Sitting in the backyard with the whole family and your best buds on a long summer’s afternoon has got to be one of the greatest joys of life. What could make that better? The smell of your favourite meat slowly seeping out from your pellet smoker, engulfing your backyard. Pellet smokers are one of the best options for backyard entertainers everywhere.
Pellet smokers are perfect for nearly every cut and kind of meat. They are excellent at holding a low temperature for long periods of time, perfect for that big hunk of brisket that needs some of that low & slow TLC. On the flipside, they are also incredible at holding a very high heat, and we all know what that means, getting that perfect steak!
Pellet smokers have also gained a reputation to be very low maintenance and have acquired the nickname ‘the auto smoker’. Think along the lines of ‘set & forget’. This is perfect for those of you who like to be both the backyard chef and also the entertainer.
Prices for pellet smokers can vary depending on what sort of features you are looking for. Two essential features that I would recommend would be the autoignition & the auto fuel feeder, both of these features are fairly standard and give more time t be socialising with my guests or playing in the yard with my kids!
Even the pellet smokers that are on the larger size are convenient to move, most have wheels and are portable. With my experience, they fit in the back of a pickup without any problems! This is fantastic for taking out to the kids weekend matches and over to one of the guy’s backyards when there is a game on.
The quality of pellet smoker grills vary from brand to brand & even model to model. However, generally, this is not reflected in the price alone. When picking out a pellet smoker it is important to think about what you will be using it for and what features you are going to need. This will ensure that you are getting the best value for your money and no flashy add-ons that you simply will not use.
- Need Help Picking A Pellet Smoker?
- Best Pellet Smoker for 2018
- Comparison Table: The Best Pellet Smokers 2018
- A Breakdown: The Best Pellet Smokers for 2018
- Green Mountain Smoker Daniel Boone
- Camp Chef Smoke Pro SE
- Yoder Smoker YS640
- Traeger Grills Pro Series 22
- Camp Chef SmokePro PG24 Deluxe
- Pit Boss 71700 FB
- Green Mountain Davy Crockett Pellet Grill
- Traeger Tailgater 20
- Z Grills Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker YPG 700B
- Why You Need To Buy a Pellet Smoker
- Who Is a Pellet Smoker For?
- How Does a Pellet Smoker Work?
- What Are The Pellets?
- What Defines a Good Pellet Smoker?
- Factors to Consider
- Cleaning and Looking After Your Pellet Smoker
- Final Thoughts
Need Help Picking A Pellet Smoker?
You might have noticed that there are a lot of smoker and BBQ sites out there on the web. Each will claim to give you most accurate information and unbias pellet smoker reviews. However, I have personally used all the pellet smokers I have recommended below and aim to give you a true to heart review.
I want to give you all the most informative and in-depth reviews from first- hand experience to ensure you are cooking and eating the highest quality BBQ.
Best Pellet Smoker for 2018
Here are my picks for the best pellet smokers of 2018. These smokers all tick a few special boxes I have when it comes to selecting the right piece of equipment for the job. I have selected these wood pellet smokers in hope that I can help you narrow your search down to find the perfect wood pellet smoker for your needs. I thoroughly enjoyed this and hope that this helps you.
In no particular order my picks for the best pellet smokers 2018 are:
Comparison Table: The Best Pellet Smokers 2018
Pellet Grills Weight Colour
A Breakdown: The Best Pellet Smokers for 2018
Let’s take a closer look at each of these pellet smokers and break down exactly why I have chosen them to be in my top pellet smokers of 2018 list. If you have any further thoughts on any of these pellet smokers or would like to let me know what you think the best wood pellet smoker is, I would love to hear from you in the comment section below.
Green Mountain Smoker Daniel Boone
The Green Mountain Daniel Boone is one of those wood pellet smokers with a huge cooking space of 432 sq inches. It has a grbrisketeat peaked hood for getting those larger birds in or making a beer can chicken. The Daniel Boone smoker also has a decent temperature range for low and slow cooking, this is a little lower than other models at 150°F to 500°F. The temperature can be easily adjusted at 5-degree intervals thanks to the easy to use control system. This is a good all-around temperature range perfect for this who like to cook low and slow and get a decent sear on their steaks.
For those of you who are more tech-minded, you will love this! The Daniel Boone is WIFI ready and has a really cool app to help you monitor and adjust your cook!
