The best thing about pellet smokers is that unless you’re buying the absolute cheapest models, there are no bad choices. In this list for under $500, you’ll find pellet smokers and grills perfectly suited for dropping a few burgers at home use like the Traeger Junior Elite, for throwing in the back of the van and using anywhere like the Green Mountain Davey Crockett, or for cooking whole turkeys when you have ten people round on Thanksgiving, like the Camp Chef Smokepro.
Hey Boyd, it’s really great hearing from you here. I am becoming a much bigger Traeger fan then I was in the past. They have done some excellent work of late on their Grill models. I really think they’re doing a lot of work too improve and restate their original value proposition. Their Pro Series models are excellent, and I believe that the directions the company is taking especially with getting back into the competition world will benefit both it and its customers… Like you… Long into the future.
Wood pellet grills are a great addition to any home because they combine everything you love about a smoker with a standard grill. Depending on the model that you buy, you can make smoked dishes like brisket and sausage at the same time that you make burgers, hot dogs and other dishes on the grill. These grills are great for family dinners in the summer and for parties and special occasion celebrations.
Local availability of pellets is only one problem though.  How are you, the consumer, supposed to know which is a good pellet brand versus a bad?  If you do a Google search for “where to buy pellets” you are likely only to see a lot of advertisements all proclaiming their product to be the best.  This situation is very akin to what consumers in the charcoal industry deal with as well.
Sometimes an inexpensive, less efficient pellet blend might be just fine for burgers or chicken breasts. Other times, you may want to step it up with a premium flavored pellet where whole turkeys, prime rib roasts, or a nice brisket can really shine. No matter what you read in any grouping of pellet grill reviews, know this: pellets are not all made equally. You will wind up with one or two “go to” brands over time that you simply prefer – sometimes for their efficiency (leaving little ash), others for their flavor.
It makes party hosting, as well as small crowd-feeding a breeze! Pellet grills are easy to use because they often come with easy temperature controls (along with other variable facilities depending from grill to grill), making it ideal for beginners who do not have prior grilling and cook-out experiences. A pellet grill is the answer to every cook enthusiasts who love to cook, but lack the knowledge and experience of skilled pit masters.
The computer controlled system maintains the smoker temperature with a high degree of precision so you don’t have to deal with fluctuations. With the optional (definitely a must) temperature probe you can put your meat in the smoker, set the desired target temperature and the FEC will take it from there. Once the target temperature is reached the smoker temperature will drop into a holding position until you are ready to remove your barbecue.
Although pellet grill smokers are more expensive than your regular electric smokers, they come with great convenience as they do not demand your undivided attention. Now although there are a lot of reviews online available about pellet grills in general, none of them provided in-depth information about different models of Traeger Grills. So we decided to take on the challenge!
I have owned a Memphis Elite (built-in) for 16 months now. It is a very high quality product, and couldn’t be easier to use. The direct flame area is arguably a little small (effectively a bit smaller than 1 sq ft), but it does a great job. The temperature control is phenomenal, and includes a meat probe control that can put the grill into “hold” mode once the meat reaches the target internal temperature. A very happy owner here!
The Elite's digital control panel is a sophisticated touch-pad PID controller that holds set temps with more accuracy than most kitchen ovens. It's simple to operate and offers an integrated meat probe and some useful programming options. For example, you can set it to cook your brisket up to 200°F (93°C) and then drop to a lower cooking temp to keep it warm without overcooking.
Loved the article and read the entire thing. Thank you so much for taking the time to write such an in-depth piece to help the rest of us out. With that said, I now want one of each!! It’s really so difficult to purchase one without being able to compare the taste side by side for each. We also just bought one of the Traeger’s on the last day of a Costco show. We have LOVED the taste, and aren’t looking back, from a pellet perspective that is. However, we’ve already had a couple of issues that concern me from a longevity and a safety perspective. So we’re going to return it, and ‘upgrade’ to something more substantial. I was leaning pretty hard toward Yoder, and then after reading the article, the Memphis really intrigued me (could have something to do with being born there, and raised on southern pulled pork). And then, Fast Eddy came into the picture. Any advise on how to make a decision without being able to conduct taste comparisons, which is really the most important thing. (We’ve been smoking a brisket and pork shoulders every week, with the occasional steak and veggies. So we’d like something that does both smoking and grilling, so both important, with the smoking component being the feature we’ll use a bit more of.)
Set it and forget it. It does not require you to stay while the food is being cooked as you can set a timer and temperature so you can do other things, like prepare the side dishes or drink beer with friends while the grill is doing its job. Most pellet grills use electronic controls to regulate the grilling according to your preferences. You have a choice to choose the level of smoke aside from choosing your desired temperature.
Hey Jay – Yoder makes a great product. Price not being an option, I’d probably go MAK, Memphis Pro (I go back and forth between the two personally!), then the Yoder. I’ve heard good things about the Louisiana pellet grills, just haven’t featured them here so haven’t done a lot of in-depth research. I’m inclined to rate it below the ones I just mentioned – but not by tons. I will say that if American Made is a factor, MAK, Memphis, and Yoder are a go there.
The first thing we have to understand is the anatomy of a pellet smoker. Check the related section on this page to get the idea. Once we know which part goes where, the bigger battle will be won. Next, we’re going to have to be able to analyze the problem if we are to solve it. What seems to be the issue? Are the pellets not lighting up? Are the pellets getting stuck and not working properly? Weird noises coming out from the hopper? Are foods not cooking well? Let’s take a look at these problems and how to solve them:

