I had heard about Traeger from a friend who was at a conference where the catering was done on one of the commercial units. He had said the food the it made was mind blowing, and on a late night impulse buy I decided to purchase this from Amazon - as an open box/scratch and dent for about $800.There are some less expensive grills available, I have never owned them so I can't comment on them. i started to get a little buyers remorse with all the negative reviews this grill had received, but decided to give it a fair shot. It arrived quickly not by UPS but from trucking company. Despite being listed as damaged box/open box it was well packaged no damage. Assembly took 30 min by just me, assembly tools were included. Stood it up off the floor and filled the hopper with mesquite and followed break in procedure listed to cook off any manufacturing oil etc. Let it cool retired it once more to make sure it was seasoned let it cool again and was ready to go. I purchased an IGrill wireless thermometer to go with it which I would recommend also. I signed up to the Traeger recipe sight and they send a recipe every few days, and you can browse the website for some inspiration. Since I have owned this I have gone thru about 3 bags of pellets including alder mesquite and hickory. I have grilled Trout ( the smoked trout dip list on the website was amazing) as well as trout fillets, Salmon, Haddock, Ribs, Brisket, Pulled Pork x 3 and 2 prime ribs and 2 loafs of bread Jerkey ( smoking now) butternut squash etc etc . All the food I can only say is mind-blowing - enough so that 4 of my friends have purchased the smaller Traeger's for themselves. It has all been incredibly easy - just season, set the temp put the food on and the temp probes in and forget it- the wireless I grill continually upgrades my phone so I can keep working inside and not have to worry. It has never failed to light, caught on fire, overheated or preformed to anything other perfection for me. I can't speak for all the other negative reviews but I have had nothing but success with this, the Weber propane I own hasn't been touched is just taking up space it can't compare to this thing. Its a big purchase at close to 1k but is incredibly versatile I can't speak about customer service response because I haven't needed them, but if you are concerned I would call the headquarters and see how hard it is to get someone on the phone. The Temp probe is off by a few degrees compared to my Igrill reading but the grill has no trouble maintaining a narrow temp window if you keep the lid closed and don't F%$k with it . Most important it has bought back some passion to cooking, and made me want to try new things which is priceless.
As time passed, a thermostat was added to the equation, and the production BBQ smokers fueled by pellets working in “set it and forget it” fashion was in full force. From this point, several manufacturers of pellet grills began to pop up, with a few key names like Yoder Smokers, Mak Grills, Green Mountain Grills, and Fast Eddy’s Cookshack grills being among the most notable.
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.

Travelers – Of course there’s a perfect pellet smoker for you too. It differs from a basic pellet grill in that it’s smaller and much lighter. It has foldable legs, which allows you to easily take it to the car with you. Everyone’s been on a camping or a field trip at some point. In moments like those, grilled food is something delicious and wholesome. I found the right portable pellet grill for you, which thanks to its size and weight is portable.
Cleaning and Maintenance: Any individual who’s taken a stab at cleaning a pellet grill before sees exactly that it is so hard to get all the ash out after use. This unit gives you a less demanding access to the burn pot. It also includes a trap door which permits you to clean the unit without digging through the ashes and oil. Cleaning the unit is by and large significantly less demanding when compared with the normal charcoal grills.

The Camp Chef Woodwind Pellet Grill was chosen as our sixth choice because it lacked some features found in our Top 5 picks, especially when it came to cooking flexibility. While it does offer an impressive 6-in-1 cooking experience, it lacks an auto shut-off feature, which makes it less of a “set it an forget it” kind of smoker. The grill is rather heavy, at an overall weight of 146lbs. It’s also more expensive than the rest, even though it offers similar (even less) features. It’s a decent choice if flavor is the only thing you’re looking for.
This is the single main advantage of a pellet smoker. Unlike charcoal, gas or wood fired smokers you don’t need to do anything with fuel except make sure it’s full when you start. This means no more having to go back and check fuel levels, no fluctuating temperatures, no spending ten minutes setting up charcoal and getting it at the right temperature, and no random heat variance giving you oddly cooked food ’cause you set it all up wrong.
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It also has the standardized dial-in digital control with LED readout (not to the point that it has WiFi like the Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett Pellet Grill, but still quite convenient). However, it’s rated low on this list because of poor quality control. Too many customers ended up with bad Pit Bosses that have inconsistent temperature control (going all the way to 615° Fahrenheit).
Overall, I think you would be happy with the smaller smoker / grill. I really like what Green Mountain grills has done with the Davy Crockett model, and that is the unit I have personally. That said,Rec-Tec makes a great product, and some people prefer the cart stand it comes with rather than the fold up legs that Green Mountain grills uses on the Davy Crockett modeling. Either choice would be good for you if you are looking for a smaller unit. I am of course speaking about the mini version of the Rec-Tec. The larger version is excellent as well.

