Comparing The Best Pellet Smokers
You know, I never thought I’d say this, but I’ve been convinced:
Food simply tastes way better when smoked with a pellet smoker. The wood pellets used to power the burn give the food a wonderful aroma, smoke the food at an even temperature, and make it difficult to oversmoke.
Then, of course, there’s my favorite advantage to using a pellet smoker:
Their ease-of-use is second to none when talking about backyard smoking options. They’re pretty much set-and-forget. Just calibrate the digital controller to the correct temperature and let it burn.
That’s what makes it so great for when inviting guests over. Unlike a grill or even an electric smoker, these bad boys don’t demand your undivided attention.
Bottom line? There’s a reason wood pellet grill ownership is on the rise. Although slightly more expensive than other backyard smoking options, they’re well worth the expense.
This guide will help you choose the best pellet smoker for your money. Let’s start with my top picks:
|Name||Cooking space||Temperature range||Rating|
|Green Mountain Davey Crockett Pellet Grill Smoker||219 sq. in.||150-550F (66-288C)||/5||Check Price|
|Camp Chef PG64 Pellet Grill and Smoker||560 sq. in.||160-500F (71-260C)||/5||Check Price|
|Camp Chef Smokepro STX Pellet Grill||429 sq. in.||160-500F (71-260C)||/5||Check Price|
|REC TEC Wood Pellet Grill||702 sq. in.||180-500F (82-260C)||/5||Check Price|
‘ve divided this guide into 2 price points, under $500 and under $1000. I believe that you shouldn’t spend more than that on a home-use pellet smoker, unless you’re planning on catering large events on a regular basis.
For most people these prices will mark the difference between the beginner models and the more advanced, feature-rich and pricier options.
In each price range I review 4 of the absolute best pellet smokers, to give you a range of options. Each smoker was carefully chosen to represent an excellent smoker that will deliver great results.
Choose Your Budget:
- Best Pellet Smoker under $500
- Best Pellet Smoker Grill Under $1000
- Pellet Smoker Buyer’s Guide
Best Pellet Smoker under $500
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.
Best Pellet Smoker Grill Under $1000
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.
The single biggest advantage though, especially for beginning outdoor chefs, is that when you’re paying this much, damn near everything is automatic. As an example, if we look at our number one choice, the Camp Chef PG64 pellet smoker, literally everything can be controlled by the built in systems, so I could grab a friend who’d never cooked anything more complicated than boxed mac and cheese over, give em a five minute masterclass and be confident that the automatic systems would do most of the heavy lifting when it came to getting everything right.
For beginner outdoors chefs and guys buying their first smoker, that’s an invaluable bit of knowledge. Knowing that no matter what you do, as long as you follow the standard set up, you’re going to produce professional quality meat with ease, which is why smokers like the ones below are the best choice for anyone looking at buying their first pellet smoker.
How To Choose The Best Pellet Smoker
The Definitive Buyer’s Guide
What Is A Pellet Grill/smoker, And How Do They Work?
Pellet smokers are on the up. A few years ago, only 2% of BBQ and grill owners had a pellet smoker, but according to research by next year this could be as high as 8%! But why are people only now starting to choose pellet smokers over other options?
It’s down to a few factors. First, pellet smokers have got a lot less expensive recently, putting them in the price range of a lot more families.
Second, more people know about them. More manufacturers are realising the advantages of pellet smokers and hopping on board, the market is expanding, and with the advantage of the internet putting all the info at our fingertips, even someone who hasn’t got the first clue about smokers and grills can find out everything they need in just a few minutes.
Third, and last, pellet smokers have a number of benefits over traditional charcoal, wood, or even electric smokers, which we’ll get into later.
But What Is A Pellet Smoker?
Pellet smokers, sometimes called wood pellet grills or pellet grills, are a combination of grill, barbeque and smoker that uses tiny little compressed pellets of sawdust to smoke meat, automatically dropping them into the cooking area whenever the temperature starts to drop.
This is the single main advantage of a pellet smoker. Unlike charcoal, gas or wood fired smokers you don’t need to do anything with fuel except make sure it’s full when you start. This means no more having to go back and check fuel levels, no fluctuating temperatures, no spending ten minutes setting up charcoal and getting it at the right temperature, and no random heat variance giving you oddly cooked food ’cause you set it all up wrong.
Instead, there’s an internal thermostat that constantly monitors the inside temperature, so when the temperature begins to drop, more pellets are delivered to the flame by an automatic hopper system, taking all of the hard work out of keeping the temperature steady.
The most expensive pellet burners are actually accurate to within 10 degrees, meaning your smoker will be running at a constant temperature the whole time. This means your food will come out moist and juicy, perfectly cooked and tasting the best it’s ever been, all without you having to do anything besides set it up.
How Do You Use A Pellet Smoker?
Because everything is automated, pellet smokers are far easier to use than wood or charcoal smokers, and pretty much comparable to electric smokers in simplicity.
The process is easy:
- Make sure you’re loaded with enough fuel. Pellet smokers all have hoppers to hold the wood pellets before they’re delivered into the machine, with fuel loads that last anywhere from a few hours to the entire weekend.
- Switch the machine on. The vast majority of pellet smokers have some sort of electric start up, meaning you start it by pressing a button and waiting for it to fire. Yep. No more shovelling charcoal and desperately struggling to get your grill to ignite.
