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 shows that this isn’t necessarily the case.
As for what is the pellet smoker, a wood pellet smoker is a classic offset barrel smoker, but this time its firebox is replaced with a side-mounted hopper. It can also have stainless steel super grill with a hopper from behind. There are claims that pellet grills are a fad that can never compare to a classic barbecue griller.
They’re like instant cameras compared to classic film cameras, but in the end they’re more like DSLRs. These grills have not flamed out fast. According to the Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association (HPBA), the pellet smoker or grill is one of the hottest trends of the barbecuing industry.
It’s a device that offers consumers a primal wood flavor from their meats. This is coupled with the convenience of a gas stove that you can easily turn on and off or regulate its temperature by dialing its knob forward or back.
Best Pellet Smoker Reviews 2018: Compare Top 10 At a Glance
Jump to right section
- Best Pellet Smoker Reviews 2018: Compare Top 10 At a Glance
- Traeger TFB65LZBC Texas Elite 34 Series Wood Pellet Grill, Black and Bronze
- Traeger TFB29LZA Junior Elite Grill
- Camp Chef PG24 Deluxe Pellet Grill and Smoker BBQ with Digital Controls and Stainless Temp Probe
- Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett Pellet Grill – WIFI enabled
- Pit Boss 71700FB Pellet Grill with Flame Broiler
- Z Grills Wood Pellet Grill with Patio Cover
- Camp Chef SmokePro DLX Pellet Grill
- Pit Boss Grills 440 Deluxe Wood Pellet Grill
- Camp Chef Smokepro STX Pellet Grill
- Camp Chef Woodwind Pellet Grill with Sear Box
- Z GRILLS Wood Pellet BBQ Grill and Smoker with Digital Temperature Controls
- REC TEC Grills™ Mini Portable Pellet Grill
- REC TEC 680 Wood Pellet Grill – Featuring Smart Grill Technology
- What’s The Best Pellet Smoker Is About?
- Pros and Cons of Using the Pellet Smoker
- Top Brands
In regards to the best pellet smoker, here are the 10+ pellet smoker reviews and comparison chart from most popular brands that might be of interest to you.
|Model Name||Grilling space||Temp.||Weight||Price|
|Traeger Grills Texas Elite 34 Wood Pellet Smoker|
|646 sq||upto 450°||150 p.|
|Traeger TFB29LZA Junior Elite Grill||586 sq||upto 450°||170 lbs|
|Camp Chef PG24 Deluxe Pellet Smoker||570 sq||upto 500°||127 p.|
|Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett Pellet Grill||300 sq||upto 550°||57.3 p.|
|Pit Boss 71700FB Pellet Grill with Flame Broiler||700 sq||upto 600°||79 lbs|
|Z Grills Wood Pellet Grill with Patio Cover||513 sq||upto 450°||173 p.|
|Camp Chef SmokePro DLX Wood Pellet - PG24B||429 sq||upto 500°||140 lbs|
|Pit Boss Grills 440 Deluxe Wood Pellet Grill||440 sq||upto 615°||79 lb|
|Camp Chef Smokepro STX Pellet Grill||429 sq||upto 500°||110 lbs|
|Camp Chef Woodwind Pellet Grill with Sear Box||570 sq||upto 500°||146 lbs|
|Z GRILLS (ZPG-450A) Wood Pellet Smoker||330 sq||upto 550°||100 p.|
|REC TEC Grills Mini Portable Pellet Grill||341 sq||upto 600º||99 p.|
|REC TEC Wood Pellet Grill||702 sq||upto 550°||***|
Traeger TFB65LZBC Texas Elite 34 Series Wood Pellet Grill, Black and Bronze
Traeger really pulled the trigger on this one this time around, delivering the Traeger TFB65LZBC Texas Elite 34 Series Wood Pellet Grill. It’s fueled by 100% pure hardwood pellets to give you real wood flavor out of your meat (rather than artificial or gimmicky ones).
What’s more, it has an LED display with a Digital Elite Controller for temperature control. Judging by its ratings, unlike the other grills on this list, its temperature and quality controls work just fine. This grill also has an electronic auto-start ignition and easy-to-clean grill gates to boot. Its quality control isn’t perfect though, and some faulty units slipped through the cracks.
