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.
Up next to find its place in our pellet grill review is the REC TEC’s mini portable pellet grill. It has a 341 square inch cooking surface with 180 degrees to 550 degrees Fahrenheit temperature limit, with 5 degrees increment. But it can easily reach 600 degrees Fahrenheit in full mode. It has a satisfactory pellet hopper capacity and has folding legs. It is great for travel and movement as it is compact and small in size.
The single burner Camp Chef Barbecue Box Accessory turns your outdoor gas stove into a portable barbecue grill. This grill system ...will greatly enhance your outdoor cooking experience with a wider variety of meal choices. With the patented diffuser plate you don't have to worry about hot spots. The diffuser captures and vaporizes the grease, infusing your food with a rich BBQ flavor. The cast iron cooking surface holds the heat and sears the meat. A vented lid is included to help keep the heat in. This system covers one burner on the Camp Chef Professional, Sportsman, Outdoorsman, Explorer, and OSD Models. It does not fit the Sport Utility Stove. read more
Versus other hardwood pellet grills, Traeger represents a good value whether for a gift or for general use, although if you’re looking for a fully Made in America grill, you’ll want to consider other options. If you decide to go with Traeger, be certain you’ve thought about how much grilling area for food you’ll need and pick an adequate model, as the various Traeger grill price points depend heavily on available grilling area.
According to Bruce Bjorkman of MAK, his cookers use about 1/2 pound of pellets per hour when set on "Smoke" (about 175°F). At 450°F, the high temp, they burn about 2.3 pounds per hour. This is about the same average as I have experienced on a variety of pellet eaters. The burn rate will vary somewhat depending on the outside air temp, and how much cold meat is loaded in the grill, but cooking load should not have a major impact. Cooking pellets run about $1 per pound depending on the wood flavor, brand, if you get them on sale, and if you have to pay shipping. As a point of comparison, Kingsford briquets list for about $0.75 per pound, but they don't pack the same BTUs because there are fillers. I usually buy 40 pound bags of BBQr's Delight pellets from BigPoppaSmokers.com for $45 and shipping is free to IL. That's $1.13 per pound. That means that if I cook a slab of spareribs for six hours at 225°F I will probably burn about 4 pounds at about $4.50. If I put 8 slabs in there in rib holders, and allocate 1/2 slab per person, my cost for 16 people is about $0.28 each. If I grill a mess of chicken parts at about 325°F for about 1 hour, I will use about 1.5 pounds of pellets for a cost of $1.70.
While the Traeger Lil-Tex does offer similar features as our top pick, such as a digital LED temperature control system and an auto-dispensing auger, there was one missing feature which we thought was necessary. This product has a smaller grilling area and lacks a removable upper rack, which gives you less grilling and prep space. I should mention that the unit does come in a bigger 700 square inch version for $200 more, as well as a smaller version that costs less. If this smoker is too big or too small for you, there are always other options available. Compared to our top pick, it’s also more expensive despite offering similar specs. Aside from that, this is a very efficient and reliable smoker – might even have been the best if our top pick wasn’t available on the market.
For a large-sized smoker, the Camp Chef SmokePro SE delivers excellent, smoky-tasting flavor that even beginners can accomplish. This is largely due to its automatic temperature control features and grease management system, allowing you relax while it cooks for you. With minimal cons (only weight and pellet price), this is a definite hit among professionals and newbies. The SmokePro SE is an unquestionable bang for your buck kind of purchase.
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.
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.
The Camp Chef PG24S lets you set the smoker to your desired settings so you can leave it to relax while it does the rest for you. With an advanced digital temperature chip, it steadily monitors the temperature, achieving a constant cooking temperature at all times. Dual LED temperature displays allow you to easily check the temperature of the food kept inside your smoker without losing any heat. With an auto-dispensing pellet hopper that can hold around 18 pounds, your pellets are used efficiently. The grill can work in temperatures that range from 160F to 400F.
The Woodwind is a Pellet Grill for the connoisseur. Along with a high price tag come all sorts of fancy extras, from a specially constructed 'sear box' to a lever-operated cleaning system for removing wood ash. It's roomy too, with over 500 square inches of cooking space so whether you're cooking for one or smoking several racks of ribs at the same time, the Woodwind will get the job done.
PG24 by Camp Chef is the best choice for any expert smoker. Its reasonable price and amazing features make it a good prolonged investment. It comes with lots of nifty features that facilitate, smoking, grilling and searing in your backyard. For all these reasons, in our pellet smoker review, we consider this smoker as the top choice for the serious BBQ buffs.
Travelers: Hey travelers, we haven’t forgotten about making your life easier. Have you ever tried smoked rabbit while jungle camping? If so, then you know the thrill and enjoyment in it, but you probably wouldn’t go through the hassle of taking a smoker in the jungle. Wait a minute mate, I recommend the top pellet smoker grills for a successful camping adventure with friends or family. I cannot count how many times we have done seen the advantages of this. It makes for an awesome experience every time. We recommend pellet smokers because of the lightweight and easy to shift aspects. It can fit easily in your car, which makes it the travelers dream.
Pellets are made from different woods, each of which imparts a distinctive flavor to the meat. Hickory, oak, maple, alder, apple, cherry, hazelnut, peach, and mesquite are among the flavors available. For more about pellets, read my article, The Science of Wood. There is a pretty good forum for people who have pellet cookers at PelletSmoking.com and of course our Pitmaster Club has a lively discussion on them with many active users.
You’re concerned with ongoing costs for fuel and power: The wood pellets used with Traeger grills are more expensive than propane or charcoal. You can expect to spend $1 to $3 per grilling session using wood pellets. Propane is far less expensive to operate in a grill, while charcoal fits somewhere in the middle of the cost range. And beware of cheap pellets from third-party manufacturers that contain softwoods like pine. They burn much faster than hardwoods, so the end cost won’t be that much different because you’ll use more of them. And they can introduce unwanted chemicals and contaminants to your food. You will also have some electrical power costs with these Traeger pellet grills.