Pellet smokers are some of the easiest to regulate and will deliver the most tasty slow-cook meals without much hassle. Apart from that, they are all-in one. Whether you want to smoke barbeque, grill burgers, bake pizza or slow roast your prime rib, here is your perfect companion. This is because it combines the flavour of a charcoal grill and the automation of an electric kitchen oven.
Pellet grills are powered by electricity and fuelled by wood pellets. Electricity will power its digital control board, the auger and the fan. Wooden pellets will provide the heat for cooking and also enhance your food flavour.
A typical pellet smoker has a digital control board that automatically controls both the cooking and the food temperatures which is why it is commonly defined by the phrase ‘set-it and forget-it’.
Because a greater percentage of the population, an additional approximate of 45% are warming up to smoker pellets, you may well brace yourself to have one and see the difference it makes to your cooking.
However, there is too much information out there you need a credible guide to help you sift through and land the best unit for your needs and this is exactly why we compiled this pellet smoker review along with a buyer’s guide.
Compare the Best Pellet Smokers
Best Pellet Smoker Reviews 2017
REC TEC Wood Pellet Grill (RT-680) – Featuring Smart Grill Technology™
REC TEC Pellet Grills are known for their quality construction, convenience and their famous Smart Grill Technology will definitely charm you. A single push of its top quality ceramic ignition system is what it takes to light your unit.
This grill is one of the most accurate given a wide range of temperature settings with incremental of 5ºF between 180ºF to 500ºF. Not only that, if you love the aesthetics, this one’s a real eye-catcher.
Temperature Control – Smart Grill Technology
This feature happens to be one of the most outstanding and most appreciated in this unit and so we will have done great injustice not discussing it.
As already mentioned, it comes with a temp range of between 180 and 500ºF which if you asked me, is quite okay because 500ºF is the searing range and below this you can bake, roast, smoke, or grill. 5ºF increments within such a wide range is what allows you to make precise adjustments with this unit for best results.
However, you can take your temperatures slightly above 500ºF by setting it at full mode which will also make your grill to heat faster.
Its temperature control features proprietary PID algorithm which works well to maintain your set temperature and an RTD that keeps the grill temperature in check. It also comes with an extreme smoker feature at between 180ºF to 250ºF in case you will need additional smoke in your unit to enhance flavour.
The electric automatic lighting feature lets you light your unit in an instance. This is where the REC TEC 680 borrows from the convenience of an electric oven.
Its fire pot is fed with an auger and because it comes with a heat deflector and a blower fan, your pellets will light easily without concentrating heat on a single area. With the drip pan present, flare-ups are certainly a thing of the past because the pan will catch all food drippings.
REC TEC RT-680 pellet grill is made of 304 gauge stainless steel so now you know that it won’t rust or warp and will give you an easy time cleaning. Just to break this down, all its vital parts including the fire pot, bull horn handles, deflector shield, drip pan, hopper lid, smoke stack cap, side shelf and the hardware grates are all constructed with stainless steel. It’s not flimsy either, its powder coated seams are sealed to add to its solidness and durability.
What we Loved
- Quick heat up
- Ease of operation and cleaning
What we didn’t like
- The package does not include accessories, you buy them separately
As far as quality, convenience and durability are concerned, this is the pellet grill to go for. It comes with many offerings and not much to be considered on the negative.
The only limiting factor perhaps would be space requirements. If you are looking for a commercial unit for large gatherings, you may have to consider other bigger models because this one is ideal for medium sized friends or family gatherings.
Traeger TFB29LZA Junior Elite Grill
The Junior Elite Grill by Traeger is an amazing unit, one of the few within its range that guarantees you value for your bucks. With ample grilling area and ease of use and monitoring thanks to the LED digital display and the auto auger control, you are in for the best cooking experience. Here are the features that make it a worthwhile purchase.
Ample grill area and versatile cooking
This pellet smoker offers 300 sq. in. of grilling area which is just enough to cook sizeable chunks of meat in many different ways be it braising, grilling, roasting, smoking, or baking. With a temperature range of 150ºF to 400ºF and the dependable multi-position thermostat control mechanism to maintain the temperature just where you set, you can relax and wait for your food to cook.
LED Digital Display
This pellet Grill also features a LED Digital Display and quite honestly this is one feature you will come to appreciate. A quick glance is better than testing the water when it comes to knowing the internal temperature of your grill.