Things We Liked:
- It’s a huge improvement from the Traeger TFB65LZBC in terms of quality and heating consistency (when you get a working unit).
- Excellent temperature controls that are all digital so that you can set those 5° Fahrenheit increments by yourself.
- 100% pure hardwood pellet action. You’re supplied with quality hardwood pellets and Traeger makes some of the best pellets (as expected of the innovator of pellet grills).
Things We Didn’t Like:
- The few complaints it got were from people who received faulty units with fuse problems.
- Poor customer service wherein it’s up to you to find the problem as the agent walks you through.
Rating: This deserves a 9.5 out of 10 rating. It’s at least way better than the 8.7 Junior Elite Grill for sure or several other topnotch grills on this list.
Traeger TFB29LZA Junior Elite Grill
This pellet smoker and its humongous 20 inches by 15 inches or 300 square inches of grilling space is capable of holding 3 rib racks, 18 hotdogs, 4 chickens, or 12 burgers at the same time. This is also one of the most Affordable pellet smokers around. Its thermostat control is LED digital so that you can set it as easily as your microwave. Just press buttons and get the setting you want every time.
The Traeger TFB29LZA Junior Elite Grill stakes its claim as the best pellet grill with its functionality as a roaster that’s a bit easier to use than your average grill. However, it has issues with quality control, with customers complaining that they got a used grill instead of a brand new one. It also presents a bit of a learning curve.
Things We Liked:
- LED digital thermostat.
- The wide grilling space of 300 square inches works best for big parties.
- It’s a high-standard pellet grill that meets all the standards of a top tier grill.
- As long as you follow the startup instructions exactly, there’s little residue or ash left.
Things We Didn’t Like:
- The learning curve is a bit steep.
- It’s not quite an automatic smoker and you still need to feed it regularly with wood pellets.
- It’s not necessarily one of the best. It checks all the ticks of a quality wood pellet grill, but there are better smokers out there.
Rating: It gets 8.7 out of 10. It could’ve been higher but it has quality control and consistency issues that dragged its score down.
Camp Chef PG24 Deluxe Pellet Grill and Smoker BBQ with Digital Controls and Stainless Temp Probe
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 unit with color differences).
For example, it has a decent 570 sq. in. of cooking area, a patented ash cleanout service, endless versatility (wherein you can barbecue, braise, roast, bake, smoke, and grill to your heart’s delight), and an advanced digital control (the same one that allowed the Camp Chef SmokePro to take the top spot). However, the quality control for this unit is a little worse than SmokePro.
Things We Liked:
- Advanced digital temperature control.
- It also doesn’t need constant pellet feeding with its large pellet load.
- It’s only 3 inches short of the 573 square inches of cooking space that the SmokePro has.
- It’s every bit as versatile as the SmokePro when it comes to grilling, barbecuing, roasting, and braising.
Things We Didn’t Like:
- It has more issues with temperature control and the meat probe.
- There are complaints about its durability than its more popular counterpart.
- Same price as the SmokePro even though SmokePro is a couple of notches better.
Rating: This is a solid 9.5 over 10 in my book. It’s four points below its brethren Camp Chef not because it’s less of a grill but more because the Camp Chef SmokePro DLX Pellet Grill is practically perfect.
Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett Pellet Grill – WIFI enabled
The Davy Crockett Pellet Grill by Green Mountain Grills is a pellet smoker that comes complete with open-flame technology, 110v or 12v with adaptors (3 power options).Is this one of the best pellet smokers? It certainly has quite a lot going for it to make that claim. Like being WiFi-enabled, of all things.
Or the fact that it lives up to its “Ultimate Tailgating Grill” moniker for all you campers out there. You need to watch your roast closely so you won’t have to finish your pork butt in the oven. It’s not quite a “set it and forget it” kind of smoker grill because you still have to make sure that there’s a steady supply of pellets so that it won’t shut down.
Things We Liked:
- The thermal sensor constantly monitors the temperature of the grill.
- The WiFi. It’s gimmicky but it also works and it’s useful in controlling the grill from your phone.
- The decent amount of grill area capable of fitting 2 racks of spare ribs or 3 racks of baby back ribs.
