5 Best Pellet Grills and Smokers in 2021: Choose the Best Pellet Smoker or Grill

5 Best Pellet Grills and Smokers in 2021: Choose the Best Pellet Smoker or Grill 1

What Main Advantage Does Pellet Grilling Have?

 

Pellet grilling might just be the best way to cook all day without having to spend ridiculous amounts of money (looking at you, Labor Day charcoal grill).

They’re able to maintain a good temperature and cook food evenly, all without sacrificing a single drop of flavor.

Here are our choices of the best pellet grills and smokers.

If anything, the controlled temperatures and zero flare-up design are actually better (and slightly more expensive) than even the modern design of a lot of charcoal and gas grills.

So, you’re here for the best pellet grill on the market, that’s within your budget range.

You’re ready to master your grill without having to babysit every single chop and steak that you drop on the grate, so you can get back to the celebration or holiday and actually intermingle with the people you invited.

You’re ready to master your grill without having to babysit every single chop and steak that you drop on the grate, so you can get back to the celebration or holiday and actually intermingle with the people you invited.

Good.

Let’s look at the best pellet grills out there, and get you back in the game.

As a word of caution, once you cook on a pellet grill, you’re going to be spoiled.

Best  5 Grills And Smokers

Camp Chef SmokePro LUX Pellet Grill

Camp Chef SmokePro DLX Pellet Grill

Maybe you haven’t heard of Camp Chef, but after today, you’re not going to be able to forget them.

They’ve beaten Traeger, Pit Boss, and everyone else because of a few core reasons, and the first one is the amount of space you get for the price.

It’s pretty fantastic. 875 square inches of the cooking surface is nothing to scoff at, but it wasn’t just that alone that makes this the best pellet smoker on the market.

The temperature control gauge has an LCD screen that glows nice and bright, so even if it’s the middle of the day, you’ll still have fantastic visibility when you need to adjust things.

You’ve got a good amount of control here, but it does take a second for the changes to register once you stop touching the dial. Not a big deal, just something to keep in mind.

With a high pellet capacity of 18 pounds, it’s quite good at keeping the fire burning for hours on end without you having to worry about it.

The automatic auger system just keeps feeding it to the ignition chamber, making it effortless.

As a pellet grill and smoker, it works like a charm.

It creates good, solid temperatures, and the vent on top allows you to remove heat as you see fit to control everything.

However, most of the other design elements are an afterthought.

Camp Chef made it to the top of the list because it gives you the best results with cooking, but they missed a few standard features that most grills have.

Camp Chef made it to the top of the list because it gives you the best results with cooking, but they missed a few standard features that most grills have.

For one, there are no tool hooks on this unit at all.

It’s not the biggest design issue, but now you’re going to need a spoon rest of sorts, you can’t just hang your spatula up when you’re not using it.

If you look at the stopper legs on this, they’re basic beams of metal with no traction on the bottom.

Now, this isn’t going to roll away (it’s heavy), but it makes an awful scraping sound if you budge it just a little bit.

Rubber end caps would have done wonders here to prevent paint from scratching off.

The side shelves are good, and by that, I mean using the hopper as a side shelf is a good idea.

That mixed with the shelf on the right gives you enough room to store food that’s ready to go on and food that’s just come off.

It’s not overcrowded, but it doesn’t make this grill enormous.

The only complaint I have with the actual function of this grill is the set of hinges when you lift up the lid.

Because they’re exposed, and grease you apply will dry out fairly quickly.

I recommend having a good grill cover to protect these from rust when not in use.

Type:Pellet grill
Materials:Coated metal
Grilling Area: 875 square inches
Weight:180 lbs
Dimensions:48” x 24” x 61”
Warranty:Most items one-year from purchase date, some accessories have a 90-day policy

Pit Boss 700FB Pellet Grill

Pit Boss 700FB Pellet Grill

Right out of the gate, Pit Boss proves to be one of the most versatile pellet grills on the market.

Choose from your preferred option of a side shelf, no side shelf, or even adding an actual cabinet system underneath instead of the simple wire rack.

It’s up to you, and that’s what’s great about it.

On average—and you’ll hear me talk about this later in the warranty related comparison between Pit Boss and Traeger—you can expect a five-year warranty from Pit Boss products.

On average—and you’ll hear me talk about this later in the warranty related comparison between Pit Boss and Traeger—you can expect a five-year warranty from Pit Boss products.