It comes with some unique features, such as its proprietary “Sense-mate” technology that uses a thermal sensor to monitor the ambient temperature. If used in a cold weather, this grill fires up the turbo mode so you won’t have to wait for it to heat up before you start using it. It comes with “fan-only” mode to blow off the ash and automatically clean the grill once it has been shut off.
You’re concerned with ongoing costs for fuel and power: The wood pellets used with Traeger grills are more expensive than propane or charcoal. You can expect to spend $1 to $3 per grilling session using wood pellets. Propane is far less expensive to operate in a grill, while charcoal fits somewhere in the middle of the cost range. And beware of cheap pellets from third-party manufacturers that contain softwoods like pine. They burn much faster than hardwoods, so the end cost won’t be that much different because you’ll use more of them. And they can introduce unwanted chemicals and contaminants to your food. You will also have some electrical power costs with these Traeger pellet grills.
If you have faced or currently face the problem with common things like pellet feed jamming or wear and tear of your smoker, then replacing the exact component will solve your problem. Thus, without changing your whole smoker you can continue with some $40 – $50 changes. It might seem complicated for you if you face a problem with your digital control system. Adding the element of professional knowledge will help tremendously. Solving problem with $150 is much better than spending $500, right?

As more pellet grills enter the market, they are forced to differentiate themselves from the competition. One way of doing that is through innovative technology and advanced abilities. When comparing pellet grills, look at the whole package, including its capabilities, as well as which features are available and whether they come standard or are optional. Some of the more popular features to look for include:
It’s also worth double checking the precision of the controls. Less expensive smokers sometimes have cheap control panels that only allow you to set the temperature to a few discrete settings, for example just low and high. This is, generally speaking, awful, and leads to improperly cooked meat and a whole host of other issues. Avoid it if you can.
The Tailgater 20 Series Freestanding Grill is one of the best wood pellet grills from Traeger for those who like to cook away from home. It’s small and lightweight enough that you can load it in your car for tailgating before the big game, cooking while camping or grilling at the park. The ash bucket collects all ash created, which makes cleaning up before heading home easier.
Whenever you want to smoke with a pellet smoker, you will have to make a choice: What type of wood pellets should I use? Well, the answer may sound simple – whichever flavor you like the best – but might be pretty difficult if you’re smoking for the first time. Unfortunately, the only way to know which flavor you like most is to try them all at least once and then decide upon which one floats your boat.
The Camp Chef PG24S uses three cleanup and maintenance systems. The Ash Cup Clean Out System collects leftover ash in a cup for easy cleanup. The Grease Management System instantly drains grease into a bucket for easy disposal. Finally, the Pellet Purge System helps you clean out pellets from your auger with ease. Cleaning up has never been so easy.
I purchased a Traeger Lil Tex 22 yesterday. I “grilled” a whole chicken. It overshot the temperature by nearly a hundred degrees which wasn’t a bad way to crisp up the bird but I was afraid it was going to melt itself down so I shut it down. I was up by 5 this morning to smoke a pork butt for pulled pork sandwiches. My wife’s family is coming over for dinner tonight and time being a concern I fired up the “smoker”. It snowed 12 inches last night so the next hour I was shoveling my walks. Imagine my surprise when I checked on the Traeger and it had shut itself off . The meat was colt to the touch. I read through the instructions to make sure I started it up correctly and I did. I removed the meat and restarted the smoker. It smoked for awhile then quit. The temperature never got above 140. I called Traeger technical support twice and each rep gave me a different answer as to why it wasn’t working. After 3.5 hours I gave up on the Traeger for a more conventional method. I purchased the Traeger for the the set and walk away feature. It let me down!! It is 34 degrees outside today so I will wait until it warms up to try again. Should it fail me again I will sell it for scrap! So far I am not impressed. My wood smoker takes time but it is reliable.
