Hey Kevin great article. I too am currently looking for a pellet smoker. I’ve narrowed it down between a Yader, Memphis Pro and the Rec Tec. The Green Mountain did not seem very well built. The wheels looked liked the would break on the first roll and the stainless steel door was flimsy and did not have a good seal. I know the Rec Tec has a 6 year warranty. Do you know how long the warranties are on the other two?
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.)

Wood pellet grills look like standard barbecue grills but some with a separate firebox for making smoked meats that will also let you smoke vegetables and other ingredients. As Traeger and Pit Boss both get good reviews from customers, it’s important that you look at the top features of this grills and how each company compares in relation to those features.
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.
Another thing about pellet smokers which might impress you is that you can also use this type of smoker to grill your food. So, don’t be confused if you come across the term “pellet grill” in this article because it refers to a pellet smoker. When used as a grill, pellet smoker will start up quickly and cook your food with minimal supervision. Depending on your smoker, you can either use the small area above the fuel pot to grill your food or you can put a griddle on the pellet smoker when it is running on high heat.
This is the most important aspect you should look into when buying a new pellet grill. You always hear people saying that a product will cost more money if it’s built with better quality materials and that is absolutely true when it comes to pellet grills. Let’s start with the basics – the most common material that is used when producing a pellet grill is steel. There are many different types of steel from high-grade stainless steel to lower grades that aren’t as sturdy. Cheap pellet grills will be constructed of a decent grade of steel when creating the outer appearance so that it’s sharp to look at. However, the inner parts of the grill are made out of lower-grade metals. Do you see the problem here? Even though the grill may look aesthetically pleasing from the outside, these nice looks won’t make up for thelow-quality materials that are used inside. This can quickly lead to the inner components of the grill deteriorating and in need of replacements. This ultimately results in you spending additional money to replace these parts once they are no longer functional.
Pellet grills are every lazy man’s dream appliance. These grills need absolute zero to minimal maintenance. You just need to lightly wipe through it after every use, and maybe thoroughly clean it 2 to 3 times a year! All pellet grills now come with a drip pan that catch the accumulating oils that drops from the food. They are also made with good quality raw materials that enable them to withstand the outdoor atmospheres all year round. If this does not entice your lazy bones, no other appliance will, and that is a fact. Period!
It also has the standardized dial-in digital control with LED readout (not to the point that it has WiFi like the Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett Pellet Grill, but still quite convenient). However, it’s rated low on this list because of poor quality control. Too many customers ended up with bad Pit Bosses that have inconsistent temperature control (going all the way to 615° Fahrenheit).
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Because the burn pot is small, there is usually a hot spot directly over it. Some units have an optional perforated section above the burn pot so you can put the meat over direct flame, but the ones I've tested still do not sear properly. And there is no way to set up a 2-zone cooking system with a cool zone. As with most other grills and smokers, the differences between lower and upper racks is not huge, so think of it as one heckuva indirect heat convection smoker with precision temperature control.
The MAK Pellet Boss will increase or decrease with the press of a button in 5°F increments and has a probe in the oven that keeps the temp pretty solid. As with any thermostatically controlled oven, even your indoor oven, the thermostat cycles heat on or off as needed. So it you set it for 225°F it cycles on til it hits 225°F, then off until it drops to 220°F, then on to 225°F. There are three meat probes and the Boss can be programmed to change the cooker temp when the meat hits a target. I've had one for several years outdoors in the Chicago winters and summers without a cover and no problems.

Set & Forget - Pellet Smokers are the best solution for people who want to smoke meat for many hours without stress. The set & forget style is a domain of this type of grills. Just set the desired temperature and your smoker will maintain it for the following hours. That way you can leave your meat for even more than a dozen hours at a fixed low temperature without worries.
Once you start paying more than $500, you’re looking at a big boy professional level machine. It’s going to be big enough that you don’t have to worry about having the neighbours over as well as the family. You’re also looking at more expensive sensors and thermostats, so you get a more consistent temperature, which leads to a much better end result, and there’s generally some sort of cleaning assist built in, which makes cleanup and putting it away at night so much easier.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Before talking about its features, we need you to close your eyes and ask yourself these questions: Does it grill? Does it smoke? Can it ever replace a gas grill? Does it work like a charcoal grill? Now, open your eyes and listen to the answer: Yes. With GMG Daniel Boone’s motto “Think Everything”, you can be certain that it will provide the all-in-1 solution you seek.

What sets Z Grills apart significantly from the rest of competitive grills is a completely different construction that is more resembling of something like gas grills, which means a door in the front that one can keep grilling accessories behind. Usually most of manufacturers leave the front of the grill open and don’t make use of the space underneath the grill which gives Z Grills huge thumbs up for using this space in a nice and creative way.

