The Best Pellet Smokers for 2021

best pellet sdmokers

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If you’re looking for a versatile, simple to use cooker then you should seriously consider a pellet smoker.

While you won’t win any points with old fashioned pitmasters, the ability to effortlessly produce excellent barbecue makes buying a pellet smoker very tempting.

In a rush? We think the Camp Chef Woodwind WiFi 24 hits the sweet spot of value to performance and is the best pellet smoker for most people.

In this guide, we’ll break down the best pellet smokers available in 2020. We’ll also run through some of the pros and cons of cooking with pellets to help you make up your own mind.

Don’t be confused if you see the “pellet grill” and “pellet smoker” used interchangeably. They refer to the same thing.

  • Cooking surface: 811 sq in
  • Controller: Gen 2 PID
  • Pellet capacity: 22 lbs
  • Warranty: 3 years
  • Cooking surface: 570 sq in
  • Controller: Ortech digital
  • Pellet capacity: 18 lbs
  • Warranty: 3 years
  • Cooking surface: 575 sq in
  • Controller: D2 PID
  • Pellet capacity: 18 lbs
  • Warranty: 3 years
  • Cooking surface: 575 sq in
  • Controller: D2 PID
  • Pellet capacity: 18 lbs
  • Warranty: 3 years
  • Cooking surface: 700 sq in
  • Controller: Digital
  • Pellet capacity: 20 lbs
  • Warranty: 3 years
  • Cooking surface: 700 sq in
  • Controller: Digital
  • Pellet capacity: 20 lbs
  • Warranty: 3 years
  • Cooking surface: 219 sq in
  • Controller: PID
  • Pellet capacity: 9 lbs
  • Warranty: 2 years
  • Cooking surface: 219 sq in
  • Controller: PID
  • Pellet capacity: 9 lbs
  • Warranty: 2 years
  • Cooking surface: 820 sq in
  • Controller: Digital
  • Pellet capacity: 18 lbs
  • Warranty: 3 years
  • Cooking surface: 820 sq in
  • Controller: Digital
  • Pellet capacity: 18 lbs
  • Warranty: 3 years

The 9 Best Pellet Grills Reviewed

1. The best all-around pellet smoker – Camp Chef Woodwind WiFi 24

Read our full Camp Chef Woodwind review.

Camp Chef Woodwind pellet grill review

The Camp Chef Woodwind 24 is an excellent mid-sized smoker that strikes a perfect balance between quality and value for your dollar.

There’s plenty of tech in the Woodwind, powered by the new Gen 2 digital PID controller which gives you the option to dial in your desired level of smoke.

You can control the grill via a large color touch screen or through the companion App.

The Woodwind is available in two sizes. Most people will go for the mid-sized 24″ model which gives you 811 total square inches of cooking space (429 sq in lower rack + 382 sq in upper rack.

If you need to cook for a crowd you can opt for the otherwise identical 36″ model which gives you a 1236 square inches of grill real estate to use.

The Woodwind ticks all the boxes you would expect from a pellet grill at this mid-price point. You’ll enjoy the set it and forget it style cooking with four meat probes included to help you keep an eye on your temperatures.

Most pellet grills struggle to sear, but Camp Chef has come up with two solutions to this problem. You’ve got the slide and grill feature which lets you pull a handle and switch to direct flame grilling, or you can add the optional SideKick and Grill Box attachments to give yourself a dedicated searing station.

Here’s a video showing how we use the Sidekick to sear some Picanha before finishing on the grill.

You can buy the Woodwind with the SideKick as a package or pick it up in the future. Be sure to check out our full review where we tested out these attachments to see if they were worth the cost.

