What Are the Best Pellet Grills & Smokers? [2020 Review]

As a grilling enthusiast, I’m always looking for new ways to achieve that prized smoky flavor. When I discovered pellet grills, I knew I’d taken the first steps on a lifelong journey. If you’ve never tried one of these amazing inventions yourself, perhaps it’s time for you to take those first steps as well. Whether you’re a first-timer or an avowed pellet griller looking to upgrade with a new model, this guide to the best pellet grills will point you in the right direction.

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Choosing the Best Pellet Grills: Everything You Need To Know

In this section, we’ll clue you in on the ins and outs of pellet grilling. When you’ve finished reading, you should be able to pick out the best models, based on your knowledge and the criteria provided by the manufacturer.

What are some of the most important features to look for in a pellet grill?

Every major appliance has its key components. Here are some of the aspects you should consider when comparing the best pellet smokers.

Price

You can expect to pay more for a pellet grill than you would for a traditional charcoal-fired unit. In general, you should select the best one that you can afford. Cheap pellet grills tend to give you exactly what you pay for–which is to say, not much. If the upfront cost seems steep, take comfort in the fact that the units aren’t all that expensive to operate.

Grill Size

Are you a single person who enjoys the occasional pulled pork feast, or the head of a large family? Consider whether you’ll take advantage of a grill that offers several hundred square inches of grilling space, or if you’d be better off with a smaller version.

Durability

There’s a reason why the best pellet grills cost so much: They’re built to last. Look for a heavy-duty steel cooking chamber and steel cooking grates. Cast iron grates are also acceptable, but they require some seasoning prior to their first use. As a bonus, cast iron delivers exceptional grill marks.

To find out how to properly season your cast iron grates, take a look at this YouTube tutorial:

Heat Retention

A tight-fitting lid and well-designed fire box are essential when it comes to maintaining the proper temperature. This is especially important if you’re planning on using your grill for smoked meats and beef jerky.

Thermometer

The temperature gauge should have a digital readout screen and an easy-to-use control panel. Some recent models can even connect to Wi-Fi networks, allowing you to control the temperature remotely via your tablet or smartphone.

Temperature Range

The best pellet smokers should have a range of about 180 to 550 degrees. If you want to make beef jerky, it should go even lower, to about 160 degrees. Similarly, if you’re looking to achieve a good sear on your grilled meats, look for a model that’s outfitted with a sear box or similar component.

What are the advantages of cooking with a pellet grill?

Convenience-Pellet grills can be ready to cook within 10 minutes, giving them the edge over their charcoal-burning counterparts. You don’t have to mess around with lighter fluid or a chimney starter, either. Just load the pellets into the hopper, press the ignition switch, and wait for the temperature gauge to display the proper temperature.

Flavor

Fans of charcoal grilling know that you can’t achieve the same taste sensation with a gas-powered model. With a pellet grill, you can experiment with whole new worlds of flavor. For inspirations, see “What are some of the best smoking woods to use in pellet grill?”, below.

Versatility

The broader the temperature range, the more cooking applications you’ll be able to use. The best pellet smokers aren’t just for smoking, or even for grilling–you can also use these units for baking, roasting, braising, or dehydrating, to name just a few.

Ease of Use

Unlike most gas and charcoal models, a pellet grill allows you to close the lid and walk away for long periods of time. The auger knows just how many pellets to feed into the chamber to maintain the correct temperature. That leaves you plenty of time for prep work, entertaining, or catching up on the baseball score.

What are some of the best smoking woods to use in a pellet grill?

The best pellet smokers are only as good as the type of wood you use. Fortunately, most pellet grill manufacturers are aware of this, and select the best hardwood available to create high-quality pellets.

Soft woods like pine or cedar, while aromatic, should never be used in pellet grilling. They’re too resinous and soft, and may actually damage the interior of your fire box. Take a look at this list to get a better idea of which hardwoods work best with which ingredients.

  • Hickory: A strong sweet-and-savory flavor that can be bitter when used in large quantities. Best combined with other types of hardwood for a more balanced taste. Use with beef or fatty cuts of pork.
  • Oak: A mellow, woodsy flavor that’s not too overwhelming for milder flavored cuts of beef like tenderloin.
  • Mesquite: An exceptionally strong flavor profile, to be used with hearty beef cuts such as brisket.
  • Maple: Light, sweet, and exceptionally smoky. Use with chicken or lean cuts of pork.
  • Pecan: A sweet, hearty flavor that works well with chicken. For best results, combine with maple or another light-flavored wood to balance out the sweetness.
  • Apple: Another sweet selection, and one that takes a long time to release its flavor. Try it with chicken sausages or bratwurst.
  • Alder: Light and delicate, and the ideal complement to salmon or halibut.
  • Cherry: An excellent option for balancing out mesquite or hickory.

What are some of the drawbacks to using a pellet grill?

Some proponents of gas grilling still believe that pellet grills take too long to achieve the proper temperature. If you prefer the split-second gratification of a gas-powered unit, you might find yourself disappointed.

