Best Pellet Grills and Smokers of 2018 – The Complete Buyer’s Guide
Choosing a pellet grill is no easy task. There are a lot of options, and they all look pretty similar to the untrained eye. Well, they’re not all created equal…
We’ve painstakingly compared all of the models we could muster, and from that, we’ve come up with a top 5 list. Now, just because something’s lower on the list, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad choice for you. All of these grills are great, and we’ve ranked them on a number of criteria. The importance of each criterion will vary from person to person; thus a grill that ends up lower on our list might be the perfect fit for your needs.
We’ve ranked them based on the price, the value, the performance, the size, the overall durability and build quality, and the taste they’re able to help produce.
We’re sure that you’re eager to get smoking, so let’s not waste any more time, let’s get right into it…
Wood Pellet Grill
|Pros||low/high temperatures, quality materials, large cooking area||digital control, affordable, multi-use, lighter||very accurate, easy-to-use, good cooking surface||large cooking surface, digital burn control, low/high temperatures, very affordable||awesome cooking surface, very durable, fast cooking|
|Cons||heavy, not the cheapest option||limited cooking surface||not an entry-level unit||hopper is a bit too big||heavy grill, not the cheapest option|
|Cooking Surface (sq/inch)||700||292||570||700||800|
|Shipping Weight||250 pounds||71 pounds||132 pounds||134 pounds||210 pounds|
Best Pellet Grills of 2018
Learn more about our top pellet grill picks for this year, and let us know if you have any questions that we can help you with.
REC TEC Wood Pellet Grill
Featuring Smart Grill Technology™
Our Rating: (4.8/5)
Coming in at first is this wood pellet grill by Rec Tec. There are a lot of reasons to love it, and reasons that it managed to edge out the competition not just in individual categories, but overall as well.
This is as close to perfect as you’re going to get. From smoking at lower temperatures to grilling food at higher temps, you get the best from all words, in an incredible looking package, made with quality materials that’ll last you season after season of heavy use. Let’s get into more details because there’s a lot to love here…You can read our other REC TEC grill reviews in another article.
Using their trademarked Smart Grill Technology, Rec Tec have managed to give you a wide array of temperatures, with precision control of 5 degrees. From 180ºF to 500ºF, and whether you’re looking for a low and slow cook that’ll keep your neighbors jealous and salivate all day, or you want to bang out something more quickly at a higher temperature, you’re covered, with one unit.
The cooking area is ample, at just over 700 square inches. That’s nearly 20 inches x 36 inches. At a full three feet wide, and almost two feet deep, that’s no joke. You can feed a large group, or just make yourself enough for thirds, fourths, and lunch for the next week.
It’s effortless to operate, just press a button and you’re off, it’ll start heating up to the specific temperature you’re requested. Sometimes, with smokers, you’ll have trouble maintaining the correct temperature throughout the entire cooking process, but that’s not an issue with this pellet grill.
Your food is cooked over a real wood fire, but you’re also getting the advantage of computers to regulate the temperature by controlling how much wood is allowed to burn, and how hot.
This pellet grill comes with a six-year warranty, but don’t expect it to start following apart a month after your warranty is up. Even after a year or two, if you use it with any regular consistency (Spoiler alert: You will), you’ll feel it’s already paid for itself.
The sheer amounts of meat people have been able to fit into this unit is also impressive, but not surprising given the ample size of it. For example, one family could smoke four twelve-pound turkeys at once, six full racks of baby back ribs, or two large briskets.
The hopper is at the back and entirely out of the way, and has a large capacity of 40 pounds. There are less expensive units out there, but you won’t find anything nearly this consistent and reliable for less money. You would be hard-pressed to find anything better for more money until you start getting into the high-grade professional restaurant caliber stuff, so for at home – this is it, this is the one to get.
Traeger Pellet Grills
BBQ155.01 19.5K BTU Pellet Grill
Our Rating: (4.4/5)
If you’re looking for something less expensive than the Rec Tec unit, but still want something very decent, and don’t mind not having the very top of the line, this pellet grill by Traeger is an excellent choice. It comes in at around half the price, but it’s no slouch. It’s a solid way to save some dough if the Rec Tec is overkill for you. You can read our full review of this grill here.
The Traeger has a 292 square inch cooking surface, which is less than half of that of our #1 pick, mind you it’s still plenty big for most people, you can certainly cook your family dinner on here, you just might not be able to feed the entire football team.
This is right up near the top of our list for best pellet grill because it’s got a high-tech computer to correctly regulate the temperature, and automated auger, fully-electronic starter, and does a lovely job of smoking your foods.
It’s not perfect, though. There are certain features left to be desired. For instance, this smoker doesn’t have a temperature probe as we’ve seen with some models. It’s not a deal breaker, it does come with a very accurate thermometer, but we have seen probes on units in this price range, so that’s left to be desired.
This pellet grill is made of steel, and the dimensions of it are 21 x 23 x 21. It’s not huge, but it’s still ample. It weighs 70 pounds, which seems like nothing compared to the 250-pound weight of the Rec Tec. We don’t want to compare them side-by-side too much, since it does cost quite a bit less, and offers a more-than-adequate introduction to the wonderful world of backyard smoking.
There are cheaper units, but if you can afford this (And not quite ready to go all out on the Rec Tec), this is a great option. It’s a very high-quality unit that will serve you well for many years, even though there’s some breathing room between this and the very top of the line.
