For beginner outdoors chefs and guys buying their first smoker, that’s an invaluable bit of knowledge. Knowing that no matter what you do, as long as you follow the standard set up, you’re going to produce professional quality meat with ease, which is why smokers like the ones below are the best choice for anyone looking at buying their first pellet smoker.
When people talk about pellet flavors, they're referring to the type of wood used to make the pellets. Smoker pellets come in an array of wood flavors, from the usual BBQ suspects like mesquite, hickory, apple, and cherry to less celebrated woods like peach, pecan, , and sugar maple. Each variety has its own unique taste—from the mild sweetness produced by cherry to the nutty hints imparted by pecan—and can be paired with specific foods to highlight and complement their natural flavors. You can also create complex layers of flavor by mixing and matching different woods.
It can be said often enough: the best pellet grill is the one that's best for you. Ultimately, you're the one paying for it and you're the one who will be cooking on it, so make sure whatever pellet grill you choose is the one you'll be happy with. Just because you're friend has no qualms paying top dollar for the most advanced grill on the market doesn't mean you should feel bad about spending half as much on a grill that does the things you want it to do. The best advice: do your research, be informed, and know what you're purchasing. If you can do that, you're unlikely to experience buyer's remorse.
A pellet grill often comes with many facilities that are usually not available on any other grilling appliances. One of them is its temperature control and settings. This is a huge advantage for inexperienced cooks who do not have the understanding and years of experience of pit masters who know how to cook different foods on different temperatures. This also means that you do not have to fiddle and fidget around with the heat every 2 minutes after slapping on the steak on to the grills.
If you’re in the market to buy a grill, yet you’ve only grilled with propane or charcoal in the past, wood pellet grills may have piqued your curiosity. These grills use a very different cooking method than the direct flame of propane, resulting in more even heating and more precise temperature control. A wood pellet grill is more like a smoker than an open flame grill, as it’s difficult to sear meat with a wood pellet grill. Purchasing and using a wood pellet grill is going to be more expensive than propane and charcoal grills.
Recently bought portable Traeger ptk+ smoker as camp a lot. Food is amazing though grill size better suited for 2-4 ppl and you can’t fit a large roast. However cooked a rack of ribs, several chickens and burgers. Food comes out amazing. You do need electricity hookup camping and it drains too much power to run off cars dc socket. $300 and of you call them to order v online they will throw in free weather cover free shipping and some rub. It does take up some room in car so beware if you have tiny vehicle. Buyer beware racoons love smoked food so remove your trash bag with bones from campsite before retiring, as we found out the hard way
Worst purchase of a product that I have ever made. After same issues the first and second cookings, I will use my good ole Brinkmann smoker from here on out. Shuts off with errors and after setting it on 250 will climb to over 400-450 degrees. They say you can set it and forget it, but I'm afraid that my home would burn down if I was not here watching over this junk. When you call customer service same old story. Take everything out, clean firepot put it all back together, then fire it back off. Take your screen out of pellet box and rake them. If you want to smoke meat you don't want to do this every 20 minutes or so. I gave over 600.00 dollars for this and have no more than 50.00 in my Brinkmann. Please read all problems with these before wasting your money!!!
I believe the little Green Mountain Davy Crockett is the best portable pellet smoker currently on the market. Surprisingly, many of the portables out there still have an antiquated LMH controller, while Davy Crockett employs Green Mountain's advanced digital touch-pad controller, with an integrated meat thermometer that lets you check internal meat temp with the flick of a switch. Furthermore, it includes adapters to run the electronics from your car battery or cigarette lighter. And Green Mountain is aggressively—ahem, hello, price cut—promoting its WiFi capabilities, which enable you to monitor Davy Crockett from your smartphone or laptop.
To be sure, there are pure “smoker” and pure “grills” but there are some exceptionally well-designed hybrids. I bought a Memphis Elite last year, and it is AWESOME! I made a pulled-pork masterpiece two months ago that was absolutely delicious… 8 hours on low temperature (225) then an hour on open flame (switching from a “smoker” insert to an “open-flame’ insert at 700 was easy) and it was awesome!
This presumably has the most exact temperature perusing of any grill right now available. Accompanying a cookbook, a simple get together, and a decent outline, the PG24 is definitely justified even despite the cash. I enjoyed the decision of a wood screw framework rather than a suction framework, since it spares cash on pellets, and manages temperature better. For those needing to get into pellet grilling, this would be an astounding decision.
