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.
Igniter: An igniting rod, heated up to a red hot level, ignites wood pellets as they fall inside the firebox. A cooling fan blows air into the pellet smoker from behind the pellet auger to prevent heat backdraft, while the fan underneath the firebox fans the flame – distributing heat evenly throughout the smoker. This heat is used to smoke and slow cook food in the smoker to give it the best flavors possible.
The MAK 1 Star General boasts our favorite digital controller: It's highly programmable and easily accessed via the internet from anywhere in the world. Made entirely in the USA, the 1 Star General is solid-feeling, with a heavy-duty powder coat. The hood is a rolltop, meaning that, unlike a lot of its competitors, the 1 Star doesn't need much rear clearance, and there's plenty of room inside. An optional upper grill grate adds 190 square inches of cook surface. Our only criticism: Not only is it built like a tank, it kinda looks like one, too.

Brought it home and set it on my prep table with the controller in a cubby hole with all intentions of building a cart for it later. So I have made a killer rib eye on it and tried to burn it down with a couple rib eyes cooking at 600 F. Gotta figure out a little better method of catching drippings as they will catch on fire and you have a runaway! But you can make a great rib eye. Ribs, every set has turned out awesome, everything from low and slow to a high temp cook process on them. Probably made 8 racks of great ribs. Wasn’t impressed with the hamburgers on it but will try again later. Made a pretty good brisket but used Rudy’s rub as I like their store sandwiches and I don’t have the method down. Next one will be back to salt and a touch of pepper. Chicken thighs (thighs are the perfect chicken part for Q, their rather uniform thickness makes getting them all consistent and cooked even a slam dunk) with a light coat of mustard and Tony Chachere’s lightly sprinkled is to die for. Simply squeeze them when they should be close and if the juice is clear, no pink or red they are perfect. If you cook the juice out, well they make decent tasting blotter paper 🙁 Pretty much killed a spatchcocked turkey for Thanksgiving, good thing the wife made an over baked one too. It did make great gumbo though as does the blotter paper chicken if you ruin any thighs or the whatever chicken. Also have a pile of hot links I put on at 180 for 2 to 3 hours. They are great for reheat with sauerkraut and roasted pabs or in the gumbo. Hot links should be a staple, ha ha! Gotta try my great pulled pork on it and we do Prudhomme pizza sauce on a Brown Eyed Baker crust and this Pro should rock it!


Traeger makes this process very easy. All you have to do is add pellets, open the lid, turn the knob to smoke and that’s it. The hopper will automatically feed pellets over a hot rod and ignite the fire. You should have your smoker up and running at 230°F in less than 10 minutes. All you’ll have to do after the Traeger 34 Elite smoker starts up is add meat and make sure you don’t run out of pellets.
Of course, there are always bargain hunters. Some might say “Why pay $2000 for a pellet smoker and then bargain hunt for your pellets?” but if you think about it this way — isn’t it like cooking with varying qualities of charcoal? Sometimes an inexpensive, less efficient pellet blend might be just fine for burgers or chicken breasts. Other times, you may want to step it up with a premium flavored pellet where whole turkeys, prime rib roasts, or a nice brisket can really shine.
I've been wanting a Yoder for the last year and a half. Finally pulled the trigger on a 640 a couple months ago. Absolutely fantastic. I've been a Weber guy forever and this is my first smoker. This defiantly took my food over the top. My 640 has been incredibly accurate with keeping the heat on the grate to the setting I punch in. Just finished my first brisket and it was fantastic. The only way to go!
Wood pellets are an all natural product. No petroleum products in them, no fillers, chemicals, or binders. They are an excellent source of smoke flavor and compact energy, 8,500 BTU per pound. No hot coals, no flareups. There is also very little ash: 10 pounds of pellets will produce about 1/2 cup of ash. All the rest is converted to energy and combustion gases. I clean out the bottom of the ones I tested after about 10 cooks. At high temps there is very little smoke, at low temps the pellets smolder and produce superb but understated smoke flavors. Click here for more about pellets.
Larger, more expensive smokers run anywhere up to 900 square inches, which will basically let you feed your whole street. It’s also a whole lot more convenient when you’re planning on cooking multiple things to be able to throw every single sausage, joint of meat and rack of ribs on at once, flip ’em around and move things to the edge when they’re done.
Kevin, appreciate your reviews and insights. I am currently looking for my first pellet cooker which will be primarily used for camping, therefore I will likely purchase a portable unit. Your review on the GMG Davy Crocket answered some questions for me. I was initially contemplating the Traeger Junior Elite and GMG Davy Crocket, but after doing some homework I’m now considering the Rec Tec Mini as well. I can purchase the Traeger and GMG now for $350 and the Rec Tec for $500. My dilemma is that I (like many others) take very good care of my gear/equipment, so whatever I purchase, I expect to get a great deal of use out of. With that said, making the wrong decision could be a 7-10 year mistake. There are aspects of each that I like, I guess my question is whether spending another $150 on the Rec Tec, in your opinion, would be worth it to you? I understand if you would rather stay away from specific recommendations, and if that is the case, any other thoughts you have would be appreciated.
They are often called grills, but, at the time of this writing, I consider them to be primarily smokers. Almost all of them cook with indirect heat and those that try to grill over direct flame don't do it well. If you love steaks, there are far better ways to cook them. But if you love smoked turkey, ribs, salmon, pork chops, brisket, and smoked foods, a pellet smoker may be the best solution available.
This pellet smoker and its humongous 20 inches by 15 inches or 300 square inches of grilling space are capable of holding 3 rib racks, 18 hotdogs, 4 chickens, or 12 burgers at the same time. This is also one of the most Affordable pellet smokers around. Its thermostat control is LED digital so that you can set it as easily as your microwave. Just press buttons and get the setting you want every time.

