If you need a versatile, easy to use backyard cooker then consider a pellet grill. It makes smoking, grilling and cooking a breeze. A pellet grill and smoker makes you feel like a pitmaster.
Does the smell of barbecue get you excited? Hungry thinking about juicy brisket or tender ribs for your next cookout? This guide will get you there faster!
You could spend hours reading pellet smoker reviews or read over this comprehensive guide. We’ll break down the best pellet smokers available in 2021. We’ll also run through some of the pros and cons of cooking with pellets to help you decide what to buy confidently
In a rush to start cooking? We believe that the Camp Chef SmokePro LUX is the perfect balance of performance and value for money and could be the best pellet smoker for most folk.
Note: Don’t be worry if you see the terms “pellet smoker” ,“pellet grill” or “pellet grill and smoker” used, they refer to the same thing.
Our Recommended Pellet Smokers
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I think that pellet grills excel at holding a low, precise temperature for long periods of time. Perfect for that hunk of brisket that needs some low & slow TLC.
They are also incredible at holding a very high heat, and we all know what that means… getting the perfect sear on a steak! These have gained a reputation to be very low maintenance and have acquired the nickname ‘the auto grill’.
Think along the lines of ‘set it and forget’. This style of cooking is perfect for those of you who like to be both the backyard chef and also the entertainer.
“But the fact that in Texas barbecue, you’re taking one of the worst pieces of the animal and converting it into one of the best is a miracle itself.”Aaron Franklin – Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto.
The 9 Best Pellet Grills Reviewed
My Pick For The Overall Best Pellet Smoker – The Camp Chef SmokePro LUX Pellet Grill
When I say that this smoker is the best pellet smoker, I mean it. Not only does the Smokepro LUX basically get a 5/5 for everything from the initial set up to its features list and construction quality, it’s very very reasonably priced. I don’t use the word perfect very often but the Smokepro LUX is worth using that magic word for.
The SmokePro Lux strikes the perfect balance between value and quality. It does have a large cooking capacity with over 900 square inches, perfect to use when cooking for a group of up to 20.
Usually with the bigger units you are a little let down by the additional features and the overall craftsmanship, however the Lux seals perfectly and is great at smoke production and holding a consistent cooking temperature throughout cooks.
If you are looking for a unit to cook for a crowd you shouldn’t look past the LUX, I tested this unit for a graduation party. I had no issues keeping up with my starving guests. I comfortably fed around 20 hungry adults & kids! I just wish that I had the sear box.
What We Liked
- Accurate built in meat probe
- 3 year warranty
- Sturdy wheels
- Well designed ash clean out system
- Brilliant temperature control
- Power failure reset
What We Didn’t Like
- The safety grate in the hopper can make it a little awkward to get access pellets out
- The lid doesn’t always line up first time, with a bit of jigging about we sorted it quickly
SmokePro LUX Key Features
- Cooking Space: The cooking space on this pellet grills broken up into two areas, the upper rack area (221 square inches) and the bigger lower rack area (663 square inches) where the bulk of your cooking will be done. This is more than enough cooking space for everyones needs. Maybe even a small restaurant. A total of 884 square inches of cooking space.
- Temperature Range: You also get a great cooking temperature range of 160 to 500 degrees°F. We found it was perfect for cooking everything from our favourite rack of ribs to getting a nice char on our smoked chicken.
- Built-In Digital Thermometer: Standard on this model is a top quality digital thermometer. This thermometer is very accurate and easy to read. Perfect for quick checks on how the internal meat temperature is coming along. The temperature is displayed on an easy to read LED dash.
- Power Failure Reset: Another great feature this smoker is the power failure reset. This is great for overnight cooks or when you are busy entertaining. This feature will restart the grill automatically if there is a power cut or anything goes wrong with the smoker. Fortunately, this was not a feature that I had first-hand experience using but can definitely see it coming in handy and saving some disappointment in the morning.
- Ash Clear Out System: Cleaning the ash out is a breeze with the exclusive quick release clear out system. No more messy clean outs!
- Thermometers: This smoker comes with 2 meat thermometers. These two thermometers can be plugged into the digital controller and fed through the hole on the right side of the grill. Checking the internal temperature of your meat is as easy as pressing the ‘probe select’ button on the digital pid controller. The thermometers seem to be very accurate when tested against my Thermowand.
- Automatic Auger: As long as you keep the pellets well stocked the unit will do the rest. The automatic auger will feed the pellets into fire box as pellets are needed to keep the perfect amount of smoke circulating through the unit.