The function of the auger is to regulate how the pellet is fed into the hopper and for this unit, it happens automatically.
Along with a convection fan that will evenly distribute heat within the grill, you don’t have to stand by and wait to feed your pellets and monitor your food through its cooking. Furthermore, no cold patches in your grill during cooking, which means your food will cook well from any position in the grill.
Auto Shutdown Cycle
The auto shutdown feature is unique to this unit and you’ll love it. When cooking is over and all you need is sit and savour your smoky-flavoured meat, the last thing on your mind is standing by to make sure your grill is off. This feature lets the fan run on for another 10 minutes to have it cool.
The E-Z drain grease system is another great addition that you will appreciate when it is time to clean your unit. Simply take out your grease tray, clean it separately and place it back.
What we loved
- Easy to put together and light
- Compact, portable and comes with wheels for mobility
- Multi-position Thermostats
- Patented E-Z Clean feature that lets you clean in a breeze
- Auto-Auger Control and Auto Shutdown Cycle
What we didn’t like
- This Grill limits you to using Traeger pellets only
- A Max temp of 400 may not be ideal for searing
The Traeger Junior Elite is a great buy. It is compact, durable and comes with a combination of amazing features you may not find in other pellet grills. It’s easy to use so whether you are a novice just starting out or a BBQ veteran, you will find it quite useful. Finally a 3-year warranty backing is all you need for quality guarantee.
Traeger Pellet Grills BBQ155.01 19.5K BTU Pellet Grill
If you are looking for a pellet grill with a medium sized cooking area and dependable temperature regulation then the BBQ155.01 is certainly it. Traeger as a trailblazer and the best electric pellet smoker, for some, in this industry has been on the forefront, manufacturing quality units with long life attached to them and they have not disappointed us with this unit. Here are some outstanding features that have propelled it to the top of several reviews.
Attractive Design and Functionality
At a glance, the striking bronze lid finish will catch your attention if design matters to you. Take it out in your backyard during summer and notice how well it complements the weather and your decor. It is not just the design; its 4-in-1 functionality makes this unit a worthwhile one time investment. With it you can grill, barbecue, smoke, and bake.
Electric Auto start and Digital Temperature Control
An electric start is certainly a plus for any pellet grill over a charcoal grill because it will light your unit with the push of a button. All you need to do is have it connected to a standard 110v power outlet.
This unit comes integrated with a very convenient Smart Temperature Management that features a Digital Pro Controller with a 3-position temperature control system to enable you set the temperature to low, medium, or high as well as set your desired smoke setting during cooking.
Although some users feel that this temp control system does not give them as much control as they would have desired over the temperature of the unit. Quite notable though, is its accuracy with only a +/- 15ºF variation.
Once you’ve fed pellets into your hopper, the last hassle you’ll want is to keep feeding it into the fire pot. The automatic auger system does just this for you.
With a small compact size, you can carry it around if your are the mobile barbecue enthusiast. It also comes with wheels for mobility.
Its package includes a front folding shelf, a smoke shelf, and a recipe book for added convenience when cooking and also to let you have a fun trying out something different each time. For most other units, you will need to dig deeper into your pockets to get some accessories.
Another added advantage is its E-Z Grease draining system that facilitate drainage of all grease that drips from the cooking chamber into the grease bucket which you will easily take out, empty, clean and place back.
What we loved
- Comes with an auto-shut down that lets the fan run for an extra 10mins to cool it
- Auto ignition and auto-auger system for ease of operation
What we didn’t like
- Small legs will tip over easily hence it needs extra caution when moving around
If you have smaller barbecue needs, the Tailgator will come as an ideal because it features a small grilling compartment 292 sq. in. In terms of performance, it has pretty much the same features as others in the same category and will serve you well with good maintenance.
Pit Boss 71700FB Pellet Grill with Flame Broiler, 700 sq. in.
Well if you are a man or woman of the people then you need a pellet smoker with a roomy grilling compartment and great versatility that will allow you to attend to everyone in one cooking session. Pit Boss definitely outdid themselves with this unit. Most uniquely it features 700 sq. in and an 8-in-1 functionality. Let’s check out in detail what this unit is all about.
Spacious Grilling Compartment and 8-in-1 functionality
The 71700FB boasts of one of the most spacious grilling compartment with 700 sq. in dedicated to cooking food. So if you need to go it commercial or handle larger groups then you will be safe with this unit. To match its space, it has been designed with utmost versatility.