Things We Didn’t Like:
- The learning curve.
- The need to feed wood pellets every time.
- Some of the multitude of features doesn’t work for some people.
Rating: It gets a 9.4 over 10 because of its dedicated fan base and loads of features even though there’s still a small contingent that views it as a disappointment or even a paper weight.
Pit Boss 71700FB Pellet Grill with Flame Broiler
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 smokers 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).
Its burn system is also digitally controlled and the cast iron grids are porcelain coated to boot to make them as durable as possible. The heat is exact and consistent plus it is fueled 100% by natural wood pellets, which means you’ll end up with a consistent burn every time with little ash residue afterwards.
Things We Liked:
- It’s pretty easy to clean all things considered.
- The gigantic 700-square-inch cooking surface.
- I can cook smoky barbecue dishes like a 5-star chef without actually being a chef.
- More efficient to use than gas grills and it’s even superior to many of the pellet grills on this list.
Things We Didn’t Like:
- Certain users say the grill doesn’t hold temperature, rendering it worthless (they might be faulty units though).
- It has all sorts of annoying decals that you have to scrub off before it can be considered “easy to clean”.
Rating: This pellet smoker has a 9.3 out of 10 rating. A little lower than the Davy Crockett grill yet way above Traeger TFB29LZA.
Z Grills Wood Pellet Grill with Patio Cover
Facts about the Z Grills Wood Pellet Grill with Patio Cover
- Comes with a Smart Smoke Technology with an automated electric feed system
- Z Grills Wood Pellet Grill maintains cooking temperatures from 180 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit for even cooking
- Large 700 square inches of cooking space (513 sq. in. main rack and 187 sq. in. warming rack)
- 8-in-1 grill; you can grill, smoke, bake, sear, roast, braise, barbecue or char-grill
- Upgraded cart design with gas tank cabinets and wheels
- You can clean ash easily with a convenient ash dispensing hole on the grill side
- With auto ignition and auto shutdown recycle mode to save on fuel
- Uses wood pellets to improve food taste, no toxic smell and taste on food
- You don’t need to mind this grill because it automatically feeds itself
- You can cook even thick slices of meat, poultry and fish with its high temperature cooking
- Large cooking space lets you cook several types of food at the same time
- Save on time and effort on cooking when you cook different food in one grill
- You can use this grill in a variety of ways from grilling to smoking and from broiling to baking
- Grill cart has wheels so you can conveniently take it anywhere.
- No need to spend a lot of time cleaning with its convenient ash dispensing port
- Comes with 30-day money back guarantee, 3 years manufacturer’s warranty
- Complaints that it’s hard to clean even with the ash port
- Complaints about the longevity of the material used
What users are saying about the Z Grills Wood Pellet Grill with Patio Cover
Users love the way that they can cook in a variety of ways with the Z-Grills Wood Pellet Grill. They also feel happy that they don’t have to mind their cooking time and again because of its automatic Smart Smoke Technology. Everyone agreed that taking this grill anywhere to cook is easy with its easy to transport design.
Key Feature of the Z Grills Wood Pellet Grill
You can set it up and forget it with the Smart Smoke Technology
Because of its Smart Smoke Technology, you can set this grill up and just forget about it and your food will cook well. Assuming that you don’t need to turn your food, you can guarantee that it will cook right because this grill has automated electric feed system that maintains cooking temp up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Larger grilling area to cook more food
This large grilling area lets you cook for a large family, for a party or a gathering and cook large pieces of food. Grill steaks, smoke large pieces of fish or roast pounds of poultry; you will save time and effort plus impress your guests with your great cooking skills.
Is a versatile cooker 8-in-1 ways to cook
You can use this grill to grill, smoke, bake, braise, barbecue, sear and char-grill No need to use other cooking equipment or spend more time preparing food because everything you need is in the Z Grills Wood Pellet Grill.
Uses 100% hardwood pellets
Your food won’t smell like ash or rubber because this grill uses hardwood pellets. You will save on pellets too because this kind of fuel burns steadily and burns well.