WIFI Enabled: Tech lovers will love the Daniel Boone’s WIFI technology. Easily connect your IOS or Android phone to the smoker through the free Green Mountain App. Once connected you can control & monitor your cook from up to 100 feet away! That is awesome for those of you who don’t want to miss any of the game or love spending time with the kids. I had the IOS app, it was very easy to use and laid out nicely.
Durable: One thing you might notice about the Daniel Boone s that it is quite heavy. However, it comes with very sturdy hard rubber tires with locking brakes, making it very easy to move from the shed outside or vice versa. The heavy hood also adds to the sturdiness of this smoker making it almost bulletproof.
Shut Down: The ‘fan only’ with automatic shut off is another feature that I like on this model, it automatically blows out all of the ash from the firebox after you have finished cooking, basically doing half of the cleaning work for you!
Meat Probe: The Daniel Boone comes with a meat probe that can relay information about the internal temperature of the meat to the digital display, no more need to lift up the hood to check what the temperature of the meat is.
Sense-Mate: One last feature that is worth mentioning is the sense-mate. This feature is a sensor that is constantly monitoring the ambient temperature of the smoker. When the weather gets cold the sensor adjusts the smoker into turbo mode, taking less time to heat up to temperature.
- Height: 51 inches
- Width: 56 inches
- Depth: 24 inches
- Weight: 155 lbs
- Hopper capacity: 17 lbs
Green Mountain Daniel Boone Pros
- 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 service
- Free App to get you cooking from the couch
- Large hopper
- Accurate thermal sensor
Green Mountain Daniel Boone Cons
- Fairly low maximum temperature
- Constructed with a thinner material, so heat can escape easier than other models
The Daniel Boone is a smoker for those of you who love your technology and feeding a crowd. It is a little pricey but in my eyes, this is a worthy investment.
The bottom line: This is a fantastic Green Mountain pellet smoker that is guaranteed to deliver a great tasting result.
Camp Chef Smoke Pro SE
The Camp Chef SmokePro SE Pellet Grill is a high-quality wood pellet grill. It has a nice large grilling area of 19.5 x 22 inches and a total cooking space of 560 inches. This is big enough for several big racks or ribs, or two huge salmon fillets.
It is loaded up with lots of great standard features as well as a very durable and sturdy design.
The Camp Chef Smoke Pro SE is so well reasonably priced taking into account all of the standard features. I think that it makes an amazing long-term investment. Your family and closest friends will love you for it!
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
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 flavoured result.
Automatic Auger: The automatic auger on the Smoke Pro is another stand out feature, 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 amazing temperature range from 60 degrees Fahrenheit up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a perfect temperature range for everything from slow pellet smoker brisket to getting a good sear on your favourite 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.
- Height: 40 inches
- Width: 23 inches
- Depth: 25 inches
- Weight: 110 lbs
- Hopper capacity: 18 lbs
The Camp Chef Smoke Pro SE Pros
- Electronic auto-ignition
- Built-in temperature gauge controls internal cooking temperature
- Great mobility with strong sturdy wheels
- Made of quality materials
- Easy to use ash cleanout system
- Sturdy utility rack
- Grease management system
The Camp Chef Smoke Pro SE Cons
- The hopper is not fully water tight, so if left uncovered pellets can get wet and disintegrate
- Does not perform well in strong direct wind
The Camp Chef Smoke Pro is a good smoker that has lots of room and some good features. For its price you cant ask for much more!
The bottom line: Great quality made smoker that delivers on performance.
Yoder Smoker YS640
The Yoder YS640 has a cooking space of 640 sq inches, this is a fairly large cooking space with more than enough room for several racks of ribs or a whole turkey.
This a seriously sturdy grill for backyard cooks who take their smoking seriously and love to take it to the next level. Yoder grills and smokers are made of such high-quality materials they even back them up with a lifetime warranty.
When it comes to the quality of the smoked and grilled foods that come off the Yoder YS640, this is where it shines most of all. The Yoder YS640 is the best-built wood fired pellet smokers I have come across. Its worth every penny if you’re after a high-quality smoker.
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, producing the highest quality meals each time. This is a great feature for those of you who like to entertain your guests, play with the kids or simply just ‘set & forget’.
