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.
At the peak level of outdoor cooking, the Champion Competition Pro is a rugged grill and smoker with extensive features that come standard. Clean-up is a breeze with the heavy-duty, porcelain-coated cast-iron cooking grids. Known for superior heat retention, cast-iron makes searing easy. Other features include the stay-cool handle, side shelf with tool hooks and bottle opener, bottom cabinet for storage, robust locking caster wheels for easy movement, and a heavy-duty 14-gauge powder-coated steel finish. Sear or smoke, bake or roast: discover the taste of real wood-fired flavor with the Champion Competition Pro. Comes complete with a weatherproof grill cover.
This little smoker is just right for people who want small capacity and/or need a compact device for their condo patios; and despite its small size (or, perhaps, because of it) it's also one of the best pellet smokers for the money. Many of our readers who already have other outdoor cookers like to add Davy Crockett to their lineup, especially if they have everything but a pellet smoker.
A: This may be considered the million-dollar question for many reasons. When it comes to a pellet grill, individuals have to clean it out a bit different than a regular grill because there are unique elements to clean. Many individuals recommend cleaning a grill after every use depending on the size. However, for larger grills, it is recommended to clean it after four or five bags of wood pellets. Now, what you do is vacuum out the ashtray. Some brands do have an automatic ashtray cleaner. If not, then you have to vacuum it out with a vacuum. Other aspects to clean include removing the grease drain pan, removing the porcelain grills, the heat baffle, and properly washing with warm water and a bit of soap. Most brands will have cleaning instructions in the guidelines.

As far as size goes, bigger is usually better when it comes to pellet grills. A large hopper means a longer time you can cook without needing to refill your fuel source. A bigger grill size means more room for a variety of meats or side dishes. Look for at least 700 sq inches of cooking space (that can include the upper rack as well – remember, pellet grills work like convection ovens.)


The major issue is the size. It’s the smallest smoker at this price range, and barely bigger than the Junior Elite. Considering the price difference in the two, it’s hard to justify the extra expense, and when you compare it to the other smokers at this level, the Lil Tex seems more than a little lackluster. There’s less cleaning options, less automation, less cooking space. Just less of everything.

I say almost idiot proof because I still make stupid mistakes when I'm cooking and I like to blame it on the pellet grill once in a while. The unit is extremely easy to use for a novice such as myself. I just fill the hopper with my favorite wood pellets, set the temperature and add my food. I have owned this unit a little over a year and everything from the first burger I cooked until the smoked pork chops I just had for dinner has turned out really, really well. I find myself wanting to either smoke or direct grill everything. We have cooked pizza, turkey breasts, tri-tips, pork butts, burgers, salmon, cookies, brownies, chicken wings, drum sticks, pork chops, ribs, cornbread, vegetables, meatloaf and many other things. Nobody ever complains. LOL I have used it in all types of weather all year long. Once I learned how to use the damper (didn't take long) the heat stays where I want it and remains relatively stable even on the coldest days. I would buy this unit again and I would recommend it to others.


I did a lot of research, and ended up buying the Camp Chef DLX24. It was at a price that fit my budget, (under $500) and had a lot of features the others didnt. The pellet trap door for quick dumping of the pellet hopper into a bucket, and the ash cleanout under the drum was a clincher. Being able to pull a lever and dump the ashes into an easily removable cup is a great feature that all grills should include.It has a digital temperature controller, and dual probes (one inside the smoker for grill temp, one for the meat) and overall good quality construction. The second shelf inside is standard (you pay extra for that on other grills). If your budget allows, would suggest purchasing the propane powered sear box ($199) which attaches to the side of the grill and allows for reverse searing meat..
Thanks for the great information and the research you did. I am a retail store owner in Boise, Idaho area and we sell a pellet grill smoker in our store. I would like to encourage to look at the Sawtooth Pellet Grill. It is made local here and is American Made. It is an excellent grill for the price with an awesome company backing it. You can find their website at sawtoothpelletgrills.com. Again thanks for the information and if you do another publication regarding pellet grills, I would love to see what your opinion of the Sawtooth would be 🙂