Also, since these units have electrical components, you’ll also have to plan ahead if you plan on taking your grilling party on the road. Fortunately, most travel grills can also be hooked up to your car battery or alternate power source, but it’s something to keep in mind.

Finally, pellet grills feature sophisticated technology. While this could be considered a plus, it also gives the unit more chances to break down.

Are there any precautions I should take when using a pellet grill?

In addition to the aforementioned no-soft-wood rule, you should observe a few basic safety guidelines. First of all, remember that while these grills use pellets as a fuel source, the auger component requires electricity in order to run. That means you should never use a pellet grill in rainy or snowy weather, or you run the risk of electric shock.

For similar reasons, you should inspect your pellets regularly to ensure that they’re still in good condition. Wet pellets can jam up the auger–or worse, cause an electrical fire.

Finally, make sure to always use your pellet grill outdoors, with plenty of space around the smokestack for proper ventilation. Even though the aroma may be pleasant, there’s still a live fire going on inside that chamber. Treat the grill as you would any other wood-burning appliance.

Best Pellet Grills: Product Review Guide

Traeger Pellet Grills

#1 Traeger Pro Series 34

The Pro Series 34 is one of Traeger’s oversized offerings, with 884 square inches of cooking space. The barrel-style cooking chamber is composed of powder-coated steel with porcelain-enameled steel grilling grates. This unit features a sawhorse chassis design complete with wheels and locking casters on the base. A removable bucket is on hand to catch any drips, and the Digital Pro Controller boasts an accuracy window of 15 degrees. Speaking of temperatures, the Pro Series 34 has a range of 180 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. It works well for smoking and simple grilling applications, but the grates don’t get hot enough to achieve a crisp sear.

The hopper boasts an 18-pound capacity, but it’s a bit too small to be used as a shelf. There’s no other storage space to speak of on this unit, which is surprising considering its size. One other quirk: The temperature is controlled by a knob, which makes it slightly difficult to get a precise setting. Fortunately, the readout is usually accurate.

Pros:

  • Oversized cooking surface
  • Grease management system
  • Generally accurate temperature control
  • Dual temperature probes

Cons:

  • No storage space
  • Minimal temperature range
  • Rudimentary control panel

#2 Traeger Texas Elite 34

The Texas Elite 34 offers 646 square inches of grilling space, porcelain-enameled cooking grates, and a barrel-shaped cooking chamber constructed of powder-coated steel. The grill resembles a smaller version of the Pro 34, but with straight wheeled legs instead of a sawhorse chassis.

The temperature range on this unit is the same as the Pro 34: 180 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Grills in the Elite series feature the Digital Elite Controller, which helps keep temps accurate within about 20 degrees. The grease management system is effective enough to make cleanup a snap, and the grill is easy to use, even for beginners.

Pros:

  • Easy to clean
  • User-friendly
  • Large enough for big families
  • Accurate temperature readouts

Cons:

  • No storage space
  • Achieves best results with Traeger pellets

#3 Traeger Lil Tex Elite 22

The Lil Tex Elite 22 is one of Traeger’s flagship models, boasting 418 square inches of grilling space and a relatively lightweight 98-pound design. The body is powder-coated steel with porcelain-enameled cooking grates, and two of the straight legs are outfitted with all-terrain wheels. An electric auto-start ignition allows you to get the grill fired up within minutes. This model also includes a hopper with 18-pound capacity–a generous amount for an average-sized grill.

Traeger claims that the Lil Tex Elite can hold up to 15 burgers, but I think that’s overstating the case. If you prefer your burgers on the larger side of a quarter-pound, plan on cooking about a dozen at once. That said, this grill is the perfect size for the average family.

Pros:

  • Great for smoked meats
  • Small footprint
  • Versatile unit
  • Built to last

Cons:

  • Grill cover doesn’t fit properly (sold separately)
  • Auger is prone to jam-ups
  • No built-in meat thermometer

#4 Traeger Pro Series 22

The Pro Series 22 is a slightly larger version of the Lil Tex Elite 22, with 576 square inches of cooking space. Like the rest of Traeger’s premium grills, it boasts a powder-coated steel construction and steel grilling grates with a porcelain coating. This model features a sawhorse chassis design, with two all-terrain wheels for mobility.

Grills in the Pro series offer a Digital Pro Controller, which is usually accurate to within about 15 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition, the grease bucket does an admirable job at collecting drips for fewer flare-ups. With an 18-pound hopper, you probably won’t have to swap out the pellets very often, but keep an eye on them in between cooks to make sure they haven’t gotten moldy or wet.

Pros:

  • Effective grease management system
  • Attractive design
  • Durable construction
  • Stable yet maneuverable

Cons:

  • Complicated to set up
  • Digital control panel can be finicky
  • Relatively high price point

#5 Traeger Renegade Elite

With 380 square inches of cooking space, this grill is large enough to suit an average-sized family yet small enough to be taken on the road. The barrel-shaped cooking chamber is outfitted with porcelain-coated steel grilling grates, a convenient wire shelf, a lower basket-style shelf with tool hooks, and a generously-sized handle with a heatproof cover. Two of the straight legs end in all-terrain wheels, so you can easily move the grill from one end of the parking lot to the other.