An 8-in-1 functionality including baking, smoking, grilling, searing, char-grilling, braising, and barbecue is more than any user can ask for in a single grill. The grilling compartment is divided into two; the lower compartment with a space of 507 sq. in and the upper with 193 sq. in therefore cooking different foods at once should not be an issue.
Easy Assembly, Ease of Operation and Cleaning
This unit comes preassembled save for the legs, wheels if you’ll need these, handles and the bottom rack which is not hard to fix even for the novice plus the instruction manual is there to guide. Operation is as simple as connecting its cord to a power outlet and switching on. It will light instantly and fan the pellets to light with the help of the glowing deflector.
With a 20 lb hopper capacity, and temperature range of 180°-500°F and 175° and 225°F for smoking you can well set your desired temp and leave your food to cook. Temperature monitoring is not a letdown either, thanks to the built-in lid thermometer.
A simple glance at its door and its strong grates and you know that this unit is not just built to last. It is built with very specific quality detail. The door fits really well when shut which is one indicator of a well constructed unit. Overall, the unit is constructed with powder coated steel and thick steel for that matter making it one of the most durable for its size.
Some appreciable additions include wheels for mobility so you can move it around safely. Others include a catch pan and hopper clean-out drawer.
What we loved
- Porcelain coated cast iron grids and powder coated steel for the body makes it quite durable
- Versatile with 8 different cooking options
- Spacious cooking area
What we didn’t like
- Could be quite heavy for some users however this is debatable because it comes with wheels for mobility.
Don’t be mistaken by the simple construction, the 71700FB is one of the most quality built and the sturdiest you can come across in the market. The thick 14 steel gauge for the door and the strong grates speak for the quality of this unit.
Camp Chef PG24 Deluxe Pellet Grill and Smoker BBQ with Digital Controls and Stainless Temp Probe
Camp Chef has won many hearts with its quality and sturdy construction in all of their products and they certainly didn’t let us down with the PG24 Deluxe Pellet Grill. This unit happens to be one of the most trusted based on user review.
Ample Cooking Area for Medium Gatherings
This unit measures 32.5 in. in height and together with 429 sq. in. available cooking space within it, which is just enough to cook around 20 burgers at once at a temp range of 160oF and 500oF, you can budget comfortably for small to medium barbecue party. In case you need an extension specifically for smoking or warming more food, it comes with a secondary 6 x 24 in. rack.
Hassle-free match-less lighting is probably the greatest advantage that comes with smoker pellets. Simple plug your unit to a power outlet switch on.
Dual LED Temp Displays
Quite a unique feature about this unit is its dual LED temperature displays; one for internal temperature of the cooking area and the other for food temperature.
Its auto-auger dispenses pellets from the hopper into the fire pot automatically, in maintaining the temperature you have set for it and ultimately this is the most economic utilization of pellets in your smoker. The hopper has a large pellet capacity at 18 lb which is a remarkable feature when you need to set it and forget it.
What we loved
- Additional cooking and warming rack for more functionality
- Dual temperature display hence no need for an internal meat probe
- Easy clean; grease drain and ash collection systems
- No need for
What we didn’t like
- Others have found it to be a bit heavier than others in its league
- Some users found it difficult cooking at its max temperature
The dual LED temp displays in this unit blew me off. Apart from that, this is generally a quality built unit that will give you really good service for years to come but with good maintenance.
6. Pit Boss 71820FB Pellet Grill with Flame Broiler, 820 sq. in.
Perhaps an outstanding feature with Pit Boss pellet smokers is the ample space within their grilling area. Most users who picked on this brand considered capacity first and then other features. Let’s look at why the 71820FB has kept it top of best pellet smoker reviews.
Roomy Cooking Compartment
An 820 sq. in. of cooking space is quite a plus for anyone looking for a commercial grade unit and the 7182FB by Pit Boss certainly fits this requirement. Its grilling compartment is divided; 580 sq. in. for the main rack and 240 sq. in. for the detachable upper rack.
Underneath is a grease rack that automatically drains away grease into a bucket connected to the grill. Additionally, it comes with a Flame broiler for open flame grilling which extends its functionality even further.