What we like:

  • Super simple to operate – From the digital controls that allow you to dial in the exact temp you want to the ash cleanout system, the Woodwind is one of the easiest to operate pellet grills we’ve tested.
  • Searing capability – Crank up the heat at any time via the slider rod for searing steak or burgers.
  • SideKick attachment – Add a powerful propane burner that can be configured as a griddle, grill or pizza oven to give you ultimate versatility.
  • Smoke adjustment controls – You can set the smoke level between 1-10 depending on if want a subtle of heavy smokey flavor

What we don’t like:

  • No cabinet door – You get a small storage shelf but it would be more useful if their was a door so you could keep a bag of pellets or some tools dry.
  • App connectivity – The Camp Chef has WiFi and Bluetooth to connect to your phone, and the App allows you to change temps and smoke level, monitor your four probes and shut down the grill but we found it would randomly lose connection which was a little aggravating.

Camp Chef is regularly updating the App so we hope the connection issues can be resolved.

The Woodwind is well built and designed, packed with features and can be upgraded with the Side Kick for greater versatility.

It’s easy to operate, clean and maintain and cooks delicious food with minimal effort.

2. Runner Up – Traeger Pro 575 Wood Pellet Grill

traeger pro 575 pellet grill

If you want the biggest brand with all the latest features, and your budget can stretch, the Traeger Pro is a great option.

While it’s become trendy to trash Traeger lately, they have made a bunch of improvements to the Pro models in 2019 that make it well worth considering

The Pro now comes with WiFi for remote control and monitoring of your grill.

The new Pro also addresses a few common issues with older Traegers. Namely poor heating speed and difficulty maintaining temperatures.

The new D2 direct drive uses a brushless DC motor to achieve higher torque at lower RPM. What does this actually mean? Basically, the motor can turn the pellet auger faster, which lets you get more fuel into the firepot for faster and hotter cooking.

These features used to only come with the top of the range Timberline series, and they make the Pro a great buy in our opinion.

You can choose the Pro with either 575 or 780 square inches of cooking space. The extra space will cost you an additional $200 so think about how many people you need to cook for and this could be an area where you can save some money.

You can also choose between black or bronze color schemes.

You get one temperature probe that lets you monitor your food temperature from the grill interface or via the Traeger app.

What we like:

  • Highly accurate D2 PID controller – The Traeger Pro controller uses a variable speed fan that can speed up or slow down to reach and hold a more exact temperature. You can set the temperature within 5°F increments.
  • WiFi connectivity – The so-called WiFIRE technology is quite clever, allowing you to control temperatures and monitor your food from anywhere via your smartphone. You can even choose from hundreds of pre-programmed recipes which will control the entire cooking cycle, changing the temperature and air circulation for you.

What we don’t like:

  • Crucial accessories cost extra – You’ll have to fork out an extra $149.98 for the grill cover & folding shelf ($119.98 on the 575 model).

Other than having to fork out extra for the shelf and cover, the Pro Series represents the sweet spot of value to performance in the Traeger lineup.

A quick word of warning. Traeger slightly tweaked their naming convention with the 2019 models. The older models are called Pro 34, where the 34 represents the size of the main grilling rack.

The new models use the entire cooking surface area in the name.

If you don’t think you’ll take advantage of the WiFi features, you can save some money with one of the older models, but in our opinion, the upgraded drivetrain, motor, and fan plus WiFi make the Pro series our runner up pick for best pellet grill.

3. The best budget pellet grill – Z GRILLS 700E Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker

Read our full Z Grills 700E review.

z grills 7600e pellet grill

It’s always tough recommending a budget pellet grill. Because there is so much technology involved, there’s a lot more that can break (or never work correctly to begin with).

So when we heard Z Grills were manufacturing grills of Traeger quality at significantly lower prices we were intrigued.

The company seems to have popped up overnight, but it looks like they have actually been manufacturing grills for companies like Traeger for years.

With 700 square inches of cooking surface (split between 513” primary and 187” elevated grate) and a 20lb hopper, you get a capable pellet grill without a load of fancy features.

Check out our video review where I share my experience smoking and grilling on the 700E.

While you don’t have any WiFi, with Z-Grill you get more cooking space, a storage cabinet, and similar build quality to Traeger at a lower price.

If WiFi functionality is important to you we recommend looking at the Woodwind or Traeger Pro.