I purchased a Traeger Lil Tex 22 yesterday. I “grilled” a whole chicken. It overshot the temperature by nearly a hundred degrees which wasn’t a bad way to crisp up the bird but I was afraid it was going to melt itself down so I shut it down. I was up by 5 this morning to smoke a pork butt for pulled pork sandwiches. My wife’s family is coming over for dinner tonight and time being a concern I fired up the “smoker”. It snowed 12 inches last night so the next hour I was shoveling my walks. Imagine my surprise when I checked on the Traeger and it had shut itself off . The meat was colt to the touch. I read through the instructions to make sure I started it up correctly and I did. I removed the meat and restarted the smoker. It smoked for awhile then quit. The temperature never got above 140. I called Traeger technical support twice and each rep gave me a different answer as to why it wasn’t working. After 3.5 hours I gave up on the Traeger for a more conventional method. I purchased the Traeger for the the set and walk away feature. It let me down!! It is 34 degrees outside today so I will wait until it warms up to try again. Should it fail me again I will sell it for scrap! So far I am not impressed. My wood smoker takes time but it is reliable.
Hey DW – I think it’s a good call either way. Reports from users re: customer service are tops for both Rec-Tec Pellet Grills and GMG Pellet Grills. GMG offers a wifi option that now runs on your home network, and will eventually allow you to monitor via a cloud option, meaning monitoring your grill as you are out shopping etc. The extra large hopper size on the Rec-Tec Pellet Grills could be a bonus for you if you plan on doing some really long cooks. Other than that I really think it comes down to things as simple as how the unit looks. I know that sounds silly, but they are both great grills otherwise. So, what’s your gut tell you?

Hey Charlie – I’d leave that grate wide open if you want maximum heat. If the grates are only over the burn pot, then you can do sort of a two zone cook (indirect vs direct heat) by putting a thicker steak, chop, or piece of chicken on the ‘non direct’ side to get up to a temp that’s 15 or 20 degrees lower than your target. Then, finish off over the burn pot area. Just one idea.
The first name to kick start our list of the best pellet grill review is the Camp Chef PG24 Pellet grill. It measures 45 inches by 21 inches by 51 inches, in dimensions. This pellet grill weighs 127 pounds and capacitates a 550 cubic inch cooking surface. It has a removable upper rack, and it comes with a stainless steel food probe. Camp Chef PG24 Pellet grill comes with an LED digital temperature control system, and has a patented down cleaning system. It can provide temperatures from 160 degrees to 500 degree Fahrenheit, and has an internal sensor.

“We love pellet grills but didn’t like the designs of the models on the market. They are more like an oven than a grill. MAK Grills are designed to be the best in class. You get outstanding BBQ flavor and safe cooking with real wood, along with an automatic lighting and fuel feed system. Simply turn the grill on and you’re cooking in minutes! Our direct heat FlameZone ® feature is pioneering the industry for “gas grill like” cooking without the hassle of flare-ups and burned food.” — MAK Grills


Yo, Kevin! Hope that you can soon review one of my all-time favorite purchases, the Traeger Li’l Tex Elite Smoker/Grill. After using it for a couple of months, I gave away my two year old gas-grill to my grandson. We’ve done chicken, turkey, pheasant, lamb, all kinds of beef, pork and sausages including some wonderful ribs and brisket. Our Easter Rib Roast turned out terrific as did the chunks of assorted sausages that we did for another family get-together. I was never a big fan of grilling until we got our Traeger. Both Traeger and the web-sites like yours are full of great recipes and ideas.
Ordering through All Things BBQ was VERY simple and easy. In fact, my YS640 arrived a few days sooner than expected/quoted. These grills are expensive, but I am a firm believer in "you get what you pay for". There is no doubt the quality of Yoder craftsmanship is exceptional. So far, I have only been able to use my YS640 a coupe of times. However, I'm looking forward to many meals being cooked on it going forward. If you buy one, you will not be disappointed!
Today, all serious players in the pellet smoker market have switched to digital thermostatic controllers that dictate pellet-feed commands based on a temperature sensor inside the cooking box. Just like with the oven in your kitchen, you set the desired cooking temperature, and the heating system kicks on and off to maintain that set point. An LED display shows your set temp, and most models allow you to toggle between set temp and actual temp readings from the internal thermostat. Actual temperatures will fluctuate a bit as the controller switches on and off to hover around your set temp, but many sophisticated touch-pad controllers can maintain tighter tolerances than your indoor oven. Some pellet controllers also have integrated probes that let you monitor the internal temperature of whatever you're smoking. Wireless remote control and monitoring from your smartphone or tablet are also increasingly common. (You can learn more about pellet smokers on AmazingRibs.com.)
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:
Like the Z GRILLS Wood Pellet Smoker, the REC TEC Grills Mini Portable Pellet Grill is capable of going up or down by 5° Fahrenheit increments, leading it to heat up from 180° Fahrenheit to 550° Fahrenheit. At full power, it can reach a temperature of 600° Fahrenheit. The mini size is enough to fit in a turkey or maybe three slabs of ribs, so that’s portability without sacrificing quality and capacity too much.