Camp Chef SmokePro DLX Pellet Grill
The Camp Chef SmokePro is probably the best pellet grill on this list by rating and by performance. It has a decently large area for cooking at 19.2 inches by 22 inches plus its smoking or warming rack is also 6 inches by 24 inches in size. This is one of the Top rated pellet smokers because of its combination of quality features that are never superfluous and works as advertised.
It really is a professional smoker with large-capacity pellet hopper action that makes all the difference on its ratings. It’s not perfect, though. It has issues with ash collection to the point that the SmokePro itself collects more ash than its ash tray or cup. You also have to hit the ash removal system hatch with a hammer to open it.
Things We Liked:
- You can do barbecue, braise, roast, bake, or grill with this smoker.
- You can cook a 15-pound brisket or 4 large racks of ribs with no problem. It doesn’t have the biggest cooking area but it has enough space at 573 square inches.
- That space is used effectively with its consistent heat production that doesn’t require constant pellet feeding.
Things We Didn’t Like:
- It eats up a huge amount of pellets so be prepared for that extra cost.
- The price is steep (not that steep compared to $4,000 grills but not cheap).
- Ash removal system needs work. It’s practically ineffective or even has design flaws.
Rating: This scores a 9.9 out of 10 rating on my book. It’s almost perfect.
Pit Boss Grills 440 Deluxe Wood Pellet Grill
It comes with a bottle opener, serving tray, combination side shelf, two-tone black-and-copper finish, and a solid bottom shelf. It’s a smaller version of the Pit Boss 71700FB Pellet Grill with Flame Broiler and its 700 sq. in. of cooking space (the Pit Boss Grills 440 Deluxe instead has 440 square inches instead, despite its “Deluxe” moniker).
It also has the standardized dial-in digital control with LED readout (not to the point that it has WiFi like the Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett Pellet Grill, but still quite convenient). However, it’s rated low on this list because of poor quality control. Too many customers ended up with bad Pit Bosses that have inconsistent temperature control (going all the way to 615° Fahrenheit).
Things We Liked:
- LED readout and dial-in digital control.
- It’s constructed with heavy-duty 16-gauge steel.
- It uses 100% all-natural hardwood pellets and auto start and cool down to boot.
- Decently sized grill area of 440 sq. in. It’s bigger than the Traeger unit mentioned above.
Things We Didn’t Like:
- Temperature control problems.
- Terrible customer service that doesn’t address buyer issues.
- Poor quality control (even though the majority of the Pit Boss 440 units being sent out are functioning perfectly, too many of them still end up defective).
Rating: This is an 8.5 out of 10 grill. It could’ve gotten a higher rating or at least a rating like its sibling Pit Boss, but too many quality control complaints brought its rating down many notches.
Camp Chef Smokepro STX Pellet Grill
Bake, braise, grill, smoke, and sear – all of these cooking techniques can be fully experienced by just using one unit of backyard cooker! Yes, you can definitely do different kinds of cooking to your pork, beef, fish, pizza, or pie by just using the Camp Chef Smokepro STX Pellet Grill without burning charcoals and woods to start the cooking process.
- Easy to clean
- Versatile cooking (grill, smoke, braise, sear, and bake)
- Adjustable cooking temperature
- Expensive wood pellets
- No “grill” marks
User’s Feedback Regarding the Camp Chef Smokepro STX Pellet Grill
Even and fast cooking – this is the common feedback of the new and past users of this pellet grill cooker. Although some of them would say that the temperature is inaccurate, they can still manage to adjust everything well by means of its digital temperature controller. Additionally, you may need to add more pellets if you will set the temperature on a high setting.
But overall, out of these minor and manageable drawbacks, many customers were recommending this product because of its superb performance, distinctive features, and reasonable price. So if you want to save more time, money, and effort, this pellet grill cooker is the perfect choice that you should consider as early as now!
Key features of the Camp Chef Smokepro STX Pellet Grill
Before you for it, I highly suggest to review the Camp Chef Smokepro STX Pellet Grill key features below and take your decision wisely.
Ash Cleanout System
No need to vacuum the ashes right after using the pellet grill cooker because, with the help of this product, you only need to pull the lever to release the burnt contents then get the ash cup and throw it all away!
