Hey Tom, first, thank you so much for reading the article and expressing your approval of it. It means a lot to me that the information posted on this site is useful for the people. To your question about pellet grills, yes. You must always use BBQ grilling pellets with these cookers. You cannot use raw wood with them. However, should you find yourself with access too hard woods like Hickory or maple, or fruit woods like apple, cherry, or peach – this is something that could be readily used in a charcoal smoker.

I bought this directly from Traeger. Beware that this model is now discontinued. They replaced it with the Traeger Renegade Pro without notice. The new model has an updated saw horse design and a new digital controller with probes. It does not come with the handy spice rack however. To each their own but I'd check with Traeger prior to purchase. That said, I paid more from them so if this is discounted, grab it. I love mine!
Competition: If you are buying a smoker for participating in any competition, then pellet smokers are your best choice. Gas or electric smoker grills are not allowed in any competition as they are using automation. Though you are getting temperature control and electronic start in pellet smoker it is accepted in competition. This pellet smoker review will point out the ones best for a competition.
All this said, I believe the girls you are looking at already will both provide you with long lasting grilling and smoking satisfaction. Honestly, when you get to a point where are your in the price range that you are in, it’s really hard to choose a bad option with pellet grills. The biggest Advantage you have over the ones you’re looking at and the Yoder models is that they are heavy built giving you excellent heat retention over your Cooks.
In 2010, I sprung for a discounted Rainer with $80 in tip money and a pro deal through the whitewater rafting company I worked for. It was an expensive purchase for me at a time when my monthly food budget was around $60. But hey, along with a Roll-a-Table, two chairs I “borrowed” from the rafting company, and my cooler, I had almost a full kitchen that I could deploy from the back of my truck. And the Rainier quickly proved a wise investment.
Using accurate digital thermometers to monitor cooking and internal meat temperatures is essential to being all that you can be in the backyard. Unlike the caveman-era heat estimators built into the lids of most grills and smokers, modern pellet smoker LED displays will give you the real story of what's happening in your smoker. Of course, if your smoker doesn't come with a dual-display system that monitors both cooking and meat temps, you'll still need an accurate digital meat thermometer.
Z Grills is a lesser known manufacturer and a great low-cost alternative to the more expensive Traeger grills. Their pellet grill is a sturdy, heavyweight model with a roomy 500 square inches of cooking space and an electronic feeding system for fuel pellets. An additional warming rack provides additional space for cooking at lower temperatures. Furthermore, Z Grills also ensures their product with a generous 3 years warranty.
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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.
What makes it stand out from the crowd is that it’s the only pellet grill on the market (so far) that has an ash cleanout system… no more hauling out your vacuum to the patio to suck out the ashes when it’s time to clean out your grill! You just need a small cup… and with a simple turn of a small lever, the ashes drop out! You’ll LOVE this feature!
OK. I’m rambling a bit. To your point regarding Traeger. I think that the models you can buy at big box stores (Costco etc) are OK. I still hear a few complaints about blistering paint etc. But… their Pro Series Models are a different story. The new management at Traeger has come a long way in their efforts to reaffirm the Traeger brand as a legitimate BBQ Pellet Smoker brand that everyone from the backyarder to competition pitmasters can get behind. To that end, they only allow specialty retailers carry the Pro Series models, which are built with a bit more heft and better PID controls, electronics, etc. You can find these at Ace Hardware stores, places like the Whiskey Bent BBQ Supply store we have here in Lakeland, FL (there is now one in Odessa, FL) as well. You can find a Traeger Pro model by going to http://www.traegergrills.com/dealers.

The Z Grills Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker comes with Smart Smoke Technology, which lets you set and forget your grilling. It accurately sets and maintains the desired temperature using an automated electric feed system, heating your unit from 180 degrees F to 450 degrees F. We’ve gotten used to smokers taking around 30-40 minutes to heat up, but with this unit, it took only 20 minutes for the temperature to settle in!


The control panel is simple, uncomplicated and easy to use, no codes of crazy steps to remember. Turn the switch on, set the temp once it lights and you are ready to go. On the outside the controls may look simple but behind the scenes it is working to constantly monitor feed rates and temperatures to lock into your set temperature as close as possible. The longer you cook the smaller the adjustments , making this one of he most consistent cookers on the market.