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.
Warranties are an important part of purchasing a new pellet grill because it assures that the manufacturer stands behind the build quality of the product.  It’s just like buying a new car – you want a warranty that will cover the costs of a repair if something happens to go wrong after buying. Depending on the pellet grill that you buy, there is a wide range of different warranties that are included. Cheap pellet grills will sometimes include a short-term, limited warranty that covers next to nothing. A quality manufacturer will be willing to add some years onto their warranties and cover all the components you’d expect (for example, Grilla Grills offers a 4-year warranty with VERY little fine print on the popular Silverbac model). So, if your cheap grill magically makes it past its warranty date unscathed and then something happens to it, you will be left paying out of pocket for the costs of fixing it or replacing parts. By comparison, pellet grills that have a lifetime or long-term warranty will give you more peace of mind rather than worrying about how you will pay for the next component that malfunctions or breaks suddenly.
Yoder YS 640 is built out of durable materials. Unfortunately, this means that it is heavier than some other units. It weighs 325 lbs, nearly twice as much as the Traeger Texas Elite 34. The main body is built out of 10 gauge metal. It will take more time to reach the highest temperature, however the smoker will hold the heat in far better than some other cookers.
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?”
To your question regarding Traeger, I’ve not reviewed their grills of yet. I do know that Traeger as a company is taking steps to up their game some, as quality/reliability of their pellet grills has diminished over the last few years. The new CEO – Jeremy Andrus – they hired comes from the Skull Candy company and brought that headphone company from annual sales from less than $1 million to nearly $300 million. I know also that a few big hitters in the BBQ world are being contacted by Traeger to bring the brand back to its former prominence. You can read more about that here from the site of one of the company’s that now has an ownership interest in Traeger: http://www.trilantic.com/News_Story.aspx?StoryType=1&ID=56.
Z Grills is a lesser known manufacturer and a great low-cost alternative to the more expensive Traeger grills. Their pellet grill is a sturdy, heavyweight model with a roomy 500 square inches of cooking space and an electronic feeding system for fuel pellets. An additional warming rack provides additional space for cooking at lower temperatures. Furthermore, Z Grills also ensures their product with a generous 3 years warranty.

