If you’re looking for a cheaper charcoal smoking experience, go for a charcoal or a bullet smoker. If you’re looking for everyday cooking, you’d be better off with a griddle or a gas smoker. But if you really want to get the best of all of them, dedicate your life to grilling of all sorts and if you are not afraid to spend a little more, then pellet smokers are definitely for you.
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! 🙂
Versus other hardwood pellet grills, Traeger represents a good value whether for a gift or for general use, although if you’re looking for a fully Made in America grill, you’ll want to consider other options. If you decide to go with Traeger, be certain you’ve thought about how much grilling area for food you’ll need and pick an adequate model, as the various Traeger grill price points depend heavily on available grilling area.
Before buying, please note that pellet smokers need access to electricity to run the digital controller, the auger that transports the pellets to the firebox, and the convection fan that circulates the air in the cooking chamber. These cookers can use a lot of pellets at high temps. At high temps there is little or no smoke, and at low temps smoke is unavoidable. So if you want to cook, say, a chicken breast low and slow to retain juices, but you don't want any smoke flavor, you're outta luck. If you want to torch a thin burger to get a crunchy crust and add a little smokiness, you'll get great smoke flavor, but it is hard to get the crust. But if you want killer ribs, bacon, smoked salmon, etc., pellet burners are hard to beat for convenience and quality.
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.
Even after reading the reviews and watching the videos I was still not prepared for seeing the 640 when it arrived. What a machine! A tank? Yes it is, it makes other brands look cheap and disposable by comparison. I was nervous paying a little more for a Yoder wondering if it was worth it, it was worth every penny. Have only used it a few times for ribs and chicken which turned out great. The wife said 'How much?!' when I ordered it, now she says we should have got one years ago.
Regardless, it’s worth mentioning the basic types of pellets available on the market to get you started. First there are the hardwood pellets, made from the sawdust from any specific type of hardwood, such as ash, cherry, maple, etc. Then there are different organic hardwood blends: a combination of different types of wood shavings and dust, giving them a customized, special flavoring. For beginners, we’d suggest getting a premium blend, just to be on the safe side (because you can’t go wrong with these). Even then, we’d like to mention a few types of pellets commonly used for different purposes:
I've been using a pellet grill for a LONG time (Traeger for ~15 years?), so I know an upgrade when I see it. I just picked up a YS640, and it's amazing. I love removing the diffuser, adding the Grill Grates, and doing so nice searing! My first cook was a batch of rid eyes, and they were both beautiful as well as delicious. My "guest list" of people wbo want to come over for food keeps growing... Nice problem to have. Good friends, good food, good times.
As a new and nervous cook or just a busy one, it is always a struggle to get the results you want without having to tend to a grill or stovetop all day long. Luckily, Pellet Grills offer a convenient solution. These foolproof devices allow you to truly set it and forget it. Whether you crave perfectly grilled spare ribs or smoked pork butt, Pellet Grills allow you an unprecedented degree of control over the temperature and cooking style you want. What’s more, Pellet Grills are a terrific way to infuse your food with the real flavor of wood smoke, whether it be hickory, mesquite or maple. Unlike gas grills, the flavor is right there in the fuel with wood-pellet grills.
Ease of Use: At first, the unit appears somewhat mind boggling to use however when you get over it the first occasion when it turns out to be very simple. For one thing, there is a get-together video instructional exercise from the maker’s site for a less demanding get-together. Else, anybody that has used a BBQ before wouldn’t have any type of trouble with the unit.
Although pellet smokers already have their own custom-made wood pellets with different flavor and blends, if you choose to moonlight your smoker as a charcoal smoker for some reason (maybe for a different experience or a cooking experiment), you can use it as a regular smoker using wood chips. Under such circumstances, it’s going to be worth learning a bit about the types of wood chips out there.
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:
Overall, I think you would be happy with the smaller smoker / grill. I really like what Green Mountain grills has done with the Davy Crockett model, and that is the unit I have personally. That said,Rec-Tec makes a great product, and some people prefer the cart stand it comes with rather than the fold up legs that Green Mountain grills uses on the Davy Crockett modeling. Either choice would be good for you if you are looking for a smaller unit. I am of course speaking about the mini version of the Rec-Tec. The larger version is excellent as well.
Heating pellets, meanwhile, can consist of a variety of woods, including softwoods like pine, which contains resin that infuses food with a bitter unappetizing taste. Because it doesn’t really matter what’s in heating pellets, so long as they burn, they can also include bark and leaves and other impurities that can adversely affect food flavor and possibly pose a health risk if ingested. Because less care goes into the production of heating pellets and they're not guaranteed to be 100% pure hardwood, heating pellets are significantly less expensive than BBQ pellets, making them appealing to budget conscious shoppers. However, resist the temptation to save a few bucks and never use heating pellets in a pellet smoker.