The biggest cleanup issue is the buildup on the heat deflector under the cooking grates. You'll need good gloves and an apron. On most models, a thorough cleanup means a 30 minute process of taking out the greasy grates and the gooey deflector plate, scraping them and washing them. You should do this when the carbon and grease cover the deflector plate. Stainless parts can go in the diswasher, but I wouldn't do it. That grease is like tar and it could get all over the insides of the dishwasher and hang on for dear life. I use a handheld steamer like the Steamfast SF-320 Portable Steam Cleaner shown here.
Kevin, Im about ready to pull the trigger – im pausing for a moment to consider your thoughts as you mentioned Grilla Silverback or Camp Chef. How do these compare to the Rec Tec on quality and price? (as they are less than Rec Tec) And reverse sear…how well does this work on pellet grill, ie how long does it take to go from 200 cooking temp to 500 searing temp (with grill grates)? Thank you for your time

This cooker is still the best value for the dollar for pellet grills I have been looking again for a larger rig, but haven't found one better. If you are looking for an entry level pellet grill this is the one you want. Don't be discouraged by the reviews that talk about leaking smoke or not sealing well because it does leak smoke everywhere. Look at the pic I attached to my review you can see it for yourself it does, but isn't it silly to buy a smoker that doesn't smoke. If you ever go to a BBQ competition you will see most of their smokers leak smoke also.


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.
They are often called grills, but, at the time of this writing, I consider them to be primarily smokers. Almost all of them cook with indirect heat and those that try to grill over direct flame don't do it well. If you love steaks, there are far better ways to cook them. But if you love smoked turkey, ribs, salmon, pork chops, brisket, and smoked foods, a pellet smoker may be the best solution available.
"Camp Chef is excited to join the exceptional family of Vista Outdoor brands," said Ty Measom, Camp Chef President. "The opportunity to be part of this dynamic company will provide for the future growth and success of Camp Chef as a leader in our market. The hard work and dedication of Camp Chef employees, past and present, has made Camp Chef what it is today. We look forward to the opportunities ahead."

I purchased my first Traeger Grills over a year and a half ago and now I am on my third grill. I have had the most amazing experience grilling, smoking and baking. I do everything on my Traeger. It accurately holds the temperature, starts up automatically and has convection which cooks my food evenly and thoroughly. I recommend this grill to anybody who’s looking for a amazing cooking experience with little effort and really likes to show off to their friends how good their food tastes. My favorite part is being able to walk away from the grill and not have to babysit it so I can do overnight briskets without even checking them. I love it.
Traeger Pro Series 34 - Nowhere in the advertisements nor the website nor the owner's manual does it let the customer know that in order to prevent stall out's while cooking at low temperatures (250) that the hopper must be stirred every hour and a half or so to prevent gaps in the feed of the pellets. We lost a very nice cut of meat to this after having to get up in the middle of the night to check on the cooking at a temperature of 250 degrees (which had stalled again, leaving the grill and the meat cold). This is the second time using the grill.
The MAK 1 Star General boasts our favorite digital controller: It's highly programmable and easily accessed via the internet from anywhere in the world. Made entirely in the USA, the 1 Star General is solid-feeling, with a heavy-duty powder coat. The hood is a rolltop, meaning that, unlike a lot of its competitors, the 1 Star doesn't need much rear clearance, and there's plenty of room inside. An optional upper grill grate adds 190 square inches of cook surface. Our only criticism: Not only is it built like a tank, it kinda looks like one, too.
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.
Mixing flavored woods with oak offers a couple of advantages, starting with price. Woods like cherry and hickory aren’t nearly as plentiful as oak and therefore cost more, making 100% flavored wood pellet more expensive than those that use a base of oak or alder. By using a blend of oak and cherry, pellet makers can keep prices down—and because oak is fairly neutral the cherry wood smoke flavor still shines through.
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.
While many people enjoy pellet grills, some find it difficult to use pellets to produce true, flavorful steaks and barbecue since the fuel often lacks the same flavors as traditional grills. That smoky, wood flavor many steaks have is not impossible to get with the right pellet grill however. The Z Grills Wood Pellet Grill sports a combined grill/smoker setup with temperature control for the best pellet grilling experience available.
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