One huge advantage with pellet smokers is that because of how they work, they’re all generally of a higher standard than a lot of other types of smoker. But just because you’re less likely to grab a bad model doesn’t mean that you don’t want the best, right? There’s still things to think about that make sure you get the absolute best fit for you and your family.
We all know about Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, but Traeger is the true pioneer of pellet smoking. This company introduced the first pellet smokers, and it remains the best-known brand, although competition is growing. There's nothing fancy here. Instead of a touch-pad controller, Traeger employs an older-style digital dial controller. No WiFi or meat probes; just no-frills schmokin' from the industry leader.
Still loving it after cooking about 100 meals. Thru rain, snow, and the occasional nice day it is still going. Today I'm about to grill brats. My weber grill sits around rarely needed so it's going to get sold. I discovered with quality pellets it can grill just fine to temps up to 450. The camp chef grill cover keeps the pellets dry in the hopper so I don't even take them out unless you want to change flavors. I did have to seal the hopper handle around the rivets to keep the rain out but other than that it is very tight. See the pic makes smoke like crazy.
Depending on size, the Traeger grill is very easy to store. However, the camp chef is usually the most portable with ease of transport and storage while the big green egg grill has a weird egg shape but a bit compact depending on size. Therefore, depending on your size, you can easily store any of these grills in as little space as you want. Besides, most have wheels for easier movability. As for cleaning, the Traeger grill is easier to clean and maintain, when compared to the other two grills.
As the last criteria that we took into consideration, we have shared this a couple of times but we really wanted to focus on variety. We not only wanted to share some of the best tops of the line brands in the industry but we also wanted to share brands that may be unknown but offer excellent craftsmanship and material design. For instance, some of the grills we have shared are perfectly designed for everyday use, while some are designed for large events and parties.

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 Traeger L'il Tex, an inexpensive model, draws 300 watts an hour while the igniter rod is on in the first four minutes, then it drops down to 50 watts an hour for the duration of the cook session, less than a standard light bulb.
I also was a certified KCBS judge but never judged at an event. Their judging system was flawed in my opinion because if you truly follow their system it is possible that them best tasting piece of meat might not win. In cutting horses (not a judge but read all the rules as I showed a fair amount back then) you were always supposed to judge the best overall horse to win. I asked about leaving a process to make sure the piece of meat you feel is best to win and was told absolutely not you have to judge presentation points, tender points & etc. and not place based on your opinion of the best piece of meat! Not that KCBS is a bad organization, it’s rules didn’t fit my thought process. Passed their class and got the t-shirt just never agreed, was always a spectator.
Hey Dan – I think you’d really up your versatility with a good pellet smoker. Smoke profiles seem to depend largely on the quality of pellets used and then also on the burn consistency of the fire pot. What I mean here is that many pellet smoker users tell me that they prefer models that cycle over faster with frequent temp checks rather than those with longer wait times between temp checks. Cycling faster means that pellets burn more consistently and do not rest to a “charred” state and they “reactivate” This latter problem sometimes results in less than optimal flavor. Yoder smokers cycle very fast and are preferred by many due to this and their thicker metal construction.
And #3, good bbq or grilled meats should taste great without a ton seasonings or sauce. Beef especially can be excellent with simple salt! Make sure your seasonings enhance flavor. Another great read, the late (and much grieved at our house) Paul Prudhomme’s ‘Louisiana Kitchen’ again available on Amazon used for a couple of bucks and a masterpiece! Paul was a master of seasoning. Don’t kill it with seasonings and sauce, enhance the foods flavors. Barks on meat are great if they are right. However burnt, sugar and many other seasonings detract from the meats natural flavor. I personally love a meat you can eat without a sauce and then sauce if you want some added flavors going on!
Hello.. You recommended a couple weeks ago to go with a GMG grill and that is the one I’m going with. I’m just a little torn between the DB and JB. They are only $150 apart but I’m not sure if the bigger size is worth the money when I can spend that on a cover and some pellets. Do you think the bigger size is worth it for a back yard smoker with the occasional party? I know people say bigger is better but I went bigger with my previous barrel smoker and it was much harder to keep an even temp with the bigger size. I would have went smaller given the chance. Thanks for any input!