The Digital Elite controller keeps temps accurate to within about 20 degrees–sometimes better, since there’s not that much surface area to cover here. Bear in mind that the hopper also has a limited capacity, at just 10 pounds. It does, however, come with a built-in door, so you can remove the pellets when it’s time to transport the grill.

Pros:

  • Plenty of storage and work space
  • Easy hopper access
  • Small enough to be used as a travel grill
  • Easy to assemble
  • Attractive design

Cons:

  • Limited grilling surface
  • Slightly tippy
  • Tool caddy makes it difficult to transport
  • High price point for the size

#6 Traeger Renegade Pro

This is another travel-sized unit, this one with a sawhorse chassis design to go along with its sturdy steel construction. The angled legs are equipped with two all-terrain wheels, making this unit one of the most transportable in Traeger’s lineup. The temperature control is also on point, staying accurate to within 15 degrees Fahrenheit when the hopper is filled to capacity.

While we’re on the subject of the hopper, this one has an 18-pound capacity. That’s typical of much larger pellet grills, and a tad generous for one that only offers 380 square inches of cooking space. However, like the Renegade Elite, it also boasts an access door, so you can easily remove the pellets if you’ll be traveling. The ash cleanout and grease management systems are well-designed, and there’s even an oversized handle to make the transportation game that much easier.

Pros:

  • Excellent temperature control
  • Sturdy design
  • Stable
  • Easy to assemble
  • Easy to maneuver

Cons:

  • Limited grilling surface
  • Some loose hardware

#7 Traeger Century 22

The cart-style design on this barrel-shaped grill and smoker gives it a stability and presence that sets it apart from the rest of Traeger’s models. The total cooking surface measures 572 square inches, which is large enough for entertaining, but small enough to keep the temperature stable. The Digital Elite Controller uses dual temperature probes, so you can keep an eye on the interior temp of the grill, as well as the progress of your ingredients.

One of my favorite things about the Century 22 is the inclusion of a warming drawer. You don’t see that on many pellet grills, and it’s a great feature for keeping bread and other sides warm while the meat rests. There’s also a low storage shelf, but the position of the drawer makes it tricky to access. I would recommend using the shelf for extra pellets, or anything else that you won’t need to reach in a hurry.

One final note: While there are many positive aspects to the Century 22, I’ve found that the smoke flavor isn’t as pronounced as it could be. You might not mind this so much if you’re not a fan of smoked foods, but that’s not true of most people who invest in pellet grills.

Pros:

  • Attractive design
  • Included warming drawer
  • Oversized grease bucket
  • Great for slow cooking

Cons:

  • High price point
  • Time-consuming assembly
  • Imparts minimal smoke flavor

#8 Traeger Tailgater 20

Unlike the Renegade models, which could be used at home or on the road, the Tailgater 20 is designed specifically for tailgating and camping expeditions. It offers 300 square inches of cooking space, a hopper with 8-pound capacity, and folding legs for ease of transport. Weighing in at just 62 pounds, it’s not too heavy for one person to lift.

Considering the name and the design, I think Traeger would have done well to put the wheels on the side opposite the hopper. The current configuration makes the unit slightly difficult to maneuver, especially if the hopper has pellets in it. For this reason, I would give the Renegade Pro higher marks.

Pros:

  • Light and transportable
  • Folding legs
  • Good temperature control
  • Great smoke flavor

Cons:

  • Awkward hopper configuration
  • Insufficient hook for drip bucket
  • Cord is a bit too short

#9 Traeger BBQ155.01

With just 292 square inches of cooking space, this is one of Traeger’s smallest offerings. Although two of the straight legs are outfitted with sturdy wheels, it’s not really configured as a travel grill. This makes it a decent option for people with limited deck or patio space, or singles who don’t need a larger cooking surface.

The BBQ155.01 has a hopper capacity of just 10 pounds, which is sufficient for a small grill. Its diminutive size keeps the temperature fairly accurate throughout the cooking process. Buyers should be forewarned that the cooking chamber is too small to accommodate larger ingredients–it can’t fit a whole turkey, for example. However, if you’re a casual griller who just wants to give pellet smoking a try, this could be the grill for you.

Pros:

  • Accurate temperature control
  • Easy to clean
  • Delivers excellent flavor

Cons:

  • Very limited cooking surface
  • Simple design

Camp Chef Grills

#1 Camp Chef SmokePro DLX

This durable model boasts a temperature range of 160 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, making it a good choice for beef jerky enthusiasts. The main rack has a capacity of 429 square inches, with an additional 144 square inches available on a second upper rack. That gives this unit a total capacity of 570 square inches, putting the SmokePro DLX in the average-to-high range as far as size is concerned. A built-in probe allows you to keep an eye on the temperature.