The PK-360, with 360 square inches of cooking space, this rust free, cast aluminum charcoal grill is durable and easy to use. Four-way venting means it's easy to set up for two zone cooking with more control than single vent Kamado grills. It is much easier to set up for 2-zone cooking than any round kamado. Beautifully designed and completely portable. Meathead says it is his preferrred grill.
This smoker has cooking area measuring 560 sq. inches, large enough to allow you to smoke food for your friends and family. This is also enough to give you the best grilling experience, as we’ve found after reviewing the top products from Camp Chef. It also has a useful rack where you can keep your smoked food hot while your waiting for your whole meal to come together or that one couple who always arrive late for the party.
For example, many grills use and charge for collaborating with a software application on it. I, personally, think this is an absolutely silly feature to include on a pellet grill. Yes, it does start on and off from your phone and change temperatures while you are at Switzerland enjoying Swiss cheese on a lake, but really, is it even logical? I mean, pellet grills have already made the cooking experience as easy as a dream, the least you can do is set the temperature by the click of a button on the appliance yourself! You can’t possibly be that lazy!
The best pellet grill smoker has the benefit of being easy to light and easy to use. With a pellet smoker, you put the pellets in the hopper, light the heating unit, and you don’t have to worry about it. Conversely, with a charcoal smoker, you have the struggle to light the charcoal, and then throughout the entire cooking time, you need to check the backup on the unit to make sure that it’s functioning properly.

My traeger has had some good moments but it very unreliable.  I really do not enjoy cooking with it.  I have no confidence in the temp readings and the smoke control.  Every time I open the lid the temp drops like 200 degrees.  I'll smoke at the "smoke" setting but as soon as I turn it to 225 it spikes to like 300-500 degrees. Wtf?  I thought this POS was supposed to be a set it and forget it type smoker.  Very unreliable.  Temp fluctuates so much and if there is even a slight breeze the temps just go up and down up and down.  The pellet feeder is garbage.  It will all the sudden just start smoking like crazy because the pellets have jammed into the burner.  Completely ridiculous smoker.  I use it still but only when I can sit and watch the feeder.  The guys comment below is true about the feeder always just using the middle pellets.  I always have to check it and push the pellets to the center.  Some simple engineering would change this. Never again will I purchase a traeger. There are much better options out there and better price.


Thank you all for a great site and an informative discussion. I am a newbie to smoking and presently have a charcoal grill for when I have more time and a gas grill for a fast meal. Its time to replace my gas grill so I am looking at alternative options. Is a pellet grill overkill, or a timely expedition, if I want to grill a couple steaks or chicken breasts during week nights? I’d also be interested in smoking larger hunks of meat (and ribs!) less often, but am wondering if a pellet grill can cover both? How long does it take a pellet grill to get to temp (e.g. 450°)? With the indirect heat, can you get char marks on your meat? Thanks in advance for the info!


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.

Craft amazing wood-fired creations with the Trager renegade Elite pellet grill. From grilled steak, to smoked ribs, & even a freshly baked Apple Pie, the set it & forget it ease of use allows any home chef to cook it all. Swap the gas & charcoal barbecue for 100% pure hardwood pellet flavor & grill, smoke, roast, bake, braise, or BBQ your next masterpiece.
You like the idea of cooking different types of foods on the grill: If you’re someone who wants to grill food other than meat, the Traeger grilling system gives you this option. With the precise temperature control of the Traeger, cooking things like fruit pies can be a successful endeavor, something you wouldn’t dare try with a propane-fired grill.
Pellet grills have a couple of very distinct advantages and disadvantages. The best can hold a constant temperature more or less indefinitely, provide even smoke at low temps, cook w/o smoke at high temps, make it possible to evenly cook several different meats and do a good job at two zone cooking. The Yoder excels at these. It is built like a tank, easy to use and I love it. One drawback for some pellet grills is the inability to reach high temps and sear. With the GrillGrates I have reached almost 600F and can sear with the best of them. Drawbacks. Well, it is a bit tricky to clean, but I guess I am keeping it cleaner than I did my previous grills!
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.
I have always been a believer: “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”. I’ve been lucky enough to use my professional experience in the meat industry over the past 20 years to create a business where I love to go to work. Smoking Meat Geeks is all about bringing people together that enjoy food as much as I do. We provide a place for everyone to share thoughts, ideas, and recipes; to be a go-to spot for cooking inspiration. Feel free to leave a comment, say hello, or provide any tips. There is no right or wrong input, as long as you’re engaging, you’re a Meat Geek!

