As flavors go, who can’t resist smoke flavored meat? That’s why most of us love barbecues. We love the taste and smell of roasted meat.
This is because of the Malliard reaction which happens when heat breaks down the amino acids and sugars of meat. It caramelizes the meat while giving it a smoky, sweet, spicy and pungent flavor.
It takes some culinary skill to be able to successfully barbecue meats. Fortunately,there’s a way to do that without needing extensive experience. And that’s by using a pellet grill.
A pellet grill burns small wood pellets to produce the heat required to cook your meat. It’s like an outdoor smoky oven that doesn’t require constant checking. It’s versatile and simple to use which is why it’s popular among those who love outdoor cooking.
Also known as a pellet smoker, this appliance is ideal for camping or fishing trips. They’re generally portable; you can pack one up in your pick-up. They run on electricity but don’t really require too much of it so you can power one by hooking it up to your car battery or a solar powered charger.
If you live in a condo or a residential area that has specific restrictions on burning charcoal or wood, a pellet grill is a handy thing to have in order to satisfy your craving for moist smoky brisket. It’s the easiest and quickest way to get wood-smoked flavors into your cooking.
The downside to this is that it’s a bulky oven. A typical pellet grill contains an internal fan that circulates smoke and heat much like convection cooking and a smokestack that helps intensify the smoky flavor. Some brands, however, do not have a smokestack at all but use vents in order to release smoke. This type of grill is more portable and easy to bring along on road trips.
They also tend to be expensive. But if you don’t mind spending a bit more for an outdoor oven that will replicate the taste of a good ole barbecue, you’ll love the convenience of using it.
That’s because they’re pretty much automatic: just put the brisket on the grill, put some wood pellets on, pick your desired temperature setting and turn it on. Some models are even app-friendly; you can monitor the temperature and fuel of the grill using your smartphone.
Having a tight budget shouldn’t stop you from getting a pellet grill. Here are my top picks for the best pellet grills that have top-notch features but are not over-the-top in price.
And, while you're thinking about grilling, getting the best quality meat is important too. Ordering your chicken, beef, and seafood online can help in this area, as you can focus on companies that follow ethical practices and produce high-quality products.
The Best Pellet Grills
- Z GRILLS Upgrade Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker 6 in 1
- Green Mountain Davy Crockett WiFi Control Portable Wood Pellet Grill
- Ozark Grills – The Razorback Wood Pellet Grill a Smoker
- PIT BOSS Wood Pellet Grill
- Traeger Grills Ranger Grill Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker
1. Z GRILLS Upgrade Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker 6 in 1
This is an upgraded version of the Z Grills Wood Pellet Electric Grill that now has a more precise temperature control and pellet feed control system. Its digital control board automatically ignites the grill and allows you to choose temperature settings from 180°F to 450°F.
You can barbecue, bake, roast, braise, smoke, grill, sear, or char-grill your meats on this grill. You can cook for 20 hours using only 20 lbs of wood pellets. Its PID technology allows it to hold the tightest temperature for more even convection cooking.
It’s made from stainless steel and has a 15-pound hopper capacity. It has a secondary warming grill above the level of the exhaust that is best used for cooking veggies. It’s also equipped with a foldable shelf, rust proof cover and racks, and heavy duty all terrain wheels for easy moving.
It’s easy to use and comes with a set of automated features. There’s an Electric Auto-Start Ignition and a Digital Auto Temperature Control which automatically adds pellets as needed to maintain the temperature. It also has a Shutdown Recycle Mode.
This product comes with a 1 year warranty.
- Easy to assemble and use; instruction manual is clear and easy to understand
- High quality but not as expensive as other high-end models
- Not waterproof
- Very heavy
2. Green Mountain Davy Crockett WiFi Control Portable Wood Pellet Grill
If you’re looking for portability, then this product should catch your fancy. It weighs 68 lbs and folds neatly into any trunk. It has strong spring legs on the base of the unit, which are designed to set on the tailgate of your pickup truck.
This is a small unit. A user said that he was able to cook two 8-pound pork shoulders from Cosco. It will also fit a trimmed 15 lb brisket. If you’re cooking a turkey for Thanksgiving in this grill, only a small bird (about 6 lbs) will fit the grill.
It runs on 12V or 120AC so it’s perfect for home or camping. You can also power this grill with a car battery or a small solar panel. It draws an average of 5 amps so power usage is low. One user recommends that the battery be fully charged before connecting it to the grill.
This unit comes with digital WiFi controller that can be accessed through an iOS or Android mobile application. It also has a thermal sensor, Sense-Mate, which constantly monitors grill temperature.
Other accessories include a temperature probe which allows you to see the food’s internal temperature without opening the lid. It will also alert you when the meat is cooked.
This product comes with a 2-year warranty on all parts and grill elements.
- Programmable temperature settings which can be adjusted 5 degrees at a time
- Runs off any voltage you have available: 12V cigarette lighter, 12V jumper cable, or 110V converter
- Doesn’t have a sensor that alerts the user if the grill needs more pellets
- Doesn’t have wheels for added mobility.
