Top 10 Pellet Smoker in 2019
Pellet smokers are fast becoming a favorite among the BBQ community and it’s not hard to see why. They deliver the same result you’d get from a grill with half the effort. While some conventional pit masters have been vocal about their disapproval of pellet smokers by citing that they make it too easy, this shouldn’t deter you from doing your own research because they may actually work for you. Skip to our Best pellet smoker
We also can’t ignore the fact that smokers cost significantly more than your average charcoal or gas grill. But, you’ll soon find that this is a small price to pay for the level of simplicity and ease of use that smokers provide. Besides, thousands of people have taken the plunge to buy a smoker because they’re a good investment.
To help you find the best smoker for your needs, we’re going to give you a review of the top rated pellet smokers on the market right now. But before that, let’s start by going through a helpful guide on pellet smokers to give you an idea of what we’re working with here.
Disclaimer; don’t be confused when we use the words pellet grill and pellet smoker interchangeably. It’s the same thing.
What is a Pellet Smoker?
First of all, pellet smokers are the easiest smokers to use out of all the available options. Like your kitchen stove, pellet smokers are controlled by a thermostat so they’re super easy to operate. All you need to do is choose your preferred cooking temperature once and let the smoker do the rest. And by “the rest” we mean pouring the wood pellets into an integrated fire pot at different intervals during the cooking process to keep the temperature at an even keel. The smoker does all of this on its own without any oversight from you.
Yes, smokers are pricey and even the entry-level models can be expensive but they’re well worth the price. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find an unhappy customer and thanks to the increased demand in smokers, there’s hope that they could become cheaper in the nearer future. New manufacturers are coming to the fore with different designs and features as well as competitive prices.
The great thing about owning a pellet smoker is that you’ll never make a bad meal in your life. You’ll always have the most epic pulled pork, brisket and smoked ribs on the block because they eliminate the possibility of overcooking or undercooking your meat. All you need to take care of are the spices and rubs and you’re good to go!
How Does It Work?
Pellet smokers all work the same regardless of who manufactured them or where you buy them from. Common features to look out for include an oven-like digital controller, which is usually designed to look like a dial with different temperature ranges printed all around. Pellet smokers usually feature an LED screen as well to show you important information like current temperature so you can be sure that you’ve got the right temperature before you leave it to do its own thing.
Most models come with an auger as well, which the smoker uses to ignite the pellets through a push-and-pull motion. Yet another important feature is the indirect heat delivery which means your food is cooked by the smoke more than the fire. This is what makes pellet smokers so effective at slow cooking and it’s what makes the set it and forget it feature possible. Lastly, your pellet smoker will also feature a drip plate to catch all the grease from the smoker’s surface.
Pellet Smoker Benefits
At this point, a picture is probably starting to take shape in your mind about what a pellet smoker is. But in case you missed some of the benefits we alluded to above, here’s an overview of each:
- Smokers are easy to use, thanks to their “set and forget” ability. All you need to do is make sure that you’ve set it at the correct temperature and go on about your business. You can sleep through a roast and come back to perfectly cooked meat instead of an overcooked or burnt meal. That’s the magic of pellet smokers.
- Pellet smokers are versatile in that you can use them for more than just smoking and grilling meat. You can use them to roast, bake and even sear meat to perfection.
- Pellet smokers use the indirect cooking method which means the food doesn’t come into direct contact with the fire. Instead, it’s the heat and smoke that are responsible for ensuring that the food is well-cooked. Most users can attest that this method brings out the natural flavor in food while imparting a nice smoked wood aroma as well.
- Wood pellets come in different flavors, like maple, cherry, pecan, oak, hickory, and others.
A Short History on Pellet Smokers
The original pellet smoker was invented by Oregon native Traeger in 1982. Back then the device was used as a furnace or heater and had nothing to do with food. The wood pellets were made from compacted sawdust and wood cut-offs from the lumber milling industry. However, once the winter was over people stopped buying the heaters from Traeger so he came up with the brilliant idea to design a special grill that would use the pellets as its fuel source.