While the Traeger Lil-Tex does offer similar features as our top pick, such as a digital LED temperature control system and an auto-dispensing auger, there was one missing feature which we thought was necessary. This product has a smaller grilling area and lacks a removable upper rack, which gives you less grilling and prep space. I should mention that the unit does come in a bigger 700 square inch version for $200 more, as well as a smaller version that costs less. If this smoker is too big or too small for you, there are always other options available. Compared to our top pick, it’s also more expensive despite offering similar specs. Aside from that, this is a very efficient and reliable smoker – might even have been the best if our top pick wasn’t available on the market.
The hopper capacity is the same as the Traeger Lil’ Tex Elite 22, but what sets it apart is the “Pellet Hopper Drain Chute Technology”. So if you are looking to try a different wood or just storing the grill for a long time, then all you need to do is hang a bucket on the chute and pull out the knob to catch the pellets… and before you know, the tedious task will be over, leaving you with nothing but love for your Camp Chef Grill.
My Egg will last past my lifetime. And I have a lifetime warranty on it as well. I don’t want to plunk down good money(even $500 is good money if you think about it) to have a grill of no use in 5 years. I guess I’m looking for a do it all grill. Not that I need one to do it all, heck I can use my Old Smokey to grill up some mean steaks and burger and hotdogs if need be.
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.
For a large-sized smoker, the Camp Chef SmokePro SE delivers excellent, smoky-tasting flavor that even beginners can accomplish. This is largely due to its automatic temperature control features and grease management system, allowing you relax while it cooks for you. With minimal cons (only weight and pellet price), this is a definite hit among professionals and newbies. The SmokePro SE is an unquestionable bang for your buck kind of purchase.
-Warranty-(Forgive my soapbox here, folks.) I'd give it 5 stars if Camp Chef would give it a real warranty. One year is pathetic and WAY below the industry standard. Camp Chef, I know you are reading this because you guys are too excited about your great new product to not pay attention to feedback like this. Nut up and stand behind your awesome product. Why would anybody buy a product from an industry newcomer with no track record when you yourself are only willing to stand behind it for 1 lousy year?... Especially when the "industry leader" will guarantee their product for 3 years?!?! You are communicating that you have 1/3rd the amount of trust in your product that Traeger does. That's terrible! You should exceed what they are offering just to make the point in the industry! At a minimum, you should at least match their warranty just so it doesn't become a stumbling block to potential customers. Look, you basically took the lil tex and said "ok boys, so how can we make this better?!?" You did that! You totally knocked it out the park! Why cheap out with the warranty?!? As a customer, it makes me nervous that you know something I don't.
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.
If you have faced or currently face the problem with common things like pellet feed jamming or wear and tear of your smoker, then replacing the exact component will solve your problem. Thus, without changing your whole smoker you can continue with some $40 – $50 changes. It might seem complicated for you if you face a problem with your digital control system. Adding the element of professional knowledge will help tremendously. Solving problem with $150 is much better than spending $500, right?
Now, jump ahead to my actually trying to get my Traeger replaced. Per the email, I called Traeger customer service expecting the same service I received right after Christmas. NOPE! I spoke with Frank (Carson) I believe. He did everything from accuse me of shutting my grill off and turning it back on incorrectly (impossible since I was in the house) to not cleaning my grill. Neither of which were correct. He basically made me feel like my grill was unsafe! His attitude was HORRIBLE! He was rude and condescending. A nightmare to work with!
I bought this grill in May 2018. Had to return it to Ace 9 days later because it wouldn’t keep temp or would go out and fill up with pellets. I had to have the GM of Ace fight for me to get a new grill from Traeger. Once I did the new one seemed to work for about a month. Since then this one does the same thing as far as heat and pellets. I thought this thing was supposed to be a set and forget grill. If I don’t watch the heat it will be 200+ degrees over the set heat or sometimes be at ambient temperature and I have to pull me meat, grill and grease tray out so I can empty the heat pot of all the Unburned pellets. This thing is nothing but trouble. Does it cook great meat? Yes! When it works and you babysit it the whole time. On top of that customer service is about as useless as ** on a boar! They will try and tell you it’s something you’ve done wrong. I will be buying another brand smoker and giving this one to someone who like to deal with troubles.