Digital Temperature Control with Meat Probe
You have the power to control the temperature of your pellet grill cooker from high to low. Additionally, just in case that you want everything to become precise, you can use the meat probe which allows you to measure the temperature of your meat and avoid under or over-cooking.
Quality Taste and Aroma
The flavored wood pellets can improve the taste and flavor of your meat. Unlike with the propane griller that has a tendency to lower value and taste of your food.
Pellet Grill Jerky Racks
You can cook as many as chicken wings, bacon, hotdogs, and ribs as you can in just one moment! So if you are having an occasion and you want to lessen the hassle of cooking, you can cook all your burgers altogether without worrying about its quality.
Camp Chef Woodwind Pellet Grill with Sear Box
Facts about the Camp Chef Woodwind Pellet Grill with Sear Box
- With Smart Smoke Technology digital temp control and automatic auger loading to let you cook without babysitting
- Use the Camp Chef Woodwind for cooking in a variety of ways; you don’t need to use additional cooking appliances
- Large cooking area with an upper rack and warming area to let you cook larger pieces of food
- With a patented ash cleanout system to let you clean between cooks
- With a sear box that lets you sear in temperatures of up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit
- No need to worry about undercooked and over cooked food even with large cuts
- Forget about loading your grill time and again with its Smart Smoke Technology
- You can cook in all kinds of ways; you won’t have to use different kinds of cooking equipment
- High temperatures of up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit will let you cook evenly
- Ash cleanout system lets you clean without sweeping or using the vacuum, saves you time to clean
- You can sear meats like a pro with the high temperature searing system
- Cook using hardwood pellets to improve food aroma and taste and to have an even and strong fire
- Assembly takes too long
- Fan and auger makes a lot of noise
- Complaints about the ash removal system
What users are saying about the Camp Chef Woodwind Pellet Grill with Sear Box
Users commend the Camp Chef Woodwind Pellet Grill for its ease of use. They love the way they can use different kinds of food and in cook it using different methods. Users mention the ash cleanout port saying that it was convenient and were grateful they don’t need to use a vacuum anymore.
Key Feature of the Camp Chef Woodwind Pellet Grill with Sear Box
Just set it and forget it with Smart Smoke Technology
No need to babysit your meat as it cooks with the Smart Smoke Technology. You can prepare food and make all the necessary party or dinner arrangements and your food will be cooked automatically.
With endless cooking versatility
You only need the Camp Chef Woodwind to cook, broil, bake, smoke, sear and more. You will also be able to save time and effort because you are only cooking in one grill.
Large and spacious cooking area and searing area
The large cooking area and even the large searing area lets you cook fast and easy and on time. Large searing area lets you sear meats like a pro.
Easy cleanup with ash cleanout port
Easy ash cleanout port let ask “drain” from the opening into a small bucket. Let’s you clean in between cooks with no need to use a vacuum or a broom and dust pan. No need to get your hands dirty especially when you are preparing food.
Z GRILLS Wood Pellet BBQ Grill and Smoker with Digital Temperature Controls
This grill actually came about because of an IndieGoGo campaign. IndieGoGo is a crowdfunding platform wherein interested parties on the Internet can donate money to the maker if they want his invention or service to come about. The Z Grills Wood Pellet BBQ Grill and Smoker got its $500,000 from its donators and now the previously nonexistent Z Grills Company now exists to make their wildly popular grill.
However, does the grill match its success story? It does because the reason it got funded is because of its many features. It can do many of the things a Traeger can but it somehow lowers its cost-effectiveness even more than the economical innovator of the pellet smoker industry.
Things We Liked:
- It’s a 7-in-1 grill that can grill, barbecue, and more.
- It somehow manages to be more affordable than a Traeger with comparable specs.
- It’s not all hype because its promise of being able to accept different types of pellets still stands, making it quite the economical grill.
Things We Didn’t Like:
- It has terrible assembly instructions that need improvement.
- Several buyers rated this low because due to quality control, some faulty smokers don’t smoke and just go up to 550° Fahrenheit, resulting in some dry food.
Rating: I’m sufficiently impressed to give this grill a 9.4 out of 10 rating. Even if I didn’t know about its crowdfunding success story, it has comparable capabilities to the Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett Pellet Grill (even sans WiFi).
