The Best Propane Smoker of 2017
Fancy an easier life than using wood pellets to smoke your meats? Sure you do, propane is quicker, easier and with modern gas grills a safer option too.
I’m generally a wood pellet guy, although I do have friends who rock gas smokers and to be fair, they work well and the gas control makes temperature regulation a breeze.
In this round up, I’ve picked 4 of the best propane grills out there and tested them all. I’ve deliberately tested grills from the $75 – $150 price range to show that you don’t always need to spend huge amounts to get a decent cook out.
2 Door Smoker
|Pros||A quality smoker with decent customer service support.||Looks good and the two doors idea helps with temperature control.||Decent quality, easy to carry and cooks out well.||A high quality piece of kit and one that should easily cater for larger crowds.||A great package in a small frame.|
|Cons||One of the pricier models featured and not completely portable, although a huge improvement after using the Masterbuilt.||Poor quality and lack of carry handles detract from what could have been a real winner.||None, no seriously I couldn’t find one!||The price is high plus some minor quality niggles (door catches and gas control knob).||Slightly more rough and ready than the other grills we tested. It is cheaper too!|
|Cooking Surface (sq/inch)||325.6||717||595||1576||279|
|Gas Output||20,000 BTUs||15,400 BTUs||16,500 BTUs||16,000 BTUs||5,000 BTUs|
The Best Propane Smokers of 2017
Another two-door smoker with a crazy name (what’s with the lengthy product numbers?), the Smoke Hollow promises a capacity of 3.4 cubic feet and vents to help you get your temperatures under control.
Setting It Up
This grill takes a standard Blue Rhino gas cylinder again, and comes with a set of instructions. My only issue here is that the instructions are written by someone for whom English wasn’t a first language. You can read them; however, other manufacturers get this right so I’m unsure why Smoke Hollow needed to economise on this.
A push button ignition system, and easy to use gas control complete the Smoke Hollow, whilst the vents are easy to open and shut – more on those later!
One thing that sets the Smoke Hollow apart, is the huge smoke box that comes with it. You’ll be able to smoke for quite a few hours using this grill and the size of the box allows for quite large pieces of wood.
As for cooking out, the Smoke Hollow easily roasts and Turkey and I also gave it a trial with an 8-pound brisket, which came out succulent and juicy.
Another positive with the Smoke Hollow comes courtesy of its build quality. The enamel finish appears strong and each single part has a reassuring feel out it. Costing $180, it’s one of the more expensive smokers I tested, and you can see where the money was spent.
If only they had given better instructions!
A heavier grill at almost 80 pounds, yet with a solid pair of carry handles. These handles make the Smoke Hollow an easier carry than the Masterbuilt at almost 30 pounds less!
You might have some trouble carrying this grill on camping trips; however, storing it in an outbuilding or shed shouldn’t be an issue at all.
2. Masterbuilt GS30D
Our Rating: (5/5)
|Porcelain Coated Wood Chip Tray|
|Push Button Ignition|
|Cooking Area||717 sq/in|
I know, the name doesn’t exactly trip off the end of your tongue. Yet even though this isn’t called the Big Easy, it shows some promise. It comes with 717 square inches of smoking space and a well-engineered flame system so even cooking shouldn’t be an issue.
It’s 55 pounds in weight, slight more than the Big Easy and doesn’t have carry handles either. This is a smoker that’s probably going to send its days in your garden, rather than in your RV.
On a more positive note, customer service is well up there with the best and it’s an easy rig to use.
Setting It Up
As I said earlier, the Masterbuilt is a pretty easy grill to fire up. As with most propane grills it comes with push button ignition and gets to a steady 250 – 300 degrees in about 10 minutes. The instructions are great and it also comes with a customer service booklet that gives you some reassurance that you can get help when you need it. I’ve heard good things about the staff up at Masterbuilt so support should be easy to find.
My only real beef with the design is the lack of proper carry handles for the smoker. It’s quite light, so not a complete bust; however, it would have been nice to see some handles offered.
One of the cool features of the Masterbuilt, is the fact it has two doors. One for the grill and one for the smoker. This ingenious idea means that you don’t suffer with temperature drops when adding to the smoker section. Having said that, some heat does appear to escape through the doors in use so temperature regulation isn’t quite perfect, it’s okay but not as good as the Big Easy.
I ended up cooking ribs during the test of the Masterbuilt, and to be fair it did a respectable job with an even cook across the grill space and juicy meat at the end.
One thing that needs to be said, the quality of the Masterbuilt isn’t quite up there with the Big Easy. That’s a big surprise because the Masterbuilt costs about $20 more.
It’s lightweight, yet has no carry handles so this grill really isn’t one to be used on your travels. It’s obvious that Masterbuilt are looking towards the light use home market with this model.
3. Char-Broil Vertical
Our Rating: (3.9/5)
|Porcelain Wood Chip and Water Pan|
|Cooking Area||595 Sq/In|
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.
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.
4. Landmann USA
Our Rating: (4.1/5)
|Porcelain Coated Steel Water Pan|
|Total Cooking Area||1576 Sq/In|
|Cast Brass Burner|
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.
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.
5. Masterbuilt Portable
Our Rating: (4.3/5)
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 excellent 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.