I love the taste of smoked food. I have now tried, ribs, turkey, chicken, and steak on my traeger grill and would have given them one star if not that smoked meat taste great. Everytime i use the grill, something that isn't supposed to happen, happens. I have to go out and check the pellet hopper every half hour to make sure it doesn't just use the pellets in the middle, so I have yo mix them around. Even when I do that, I can have the grill set for 225 and it goes up to 400-500 degrees or catches fire. Then when I restart it, it sometimes cools down to below 150° and shuts down in the middle of my smoke. I'm very dissappointed because the grill was not cheap, the pellets aren't cheap, and the food I am.ruining isn't cheap. I know traeger isn't going to do anything about it because I have called and they gave me "reasons" all of these things happen, and they already got their money from me but I am hoping I can deter as many people as possible from overspending on a defective grill. I really do wish it was a good product because I don't have the money to buy another.
Z Grills is a lesser known manufacturer and a great low-cost alternative to the more expensive Traeger grills. Their pellet grill is a sturdy, heavyweight model with a roomy 500 square inches of cooking space and an electronic feeding system for fuel pellets. An additional warming rack provides additional space for cooking at lower temperatures. Furthermore, Z Grills also ensures their product with a generous 3 years warranty.
The popular Traeger Junior Elite is a great smoker for first-time chefs as well as experienced smokers who are short on space. It's versatile and can grill, smoke, bake, roast, braise, and barbecue food. The digital controller is adjustable to +/- 20 degrees and has 300 square inches of grilling space that is large enough for two whole chickens or three racks of ribs.
Other elements of the grill are the legs, which come in varies designs and construction materials. The automatic ignition starter to start the fire as well as the digital controller where individuals can achieve up to six different cooking methods ranging from grilling to baking and smoking. With that said, one of the most important aspects that we highly recommend individuals to consider is a green with a grease bucket or an ash cleanout design that vents out all of the ash sediment from the grill.
Hey David, Is there a particular reason why the Grilla grills interest you? I tend to find they’re great smokers, just expensive for what they are. If you’re working with limited space (say smoking on a condo balcony) then the Grilla models vertical footprint can make all the difference between having a smoker or not. But for the price, and for a standard model smoker, the Traeger models tend to be better all around.
A: As another key question that many individuals are asking for, users want to know if the grill is water resistant. Now, the inside of the grill in no scenario should be exposed to water. However, the exterior of the grill, once covered can be exposed to water. However, it is always best to ensure that the grill is powder coated and is able to withstand a bit of moisture, so it does not rust. If this is the case, then an individual will need a grill cover, which brings us to the next question.
Of course, we recommend our pellets and have proven them to work fantastically with all of our grills, but we would never be short-sighted enough to say that our owners must only use our pellets.  That just seems a bit, well, wrong.  From our testing and customer feedback, the following brands all worked very well:  B&B, BBQrs Delight, Cooking Pellets.com, Lumberjack and Smoke Ring.