REC TEC Grills™ Mini Portable Pellet Grill
Like the Z GRILLS Wood Pellet Smoker, the REC TEC Grills Mini Portable Pellet Grill is capable of going up or down by 5° Fahrenheit increments, leading it to heat up from 180° Fahrenheit to 550° Fahrenheit. At full power, it can reach a temperature of 600° Fahrenheit. The mini size is enough to fit in a turkey or maybe three slabs of ribs, so that’s portability without sacrificing quality and capacity too much.
Meanwhile, it also has a 15-pound pellet capacity comparable to Camp Chef SmokePro (not as large but big enough to eliminate continuous wood pellet refills) and folding legs for better portability. However, certain users who’ve already bought their own REC TEC Grills Mini Portable Pellet Grill have complaints about it, like inconsistent heat distribution of the grill and poor quality control (certain grills break down easily).
Things We Liked:
- It’s portable thanks to its folding legs and size.
- The temperature remains constant within 1° Fahrenheit of where you set it.
- A big enough 15-pound pellet capacity to get rid of regular pellet replacement.
- You get to make ribs that are better than 99% of the ones found in BBQ joints with ease.
Things We Didn’t Like:
- Inconsistent heat distribution.
- It’s bordering on being too small.
- Igniter failures, warping, and rust.
- Poor quality control and customer service.
Rating: I give it a 9.1 out of 10. Not necessarily the best I’ve seen but still better than the economical version of a Traeger when all is said and done.
REC TEC 680 Wood Pellet Grill – Featuring Smart Grill Technology
This is the bigger version of the smaller and mobile REC TEC Grills™ Mini Portable Pellet Grill. However, it’s more than just the Mini Portable Pellet Grill but bigger. This one has Smart Grill Technology™. What that means is that it allows you to adjust by 5° Fahrenheit increments temperatures that can go from 180° Fahrenheit to 550° Fahrenheit.
It’s capable of many of the same feats as its sibling grill and other top-rated competing grills, but its piece de resistance is its Smart Grill Technology that allows you to control the temperature as easily as conventional ovens. Just don’t let it sit in direct sunlight and muck up its temp. The bottom line with this “smart” grill is that it has more pros than cons.
Things We Liked:
- Ceramic igniter.
- A whopping 40-pound hopper capacity.
- A huge cooking area of 702 square inches.
- A porcelain enamel finish with high-temp powder coat.
- Its perfected Smart Grill Technology that provides wider and more consistent heat distribution compared to its mini version.
Things We Didn’t Like:
- Sunlight can cause the temperature to spike.
- Quality control issues (some units break down easily).
- The sheet metal and folding work tray has some sharp edges that can accidentally scratch your skin.
What’s The Best Pellet Smoker Is About?
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).
The Benefits of the Pellets: Pellets work so well with the ease of use of a pellet grill because they’re 100% all-natural. They don’t have binders, chemicals, fillers, or petroleum products within them. They serve as a source of compact energy (8,500 BTU per pound) and smoke flavor. Most importantly, there’s little to no ash from them. Compared to coals, there are no flare-ups involved.
How Pellets Work with the Grill: The pellets contain no additives save for vegetable oils that carry flavor and helps the extrusion process. They burn cleanly and with little to no ash compared to logs. As for the grills themselves, they run with electricity. When it’s plugged in and turned on, a rotating auger delivers the pellets from the hopper to the fire pot and igniter rod.
The Igniter Rod: This rod then glows red hot for a couple or more of minutes, igniting the pellets and making them go up in flames. Smoke and heat from the combusted pellets are then distributed by a blower fan and metal plates under the grate of the grill. Upscale models even allow you to directly grill and smoke your food over a wooden pellet fire.
A Mainstream Product: At present, pellet grills are mainstream products, with pellet refills filling the market versus having to find timber, sticks, and charcoal to start a fire (since these pellets are made of sawdust, it’s easier for them to cast fire and completely combust into smoke with minimal residue). Old school pit masters dislike this product mostly because it’s too easy to use, like a microwave versus an oven.
Pros and Cons of Using the Pellet Smoker
Here are the pros and cons of getting a pellet grill or smoker.
- You can cook everything from braised short ribs to crisp chicken wings as well as crème brulee and smoked pork chile verde on this grill.