The hopper is capable of holding up to 18 pounds of pellets at once, and the auger works efficiently, shutting down when the fire is hot enough. The included ash can makes cleanup chores easier, and a side shelf offers prep space. The configuration of the hopper means that you can use that as a shelf as well, although you should make sure it’s sufficiently full before doing so. This is a straight-legged model, with two wheels to make it more portable. Considering its sturdy design, the SmokePro DLX is surprisingly light at just 140 pounds.

Pros:

  • Impressive temperature range
  • Works well for smoked meats
  • Hopper can be used as a shelf

Cons:

  • Temperature control can be erratic
  • Some shipping issues reported
  • Spotty customer service

#2 Camp Chef Woodwind SG

The Woodwind SG is equipped with Camp Chef’s “Smart Smoke” technology, meaning that you can control the amount of smoke flavor that you get, in addition to the temperature. The company boasts “6-in-1” versatility for this unit–you can use it for smoking, roasting, baking, braising, and barbecuing, in addition to grilling. If you choose the version that has a built-in sear box (see below), you options are even more varied.

The Woodwind SG has a capacity of 811 square inches, large enough to feed the whole neighborhood. The temperature ranges from 160 to 500 degrees, but the optional sear box is capable of reaching a whopping 900 degrees. The hopper on this model can hold a whopping 22 pounds of pellets, which is generous even for a grill of this size.

This unit is available with your choice of add-ons: An attached griddle component for pancakes and such, or a sear box that you can use for grilled meats. Personally, I think the sear box represents a better investment (you can always place a cast-iron griddle directly on your cooking grates), but it’s entirely a matter of preference. Be forewarned, however, that the version with the sear box costs significantly more than the griddle option.

Pros:

  • Generous hopper capacity
  • Stays reliable over many years of use
  • Built-in bottle opener
  • Choice of griddle or sear box

Cons:

  • Difficult to assemble
  • Bulky, awkward design
  • Not entirely accurate at low temperatures

#3 Camp Chef SmokePro SG

Like the Woodwind SG, this model has an overall capacity of 811 square inches, making it a good option for serious grilling enthusiasts. The dual probes allow you to keep an eye on the grill temperature and the meat temperature at the same time, a good perk if you’re cooking low and slow. The hopper boasts a 22-pound capacity, which is another reason you should only consider this unit if you grill frequently. Otherwise, the pellets might deteriorate before you have a chance to use them.

The ash cleanout system on the SmokePro SG is as well-designed as the rest of Camp Chef’s lineup, and takes a lot of the work out of your cleaning chores. There’s a side shelf built into the unit, but I think it’s too small and awkwardly positioned to be of much use. Similarly, the two wheels on the sawhorse chassis are on the flimsy side. On a positive note, this model is set at a lower price than most pellet grills of comparable size.

Pros:

  • Oversized hopper
  • Generous amount of grilling space
  • Dual meat temperature probes
  • Effective ash cleanout feature
  • Low price point

Cons:

  • Side shelf is too small and flimsy
  • Chintzy wheels
  • Hopper is too high to be used as a shelf

#4 Camp Chef SmokePro XT

This unit is more modestly sized than the two previous listings, with just 570 square inches of cooking space. Like the other Camp Chef units, it boasts an enviable temperature range of 160 to 500 degrees, and typically remains accurate within 20 degrees of the set temperature. Dual digital readout panels make it easy for you to track your progress. The warming rack is conveniently positioned, perfect for hot dog or hamburger buns.

Pros:

  • Attractive design with bronze finish
  • “Smart Smoke” technology
  • Maintains its heat well in cold weather
  • Easy to set up

Cons:

  • Has difficulty reaching higher temperatures
  • No side shelf

#5 Camp Chef SmokePro LUX

This barrel-shaped, cart-style grill is gigantic and heavy, weighing in at 180 pounds with 875 square inches of grilling space. Given its oversized dimensions, the 18-pound hopper capacity is on the skimpy side. Be prepared to refill often if you’re using the entire cooking surface of this grill.

The lower shelf is sturdy and offers a generous amount of storage space, but the side shelf is undersized, suitable only for a few condiments. Two of the four wheels are equipped with locking components for stability, but I personally don’t think this grill will go anywhere unless you want it to. The dual LED readout screens are convenient, and a stainless steel probe is included to monitor food temperature.

Pros:

  • Very affordable
  • Generous amount of cooking space
  • Plenty of storage
  • Heats quickly and effectively
  • Easy to use
  • Generally accurate to within 20 degrees Fahrenheit

Cons:

  • Side shelf and hopper are skimpy for a unit this size
  • Large, bulky design

Z Grills

#1 Z Grills ZPG-450A

Like all of Z Grills’s offerings, the 450A is constructed of heavy-gauge powder-coated steel, with porcelain coated cast iron grilling grates. It’s one of their smaller models, with 450 square inches of cooking space and a 15-pound-capacity hopper. The temperature ranges from 180 to 450 degrees, and an easy-to-read digital display screen lets you keep an eye on your progress from a distance. Wheels with locking casters are affixed to two of the four straight legs, and a connecting bracket makes the design more stable. Note that Z Grills offers a three-year warranty with the purchase of one of their models.