With that said, depending on the size of the green an individual may need more pellets to fuel the food. However, a bigger sized pellet grill allows the cook to grill for a large number of people. While a compact grill can easily be taken anywhere. With that in mind, one important criterion that we wanted to take into consideration is how easy the item is to set up.

We at Grills Forever have used many kinds of pellet smokers in the past 4 years and come up with different strategies to find the best functioning pellet smoker. All of our reviews are so detailed because they come from the first-hand experience. After 72 hours of researching and testing numerous products, our team of outdoor cooking enthusiasts has decided to crown the PG24 by Camp Chef Pellet Smoker as the best. It emerged as the perfect choice for rookies and experts, always delivering that rich BBQ flavor and fragrance.
Kevin, appreciate your reviews and insights. I am currently looking for my first pellet cooker which will be primarily used for camping, therefore I will likely purchase a portable unit. Your review on the GMG Davy Crocket answered some questions for me. I was initially contemplating the Traeger Junior Elite and GMG Davy Crocket, but after doing some homework I’m now considering the Rec Tec Mini as well. I can purchase the Traeger and GMG now for $350 and the Rec Tec for $500. My dilemma is that I (like many others) take very good care of my gear/equipment, so whatever I purchase, I expect to get a great deal of use out of. With that said, making the wrong decision could be a 7-10 year mistake. There are aspects of each that I like, I guess my question is whether spending another $150 on the Rec Tec, in your opinion, would be worth it to you? I understand if you would rather stay away from specific recommendations, and if that is the case, any other thoughts you have would be appreciated.
In reading through the comments section, it seems the recommendations have shifted over time. As it stands today, which smoker would you go with and why: GMG Jim Bowie, Traeger Pro 34, or the RecTec? I like the cooking space of the Traeger Pro 34, but the other 2 seem to have more bells and whistles. I’ve been smoking about 5yrs, so not a pro but not a beginner. Currently have a 10+ year old Traeger Lil Tex elite hand-me down that is ready to give up the ghost. Would appreciate your thoughts!
Ever since my visit(s) to All Things BBQ in Wichita, my heart has belonged to the Yoder Smokers. I had researched many comparable size smokers, and guess what - they really are not comparable. The smoker started first time, quickly, and heated up well. I did ribs as my first foray and they were as perfect as my meager talents could get them. The fact that this smoker weighs in at almost 360 pounds speaks volumes as to how well built and how heavy gauge the metal is( something severely lacking in most other smokers). I had the extra shelf put in and the cooking space is easily double what I had seen in other smokers about the same dimensions. Hats off to All Things BBQ for the high quality Yoder smokers they so proudly distribute!!
The Char-Griller Competition Pro Offset Smoker brings competition-style The Char-Griller Competition Pro Offset Smoker brings competition-style smoking/grilling to your own backyard. This grill features our signature heavy-gauge steel construction steel diamond-mesh cooking grates and large 10 in. metal wheels for easy mobility. For added convenience the grill also features a large front shelf lower storage rack and warming ...  More + Product Details Close
One option is to put a griddle or a frying pan on the grill, high heat, get it blistering hot, add just a little oil to prevent stickling, and sear by conduction on the metal. It should only take two to three minutes per side. This is a good technique for reverse seared meats. You start them indirect, low and slow, with a little smoke, and then Maillard the outside in a hot pan or on a griddle. No, it's not cheating. It's making food better.
In true Yoder fashion the 640 is not a fancy cooker with lots of shiny things, bells and whistles. Don't mistake that for poor craftsmanship, the Yoders are all built to the highest quality standards. They just happen to be more muscle car than sports car. Big, bad ass, built to last American muscle car that will blow the doors off the competition on your back deck or on the comp trail.
We have already mentioned this product in our review once and we’re talking about it again. Whenever you are thinking of Green Mountain Grills, Daniel Boone should always be your first choice; it’s simply the best among the GMG products. Due to having other products at much lower prices with the same features, we could not include Daniel Boone in this review. We have, however, included the Davy Crockett in our review as our Budget Pick.