If you want to save a few bucks the 7002E is the most basic model and comes without any storage cabinet. We think it’s worth spending a tiny bit extra on the 700E or 700D models which includes a handy cabinet for storing pellets or bbq tools. The only difference is color.

What we like:

  • Value for money – Getting a pellet grill with this size hopper and this much cooking space for the price is already a good deal. Throw in solid stainless steel construction, a newly updated in 2019 digital temperature and pellet control system and the Z-grill starts to look like a steal.
  • Generous 3-year warranty – Longer warranty is important since it’s a new product so we haven’t seen how well it lasts. 3 Years is on par with more expensive brands, although less than the 5 years you get with the Pit Boss.

What we don’t like:

  • Cleaning unused pellets – If you want to change the type of pellet it can be difficult to remove any unused pellets from the hopper. You might need to invest in a small vac to do this.
  • Lid handle placement – You have to be careful when closing the lid that you don’t touch the hot surface. Might not be a problem for you but at 5ft 10″ I had to be careful not to burn my hand.

We also heard of some people that had problems with an unreliable temperature control unit. This seems like it was a problem when it was first released, as the unit has been updated in 2019.

Z Grills are often running deals or throwing in additional goodies like grill covers, meat thermometers and free pellets so make sure you check around their website.

4. The best portable pellet smoker – Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett WIFI Grill

Read full review.

When you think of pellet grills, being portable isn’t the first feature that comes to mind.

For one, you need to have a source of electricity to plug the grill in. You can’t just grab a bag of charcoal and fire it up anywhere.

Having said that, the Green Mountain Davy Crockett has been designed to take with you.

The legs have been designed to fold into a convenient carry handle.

You also get a few adapters included so you can get power from an outlet in your house, your car cigarette lighter or from your car battery. You could also use a generator.

Nothing else comes close in terms of features and portability at this price point. The WiFi control via tablet or smartphone is an awesome feature that lets you control the temperature of your grill remotely (handy if you’re lying by the pool).

While you might not have heard of Green Mountain before (they only started selling in 2008), the company is producing grills that match and often exceed what Traeger is making.

What we liked:

  • Portable features – Grill comes packaged with the accessories you’ll need to power the smoker from a range of sources & the foldable legs make moving easy.
  • Precice temperature control – The Davy Crockett gives you far more temperature control than many other pellet grills. Using the manual control panel you can make 5-degree adjustments. And if you want to really dial it in you can use the app to make one-degree adjustments.
  • WiFi & App – The app doesn’t just give you the ability to adjust the temperature remotely, you can also program in unique instructions. For example, you can set it to cook at 225° for 5 hours and then automatically change to 250° for another 4 hours.
  • Smart alerts – It’s also nice when the app tells you that the hopper isn’t feeding in wood pellets and the temperature is dropping. This sure beats running outside to check the grill.

What we don’t like:

  • Awkward for one person to move – Due to the weight of the smoker and the awkward way the legs come off, we would still recommend having two people to maneuver the smoker.
  • The WiFi connection can be unreliable at times – This is really dependent on your individual setup, but we’ve found the grill can lose connectivity from time to time.

Other than that the build quality is excellent. The materials are heavy and feel like they are made to last. Unlike most smokers that you set up once and then leave forever, this unit can easily fold up and be moved.

You’re not going to be able to cook as hot as some other pellet grills out there, but this unit should easily reach 420°F.

For a relatively small package you can still cook a good amount of food. A 10lb brisket or a few slabs of ribs shouldn’t be a problem which should keep the campers happy!

5. Best large pellet smoker – Camp Chef SmokePro LUX Pellet Grill

Packing a whopping 875 square inches of cooking rack surface area, and weighing 180lbs the Camp Chef SmokePro LUX is a big boy pellet grill.

While the size of the hopper is only 18”, a single load can go for 12-14 hours in mild weather. If it’s warmer outside it can go even longer.

What we like:

  • Huge size – The main advantage the LUX has over the other models is the impressive amount of space. You can easily smoke a 30lb pork butt along with two 20lb briskets at the same time.
  • Option to add sear box – With a max temp of around 400°F, this grill isn’t great for searing. You can get around this with the add-on sear box which gives you a 16,000 BTU propane burner capable of reaching 900°F for perfect searing.
  • Easy to clean – Unlike some other pellet grills, they make it easy to clean out residual waste from burnt pellets. You can also easily remove unused pellets from the hopper and auger.