Pros:

  • Sturdy design
  • Low price point
  • Easy to use
  • Stable legs

Cons:

  • Narrow temperature range
  • Small hopper
  • Side shelf is too close to the chimney

#2 Z Grills ZPG-550B

The 550B features a highly impressive cart-style design with oversized wheels and a lower storage shelf. Though its grilling capacity is only 538 square inches, the hopper is capable of holding up to 20 pounds of pellets at once. Like the 450A, it offers a temperature range of 180 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. A large bucket is affixed to the side of the unit to catch drips, a feature that’s lacking in some of the Z Grills models. The digital control system is easy to read and exceptionally user-friendly.

Pros:

  • Very affordable
  • Easy to assemble
  • User-friendly
  • Highly maneuverable

Cons:

  • Finicky temperature starter
  • Control system is not that sophisticated
  • Erratic temperature control
  • Insufficient storage space

#3 Z Grills ZPG-7002E

The stainless-steel construction of this model gives it an attractive appearance as well as durability. The barrel-style cooking chamber sits atop a cart design, complete with lower storage shelf and two sturdy wheels. With a grill capacity of 700 square inches, it’s just the right size for large families. A 20-pound capacity hopper means you won’t have to worry about adding more pellets in the middle of the cooking process.

The digital readout screen provides you with an accurate readout of the grill’s internal temperature. This model offers a temperature range of 180 to 475 degrees, so it’s not as versatile as some comparable models. If you’re interested primarily in low-heat cooking applications or simple grilled meals, however, the ZPG-7002E should suit your needs.

Pros:

  • Works well for baked goods
  • Superior temperature control
  • Solid construction

Cons:

  • Insufficient grease management system
  • No pellet removal system
  • No side shelf

#4 Z Grills ZPG-7002B

This is a slightly smaller version of the 7002E, offering 694 square inches of cooking space and a hopper with a 20-pound capacity. It has the same barrel-shaped cooking chamber and cart-style design, with straight legs and two wheels. The steel construction has a black finish, instead of the 7002E’s bright silver exterior. In addition, the temperature ranges from 160 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Given the minor nature of these changes, it’s somewhat surprising that the 7002B is so much less expensive than its silver counterpart.

Pros:

  • Affordable price point
  • Good for smoking
  • Suitable for jerky
  • Impressive packaging

Cons:

  • Affected by ambient temperatures
  • Rudimentary control panel
  • Can be difficult to obtain replacement parts

#5 Z Grills ZPG-700E

The cart-style design of this attractive steel model features two lower cabinets, giving you the perfect spot to store additional pellets. With a hopper capacity of 20 pounds and a cooking surface measuring 694 square inches, you may not need to keep pellets handy, but it’s a convenient perk nonetheless. The legs of the cart are equipped with four wheels, giving this unit more mobility than you’ll usually find in grills of this size. You can set the digital control panel from any temperature from 180 to 450 degrees, and the heat should remain stable throughout the cooking process. The ZPG-700E is available in your choice of two-tone styles: Bronze-and-black or silver-and-black.

Pros:

  • Hopper can pull double duty as a shelf
  • Generous amount of storage space
  • Reasonable price point

Cons:

  • Wheels are on the small side
  • Insufficient grease management system

#6 Z Grills ZPG-700D

This is another cabinet-style grill, with a 20-pound-capacity hopper and four wheels. This one offers 694 square inches of cooking space. The hopper is configured so that it can be easily used as a shelf, giving you even more storage opportunities.

The temperature control on the 700D is impressive, typically remaining accurate within 10 degrees Fahrenheit. I especially like the fact that you can set the grill to smoke for up to eight hours at a time. With a range of 180 to 450 degrees, it doesn’t go quite low enough to dehydrate meats for beef jerky, but it works great as a smoker.

Pros:

  • Low price point
  • Convenient design
  • Hopper can be used as shelf
  • Superb smoke flavor

Cons:

  • Small wheels
  • Insufficient grease management system

#7 Z Grills ZPG-7002ENC

The 7002ENC offers a cart-style design with a low shelf and two wheels. With 700 square inches of grilling space, it’s one of Z Grills’ largest models (but only by a small margin). The digital control panel features auto-ignition and a temperature range of 180 to 450 degrees. The hopper is capable of holding 20 pounds of pellets and is conveniently designed, especially if you’re left-handed.

Pros:

  • Very affordable
  • Easy to clean
  • Fast, simple assembly

Cons:

  • Difficult to maneuver
  • Digital panel is hard to calibrate
  • Finicky temperature control

Rec Tec Grills

#1 Rec Tec RT-700

The RT-700 is one of Rec Tec’s high-end offerings. The main cooking surface measures 702 square inches, and an optional second shelf offers additional space for a grand total of 1054 square inches. All Rec Tec grills are constructed of 100 percent stainless steel, with restaurant-grade steel cooking grates. This one also features an oversized hopper with a 40-pound capacity–large enough for several days’ worth of cooking.