Meanwhile, it also has a 15-pound pellet capacity comparable to Camp Chef SmokePro (not as large but big enough to eliminate continuous wood pellet refills) and folding legs for better portability. However, certain users who’ve already bought their own REC TEC Grills Mini Portable Pellet Grill have complaints about it, like inconsistent heat distribution of the grill and poor quality control (certain grills break down easily).


The Memphis Elite is the largest cooker in Memphis Wood Fire Grills' impressive line of luxury pellet smokers. They're extremely well designed and well built. The top-grade 304 stainless steel is thick and extraordinarily well machined. Fit and finish are impeccable. Meathead proclaims Memphis smokers to be "some of the best cookers [he's] ever had the pleasure to use." At $4,999, the Elite is clearly not in everyone's budget, but this beast is impressive enough for us to include in our 2016 Top 10 Luxury Grills and Smokers list, where prices go up to $50,000.
There is no party like a backyard grill and BBQ party on a hot summer weekend with some good music on the back, and of course the centerpiece: the food. You see, food is a universal language. It is a way to say how much you appreciate and care for one another; a way to people’s hearts. And there is nothing more comfortable, warm and heart than some good old open grill and BBQ cooking on your pellet grill. And this is the reason you need an expert pellet grill review. 

On Tabletop Models: I didn’t include them here because though extensive, this post is more of an overview of a few select makers of Pellet Smokers I think do a fine job with both manufacturing and product support. The one exception is that I did include a link to where you can find the Rec-Tec mini. That’s Rec-Tec’s answer to the smaller, tabletop or tailgating models.


The Woodwind is a Pellet Grill for the connoisseur. Along with a high price tag come all sorts of fancy extras, from a specially constructed 'sear box' to a lever-operated cleaning system for removing wood ash. It's roomy too, with over 500 square inches of cooking space so whether you're cooking for one or smoking several racks of ribs at the same time, the Woodwind will get the job done.
But as said, there are a few things we don’t like; it’s relatively small, doesn’t have a lot cooking space, and the design feels cramped. At the same time, it’s still relatively heavy at 140 lbs. For the same price, you could choose the Z-Grills Master 700D, which packs almost 25% more surface area on the rack. That doesn’t seem like much but is a significant amount of room.  Or you could just spring for the Traeger Pro 22. There have also been reports of poor quality control, and that the temperature control is very inconsistent, often swinging up and down nearly 30 or 40 degrees.
Although pellet grill smokers are more expensive than your regular electric smokers, they come with great convenience as they do not demand your undivided attention. Now although there are a lot of reviews online available about pellet grills in general, none of them provided in-depth information about different models of Traeger Grills. So we decided to take on the challenge!
Hey Tom, first, thank you so much for reading the article and expressing your approval of it. It means a lot to me that the information posted on this site is useful for the people. To your question about pellet grills, yes. You must always use BBQ grilling pellets with these cookers. You cannot use raw wood with them. However, should you find yourself with access too hard woods like Hickory or maple, or fruit woods like apple, cherry, or peach – this is something that could be readily used in a charcoal smoker.
The cooking process is made a lot more convenient with this smoker. To start cooking, all you need to do is flip the Traeger on/off switch, and you’re good to go. Then, you can simply set your desired temperature through the digital controls. Enjoy your time and relax while you leave the unit to do everything else. With its efficient temperature control system and automated auger with an induction fan, heat remains constant throughout the cooking process. You’ll have evenly-cooked foods that have that mouth-watering smoky flavor in no time.
Even after reading the reviews and watching the videos I was still not prepared for seeing the 640 when it arrived. What a machine! A tank? Yes it is, it makes other brands look cheap and disposable by comparison. I was nervous paying a little more for a Yoder wondering if it was worth it, it was worth every penny. Have only used it a few times for ribs and chicken which turned out great. The wife said 'How much?!' when I ordered it, now she says we should have got one years ago.
Z GRILLS or Z Grills is a maker of smokers, grillers, and stainless steel prep work tables galore. It entered the world of pellet grills recently and launched an IndieGoGo campaign in order to fund its “affordable wood pellet grill” for $500,000 and currently gives even Traeger’s economical offerings a run for their money with its ability to accept all types of pellets and do all sorts of cooking styles.
If cost isn't an issue, check out the Elite Wood Fire. This 200+ pound behemoth from Memphis Grills costs more than some used cars, but it's fully loaded. Wifi-enabled, an extraordinary temperature range, and a cooking space large enough to be used by a small restaurant - the Elite has it all. The pellet hopper is built to match capacity, with enough fuel space to smoke for up to 62 hours straight.