Barbecuing is supposed to be hard. It should involve chopping wood, breathing in charcoal dust, and hours upon hours to keep a constant temperature from your grill. A pit master would never subscribe to the “leave it and forget it” philosophy that a pellet smoker brings to the table, right? The best pellet smoker reviews show that this isn’t necessarily the case.
Kevin: I have a gas smoker but would like a wood pellet smoker. I’m looking at Traeger Lil Tex (due to price) but I read about Blazn Grill Works, Grand Slam, made in USA, stainless steel grates and a control unit that is very good. Cost about $1195, can’t find dealers so called and talked with the owner. What I read on web site sounds good. He claims on his short video that his auger is the best and doesn’t put torque on the drive due to the design. Any thoughts on this unit? Any advice would be appreciated. Still looking at the Yoder YS640 as price is very similar.
We are going to take the guesswork out of it for you. Here at Grills Forever we have seared, smoked and grilled on grill after grill so you can have the latest information on what smokers are the best pellet smoker grills. These best pellet smokers can sear and cook the most delicious foods, they are easy to control and convenient to use. We took all these features and more into consideration while compiling the top 10 wood pellet smoker review.
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.
Big Horn’s largest available grill, the XL 1093 comes with a large cooking area of 1093 sq inches. With it’s low price tag of around $300 and a high cooking area, this product could have been a great choice for pellet smokers. However, we’d rather not suggest something that’s susceptible to rust and weather conditions to be kept outdoors at all times.
Hey Jeff – I think that due to pellet smokers requiring much of the wood pellet for “fuel” leaving a smaller part for the “smoke” means that you want as much of the smoke to stay in the chamber for as long as possible. Just my opinion. I’ve not used charcoal pellets. Those I’ve spoken with who have used them weren’t extremely happy with the results. Regarding the water pan, I feel that pellet smokers don’t typically require water pans. However, you can surely use one and see how your results go.
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.
The initial design by Mr. Traeger consisted of a “classic” drum barrel shaped grill design with a chimney on top. Instead of the firebox, the grill contained a pellet hopper. It used a fan to distribute the heat evenly over the pellets. Unlike the modern pellet grills, the original design didn’t include any auto-ignition features and the pellets had to be lit manually.
Who says bigger is always better? Our fourth contender to make it to our pellet grill review is the The Traeger TFB29LZA Junior elite grill. This petite pellet grill has been specifically designed to meet the needs of small households. Its small body makes it ideal for travelling and tailgating. It features a 300 square inch cooking surface. This pellet grill weighs just 60 pounds. You will get an LED digital, multi-position thermostat that comes with a 3 year warranty.
I store it in the Camp Chef cover. It takes about a minute to pull the cover off, install the gas cylinder and side tables, move it into cooking position on my deck, and light the burners. It doesn't take much longer to clean up. After getting the griddle back up to high temperature for cleaning, the active work of squirting, scraping and wiping down takes just a couple of minutes. After cool down, removing the gas tank and side tables (which fit nicely on top of the griddle for storage) and putting the cover on takes another a minute.
The single biggest advantage though, especially for beginning outdoor chefs, is that when you’re paying this much, damn near everything is automatic. As an example, if we look at our number one choice, the Camp Chef PG64 pellet smoker, literally everything can be controlled by the built in systems, so I could grab a friend who’d never cooked anything more complicated than boxed mac and cheese over, give em a five minute masterclass and be confident that the automatic systems would do most of the heavy lifting when it came to getting everything right.
As another one of the most important elements to consider when it comes to a quality grill, we wanted to make sure that the grill was easy to use, turn on, and cook with. With this, we discovered that all brands have the same design system when it comes to using the grill. The best quality grills, which we have shared, come with an electronic auto-start ignition so individuals do not have to deal with starting a fire or having to light a propane grill. Everything is done with a flip of a switch or a press of a button. With that said, this happens to be one of the best design elements of the grill that makes it easy to cook. The next is the controller system, which quickly became a criterion on its own.
There is no doubt that grilled food tastes better, especially if it is done with wood pellets. This is because it retains the smoky flavor of the wood pellets. However, there are always health concerns when it comes to meals that are grilled. The main issue is always the animal fat, which burns, resulting in the formation of heterocyclic amines, HCAs. This harmful chemical is a known cause of cancer as it easily fills the smoke that permeates into your food.
When looking at a pellet grill also consider the material its made from. A majority of pellet grills on the market are made from painted steel. However, the quality of that steel and the paint can vary. A good high-temp powder coat paint can stand up to high heat without blistering or flaking. This is essential, because once the steel is exposed, it will rust. Even if the grill body is painted well, you have to look inside. The fire pot and diffuser plate have the potential to corrode and are two of the most common parts that need replacing. With some painted steel grills, such as Traegers®, you can can upgrade the grill and hopper lids to stainless steel, as well as the firepot, diffuser, and drip pan.