You can set the digital temperature control panel from 200 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, in increments as small as five degrees. This gives you a level of control over the internal temperature that’s unmatched by any of the competition. This unit features dual meat probes with Wi-Fi capability, so you can make adjustments to the temperature by engaging the app on your smartphone or tablet.

The RT-700 comes with a six-year warranty. Note that there are also packages available that include several bags of Rec Tec pellets, along with a customized grill cover.

Pros:

  • Plenty of cooking space
  • Gigantic hopper
  • Very fuel efficient
  • Versatile unit
  • Generous warranty package

Cons:

  • Large, heavy design
  • Very expensive
  • Some components are prone to rusting

#2 Rec Tec RT-590

The cart design of the RT-590 is equipped with rollerblade-style wheels, a snazzy feature that’s sure to be the talk of the neighborhood block party. This unit has plenty of other components that are worth boasting about: A 30-pound-capacity hopper, a sizable storage shelf, and an octagonal cooking chamber offering a total of 772 square inches of cooking space. Like all of Rec Tec’s offerings, it’s sturdily built, with grill grates that are both durable and easy to clean.

The “proprietary PID controller” on the RT-590 has Wi-Fi capability for added convenience. A digital control station allows you to set the temperature to 5-degree increments, anywhere from 200 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. While this is a bit too high for beef jerky, it’s perfect for smoked meats. The grates will even get hot enough to produce solid grill marks for your burgers and steaks.

This unit comes with a four-year warranty. Look for a package deal to help save money on Rec Tec pellets.

Pros:

  • Easy to set up
  • User-friendly
  • Superbly constructed
  • Attractive design
  • Good temperature control

Cons:

  • Wi-Fi app is not that sophisticated
  • Small wheels
  • Unit is too large to be moved easily

#3 Rec Tec RT-340

Rec Tec’s smallest standard grill offers 511 total square inches of cooking space and an appealing cart-style design with flowing handles. The 20-pound hopper features a locking lid to keep the pellets from suffering exposure to the elements. While there’s no side shelf available, the hopper is configured so that it can play that role. The legs are equipped with rollerblade-style wheels, and can be folded and locked into place if you want to take the grill on a road trip.

The basic features of the RT-340 align with its larger counterparts: temperature range of 200 to 500 degrees, five-degree increment capability, Wi-Fi function, stainless steel construction throughout. Be aware, however, that the warranty lasts for only two years, as opposed to four or six. Consider investing in one of the package deals if you’re interested in purchasing a grill cover, or if you want to save money on pellets up front.

Pros:

  • Sturdy construction
  • Folding, locking legs for portability
  • Good add-on packages available
  • Small footprint
  • Hopper can be used as a shelf

Cons:

  • Balance makes it difficult to move once it’s set up
  • Difficult to maintain temperature in humid weather
  • Best results with Rec Tec pellets

Pit Boss Grills

#1 Pit Boss 700FB

This sturdy cart-style model from Pit Boss comes equipped with cast iron cooking grates and a grilling capacity of 700 square inches. Its main body is constructed of heavy gauge steel, and the cooking grates are made of coated cast iron–a distinction that’s shared by almost every grill in the Pit Boss family. When it comes to quality construction, Pit Boss has all but cornered the market. You can expect to get many long years of frequent use out of this grill, should you choose to invest in it.

The basic model has a low wire rack for storage, but no side shelf. Upgraded versions, one with a side shelf and lower cabinet and one with side shelf only, are available at an additional cost. The temperature ranges from 180 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to achieve a good sear. Speaking of which, the temps tend to run hotter with this unit, so it’s not as effective for smoked meats.

Pros:

  • Durable construction
  • Hopper can be used as shelf if needed
  • Affordable price point
  • Achieves consistent results

Cons:

  • Grates are prone to chipping if left untended
  • Not very effective as a smoker
  • Must pay extra for additional storage

#2 Pit Boss Austin XL

The Austin XL is an enormous grill by any standards. Featuring a grand total of 1000 square inches of grilling space and a temperature range of 150 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s one of Pit Boss’s most versatile and exciting models. Not only is it big enough to accommodate large parties with plenty of leftovers, it’s capable of turning out everything from smoked beef jerky to flatbread pizza.

This unit comes with a digital control panel with LED readout screen, a built-in meat probe, an effective grease management system, and a removable stainless steel side shelf. The hopper is capable of handling a grill of this size, boasting a 31-pound capacity. Perhaps the best thing about the Austin XL is the flame broiler, which allows you to get a good char on grilled and seared meats. I’m also a big fan of the sawhorse chassis design, which is equipped with four wheels and a sturdy base shelf for storage.