- Electronic Start Ignition: The ignition is painless, all you need to do is make sure the unit is full and at the press of a button it is all go. Camp Chef have made a pellet grill that essentially runs itself!
- Easy Setup: Considering the size of this unit it is incredibly easy to set up. The pellet grills instruction manual which is included in your package is easy to follow and includes everything from unboxing. It is a big unit so its always good to have someone else there with you, however, it is possible to. set up by yourself in under 2 hours.
My Final Thoughts and Rating of the Camp Chef Smoke Pro LUX
The features list is massive. Camp Chef has included everything in this unit to make it the ultimate outdoor catering beast. It is big enough to feed a small army without compromising on flavour.
Overall the unit is a little more expensive than some in this list, however, when you take into account the size, features and the general quality of construction you are buying a unit that will last at least 10 years and will feed a lot of people. In my eyes you are not going to need to purchase another unit in the near future.
The Bottom Line: I think it is the perfect smoker for those of you who are a casual smoker but still want a high quality unit but don’t want to go spend a fortune on it.
Camp Chef SmokePro SE Pellet Grill – My Pick For The Cheapest Pellet Smoker
I know what your thinking, the cheapest pellet grill is not going to be the best. Well, I have news for you, this cooker is a fantastic smoker. It is a entry level smoker that has all the basic features you need to get cooking like a pitmaster without breaking the bank.
The SmokePro SE has a low price point but it is still built with Camp Chefs famous quality and craftsmanship and is still backed up by their fantastic customer service. When moving this smoker around the backyard it was super sturdy as well as being smoke tight.
It is big enough for several big racks or ribs, or a huge brisket. It has a nice large grilling area of 19.5 x 22 inches and a total cooking space of 429 inches, which is big for the price point.
This is perfect for the smoker who doesn’t quite have the budget for a more expensive unit but wants to get something that will stand the test of time and still be around when they want to buy more add-ons down the track. With the SmokePro SE, you get all the essential components that you need to smoke great tasting food at a price that is very affordable.
What We Liked
- Electronic auto-ignition
- Built-in temperature gauge controls internal cooking temperature
- Great mobility with strong sturdy wheels
- Grease management system
What We Didn’t Like
- Does not retain heat as well as other models
- No ash catch can make cleaning difficult
- The hopper can get clogged, so its best to keep an eye on it every hour or so
Features of The SmokePro SE
- Temperature Control: The built-in temperature control unit of the Smoke Pro is really great, it’s super easy to use and has a simple ‘low’ or ‘high’ setting. All you need to worry about is setting the temperature and the smoker will maintain the heat for the duration of the cook. The temperature gauge on the outside is another great feature, this allows you to keep an eye on your temperature without lifting the lid and letting the heat and smoke escape, leaving you with a better cooked and flavored result.
- Automatic Auger: This bad boy will feed the exact amount of pellets for the duration of your cook, trust me, you won’t need to check how the fire is going at all. Just load up the decently sized hopper and you are good to go for hours. The adjustable smokestack is also great for when you have a gathering and you need to get the smoke out and above the crowd. No more unhappy guests with smoke stained clothes.
- Temperature Range: The Smoke Pro has an outstanding temperature range from 60 degrees Fahrenheit up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a perfect temperature range for everything from slow pellet grill brisket to getting a good sear on your favorite steak. Its ability to maintain a consistent temperature is second to none, which is one of the major contributing factors to why it is in such high demand right now. It also has a dedicated area so you are able to grill your meat or veggies.
- Bottom Storage Rack: At the bottom of the grill you will find a handy storage rack. This comes in handy for storing cooking tools, covers, unused pans/racks or beer.
Add on Features
- Ash Cup: The clean up is one of the easiest we have come across on any smoker. The removable ash cup is something that I think is brilliant! Instead of dismantling and cleaning your grill after every use, you can simply pull a lever and empty the ash out of the fire pot. It’s so easy you can do it on the fly so you are not left with any nasty surprises when you start gearing up for your next cook.
- Jerky Racks: Additional jerky racks are not included with this model, however, they can be purchased or are included in the other models. These are great for anyone who smokes smaller items such as jerky, bacon, sausage or chicken wings. The racks are designed with smaller gaps between the wires so no food drops down into the smoker.
My Final Thoughts and Rating of the Camp Chef SmokePro SE
The Bottom Line: Don’t have the cash to purchase the top of the line pellet grill? This is a fantastic entry level smoker that is built to the highest standard but doesn’t come with all the expensive features and add-ons.
It is compatible with all Camp Chef assessors so as you grow in your smoking career you can purchase more parts and accessories.
