digital controls, versatile cooking features, and decent cooking space (perfect for outdoor adventures) all make it our best portable pick.
Due to having such features and being the best Lousiana Grills Product, the Louisiana Grills LG Pellet Grill 1100 could not escape our vigilant gaze when we did our research. However, it had some shortcomings, mainly due to its build and price that did not allow it to make it into our pellet smoker review. Regardless, we could compare it with some of our products that it had tied with. But as always, we could only choose the top 10 products for this review and this had to go. Regardless, this still is a great product, worth mentioning.
With the summer right around the corner, it’s about that time of the year that consumers are thinking about hosting outdoor picnics and having their friends and family in the backyard. Now, to make this year special, many people are flocking towards purchasing pellet grills. In efforts to assure our readers that each grill on today’s list is the absolute best, we performed an update on this buying guide. Included in this update, readers will get to learn about the criteria that we used to evaluate each grill and a list of answers to some commonly asked questions. Before the summer arrives, check out this update!
I have owned my YS640 for about 9 months now. Before I bought this I researched smokers/grills for about 2 years because I had very little experience with them & cooking in general. With the help of a few good websites I have produced some great food. There is a ton of room to cook on & the heat stays pretty much where you want it. Only a few issues I have had is that where the stack mounts to the side of the grill it drips. I did have a scratch on mine from the shipper & when I called about it I was sent a can of matching high temp paint very quickly. One thing that I like the most about this smoker is it is heavy. You can tell that this thing was built to last.
Ninth spot to make it to our compilation of the pellet grill review is the Louisiana pellet grill. It has 2 cooking levels and a total 1061 square inch cooking surface. The Louisiana pellet grill has got porcelain cast iron main grids and porcelain steel removable upper cooking grid. It also has a digital controller centre. This grill weighs around 173 pounds and is made with high quality material that is going to last you a life!
Bring the savory simplicity of the SmokePro XT Pellet Grill to your back patio and change the way you cook outdoors. Just like your kitchen oven, the SmokePro XT automatically maintains whatever temperature you set, so you don't have to worry about over or under-cooking your meal. The SmokePro XT Pellet Grill comes standard with Smart Smoke Technology to evenly distribute wood-fired flavor into every bite. Skip the tedious cleaning routine associated with traditional pellet grills thanks to the Simple Ash-Cleanout System. Simply dump the ash after every cook and save yourself hours of cleaning and enjoy better flavor on your next meatsterpiece as a result. The SmokePro XT can tackle anything from fatty pork butts to quick and easy burgers. Shop the Camp Chef SmokePro XT today and see for yourself why Camp Chef is the way to cook outdoors.
According to Bruce Bjorkman of MAK, his cookers use about 1/2 pound of pellets per hour when set on "Smoke" (about 175°F). At 450°F, the high temp, they burn about 2.3 pounds per hour. This is about the same average as I have experienced on a variety of pellet eaters. The burn rate will vary somewhat depending on the outside air temp, and how much cold meat is loaded in the grill, but cooking load should not have a major impact. Cooking pellets run about $1 per pound depending on the wood flavor, brand, if you get them on sale, and if you have to pay shipping. As a point of comparison, Kingsford briquets list for about $0.75 per pound, but they don't pack the same BTUs because there are fillers. I usually buy 40 pound bags of BBQr's Delight pellets from BigPoppaSmokers.com for $45 and shipping is free to IL. That's $1.13 per pound. That means that if I cook a slab of spareribs for six hours at 225°F I will probably burn about 4 pounds at about $4.50. If I put 8 slabs in there in rib holders, and allocate 1/2 slab per person, my cost for 16 people is about $0.28 each. If I grill a mess of chicken parts at about 325°F for about 1 hour, I will use about 1.5 pounds of pellets for a cost of $1.70.
I was able to put this to use for the first time this past weekend. It was awesome! Worked exactly as expected. Very easy to cook on and clean. I see us breaking this out on every camping trip. Just a bit of warning though...our first meal on the griddle side was scrambled eggs (which cooked up super fast) and we forgot to make sure the stove itself was level and the eggs almost slid over the not so tall edge. Once the stove legs were leveled, everything was perfect.
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! 🙂