Editor-in-Chief Sean McCoy is a life-long outdoorsman who grew up hunting and fishing central Wisconsin forests and lakes. He joined GearJunkie after a 10-year stint as a newspaperman in the Caribbean, where he learned sailing and wooden-boat repair. Based in GearJunkie's Denver office, McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.
As far as size goes, bigger is usually better when it comes to pellet grills. A large hopper means a longer time you can cook without needing to refill your fuel source. A bigger grill size means more room for a variety of meats or side dishes. Look for at least 700 sq inches of cooking space (that can include the upper rack as well – remember, pellet grills work like convection ovens.)
Looking for a pellet grill to do all sorts of cooking with. I am between a Rec Tec, Camp Chef Woodwind, Gorilla and Yoder. Steaks, burgers, chicken, ribs, brisket, vegetables, etc. All in one. And want to have the option to sear meat, veggies as well. Ive seen so many different reviews my head is spinning. My budget is $700-$1,000 but willing to go up if necessary. I hear some can sear, some take too long to heat up, some dont hold the temp consistently. I am a low maintenance so ease of use important. Does not have to be portable.
Because the burn pot is small, there is usually a hot spot directly over it. Some units have an optional perforated section above the burn pot so you can put the meat over direct flame, but the ones I've tested still do not sear properly. And there is no way to set up a 2-zone cooking system with a cool zone. As with most other grills and smokers, the differences between lower and upper racks is not huge, so think of it as one heckuva indirect heat convection smoker with precision temperature control. 

It’s capable of many of the same feats as its sibling grill and other top-rated competing grills, but its piece de resistance is its Smart Grill Technology that allows you to control the temperature as easily as conventional ovens. Just don’t let it sit in direct sunlight and muck up its temp. The bottom line with this “smart” grill is that it has more pros than cons.
It may have taken a few years to catch on, but it’s hard to dispute that pellet grills are here to stay.  Pellet grills are easily the fastest growing segment in the grilling industry.  This has left many new pellet grill owners with a few questions concerning pellets.  Chief among them “what constitutes a good pellet?”   Second, “where can they find pellets to fuel their prized grill?”
Regardless, it’s worth mentioning the basic types of pellets available on the market to get you started. First there are the hardwood pellets, made from the sawdust from any specific type of hardwood, such as ash, cherry, maple, etc. Then there are different organic hardwood blends: a combination of different types of wood shavings and dust, giving them a customized, special flavoring. For beginners, we’d suggest getting a premium blend, just to be on the safe side (because you can’t go wrong with these). Even then, we’d like to mention a few types of pellets commonly used for different purposes:
At present, pellet grills are mainstream products, with pellet refills filling the market versus having to find timber, sticks, and charcoal to start a fire (since these pellets are made of sawdust, it’s easier for them to cast fire and completely combust into smoke with minimal residue).  Old school pit masters dislike this product mostly because it’s too easy to use, like a microwave versus an oven.
Or the fact that it lives up to its “Ultimate Tailgating Grill” moniker for all you campers out there. You need to watch your roast closely so you won’t have to finish your pork butt in the oven. It’s not quite a “set it and forget it” kind of smoker grill because you still have to make sure that there’s a steady supply of pellets so that it won’t shut down.
Not all people and culture will be able to truly understand our love for barbecue here in the USA. For them, it might just be a cooking activity while for us, it’s a tradition – a ritual to celebrate the summers (and occasionally the winters). As long as this love for grilling stays with us, which will be, we’re going to continue to expect more and more from the grill manufacturers.
I only just learned about “wood pellets” recently when my husband and I were researching ways to heat the small mountain cabin we just moved into a few months ago, and I had no idea there were so many options for pellet grills. Wow! I hadn’t even know these existed to consider them, and now your reviews have me wanting to try one out. You’ve offered amazingly detailed and positive information on each model listed to help buyers make an informed decision. Your writing style is so fun and upbeat, I can only imagine that your backyard and backyard gatherings rock! Thanks for giving me food for thought on our next grill, Nate. (And for making me hungry, too! lol)
Cleaning and Maintenance: Keeping the grill clean is critical if you need to get the most out of the unit. Old debris can influence the viability of the unit thus normal cleaning is vital. In addition, while moving it around, take alert not to thump it since it accompanies little legs which can without much of a stretch tip over the unit when thumped.
Many of the models require you to clean them up for 30 minutes because you have to take out the gooey deflector plate and the greasy grates in order to scrape them off and wash them until they’re shining. Careful cleaning is required when the grease and carbon are covering the deflector plate. The easy-clean grills typically make the parts more accessible but the amount of cleanup remains the same.
Use of the P settings in smoke mode is easy to understand. But one can also use them as a dual function feature in cook mode. Remember, in cook mode the auger idles when the temperature is correct, but the P settings continue to function in idle mode. Ortech recommends the P2 setting as the default idle rate in cook mode. However, as one gains experience, the P settings can be used to improve the grills performance. For example, when using high temperature settings, select P1 or P0 to reduce auger off time and maintain strong, steady heat. If you have trouble hitting low temperatures on a sweltering day, increase the P setting to increase auger off time. It does not have a significant effect on smoke production. The basic rule remains: Low heat = more smoke, high heat = less smoke.