Camp Chef PG24 Deluxe Pellet Grill and Smoker BBQ
with Digital Controls and Stainless Temp Probe
Our Rating: (4.5/5)
|Digital Temperature Control|
|Easy to Assemble|
Rounding out our top 3 is the best pellet smoker that Camp Chef offers, when you factor in quality, price, size, and overall value. This is an excellent choice. If the Traeger, our 2nd top pick, is a bit too small and you’re looking for something with a few more features, that’s still within the same price range, you’ve found what will likely be ideal for you. Camp chef is a really solid brand, and it was one of the first pellet grills my Dad owned. We reviewed another camp chef grill in another article.
Arguably the best value overall, it’s a great middle-point between both of the best pellet grills we’ve featured thus far. It’s not overkill, but it’s got plenty of room and some very useful features.
First of all, this unit includes a temperature probe that plugs into the front and allows you to accurately determine the temperature of whatever you’re cooking. This ensures the center of your meats are getting enough heat and are safe, and that everything is working optimally in general. In addition to that, you’ve got an excellent temperature control with a thermometer that’s accurate to about 10 degrees, so between that and the probe you’ll know exactly where you need to be and exactly where you’re at.
The hopper holds 18 pounds, and the cooking area is 429 square inches. It’s less than some units offer, more than others, and generally a pretty happy medium if you aren’t really sure how big or small to go. You can fit a couple chickens or turkeys on here, a handful of racks of ribs, a brisket or two, and more.
The overall dimensions are 51x21x45 and it weighs about 130 pounds. This unit has some great features that help with cleaning and maintenance, as well. This is an excellent place to start if you’re a beginner, this pellet grill will definitely hold your hand through the process, but don’t get the wrong idea – it’s far from being an “entry level” unit.
Generally, we’d advise you against anything “entry level” since you’re going to have a worse experience and it could turn you off of the art of smoking your foods in the first place. Something in the $500-$1000 range seems like a huge investment upfront, and frankly it is, but when you consider that you’ll have it to enjoy incredible meals for years that’ll blow the socks off all your buddies, and prove to your family that you really can cook after all, it’s a small price to pay.
Pit Boss 71700FB Pellet Grill
with Flame Broiler, 700 sq. in.
Our Rating: (4.2/5)
|Digital Control of Burn|
|Total Cooking Area|
|Natural Wood Pellets|
Next up is the Pit Boss 71700FB Pellet Grill which shines in some areas, and is a very viable option. Before we continue, it’s worth pointing out that everything on this list of the best pellet smokers and grills is an excellent choice, you can’t go wrong with any of these options. While our number 1 pick is the top choice for a reason, there wouldn’t be a grill on this list that wasn’t worthy of your patio. Pit Boss pellet grills are solid for beginners. Be sure to check out our full review of the Pit Boss 71700FB.
We’re basically looking at two price ranges. The ones in the $1000 range, and the ones in the $500 range, give or take. So, the first logical choice is to determine the size of the unit you need and what your budget is. From there, you can more or less narrow it down, unless one unit in particular has a feature that you just can’t live without. Alright, with that out of the way, let’s take a look at what this unit from Pit Boss has to offer you.
One interesting feature is a sliding plate to help you sear your steaks. Imagine a slow-smoked steak with that incredibly woodsy flavor, but also with a delicious sear. C’mon!
This grill has a digitally controlled burn system, 700 square inches in cooking surface, and porcelain coated cast iron grids. The cast iron is a great conductor of heat, and the porcelain works to stop your food from sticking. Great combo!
Pit Boss makes the claim that this unit offers the “Best value per square inch in the pellet grill industry!” and that claim is hard to argue with. From 180 up to 500 degrees, it features the standard temperature range that you’d expect.
It’s made from heavy gauge steel, feels very durable, and should last you for many, many years if you take good care of it and maintain it. One point of contention is that the hopper could be a bit bigger, some have said it holds around 10 pounds. That’s not horrible, and filling it isn’t some horrible task or anything, but it’s worth pointing out that it could stand to be a bit larger.
Louisiana Grills Stainless Steel Wood Pellet Grill
800 sq. in.
Our Rating: (3.8/5)
|Digital Control System|
|Total Cooking Area|
Finally, we checked out the Louisiana Grills 60800 Stainless Steel Wood Pellet Grill. This is the best pellet grill that’s rounding out our list of top picks, but it’s certainly not the least.
It has everything you could want, we just felt that Rec Tec’s offering edged it out, and when we take into account price, performance and features, and overall value, it certainly earns a spot on the list, just not at the top. None the less, there’s a lot that this unit completely nails, so let’s get into some more details.
The spacious cooking surface offers you a massive 838 square inches so you can get a LOT done at once with this one. The design itself is a contemporary-looking stainless steel, which looks very similar to a high-end BBQ, except with the hopper on the left-hand side.
Some users have remarked that it goes through pellets faster than other units, which is certainly influenced by the size. If you’re not cooking a lot at once, one of the smaller units on this list would be a lot more economical.
This is a sturdy 210 pounds, and also features those great cooking grids made from cast iron and coated with porcelain. The broiler is a nice touch; you can expose the grill to open flame for a perfect sear. This will also cause it to go through pellets more quickly, naturally.
Final thoughts on which pellet grill to buy
Hopefully this list has helped to shine some light on the different options out there, and you’ll find something that suits you so that you can start grilling right away.
Make sure to check out some of our favorite pellet grill recipes, because even the best pellet smoker on earth needs a great recipe to do it justice, otherwise what’s the point? Make sure you let us know if you have any questions, or how much you love the taste of the slow-smoked food that you’re able to make at home.