Pit Boss 71700 Pellet Grill BBQ – My Pick For The Easiest Pellet Smoker to Use
The Pit Boss 71700 is going to be your next backyard best friend. It is a super easy to put together and use unit. If you like entertaining more than slaving over the grill then this unit is for you!
Do you want a pellet grill that is extremely user friendly? The Pit Boss 700 should be on your shortlist.
The hopper on the Pit Boss 700 is the largest on this list, which is means it perfect for the set and forget take of cook. The automatic auger feeds pellets into the fire box as needed so there is no need to keep checking it.
You can use it as a smoker, a grill and even bake bread in it. Love steak? The added flame broiler is a really good feature and gives you the option too give your steak a good sear. From the unboxing to your first smoke the Pit Boss is really simple to. use. It is a large unit, however, it is possible to set up by yourself within an hour or so.
What We Liked
- Huge cooking space
- Adjustable cooking rack
- Heavy duty construction
- Brilliant temperature control
- Really easy to clean
- Innovative flame broiler
What We Didn’t Like
- The steel wheels rattle and shake a lot when moving
- The back vents can release heat
- Pellets can get stuck when removing
Pit Boss 71700 Key Features
- Power Source: Another great feature of the Pit Boss is unlike most other pellet grills you do not require an outlet for power. This bad boy can comfortably run off a converter from your car battery, perfect for camping trips, tailgating or afternoons at the park.
- Additional Features: The Pit Boss 71700 comes with an additional storage towards the bottom of the legs. This comes in great for storing the cover, utensils or food. It also helps keep the whole unit more stable and rigid.
- Versatility: With temperatures ranging from 180 – 500 degrees Fahrenheit you can smoke, sear, bake, braise, char-grill, roast, grill and BBQ until your heart’s content.
- User-Friendly: The Pit Boss is great for those just starting off smoking. You can just load the hopper, set the temperature on the easy to use digital control board and you are set to go.
- Huge Cooking Space: The 700 square inches of cooking space is plenty of room for cooking up to 10 or more guests. With the hood closed you have more than enough space to fit a whole turkey inside. The added convenience of a flame broiler is a great addition for those steak lovers.
- Pre Heat Time: Considering its size, pre heating the 700 takes very little time. Within a couple of minutes you have a decent amount of smoke and within 5 minutes. It usually takes around 10 – 15 minutes to come up to temperature
My Final Thoughts and Rating of the Pit Boss 71700 FB Pellet Grill
The Bottom Line: The 71700 FB is perfect for those backyard cooks who love entertaining and want lots of cooking space.
Traeger Pro Series 22 Pellet Grill Smoker – My Pick For The Best Quality Pellet Smoker
Being one of the first names in Pellet smoking you would expect Traeger to know a thing or two about pellet smoking, and they do. The Pro series 22 is a pellet grill that has been constructed with the highest quality with only the features you need to produce great tasting food. This pellet grill is for the serious backyard smoker who loves quality over anything else.
When you are the pioneer of something you have a responsibility to stay above your competition. Traeger have done exactly that with the Pro Series 22. This is a pellet grill made with superb quality, and at the end of the day with a quality smoker you have a higher chance of creating quality food right?
The pro series 22 is not jam packed full of features, however, it does include the necessary features you need to create great food very easily. This is a smoker that has been thoroughly thought out in the design process. Everything from the sawhorse frame to the dual thermometers seem to work perfectly.
This is a smoker for the true lovers of quality.
Green Mountain Davy Crockett Pellet Smoker
My Pick For The Best Value Pellet Grill
If you’re looking to spend all the money in the world but still want a unit that is well built, easy to use, inches of cooking space and will stand the test of time look no further than this pellet grill!
When you talk about value for money you have to think about a few different things. Construction, features and overall taste of the food. The Green Mountain Davey Crockett ticks all of those boxes.
This little guy has enough space to comfortably cook for 8 people and still be small enough to take with you on your camping trip or tailgate session. Its legs even fold into a convenient carry handle. This unit is the only pellet grill in this list that features WIFI and the ability to control is via smart phone!
What We Liked:
- WIFI enabled
- Small enough to conveniently move
- Sturdy removable legs
- Free IOS and Android App
- Multiple power options
What We Didn’t Like
You can’t feed more than 12 people with smoker in one go
Davy Crockett Pellet Smoker Key Features
- Wifi Enabled: The grills stand out feature is the WiFi. We simply downloaded the free app from the app store. The app allowed us to easily monitor & control the temperature. It also sends you an error and low fuel notifications, so you never have to worry about forgetting to load the hopper again. We have found that Often the wifi feature is seen as a way the retailer can jack up the price. However with this grills price point you’re looking at a reasonable pellet grill price.