While this started out as an idea to keep his business relevant during the summer season, the pellet grills became an overnight success. Traeger decided to patent the idea and for the first decade was the only one producing them in the market. Once his patent expired, however, other manufacturers jumped on the bandwagon with their own version of the pellet smoker.
At first, pellet smokers had three settings; low, medium, high, straightforward and to the point. This meant that you had to manually feed it the pellets to it and there was no temperature probe to help you customize the temperatures or “set it and forget it”.
Nowadays, it’s normal to see a pellet smoker with a digital thermostat that allows you to control pellet-feed. All manufacturers include this feature because it makes the consumer’s life easier. All you have to do is select your preferred temperature and the smoker will bring the temperature up to that point and maintain it that way until it’s done cooking.
The LED screen allows you to keep track of the temperature, and you can use the internal thermostat to determine any discrepancies between actual temperature to set temperature. You see, the smoker automatically switches itself on and off to keep the temperature even. But, there are other models which come with a touch-pad controller that keeps the temperature balanced without much toggling.
If you like, you can purchase a model that comes with a probe that you can use to check on the internal temperature of the food you’re cooking. Another cool feature worth mentioning is wireless remote control which integrates the smoker to your smartphone via an app so you can keep track of your food from the other room.
These are some of the most important features in a pellet smoker because they allow you to monitor the internal temperature and ensure that the finished product is what you want it to be. You’ll no longer have to lift the lid to check the progress of your meat because the LED screen will tell you all you need to know. All of this is possible with a digital meat thermometer but even that is unnecessary if your smoker features a dual display system that displays the meat temperature and cooking temperature.
How to Choose the Best Pellet Smoker?
As with any purchase, it’s important that you know a few things about pellet smokers before you go on a shopping spree.
Here are the most important features to keep in mind when looking for the best pellet smoker for the money.
A well-built smoker is worth more than a thousand cheap grills because it will last you for a lifetime. Some of the most durable materials that can be used to make good quality pellet smokers include rust-resistant stainless steel, which can take quite a lot of abuse without deteriorating. A well-made smoker offers guaranteed heat retention and outstanding performance for longer.
There are different aspects of portability that you need to consider before you buy a pellet smoker. For example, it should ideally be lightweight enough for you to lift it and carry so you can travel with it anywhere. But, it should also feature sturdy wheels so you can move it from one spot to the other without asking for help to lift it up.
- Temperature Range
Your smoker has to offer a wide temperature range so that you can use it for more than just smoking meat.
The size of your smoker will depend on how much of an entertainer you are. If you’re buying the smoker just to cater to your small family then a nice and compact model is fine. But, if you have a penchant for hosting BBQs and parties then you’ll need a large cooking surface and maybe even a warming rack.
Get a smoker that offers more value for money by providing you with different cooking options, from grilling to braising and roasting.
- Ease of Use
You’ll know that a pellet smoker is easy to use when it features a digital control function that simplifies the process of temperature control. Also look out for pellet smoker reviews to find out how quick and easy it is to clean it because you don’t want a smoker that’s maintenance heavy. This means it should at least have a grease and/or ashtray, while a built-in probe is another nice-to-have worth considering.
A basic pellet smoker will come with three main settings including low, medium and high temperature. Ore advanced smokers offer multi-position controllers that allow you to fine-tune the temperature according to your preferred heating range. If you’re looking for something even more precise, be sure to check out models with a one-touch non-RFID controller.
This isn’t necessarily an essential feature but it can come in handy when you want to remotely monitor and control the smoker’s temperature and settings through your smartphone.
For best results, opt for a large hopper so that you can load enough pellets to last through the whole cooking session, as a smaller hopper will require that you keep replenishing it. Keep in mind that smoking meat can take hours and hours, so you want to have a large capacity hopper.
Most pellet smoker manufactures offer a one-year warranty. But, some models come with a 5-year warranty which is a much better offer and guarantees you peace of mind should the smoker experience any structural or factory faults.