It makes party hosting, as well as small crowd-feeding a breeze! Pellet grills are easy to use because they often come with easy temperature controls (along with other variable facilities depending from grill to grill), making it ideal for beginners who do not have prior grilling and cook-out experiences. A pellet grill is the answer to every cook enthusiasts who love to cook, but lack the knowledge and experience of skilled pit masters.
Between me and my dad we've smoked on many different types of smokers- Lang 60 stick burner, green egg, Weber smokey mountain, Stump's vertical feed. To be perfectly honest, using those you might be able to get slightly better results (perfect bark, smoke ring etc) but at a much higher cost and much much more effort. If you're cooking for family cooking and fun this smoker will produce delicious BBQ just short of competition level but much better than almost any restaurant. If you'd rather turn a knob and drink a beer instead of starting fires for logs or charcoal and still get 90-95% results (I'm a BBQ snob) buy this!
A charcoal unit is going to provide a more powerful authentic smoke flavor when compared to a pellet smoker.Electric pellet smoker reviews show that gas smokers and pellet smokers are comparable in that they both can be set to a particular temperature and left alone. The one advantage that a pellet smoker has over a gas smoker is that with a pellet smoker, you can actually say that you are cooking with wood because the pellets are compressed wood.
The smart-smoke technology in this grill uses an automatic electric feed system that is able to maintain a constant temperature from 180 to 450 degrees and has a hopper that can hold up to 20 pounds of pellets for extended cooking time. The digital control also handles igniting the pellets while fan-forced convection results in even cooking all around, much like rotisserie-cooked foods.
Thank you so much for the kind words! I think you would be very happy with a smaller pellet grill / smoker. The wording changes depending on how you are using the device. For instance, if you are cooking at low temperatures you will get a stronger smoke profile then if you burn a pellet smoker / grill at its higher temperature range. One thing you could do for steaks is cook them at the higher range thus being able to get a sear much like you would on a direct heated Grill service, for instance on your Weber. Another option would be to cook the steak in the reverse see your method, by bringing it up to temperature at a lower smoker setting and adding some smoke flavoring that way, then removing it and bringing the smoker up to its higher settings so you can finish off the steak with some of the effect you would achieve on direct flame. I normally do this by bringing the steaks up to about 15 degrees below where I want them to finish. Then, I finish them off at the higher temperature to where they are about 5 degrees below my target. This usually means a few minutes on each side but I use a Thermapen to be sure.
Hey Jimmy, thanks for commenting here about your experience. I’m sorry to hear your experience was less than optimal. I have only cooked on the Traeger pro models. I do know that it is good practice to vacuum out the burn pot after cooks of a few hours or more. Not sure this was where your problems were initiated. Did you contact Traeger support? If so, what was their response?
Grill delicious sandwiches or sear your favorite meats to perfection in the great outdoors with this versatile Camp Chef 11" Squar...e Skillet with Ribs. It is made with 100 percent pre-seasoned cast iron and features a square design. This Camp Chef skillet is equipped with a pour spout on each side, allowing the user to easily drain off excess liquid and fat. In addition, it features a long handle on one side and a small handle on the other, making it a breeze to maneuver and transport directly to the table. Ideal for campers and tailgaters, this ribbed pre-seasoned skillet is easy to clean for added convenience. read more

What sets Z Grills apart significantly from the rest of competitive grills is a completely different construction that is more resembling of something like gas grills, which means a door in the front that one can keep grilling accessories behind. Usually most of manufacturers leave the front of the grill open and don’t make use of the space underneath the grill which gives Z Grills huge thumbs up for using this space in a nice and creative way.

