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.
Just what I needed for my Traeger Pro 22. Fits like a glove, simple install, and makes adding and pulling rib racks off the smoker much easier. No longer a balancing act trying to get a tray to stay put on top of the pellet hopper lid. This also fits perfectly under Traeger's cover for the Pro 22 models. Have to be a little care you dont pinch your fingers when folding it down (would be a nice future mod if it could somehow be spring assisted), but thats my only gripe.
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.
Because the wood pellets are the grill’s fuel, you should pay careful attention to the pellet hopper, the chamber that holds the pellets. You want a large enough hopper to hold all the pellets you need for a single cooking session. Look for a hopper with at least an 18-pound capacity if you want to slow cook for longer periods without having to refill the hopper.
Our reviewers spent 12 hours testing a top-selling, budget-friendly pellet grill. To get the most comprehensive feedback possible, we had our testers take this grill for a spin and had them consider its most important features — from how much it can cook at a time to how easy it is to travel with. We've outlined the key pointers here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.
Pellet grills come in various sizes from the portable types for tailgating to the extra-large units for commercial use. If you are someone who wants to be able to take your smoker on the go, be it camping, partying or any other event you’ll want something that’s easy to lift and has wheels to facilitate movement. If you have lots of parties and gatherings at home, then you might want something bigger. Its all up to what your needs are.

First impression was this thing isn't built like a mass produced unit, it's more like something you would expect from a master fabricator. The assembly instructions were incredibly detailed, and the way it was packaged made it really easy. It takes a little time to get temp steady for low smoking, but once it's there it seems to be pretty steady. So far absolutely impressed with everything about this cooker, and made in the USA!!!

I got my YS640 for a combination Father's Day/ Birthday gift and regardless of whether it's grilling or smoking beef, pork or chicken the results have been outstanding. I can hardly wait to break out the turkeys for the Holiday meals. The direct grilling grates leave a steak with beautiful grill marks and the use of the fruit wood pellets along with quality steaks have made for some incomparable meals. As for quality of the smoker itself, I have sons-in-law that are already jockeying for position to try to be the next to have the YS640 after my demise - - - and we're figuring that won't be for at least 20-30 years!


GrillGrates(TM) amplify heat, prevent flareups, make flipping foods easier, keep small foods from committing suicide, kill hotspots, are easier to clean, flip over to make a fine griddle, and can be easily removed and moved from one grill to another. You can even throw wood chips, pellets, or sawdust between the rails and deliver a quick burst of smoke to whatever is above. Every gas grill needs them.
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!
Some cheaper models, such as the Brinkmann, have a controller with only three settings, Low, Medium, High (LMH), and there is no temperature probe in the oven to create a feedback loop. We do not recommend these units. You actually have less control over temp than you do on a gas or charcoal smoker. The whole reason to buy a pellet grill is because it is set-it-forget-it and it hits a temp and holds it regardless of the ambient air temp outside, winter or summer. On these LMH controllers, the temp fluctuates widely and it cannot correct itself for the weather. They just aren't as smart as a digital device. Whether you're smoking a few slabs of ribs on a scorching summer day, or six pork butts during a blizzard, the three position controller only knows auger on and off times for Low, Medium, and High. It has no information on the temperature inside the cook chamber.
PID Controller–PID Controllers (Proportional Integral Derivative) are devices that most of the grill manufactures don’t fully utilize yet. They can be found as a separate device attached to the grills if you’re handy enough, but all the manufacturers aren’t fully considering them yet. Using a PID controller, you can accurately maintain the temperature while cooking and ensure that the food is cooked automatically to perfection without much supervision.
For example, it has a decent 570 sq. in. of cooking area, a patented ash cleanout service, endless versatility (wherein you can barbecue, braise, roast, bake, smoke, and grill to your heart’s delight), and an advanced digital control (the same one that allowed the Camp Chef SmokePro to take the top spot). However, the quality control for this unit is a little worse than SmokePro.