How to Choose the Right Type of Pellets for Your Smoker
So far, we’ve covered the different features you need to look out for when looking for a good quality smoker. Now we’re going to share some tips on how to find the correct pellets with which to fuel your smoker.
- Start with the Flavor
The reason why it’s important to start by choosing the pellet flavor is because it will affect the flavor of your meat by enhancing its natural smokiness. For example, experts say that pellets like apple, alder and pecan work great with chicken, whereas oak, mesquite and hickory go together with beef. For vegetables, you want to go with maple, cherry or apple, while seafood prefers oak, mesquite, and alder.
- Choose Food-Grade Pellets
It’s important to note here that pellets come in different types. There are heating pellets which are specifically created to fuel heaters, while food-grade pellets are made to provide fuel for smokers. It’s important to buy food-grade pellets for your smoker because they don’t have any chemicals or harmful substances.
- Choose Hardwood
Pellets are further divided into softwood and hardwood. Hardwood pellets are the preferred choice for fuelling smokers because they burn slower and longer. Plus, they give off an authentic smoked wood flavor while maintaining even temperatures.
How to Use a Pellet Smoker
Here are some tips on how to use your pellet smoker after you’ve bought it:
- Maintenance is key. It’s important that you keep the smoker clean as a build-up of debris and grease can negatively affect the flavor of your food in the long run. Make sure to invest in a cover to help protect it from the elements when not in use and prolong its lifespan.
- Avoid opening the lid while cooking. This will cause the smoke to leak out and compromise not only the temperature but the meat’s flavor.
- Put safety first. Don’t expose the smoker to rain, check all the components before you use it and don’t let the cords get wet.
- Keep in mind that you’ll have to replace some of the smoker’s components every now and then, like the gasket for example.
- The pellets should be stored properly in a dry and cool place away from moisture. Make sure they never get damp or wet, as that’ll render them useless.
Is It a Smoker or a Grill?
The best way to describe this cooking implement is as a heat-convection smoker. It is not exactly a grill but some models are able to grill and sear meat like you would with a normal grill.
How does the smoker achieve this? By alternating the ways in which the food is exposed to the flame. A brand called Camp Chef has released a WoodWind pellet smoker which comes with a gas fuelled sear box that’s hotter than hell’s kitchen.
Alternatively, you can place a griddle on the smoker as soon as it cranks up to a high temperature. Just make sure to add a dash of oil to avoid getting the meat stuck onto the surface. Within four to six minutes, your meat should be properly seared on each side. This is a great way to reverse-sear your meat. You start by using indirect heat using the slow cooking setting and a little smoke. Then follow up with direct heat searing, by placing your meat onto the metal griddle. In the end, you should get a succulent texture with a brown and crusty exterior. Sure, you won’t get exactly the same result you’d get from searing over direct gas or coal heat, but it’ll be pretty close.
Grilling vs. Smoking vs. Barbecuing
It’s easy to confuse words like smoking, grilling and barbecuing because they’re often used interchangeably. However, as you get more experienced with smoking and grilling you’ll find that there are subtle differences between these methods that determine the end product. A barbecue is when you grill the meat using a slow cooking process with the lid down to create closed circulation. Grilling is usually done with the lid up.
Pellet smokers can do all the above because they have a generously sized cooking space and corresponding lid. Pellet grills also come with storage space for charcoal just in case you want to use it as a charcoal grill or barbecue. Alternatively, you can operate it like you would a normal oven by using the direct fire method.
However, this device really shines when you use it for its original purpose, which is pellet smoking. This involves the use of indirect heat to slow cook food and smoke it to perfection over prolonged periods of time.
Should You Upgrade Your Current Smoker Grill?
Most manufacturers offer a 1 to 3-year warranty for their pellet smokers. For instance, Camp Chef typically offers a 1-year warranty, while Traeger smokers come with a standard 3-year warranty. For best results, we’d advise you opt for a smoker with a longer warranty but make sure that it’s well-made.
