Pit Boss Tailgater Review: Is It Worth The Road Trip?

As pellet grills become more popular, many companies are attempting to keep up with the demand by offering travel-sized units.

Portable grills are a great invention. They allow you to take your grilling skills on the road, so you’ll have more meal options when you’re camping or tailgating. Because pellet grills provide real smoke flavor, they make the whole experience more authentic. They’re also easy to use, giving you more time to socialize.

When Traeger’s patent on the pellet grill expired in 2006, other manufacturers stepped up to compete. Pit Boss, a subsidiary of Dansons, Inc., is one of those competitors. With the Pit Boss Tailgater, they’ve attempted to corner the market on portable units.

How does their offering stack up against the rest? This Pit Boss Tailgater review should tell you everything you need to know.

Pros:

  • Well-built model with an appealing design
  • 5-year warranty included with purchase
  • Easy to put together
  • Small barrel holds its heat well

Cons:

  • Slightly heavy for a portable grill
  • Burn pot is prone to overflow

Pit Boss Tailgater Review: Features and Benefits

grilled bbq tasty smoked marinated pork ribs

Design and Construction

The cookbox on the Tailgater is barrel-shaped, with a black base and a copper-colored lid. It features a cart-style construction with collapsible legs. The right-hand side is outfitted with a set of rugged wheels, so you can move the grill to the right spot once it’s assembled.

The wheel configuration is unusual. Instead of positioning the wheels beneath the legs, Pit Boss has opted to offset them. This means they jut out to the left, which looks odd at first glance. However, the design is meant to keep the grill stable once it’s in place. Because the wheels are positioned below the hopper, they’re not a tripping hazard.

The cooking barrel is made of durable steel, and the cooking grates are constructed out of porcelain-coated wire. While we normally prefer cast iron grates, these are more lightweight and therefore better suited to a travel grill.

Speaking of which, the assembled weight of the Tailgater is 93 pounds. That’s on the heavy side for a portable unit. On the plus side, it means that the grill is sturdy and reliable.

Size

The cooking surface on the Pit Boss Tailgater measures 341 square inches in all. That’s a decent size for a travel grill. It could also be a good fit for singles or couples who don’t need a lot of space.

According to Pit Boss, this grill can hold up to 20 hamburger patties. I think that’s overselling it. A 341-inch surface might be able to accommodate 15 or 16 patties, but unless they’re very small, you might crowd the grill if you try to add more.

Temperature Control

Pit Boss grills have a feature called the P setting, which gives you superb control over the internal temperature. The “P” stands for “Pause,” indicating the amount of time that the auger component will wait before feeding more pellets into the firebox. The lower the P setting is, the faster the grill will heat up.

Some new users complain about this aspect of the Tailgater, claiming that it can’t reach the set temperature. In some cases, this is due to improper pellet storage (see Hopper Capacity, below. It might also indicate a problem with the electrical components. Fortunately, Pit Boss grills carry a long warranty.

This grill has a temperature range of 180 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. That means the temps can go low enough to make slow-smoked pulled pork and beef brisket, yet climb high enough to sear grilled steaks and pork chops.

Heat Retention

Once the Tailgater has reached the desired temperature, it usually performs well. Thanks to the quality steel construction, it keeps the smoke and heat trapped inside during long cooking applications.

Keep in mind, though, that it’s better for smoked meats than for traditional grilling. When the P setting is low, the auger will sometimes feed too many pellets into the firebox. This can cause the component to overflow, which interrupts the cooking process.

Hopper Capacity

With a hopper capacity of just 5 pounds, the Tailgater sits on the low end of the spectrum. Most portable pellet grills will offer at least 8 pounds, which means you can go longer without refueling.

However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A larger hopper would add weight and bulk to the grill, and it’s already heavy enough. Besides, if you’re camping or tailgating, you’ll want the hopper to be empty before you pack it up anyway. You also won’t need to worry about the pellets suffering any damage from long-term storage.