Cooking Range: The Yoder YS640 has a great cooking range of 150 to 600°F, this is perfect for all night low and slow recopies or quickly grilling your favourite cut of steak.
Upgradable Cooking Space: The 640 square inches of cooking space is easily upgradable to over 1000 square inches, this is perfect for those of you who are expecting a bigger family or those of you who just can’t say no to cooking for more people.
Accessories: The Yoder YS640 also has a very wide range of additional accessories and upgrades for those of you who like to have the best of the best. 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.
- Height: 54 inches
- Width: 61 inches
- Depth: 36.24 inches
- Weight: 355 lbs
- Hopper capacity: 20 lbs
Yoder Smoker YS640 Pros
- Precision temperature controller with 5-degree increments
- High-temperature direct grilling capability
- High-quality build
- Lots of cooking space
- Single layer lid with counterbalance
- Sturdy powder coated steel construction
- made in the USA
Yoder Smoker YS640 Cons
- Does not retain heat as well as other models
Quality made smoker that is backed up by a lifetime warranty. There are lots of upgrades and technical upgrades available to keep you up with all the new technology.
The bottom line: This American built smokers is one of the best pellet smokers out there!
Traeger Grills Pro Series 22
The Traeger Pro Series 22 Pellet Grill has a temperature range of 150 to 450 degrees and expansive cooking space of 572 sq inches. This is more than enough space with room for 5 racks of ribs, 24 burgers or 4 whole chickens. Perfect for those who often have a decent sized crowd to cook for.
Overall the Traeger Pro Series 22 Pellet Smoker is a sturdy, good looking pellet smoker. It has a durable powder coat finish, loads of internal room and a decent sized hopper. The digital controller keeps temperatures at an accurate temperature and the easy cleanup features are really handy! The Traeger 22 also gives off a beautiful deep smoke flavour, which is an awesome perk.
Low Power Usage: The Traeger Pro Series 22 only uses 300 watts of power for the first four minutes and only 50 watts for the rest of the cook. Pellet smoking is already one of the most environmentally friendly ways of cooking, however, the Traeger Pro Series absolutely takes this to another level.
Durable Design: Traeger is the inventor of the pellet grill. The sawhorse chassis is a solid foundation. The new brawny side lift bar and strong all-terrain wheels make moving the smoker a breeze. Wheather that is a flat path, rocks, grass dirt or through the neighbours back garden.
Accurate Digital Controller: This Traeger smoker also offers an accurate digital controller to keep cooking temperatures within +/-5 degrees f. This ensures you’re getting precision smoking and grilling for all your meats and vegetables each time.
- Height: 49 inches
- Width: 41 inches
- Depth: 27 inches
- Weight: 103 lbs
- Hopper capacity: 18 lbs
Traeger Pro Series 22 Pros
- Dual probes came in handy for monitoring the meats
- Easy cleanup
- Hopper cleanout for changing pellets
- Fully automatic auger
- Large hopper
- Sturdy sawhorse chassis
- All terrain wheels
Traeger Pro Series 22 Cons
- Low maximum heat of only 450 degrees
- The controller is limited to only 10 positions
Durable and good looking smoker that gives off an incredible smokey flavour. One of the best pellet smokers
The bottom line: Large capacity and decent sized hopper to keep all your guests happy without having to tend to the smoker.
Camp Chef SmokePro PG24 Deluxe
The Camp Chef PG24 Deluxe is one of the cheaper smokers out there. However, that does not mean that is skips on features or size. It has a modest size, big enough to keep the whole family and a few friends well fed.
It is extremely user-friendly and has lots of features that you would expect from a more expensive smoker such as the auto start ignition, pellet purge, advanced temperature chip and grease bucket.
It has a nice sleek design and a hopper large enough to have you smoking all night without needing to think about refilling the hopper. The auger runs smoothly and only gives out as many pellets as needed to maintain the temperature.
Cooking Space: The 573 inches of cooking space is plenty of room for cooking for the family or a small crowd. You also get a modest cooking temperature range of 160 to 500 °F. This will have you covered from everything from cooking your favourite rack of ribs to getting a nice char on your chicken breast.
Low Cost: This smoker is priced for those who want to get into smoking but are not yet fully committed to something that is a huge investment. They have kept the cost down by using less metal in the construction. However, this does mean that the smoker is not as sturdy as some other models. This is not a huge issue but something to take into account if you are planning on keeping this as a longer-term investment.