Another amazing feature we really appreciate in this unit is that it is made of 16 gauge steel with porcelain coating and cast iron for its main grid. Checking its base, it comes with heavy duty legs and a strong shelf right under the cooker that connects the legs to enhance its stability. For mobility, this unit comes with wheels that you can attach when there is need to move it around.
For utmost accuracy and ease of operation, this unit comes with dial-in digital control board with an internal meat probe and an LED screen that displays cooking temperature within a range of 180-500oF. Along with an instant electronic ignition working with the auto-auger, all operation is pretty much automated so no hassle whatsoever.
What we loved
- Digital temperature control together with the meat probe
- Jam free feed system designed for the hopper
- Sturdy construction
- Roomy cooking space
What we didn’t like
- Some users have complained of the grill letting off heat and smoke
For the commercial barbecue enthusiast looking for a mobile tough boy for a large group, the Pit Boss 71820FB makes a good option. We tend to think that it is the bigger version of the 71700FB yet still does an amazing job.
After a tough job selecting the best pellet smoker from the best, the REC TEC RT-680 Wood Pellet Grill came as the best pellet grill. Like others it comes with quite a sturdy construction and an exceptional digital controller.
Beyond this, what sets it apart is its Smart Grill Technology and of course it’s beautiful design detail. To back all these up is a 6 year warranty, which we felt no other grill manufacturer offered and quite honestly this is a mark of quality you need to look out for.
Pellet Grill Buyer’s Guide
Traeger happens to be the earliest pellet grill brand in the market from way back in the 80s when Joe Traeger’s company made the first pellet grill and patented this noble innovation for some years. Initially this company made home heating furnaces that used wood pellets.
However, when it was not winter their market dropped so the company came up with a unit that would use the compressed wood pellets throughout for stable sales and so the pellet smoker was born.
With time, the thermostat came into being which made regulating the smokers a whole lot easier into what would be termed ‘ set it and forget it’.
This was the onset of some major brands we have in the market today like Green Mountain, Mak, Fast Eddy’s Cookshack and Yoder Smokers. The present pellet smokers are built with a temperature probe that monitors the internal temperature of your food.
Why Pellet Smokers?
- Natural Wood Smoke and original non-fillered Flavour from wood pellets made from compressed sawdust and wood shavings makes them natural and safe for flavouring your meals.
- These units are some of the easiest to operate. They eliminate the hassle that goes with operating charcoal grills and still embrace the convenience of an electric oven.
- Pellet grills incorporate a temperature probe which automatically monitors temperature as your food cooks. So while you are away, you can rest assured that your food will not burn up or undercook.
Most Recognized Brands
Rec Tec Grills Pellet smokers fall in the under $1000 category yet their design features top quality and sturdy construction. These units are made in China but the computer controls are made in America along with their powder coat and their final assembling. Their assembly facility is based in Georgia. Their units feature PID temperature controls, a smart Grill technology, powder coated carbon steel construction for utmost strength and performance. Other vital parts are built with 304 gauge stainless steel for hygiene purposes and to prevent rusting.
Based in Dallas Texas, MAK first began in 1990 as a steel fabrication company. They later on embraced the pellet smoker innovation to expand their base. One of their most unique innovations is the direct heat FlameZone ® feature with a gas-grill-like convenience cooking. Their pellet smokers are all made of premium stainless steel along with a revolutionary design that incorporates their very own temperature control system ‘The Pellet Boss’.
- Fast Eddy’s – Cookshack Pellet Grills
Think of Fast Eddy’s and the first thing that comes to mind is precision. Fast Eddy’s company has quite an interesting history attached to it. In 1986 just a year after the Traeger Pellet grills had made their entry in the market, retired KMCO Firefighter Ed Maurin cooked at an American Royal event which would be the first of an inherent passion for barbeque. By 1998 his first grill made entry into the space and amazingly made a name that would users would reckon with to date.
Cookshack features a double 304 stainless steel layer sandwiching a high temperature insulation which is responsible for maintaining accurate temperatures.
How they work
Pellet smokers, just as their name indicates, burn wood pellets which are made by compressing sawdust and wood shavings together. Compressed wood pellets burn to produce both the heat used in cooking and smoke to give your meals flavour.
- Turn on the pellet smoker, this will require electric power because its digital controller is powered by electricity same as modern electric ovens.