The key to keeping your grill in good condition for more than five years is to maintain it properly. This means cleaning it thoroughly after each use and replacing some of the components regularly so they don’t wear out the rest of the system. Most of the problems that grills develop over time can be traced back to lack of proper maintenance which leads to congestion and temperature inconsistency.
However, if you can see that your smoker is beyond repair then you should ask yourself the following questions before you buy a new one:
- Will Upgrading Fix My Problem?
Sometimes fixing a broken pellet smoker is as simple as replacing a specific part. Therefore, you’ll end up spending just $50 or even less instead of forking out hundreds or thousands of dollars on a new smoker. If the problem is with the smoker’s digital operations, then hire a professional to help repair it for you.
- Do I Know How to Perform the Upgrade?
Unless you have specialized knowledge in electrical engineering or welding, repairing your smoker on your own is probably out of your depth. However, there are certain small fixes that you can perform with the help of your user manual and YouTube tutorials.
- When Should I Look for a New Pellet Smoker?
The answer to this question depends on the type of malfunction your smoker is experiencing. If it’s a fixable problem, then it’s probably best that you try and get it fixed instead of chucking it out and buying a new one. Sometimes, it’s as easy as changing the hopper or replacing the digital control panel to maintain the same smoke levels. However, if all of that doesn’t work anymore then you’re due for a new pellet smoker and we’ll help you find the right one.
Best Pellet Smoker 2019
Now that you know what to look for and how to take care of your pellet smoker, let’s dive into the different options available for you to choose from.
As the progenitor of pellet smokers, Traeger is one of the best and most reliable brands on the market. This particular device doubles as a smoker and grill and it’s powered by hardwood pellets that allow you to slow cook food for a nice smoky flavor. The best part is you won’t have to deal with messy charcoal.
Did we mention that this is a six-in-one cooker? Yep, and it comes with a built-in Digital Elite Controller that will help you maintain the temperature at a favourable level.
This grill is perfect for catering small-to-medium parties because it has 41 square inches of grilling space. That’s enough to cook four whole chickens, 16 burgers or five rib racks at once. It’s easy to use even for the average home cook. It’s one of those “set and forget” models and it’s perfect for use in cold weather conditions so you can use it all year round.
This is yet another awesome model from Traeger’s Elite series; it’s packed with beneficial features, like 646 square inches of cooking surface, an LED display and Digital Elite Controller combo to simplify control of the unit.
The design of this model is focused on ensuring a positive user experience. Yes, its pricier than most other models but it is a high-end option after all and you really do get what you pay for.
This grill/ smoker combo is perfect for home chefs and pit masters that like to host large parties as it has a large cooking surface that allows you to prepare multiple types of food at once while spending less time hovering over the food. In fact, this grill works more like an outdoor oven because it’s super easy to control the temperature and it’s versatile as well.
Pit Boss might be a relatively new player in the industry but they’re slowly winning the hearts of pit masters around the country. This particular model has a generous 700 square inch cooking surface which makes it easy to cook for medium to large gatherings.
This is a versatile grill that you can use to smoke, roast, sear, bake, BBQ, char-grill and braise effortlessly. It’s a great investment because it satisfies all your cooking needs, thus eliminating the need to buy other types of cooking equipment.
We’re glad Pit Boss didn’t neglect the construction side of things as this unit is made with high quality cast iron with porcelain coated grates of the same quality. This makes it easy to clean and prevents food from sticking onto the surface. Needless to say, this is one of those grills that you can use multiple times per week for years without sustaining major wear and tear.
It also has a built-in flame broiler for when you want to cook your food quickly. Lastly, this grill has a digitally controlled bum system which enables you to manage and control the grill’s temperature from afar.
Right off the bat, the first thing you notice about this grill is the large cooking surface. In addition to this, the grill comes with a second rack that you can use to expand the space further, or you can just use it as a warming rack.
Perhaps we should put it out there that this is a convection grill which means that once it switches on it circulates heat constantly while delivering it to the upper rack. We were also impressed by the fact that you can split the rack and remove it in order to access the bottom grates. This is in addition to the main grill rack which can be separated into two smaller racks that are easy to use and clean.