- Multiple Power Options: Included in the box are three different power options. You have the AC adapter, 12-volt plug and battery alligator clips. These options are extremely handy for when you are taking the grill from a trip and don’t have a traditional power socket nearby.
- Portability: This grill is made for those who like to cook delicious smoky meals anywhere. This grill smoker is small enough to fit in the the boot of any car or in back in your truck.
My Final Thoughts and Rating of the Green Mountain Davy Crockett Pellet Grill
With the convenience of WiFi, the portability and durability I think it is worth every penny. This grill is something that every camping enthusiast should have in there arsenal.
The Bottom Line: If you like cooking away from home, you need this smoker!
Green Mountain Daniel Boone Pellet Smoker
My Pick For The High Tech Pellet Grill
The Green Mountain Grills (GMG) Daniel Boone is a wood pellet grill with 458 square inches of cooking space. It has a hood for getting those large pieces of brisket or whole chickens.
This is an incredibly versatile unit that can replace your existing bbq, grill and smoker, this is partly thanks to the temperature range. You can easily adjust and maintain temperatures between 150°F to 500°F.. The unit comes standard with a thermometer probe that you can place through the little hole in the side of the smoker – no more jamming the lid closed on your cord!
Where the Daniel Boone really shines is the WIFI. You can either buy the unit WIFI ready or not. I will tell you right now the only model you should be considering is the WIFI model
Although it might be on of the smaller units on this list, it still has more than enough room to cook 7 racks of ribs or even an entire turkey. So its got enough room to cater to most back yard smokers needs.
What We Liked
- Fantastic temperature control with the digital remote
- A turbo heat up system, which can get to high temperatures in very cold climates
- Large cooking space
- Helpful customer care
- Free IOS and Andriod App to get you cooking from the couch
- Very versatile, use it as a bbq, grill, smoker or even pizza oven
- Accurate thermal sensor
What We Didn’t Like
- You need to reload the hopper every 5 – 6 hours on long smokes
- The hole for the thermometer is very small and only suited to the standard thermometer that comes wit the unit
My Final Thoughts and Rating of the Daniel Boone Pellet Smoker
The Bottom Line: This is a very versatile pellet grill that can double as your grill/ BBQ. It consistently delivers great tasting results, literally at the push of a few buttons. It is a little bit pricey, however, with the features, build quality and ease of use you would be a fool not to get the money together for this pellet grill.
Looking to kept it more natural? I have also reviewed my favorite natural gas smokers. I think its awesome that natural gas is not only cheaper but you NEVER have to worry about running out of gas!
Traeger Tailgater 20
The Traeger Tailgater 20 is the perfect grill for those of you out there who like to take your smoker with you. At only 62 pounds it is easy enough to put in the back of the pickup or camper to take on your next adventure.
It has a cooking surface of 300 square inches. That’s enough room for up to 12 burgers, 2 whole chickens, 18 hot dogs or 3 decent sized racks of ribs.
It comes loaded with great features to make your life easier and more convenient when cooking away from home.
What I Did Like
Lightweight and portable
Durable and long lasting
Easy to clean
What I Didn’t Like
It is very hard to find faults with the Tailgater 20
Traeger Tailgater 20 Key Features
- EZ-Fold Legs: The EZ-Fold leg system is perfect for transportation or setting up the smoker in the back of the pickup.
- Versatile: The Tailgater is not just a one-stop grill. Grill, braise, bake, roast or smoke your meats to perfection.
- Efficient: Using only 300 watts in the first 4 minutes and then only 50 watts after the initial 4 minutes the Tailgater is super efficient.
My Final Thoughts and Rating of the Traeger Tailgater 20 Pellet Smoker
The Tailgater is the perfect grill for anyone who loves taking their grill with them. If that’s on a camping trip, to a tailgate or a friends backyard, this is perfect for you.
The Bottom Line: Want to take your smoker with you? This is absolutely perfect!
Overall Rating: 4.4 / 5
Z Grills 700
The Z Grills 700 sq inch grill is an American built beaut. I loved the large cooking area of 512 square inches and a huuuuuge cooking temperature range of 160 to 450°F. The reliable convection based heat source which allows a perfect even cook every time.
The Z Grills is always a user friendly experience and is sure to be a big hit first time. Set up is easy and you will be smoking within an hour of opening the box! The easy to follow instructions were not even necessary!
What We Did Like
- Shutdown recycle mode
- Second cooking rack
- Internal temperature sensor
- Electronic auto ignition
- American built
What We Didn’t Like
- Slightly lower temperature range high temperature
Z Grills 700 Key Features
- Loads of Grill Space: 513 square inches the main rack & 187 square inches warmer rack. Total of 700 square inches.