Pros:

  • Enormous amount of grilling space
  • Convenient, attractive design
  • Plenty of storage
  • Offers good value for the money

Cons:

  • May be too big for some households
  • Temperature control fluctuates at lower temperatures
  • Tricky to assemble

#3 Pit Boss Classic 700

If you like the sound of the Austin XL, but don’t feel the need for that much grilling space, give the Classic 700 a try. This unit offers many of the same features, with a cart-style design, durable construction, and built-in flame broiler. The footprint, however, is much smaller–the Classic 700 has just 700 square inches of cooking space over porcelain-coated wire racks.

The cart also has a more minimalist design than the Austin XL, with just two wheels instead of four and a wire shelf located below the cooking chamber. There’s no removable side rack, but the hopper is set in a convenient enough location to double as a shelf if needed. The grease management system is just as impressive, and the hopper can hold up to 21 pounds of pellets. Note that the temperature ranges from 180 to 500 degrees, which isn’t quite low enough for dehydrating.

Pros:

  • Sturdy wheels
  • Flame broiler provides a great sear
  • User-friendly
  • Great for pizza

Cons:

  • Lower shelf is flimsy
  • Hopper sits a little too high for easy loading

#4 Pit Boss 71820FB PB820FB

Like the Austin XL and the Classic 700, this model features a flame broiler for an optimum searing experience. As far as size is concerned, it falls somewhere in the middle, with 820 square inches of cooking space. The temperature is controlled by a dial-in panel with LED readout, with a total range of 180 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

This grill has a cart-style design with a lower shelf and two large wheels. I’m not particularly impressed by those wheels, since they look better suited to an old-fashioned horse wagon than to a modern pellet grill. They don’t appear sturdy enough to support the weight of such a large grill, especially if you plan to move it around from time to time. That said, the smoke setting is a convenient feature, and gives the model an impressive versatility. The grease management system also earns high marks, in line with most of the Pit Boss offerings.

Pros:

  • Smoke setting gives superb control over the flavor
  • Built-in flame broiler
  • Suitable for everyday use
  • Easy to assemble

Cons:

  • Chintzy, oversized wheels
  • Difficult to obtain replacement parts
  • Conveyor is prone to jamming issues

Green Mountain Grills

Green Mountain Grill Davy Crockett

Weighing in at just 68 pounds, the Davy Crockett delivers the ultimate tailgating experience. The folding legs can be used as handles, allowing you to pack the entire unit easily in the truck bed or trunk of your car. The steel-constructed cooking chamber offers up 219 square inches of cooking space, which is a tad small for everyday use, but sufficient for a travel-sized unit. The grill grates are made of stainless steel as well, and can be easily removed for cleaning. A built-in wire tray also offers utensil hooks to give you a place to keep your tools when you’re on the road.

The Davy Crockett is outfitted with a customized thermal probe called “Sense-Mate” that constantly monitors the internal temperature of the unit. You can control the grill’s temperature using five-degree increments via your tablet or smartphone when you download the company’s app. The grilling temperature spans from 150 to 550 degrees Fahrenheit, one of the most impressive ranges available. In addition to this, the lid is peaked so that you can easily fit a full rack of ribs or a whole beer-can chicken.

Note that an upgraded version of the Davy Crockett pellet grill was introduced in 2018. This version offers a more sophisticated grease management system and comes with a custom-designed cover for protection from the elements. If you have a choice, you’d do better to splurge on the updated version over the older stock.

Pros:

  • Broad temperature range
  • Portable and lightweight
  • Wi-Fi capability
  • Thoughtful design
  • Decent amount of storage for a travel grill
  • Easy to assemble
  • Easy to clean

Cons:

  • Relatively small cooking surface
  • Minimal smoke flavor

The Results

There’s no question about it–there are some quality pellet grills out there. But which one stands out as the best pellet grill of them all?

Although I’ve selected a grand prize winner, I understand that the choice might not be as cut-and-dried as it appears. For that reason, I’ve also included a list of winners by category, as well as by brand. Some of these categories may overlap, but these specialized lists should help you select the pellet smoker that will best suit your needs.

Best Overall Winner

It was a crowded field, but the Rec Tec RT-590 managed to snag the top spot. The construction and durability of this model are excellent, and the price is reasonable enough for a grill of this size. Speaking of which, the RT-590 will give you enough cooking space for an average- to large-sized family without overwhelming your outdoor kitchen space. If you feel you would take advantage of everything this model has to offer, you’ll get your money’s worth.

Best Portable Pellet Grill

Pellet smokers are a great option for travel, and the Green Mountain Davy Crockett grill is arguably the best of them all. With its lightweight, portable design and folding legs that double as handles, it delivers on just about every level. The only quirk worth mentioning is the relative lack of smoke flavor, but not everyone would consider that a flaw. On the contrary, some people would find it preferable. In addition, the Davy Crockett comes with an impressively low price tag, even if you decide to go with the updated model. If you’re the type of griller who likes to have a cold beer on hand, there’s a bottle opener built into the unit as well.

Best Budget Pellet Grill

Shoppers on a budget would do well to consider the Camp Chef SmokePro SG. Not only does it come at an affordable price, it should serve you well through several seasons of pellet grilling. It’s also large enough for big families and anyone who loves to entertain, and the hopper can hold up to 22 pounds of pellets at once. The only thing you might have to worry about are the wheels, which aren’t the highest-quality component of this grill.