This is well worth the money. I'm a Weber charcoal guy for steaks and chicken and only used my old propane for baked potatoes, corn and asada. Fired this thing up and my asada was fast and easy to make. Philly cheesesteak was fast and simple. Large cooking surface lets you do a lot and it heats fast and evenly. Just make sure if you have kiddos around they keep their hands clear of the flat top! As of yet I haven't cooked on the grill grates so can't say anything about that. Putting this together was simple and took me about 20 minutes. On a side note one of the threaded tubes for a wheel broke loose when I put the wheel on and this was due to a very poor tack weld holding it. I contacted camp chef customer service and took a pic of the defective part and within 2 business days replacement part arrived. Excellent customer service. This thing will get a work out this summer! If your looking for a cover for this it can be a pain and I bought a patio furniture coffee table cover that is close to the grill demisions and it fits perfect.
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The Pit Boss Grills 340 Wood Pellet Grill is a great grill with dial-in digital control and led read-out. Pellets are 100% natural hardwood. This grill has got an automatic start and cool down. It’s heavy duty with 16 gauge steel construction. It’s easy to assemble. It’s a little expensive. However, other grills are more expensive and seeing that I would recommend this to anyone.
Rec Tec Wood Pellet Grill boasts a cooking area of over 1000 sq. inches. However, that area is calculated from its optional cooking shelf. Without it, the cooking area is roughly around 700 sq. feet. This removable shelf can allow you to increase your cooking area if you’re trying to cook patties, steaks, chicken pieces and items as such; or they can be removed for granting a greater volume of space for smoking brisket or whole turkeys.
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.
Very often pellet grill manufacturer instruct you to use their pellets, with some going so far as to state that failure to do so will void the warranty. Why? Well, there’s the obvious reason that they want you buy their pellets. However, it really has more to do with ensuring that the grill runs properly, and that starts with using quality pellets. The easiest way for pellet grill makers to guarantee you’re using good pellets is to have you use theirs, which they know meet the desired quality standards. They can’t make that guarantee about another brand of pellets.
Because the burn pot is small, there is usually a hot spot directly over it. Some units have an optional perforated section above the burn pot so you can put the meat over direct flame, but the ones I've tested still do not sear properly. And there is no way to set up a 2-zone cooking system with a cool zone. As with most other grills and smokers, the differences between lower and upper racks is not huge, so think of it as one heckuva indirect heat convection smoker with precision temperature control.
The Pit Boss Company manufactures an extra-large pellet grill with 700 square inches of cooking surface. It closest competitor in pellet smoker largeness is the 7-year veteran known as Rec-Tec. It has probably one of the largest cooking surfaces (or the largest at that) in the pellet grill and smoker industry. It approaches grilling with the idea that sometimes bigger really is better, at least in terms of cooking more meats at the same time.
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.
love your article and got lots of good info from it….i do have a question tho that i didnt see an answer to…..do pellet grills have to use just pellets?….i have 3 acres full of oak branches that could be shredded. my question is can a pellet grill use home shredded wood chips to burn and cook with or is it mandatory that the fuel be in the pellet state?….would be great if i could find a good use for all these fallen branches….
This pellet smoker will bring your outdoor cooking experience to an entire new level with its massive 560 cubic meter cooking area that comes with one removable rack. It can reach temperatures of up to 500 degrees F which makes it an excellent choice for grilling, smoking, braising, baking, BBQ and roasting. Reasonably priced, it’s a great investment. It’s made of high-quality materials and superior digital controls, including LED controls and auto pellet feeder. Cleanup is also 60% less demanding because the convenient trap door is for burn pot cleaning. With this efficient pellet smoker, the money you spent will be worth it.
Included meat probes and whether they’re programmable - Not every grill that can accommodate a meat probe comes with the probe. Some require you to buy it separately Also, not all meat probes and the control boards they connect to are created equal. Some are just for monitoring temperatures. Others are programmable—you can actually program the pellet grill to lower the heat when your food reaches its finishing temperature.
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To start using the grill, pour wood pellets into a hopper (pellets are usually are made from compressed sawdust). Press the start button to ignite the pellets, which are fed into the fire box with an auger, where a controlled number of pellets are lit and burned (depending on the temperature setting selected). The auger adjusts the number of pellets entering the fire box to maintain the desired temperature.