That is if you buy direct. Through Amazon, they only offer a one-year limited warranty on most parts, and some others are non-specific.

However, Pit Boss is the last brand that I would ever expect to turn out poor quality grills.

The grate system is porcelain-enameled, making it super easy to clean when the time comes.

Just don’t use metal wire brushes on it if you can avoid it; bring the grates inside to preserve that coating, and keep your grill as non-stick as possible.

Not a fan of the temperature control screen here.

Very dim and hard to read without craning your neck down to see what’s going on.

The screen may suck a little, but the digital control system itself works like a dream come true.

Pit Boss gives you a fully electronic temperature control system here, which ensures that everything is going to burn as planned and keep on going at the right temp.

It will enact the auger motor when it needs to and force things along, or keep it nice and smooth.

The hinges on this unit are guarded, which I like.

You should, of course, always cover your grill when not in use though, but it’s a bit of better protection than what Camp Chef was offering.

I also like how easy it is to clean out this unit, though the bucket size should be increased.

The hook that it hangs on is excellent; it works well to catch everything without banging around too much.

So what makes this second fiddle to the Camp Chef?

After all, it does have 700 square inches of cooking space on the inside and that porcelain-enameled grill grate.

It comes down to the cost and the fact that most of the issues with Pit Boss (whether ordered through Amazon or direct) come down to handling.

It’s a big boy, it weighs 118 pounds, and if it doesn’t get a bit of TLC during transit, you’re going to end up with some issues.

These will be covered through warranty, but it’s still an extra step you shouldn’t have to take.

It was a close call.

I do like the stoppers on the bottom of the stands better here, but the wheels themselves are a bit thin and malleable compared to Camp Chef.

It was a toss-up, but based on cost, condition, and the warranty information, it became a clear second pick. Still one of the best pellet grills on the market.

In the end, though, what if you don’t want to have to deal with pellets, charcoal, starter fluid, etc etc.?

Type:Pellet grill
Materials:Cast iron, porcelain, black coated metal
Grilling Area:700 square inches
Weight: 118 lbs
Dimensions:24.8” x 22.1” x 43.1”
Warranty:One-year limited

Traeger Grills Pro Series 22 Pellet Grill and Smoker

Traeger Grills Pro Series 22 Pellet Grill And Smoker

Now we get to the eternal rival of Pit Boss (at least that’s how most of us see it), and we get to see how they compare.

Honestly, if I could actually make a three-way tie for first, these are all so similar in cooking quality and craftsmanship that I probably would.

But being objective, Traeger did come in at third for a reason. I was to start from the bottom up.

I love the stand and the way that it’s slightly slanted to give a more grounded, less wobbly feeling, but I don’t know what’s going on with these wheels.

It feels like Little Tikes made them for the 1990s ride-on toys.

They get the job done, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they gave out on you a few years down the line.

The hopper is massive here, which is one of the reasons I love this pellet grill.

You can use its lid like a mini side table if you want, but you’re not going to get one anywhere else on the model.

The other side is taken up by the horizontal pipe that runs out, and then up to the smokestack.

The lid is a bit odd, but it works.

Overall, this six-in-one unit does everything it says that it can do.

The digital gauge lights up nice and blue, so it’s visible even in broad daylight.

On the sales page, they actually show a pretty standard quality photo of this in the daylight and you can see the light hue coming from the screen without a problem.

Between both racks, you get 572 square inches of space, which is excellent if you’re planning on smoking a ton of meat at once in your own backyard.

I would say that the digital temperature control system is good, but not great.

It has enough of an error margin to be up or down by 15° F, and if you think about it, your oven at home can be within five degrees.

It just seems a bit off to me.

Durable steel construction, coated for durability, great hinges to keep the rain at bay; it’s a good grill.

The cleaning function works well, and the included bucket and hook do the job just as you’d expect.

A solid pick, albeit it a little bit pricey. The food you make here will make memories for a lot of people.

Type:Grill and smoker combo
Materials:Coated metal
Grilling Area:572 square inches
Weight:102.5 lbs
Dimensions:41” x 27” x 49”
Warranty:Three-year limited warranty

Z Grills ZPG 8-in-1 Wood Pellet Smoker and Grill

Z Grills ZPG 8-In-1 Wood Pellet Smoker And Grill

Z Grills utilizes every possible inch of space on this model to bring out the best of their pellet grill lineup.

If you pay attention to the hopper, you’re going to notice that it slants down to a more narrow area.