One comment I see a lot in various forums like PelletHeads.com 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.


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.
As time passed, a thermostat was added to the equation, and the production BBQ smokers fueled by pellets working in “set it and forget it” fashion was in full force. From this point, several manufacturers of pellet grills began to pop up, with a few key names like Yoder Smokers, Mak Grills, Green Mountain Grills, and Fast Eddy’s Cookshack grills being among the most notable.
First, it’s really easy to use, with an electric auto ignition and shutdown system, plus LED controls that make setup idiot proof. Once it’s up and burning, the built in temperature sensor and meat probe make knowing what’s going on inside simple, especially considering that the thermometer is one of the most accurate I’ve seen, with only around 10 degrees variance. It’s got multiple settings if you’re using it as a meat smoker, as well, so you can control your flavor.
Consistency is the key to having the best results. If you want to make a tender brisket, your cooking temperature should be close to 250 F during the entire 12-hour cooking period. The control board is responsible for precision. There are three types of controllers – PID multi-position, non-PID one-touch, and 3-position. Check out the different types of controllers for the one that is right for you.

Hey David – in my opinion, you’re going to find hot spots in any entry level pellet grill/ pellet smoker. I include GMG, Rec-Tec, Traeger, etc. When you start moving into the higher pellet smokers/grills – Memphis Grill, MAK, etc, you can minimize these to some extent. If you experience higher heat on one side, put the thicker cut of meat (pork butt, point of brisket) near that part.


The Pit Boss really is the boss with its 700 square inches of cooking surface. The space alone isn’t what makes the Pit Boss 71700FB one of the best wood pellet smoker available. If you thought the Traeger TFB29LZA Junior Elite Grill had a lot of space at 300 square meters, then get more than double that with Pit Boss (the Rec Tec grill below beats it by only 2 inches).

In 1982 Traeger Heating in Oregon began experimenting with a furnace that would burn wood pellets made from compressed sawdust, a byproduct of the area lumber mills, and before long introduced a home heating system that they sold mostly locally. Since furnaces sold mostly in cold months, before long they began experimenting with a grill that would burn pellets, too. Eventually they created a device with an auger to feed the pellets and a blower to help them burn.
The SG and ZG are not exactly the same though. Just from the pictures I can see that the bases are different. The SG has L-shaped legs and a bottom shelf while the ZG has square legs that are larger than the DLX legs but no bottom shelf. There were also different specs for many features. I took a picture of the ZG spec sheet at the store and compared it to the SG specs on the website and there are slight differences in capacities. For example ZG 3778 cubic inch - SG 4859, grilling area ZG 776- SG 811, hopper volume ZG 18 lbs - SG 22, ...
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.
Meanwhile, it also has a 15-pound pellet capacity comparable to Camp Chef SmokePro (not as large but big enough to eliminate continuous wood pellet refills) and folding legs for better portability. However, certain users who’ve already bought their own REC TEC Grills Mini Portable Pellet Grill have complaints about it, like inconsistent heat distribution of the grill and poor quality control (certain grills break down easily).
Eric, I’m sorry for the trouble you’ve had with your Traeger. Not sure this will help, but here is how I make sure I don’t have the problem you had. When I start after a long previous cook or any cook at all really, I vacuum out all the dust and vacuum out the burn pot. Then, I put a handful of pellets into the burnt pot, insert the heat deflector, the drip tray, and grate. I find that this keeps things working well. Sometimes, the burn pot will get too full of ash and this can cause the problems that you had. Give it a try. If it works, please let me know.
Kevin- I’m in the process of researching to get my husband a grill for Christmas. I’m torn between the 820 you mentioned above and the Traeger Pro Series. As far as I can tell they are basically the same except that you get a larger cooking area on the pit boss for the same price you pay for a small cook space in a traeger. I would like to spend around $600 on the grill but would possibly go up to $800 and want 500 sq in cook space or greater. Which do you prefer? Pit Boss, Traeger or another brand?
Enjoy the benefits of cooking with cast iron with the Camp Chef 11" Cast Iron Square Skillet. This skillet is great for typical sk...illet cooking and fits nicely over a one-burner stove to maximize heat efficiency. This Camp Chef skillet fits four sandwiches, allowing you to cook all at once. It is great for French toast, too. It comes seasoned, so it is ready for use right out of the box. This skillet is designed for your convenience from start to finish, and as such is very easy to clean. A steadying handle at the end of the pan and pour-off spouts on both sides make it easier to cook things just the way you like it. Enjoy convenience and delicious food with this handy skillet. read more
We love recommending and reviewing wood pellet smoker grills, but we also want you to get the most out of them once you purchase. Without proper care and maintenance, even the best pellet smoker is bound to have a shorter lifespan. Therefore, how you use your smoker and how you maintain it after use greatly determines how long it will serve you. A little bit of work will go a long way toward extending the life of your smoker. A thorough cleaning of the smoker should occur at least once a year. If you frequently use it, you should have it done at least three times a year. Buying quality pellets will extend its life as well.
love your article and got lots of good info from it….i do have a question tho that i didnt see an answer to…..do pellet grills have to use just pellets?….i have 3 acres full of oak branches that could be shredded. my question is can a pellet grill use home shredded wood chips to burn and cook with or is it mandatory that the fuel be in the pellet state?….would be great if i could find a good use for all these fallen branches….