What we don’t like:

  • Bad quality meat probe -The probe that is included kinks and breaks rather easily. We would usually recommend running a good third party digital thermometer anyway, but if you’re relying on the factory probe treat it with extreme caution.
  • Calibration issues – The temp controller is simple to use, but you can run into issues with the actual temp being off by 20-50°F. You can easily get around this by using your own thermometer.

Otherwise, the only other fault is that the installation instructions could be a bit more clear. That said it shouldn’t take more than an hour and it’s much easier if you watch an installation video.

Other pellet grills worth considering

These are the pellet grills that narrowly missed out on our main selections.

They are definitely still worth checking out and depending on your specific requirements they might be the best option for you.

7. REC TEC Grills RT-700 WiFi Enabled Wood Pellet Grill – A great high-end option

Read full review.

REC TEC Grills | RT-700 | Bundle | WiFi Enabled | Portable Wood Pellet Grill | Built in Meat Probes | Stainless Steel | 40lb Hopper | 6 Year Warranty | Hotflash Ceramic Ignition System

We could definitely include this REC TEC grill with our top choices above.

With the RT-700, REC TEC has combined the precision craftsmanship and build quality they are known for, with some modern upgrades including WiFi connectivity, dual meat probes, and an improved PID controller.

The controller lets you adjust the temperature in 5°F increments which is a level of control you don’t see on some of the cheaper pellet grills out there.

The product name gives away the primary grilling area of 702 square inches, with an optional warming shelf you can get over 1000.

It’s definitely not a budget grill, although it does compare well with the more expensive Ironwood and Timberline series by Traeger.

The majority of the grill is made of stainless steel. You also get a huge 40lb hopper for up to 40 hours of continuous cooking and rollerblade style wheels to easily move the grill around.

You can see the grill in action in the video below, and if you are worried about installation this five-minute video from REC TEC should put your mind at ease.

Finally, you get those signature REC TEC bull horn handles which on their own make this grill worth considering in our opinion!

Get the latest price on Amazon.

8. Pit Boss 700FB Pellet Grill – Large budget alternative

Pit Boss 700FB Pellet Grill Review

Pit Boss sells a range of pellet grills aimed at budget-conscious shoppers.

You can generally get the same size grill for a few hundred less than brands like Traeger.

The Pit Boss uses a sliding plate system to allow for more direct searing which gives it a little bit more versatility, but you do give up any WiFi connectivity.

With heavy gauge steel construction this grill is surprisingly sturdy considering the size and price.

You should also consider the newer Pit Boss Sportsman which has some nice improvements like removable side shelf, and front table.

9. Weber SmokeFireWeber‘s first entry into the pellet grill market

Read full Weber SmokeFire review.

weber smokefire review

We had high hopes for the new pellet grill from Weber. All the early signs looked like they had managed to improve on the pellet grill design and solve the common issues these types of grill have with searing.

We bought the larger EX6 model which comes with 1008 square inches of grilling space. You can also opt for the smaller EX4 which includes 672 square inches.

While we are still going through the process of testing this grill out, after a few weeks using it our experience has been a mixed bag, and mostly lines up with what other reviewers have said.

While all the food cooked on the SmokeFire has tasted great, and we haven’t experienced any dangerous grease fires like some users, there have been number of issues that hold this grill back from its ful potential.

What we liked:

  • Excellent at searing – Most pellet grills make good smokers, and average to bad grills. The design of the Weber SmokeFire allows you to get a pretty good sear when cooking at max temp.
  • Food has a great flavor – While we have been harsh on this grill in our review, all food we’ve cooked has still turned out great, and that is really the most important thing at the end of the day.