Are you sick and tired of bad BBQ? Well, so are your friends, neighbors, and family members. With the Woodwind woodfire pellet grill, mediocre grilling can be a thing of the past. Put the bland chicken and burnt steak behind you, and become the grill master you were born to be. With digital temperature control, the Woodwind does all the work for you. All you have to do is turn it on, set the temperature, and let it work while you play. Which means no more babysitting! The Woodwind doesn’t just make grilling easier—it also makes it more delicious. The Woodwind is fueled by premium hardwood pellets to generate heat and smoke, infusing your food with a savory wood fire taste that’ll make your taste buds sing. With grill temperature settings from 160° F to 500° F and the included Sear Box that reaches up to 900° F, you can achieve perfect results, whether you’re grilling, smoking, baking, roasting, braising, barbecuing, or even searing. And when you’re finished cooking, cleanup is a breeze with our patented Ash Cleanout system. Discover the heavenly taste of a woodfire pellet grill with the Woodwind. Buy now to begin your journey to grill mastery.
When starting on a grilling project, it’s important to know at what temperatures should a food be allowed to settle inside a pellet grill before it reaches its desired doneness. Of course, the time it spends on the grill also plays a major role in it, but you have to understand that cooking on a high heat for long time periods can leave the meat charred while on a low heat can turn it into soft and mushy.
Not only do cheap grills not hold up as well, but there are additional benefits to better steel and construction, too. Construction quality matters in wood pellet grills, no matter the price. Take the video below where we compare Grilla Grill’s double wall insulation to Camp Chef, which is not a cheap grill by any stretch. This video shows how well the Grilla Grills pellet grill is able to retain heat, keep the cool out, and use less fuel than many other wood pellet grills. Now imagine how much difference this would make compared to a bargain basement pellet grill from a big box store!
Am considering adding a pellet grill to my fleet, have champagne taste on a beer budget. Have a smoke hollow smoker (lp) that works awesome, a cheap charbroil gril, and a holland I picked up used. Tried the holland because I got tired of flareups but it is slow, a coffee can over the stacks until it warms up helps but you don’t want to walk away from it that way. I like the idea of something you don’t have to baby sit. Any reviews on the traeger grills? I like the looks of the traeger jr, has nice features, portable and enough room for most of the things I want. Also are these grills affected by wind and do they work in cold weather? I live in ND and like to use them in the winter as long as the temp is above 10 degrees or so.

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.


With that said, depending on the size of the green an individual may need more pellets to fuel the food. However, a bigger sized pellet grill allows the cook to grill for a large number of people. While a compact grill can easily be taken anywhere. With that in mind, one important criterion that we wanted to take into consideration is how easy the item is to set up.
True blooded grill sweethearts out there might value this item. It is a minimized, full-included pellet barbecue that can take care of their grilling needs. You may need the item that accompanies all that you may require. When you have warmed it up, you can anticipate a perfect temperature and warmth in view of what you have chosen. Much the same as when you have found a reasonable latte machine for you, you would feel pleased with yourself for picking an extreme item that stays aware of your needs. Another element you may acknowledge in the item is that can keep the correct temperature all through the barbecuing or cooking process—regardless of whether you burn, grill, smoke or prepare. The cooking instrument is an exact griller that won’t make you stressed over any temperature variance. So whether you are an amateur or a pit ace, you might need to investigate this item that can take your grilling to the following level.
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.
I have found that using the upper shelf gets more airflow around the meat than the lower shelf. I asked the AmazingRibs.com science advisor Prof. Greg Blonder about the problem (he has a MAK 1 Star). He explained that smoke sticks to cool surfaces and wet surfaces, and the surface of meat warms and dries out after a few hours. When he wants more smoke flavor he uses a strong smoke wood like hickory or mesquite, he starts with cold meat, and then he keeps the meat moist by painting or misting it with apple juice or a mop like Lexington Dip or East Carolina Mop or Texas Mop Sauce. A awter pan can help because the water condenses on the cool meat and attracts smoke. Read his detailed research on the subject in my article on the Science of Wood and my article on Basting.
I have a Traeger Texas 34 Grill I purchased in January. It worked well for a short stint (1 or 2 sessions) and now will not get to the desired heating temperature, above 400. I have called Traeger and they have sent me multiple parts (2 new controllers/probes/fans) to replace in it, on my own time. Still not working. Upon calling them they said they could not send me a new grill because I purchased from Amazon. They said I needed to contact them. A $900 investment is essentially useless now. DO NOT BUY THIS PRODUCT.
The flame broiler uses a digitally controlled burn system. Its Digital Control Center lets you set the temperature ranging from 170F to 600F with ease. The desired temperature is set and maintained through an electric auto-start and fan-forced air mechanism. These, in addition, give that flavorful smoky taste to all of your foods. The auger automatically feeds pellets into the smoker, so you can pretty much let it take care of everything.
I talk with a lot of teams out there, and I know for certain that some of them have turned to my buddy Fred Grosse’s MojoBricks to boost their smoke profile when using pellet grills. In fact, of the teams who win with Pellet Smokers – I’d wager at least a quarter of them to maybe half have used MojoBricks to round out their final product. I really like Fred as well – which makes it a pleasure to include his products in this grouping of pellet grill reviews.
This is a fantastic grill for the money that’s dependable for outdoor cooking and smoking (hence its name, “Camp Chef”). It’s not quite 9.9/10 that is the Camp Chef SmokePro DLX Pellet Grill got, but it has more than enough features and benefits to spare to honor the Camp Chef brand (even though at first glance the PG24 and the SmokePro are practically the same units with color differences).

