Wood = flavor = pro-level mouthwatering grilling.
If you’re on the hunt for a pellet grill, then you’re already clued into this grill secret.
Pellet smokers are key to achieving the smoky, wood-fired taste pit bosses are known for and the right pellet smoker will come with some key features to make grilling and smoking easy and fun.
Our top must haves: temp versatility, decent hopper weight capacity, feeding automation.
We’ve compiled a list of the best pellet performers with a break down of what each has to offer in a range of price points.
Remember how I said that one of the key must-haves in a pellet smoker was versatility? Z-Grills hits the top of our list for being a high-level 8-in-1 performer.
The ZPG is designed to grill, smoke, bake, roast, sear, braise, barbeque or char-grill. I think the only thing it can’t do is chill your beer.
It comes with fan-forced convection cooking, which means no rotisserie needed and allows you to cook your meat any way you like with no hassle and no add-on kits.
The new 2019 model also comes equipped with the temperature and pellet feed control upgrade, which auto-ignites and lets the user fine tune temps between 160 and 450 degrees for cooking quick and hot or low and slow.
Z Grills guarantees a temp variation of no greater than 5 degrees +/- whether it’s below zero or over 100 degrees outside, so if you’re that guy grilling on your covered deck in snow boots and a hat, you’re good to go.
The auto-feed system maintains an even and consistent temp and smoke output, keeping the pellets flowing through the belly of the beast because you’re a griller, not a babysitter.
Hopper capacity is a generous 20lbs, which is considered high capacity for this category, lasting about 20 hours.
I also love the Z-Grills because it is roomy – you’re getting 700 square inches of cook-space, which includes the smoke rack. This is one of the larger grills on our list and can feed a horde if you’re regularly hosting.
Additional features worth noting are the 25,000 BTU burner, the digital pellet purge system, LED temperature readout, easy to clean and dump grease bucket collection system, locking caster wheels, stainless steel construction with high heat resistance to prevent corrosion and top durability.
The ZPG also hits the top spot because the pricing on this model is reasonable given all the features packed into it and the overall quality of the feed and smoke.
There are more expensive grills on our list with a few more bells and whistles, but they don’t outperform when it comes to the value for cost calculation.
If you have a bigger budget you can spring for the discretionary upgrades in the Camp Chef we highlight next, but the ZPG still tops out for a quality grill with the best all-around experience and value.
The Woodwind is an exceptional smoker grill that offers a well-rounded experience for new and veteran pellet users, along with a few upgrades at a price point closer to the $1,000 mark.
Like the Z Grills, the Camp Chef offers auto-start ignition and a dual LED temperature display with a slightly larger range of 160-500 degrees. The dual LEDs monitor internal food and cooking temps.
The smart smoke technology is designed to allow for precision temperature selection with a variance of +/- 5 degrees, just like the Z Grills, which means if you’re a control freak griller or a carefree cook, you can pretty much set it and forget it.
The hopper and augur-feed system is also automatic so you’re not constantly regulating operations. Total hopper capacity is 22lbs.
A few fun features that I like on the Camp Chef are the attached bottle opener, streamlined grease management system, and the simple ash cleanout. Total cooking area between the two racks is 811 square inches so the overall size on this grill is a little over 100 square inches larger than the ZPG.
The main difference between this grill and the Z Grills that accounts for the big price jump is the Sidekick.
This is the little side burner rack on the left of the grill that can act as a sear station, griddle or extra grill space. It includes a propane hookup and the cast-aluminum burner offers 30,000 BTUs of power.
Like other standard gas grills the sidekick has one touch ignition, an independent grease management system and wind baffled technology to protect your grilling from the elements. This is the bell and whistle upgrade that is a great value if you have a little more flex in your spending.
The last grill in our top 3 line up gets top marks for offering a slimmer, portable profile.
I really love the versatility of being able to take this smoker box on the go, it’s the perfect addition to a road trip with the family, camping or even all day tailgating. It folds up like great stainless suitcase, with wheels and a handle for easy transport.
I also find that you’re not compromising on quality or cook versatility in favor of portability. Camp Chef packs in all the essential features and all the great automation you enjoy with their stationary grills.
Like the Woodwind, the Pursuit offers an electronic auto-igniter, automatic augur, and simple temperature selection with dual probes for meat and internal box temps with the same LED readout.
The hopper size on the Pursuit is the only real compromise, at just 10lbs, it has about 10 hours of life before a refill is needed. Since this grill is designed for use on the go, the smaller size makes sense here.
Total cooking area is 501 square inches, comparable to the ZPG.
My favorite feature on the Pursuit that the ZPG and Woodwind don’t have is the slide and grill technology. Camp Chef developed this so you can switch between direct and indirect flame cooking just by pulling on a knob.
This is a solid grill if you’re looking to be able to use a smoker outside your backyard and need a quality grill that can keep up without slowing you down.
The Davy Crockett is Green Mountain‘s portable smoker grill option. While it falls a bit short of the Pursuit in terms of ease of use, and quality of construction, it’s a great lower budget grill.