Cleanup and Maintenance

The porcelain coating on the wire grids gives them a nonstick quality, but cleaning them can be time-consuming. Make sure to give them a good scrubbing with a wire brush when they’re still hot. This will help to dislodge stubborn food particles. Once they’re cool, wash them as soon as possible in a hot, soapy sink.

The Tailgater’s grease management system consists of a drip pail on the right-hand side of the grill. The configuration makes it easy to remove, and it’s large enough to hold the grease runoff from an epic cooking session.

Warranty

Since late 2018, Pit Boss has included a 5-year warranty with the purchase of every new pellet grill. Many companies offer warranties for 1 to 3 years, so this guarantee goes above and beyond the norm. Pit Boss is clearly proud of the product they offer and willing to stand behind it.

Social Proof

high quality restaurant smoked pulled pork

Though we were initially impressed with the Pit Boss Tailgater, we wondered if others shared the same experience. Here’s what we uncovered in our web search.

Most people wound up with satisfying results when grilling on the Tailgater. The process required a bit of practice, but as soon as they’d figured out the P setting, consumers were happy with the purchase.

Possible Alternatives

Not sure if the Pit Boss Tailgater is the grill for you? Check out one of these models instead.

#1 Traeger Tailgater 20

As you can tell from the name, Pit Boss wants to compete directly with Traeger here. This rival offering is lightweight yet durable, with 300 square inches of grilling space. Though it’s smaller than the Pit Boss, it can still accommodate three full rib racks.

How they compare:

  • Affordability—Pit Boss
  • Design and Construction—Traeger
  • Size—Pit Boss
  • Temperature Control—Traeger
  • Hopper Capacity—Traeger
  • Cleanup and Maintenance—Traeger
  • Warranty—Pit Boss

Check out the Traeger Tailgater 20 if you don’t mind spending a bit more for a grill that’s easier to transport.

#2 Camp Chef Pursuit

The sawhorse chassis on the Camp Chef Pursuit gives it good stability on uneven surfaces. The temperature can be set as low as 160 degrees Fahrenheit, so it’s excellent for making jerky products.

How they compare:

  • Affordability—Pit Boss
  • Design and Construction—Pit Boss
  • Size—Camp Chef
  • Temperature Control—Pit Boss
  • Hopper Capacity—Camp Chef
  • Cleanup and Maintenance—Pit Boss
  • Warranty—Pit Boss

Consider the Camp Chef if you want a travel grill with a larger cooking surface.

#3 Green Mountain Davy Crockett

Weighing in at just 68 pounds, this grill is ideal for tailgating. It also features a wire rack with tool hooks for storage.

How they compare:

  • Affordability—Green Mountain
  • Design and Construction—Pit Boss
  • Size—Pit Boss
  • Temperature Control—Green Mountain
  • Hopper Capacity—Green Mountain
  • Cleanup and Maintenance—Pit Boss
  • Warranty—Pit Boss

Tech wizards should consider the Davy Crockett for its Wi-Fi capability alone.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the Pit Boss Tailgater require electricity?

Yes. The digital control panel on the Tailgater needs an electrical connection in order to work. When you’re on the road, it can be operated using a 12-volt 100-watt inverter plugged into your vehicle’s outlet.

How long can you store wood pellets for grilling?

If they’re stored properly, quality wood pellets can last indefinitely. Make sure to keep them in a well-sealed container, away from excess heat and moisture. Don’t leave them in the hopper too long, or they can become waterlogged.

Can you cook pizza on the Pit Boss Tailgater?

The maximum temperature setting on the Pit Boss Tailgater is 500 degrees Fahrenheit. While this is technically hot enough for grilled pizza, we wouldn’t recommend it. 550 degrees is the preferred temperature for pizza and flatbread.

Final Thoughts

The Pit Boss Tailgater is a well-made unit with an excellent warranty package. If you’re looking for a travel-sized pellet grill at a reasonable price, this one could be just the ticket.

Click here to start grilling with the Pit Boss Tailgater.

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