The Camp Chef Woodwind Pellet Grill was chosen as our sixth choice because it lacked some features found in our Top 5 picks, especially when it came to cooking flexibility. While it does offer an impressive 6-in-1 cooking experience, it lacks an auto shut-off feature, which makes it less of a “set it an forget it” kind of smoker. The grill is rather heavy, at an overall weight of 146lbs. It’s also more expensive than the rest, even though it offers similar (even less) features. It’s a decent choice if flavor is the only thing you’re looking for.
At the peak level of outdoor cooking, the Champion Competition Pro is a rugged grill and smoker with extensive features that come standard. Clean-up is a breeze with the heavy-duty, porcelain-coated cast-iron cooking grids. Known for superior heat retention, cast-iron makes searing easy. Other features include the stay-cool handle, side shelf with tool hooks and bottle opener, bottom cabinet for storage, robust locking caster wheels for easy movement, and a heavy-duty 14-gauge powder-coated steel finish. Sear or smoke, bake or roast: discover the taste of real wood-fired flavor with the Champion Competition Pro. Comes complete with a weatherproof grill cover.
Cleaning and Maintenance: Keeping the grill clean is critical if you need to get the most out of the unit. Old debris can influence the viability of the unit thus normal cleaning is vital. In addition, while moving it around, take alert not to thump it since it accompanies little legs which can without much of a stretch tip over the unit when thumped.
Instead of logs, the pellet smoker is fed with food-grade cylinders of wood pellets that are an inch long and ¼-inch wide and are made of compressed hardwood sawdust. According to the best pellet smoker reviews, pellet grills are easy to use because it’s easier to maintain its temperature because of these sawdust pellets that are subjected to great heat and high pressure, which ignites lignin (natural wood glue).
Thanks for the great information and the research you did. I am a retail store owner in Boise, Idaho area and we sell a pellet grill smoker in our store. I would like to encourage to look at the Sawtooth Pellet Grill. It is made local here and is American Made. It is an excellent grill for the price with an awesome company backing it. You can find their website at sawtoothpelletgrills.com. Again thanks for the information and if you do another publication regarding pellet grills, I would love to see what your opinion of the Sawtooth would be 🙂
Due to the lower oxygen at 9200 FASL, I cannot keep the smoker hot and I cannot get it above 250 Deg. F. I seem to be limited due to the diameter of the smoker…just can’t get enough coals and air to get and maintain temps. Therefore, I want to buy a new smoker, on that will regulate temperature at temperatures of 200 – 450 deg F. Any experience or guidance for a smoker brand and type (wood pellet, charcoal, or electric) at high altitudes? i am looking for a smaller size smoker unit.
Hi Brad! Thanks for your comment. I’d give Grilla Grills a hard look. Their Silverbac model is as solid as they come. The sear box on the Camp Chef is an interesting addition. Given that it’s propane powered, it would be pretty much light, turn and go. So, as you said, low maintenance. Still… with a set of grill grates, you should be able to get a sear at top temps on most pellet grills that would meet your expectations.
I bought a Yoder YS480 three years ago. I still use my cheaper pellet grill for everyday smokes, but I use the Yoder when I want to get serious. It does a beautiful job on baby back ribs (can do up to 8 racks laying flat on the grate) and I have smoked two complete turkeys at a time. The only time I have had a problem after 2 1/2 years of smoking was caused by a failed temperature probe. I got a new probe, installed it in a few minutes, and was back up and smoking again.
Of course, we recommend our pellets and have proven them to work fantastically with all of our grills, but we would never be short-sighted enough to say that our owners must only use our pellets. That just seems a bit, well, wrong. From our testing and customer feedback, the following brands all worked very well: B&B, BBQrs Delight, Cooking Pellets.com, Lumberjack and Smoke Ring.
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.
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Their behavior is sometimes counterintuitive. The hotter they get, the less smoke they produce, and at their top settings, they don't produce much smoke at all. This is good for when you are baking cakes or pies or doing dishes that don't need smoke. But down under 250°F, they produce plenty of mild, elegant smoke. And even though the fuel is wood, it is hard to oversmoke with a pellet smoker. Burning wood on a charcoal grill produces much more intense smoke flavor.