Through the years, pellet smokers have gained popularity. The fact that they give you the convenience of being able to hold a barbecue from the comfort of your home is what makes them ideal. However, not all of them will match up to the needs that you have and this is why I put together this guide with reviews. Following this guide, you should be in a position to make a comprehensive decision on the specific model to buy.
Manufacturers advertise this piece of equipment as both a smoker and a grill, but it's best to think of it as a superb indirect-heat convection smoker, not a grill. Most models just don't do as good a job of searing a steak as a charcoal grill or even a gas grill with a sear burner can. You'll sear steaks better on a $20 hibachi than on most pellet smokers.
In 2008 there were only two consumer pellet grill manufacturers. Today there are dozens. 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?
Third name to make it to my list of the best pellet grill review is The REC TEC Wood Pellet grill. It has a trademark Smart grill Technology, which maintains precise temperature. This amazing pellet grill has a whopping 702 square inch cooking area, and a 40 pound capacity pellet hopper. It is made out of high quality stainless steel. It comes with a drip pan.

Overall, I think you would be happy with the smaller smoker / grill. I really like what Green Mountain grills has done with the Davy Crockett model, and that is the unit I have personally. That said,Rec-Tec makes a great product, and some people prefer the cart stand it comes with rather than the fold up legs that Green Mountain grills uses on the Davy Crockett modeling. Either choice would be good for you if you are looking for a smaller unit. I am of course speaking about the mini version of the Rec-Tec. The larger version is excellent as well.