Most of the time, the auger motor has so much room around it that there’s just plenty of hollow metal that makes your unit big and bulky.

Z Grills took care of that.

The brand had some known issues with temperature control on their first-generation model, and I’m happy to say that this is fixed (and that I got to test one from the first batch of generation two models, I might add).

It’s fixed, and most accounts of poor temperature control are outdated now, so that’s nice.

What it ended up doing was minimizing the maximum temperature that this grill can handle.

You can do a lot with 450° F, and I’m not saying that’s too low for this to be viable.

Thankfully, it can climb to this temperature in a very short amount of time.

When it comes to the catch bin for the empty pellets… it makes no sense. It’s just a wire basket that doesn’t have any netting, it’s kind of like a joke.

I would get a small bucket, or place a tall trash can right under the exit spout.

With all these gripes, I still want to point out that the surface space you get is fantastic—694 square inches including the second level rack.

The electric feeding system works well, and the screen lights up just enough for it to be visible in broad daylight, but not enough that it’s going to burn your eyeballs out.

It’s a good balance. The bottom shelf is stable and sturdy, and finally, finally, somebody got the wheels right.

They’re made of plastic, a bit of metal, and clear rubber on the outside to glide on pavement and grass with ease.

Last but not least, you get a free custom grill cover with this purchase.

I say custom because it’s built specifically for this grill.

It’s not universal, it’s not something that works on other grills with similar smokestacks, it’s just for this grill.

You’ll have to take the little tent off your chimney, but it’s worth it to have a free cover to button this up with.

Type:Pellet and smoker combo
Materials:Stainless steel
Grilling Area:694 square inches
Weight:127 lbs
Dimensions:48.5” x 22.5” x 51.2”
Warranty:

Three-year manufacturer warranty

 

Country Smokers Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker

Country Smokers Wood Pellet Grill And Smoker

Last but not least, we need to talk about this little gem.

Country Smokers made the best pellet grill for the money.

If you’ve been looking at the units on this list with your eyes wide open and mouth agape, don’t worry; Country Smokers are here to save the day.

You still get a decent 256 square inches of cooking surface space, which isn’t bad by any accounts.

The grill is made out of acrylic and coated metal compound, so it’s subject to scratches really taking the paint off.

Even though it’s a smaller unit, I strongly recommend using a cover with this to prevent high-scale damage over time.

I say smaller units, but it’s still over 50 lbs if you want to move it around.

The temperature gauge is good, the latch locks are good, but the bin they give you to catch ashes and dead pellets is kind of laughable.

You’re not rocking the highest capacity pellet hopper, but it’s still a bit too small to capture what comes out of it if you’re using this on high heat.

Speaking of heat, this thing actually poses the possibility of getting hotter than the Z Grill we just reviewed a minute ago.

The main thing that I love about this grill, and I’m sure many other solo grillers will enjoy as well, is that it’s a low-cost, high-efficiency piece of equipment.

You only have a maximum total of 3.5 lbs of pellets that can fit in the hopper, which is just enough to still be viable for a few chops and burgers without burning a hole in your pocket.

The reason this ranks where it does, it’s because most of us aren’t getting a pellet grill for small-time use.

Hence why most of the models on this list boast 675+ square inches of space.

If you’re going to smoke meats, then you’re going to make a ton at once, feed the family, and stow some away for later.

You’re going to host a party, not just grill alone.

In short, it’s just a little too small for most practical use as a smoker.

That, and the fact that the pellet bin is integrated into the entire unit, while it’s convenient, makes transportation a real pain in the behind.

Type: Pellet grill and smoker
Materials:Acrylic, coated metal
Grilling Area:256 square inches
Weight:52.9 lbs
Dimensions:24.4” x 17.5” x 13.6”
Warranty:One-year limited

Pellet Grill and Smoker Buying Guide and FAQ

Pellet Grill And Smoker

How Does a Pellet Grill Work?

Grills that use pellets work very differently from standard charcoal grills.

While charcoal is literally just another form of wood (that’s been broken down and cooked in a low oxygen environment), pellets end up burning faster, which is why we need such high capacity hoppers.

With a pellet grill, you feed pellets into the hopper, which is usually located on the left side of your grill.

That hopper has a 45° angle slide on the inside, where the pellets funnel into a more narrow spot.

They slowly feed more pellets into the auger below.

The pellets travel down this narrow pipe until the auger starts moving them.

Picture the auger as a huge, curly piece of metal that’s attached to a motor in that external box of your grill.