- This in turns activates the igniter rod which then begins to feed wood pellets into the fire pot. The igniter rod is positioned at the bottom of the pot and will glow when turned on. Once in the pot, the fan automatically blows to light the pellets creating the heat and smoke required to cook your meal.
- Pellets come in several natural flavours including apple, pecan, hickory, maple, peach, mesquite, cherry, and oak to name but a few. Depending on what you prefer, you can have any or a blend of these.
- The burn pot is covered up with a deflector plate which absorbs heat from the burning pellets which then spreads evenly under the cook surface and this is how your meals are cooked. A good thing worth mentioning is that this mechanism completely eliminates flare-ups during cooking.
- It is important to clean the plate regularly to avoid a buildup of grease, sauces, and other debris which will generate soot when smoldered by heat. This also prevents effective transmission of heat.
- With the temperature probe, set your required temperature and timer. The pellets will automatically heat up to the set temperature and maintain this once your food is cooked. Some smokers will also indicate the temperature of your food. Both temperatures are shown on the LED display.
- An advantage with pellets consumed in the smoker is that they are all natural with no fillers which come as a safety guarantee since your meals will only have natural flavour. You will not need artificial flavours in this case.
What to consider when choosing the best pellet smoker
- Pellets Availability– Pellets are made of hardwoods which can be hard to find in some areas and as such can be very expensive to use. However, with ready availability of pellets, you may well consider owning a pellet smoker.
- Space requirements – Smoker pellets vary in sizes from the small portable ones, the built-in smokers to the larger commercial ones which require wider space. All the same pick a size that suites you.
- Durability – Checking the quality of construction, the unit shouldn’t feel too flimsy or delicate during your first handling. However, also check that you get a strong material like steel because first it is safe for food handling and second it is tough enough to last your several years with good maintenance. Powder coated steel is also a good sign of durability. Most pellet grills are made of commercial-grade 304 gauge stainless steel.
- Temperature range – most pellet grills will heat at a temperature range of between 180 and 5000F which will suffice if you are smoking, roasting, grilling or baking. However if you will need to sear your food, you may want to consider a higher temp range say up to 500 or 5500F which you will find in some high end pellet smokers.
- The type of controller it is designed with – there are different controllers with varying temperature accuracies and consistencies. These include:
- Multi-Position Controller: These units feature a control knob with a temperature range of between 180 and 420oF with increments at 25oF. They are known to be good at temperature control since they offer more temperature settings. Their downturn is that they only give fixed temperature settings and may be less accurate in harsh weather.
– 3-Position Controller: these have only three fixed temperature settings; low, medium and high. They are common in low-end grills and will not give you much in terms of temperature control.
– One-Touch Non-PID Controller: these controllers compared to the multi-position controllers will give you much better temperature control since they designed with increments at 5 or 10oF.
– PID Controllers: will give you the best control since they are designed with sophisticated mechanism still with temperature settings at 5of cycles yet still automatically adjust its cycle based on the grill’s temperature which it constantly measures as your food cooks.
- Capabilities – Which offerings are you looking for in a grill? Its capabilities go along with the features it is designed with. Is there room for meat probes in the control board, does it have any Wi-Fi control feature, does it give you an option for direct grilling, can it accommodate extra racks and are these included in its package. These are some things you will need to consider when making your purchase.
- Cooking versatility – How many cooking options do you have with a unit. Can in bake, grill, roast, smoke, and sear?
- Portability – if mobility is a part of your requirements, check that your intended pellet is portable enough.
Care and Maintenance Tips
- Clean before and after use to rid it of any buildup of soot and grease
- Inspect your grease pans and collectors
- Check burners
- Gaskets wear out faster than the other parts. Be sure to replace them the moment you notice signs of wear and tear.
- Go through the instruction manual before you even start using your smoker
- Clean the exterior by wiping of with sponge, soap, and warm water and not scrubbing
- Take care of stubborn stains using diluted ammonia or vinegar and dried water spots using unsweetened club soda
- Motor and fans need regular greasing to operate well
- Grills should not stay idle for long without use. This is the perfect environment for mould to grow under the cover.
A pellet smoker is a worthwhile investment for anyone and comes as a great addition to your kitchen appliances. However, as we always say, the best pellet smoker is a relative term. Always go for what suites your needs.
Depending on space requirements and other convenient features you would love in a unit, take your time so you don’t end up spending your hard earned bucks only to go back to the market.
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