Is it common to have a lot of ash blowing throughout these pellet smokers? I thought it was supposed to be minimal ash and that it’s supposed to stay in the firepot. I noticed after two short cooks I have ash everywhere. The pellets are Perfect Mix from cookingpellets.com, but by “perfect mix” I don’t think they mean to mix ash from their product with your BBQ. Also, didn’t put off a lot of smoke, and really couldn’t taste any smoke at all.
Igniter: An igniting rod, heated up to a red hot level, ignites wood pellets as they fall inside the firebox. A cooling fan blows air into the pellet smoker from behind the pellet auger to prevent heat backdraft, while the fan underneath the firebox fans the flame – distributing heat evenly throughout the smoker. This heat is used to smoke and slow cook food in the smoker to give it the best flavors possible.
Multi-position Controller - A step up from 3-position controllers, multi-position controllers feature a knob with temperature settings that go from 180°F to 420°F in 25° increments and may have an LCD display. In addition to more settings, these controllers offer more temperature control. However, they also run on fixed cycles and can only maintain about +/-20°F in ideal conditions—in cold windy weather they are less accurate and reliable. Some versions of these controllers have inputs for meat probes that can monitor food temperatures.
This is a fantastic grill for the money that’s dependable for outdoor cooking and smoking (hence its name, “Camp Chef”). It’s not quite 9.9/10 that is the Camp Chef SmokePro DLX Pellet Grill got, but it has more than enough features and benefits to spare to honor the Camp Chef brand (even though at first glance the PG24 and the SmokePro are practically the same units with color differences).
Got the Traeger Pro grill. I was so excited after seeing all of the commercials, unfortunately once I got it together it did not work. No heat on the glow rod no fan nothing. The only thing that worked was the auger and the front panel lights up. Called customer service spent 2 hours on the phone for them to tell me what I already knew they did not work. I told the man on the other end of the line that if it could not work out of the box I did not want it, he stated no returns. Now I am stuck with it. He says, "I will send you the parts needed you can replace them."
Now, I will be very honest with this topic here. While prices vary from model to model and brand to brand, one thing to understand is that the best pellet grills are made with the best materials, made by keeping consumers needs in mind, made with intelligent designs and features that can serve and last a long time. There are pellet grills in the market ranging from extremely cheap and affordable to very expensive, and sometimes even unnecessarily expensive. While there are exceptions in many cases, the blatant truth is that good stuff will cost an extra penny. This is why I will be giving you my pellet grill review, so that you can see and identify your specific needs and buy a grill according to that instead on spending a fortune on low quality or unnecessarily multiple-feature grills.
The Tailgater 20 Series Freestanding Grill is one of the best wood pellet grills from Traeger for those who like to cook away from home. It’s small and lightweight enough that you can load it in your car for tailgating before the big game, cooking while camping or grilling at the park. The ash bucket collects all ash created, which makes cleaning up before heading home easier.
As another criterion that we took into consideration, we felt that the pellet grill size was important to include in our selection process. One of the main reasons is because we wanted to share a wide variety of pellet grills that were designed for multiple uses. With that said, other reasons include the size and weight of the grill as well as the price. Meaning, the bigger the grill the more pricey it can become and the more it will weight depending on the material design. However, we also wanted to share compact varieties such as the Green Mountain Grill which is perfect for tailgates and small outdoor events or camping.
I purchased my first Traeger Grills over a year and a half ago and now I am on my third grill. I have had the most amazing experience grilling, smoking and baking. I do everything on my Traeger. It accurately holds the temperature, starts up automatically and has convection which cooks my food evenly and thoroughly. I recommend this grill to anybody who’s looking for a amazing cooking experience with little effort and really likes to show off to their friends how good their food tastes. My favorite part is being able to walk away from the grill and not have to babysit it so I can do overnight briskets without even checking them. I love it.
Despite often being called “pellet grills,” they still cook via indirect heat, as opposed to flame, and are better seen as a smoker. They’re excellent for smoking briskets, chicken and turkey, salmon and other fish, but maybe not for steaks, as you won’t be able to get the same crispy, browned sear they call for, and that you can get with an open-flame grill.
I do have a question for you that i didn’t already find answered… How important do you feel a pellet release option is for a pellet fed BBQ? I have only found 3 models that have it; Traeger, Cabela’s Pellet Grill, and Camp Chef. It seems to me that this would almost be a must to make things easier to clean up when done smoking. What are your thoughts on the pellet release, and then your thoughts on these 3 pellet grills.