The auger spins, moving the pellets with it, to an ignition box located at the bottom of the grill.

This is sometimes referred to as a firebox.

In the ignition box, your electric starter will have sparked the pellets to life.

Because they’re in this narrow space, there’s not a ton of oxygen there, so the pellets burn slowly but at a high temperature.

Directly above the ignition box in the bottom of your grill, or the basin.

If you open the lid of your pellet grill and look straight down, you’ll be able to see the pipe coming from the ignition box.

This is where your heat rises out of.

Pellet grills also us a combustion fan and oxygen ventilation slats to help keep things burning at the right temperature.

Your auger motor will automatically sense when to push the pellets in, or you can use a manual method to really fire things up.

The faster the auger moves, the more your combustion fan works, and the higher your heat can go.

Which Type of Pellet is Best for Pellet Grills?

Holding Pellets

There’s no one simple pellet that works for the best wood pellet grill—it depends on what you’re cooking.

As a general rule, these are the best type of pellets depending on the type of food you are cooking:

  • Salmon: Cherry pellets, apple pellets, mesquite pellets, pecan pellets
  • Steak: Mesquite pellets, pecan pellets, hickory pellets
  • Pizza: Pecan pellets
  • Poultry: Apple pellets, cherry pellets, fecal pellets
  • Vegetables: Hybrid blend pellets
  • Seafood: Cherry pellets, hybrid blend pellets, mesquite pellets

You can use a variety of different pellets in your grills.

Most of the time, you can use a hybrid blend for just about anything, but if you use it for beef, poultry, and vegetables all in the same day, you’re going to notice a common flavor among all three of these very different foods.

There’s a lot of flavor in the smoke from different types of woods.

While it doesn’t seem like a big deal, it’s why bacon brands make such a big deal of it being applewood smoked, or you’ll see that salmon is almost exclusively smoked using mesquite and cherry pellets (or a blend of the two).

Hybrid blends are good if it’s just for you, but if you’re trying to dazzle, get the right pellets for the right food type.

Making your own pellets is also an option, and for that, you can use any type of wood.

It doesn’t mean they’re going to be high-quality pellets, but you can use whatever wood is handy.

You would need to purchase a pellet dispenser and spend time sourcing, chipping, smashing, and baking wood, while also separating the sawdust.

It’s a very egregious process.

Are Pellet Grills Better Than Gas?

Pellet And Gas Grills

Well, it all depends on what you think better is.

Gas is better if you want quick results and super fast sear marks.

If you’re someone who grills because they feel like they need to grill to maintain the king-of-the-hill position at gatherings and family parties, then a gas grill might be better for you.

But if you like flavor, slow-cooked foods, and you don’t mind taking a little bit of extra time, then a pellet grill will work better for you.

They’re become popular again in recent years because they can double as smokers, and many people actually only get them as smokers.

The term “Pellet grill” and “Pellet smoker” are almost interchangeable, depending on who you ask.

So, what is the best pellet grill if you want to do both?

Well hands down, it has to be the SmokePro on the top of our list.

It allows you to quickly heat up pellets, but also take it low and slow if you wanted to make a super tender brisket or smoked shoulder.

For speed, gas is better.

For flavor and overall consistency, pellet grills are better.

Are Pellet Grills Healthier?

Meat In Pellet Grill

Technically, grilling, in general, isn’t healthy for you.

You can produce up to 25 different HCAs (carcinogens, cancer-causing cells) while grilling food, but only 17 different HCAs when you pan-frying food.

That’s an unavoidable factor in grilling. Period. It’s going to happen with gas, charcoal, IR and electric; it’s just a fact.

Now, as far as individual pellets are concerned, you’ve got a one-up on charcoal, and I’ll explain why.

Let’s say you have the best-rated pellet grill; it burns slow, you can have it on for hours at a time and it slowly cooks your food.

Well, when wood burns, it still brings soot particles up with it.

Those are going to stick to the lid’s interior, but they’re also going to stick to your food.

Technically, the longer you have food in a smoker, the more soot gets on the food.

With charcoal grills, you still have to worry about soot.

Charcoal tends to burn hotter than pellets and produces more black smoke since you’re exclusively burning straight-up carbon.

That raises a ton of soot (ever wiped your finger across the inside of a charcoal grill lid?) that will get everywhere.

Smoked food on a pellet grill has less soot on it than charcoaled foods, even if you spend more time smoking than you do the charcoal grilling.

Can You Use Charcoal in a Pellet Grill?