- 8-In-One: Grill, bake, roast, sear, braise, barbecue, char-grill or smoke.
- Big Hopper: The large 20 lb hopper is large enough to keep the fire burning for hours and hours.
- Set and Forget: The automated electric feed system maintains temperatures at the press of a button.
- Fan Forced Convection Cooking: This eliminates the need for a rotisserie and creates a versatile cooking environment perfect for all types of cooking.
My Final Thoughts and Rating of the Z Grills 700 Pellet Grill
I believe the Z Grills Pellet Smoker after something that is easy to use but still a really high quality build. This unit has the biggest cooking surface on this list at 700 sq inches. Its a grill suited to those who love outdoor gatherings.
Bottom Line: Reliable, tough built all American grill perfect for cooking delicious food for a crowd.
Overall Rating 4.3 / 5
Yoder Smoker YS640 Grill
Need a smoker which a huge cooking space? The Yoder YS640 has 640 square inches of cooking room. This is more than enough room for several racks of ribs or a whole turkey.
It is a unit that is built for ease, versatility and cooking a large amount of food a restaurant quality. It is built extremely solid. It is constructed from heavy gauge steel. This means that it will last a long time and will not wear away after a few years from general wear and tear. The downside is it weighs around 330 lbs so it’s not the easiest unit to move around by yourself.
Yoder grills and smokers are made of such high-quality materials they even back them up with a lifetime warranty.
What We Liked
- Precision temperature controller with 5 degree increments
- High quality construction
- Lots of cooking space
- Single layer lid with counter balance
- Made in the USA
- Sturdy powder coated steel construction
What We Didn’t Like
- The cover that is included is thin, so we recommend picking up one
Key Features of the Yoder YS640
- Digital Controller:The Yoder Smoker comes with a sophisticated proprietary digital controller, which means it analyses the temperature inside the meat and the smoker to maintain the desired temperature within a few degrees. This is achieved by controlling the pellet distribution, as well as lowering the temperature as your meat nears its completion. This means the Yoder leaves no room for errors. This is a great feature for those of you who like to entertain your guests, play with the kids or simply just ‘set it and forget’.
- Cooking Range: The YS640 has an outstanding cooking range of 150 to 600°F, this is perfect for all night low and slow brisket or quickly searing your favourite cut of steak.
- Upgradable Cooking Space: Love cooking your delicious BBQ for your backyard party? The cooking space is easily upgradable to over 1000 square inches of cooking area.
- Wide Range of Accessories (you actually would use): Do you like having the best of the best? The YS640 has a very wide range of additional accessories and upgrades. Yoder are also at the top of their game when it comes to updating the computer control system, they have periodical updates of the firmware to keep you tech lovers happy.
- Hood Counter Weight: The construction of the hood (and rest of the unit) us so tough and heavyweight that the hood needs a counterweight to make it easier to lift this thing up with ease. If that is not a sign that this is a quality built unit I don’t know what is.
- Grease Drain: The grease drain system on the Yoder YS640 is one of the best working systems I have come across. It is a very basic system that allows for very fast clean up. For such a big unit that is something that I really appreciate.
- American Built: It’s important to support local or support companies that are manufacturing products here in the USA. Often you do pay top dollar for products that are made here but you also pay for the quality American craftsmanship. A unit like this is a prime example of why you should always do what you can to buy local and support quality.
My Final Thoughts and Rating of the Yoder YS640
The Bottom Line: Highest of high quality made smoker that is backed up by a lifetime warranty. It has enough space to cook for everyone in your neighborhood at the next block party or for the whole extended family this 4th of July.
Overall Rating: 4.4 / 5
Who Are Pellet Smokers For?
Essentially the pellet smoker is for those backyard cooks out there who are smart. You get a smoker that is extremely easy to use and environmentally friendly. For me, that definitely ticks all boxes!
By now it should be fairly obvious who should invest in a pellet smoker… those who loves the beautiful flavour of smoked meats & vegetables but still wants convenience of set and forget.
The world of smoking can be tricky to get the hang of with some smokers, however, the pellet smoker takes all the hard work out for you. Pellet grills are perfect for:
- The Working Professional: Being a working professional in a lot of places mean that you work long hours and you don’t have the time to set up the BBQ or smoker when you get home. The pellet smoker takes minimal effort to set up and once it is fired up you have all the time in the word to get the rest of your chores done. The set & forget functionality of the pellet smoker is a huge advantage in this case!