Built-In Digital Thermometer: Standard on this model is a really good 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!
- Height: 51 inches
- Width: 21 inches
- Depth: 45 inches
- Weight: 140 lbs
- Hopper capacity: 18 lbs
Camp Chef SmokePro PG24 Deluxe Pros
- Accurate built in meat probe
- Very reasonably priced
- Sturdy wheels
- Well designed ash clean out system
- Brilliant temperature control
- Power failure restart
- Very efficient cook time
Camp Chef SmokePro PG24 Deluxe Cons
- The lid is a little flimsy and doesn’t always line up
- The safety grate in the hopper can make it a little awkward to get access pellets out
The Camp Chef Pro is one of my favourite cheap smokers out there, it has some great features that you would expect from a more expensive smoker. It is big enough to feed a small crowd & will stay nice and hot throughout your cook. I think it is the perfect smoker for those of you who are a casual smoker and don’t want to go spending a fortune on a smoker.
Pit Boss 71700 FB
The Pit Boss 700 FB is perfect for those backyard beginners who love entertaining. It has a lot of cooking space and is extremely user-friendly. The added flame broiler is a really good feature for those new to the grilling world and gives you an almost unlimited amount of options.
Big 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.
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.
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.
Power Source: Another great feature of the Pit Boss 700 FB is unlike most other pellet smokers 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.
- Height: 41 inches
- Width: 26 inches
- Depth: 43 inches
- Weight: 118 lbs
- Hopper capacity: 20 lbs
Pit Boss 71700 FB Pros
- Huge cooking space
- Adjustable cooking rack
- Innovative flame broiler
- Heavy duty construction
- Brilliant temperature control
- Grease bucket
- Easy to use pellet clean out
Pit Boss 71700 FB Cons
- The steel wheels rattle and shake when moving
- The back vents can release heat
All in all, I think the Pit Boss 700 FB is a fantastic smoker for those of you who regularly cook for a bigger crowd. It is a sturdy, well-made smoker packed full of all the essentials you need to smoke, sear, bake, braise, char-grill, roast, grill and BBQ, no matter how many people are involved.
The bottom line: The Pit Boss 700 FB is the pellet smoker with the best value per square inch on the market right now.
Green Mountain Davy Crockett Pellet Grill
Introducing the Green Mountain Davy Crockett pellet grill. For you guys out there who like camping trips, cooking in the park or technology, this little bad boy is for you.
There was two stand out features on the Davy Crockett for me, the first was the convenient size and the second was the wifi. This little guy has enough space to comfortably cook for 4 people and still be small enough to take with you on your camping trip or tailgate session.
The added convenience try is perfect for storing food, cutlery and doubles as a prep station! Perfect for camping.
Wifi Enabled: The stand out feature of the Davy Crockett is the wifi. Simply download the free app from the IOS or Andriod app store. The app allows you 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. Often the wifi feature is seen as a way the retailer can jack up the price, however with the Davy Crockett this is not the case.
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 with you and don’t have a traditional power socket nearby.
Portability: The Davy Crockett is made for those who like to take their cooking with them. The size if small enough to fit in the storage compartment of a campervan, or to be tucked away in the boot of the car. The 9 lb hopper
- Height: 32 inches
- Width: 16.5 inches
- Depth: 21 inches
- Weight: 57 lbs
- Hopper capacity: 9 lbs
Green Mountain Davy Crockett Pellet Grill Pros
- Wifi enabled
- Accurate meat probe
- Small enough to conveniently move
- Sturdy removable legs
- Free IOS and Android App
- Convenience tray to for easy storage
- Multiple power options
Green Mountain Davy Crockett Pellet Grill Cons
- The hopper does not always feed the auger the correct amount of wood pellets occasionally
The Davy Crockett pellet grill is a fantastic option for those who love to take their grill with them. The adjustable legs give you endless options for where you can set it up.
It gets up to temperature extremely quickly and once set is able to hold a steady temperature. The only downside that I could find was the hopper not feeding the auger consistently, but to be honest, this was not much of a problem and it did not affect the cooking temperature at all.
I did find it to be a little on the expensive side. However, 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!