Burning Charcoal

I have read pellet grill reviews where plenty of people said they crushed up lump charcoal extra small and loaded it into their pellet grills instead of actual wooden pellets.

It doesn’t end well.

Commercial wood pellets are smaller than charcoal.

They’re made to a uniform size that most likely will not jam up in your auger or ignition box.

So there’s less of a chance of jamming, but that’s not the only problem.

When wood burns, it burns quickly and makes ash.

Charcoal takes longer to burn, so it’s going to just sit there while the automated auger motor keeps trying to force more down the line.

On top of that, even if you wanted to fill your pellet grill with charcoal and not use the electric ignition or turn the auger motor on, you’re going to have to leave it open the entire time it cooks.

The air ventilation is entirely different on a pellet grill.

Your combustion fan, located on the hopper box, is what brings the oxygen in to feed into the pellets.

There are no oxygen shafts like you have on a standard charcoal grill.

And after that, you’re not going to have a fun time cleaning all the ash out of the ignition box.

Is Pit Boss Better than Traeger?

Pit Boss vs Traeger Grill

Pit Boss and Traeger are the top pellet grills on the market.

They both do a fantastic job of making superior machines that are capable of fantastic things.

You’ll notice that they’re both on this list, and they’re very similar in how we rated them.

However, there are a few key differences we’d like to go over.

Size

Pit Boss grills tend to have smaller square inch space than more Traeger grills.

Now, part of that is going to come down to our next ranking method, which is the overall cost.

The actual physical size of the grills?

Well, in a side-by-side comparison, pitting a few different models from each brand against each other, we found that Pit Boss grills are usually bulkier and weigh a bit more.

When they’re not providing more square inch space, then it begs the question: why are they bigger and taking up more room?

Cost

Traeger is going to cost more, plain and simple.

Pit Boss isn’t just a pellet grill brand; they make other types of grills, they make utensils, they have their head in the whole game.

Traeger is a name that’s synonymous with pellet grilling because that’s their primary focus.

On one hand, a Traeger is like hiring the best of the best for a specific job.

Maybe they can’t do everything, but that one thing they’re good at?

They’re really good at it. I would say for an all-around grill, Pit Boss is more worth the cost, but for a quality pellet smoker, Trager’s got them beat.

Warranties

1 Year Warranty

As far as these are concerned, I have to say that Pit Boss does a really good job of covering multiple areas of their pellet grills with a five-year warranty.

Traeger gives you a three-year warranty for some of the same pieces, but it’s comprehensive as well.

In my book, if a big purchase like this is going to last for an entire three years, you’ve got a good shot at it lasting for five.

Either way, you get to deal with some of the friendliest customer support that I’ve ever had the pleasure of interviewing.

Which One is Cheaper to Use: Charcoal, or Pellet?

It depends on what kind of charcoal you buy, really.

Charcoal briquettes are commonly used and regarded as being the most inexpensive way to maintain a healthy fuel stockade for their grills.

You can get briquettes fairly cheap.

But then there’s the flip side: lump charcoal.

Lump charcoal is sometimes a bit more expensive, but often offer faster burning times and an easier ignition process.

Pellets are a gray area.

They can sometimes be expensive if you’re cooking specific foods, or they can just resemble the cost of briquettes.

However, with wood pellets, if you buy them in abundance (I’m talking 100 lbs at a time or more), you can usually save a good amount per pound, making them effectively cheaper than charcoal.

Smoked or Grilled, it’s Time to Get Cooking

Pellets have become the go-to grill type in the last five-or-so years: you can control the heat, you don’t have flare-ups sending six-foot flames into the sky, and it’s consistent as can be.

No wonder you found us here—you’re ready to make an upgrade to your outdoor cooking space, and your menu, for that matter.

Burgers, chops, steaks, stir-fries—they’re all about to get a whole lot easier to make, and a lot more delicious.

 


5 Best Pellet Grills and Smokers in 2021: Choose the Best Pellet Smoker or Grill 2

Gregory Thompson

Gregory Thompson began manning the grill twenty-two years ago in sixth grade, and fell in love with it ever since. At the age of fifteen, he competed in local smoked meat and grilling competitions, where he won 4th and 2nd place, respectively. Today, he spends his time testing and reviewing most of the grill brands and models you see on the market, while continuously planning grilling weekends in his own backyard with his three brothers. Rain, sleet or shine, he’s always firing it up.

Last update on 2021-09-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API