What’s more, it has an LED display with a Digital Elite Controller for temperature control. Judging by its ratings, unlike the other grills on this list, its temperature and quality controls work just fine. This grill also has an electronic auto-start ignition and easy-to-clean grill gates to boot. Its quality control isn’t perfect though, and some faulty units slipped through the cracks.
Hello.. You recommended a couple weeks ago to go with a GMG grill and that is the one I’m going with. I’m just a little torn between the DB and JB. They are only $150 apart but I’m not sure if the bigger size is worth the money when I can spend that on a cover and some pellets. Do you think the bigger size is worth it for a back yard smoker with the occasional party? I know people say bigger is better but I went bigger with my previous barrel smoker and it was much harder to keep an even temp with the bigger size. I would have went smaller given the chance. Thanks for any input!
Bought Junior Elite 20 pellet grill at Costco special sales event. Took it home and it simply wouldn't get up to temperature to ignite the pellets. Auger made extremely loud noises and then simply refused to operate. Packed it back up and returned to Costco with no problem. They had no inventory so I called Traeger. Woman on phone was very pleasant and helpful. Asked if I could get Traeger to simply replace the grill at the same price I purchased it for. Her supervisor said no and if I wanted it for that price I would have to drive to another state and purchase it at one of their event presentations. Made no sense to me why they would sell it to someone else for the "event" price but not to me who had already done. Poor customer support and silly supervisor. I will look elsewhere.
Ordered a Traeger Ranger and paid with PayPal. Never was delivered. Traeger blamed PayPal for a failed transaction. PayPal confirmed transaction was completed and they had the money. Traeger then claimed they couldn’t find the order. Gave them the order # and the PayPal transaction # and claimed they couldn’t find them. PayPal is now reimbursing me and collecting from this crooked seller. If you read the reviews they use the “we can’t find the order” excuse over and over again. Never buy from them again.
I always encourage consumers to get to know a little bit about a brand and company before purchasing a product from them. What differentiates a smart consumer from a consumer is preparedness. Get to know about the company history, its commitment to consumers, its consumer service, after-sales services and warranty. It is also a great idea if you can go through consumer ratings and reports the company’s pellet grill review before buying it. Do not just fall for intelligent marketing and chic packaging. Get you facts checked; remember it is your hard earned money on the line.
The Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett smoker lets you get more than what you paid for. At a surprisingly low price, you get to have tons of great features commonly found in other GMG products that are sure to elevate your BBQ experience. For its price, we were quite surprised to see that it satisfied most of the features on our review. We tested over fifty products, and even the expensive ones were no match for this product. In terms of value per dollar, this product deserves the top spot.
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.
Well, if you get yourself a wood pellet smoker not only you can enjoy such an event in the summer, but also continue doing the same in the winter. Today, pellet smokers often come with the “turbo heating technology” that can help you fire up the grill even in the winter. Go get yourself a pellet smoker and don’t let something as trivial as seasons, limit your enjoyment. Because a smoking warm piece of marbled, top quality fatty meat is best enjoyed on a cold night.
To cook food using a pellet grill, put the pellets into a hopper. When you turn it on, the igniting rod will burn pellets in the fire. The motor-driven auger will then supply the fire pot with pellets from the hopper. The ratio that auger delivers pellets to fire pot depends on the settings you control. If you set it at a high temperature for a longer period of time, the auger will keep on feeding the fire pot with pellets. However, if you are slow-cooking and set a low-temperature one, the feeding and delivery of pellets will also slow down.

RT 700 offers a Front Folding Shelf and has its own set of meat probe to monitor meat temperature while the grill smoke is infusing with the meat. Its Stainless Steel body protects it from rust and the colors from cracking or peeling. With its built-in WiFi-enabled control, coupled with Rec Tec’s proprietary PID algorithm, you will have control over your cooking process remotely using your wireless devices.
2. The grill does not come back to the set temperature after the lid is opened and closed to place the meat. I start it, close the lid, set the temp (startup procedure has changed to this according to Traeger service tech) and after 15 or 20 minutes it is not at the set temp yet...in fact it is declining. Well I need to cook on it and cannot wait forever so I open the lid quickly, throw the meat on, and close the lid quickly.
Dealers are happily selling these while Traeger is aware per 1-800 call that they need to replace thousands of drip pans/heat exchangers on units that have been shipped because the ones in the units shipped allow heat to fluctuate widely. Traeger recommended NOT USING THIS BRAND NEW GRILL until I receive the replacement part which they will not receive until the last part of August and they will not commit to expedited shipping when they finally ship.