- Pellet grills are known for their versatility. It’s a device you can use for grilling, roasting, smoking, and barbecuing all sorts of meats, vegetables, and dishes. You can even use this grill for braising or baking.
- You can preheat the pellet grill at a fast 10 to 15 minutes a la a gas grill. It’s designed to prevent flare-ups that ruin your food.
- There are pellet grills that enable you to regulate the temperature in 5-degree increments for the sake of pinpoint accuracy when it comes to heat control.
- It uses a thermostat in its cooking chamber to send you precise signals to your controller that regulates delivery of pellets.
- You don’t have to fear uneven cooking when you load up this grill’s cook chamber because it works like a convection oven.
- You can avoid over-smoking food on a pellet grill. The smokiness of your dishes is subtler than the acrid smoke from a charcoal or straight wood fire.
- With that said, you can make your food smell and taste smokier by positioning pouches of soaked wood chips or chunks of hardwood directly on the heat diffuser plate.
- You can avail of this grill in a number of sizes, from large to small. You can even avail of commercial units for commercial-grade demand (like roasting a whole hog).
- You also need an inverter or generator in order to take your grill to the woods or for camping, for example.
- These grills are not as portable as a “normal” grill because they depend on electricity to ignite the wood pellets, limiting your access to the yard or anywhere where the outlet is far away.
- There are no grill marks or a dark sear mark since the units run on fan-driven indirect heat instead of direct fire. As such, they’re more of smokers instead of grills.
- Before cooking, you need to preheat a cast iron grill grate, griddle, plancha, or skillet and put it directly on the grill grate to get the grill marks effect, but at that point isn’t it ultimately just for show?
- These grills or smokers are infamously or even prohibitively expensive, ranging from a couple of hundred dollars to more than $4,000 depending on the brand and size of the grill in question.
- There’s less smoke from the alleged smoker the higher the generated cooking temperature is. You can get that smoke flavor at below 250°. You need to do the hardwood chips technique in order to get that smoke flavor back.
- Watch out for any grill with electrical components and moving parts. These will tend to break down one way or another, like electrical components shorting out due to moisture exposure or moving parts wearing themselves out.
- Even the pellets will disintegrate when exposed to water. Store your pellets in airtight lidded containers if you live anywhere humid or swampy.
Only two companies manufactured pellet grills or smokers back in 2008, and they’re MAK and Traeger (both of which are based in Oregon). This changed when Traeger’s original patents expired and the floodgates for competitors opened.
Traeger: As the launcher of the pellet smoker trend, it’s only natural that the innovative Traeger Pellet Grill Company would perfect its pellet grill technology and come up with some of the most affordably priced smokers around costing $300 upwards. It’s the Ford Motors of the pellet grilling world and many a pellet griller on the market to date owes the existence of their industry to this one company.
Green Mountain Grills: This maker of top-quality wood and pellet grillers is the company spearheading the digital revolution in the pellet smoker industry like its digital controller that manages pellet flow to control internal temperature and WiFi that connects your phone to the grill, allowing you to use it to control your grill for good measure. It’s the more gimmicky of the different pellet grill makers.
Pit Boss: 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.
Camp Chef: Camp Chef is the company that perfected the pellet grill formula that Traeger made up, hence its introduction of an effective pellet auger that dispenses pellets only when needed and a large capacity hopper that reduces the need for pellet refills (that people find really annoying). It’s economical in terms of fuel rationing even though the griller itself is quite expensive.
Z GRILLS: Z GRILLS or Z Grills is a maker of smokers, grillers, and stainless steel prep work tables galore. It entered the world of pellet grills recently and launched an IndieGoGo campaign in order to fund its “affordable wood pellet grill” for $500,000 and currently gives even Traeger’s economical offerings a run for their money with its ability to accept all types of pellets and do all sorts of cooking styles.
REC-TEC: REC-TEC, also known as Rec Tec, has been in business for more than 7 years. Its pellet grill offers up to 702 square inches of cooking surface real estate, beating out the Pit Boss and its 700 square inches by (only) about 2 inches of extra space. Its grills can also calibrate themselves in 5° increments and its pellet hopper is capable of holding 40 pounds of pellets (no constant refills required).