What we don’t like:

  • Rushed product launch – All signs point to Weber rushing to launch early, and not spending enough time on quality control.
  • Lack of side trays or front cabinet – While it sounds like Weber will be releasing an accessory you can buy to fix this, a grill at this price should include some shelf space as a default
  • Pellet bridging – The design of the hopper seems to cause pellets to stop falling into the auger which means you might have to stir them every couple of hours.
  • Poor app functionality – At launch, a lot of features were missing, although Weber has done a great job at improving the app for their iGrill thermometer, so I assume this will also continue to get better.

Weber has released a free add-on to try and fix the issue with the pellet bridging, so I expect the SmokeFire will slowly continue to get better until it eventually becomes one of the best pellet grills available.

Weber has been perfecting its range of gas and charcoal grills for decades, so it was always optimistic to assume they would nail their first ever attempt at a pellet grill.

6. Camp Chef SmokePro SG 24 Pellet Grill – A solid mid-sized option

Camp Chef Smokepro sg24 pellet grill

We’ve already included two smokers from the Camp Chef lineup, but we just couldn’t leave the SmokePro SG 24 off our list.

This grill offers a generous 570 square inches of cooking surface plus a removable upper warming rack.

You can choose to get a WiFi version or save a few bucks with no WiFi. There are also a few different configurations to choose from including side sear box or sidekick burner.

This grill shares a lot of the same DNA as the slightly more expensive Woodwind

You give up the nice color screen and the lid is made from powder-coated steel instead of stainless steel so it’s slightly less rugged.

Both are good options, personally, I would spend a little extra and get the Woodwind but especially if WiFi isn’t a big deal for you, then you can pick up the non WiFi version of this and save some cash.

Who pellet smokers are best suited for

Even an entry-level pellet smoker will set you back more than charcoal or gas. But for a little bit extra upfront, you’ll enjoy the simplicity and versatility that is causing pellet smokers to take over patios around the country.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that only two companies were making pellet grills. Back in 2008 if you wanted to buy a pellet smoker you could choose between Traeger and MAK.

It’s a testament to the popularity of this type of smoker that there are now so many new brands available to choose from.

Prices for decent pellet grills start at around $400 and can run well over $1000. When you can get an excellent charcoal smoker like the Weber Smokey Mountain for under $300 you may be asking yourself why would you want to buy a pellet grill?

It only takes two words to sum up the benefits of cooking with a pellet smoker. “Convenience” and “versatility”.

If the price isn’t a deal breaker for you though, the convenience is really amazing. Get used to throwing a brisket on, setting the temperature and then just get about your day (or sleep through the night) without a worry.

Because pellet smokers run off electricity they can also be a great choice if you live in a condo or are unlucky enough to have restrictions on burning charcoal or wood.

How pellet smokers work

While sharing the ‘set it and forget it’ style of it’s gas and electric cousins, pellet smokers use a very different system to generate heat.

As the name implies, these smokers run by burning cylindrical wooden pellets. A typical set up will include a hopper on the side where you add the pellets.

When you plug in grill in and set the heat on a digital controller, the pellets start getting pushed through and turned into heat and smoke.

Meathead explains in more detail how this process works over at


Meathead Goldwyn, Pellet Smokers Buying Guide

Central to all pellet cookers is a digital controller similar to the controllers on modern indoor ovens. You select a temp you want, and there is an LED display that tells you the actual temp.

Pellet cookers usually have an auger or another feed mechanism that pushes the pellets into a burn pot typically about the size of a beer can ripped in half. An igniter rod sits in the bottom of the pot and when you turn on the grill it glows like the element on an electric stove.

As the pellets ignite, a fan blows to feed them oxygen, and the igniter shuts off.

The controller is one of the most important parts of a pellet smoker. It’s the computer that regulates the temperature in your pellet cooker throughout the cook.