- Weekend Travellers/Campers: Because some models of pellet grills are quite small these are perfect to tuck away in the storage compartments of your camper or car. You can keep a few pellets handy for a quick and easy dinner while enjoying your lakeside view, or for when you catch that surprise fish at the riverside camp! You will be the envy of your campsite and that smell will be sure to lour in some new friends!
- Tech Heads: The tech side of things in the smoking world is always on the move, nowadays there is a tonne of different tech advancements that are quite cool. You can now get smokers that have WiFi. I know what you are thinking and no this is not so you can scroll facebook while you smoke. This genius little idea is so you have perfect temperature control and even the from your phone! This is great for setting up your smoker in the morning then turning it on when you are on your way home!
- First-Time Smokers: If you are just starting out in the smoking world a pellet set up is perfect for you. The set it and forget method lets you concentrate on getting the right combination of ingredients, flavours and your recipe down. Without the added stress of concentrating on keeping your smoker at the right temperature or keeping the fire stoked.
- Competition Smokers: When entering smoking competitions, in most cases you are fairly limited to what you can use. Both gas smokers and electric smokers are considered to be ‘automated’ so are not allowed. The pellet smoker is not automated, only controlled so you are good to go!
- Those Who Care For The Environment: When you think of meat smoking, something you don’t think of is the environment. An added bonus of the pellet smoker is that burning wood pellets produces around 90% less carbon dioxide than traditional fossil fuels like oil or gas. Burning just tone tonne of wood pellets can save a whopping 400 litres of oil. This means you are saving 1,070kg of carbon dioxide from entering the world’s atmosphere. Pretty cool right?
- Smoke Masters: Even well-seasoned smoke masters can appreciate the pellet smoker. You can perfect your favourite recipes in the pellet smoker. Why you ask? The major bonus here is having almost perfect temperature control. This allows you to get your meat to the exact temperature you need it to be tender, juicy and falling off the bone effortlessly.
Note: If you do enjoy cooking make sure you use top quality products as well! Order meat online so that you get the best cuts every time!
How Does The Pellet Smoker Work?
Pellet smokers have different types of controls, those controls decide when to feed pellets into a burn pot. An igniter rod sits in the bottom of the pot which heats like a stove element. As the pellets light, a fan blows and feed them oxygen which starts the smoke production.
Since the entire process is automatic, you’re not required to mess around with things like you would do with a wood or charcoal smoker grill, nor do you need to play around with temperature settings.
This means you’re free to do a whole lot of other chores without having to constantly worry about what’s happening to your food. And what’s more, this kind of smoker doesn’t require much of maintenance, unlike the conventional wood smokers or even the best charcoal smoker.
Pellet smokers work with the convection process. Put simply this means that the smoke is circulated through the cooking chamber by an induction fan. This method provides an intense smoke flavour that is evenly distributed throughout your meat
It is amazing how simple it is to create really good tasting food in one of these bad boys!
Pellet smokers have several key components that can be broken down into the following:
- The Hopper: The process all starts at the hopper. The hopper is where you load up your wood pellets, load this right up to the top and you will have hours of smoking power.
- The Auger: The auger takes the wood pellets from the hopper into the fire pot. The augers speed will change according to how hot you set your smoker, if you are after a hot intense heat, the auger will feed more wood pellets into the fire pit. Whereas if you are after a low and slow heat the auger will feed the fire box slowly.
- The Fire Pot: The fire pot is where the magic happens. At the bottom of the fire pot is a hotrod that lights the wood pellets. The hot rod does all the hard work for and makes sure the fire is alight at all times.
- The Induction Fan: The induction fan takes the smoke from the fire pot and circulates the smoke throughout the cooking chamber. This is what gives your meat that deep smoky flavour.
- The Shutdown: The shutdown is where the pellet smoker stays on for a further 5 minutes after cooking. This allows the smoker to get rid of any additional ash & smoke after cooking so you are left with a cleaner smoker. Combine all these components and you get one very easy to use and efficient smoker. Perfect for everyone form a complete beginner to a well-seasoned smoking master.
Factors to Consider When Buying A Smoker
There are some other elements that come into play when defining a good pellet smoker. These factors can differ from person to person and do depend on exactly you want to get out of it.
- The Size, Cooking Area & Portability: In the smoking world, bigger is not necessarily better. One of the first things that you should consider when buying a pellet smoker is the unit size. What exactly do you need it for? Will you be taking it away in the camper, over to the neighbours or an event? Or will it spend most of its life out on the Veranda? Secondly, you should decide how many people will regularly be cooking for. It’s not going to be essential for you to get a large unit if you only plan to cook up for the family.