Hi i would like to buy my boyfriend a good quality smoker but can’t seem to find one that’s small for people just starting out with smoking for our small backyard. Does anyone have any suggestions? I don’t want to invest too much to start incase it’s too difficult to use or we find we don’t like it. I’ve read some reviews on little smokers that catch on fire and that worries me since we live in a townhouse. I figured someone on here would know of a well made brand that is on the smaller/less expensive side.
Pellet cookers usually have an auger or another feed mechanism that pushes the pellets into a burn pot typically about the size of a beer can ripped in half. An igniter rod sits in the bottom of the pot and when you turn on the grill it glows like the element on an electric stove. As the pellets ignite, a fan blows to feed them oxygen, and the igniter shuts off. The Traeger L'il Tex, an inexpensive model, draws 300 watts an hour while the igniter rod is on in the first four minutes, then it drops down to 50 watts an hour for the duration of the cook session, less than a standard light bulb.
With a large cooking space and the most advanced cooking techniques, this is easily one of our favorite products among our top ten. While it lacks some of the features that the other grills and smokers in this review have (such as an ash and grease cleanup systems), it does deliver fine-dining quality foods, which is the ultimate goal of every grilling enthusiast. For its price, it offers some of the best features you can find in high-end products.
I have had a Traeger Junior Elite for 4 years. In that time I have used it < 50 times. I have replaced a fan motor, a fuse, and now I have been trying to get a thermometer replaced. First time, the service guy dropped the ball and never sent it. Second time- the thermometer got sent around to multiple post offices. Third time, never got to me- apparently they sent it to the wrong address. Fourth time- still waiting. It's been 5 weeks now, and I cannot get the part, and have no idea if the part will fix the grill. Everyone in service has been polite, but incompetent as well. I have had 2 flash fires in the grill from the auger pushing too many pellets into the hot pot, the temperature fluctuates wildly. Save yourself the frustration: avoid Traeger at all costs!
The entire system was designed in order to make smoking fun and easy. Cleanup is easy, getting everything going is easy, and food turns out great every time. The main cooking area 292 in.², which means you can cook a lot at one time. Since it uses convection technology, the smoky hot air can circulate around the food in order to cook everything evenly.
Pellet grills made out of stainless steel are more durable and rust-resistant and are often the most attractive option. Since many smokers are painted, make sure to research the quality of the paint. A high-temperature powder coat paint can withstand high heat. This is important because if the paint flakes it will leave the steel exposed to outside influences and it could rust.
The Traeger Pellet grill can accommodate temperatures from 180 degrees to 375 degrees, and high. It has a state of the art digital temperature control system that not only monitors the temperature to keep it consistent and even, but also regulates the pellets the auger feeds to the fire according to that temperature. This is truly a grill worthy of a place in our pellet grill review.

Grill delicious sandwiches or sear your favorite meats to perfection in the great outdoors with this versatile Camp Chef 11" Squar...e Skillet with Ribs. It is made with 100 percent pre-seasoned cast iron and features a square design. This Camp Chef skillet is equipped with a pour spout on each side, allowing the user to easily drain off excess liquid and fat. In addition, it features a long handle on one side and a small handle on the other, making it a breeze to maneuver and transport directly to the table. Ideal for campers and tailgaters, this ribbed pre-seasoned skillet is easy to clean for added convenience. read more
This unit will not let even a single pellet go to waste. No need of worrying whether you’re out of pellets or not. You can carry pellets at a maximum of 20 pounds, with the digital thermostat ensuring the pellets are being used properly. This saves you loads of cash and gives you smoking food simultaneously without wasting time in refilling pellets.
Capacity Just like with other grills, cooking capacity is an important consideration. Will you only be using the grill for family dinners, or will you be hosting backyard parties where you’ll need to feed a crowd? While pellet grills cook food quickly, you don’t want to make your guests wait in line while you’re putting the second wave of burgers on the grill.
Brad Barrett at Grill Grates makes a fantastic product. Reverse searing 2″ steaks and chops (or thicker) works great on pellet smokers as you can get the internal temp up to 10-15 degrees below your desired finish temp, remove them and loosely wrap / cover in foil, crank up the smoker with the grates on to say, 400 degrees, and then sear off your protein getting great grill marks with little to no sticking at all. Huge fan of Grill Grates.
If you’re looking for very portable smoker on a budget, we recommend the Davy Crockett by Green Mountain Grills. However, if you’re looking for a small backyard smoker that you can use at the occasional picnic, tailgate, or cul-de-sac party, we recommend the Traeger Tailgater. We think the slight increase in cost is justified by the bigger grill space, which comes in handy if you’re using your smoker frequently or to cook for more than two people.

This smoker is one totally awesome product. It is more that just a smoker, it is a true convection oven, we have baked bread in it! As for being able to hold the temp for low and slow, wonderful. The beef that I smoked was delectable. I just this week smoked 10 venison loins at the same time; it took 1 hour for the most tender, delicious venison I have ever tasted!
A pellet smoker with a primary cooking area of 500 square inches should be sufficient for an average-sized family who wants to have the occasional cookout. If you’re cooking for yourself or a couple, tailgating, or camping, we recommend going for smaller units. It all depends on your needs, keep in mind that bigger doesn’t always mean better. You don’t want to be paying extra money for space you won’t use at all.
×