Yoder YS 640 is built out of durable materials. Unfortunately, this means that it is heavier than some other units. It weighs 325 lbs, nearly twice as much as the Traeger Texas Elite 34. The main body is built out of 10 gauge metal. It will take more time to reach the highest temperature, however the smoker will hold the heat in far better than some other cookers.
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.
We have reviewed the best pellet smokers on the market today after doing our extensive comparative research. However, there were some hidden gems that could not make it to our top 10 product list because of one reason or another e.g. due to their high prices, unavailabilities in some regions, and other factors. Also, some just failed to get in our top 10 list only because it was a top 10 list and not a top 20 list. Regardless of the reasons, here are a few honorable mentions that failed to make it to this top 10 best pellet smoker review, but are still worthy in their own rights:
Rubbery skin has very little to do with the type of heat (direct vs indirect). Rubbery skin is a result of too low a cooking temperature. Take your smoker/grill or whatever you use and get the temperature in the mid 400’s or even higher and you will get crispy skin. One thing though never let the internal temperature of your bird get over 150 or you’ll have crispy skin and dry crunchy meat too. Take it off the grill and let is rest a full 30 minutes. Best bird you’ll ever eat no matter which grill, smoker, 50 gal barrel, etc you cooked it on.
Yoder pellet smokers maintain a very strong reputation for quality and precision. Based out of Hutchinson, KS, the company prides itself on producing a 100 percent Made in America product that is one of the sturdiest and most reliable brands of smokers available. Check out this Yoder Smokers promo video to get an idea of how they are branding themselves.

We love recommending and reviewing wood pellet smoker grills, but we also want you to get the most out of them once you purchase. Without proper care and maintenance, even the best pellet smoker is bound to have a shorter lifespan. Therefore, how you use your smoker and how you maintain it after use greatly determines how long it will serve you. A little bit of work will go a long way toward extending the life of your smoker. A thorough cleaning of the smoker should occur at least once a year. If you frequently use it, you should have it done at least three times a year. Buying quality pellets will extend its life as well.


You want your smoker to retain heat and to maintain a constant temperature. If you purchase something that’s inexpensive, yet made with a thin metal, you’re going to regret it because you’re going to be constantly fighting with the temperature. You could purchase the best smoker pellets, but if you don’t have a high quality smoker, it is all for not.
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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