- The Smokers Temperature Range: The temperature range is a very important part of your smoker. This will be a little different for everyone depending on what you like to smoke, how long you like to smoke for and the style of cooking you generally do. In general, most pellet smokers will comfortably sit at temperatures between 180° F and 450° F. This range is perfect for grilling, baking, roasting and of course smoking.For those of you who like a good sear on your meat, you will want to go for something that will comfortably reach 550° F and beyond. You might even see some high-end pellet grills which can reach 500° F – 700° F which is hot enough to sear and fire-roasted pizza.Another thing to think about when buying is the quality of the built-in thermometer, without a decent thermometer your smoker will not give the best results.
- The Controller Type: We all want to open our smoker and have the perfect piece of meat. The best way to achieve this is by having a smoker that can hold a constant temperature. This allows you to perfect your cook times and take your meat out at the perfect time. The control board is the part of the smoker that looks after cook time, this is an essential part of a good smoker. All pellet smokers will have one of the four controllers. These four are set out below from the most basic to the most sophisticated. As you look at more high-quality smokers, they should include one of the more high-quality controllers. As a general rule of thumb, the more expensive smokers should have a one-touch non-PID controller or a PID controller.
- Position Controller: 3 position controllers, also called LMH, these only have 3 temp settings—low, medium, and high—roughly 225°F, 325°F, and 425°F. Pellets released in fixed cycles that are determined by which setting you choose. You have little control over the cooking temperature and smoke, this is usually found on smoker on the lower end of the scale.
- Multi-Position Controller: Multi-position controllers feature a knob with temperature settings that go from 180°F to 420°F it could have an LCD display. However, they also run on fixed cycles and can only maintain a range of about +/-20°F depending on condition e.g wind.
- One-Touch Non-PID Controller: You will see screen display and one-touch buttons for setting the cooking temperature in 5° or 10° increments, these controllers allow you to more accurately set your desired cooking temps. You will most likely find these types of controllers have an input for a meat probe, so you will be able to monitor the internal temps.
- PID Controllers: This is the most sophisticated type of pellet grill controller on the market at the moment, PID controllers are coded to be able to get to and stay at your set temp within only a few degrees, All will feature an LCD screen with the ability to set the temp in 5F increments. Unlike the previous controllers that have a fixed cycle, a PID.
- The Quality Of Construction: Quality is something to think about when buying. You don’t want to buy to cheaply and have it fall to pieces on you in 1 years time. You want to do some research and see what smokers will suit your needs. Some of the important things to think when looking at the constructions of the smoker are:The weight of the lid, you want it to feel heavy, not flimsy. You don’t want to have any gaps so it should sit flush ensuring a good seal. Ensuring its snug, means you’re not losing any heat or smoke. Also, check out the joins such as the welding.Also, find out what material the smoker is made from. Most pellets grills are made of painted steel, however, you will want to find that quality of the steel and paint as it can vary. A good thing to look for is a powder coat that withstands a high, precise temperature.
- Additional features and Add-ons:In the world of pellet smokers, there have been some real technical advancements in the past few years. Now some people might cringe at the thought of mixing new technology with cooking, while others will want all the latest bells and whistles, again this comes down to personal preference and if you are willing to spend more money to get the latest and ‘greatest’.
A few additional features and add-ons that you can get nowadays include:
- Wifi:Thats right you can get a grill that has wifi capabilities.
Programmable Probes: You can now get probes that let you know when your food has reached a certain temperature!
Control Boards with Built in Meat Probe: Combine your meat probe and control board to truly automate your cooking.
- The Power Cord Length: Unfortunately pellet smokers need power, and the only way to get power to them is from a power lead. Depending on your backyard set up at home this can be a little bit difficult. In some situations you might need an extension lead.
To extend the cord you need a large capacity cable as measured in amps. Here’s how to figure out what you need: Watts ÷ Voltage = Amps. If your smoker needs 500 watts, and typical household voltage is 110 to 120 volts:Read more about extension leads on Meathead Galdwyns article on Amazing Ribs
500 ÷ 110 = 4.5, so you need a cable that has a capacity of 4.5 amps.
What are The Pellets That Pellet Smokers Use?
Wood pellets were first designed back in 1982 by Traeger Heating. They are little grill pellets made up of compressed sawdust.
Originally they were just a by-product of timber yards. This is great for us smokers that like to be as chemical free as possible, as the pellets contain no added chemicals or fillers.
Pellets also produce very little as, which means less cleanup and also less chance of nasty ash making its way into your food.