The Camp Chef SmokePro is probably the best pellet grill on this list by rating and by performance. It has a decently large area for cooking at 19.2 inches by 22 inches plus its smoking or warming rack is also 6 inches by 24 inches in size. This is one of the best pellet smoker for home use because of its combination of quality features that are never superfluous and works as advertised.
The Yoder YS640 is 32 inches wide, weighs 313 pounds, and is said to have a cooking range of 150 to 600°F (65 to 315°C). Yoder is known for heavy-duty competition smokers, and the thick, 10-gauge-steel cooking chamber on this model is durable and great for heat retention. It comes with a sophisticated proprietary digital controller, which Yoder asserts is not based on any off-the-shelf temperature controller of any sort. Yoder states that it designed the board from scratch around a general-purpose micro-controller chip and wrote its own code from the ground up in an attempt to provide superior flexibility, efficiency, and accuracy.
Just started shopping around for a pellet smoker. Am also going to need a new gas grill soon. Stopped in at the local BBQ supply store today and they showed me the Memphis Pro and said it would function well for both smoking and cooking steaks/burgers. Price point on that one is pretty high. Would any of the others reviewed above offer similar functionality? Do you have a recommendation of which will work well for both functions? I live in KS so kind of like the idea of sticking with the local guys from Yoder, but Fast Eddys in OK isn’t too far away either. Thanks.
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.

This Camp Chef Dutch Oven Table will make a great addition to your outdoor kitchen set up. The Camp Chef Dutch Oven Table makes it... easy to cook with a Dutch oven. With the table's 26" cooking height, you don't need to bend over to cook. The Dutch Oven cooking table will hold two 16" Dutch ovens or three 12" Dutch ovens side by side. The Camp Chef camp table features a three-sided windscreen to protect your coals for better heat retention. The Camp Chef Dutch Oven Table can also be used for extra preparation and serving space when cooking for a crowd. As an added bonus, you can expand the usable area on the Camp Chef Dutch Oven Table by adding the LS-90P shelves. Transport your table in the CB90 carry bag. The Camp Chef Dutch Oven Table features heavy-duty steel construction. read more

The single biggest advantage though, especially for beginning outdoor chefs, is that when you’re paying this much, damn near everything is automatic. As an example, if we look at our number one choice, the Camp Chef PG64 pellet smoker, literally everything can be controlled by the built in systems, so I could grab a friend who’d never cooked anything more complicated than boxed mac and cheese over, give em a five minute masterclass and be confident that the automatic systems would do most of the heavy lifting when it came to getting everything right.
Pellet grills come in various sizes from the portable types for tailgating to the extra-large units for commercial use. If you are someone who wants to be able to take your smoker on the go, be it camping, partying or any other event you’ll want something that’s easy to lift and has wheels to facilitate movement. If you have lots of parties and gatherings at home, then you might want something bigger. Its all up to what your needs are.
I purchased a Traeger Elite Grill from the website. I use the grill one time and it worked fine. A couple of weeks later we fired up the grill to cook some steaks. Approximately 10 minutes into cooking the auger stopped working. We had to finish our meal cooking it on the stove. I looked at the troubleshooting guide and the steps needed to be taken. To determine what was wrong you basically needed to dismantle the electric box and auger housing. I am not an electrician Nor a mechanic and feel this is excessive for a consumer to have to do.
Traeger invented the original wood-fired grill over 25 years ago in Mt. Angel, Oregon, and continues to lead the industry as the worlds #1 selling wood-fired grill, perfected by decades of mastering the craft of wood-fired cooking. Fueled by 100% pure hardwood pellets and controlled with a digital controller, means from low and slow to hot and fast grilling, you'll fire up deliciously consistent results every single time. The Texas Elite 34 packs a huge punch with 646 sq. in. of grilling area, new wider legs for added stability, and an upgraded Digital Elite Controller. It combines powerful, wood-fired convection performance with simple operation. So invite the neighbors and taste the wood-fired difference.
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