Hey Eric! Man, thank you for the kind words. While I don’t post every day, I do try to make what I share with you guys as informative as possible. To that end, your words mean a lot. Now, the pellet release option is a great feature to have on any pellet smoker. In cases where you don’t have one, I suggest using a small shop vac you use just for pellet removal. Works great. But the quick release chute option saves a ton of time and effort for sure. Not what I’d call a deal breaker if a pellet smoker you like doesn’t have one. However, I’d like to see it become standard on pellet smokers for sure!
As people learn about pellet grills, they quickly realize that there are a number of brands offering a variety of models. So how are they different? And how do you know which pellet grill is right for you? With more options than ever, shopping for a pellet grill can be confusing. In a market filled with grills that claim similar capabilities, it can be difficult to discern what separates one from another. However, if you know which factors to consider and what features to look for, choosing the best pellet grill for you is a whole lot easier.
The Pit Boss really is the boss with its 700 square inches of cooking surface. The space alone isn’t what makes the Pit Boss 71700FB one of the best wood pellet smoker available. If you thought the Traeger TFB29LZA Junior Elite Grill had a lot of space at 300 square meters, then get more than double that with Pit Boss (the Rec Tec grill below beats it by only 2 inches).
This smoker has cooking area measuring 560 sq. inches, large enough to allow you to smoke food for your friends and family. This is also enough to give you the best grilling experience, as we’ve found after reviewing the top products from Camp Chef. It also has a useful rack where you can keep your smoked food hot while your waiting for your whole meal to come together or that one couple who always arrive late for the party.

Let's just say I really love to cook! Especially BBQ. I've had the YS640 a couple months now and can't say enough great things about it! I've grilled ,smoked and high temp roasted with excellent results! After week's of comparing and watching videos I know I made the right decision. There's just no comparison to the Chinese makes and the over priced stainless steel models. I considered the MAK smokers but at double the price couldn't justify it. For the price and USA build quality there isn't anything that can touch the Yoder!
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In the Grills Bull we have another large, unwieldy, but fully loaded grilling system. With a price that would make most grillers wince, this Pellet Grill comes complete with all sorts of bells and whistles. Aside from the large, wifi-enabled grill itself, Rec Tec throws in a terrific 6-year warranty as well as over 150 pounds of Pellets, which goes a long way towards justifying the cost. The Bull also has a large, 100% stainless steel cooking space which offers terrific durability long-term.
****Update 12/2014: So I finally found something negative to report. Today I was cooking 2 pork butts and a brisket and discovered that this grill does not do well with wind on a brisk day (It was 45 degrees here today). When set at 250 degree, the smoker could barely make it up to 190 degrees. I was able to bypass the problem by throwing a cheap moving blanket over the grill (an $8 fix) but I think it's worth noting.
At Grills Forever, we work hard to bring you the best product reviews possible through an extensive online research process. We go through countless online reviews and browse through different brands, both known and unknown. We then go through their features and the value they can provide to the users. We shortlist the top products to do physical testing and then come up with a review. We do this on a regular basis to keep our list up-to-date.

To be sure, there are pure “smoker” and pure “grills” but there are some exceptionally well-designed hybrids. I bought a Memphis Elite last year, and it is AWESOME! I made a pulled-pork masterpiece two months ago that was absolutely delicious… 8 hours on low temperature (225) then an hour on open flame (switching from a “smoker” insert to an “open-flame’ insert at 700 was easy) and it was awesome!
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