3. Ozark Grills – The Razorback Wood Pellet Grill a Smoker
This is a compact pellet smoker that’s ideal for small families or a single person. You can bake, braise, grill, roast, and smoke your food on its wide 305 square inches of cooking area.
It has a heavy gauge powder coated steel exterior, an auger that’s cast iron, a porcelain-coated grill, and a fire pot made from high-refractory steel.
It’s also easy to use. The Digital Control Panel allows you to control the temperature within 165°F to 450°F range. It also uses a PID algorithm and precise sensors to accurately regulate airflow and feed fuel to the fire, so that a constant cooking temperature is maintained.
- Easy to assemble
- Reliable aftersales service
- Poorly sealed lid; a user encountered a grease leak when using it
4. PIT BOSS Wood Pellet Grill
This pit grill runs on 120V, 50/60 Hz. It is made from heavy duty steel and features porcelain-coated cooking grates. It also has two large metal wheels for easy transport.
It can hold about 5 lbs of wood pellets. It doesn’t have a smokestack but it has vent holes at the back of the barrel.
It comes with simple slide plate for direct and indirect flame grilling. There’s also a removable side shelf/serving and a solid bottom shelf.
Temperature settings can be accessed through a user friendly Digital Control Board with LED Readout. It also has a dial-in temperature control knob that has a range of 180°F to 500°F. Users have reported cooking a whole chicken and a 15lbs turkey with great results.
Accessories also include a stainless steel thermometer and a stainless steel bottle opener.
- Has a flame broiler
- Start/Stop Cycle Feature: Automatic start and cool down
- Doesn’t come with a meat probe but has option to hook up 2 probes to the LED readout
- Legs don’t fold for easily storage
5. Traeger Grills Ranger Grill Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker
This pellet grill is built for the road so it’s equipped with a baffled lid design as well as lid latches for durability and safe transport.
Its unique feature is the Digital Arc controller which allows you to control temperature precisely with an added option of a Keep Warm Mode. The temperature can be adjusted in increments of 5 degrees. There’s a built-in meat probe that allows you to monitor the food’s internal temperature without lifting the lid.
Accessories include a cast iron griddle for searing steak or frying bacon and eggs. This comes with a 1-year warranty.
- Easy to use
- Compact and portable
- Requires Traeger pellets to ensure that the burn is clean
- Some users report that the Traeger inventory contains some units that malfunctioning controllers
Buyers Guide To Choosing Your Pellet Grill
Smokestacks or Vents
A pellet grill with a smokestack will have better airflow and produce more smoke that will enhance the flavor of the meat. But because this makes it bulkier, some prefer vented pellet grills instead because they’re more portable.
Most pellet grills will have 2 to 5 vents. If you decide on them, look for grills with louvered vent holes. This is because the louver design will eliminate the need for a cover for the vent holes.
It will allow sufficient airflow while keeping out dirt, water, and debris. If you can’t find one with louvered holes, pick one that has a shield or cover above its vents.
A hopper is the grill’s pellet container. The larger it is, the more cooking time you have. As a general rule, a pellet grill that has a 40 lbs hopper will give you about 40 hours of cooking time at standard smoking time.
And if you’re cooking in a colder climate, you’ll require more fuel. If you don’t have a sufficiently large hopper, you can buy a hopper extension. Just make sure that it’s compatible with your pellet grill brand.
Find out how many pounds of pellets per hour the grill will burn. Ideally, any pellet grill that burns a pound per hour at smoking temperatures is fine.
Bear in mind that the thickness of a grill’s metal will affect pellet consumption. If it’s constructed thinly, there will be significant heat loss so it will require lots of pellets just to maintain the temperature.
Similarly, if the walls are too thick, it will act as a heat sink, drawing away the heat from cooking area and storing it in the walls. This means you will be using a lot of pellets as well in order to maintain the right temperature.
Pellet grills made from high-quality materials like stainless steel will retain heat better resulting in more efficient pellet consumption. If it relies on powder coated steel, make sure that the coating will last a long time otherwise it will chip away quickly and the grill will start to rust.
Others recommend that the fire pot, flame deflector, drip pan, and grates of the pellet grill should be made of marine-grade stainless so that the grill will last a lifetime.
Be on the lookout for special features that make the grill easier to use. For greater portability, some smokestack models will feature wheels so that you can easily move them around. For vented models, some will have foldable legs so that you can easily carry and store them. If you can find one with both features, that’s a good buy.
For more convenience, pick the ones with WiFi connectivity. It’ll allow you to monitor and control your grill’s temperature as long as you’re within WiFi coverage.
Another handy feature in a grill is a controller that allows meat probes to be directly plugged in. This will allow you to conveniently display the reading on the screen of your cooker.
One year warranties are standard for this type of machine but since they are relatively high-tech appliances, you’re better off choosing a product that can guarantee more than a year.
Check also the quality and responsiveness of its aftersales service by reading through the comments on its product page. Having reliable customer support will take the stress off the hassle of receiving a faulty product.