First impression was this thing isn't built like a mass produced unit, it's more like something you would expect from a master fabricator. The assembly instructions were incredibly detailed, and the way it was packaged made it really easy. It takes a little time to get temp steady for low smoking, but once it's there it seems to be pretty steady. So far absolutely impressed with everything about this cooker, and made in the USA!!!


Food not cooking evenly or at desired times: It’s worth checking out the health of the fans in your pellet grill. Usually, if the fan is unable to distribute the heat properly throughout the whole smoker, these problems occur. Fans are relatively inexpensive and very easy to replace. Even if you see the fan working and still getting these problems, it might be that the fan is working intermittently or at slower speeds that it needs to. Have it replaced: it would be the best course of action and won’t be heavy on your wallet.
This review is just a repeat of many already submitted.  Got my Traeger Elite 34 this summer at a trade show.  It would not get up to temperature, wouldn't go about 360deg with food inside.  Empty it would hit 390 max.  Most of the 'infamous' Traeger recipes call for 400+.  If you raise the lid, the temp falls to the low 300's and takes 15 minutes to recover.  I called Traeger and they claimed their grills 'never do this'.  After reading dozens of reviews since, the truth is that they seem to 'usually do this'.  The big grilles just do not have enough BTUs to heat up properly.

One comment I see a lot in various forums like Pellet Heads Forum is that you want as much efficiency as you can get. As with lump charcoal, this means burning as clean of a cook as you can with as little ash as possible. Different pellet mixes will produce differences in what you get in this area, and the cooker you’re using will dictate this to some degree as well.

Traeger makes this process very easy. All you have to do is add pellets, open the lid, turn the knob to smoke and that’s it. The hopper will automatically feed pellets over a hot rod and ignite the fire. You should have your smoker up and running at 230°F in less than 10 minutes. All you’ll have to do after the Traeger 34 Elite smoker starts up is add meat and make sure you don’t run out of pellets.
Through the years, pellet smokers have gained popularity. The fact that they give you the convenience of being able to hold a barbecue from the comfort of your home is what makes them ideal. However, not all of them will match up to the needs that you have and this is why I put together this guide with reviews. Following this guide, you should be in a position to make a comprehensive decision on the specific model to buy.
***Update: 11/2014: It's been a year now and I still adore this little grill. I've got a kamado and 3 different kettles and this is by far the most convenient and easy to use. The smoke rings this guy puts on a brisket are amazing and the flavor is the perfect balance of wood flavor without overpowering the meat. I've researched about 15 different pellet grills and I still can't find a better value than what this grill offers
Hey Jeff – I think that due to pellet smokers requiring much of the wood pellet for “fuel” leaving a smaller part for the “smoke” means that you want as much of the smoke to stay in the chamber for as long as possible. Just my opinion. I’ve not used charcoal pellets. Those I’ve spoken with who have used them weren’t extremely happy with the results. Regarding the water pan, I feel that pellet smokers don’t typically require water pans. However, you can surely use one and see how your results go.
Thanks for your question! I think you’ve actually selected the grill that I’d recommend too. The Camp Chef pretty much has it all. It’s quality, it’s priced nicely, it does a great job smoking… and honestly, that ash cleanout feature is pretty much something that I wouldn’t want to do without. Especially if you’re new to pellet grilling, anything that makes the job smoother and simpler will be appreciated!
Z GRILLS or Z Grills is a maker of smokers, grillers, and stainless steel prep work tables galore. It entered the world of pellet grills recently and launched an IndieGoGo campaign in order to fund its “affordable wood pellet grill” for $500,000 and currently gives even Traeger’s economical offerings a run for their money with its ability to accept all types of pellets and do all sorts of cooking styles.
Hey Jim, first – thank you for commenting on this post! As you probably know from reading the contents, pellet smokers are a great choice for set it and “nearly” forget it BBQ. Of course, you’re not going to get the same smoke profile with “pellet poopers” that you are likely getting with your other smokers. That said, the smokers listed here are all going to hold temp very well – even in lower temperature or windy weather. I do see instances where temps and wind effects pellet grills, but solutions including a fireproof blanket over the top of the smoker seem to mitigate things well enough.
After about 10-15 hours of cooking, you should remove the burn cup and dump the ash. If the ash builds up it can prevent ignition. Ash also accumulates in the bottom of the unit, but doesn't impact cooking. A vacuum cleaner with a hose makes short work of it. Only a few manufacturers, such as Blaz'n Grill Works and Camp Chef have a slide out combustion cup that makes cleanup much easier, but you still have to get underneath the deflector occasionally and suck out fly ash that has scattered around the lower part of the grill body.
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