How to Consider the Best Pellet Smoker – Buying Guide
When buying a grill or smoker of the pellet variety, you need to remember the following tips to ensure you’re getting a good deal.
Temperature Control: All the good to topnotch pellet smokers have some sort of digital or analog temperature control system, some of which come complete with a thermostat. The way it works is that at the push of a button, the probe keeps the temp consistent by controlling pellet distribution.
It lowers its temperature by 5° Fahrenheit Increments by lowering the feed rate of the pellets and raises the temp by increasing the feed rate. As for thermostatically controlled grills, the thermostat cycles heat on and off like with the refrigerator as required by your given setting. Some digital temperature controls are so advanced they even include a WiFi setting.
Pellet Flavors: Like with e-cigs and their gimmick of flavorful e-liquids, pellets for pellet grills and smokers also have different flavors added to their pellets, and they include bourbon, maple, apple, cherry, mesquite, alder, pecan, and hickory. You can mix flavors, change flavors, or use different flavors for every day of the week if you do everyday barbecues and grills for your restaurant or something.
Your choice of pellet can also dictate how much cleanup you’ll have to deal with (even though generally 10 pounds of pellets can produce at most half a cup of ash, but this varies from pellet variant to pellet variant). Just be warned that when the temperature is high, there’s not much smoke happening, so you need to smoke out your meats at lower temperatures to get that smoky flavor.
Pellet Cost and Consumption: Cooking pellets for pellet grills cost about $1 per pound depending on the brand, flavor, and if you can get them on sale. The shipping cost can play a factor on their price as well. For a lower BTU, you can get a cheaper brand of pellet for 75¢ a pound, but as a consequence you’ll deal with more filler and they get consumed faster by the flames.
Sometimes, the ideal pellet is something that costs a little over $1 for quality but you can still save money by buying them in bulk (like in 40 pound bags). Half a pound of pellets per hour is consumed on the smoke setting that’s about 175° Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, you can burn 2.3 pounds of pellet within an hour by setting the temperature at 450° Fahrenheit (this is an average on many of the pellet smokers mentioned above).
Cleanup Considerations: Even seemingly perfect pellet grillers have trouble getting the cleanup part right even in light of how little ash is produced by pellets. You should search for pellet smokers and grills that efficiently keep the ash from building up on the heat deflector that’s located underneath the grates. The ash should remain on the ash cup and nowhere else. Meanwhile, major cleanup with soap and water is a hassle that requires an apron and gloves.
Many of the models require you to clean them up for 30 minutes because you have to take out the gooey deflector plate and the greasy grates in order to scrape them off and wash them until they’re shining. Careful cleaning is required when the grease and carbon is covering the deflector plate. The easy-clean grills typically make the parts more accessible but the amount of cleanup remains the same.
When it comes to buying a pellet smoker or grill, your best bet is the Camp Chef SmokePro DLX Pellet Grill. It’s the best of the bunch ratings-wise for a reason. It’s able to correct many of the mistakes and weaknesses of its other competitors, like its large capacity pellet hopper that accepts a huge amount of pellets so that you’re not constantly refilling the machine to keep it smoking hot. Only the temperature control of the REC TEC Wood Pellet Grill – Featuring Smart Grill Technology™ comes close.
This is in stark contrast with the likes of Traeger TFB29LZA and Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett where you have to feed their hopper loads of pellets continuously, thus taking the fun and convenience out of smoking and grilling meats. It’s also fuel efficient since its auto pellet auger dispenses pellets only when needed, so they don’t run out so easily.
However, in terms of affordability, it’s only natural that the Traeger TFB29LZA would have the edge. As the innovator of pellet smoking or grilling, Traeger knows how to lower its production costs since it invented pellet grills in the first place. Its economically smaller grills naturally require constant refilling since they have smaller hoppers in turn.
Yes, the Camp Chef SmokePro DLX Pellet Grill isn’t completely great. This smoker has a couple of issues with it, like the ash removal system not opening unless you hit it with a hammer every time it’s used. The ash cup doesn’t catch all the ash either, with more of the ash ending up within the smoker. You might need to vacuum this machine to get rid of the ash.