- Give it time to warm up. This varies from machine to machine and the temperature you’re cooking at, but you’re normally looking at about ten to fifteen minutes.
- Load it up with meat and leave it to cook.
Thats literally it. Start and go. This simplicity is the reason why sales of pellet smokers are only climbing. Follow the rules and it’s damn near impossible to get wrong.
Pros And Cons Of A Pellet Smoker?
Firstly, pellet smokers are the easiest type of smoker to use, because they’re controlled almost exactly the same as your kitchen over. Just like we’ve explained above, it’s as simple as setting a temperature, letting it fire up, then throwing on the meat and leaving the system to do all the hard work.
Compared to electric smokers, pellet smokers deliver a better flavor, and a more natural smoky taste.
When you look at standard fuel fired smokers, pellet smokers annihilate them when it comes to convenience and ease of use. A lot of other types of meat smoker are also single usage, meaning they only function as a smoker. Pretty much every pellet smoker we’ve seen can also be used as a grill, a roaster, and sometimes even a barbeque.
Pellet smokers can be used as more than just smokers, too, with pretty much every model doing extra duty on roasting, grilling, baking, and more.
There’s also the fact that, because you can change fuel so easily and there’s a whole bunch of different types of pellet out there, switching out the smokey flavor or finding your favorite is as simple as throwing in a new stack of pellets.
In terms of downsides, pellet smokers can be a pain in the ass to clean, but no more than any other type of smoker that takes solid fuel. More expensive pellet smokers normally have some sort of cleaning mechanism built in, as well, which makes cleanup a lot easier.
Pellet smokers are also more expensive than other types, but when you compare everything that you get, it’s more than worth it.
Electric Smoker Vs Pellet Smoker?
Electric smokers are really good. Nothing beats the convenience of an electric smoker, and there’s some great models out there that cook great quality food, which you can see in our
The reason why is simple. Better flavor. Because it uses high quality, specifically made wood chips that are smoked with a real, open flame rather than an electric heating element, the quality and subtlety of the smokiness you get from a pellet smoker just can’t be compared to electric.
There’s also the bonus that pellet smokers can almost always be used as multi role cookers, with pretty much every models also functioning as a grill, barbeque and sometimes more, whilst electric smokers are pretty much only ever smokers.
Wood Smoker Vs Pellet Smoker?
When you’re buying a pellet smoker vs a wood smoker, what you’re buying is convenience and simplicity of use. Whilst electric smokers are arguably more convenient than pellet based smokers because they start quicker, only need a power point and a handful of wood chips, pellet smokers are still incredibly easy to use and far more convenient than wood smokers.
Now I don’t know if you’ve ever used a wood fired smoker, but they’re a pain the ass. Hard to get going, hard to keep at a consistent temperature, you have to keep checking them over and over and over, and if you aren’t careful, you can stack your fuel wrong and end up overcooking half of your food and undercooking the other half.
Because everything is automatic with a pellet smoker, you don’t have any of these issues. Again, just set it and forget it.
So What Should You Look For When You’re Buying Your Smoker?
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.
First, consider cooking size.
Smaller, cheaper smokers tend to run with areas of around 300 to 400 square inches. This is large enough for a dozen burgers, two racks of ribs or a small turkey, which makes it absolutely fine for the family and a couple of friends, but if you’re cooking for any more you’re probably gonna struggle to find space.
Larger, more expensive smokers run anywhere up to 900 square inches, which will basically let you feed your whole street. It’s also a whole lot more convenient when you’re planning on cooking multiple things to be able to throw every single sausage, joint of meat and rack of ribs on at once, flip ’em around and move things to the edge when they’re done.
Secondly, make sure you pay attention to the controls and temperature settings. As well as a thermostat, higher quality smokers come with meat thermometers built in. As you cook, the internal temperature of your meat is going to rise, and unless you’ve got a meat thermometer, there’s no way of knowing exactly how hot it’s got. If you don’t know why this is bad, when you let food sit too hot for too long, you run the risk of drying it out. You’ll undo all of your good work, plus it just tastes bad.
Even if you’ve got a meat thermometer at home, it’s not a bad idea to pick up a smoker with one built in. This is because the built in thermometers send their readings straight to the smokers computer and it automatically adjusts how it’s cooking based not just on how hot it is inside, but how this affects what you’re cooking. Now, unless you’re Gordon Ramsey you probably can’t tell what’s going on inside that turkey you’re cooking, so this is obviously a major plus.
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.
If you’re gonna set it and leave it to do the magic, you’re going to have to be careful, too. A major contributor to how long you can leave a smoker is how many wood pellets the pellet hopper holds. Pellet smokers run the gamut in how much fuel they use per hour, with anywhere from half a pound to two pounds of pellets being standard. Always check how much the model you’re looking at holds, and make sure that it’s going to last long enough, especially if you plan on leaving your smoker to cook whilst you do other things, especially if you’re going away from home. It’s simple math, and better that than coming home to a bunch of chargrilled ashes.
Lastly, check your smoker for cleanup options. Because pellet smokers burn sawdust wood, there’s always ash residue and smoke deposit buildup inside the machine, not to mention grease runoff from the meat, and this needs regular cleaning.
A lot of more expensive smokers come with options that make this so much simpler, and trust me, after you’ve cleaned yours off a few times, this is something you’ll grow to really appreciate.
Again, pellet smokers tend to be of a higher standard than other types because of the level of technology involved in the core process. If you’re in any doubt about anything, just follow our reviews.