Any retail store that you visit, regardless of the product you are intending to purchase, has a supply chain that these products go through before reaching their final destination. There are certain costs associated with getting the product from the manufacturer to you that get tacked onto the price tag of the product. These additional costs can include aspects such as transport fees, warehouse handling, packaging, and display. Therefore, the price tag you see when the product reaches you isn’t just covering a small margin on top of the absolute base price of the product. It has been marked up to cover the additional costs listed above in order to reach you.
The flame broiler uses a digitally controlled burn system. Its Digital Control Center lets you set the temperature ranging from 170F to 600F with ease. The desired temperature is set and maintained through an electric auto-start and fan-forced air mechanism. These, in addition, give that flavorful smoky taste to all of your foods. The auger automatically feeds pellets into the smoker, so you can pretty much let it take care of everything.
Kevin- super helpful article. Thanks! I just moved from a big city small apartment with no grill to a house in the country. Most essential purchase is the grill. I’m really on the fence. I like the idea of a pellet grill, but in reality- I’m mostly cooking burgers, fish, steaks, scallops, and veggies. The brisket and ribs will be more of a special occasion. From an economical perspective, am I better buying a gas grill and just getting one of those smoke tubes to add some flavor? From many of the online comments, it seems like the pellet grills benefit from additional smoke anyway, and though you can get additional grates for searing, seems like a square peg in a round hole. The gas grill is sort of the tried and true, and way more economical. Those $500 entry level pellet grills seem a little scrawny, and the next level up is a cool $grand. I’m really on the fence, and getting pressure to “just buy the darn thing” to consummate the move to the country! However the pellet grills seem like the new shiny object and have my curiosity. Any advice? PS- love the website! Thanks, Cary
Not all people and culture will be able to truly understand our love for barbecue here in the USA. For them, it might just be a cooking activity while for us, it’s a tradition – a ritual to celebrate the summers (and occasionally the winters). As long as this love for grilling stays with us, which will be, we’re going to continue to expect more and more from the grill manufacturers.
You want even grilling: One of the downsides of using a charcoal grill is ensuring that the entire grilling area is evenly heated. Spreading the charcoal evenly and avoiding hot spots is difficult. Traeger’s pellet grilling system overcomes this problem with a fan that evenly distributes the heat throughout the grilling area, much like a wood-fired oven would have.
A FOLLOW UP: Traeger has agreed to send me replacement parts for the defective ones and I don't have to return them. However I am not returning the grill. I tried to cook a prime rib and a Boston butt. The grill randomly turned off three times and it had the "mini-explosion" others have talked about where the unit actually has an explosion within the housing lifting off the lid a couple inches and making a loud boom. This is not only a potential safety issue, but the "set and forget" is simply not true. It turned off within an hour after setting the temperature at 225 and leaving it unattended for an hour. This is not what I expected or wanted. Sorry Traeger quality is not what it is cranked up to be and certainly not worth the premium pricing they charge for their name. DON'T BUY THIS IF YOU EXPECT TO GET A GRILL THAT WORKS AS ADVERTIZED.
When starting on a grilling project, it’s important to know at what temperatures should a food be allowed to settle inside a pellet grill before it reaches its desired doneness. Of course, the time it spends on the grill also plays a major role in it, but you have to understand that cooking on a high heat for long time periods can leave the meat charred while on a low heat can turn it into soft and mushy.
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).
This smoker offers a decent 418 square inches of grilling space. This is enough to cook around sixteen burgers or four whole chickens. If the grilling space isn’t enough, Traeger also offers a larger unit that offers the same features at a higher price range. But the medium sized one is enough to cook for large groups of people already. Built to have a high capacity, this smoker allows for multiple cooking at the same time.
Thanks Kevin. I am about to buy both a 5 burner gas grill and a smoker for a new bbq island. Rather than buy both, will one of these higher end pellet grills take the place of a traditional propane grill? I can apply the funds for the gas grill to a higher end pellet if it can really do double duty. It has to be able to cook burgers and dogs and steaks etc. Just like a gas grill though. Thoughts?
I watched the Traeger infomercial on T.V. Seemed easy enough. Ha! QVC ran a similar infomercial on their channel, seemed really easy. Ha! Like a fool and his money are soon departed, I jumped in and bought one. When it came in the mail, I started to assemble it. What a joke! No instructions came with it to tell me where the nuts and screws went. Called the manufacturer. The lady said they had many complaints with the QVC orders, she would email me a copy of the instructions. Well I finally put it together. Performed the (curing and start up method). Bought a nice pork shoulder and started grilling. It is interesting that both infomercials say set the temp and WALK AWAY!!! What a joke, I sat and watched the grill like a hawk for 3 hours, everything was good. I figured I would go eat lunch, ha! What a mistake. When I came back (20 min.) the grill had turned itself off and had an error on the screen.
This is best pellet smoker for the money if you are a newbie but want to cook like a pro. It is super easy to use and allows you to set up the whole system and then walk away. It has an electronic autostart ignition, which means you don’t even have to start a fire. Just plug it in, do a little prep work, add some pellets, and it will not be long before you have some delicious food to enjoy with your family or serve to your friends.
I was able to put this to use for the first time this past weekend. It was awesome! Worked exactly as expected. Very easy to cook on and clean. I see us breaking this out on every camping trip. Just a bit of warning though...our first meal on the griddle side was scrambled eggs (which cooked up super fast) and we forgot to make sure the stove itself was level and the eggs almost slid over the not so tall edge. Once the stove legs were leveled, everything was perfect.

I purchased a Traeger Elite Grill from the website. I use the grill one time and it worked fine. A couple of weeks later we fired up the grill to cook some steaks. Approximately 10 minutes into cooking the auger stopped working. We had to finish our meal cooking it on the stove. I looked at the troubleshooting guide and the steps needed to be taken. To determine what was wrong you basically needed to dismantle the electric box and auger housing. I am not an electrician Nor a mechanic and feel this is excessive for a consumer to have to do.
Hey Pete, first thanks for your kind words. Traeger pellet grills fell off a bit quality wise over the past several years. That said, they’ve hired a new CEO – formerly from the Skull Candy Head Phone company – who brought that company’s valuation up considerably. I see them making moves to get back to their roots… aligning themselves with some of the more well known names in BBQ again. From a build quality, they’re making solid pellet grill bodies using fairly heavy steel. The area I’d like to see them improve on is the controllers they use. Right now, GMG is making great strides in claiming some of the entry level pellet smoker market share away from Traeger. This is due to a superior PID controller, advances in built in Wi-Fi monitoring, and outstanding customer service.