Hello John. Thank you for your comment and questions here! In short, you will not get the same smoke profile on a pellet smoker that you do with your BGE or PBC. That said, I do think there are some ways to mitigate this. Yes, I do feel the Smoke Tube and Mojo Cubes add smoke flavor that is detectable. Fred at Mojo Bricks does good work, and I recommend his products without reservation. This said, I have been happy with the smoke level I see in the pellet smokers I’ve used. Starting low does and ramping up later is a technique I’ve used with success when extra smoke is desired. The Rec-Tec grill gets high reviews across the board. I have no hesitation backing them, along with Green Mountain Grills. Both are made in China, but the companies have great customer service support and strong user communities. I believe each has a well-contributed Facebook group or two.
The Pit Boss really is the boss with its 700 square inches of cooking surface. The space alone isn’t what makes the Pit Boss 71700FB one of the best wood pellet smoker available. If you thought the Traeger TFB29LZA Junior Elite Grill had a lot of space at 300 square meters, then get more than double that with Pit Boss (the Rec Tec grill below beats it by only 2 inches).
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The real innovative feature of this monster pellet grills is that with it can be divided into two independent grills or opened up into one that can accommodate a whole hog (though a rather small one). The best part of this is that it can be a 600 square inch pellet grill when it needs to be or a 1,200 square inch grill when it has to be. For the person who might need to do a lot of cooking once in a while, this is a very good option. With two pellet controllers, mounted on opposite ends this pellet grills has all the versatility imaginable.
PID Controllers - The most sophisticated type of pellet grill controller, PID controllers use complex algorithms to achieve and maintain the desired temperature within a few degrees. They, too, feature LCD display and one-touch buttons for setting the temperature in 5° increments. However, unlike controllers that use fixed cycles, a PID controller continuously measures the grill’s temperature then adjusts its cycle, adding pellets when necessary to hold the correct cooking temperature throughout the cook. Because they’re more sophisticated, PID controllers can accommodate programmable meat probes that have the ability to automatically lower the grill’s temperature when food is done.

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
All the talk about made in China...... well it could have likely been made anywhere and inside the hopper it says "Tested". Well the LED display does not work correctly, i.e. not all the letters have all the LEDs light up to correctly state the temperature. The frame had a crimp in it on the front and when I closed the lid, it cam down crooked. It was not put on square with the grill. The warranty says that defective parts will be replaced, but the defective part has to be returned, pre-paid by me. That is B.S. This adds to my cost of the grill. Unless they pay for the return of parts, then it will just be fully returned to Amazon.
Featuring a cast-aluminum rust resistant burner this stove Featuring a cast-aluminum rust resistant burner this stove is a versatile all around cooker. Perfect for any of your cooking needs from boiling and frying to Dutch oven cooking. Its compact size and portability make this stove a great side companion to add cooking space to your outdoor kitchen. Great ...  More + Product Details Close

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.


I had my Traeger grill now at least a week. Not really satisfied because every time I use it it does good for about a hour then it starts to cool down very quickly. Have to turn it off and start over and over again. This take all day to do this. I should not have to do this all day. Just a waste of pellets. Done wasted a whole bag of pellets. Called customer service. They tell me do the same thing. I think a grill should not do this. The meat I cook sometimes is not cooked. Have to start over again. All of this I have described take hrs. Have to stay outdoor to babysit. This grill should not have to do this. That tell me the grill is not good.

How? I just sold my house and left the Traeger with it. Now in Mexico and thinking of buying a Green Mountain. I would like to get a little more smoke flavor than what I was able to with my Traeger (which I loved). So how can you use other hard wood to enhance the smoke flavor? Also comment on how to use the tube smoker in one of these pellet fed grills. With 1 1/2″ rib eye, I would smoke for 45 minutes then crank up the heat to about 350 for 13 minutes and it would provide a perfect rare steak every time.
The best pellet grill smoker has the benefit of being easy to light and easy to use. With a pellet smoker, you put the pellets in the hopper, light the heating unit, and you don’t have to worry about it. Conversely, with a charcoal smoker, you have the struggle to light the charcoal, and then throughout the entire cooking time, you need to check the backup on the unit to make sure that it’s functioning properly.
“We love pellet grills but didn’t like the designs of the models on the market. They are more like an oven than a grill. MAK Grills are designed to be the best in class. You get outstanding BBQ flavor and safe cooking with real wood, along with an automatic lighting and fuel feed system. Simply turn the grill on and you’re cooking in minutes! Our direct heat FlameZone ® feature is pioneering the industry for “gas grill like” cooking without the hassle of flare-ups and burned food.” — MAK Grills