Read our full review on the best budget pellet grills.

Best Large Pellet Grill

In the market for a grill of gargantuan proportions? Check out the Pit Boss Austin XL, with its 1000 square inches of cooking space. Considering its size, this unit does an admirable job at holding in its heat for long hours of cooking. It’s even equipped with a 31-pound capacity hopper, so you don’t have to worry about frequent refills. The only thing you’ll have to take into consideration is whether or not you have enough space to fit it.

Best Traeger Pellet Grill

Of all the Traeger grills on this list, I’ve found that the Renegade Pro hits all the buttons. It offers a reasonable amount of cooking space, and it’s small enough to be portable yet sturdy enough to hold up to everyday use. Most importantly, the temperature readouts are more accurate than any of the other models in Traeger’s lineup. While the Renegade Elite offers many of the same functions, I find the sawhorse chassis design of the Pro to be more stable, especially if you’re planning on using it as a travel grill.

Best Camp Chef Pellet Grill

I’m a huge fan of the Camp Chef SmokePro LUX model. This grill offers a luxury experience at a bargain price, especially when you consider its large size. You’re bound to achieve great results with the SmokePro LUX, even if you’re a first-timer. If I wanted to be picky, I would quibble about the relatively small hopper, but it’s not a deal-breaker.

Best Rec Tec Pellet Grill

Rec Tec’s most impressive offering would have to be the RT-590–hardly surprising, as it snagged the top spot on the list. Not only does it represent the best that Rec Tec has to offer in terms of construction and quality, it comes with a four-year warranty to boot. If you have your heart set on a Rec Tec unit, you can’t go wrong with this model.

Best Z Grills Pellet Grill

Are you looking specifically for the best Z Grill your money can buy? If this is the case, I would recommend the ZPG-7002E. You’re bound to appreciate the large hopper, and the stable temperatures aren’t affected by outside conditions. While the temperature range isn’t the most impressive you’ll find, at least you can be assured of its accuracy. Best of all, it’s set at a reasonable price. As a bonus, the roomy interior does an admirable job with baked goods.

Best Pit Boss Pellet Grill

Pit Boss gives the competition a real run for its money, especially with the Austin XL. This impressive behemoth is capable of reaching temperatures of up to 500 degrees, and the design is attractive and user-friendly.

Of course, the Austin XL is also an oversized unit that offers 1000 square inches of grilling space, with a footprint to match. If you don’t have enough room to accommodate this one, the Classic 700 provides a good alternative.

Best Pellet Grill for Smoking

For the ultimate smoke flavor experience, check out the Z Grills ZPG-700D. The 20-pound hopper allows you to experiment with different flavors, and you can easily swap out pellets while cooking. When it comes to smoking, accurate temperature readouts and superior heat retention are a must, and the ZPG-700D offers both at an affordable price.

Best Pellet Grill for Pizza and Flatbread

For a crisp, chewy crust, you need a grill that can heat to at least 500 degrees. Look no further than the Pit Boss Classic 700, which displays its internal temperature on an easy-to read digital LED screen. The 700-square-inch cooking surface gives you plenty of space for cooking more than one type of pie at once. Be prepared to feed a crowd.

Best Pellet Grill for Burgers and Hot Dogs

While it’s always nice to have options, some outdoor chefs are just looking for a pellet grill that they can use for old-fashioned neighborhood cookouts. For this, you should consider the Traeger Pro Series 22, which works far better as a grill than as a smoker. The efficient, angled grease management system does an admirable job at preventing flare-ups–a must when you’re dealing with fatty meats like ground chuck. The Pro Series 22 offers 576 square inches of grilling space, which is sufficient for about 28 generously-sized hamburger patties.

Best Pellet Grill for Searing

The top prize for perfectly seared meats would have to go to the Camp Chef Woodwind SG, which comes with a built-in sear box for this specific purpose. While it’s usually not necessary for a grill to reach temperatures of 900 degrees Fahrenheit, the sear box manages to hit those heights for just long enough to give your steaks that prized golden crust.

Best Pellet Grill for Jerky

When it comes to finding the perfect pellet grill for making beef jerky, you should look for two features: A temperature range that dips as low as 160 degrees, and a system that delivers the ultimate in smoked flavor. The Camp Chef SmokePro XT delivers in both categories. This unit offers a range of 160 to 500 degrees, as well as a digital control panel that allows you to adjust the amount of smoke flavor that you receive. The Camp Chef grills are set at a reasonable price, and this one is small enough to be used exclusively for jerky if that’s your preference.

There are many good reasons to consider investing in a pellet grill, and even more quality options to choose from. When you select a well-constructed grill that works as advertised, you’re bound to become hooked on this easy and versatile cooking method.

We hope our roundup has provided you with all the insight that you need to make the purchase that’s right for you. Best of luck, and happy grilling!

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