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:
I don’t know how many meals I cooked on that thing, but it’s been enough to make me a hero and de facto camp chef among my friends. I seared up a tri tip large enough to feed four hungry kayaking buddies at the Salmon River Festival one year, then covered it with foil and cooked it on indirect heat for one of the best steaks of my life, which we happily consumed in the middle of nowhere. The grill also perfectly charred onions and peppers to deliver a mountain of chicken and beef fajitas to a crowd of ten. I still get compliments on that one. 
Temperature: Most of all, you have to pay attention to whether your pellet grill maintains a chosen temperature. People buy a pellet smoker because it makes it possible to smoke meat for long at fixed low temperatures. Very convenient and simple, and a grill that always maintains a selected temperature guarantees that the meat will be perfectly cooked.
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.
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.
While the Traeger Lil-Tex does offer similar features as our top pick, such as a digital LED temperature control system and an auto-dispensing auger, there was one missing feature which we thought was necessary. This product has a smaller grilling area and lacks a removable upper rack, which gives you less grilling and prep space. I should mention that the unit does come in a bigger 700 square inch version for $200 more, as well as a smaller version that costs less. If this smoker is too big or too small for you, there are always other options available. Compared to our top pick, it’s also more expensive despite offering similar specs. Aside from that, this is a very efficient and reliable smoker – might even have been the best if our top pick wasn’t available on the market.
Brad Barrett at Grill Grates makes a fantastic product. Reverse searing 2″ steaks and chops (or thicker) works great on pellet smokers as you can get the internal temp up to 10-15 degrees below your desired finish temp, remove them and loosely wrap / cover in foil, crank up the smoker with the grates on to say, 400 degrees, and then sear off your protein getting great grill marks with little to no sticking at all. Huge fan of Grill Grates.

Although our testers thought this grill was a bit heavy, they loved its small footprint and still found it to be very portable: “It’s a great size and convenient to bring in an RV or SUV for tailgating and grilling on the go,” reported one reviewer. Our testers were also pleased with how easily you could control the grill’s heat from its corresponding smartphone app. The only real downside? The instructions were a little unclear, according to one of our reviewers.
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 🙂
To your question regarding Traeger, I’ve not reviewed their grills of yet. I do know that Traeger as a company is taking steps to up their game some, as quality/reliability of their pellet grills has diminished over the last few years. The new CEO – Jeremy Andrus – they hired comes from the Skull Candy company and brought that headphone company from annual sales from less than $1 million to nearly $300 million. I know also that a few big hitters in the BBQ world are being contacted by Traeger to bring the brand back to its former prominence. You can read more about that here from the site of one of the company’s that now has an ownership interest in Traeger: http://www.trilantic.com/News_Story.aspx?StoryType=1&ID=56.
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Although pellet smokers already have their own custom-made wood pellets with different flavor and blends, if you choose to moonlight your smoker as a charcoal smoker for some reason (maybe for a different experience or a cooking experiment), you can use it as a regular smoker using wood chips. Under such circumstances, it’s going to be worth learning a bit about the types of wood chips out there.

I am currently using a Bradley Smoker, which is basically an electric oven with a smoke generator that makes tons of smoke, using special Bradley Smoker pucks (of compressed saw dust). A tall cylinder hold a stack of pucks, and the smoke generator pops a new puck into the oven every 20 minutes or so (when the pucks are about 80% burned). Managing temps is not as difficult as a stick burner, but nothing like advertised with these pellet burners (like the Rec Tec).
As you could probably guess from the name of these smokers, they run by burning wooden pellets. Typically, a pellet smoker comes with a hopper on the side where the pellets are added. When you turn on the smoker, pellets will move from a hopper to a burn pot where they will be burned and the smoke will be diffused by a fan. A thermostat measures the temperature of the grill and determines how many pellets to burn while keeping a consistent temperature.
Since wood chips are by-products of carpentry and woodwork, they are not only inexpensive but are also helpful for the environment since you’re using up all the parts of a tree. Its death wouldn’t go in vain! If you’re looking to learn more about the types of available wood chips and what kind of flavors they impart with, feel free to check out our post on that topic.
This is a fantastic grill for the money that’s dependable for outdoor cooking and smoking (hence its name, “Camp Chef”). It’s not quite 9.9/10 that is the Camp Chef SmokePro DLX Pellet Grill got, but it has more than enough features and benefits to spare to honor the Camp Chef brand (even though at first glance the PG24 and the SmokePro are practically the same units with color differences).
Thank you for a very comprehensive review and all the helpful advice. I would like to know your thoughts about having the burn pot in the center area as in the Rec-Tec, or on the side. My only interest is smoking, not grilling, and I prefer even heat throughout the cooking chamber. How much difference does the location of the burn pot make? Thank you very much.
Bake, braise, grill, smoke, and sear – all of these cooking techniques can be fully experienced by just using one unit of backyard cooker! Yes, you can definitely do different kinds of cooking to your pork, beef, fish, pizza, or pie by just using the Camp Chef Smokepro STX Pellet Grill without burning charcoals and woods to start the cooking process.
Kevin: I have a gas smoker but would like a wood pellet smoker. I’m looking at Traeger Lil Tex (due to price) but I read about Blazn Grill Works, Grand Slam, made in USA, stainless steel grates and a control unit that is very good. Cost about $1195, can’t find dealers so called and talked with the owner. What I read on web site sounds good. He claims on his short video that his auger is the best and doesn’t put torque on the drive due to the design. Any thoughts on this unit? Any advice would be appreciated. Still looking at the Yoder YS640 as price is very similar.

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.
Lauded for its amazingly accurate cook temperatures and times and for affording cookers a real “unfair advantage” at competitions (according to those who lose to them) — Fast Eddy’s Cookshack Pellet Smokers rank among the very best available on the market today. I love the history of Fast Eddy’s pellet smokers. In 1986, Ed Maurin (Fast Eddy) — a retired KCMO Fire Fighter — cooked his first American Royal event. From that point on he was hooked on BBQ and on coming up with the very best way to ensure its production. By 1998 the first of his Fast Eddy’s pellet smokers was released to the market, and he was off to winning competitions and helping those who bought his cookers do so as well.
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Temperature: Most of all, you have to pay attention to whether your pellet grill maintains a chosen temperature. People buy a pellet smoker because it makes it possible to smoke meat for long at fixed low temperatures. Very convenient and simple, and a grill that always maintains a selected temperature guarantees that the meat will be perfectly cooked.
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