There are a few different types of grill controllers out there:

  • 3 position controllers: These controllers are generally found on cheaper pellet cookers, and have 3 settings – low (225°F) medium (325°F) and high (425°F). They are also known as LMH controllers. They feed the pellets into the burner in fixed cycles so you don’t have a great amount of control over the temperature.
  • Multi-position controllers: These controllers allow you to adjust the temperature in smaller increments. Pellets are fed in fixed cycles meaning these controllers still don’t offer amazing accuracy. A multi-position controller is typically accurate +/-20°F, in ideal conditions. A nice feature of these controllers is the addition of an LCD screen.
  • One touch non-PID controller: This type of controller gives you the ability to adjust the temperature in 5-10°F increments. However, they still feed pellets in fixed cycles meaning that they can only offer accuracy of +/- 15-20°F. They also feature LCD screens, one touch buttons and many have inputs for meat probes.
  • PID controllers: PID controllers are considered by many to be the gold standard of grill controllers. Using complex algorithms, temperatures are accurate to within a few degrees. The pellet feed is constantly adjusted to maintain the correct temperature, and this type of controller can even accommodate programmable meat probes that work in tandem with the controller to lower the temperature when the meat is done. They also feature LCD and one touch buttons.

Durability and Construction Material

Don’t be fooled by an attractive pellet grill exterior. Even if there is plenty of stainless steel on the outside, the manufacturer may have cut corners and used cheap materials that will rust on the inside.

The components of your pellet grill that matter the most are the fire pot, flame deflector, drip pan and grates. If these components are made of marine grade stainless steel, you have a cooker that will last you a lifetime.

If you’re looking at a grill made with powder coated steel, make sure that it is a very high quality coating. As soon as the paint blisters and chips, your cooker will start to rust and these components will deteriorate.

It is also worth noting that a pellet smoker made of high quality materials will perform better. High quality materials will retain heat, ensure more efficient pellet consumption, and maintain temperature better in the cold weather.

Size of the Hopper

The hopper of your pellet cooker is the container which stores the pellets ready for the auger to take them to the fire-pot. Therefore, the size of your hopper essentially dictates how long your cooks can be. So, settling for a hopper that is too small will prove to be annoying to say the least, as your cooks will fail to go the distance.

As a guide, a pellet grill with a 40 pound hopper will give you around 40 hours of cooking time at standard smoking temperatures. Considering some cooks take around 20 hours, an 18 pound hopper, for example, is going to be problematic.

And remember, if you live in a colder climate, your cooker will use even more fuel to bring the smoker up to, and maintain temperature.

You can purchase hopper extensions for your pellet grill. Make sure the hopper extender you buy is compatible with the pellet smoker you purchased, and that the manufacturer is reliable

Plan how much cooking real estate you need

Before deciding how big your cooker needs to be, you need to ask yourself a couple of questions. How many people will I be cooking for? Do I plan on cooking large cuts or even a whole pig?

Remember that bigger doesn’t always mean better. Purchasing a huge pellet cooker can really just mean wasted pellets.

A standout feature of pellet smokers is that the temperature is relatively even across the cooking area. As a result, there should be no temperature difference between the top rack and the bottom rack while cooking.

Bearing this in mind, let’s discuss the difference between the primary cooking area and total cooking area. Primary cooking area refers to the area on the main cooking plate. Total cooking area takes into consideration secondary racks.

Therefore, a large cooker with a primary cooking area of 500 square inches, might actually be of less use to you than a smaller cooker with a total cooking area that includes a 450 square inch primary rack and a 125 square inch secondary rack. If you couldn’t be bothered doing the math, that’s 575 square inches of total cooking space.

The bottom line is this – take stock of what you need, and don’t be fooled into thinking that bigger is better.

Common features and capabilities

Unlike your traditional charcoal or offset smokers, pellet grills can come with a whole bunch of bells and whistles. Some features you should think about include:

  • WiFi capability: Companies have started to take advantage of the fact that pellet smokers have a computer in them by design. By integrating WiFi connectivity, you can monitor and control the temperature of your grill from just about anywhere, as long as you have an Internet connection. Companies like Green Mountain Grills are now providing free apps that you can download and make use of for ultimate convenience.
  • Meat probes: Some pellet cookers have outputs in their controller that allow for meat probes to be plugged in directly. Readings taken from your meat can then be displayed conveniently on the screen of your cooker.
  • Grilling options: In the past, a drawback of pellet cookers was their lack of grilling capability. Some manufacturers have made grilling possible, either by removing part of the diffuser plate, or by providing a dedicated grilling area within the cooker.
  • Pellet removal – Most brands recommend removing pellets between cooks. Some models make this easy with a chute to remove unused pellets. Others you’ll need to vacuum out.
  • Add-ons: Manufacturers often offer a variety of add-ons. Check what features come standard, and what are add-ons at extra cost. Some add-ons are offered by companies independent of the manufacturer. If a feature is important to you, but is not a standard feature of your particular cooker, make sure it is available as an add-on before you buy the cooker.

Ease of clean up

Pellet grills require regular cleanup as the ash from burnt pellets builds up around the burn pot and under the heat deflector.

Most models are fairly easy to clean with a shop vac. You’ll need to take off the grill grates and remove the deflector plate.

Some models like the Camp Chef Woodwind have an easy way to clean out the ash from the burn pot without taking apart the whole grill.

You can simply pull a sliding rod that relaces a catch pot for quick disposal. You’ll still need to take the grill apart to get rid of the ash from the sides but you don’t have to do that nearly as often.

If you don’t clean out the burn pot every cook you run the risk of ash buildup causing problems with ignition in the future.

Length of Warranty

There are some fairly high tech components in pellet smokers. There are also moving parts, such as the auger. This means that there are parts of your cooker that may break, and that you may not be able to fix yourself.

Make sure you are clear about exactly how long your warranty is, what it will cover, what would void it, and where you would need to take your smoker for any repairs under warranty.

Warranties vary between manufacturers, so don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions.

Pellet Consumption

Nobody likes a pellet hog, that is, a pellet burner that chews through excessive pellets.

If your pellet cooker is too thin, heat will be lost through the body of the cooker. It will use a lot of pellets just to maintain the temperature.

If the metal is too thick, you will also use a lot of pellets. The walls of a thick-bodied smoker act as a “heat sink”. Heat is taken away from the cooking area and stored in the walls of the cooker. So, it will take a lot of pellets to get the cooking area up to the desired temperature. While thick walls are desirable for some types of cookers, they are not required in pellet smokers.

Do some research and find out how many pounds of pellets per hour the smoker burns. Anything up to a pound per hour, at smoking temperatures, is OK. For example, Bruce Bjorkman of MAK claims that his barbecues only use about ½ a pound per hour on the smoke setting.

Beware of gimmicks

In the world of pellet smokers, there is a fine line between useful technology and tacky gimmicks. With increasing competition among manufacturers, companies are keen to stand out above the rest.

That is not to say that all features are simply gimmicks and should be dismissed as such. Ultimately, you have to think about whether the features on the pellet smoker are of actual use to you.

If the feature is something you would consider helpful, is it included at the expense of other, more important things, such as pellet usage or durability?

For example, consider the inclusion of WiFi, or other remote control features.

The manufacturers of the Rec Tec Grill firmly stand behind their decision to not include a remote control in their smoker. They argue, “This is a grill. You gotta go outside and put the meat on the grill. Is it too much to ask to press a button? And to lift the lid and see if you got pellets?”

However, if you live in a cold climate and it is freezing outside, the ability to control your cook from inside your warm home may well be an appealing feature. If that’s the case then the Davy Crockett by Green Mountain Grills might be right up your ally.

Customer Service

As usual there’s some good advice over at Amazing Ribs about the importance of customer service, especially for pellet grills.


Meathead Goldwyn
, Pellet Smokers Buying Guide

In 2008 there were only two consumer pellet grill manufacturers. Today there are more than a dozen. The market for these relatively expensive devices is small but growing fast. Not all of these small manufacturers will survive.

Forget the warranty and ask “When it breaks will the manufacturer still be in business?” They do not have repair shops near you. When it breaks will they be able to diagnose the problem over the phone?

They may be able to figure it out, but then you have to buy the replacement parts and do the repair work yourself. Are you up to the task?

Buying from a larger, established company means there is likely to be a dedicated customer service team. It also means the company is likely to still be around a few years down the track when you may need their assistance.

