Traeger Junior Elite Pellet Grill is a great model for those who want to start up the smoker, add some meat, and let the work be done for them. It is also extremely versatile, allowing you to grill, smoke, roast, and bake. It is perfect for individual households, college students, and even tailgating. And it’s a great option for first timers as well as those who have experience using pellet smokers.
But if you like the idea of a wood pellet grill, one of the oldest names in wood pellet grilling is Traeger, which developed some of the first units to use this technique three decades ago. Having that name recognition gives Traeger a leg up versus some of its competitors. And for the most part, Traeger’s grills live up to what consumers expect from this established brand, providing good design and longevity. They don’t typically match up with the higher end models currently on the market in terms of precise cooking temperatures, but Traeger is a nice mid-range product with several price points available.
Do not confuse a pellet grill for gas grills. Like the name suggests, a pellet grill obviously uses pellets for cooking its food. But do not doubt its competence with any other gas or convection appliances. It cooks just as well, if not better. And the secret to this are in its pellets. While pellets vary from brand to brand, the best ones have more wood and less binders like sawdust etc.
At the end of the day, the act of heating pellets and generating smoke in any pellet smoker is pretty much the same. Yes, some pellet smokers use thicker metal, have better thermostats, air flow, racks, drip flow, etc. But the ask any professional BBQ cooker who uses a pellet grill, and they’ll tell you that the quality of your smoke really does come down to the pellets themselves. Here’s what one very astute BBQ pro had to say over at the Pellet Smoke Ring:
Besides being able to smoke, roast, sear and bake your food, the Pit Boss 71700FB allows you to do one more thing – directly grill your meat. The unit comes with a flame broiler, a simple slide-plate, which gives you complete control of grilling on direct flame. This is one of the few models that will let you both smoke and grill, and it comes at a great low price.
The Z Grills Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker comes with Smart Smoke Technology, which lets you set and forget your grilling. It accurately sets and maintains the desired temperature using an automated electric feed system, heating your unit from 180 degrees F to 450 degrees F. We’ve gotten used to smokers taking around 30-40 minutes to heat up, but with this unit, it took only 20 minutes for the temperature to settle in!
Hey Kevin great article. I too am currently looking for a pellet smoker. I’ve narrowed it down between a Yader, Memphis Pro and the Rec Tec. The Green Mountain did not seem very well built. The wheels looked liked the would break on the first roll and the stainless steel door was flimsy and did not have a good seal. I know the Rec Tec has a 6 year warranty. Do you know how long the warranties are on the other two?
It offers 700 sq. in. of cooking space and a powerful thermostat for a higher price, but makes up for it as soon as you start cooking on it. Also, it has a stunning design with the bull horns, which sets it apart yet again. But if you find yourself not spending as much and could do with a lesser cooking space, then the Camp Chef PG24 is a no-brainer for you.
The initial design by Mr. Traeger consisted of a “classic” drum barrel shaped grill design with a chimney on top. Instead of the firebox, the grill contained a pellet hopper. It used a fan to distribute the heat evenly over the pellets. Unlike the modern pellet grills, the original design didn’t include any auto-ignition features and the pellets had to be lit manually.
Instead of logs, the pellet smoker is fed with food-grade cylinders of wood pellets that are an inch long and ¼-inch wide and are made of compressed hardwood sawdust. According to the best pellet smoker reviews, pellet grills are easy to use because it’s easier to maintain its temperature because of these sawdust pellets that are subjected to great heat and high pressure, which ignites lignin (natural wood glue).
This is the right choice for anyone that likes smokey flavors and cooking slow at home. It is my first experience with a pellet grill and I have read and studied them for a while. I was looking for a outdoor cooking solution that would give me the ability to cook like the pros without the super sized trailer. Finally deciding to go with the Camp Chef I haven't been disappointed. The temperature control is flawless so you can dial down the cooking process. I smoked chicken the other day and the red smoke ring was a 1/2" deep. It works like a convection oven so there are no cool or hot zones, it just keeps the heat even and consistent. I have noticed even if smoke isn't pouring out the wood flavors are present.
Traeger pellet grills pack big hardwood flavor, from sweet cherry, to savory mesquite, into everything you grill, smoke, bake, roast, braise, & BBQ. Traeger's wood pellets are made with 100% pure, natural hardwood giving you authentic flavor and nothing else. Grilling has never been easier—just set it and forget it and let the Traeger work its wood-fired magic.
These food grade wood pellets contain only the best and the pure compressed sawdust from hardwood and are sometimes added with natural vegetable oils, perfectly safe and healthy for your food. However, the carbon in the soot and ashes that fly off the firebox can get embedded into the body of the food, which can get inside your body. The good news is problems such as these can be easily avoided if you can keep your smoker clean.
Hey Pete, first thanks for your kind words. Traeger pellet grills fell off a bit quality wise over the past several years. That said, they’ve hired a new CEO – formerly from the Skull Candy Head Phone company – who brought that company’s valuation up considerably. I see them making moves to get back to their roots… aligning themselves with some of the more well known names in BBQ again. From a build quality, they’re making solid pellet grill bodies using fairly heavy steel. The area I’d like to see them improve on is the controllers they use. Right now, GMG is making great strides in claiming some of the entry level pellet smoker market share away from Traeger. This is due to a superior PID controller, advances in built in Wi-Fi monitoring, and outstanding customer service.
Now that we have covered the most important criteria to take into consideration when it comes to quality pellet grills, we wanted to share the cost and the value criteria and why we have included this on this list. Now, It is evident that the more costly the grill is, the better quality designed it will be and the better functions it will have. With that said, most grills that are costly have some of the top of the line premiere features available such as high-quality construction that is rust resistant and up to 600sq in. of grilling space.
What about temperature control and a digital controller? It is much poorer in this regard than the competitive Camp Chef which is why I decided to give the second place to Z Grills as an alternative to Camp Chef PG24. Therefore the digital controller allows to set the temperature within the range of 180-450 degrees F. A pretty low maximum temperature but it shouldn’t be a problem to enthusiasts of long slow cooking, which usually takes place at lower temperatures.
Be that as it may, if your concern mainly lies on something that can be carried on a truck to an open-air grilling party or to a friend’s place, it’s positively a decent proposal. Aside from portability, it also gives you a cooking adaptability as you can grill, prepare, smoke, grill and braises with no bothers. The grill highlights full-size functionalities in a convenient bundle, henceforth a decent decision for anybody searching for versatile decision.
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.