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.)
This cooker is still the best value for the dollar for pellet grills I have been looking again for a larger rig, but haven't found one better. If you are looking for an entry level pellet grill this is the one you want. Don't be discouraged by the reviews that talk about leaking smoke or not sealing well because it does leak smoke everywhere. Look at the pic I attached to my review you can see it for yourself it does, but isn't it silly to buy a smoker that doesn't smoke. If you ever go to a BBQ competition you will see most of their smokers leak smoke also.
Traeger Pro Series 34 - Nowhere in the advertisements nor the website nor the owner's manual does it let the customer know that in order to prevent stall out's while cooking at low temperatures (250) that the hopper must be stirred every hour and a half or so to prevent gaps in the feed of the pellets. We lost a very nice cut of meat to this after having to get up in the middle of the night to check on the cooking at a temperature of 250 degrees (which had stalled again, leaving the grill and the meat cold). This is the second time using the grill.
Though it is technically a grill, you can carry out so much cooking styles in it. It can be used to sear meats and other food to a perfect golden crusty perfection; it can be used to bake quiches just like you would in a normal indoor oven. This is absolutely a trademark appliance that can also be used to smoke food, it can also be used to slow braise food, making it ideal for cooking up winter stews and casseroles. And very obviously you can grill in this thing. The lid on the pellet grills also aid in fast cooking by trapping smoke and heat and allowing the food to cook and flavor through quickly and more evenly.
This is definitely our top pick for a Traeger grill, due to its level of versatility. It can grill, bake, smoke, braise, roast, and barbecue. It is consistent in its cooking, making it ideal for use with large gatherings. Moreover, it is easy to auto-start and has a digital control. In addition, cleaning it is not that hard, as it has non-stick grill grates.
Hey Jay – Yoder makes a great product. Price not being an option, I’d probably go MAK, Memphis Pro (I go back and forth between the two personally!), then the Yoder. I’ve heard good things about the Louisiana pellet grills, just haven’t featured them here so haven’t done a lot of in-depth research. I’m inclined to rate it below the ones I just mentioned – but not by tons. I will say that if American Made is a factor, MAK, Memphis, and Yoder are a go there.
Hey David, Is there a particular reason why the Grilla grills interest you? I tend to find they’re great smokers, just expensive for what they are. If you’re working with limited space (say smoking on a condo balcony) then the Grilla models vertical footprint can make all the difference between having a smoker or not. But for the price, and for a standard model smoker, the Traeger models tend to be better all around.
Hey Vernon – Yoder warranty is is 1-year on the igniter, 3-years on the control system and 10-years on the cooking body. Products manufactured by Memphis Wood Fire Grills carry a seven (7) year Limited Warranty from the date of purchase by the original owner against defects in material and workmanship. Electronic and electrical components carry a three (3) year replacement warranty when subjected to normal residential use. Limited Warranty does not apply to burn pot, meat probe, grill cover gaskets or damage caused by corrosion. The meat probe is under Warranty for 30 days from the date of purchase. (Both warranty blurbs were pulled from the respective company websites) Yoder: http://www.yodersmokers.com/pellet-frequently-asked-questions.html Memphis Grills: https://memphisgrills.com/warranty/
When starting on a grilling project, it’s important to know at what temperatures should a food be allowed to settle inside a pellet grill before it reaches its desired doneness. Of course, the time it spends on the grill also plays a major role in it, but you have to understand that cooking on a high heat for long time periods can leave the meat charred while on a low heat can turn it into soft and mushy.
This great build extends itself to its porcelain coated grates allowing it to be used for years with no signs of rust and also allows for an easy clean by the user. You can expect to have excellent results on your food with beautiful grill marks. Temperature control is made easy with its digital elite controller which makes you able to manage temperatures with ease. Its ignition is quick to start meaning there is no stress to be felt when lighting up your device.
Retail pricing for the Traeger Grills Pro Series pellet smokers come in at $799 for the 22 in. and $999 for the 34 in. At this time, they’re available only through approved Traeger retail locations. If you’re in the Central Florida area, Whiskey Bent BBQ Supply in Lakeland, FL is a Platinum Traeger Dealer. Otherwise, you can find a list of approved Traeger dealers via their network locator page.