On the flip side, a smaller company may be able to offer more personal and reliable service, and the people you contact are likely to be very well acquainted with your model of pellet grill.

You won’t find out how the manufacturer stacks up when it comes to customer service unless you ask questions, and get straight answers.


Pellet grills vary greatly in price. Some will set you back a few hundred dollars, others cost thousands. One word of caution – don’t confuse a cheap cooker with a cooker that is good value.

A cheap cooker may save you up front, but if it starts to rust, components break down within a few short years, you don’t have a good warranty and the customer service is not up to par, you will be spending more money in the long run.

On the other hand, if you purchase a cooker that has all the bells and whistles, but you never use them, you will have wasted your hard earned cash when a more basic cooker, that cost less, would likely have done the trick.

Before forking out cash, be sure to review all of the points above. Check out what’s available in your area, and ask lots of questions. Then, all that is left to do is enjoy your new cooker!

Given the huge variation in price, it is important to know what you are looking for when purchasing a pellet smoker. Running through a bit of a checklist is certainly a great way to make sure you haven’t missed anything.

The pros and cons of buying a pellet smoker

As we’ve mentioned above, most people end up choosing a pellet style smoker because of the convenience and versatility. Like an electric smoker, you get:

  • Set it and forget it smoking – Just make sure the hopper is full of pellets and set your desired temperature and there isn’t much else you need to worry about.
  • Simple temperature control – Most pellet smokers let you dial in the temperature to within five degrees, and the unit does a good job of maintaining a stable temperature.

There are also a few advantages unique to cooking with a pellet smoker:

  • Super fuel efficient  – Pellet smokers are similar to your home oven, with a super efficient convection fan, so you spend a lot less in pellets than charcoal.
  • Less effort cleaning up – Charcoal smokers can make a bit of a mess every time you cook. With a pellet grill you might have to clear out the firepot every now and again but it’s rare (think once every 60 usages).

Steven Raichlen has an excellent breakdown of the various pros and cons of pellet grills that you may want to check out.

Steven Raichlen

Steven Raichlen, New Kid on the Block: Pellet Grills

Pellet grills are versatile. You can barbecue, smoke, roast, grill (sort of–more on that below), and even bake or braise in a pellet grill. At BBQ University, we have used them to cook everything from crisp chicken wings to braised short ribs to smoked pork chile verde and crème brulee.

Like gas grills, pellet grills preheat fast (10 to 15 minutes). The design discourages flare-ups.

Some pellet grills allow you to regulate temperatures in 5-degree increments, giving you pinpoint heat control. A thermostat in the cooking chamber sends precise signals to the controller and regulates pellet delivery.

Pellet smokers aren’t without their issues though. Some potential problems include:

  • Costs more to get a reliable unit compared to other types of smoker – You can pick up excellent charcoal, gas or electric smokers between $200-$500 while a good pellet will run you between $400-$1000+
  • You can’t cook as hot or generate as much smoke – You won’t get quite as good a sear as you could with a charcoal grill. And you won’t get that dominate smokey flavor you would get with an offset stick burning smoker.
  • You will need to plug the grill into electricity – This can limit where you set it up, and stop you from taking it away camping (unless you also have a generator).
  • Need to keep an emergency pellet stockpile – If you’re grilling with propane or charcoal and run out half way through a 12 hour cook you can easily nip down to the store. But getting your favorite brand of pellets may require an Amazon order, or a trip to a more specialised store.

Pellet smokers aren’t for everyone, but if none of those sound like deal breakers then you may well be calling yourself a ‘pellethead’ any day now.

Wrapping it up 

Pellet smokers are fast proving to be more than just a fad. While some old timers claim they’re little more than an ‘expensive oven’ for more amateur to enthusiast smokers the convenience of use and quality of the food they produce can’t be past up on.

Hopefully this guide has helped you understand a little bit more about the pros and cons of cooking with a pellet grill, and helped you pick out the right model for your budget and needs. Happy smoking!

Last update on 2021-06-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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