How to Clean and Maintain A Pellet Smoker
It’s a lot of fun sharing my thoughts & knowledge about pellet smokers.
Being around the BBQ is something that I thoroughly enjoy, I love writing about what I have learnt over the past few years. Helping others get into the BBQ, Grill & smoking scene is something that I feel will enrich others lives for years to come. That is of course, if you clean and maintain your smoker.
Once you have finally bought your smoker, you need to learn how to store it, clean it and generally maintain it. Learning these little tricks and putting a little bit of elbow grease in will prolong your new smokers lifespan dramatically. To be honest I take a lot of pride in my smoker and keeping it clean and maintained.
At least once a year you should have a thorough ‘spring clean’ of your smoker. If you use your smokers several times a week you should have a proper thorough clean at least 2 or three times a year. It is amazing how much more life you get out of a clean and well-maintained smoker.
The biggest cleanup issue with pellet grills is the buildup on the heat deflector under the cooking grates. You’ll need good gloves and an apron. On most models, a thorough cleanup means a 30 minute process of taking out the greasy grates and the gooey deflector plate, scraping them and washing them. You should do this when the carbon and grease cover the deflector plateMeathead Galdwyn from Amazing Ribs
6 Simple Steps to Maintaining Your Smoker
- Read Your Instruction Manual: Now I know as a man by nature we don’t like instructions manuals. However, its important to read over them before you clean. Nowadays with all the added features in your pellet grill, there are a lot of parts, and a lot of those parts cannot come into contact with water. You should never hose down your pellet grill. Your pellet grill igniter rod, digital controllers, fans and auger are not too water friendly.
With these parts you should take great caution and only clean by genially scrubbing at the dirt, any moisture or hard knocks can cause damages.When cleaning makes sure to take extra care around the thermostat, the thermostat is very delicate and if jolted can cause it to take false readings.
- Checking and Replacing The Gaskets: There are some parts of your smoker that will wear out a lot faster than other parts. One of these parts is the gaskets. It is important to check them annually or cracks, splits and corrosion. If you do notice anything, don’t stress this is a quick fix with a repair kit or a new gasket. Again your instruction manual will be your best friend when it comes to replacing or tending to the gaskets.
- What To Clean Before You Cook: This one might seem a little obvious. However, not everybody feels the same way about cleaning the smoker before cooking. Some will even tell you that letting the ‘old flavor’s’ build up will enhance the flavors of your cooking. I disagree, you should always clean your smoker before you put anything In there. This is to prevent any nasty flavors tainting your next meal and for health reasons, you don’t want old grease or leftovers getting into your food, that can cause some serious issues.
Before smoking you want to check all the racks, internal walls and roof are clean of any build up, check all the grease/drip pans. The last thing you want is a full drip pan at the start of a cook, that can possibly end two ways: Either very messy or in the worst case in a fire. If your smoker has a grease chute make sure you thoroughly rinse that out and get rid of any build up. Also, check the hopper and auger for any stuck grill pellet.
- Before Turning On Inspect The Burners: Inspecting the burners on your smoker (or any cooking utility) is very important. If you spot any signs of any blockages, leaks or corrosion be sure to hold off using until you know it is safe. Any of the above can cause a fire in the worst case, so if you do notice anything please refer to your instruction manual.
- Maintaining The Exterior: Keeping your smoker looking good on the outside in something many of us take great price in. The best way to keep the exterior of your smoker gleaming is to use a little bit of dish soap in warm water.
Always use a nice soft sponge and stay away from any steel wool or brushes, these can damage the exterior and leave marks. For more stubborn stains you will need to use a little bit more elbow grease mixed with a little bit of vinegar or diluted ammonia. Be sure to stay well away from kitchen sprays and other chemicals as this can also damage the exteriors finish. If you are left with water spots, the best way to get rid of those is with a little bit of unsweetened club soda.
- The Internal Components: Keeping your internals running smoothly is an essential part of having a healthy running smoker. Make sure you keep your fans, motor and belts well lubricated and tuned. Your instruction manual will be the best place to turn to for the best advice on your particular model. This is especially important when your smoker has not been used for a long period of time.
Charlies Last Thoughts About The Best Pellet Grill and Smoker Units
Food is a fantastic way of bringing people from all different walks of life together. Every summer thousands of people discover the joy of smoking, grilling and BBQ-ing, and I think that this is really awesome. Every year we see every manufacturer coming up with new and exciting technology to make smoking easier and more appealing and accessible to a greater audience.
Hopefully this guide will help you with the pros and cons of cooking with pellet grills, and assist you pick out the right model for your budget and needs. Happy smoking!