There’s so much about this grill to love, but one aspect that gets RAVE reviews is the customer service. Rec Tec has pretty much the best customer service in the industry. First off, there’s a 6 year warranty, meaning, they expect their product to perform. But in the unlikely case that you have issues, their customer service is incredibly fast to respond, is available even on the weekends, and believe it or not, the owners even provide their cell phone numbers so they can help you through a problem when you’re stuck. Incredible!
This is the right choice for anyone that likes smokey flavors and cooking slow at home. It is my first experience with a pellet grill and I have read and studied them for a while. I was looking for a outdoor cooking solution that would give me the ability to cook like the pros without the super sized trailer. Finally deciding to go with the Camp Chef I haven't been disappointed. The temperature control is flawless so you can dial down the cooking process. I smoked chicken the other day and the red smoke ring was a 1/2" deep. It works like a convection oven so there are no cool or hot zones, it just keeps the heat even and consistent. I have noticed even if smoke isn't pouring out the wood flavors are present.

Cooking a lot of food is easy when using Camp Chef’s Flat Top Grill. The large surface area will enhance your cooking experience giving you plenty of room to work so cooking is done efficiently. Included is an interchangeable flat top griddle making it easy to cook pancakes, bacon and eggs, sausage, and hash browns - all at once. Then switch to grilled burgers, kabobs, and chicken for the next meal. Four individual burners provide heat in specific areas creating heat zones that will help you manage hot foods. Built in matchless ignition knobs control the heat and flame. Fold-down side shelves and roller wheels are added for convenience.


When buying an item as important as a grill, it is evident that an individual should look for the best quality for what they desire as well as learn properly what are the best in the industry. With that in mind, pellet grills are even more unique than a regular grill because of the design and the way the grill functions. With that said, the quality of a pellet grill is the first criteria we took into consideration because there is a slew of different elements that have to ensure the grill is made of the best possible quality design. With that in mind, one important aspect of quality design that we took into consideration is how all of the functions are built. Meaning, we wanted to make sure that no area was designed and manufactured in a cheap way. Other than that, one method in which we figured out the best quality grills is how the grill cooked and how the items tasted. However, since we cannot buy every single grill and spend weeks cooking steaks and vegetables, as nice as that sounds, we relied a lot on individual reviews and what people had to say about that particular grill.
Ordered Renegade Pro, received it and missing 6 washers to assemble the legs. They are rattling around inside the unit making it unusable. The control knob also sheared off in shipping. Traeger has yet to come up with a solution to fix or replace the unit...disappointed in their customer service. They don't care about customers after they get their money.
The built-in cords on outdoor cooking devices are often not long enough, and although regular household extension cords will work for rotisserie kits, they will not carry enough juice to keep you pellet smoker or electric smoker going. They could become a fire hazard as they heat up trying to deliver power to the unit. To extend the cord you need a large capacity cable as measured in amps. Here's how to figure out what you need:

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:


For me, I don't care where it is built; it could be Oregon, China or the moon. But I want a smoker that is reliable. As a businessman, I don't understand this company. It is going to be a lot more expensive for the company when I return this thing to Costco and Costco makes Traeger take it back. Just being responsive and sending a new controller under warranty would seem to be easier and cheaper. Of course, if this was a normal company, they would fix the root cause (poor reliability) and make lots of money selling to happy customers. Read more
Camp Chef has already been mentioned several times on this list. It's a venerable company that makes up in quality what it lacks in the name recognition of a Traeger or Weber. Their Deluxe Pellet Grill is built to reach and hold ideal temperatures for smoking. An internal system syncs pellet delivery to temperature instead of simply feeding in fuel when it begins to run out. This ensures a clean, consistent cooking experience. A removable ash can makes clean-up a snap as well.
This is a great pellet smoker! With a few minor tweaks, this thing would be perfect. Ribs, brisket, chicken, pulled pork, sausage, you name it and it comes off of the grates awesome. I've had mine since 2012 and would recommend that you purchase a spare thermocouple in case your's bites the dust in the middle of a smoke (replaced my thermocouple twice since 2012). This thing is built solid with longevity as a guarantee. The customer support at Yoder is unbelievable as well. I have gotten phone calls from them at 8am on Sunday morning when my first thermocouple gave up in 2014. Made in the USA with a commitment on customer support that has been incomparable to anything I've ever purchased! It's a bit pricey compared to the competition but does an amazing job. "The Sauce", with Chef Tom, is a huge help for those just getting their feet wet in pellet smoking. He does an amazing job by keeping it simple and flavorful!
The “Smart Smoke” controller goes from 160-450F, with an internal sensor and electric auger maintaining that heat. The hopper holds a good 20lbs of pellet - enough for 10-20 hours of smoking. And it’s built from a sturdy stainless steel that feels solid and looks fantastic, with locking caster wheels keeping it secure while in use. It’s also backed up by a 3-year warranty.
The grill is plated with beautiful stainless steel that gives the grill a refined and impressive look. The huge cooking area includes 570 square inches of surface area. That’s enough to hold 20 burgers or 4 rib racks! It also contains a second warming rack and bottom shelf that provides the grill stability and extra storage. This version comes with a sear box that can reach temperature of up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit, which caramelizes your food. There’s a cheaper version without a sear box that costs around $200 less if a sear box isn’t a necessity for you. Additionally, the legs are built with extreme thickness giving the grill a grounded base. The caster wheels add portability to the grill so you can find that perfect place in the backyard.

Editor's Note: If you're looking to upgrade your backyard cooking setup this summer, you're probably in need of a little advice. We're longtime admirers of the folks behind AmazingRibs.com, the site dedicated to unraveling the science of barbecue and grilling. Please welcome back Max Good, the only person in the world whose full-time job is testing, rating, and reviewing grills and smokers. The database he maintains includes over 500 grills and smokers, ranging in price from $30 to $50,000. When it comes to barbecue equipment, nobody knows it better.
Instead of logs, the pellet smoker is fed with food-grade cylinders of wood pellets that are an inch long and ¼-inch wide and are made of compressed hardwood sawdust. According to the best pellet smoker reviews, pellet grills are easy to use because it’s easier to maintain its temperature because of these sawdust pellets that are subjected to great heat and high pressure, which ignites lignin (natural wood glue).
Regarding getting a good draft, this is a common misconception for pellet grills. The burn pot on pellet grills receives oxygen via a fan unit. As such, there’s no need for a draft to get a measured burn in the traditional sense. Most pellet grills lack sufficient insulation / gaskets, etc to prevent smoke from leaking out of the body. So, unless you’re going with the Memphis or something that uses oven style insulation, you don’t really need a chimney at all IMHO.
Hi – my husband and I are really interested in a pellet smoker. We came across some when we were at a fair and are trying to find more information about the Traeger brand because the price seems affordable compared to all the others you mentioned. You started out talking about the Traeger but never gave any feedback on it? Little help please:) Thanks!

Ease of Use: At first, the unit appears somewhat mind boggling to use however when you get over it the first occasion when it turns out to be very simple. For one thing, there is a get-together video instructional exercise from the maker’s site for a less demanding get-together. Else, anybody that has used a BBQ before wouldn’t have any type of trouble with the unit.


Hi – my husband and I are really interested in a pellet smoker. We came across some when we were at a fair and are trying to find more information about the Traeger brand because the price seems affordable compared to all the others you mentioned. You started out talking about the Traeger but never gave any feedback on it? Little help please:) Thanks!
Eric, I’m sorry for the trouble you’ve had with your Traeger. Not sure this will help, but here is how I make sure I don’t have the problem you had. When I start after a long previous cook or any cook at all really, I vacuum out all the dust and vacuum out the burn pot. Then, I put a handful of pellets into the burnt pot, insert the heat deflector, the drip tray, and grate. I find that this keeps things working well. Sometimes, the burn pot will get too full of ash and this can cause the problems that you had. Give it a try. If it works, please let me know.
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