Because the wood pellets are the grill’s fuel, you should pay careful attention to the pellet hopper, the chamber that holds the pellets. You want a large enough hopper to hold all the pellets you need for a single cooking session. Look for a hopper with at least an 18-pound capacity if you want to slow cook for longer periods without having to refill the hopper.
With a temperature probe for the meat inside the chamber, this allows you to keep an eye on the temperature of your meat without opening the grill. Nothing ruins a brisket or roast faster than the griller who constantly fiddles with the meat on the grill. Opening the chamber lets the heat out and that can quickly make for some tough meat. This handy feature takes the guesswork out of how ready your meal is, helping you get the best outcome.
The Good-One Open Range is a charcoal grill with an offset smoke chamber attached. It is dramatically different from a traditional offset smoker. The grill sits low in front and doubles as a firebox for the smoke chamber which is spliced on above and behind so it can work like a horizontal offset smoker only better. By placing the heat source behind and under the smokebox instead of off to the side, Open Range produces even temperature from left to right, something almost impossible to achieve with a standard barrel shaped offset.
Purchased the YS640 about a month ago. So far I have cooked nine pork butts, three racks pork back ribs, one beef brisket and four thick cut New York steaks on it. I am very pleased with the results of these cooks. I have an upright propane smoker, Weber kettle, propane grill and so far the YS640 has out performed all three of those in ease of use and flavor performance. I can get almost the same flavors with my others, but takes more work and babysitting. Also want to mention that the YS640 is built to last. I noticed the ruggedness and excellent USA craftsmanship immediately upon arrival. Some reviewers think maybe the YS has a steep price, but I think its justified due to its construction and craftsmanship. It would be difficult to make something of this caliber for any less. A couple minor things to note is you will have to play with the damper a bit to learn the heat distribution, but after learning it, its not a problem. Doesn't put quite as strong as a wood flavor on the food as my upright propane smoker, but it puts the right amount and I have no complaint here. I would and have already recommended the YS640 to friends and acquaintances. If you have spent long hours smoking foods and know the correct flavors that they should be, your not going to be disappointed with this cooker!
Louisiana Grills was one of the first companies to muscle in on Traeger's one-brand show. The smallish CS 450 is one of its more popular models. In 2014, Louisiana upgraded all of its pellet smokers to include digital touch-pad controllers with integrated meat probes. Set it and forget it; the thermostat will maintain cooking temperature just like your indoor kitchen oven does. As a safety feature, the meat probe can be set for your desired target temp. When the internal meat temp rises to within 10°F of the target, the controller automatically drops the smoker down to 170°F (77°C) to avoid overcooking.
I didn’t actually learn to cook—at all—until after college. So my parents, who I now see only once a year or so because they live in France, have never really gotten a chance to try my food. One of the first nights after they flew over to see our home, I cooked them perfect lobster tails on the grill. When a long-lost cousin showed up one day during their visit, I ran to the store, bought two chickens, threw them on the Traeger, and we had a feast. Everyone agreed that those chickens were the moistest and most evenly-cooked they’d ever had. 
Ease Of Use – Check if the unit is anything but difficult to setup and work. A few units are a breeze to gather, and you should simply to take after the manual of guidelines that accompany it. And after that, you ought to likewise discover how to work the grill and it ought to offer you easily of operation. For the most items I have evaluated here, they can be worked with the push of a catch, so they will let you simply set the clock and temperature and forget about it.
Renegade Pro is built to suit all your cooking needs; it can cook, braise, broil, char, sear, bake, smoke, roast, grill, and barbecue your food to that “melt-in-the-mouth” perfection. To bring about this versatility, it offers different temperature settings, such as “Hot and Fast” and “Low and Slow” that can be controlled using its Digital Pro Controller.
The cleanout for both the pellets and ash is a huge perk to the grill. The patented “Easy Ash Cleanout” does not require the user to take apart the grill. Instead, they simply have to twist and dump the container. The 18lb pellet hopper is similarly an easy cleanout. The stainless steel also makes it easier to clean the grill because of the steel’s properties.
Wattage – With the right amount of wattage by your side, you will easily reach the temperature required, and it will stay there provided that you are providing enough pellets for it to make use of. Anything north of 1200W will easily be able to cover all your requirements, but as a rule, it’s ideal to be sheltered than sorry, so it can’t hurt to purchase a unit with a bigger Wattage than you might suspect you’ll require.

After looking at a lot of pellets smoker grill reviews, it is easy to see that this is a pretty decent model. It is just so functional. So if you are looking to purchase something that is more than a pellet smoker, this is the product for you. Make sure to follow the instructions carefully when assembling it and be sure to gauge cooking time since this is a fast one.
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Editor-in-Chief Sean McCoy is a life-long outdoorsman who grew up hunting and fishing central Wisconsin forests and lakes. He joined GearJunkie after a 10-year stint as a newspaperman in the Caribbean, where he learned sailing and wooden-boat repair. Based in GearJunkie's Denver office, McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.
My fiancée's family has never really understood me. They see my safe full of guns, the knives I gift her on birthdays, and my preference for the company of dogs over humans, and despite her assurances to the contrary, they see a hick. So, one night while her sister and her husband were visiting from L.A., I cooked them venison backstrap for dinner. They were extremely hesitant, but as good sports, gave it a try and were absolutely delighted. And you know how I made it? I Googled venison backstrap, plus Traeger, and followed the instructions. 
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