The GMG includes sense-mate technology, which is their version of automatic temperature monitoring.
The portability comes from the legs, which fold up to double as handles. I prefer the wheeled suitcase style of the Pursuit for travel, but this works just fine if the walk from the car to grill spot is short.
The Davy Crocket includes a single meat probe, a peaked lid in case you’re cooking full size chickens, and a drop down side rack with utensil holders for prep and storage.
Cook size is 219 square inches and the hopper capacity tops out at 17lbs, which is pretty generous compared to the Pursuit.
The most interesting feature is that GMG added wifi tech so all temps can be monitored on a smart phone using their app. While this isn’t something you can use while on the go, it’s a fun feature to geek out on at home.
This is a roomy offering from Pit Boss with great quality construction and a no frills frame.
The temperature range on the 700FB is pretty standard, at 180-500 degrees. Like the other options on our list, it features electronic ignition and both indirect and direct cooking with an electronic burn system that lets you control burn length in addition to the heat.
The cast iron cooking grids are porcelain coated and the overall construction uses stainless steel components.
The cooking area on the 700FB is roomy at 700 square inches over two racks with 40,000 BTUs of total cook power, the equivalent of about 32 burgers. The hopper capacity is 18lbs.
This is a great entry-level grill with enough features that a newbie to pellet grilling can feel at home, while veteran smokers will be satisfied with the quality of the overall experience.
Another mid-range option in the smoker category, the Cuisinart is a solid backyard favorite with respectable ratings for quality. This is better suited to the weekend warrior and may disappoint die-hard pit bosses.
The CPG-4000 is a 6 in 1, offering the option to grill, smoke, roast, braise, barbecue and bake. It offers a larger 450 square inch cooking space and 15lb hopper capacity. Pellets auto-feed for continuous cooking and a digital temp readout for fine-tuning cook levels.
The overall design features all-terrain wheels, a side handle and pop up table for storing condiments and tools while cooking.
The RT-700 is one of the biggest, baddest grills on this list with the price tag to match.
This beast includes a crazy 40lb hopper and a total 1054 square inch cooking area encompassing both racks.
Construction is top-grade stainless steel on just about everything. It is also a smart grill with wifi technology that monitors temperature, pellet volume and feed, as well as automatic shut down. Temperature range is 200-500 degrees with nuanced 5 degree increments.
Other notable features include: dual meat probes, automatic lighting, stainless steel cooking grates, a ceramic ignition system, a bottom shelf for storage and utility hooks for storing tools.
Traeger offers some of the best built pellet grills on the market, but have dropped in our rankings due to customer service issues customers have been experiencing recently.
The grills themselves are top performers, but when issues arise, the Traeger team has been disappointing.
So what can you expect from the Renegade? For starters, 380 square inches of grilling area and a 18lb hopper capacity. Versatility isn’t quite as high as the top performers – the Renegade is a 6-in-1 grill.
The automatic temp control keeps temperatures within a +/- 20 degree spread (a wider range than our top performers) and allows for low and slow cooking on the “smoke” setting. The electronic ignition is auto-start and grill grates are easy to clean porcelain for a non-stick surface.
I do love all the storage on this grill, especially the tool caddy rack with room for condiments and hanging utensils.
This mini Camp Chef is a great smaller alterative to the full size version at a lower price point that makes it more accessible to a wider range of grill budgets.
I love this option for grillers newer to smoking that need a smooth and easy introduction.
Overall size is 570 square inches with an 18lb hopper capacity. Like the larger version, it features smart smoke technology, a meat probe, electronic auto-start ignition, and a dual LED temperature readout for monitoring internal food and cooking temps to fine tune the experience.
It is narrower than most of the smokers on our list and comes with sturdy casters for easy movability. This is a great option if you’re grilling for a smaller group.
This last 6-in- 1 offering from Traeger doesn’t look like any other smoker on this list and could easily be mistaken for a regular gas grill with no barrel or smokestack.
The Elite is also one of the pricier options, coming in over the $1,000 mark.
So what can you expect from the higher-end Traeger? Cooking capacity is fairly generous at 589 square inches, which is large enough to hold 4 chickens, 4 racks of ribs or 20 burgers at once. Hopper capacity comes in at 18lbs.
The overall construction is strong, made primarily of stainless steel with a roomy enclosed lower cabinet for storage. The digital elite controller is reminiscent of an oven dial and makes setting smoking temps easy and precise. Max temp is 450 degrees and the LED display makes for easy readings.
The grill gates are made of porcelain and especially easy to remove and clean, like the other Traeger on this list.
This is a large profile grill and a solid intro into the art of smoking.
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I am a grill freak! It's hard to pick my favorite thing to grill, but if I had to choose... it is still a tie between pork ribs and a juicy beef burger. I am currently grilling on a Weber S210(I live in a small space) but my dream grill is definitely a summit. Those things are bad ass. Anyways I would love to hear from you, leave a comment or question below!