If you like, you could swap out the original grill grates with cast iron grill grates from Camp Chef to solidify this and fortify it against wear and tear. The cast iron will also improve its heat retention ability and the smokiness of the meat.
This Camp Chef smoker is perfect for pit masters that want to try something new and interesting. It has a cutting edge design with advanced grilling and smoking ability.
However, it’s easy enough to use for home cooks or novice BBQ lovers as well. There are no complicated controls and the manufacturer has integrated a lot of easy to use features that are designed to simplify the process. For instance, the built-in thermometer ensures that you maintain the same temperature throughout so you don’t have to constantly check the temperature or progress of the meat.
This smoker/ grill combo comes with an awesome recipe book to get you started and an easy to follow user guide.
With 513 square inches of cooking space, an extra warming rack and a large closed cart, this smoker has plenty of space to cook burgers, ribs chops chicken and steaks at your next cookout. And there’ll be space leftover to keep your cooking supplies and any extra pellets that you haven’t used.
Temperature control is a cinch thanks to the dedicated control dial which allows you to set the temperature which ranges from 180 degrees Fahrenheit to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. This grill can stay at the same temperature which makes for consistent cooking.
This grill is also easy to clean, thanks to integrated spigot drains that help to prevent the build-up of grease. The construction of this grill is pretty solid as its made from stainless steel lid and a coated steel grill frame with locking caster wheels. The hopper can hold 20 pounds of pellets and the best part is the package comes with a 20-pound bag of oak pellets to help you get started.
If you’re looking for a grill that’s simple to use this Green Mountain model is the way to go. It’s a small and compact model with just 219 square inches of cooking space with foldable legs, which means you can take it with you on the road for camping, fishing, boating etc. Surprisingly the hopper has the capacity to hold 9 pounds of pellets in one go. There’s also an added mesh tray located on the side for you to keep your tools and utensils.
This grill offers remote controlling through your Android or iOS device and this includes setting and monitoring the temperature, set timers, check the progress of your food and even choose to receive alarms when the food is ready.
This medium sized grill is a solid effort from REC TEC, another newcomer to the market. It features foldable legs and rollerblade wheels to facilitate ease of movement and storage. It can hold 80 pounds of pellets in the hopper and it comes with a grill cover, an instant-read thermometer and a WiFi monitor that allows you to remotely keep track of your food’s cooking progress.
You’ll also get two built-in meat probes with this model. It has a rust-resistant and weather-proof stainless steel cooking chamber and 340 square inches f generous cooking space. As you get more advanced, you can purchase an extra shelf to increase your cooking space.
The temperature range is between 200 degrees Fahrenheit to 500 degrees Fahrenheit which can be augmented in 5-degree increments. There’s also a low setting on this grill that allows you to cook at temperatures of less than 200 degrees F. This increases the smoke output of the grill and high heat cooking is available at above 500 degrees F.
You’ve got a locking stainless steel hopper lid that you can use to hold your food while you unload and the hopper can hold up to 15 pounds of pellets.
The Cookshack PG500 Fast Eddy’s Pellet Grill is a commercial grade smoker that features a sprawling 800 square inch cooking surface and a durable frame that’s made from 100% stainless steel. We love how compact and straightforward the design is because it makes it easy to find the controls and actually operate the grill.
The interior of this grill consists of an upper and lower grate system that you can use to switch between direct and indirect cooking. There are also two warming drawers placed beneath the burner to your food warm while you finish up preparing other dishes. Other features on this model include digital temperature controls, an automatic igniter, and a large capacity hopper.
This massive smoker from Louisiana Grills has a cooking space of 1700 square inches- enough to feed a big party effortlessly. It has two sides that can have a huge pellet holding capacity and even separate burners so you can cook different types of food at once.
Temperature starts from 180 degrees Fahrenheit and you can change it to an automatic electric grill if you like.
Well, there you have it! That’s our guide on how to find the best pellet smoker on the market. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced pit master we hope you’ve found an option that you like. Our favorite from the ones we reviewed above is the Traeger Elite series.