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, which is plenty of room to feed a group of people. 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.
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.
- Height: 36 inches
- Width: 37 inches
- Depth: 18 inches
- Weight: 62lbs
- Hopper capacity: 8 lbs
Traeger Tailgater Pros
- Lightweight and portable
- Foldable legs
- Easy to clean
- Durable and long lasting
- User friendly
Traeger Tailgater Cons
- Small hopper
The Traeger 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 even in the back of the work pickup.
The bottom line: For those of you who like to take your smoker with you, this is the perfect buy!
Z Grills Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker YPG 700B
The Z Grills 700B is an American built beauty. It boasts a relatively large cooking area of 512 square inches and a good cooking range of 160 to 450°F. The reliable convection based heat source which allows a perfect even cook every time.
The Z grills YPG 700B gives you 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!
- Loads of grill space: 513 sq in the main rack & 187 sq in warmer rack
- 8-in-one: Grill, bake, roast, sear, braise, barbeque, 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.
- Height: 51 inches
- Width: 48 inches
- Depth: 22 inches
- Weight: 173 lbs
- Hopper capacity: 20 lbs
Z Grills Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker Pros
- Shutdown recycle mode
- Second cooking rack
- Internal temperature sensor
- Electronic auto ignition
- Pellet purge system
- Fan-forced convection cooking
- American built
Z Grills Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker Cons
- Slightly low high temperature
The Z Grills Pellet Grill & Smoker is a great all round grill and is super easy to use. It is quality built and is really good value.
The bottom line: Reliable, tough built all American grill perfect for cooking delicious food for a crowd.
Why You Need To Buy a Pellet Smoker
There are several reasons why you should add a pellet smoker to your man cave (or woman cave).
Pellet smokers are versatile: Pellet smokers are the masters or temperature control. They can hold a steady temperature form as low as 180 all the way up to a whopping 500 degrees! This is perfect for everything from getting a perfect rare steak to a falling-off-the-bone rack of ribs.
Pellet smokers are easy to use: For those of you who are new to the smoking world, you will be delighted to know that pellet smokers are one of the easiest smokers to set up, light, and maintain.
Pellets smokers burn small pellets of hardwood, these pellets are loaded into the smokers pellet hopper and are fed into the fire pot by an auger. So there is no need to manually tend to the heat source. All you need to do is set your temperature on the digital thermometer, load up the hopper and the pellet smoker will do the rest while you go and enjoy your company.
Pellet smokers are cheap to run: A pack of 20lb pellets will run you around $15 – $25, this is enough to get around 20 hours of smoking time! That is considerably cheaper than most other smoking methods out there!
Pellet smokers are accurate: No matter what the outside temperature is, pellet smokers will always keep pretty bang on their set temperature. This is a huge advantage over other smokers, just set and forget! No monitoring necessary!
Pellet smokers are convenient: Forget about running out of gas and re-stoking the fire. What could be easier than pressing the start button, loading up the pellets and waiting for your meal to be done?
Who Is a Pellet Smoker For?
By now it should be fairly obvious who should invest in a pellet smoker… those who loves the beautiful flavour of smoked meats & vegetables, and anyone who is all about convenience.
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 smokers 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 smokers 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 can control the temperature 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 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 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 jus 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.
So a very very simple recap: Pellet smokers are right for those of you who are smart. You get a smoker that is extremely easy to use and environmentally friendly. For me, that definitely ticks all boxes!
How Does a 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 wood and charcoal, 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 charcoal or wood smokers. The pellet smoker is also excellent from an environmental point of view since the pellets used are all made of natural material.
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 & slow heat the auger will feed the fire box slowly.
The Firepot: The firepot is where the magic happens. At the bottom of the firepot 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 firepot 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.
What Are The Pellets?
Before we dive in any deeper let’s discuss what the wood pellets actually are.
Wood pellets were first designed back in 1982 by Tregar heating. They are little 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.
What Defines a Good Pellet Smoker?
When you think of a pellet smoker, three main things should pop into your head. 1) Control 2) Convenience and last but not least 3) Gorgeous BBQ taste & aroma. Therefore, a good pellet smoker is a pellet smoker that covers all three of these bases.
Factors to Consider
However, there are some other elements that come into play when defining a good pellet smoker or the best pellet smoker. These factors can differ from person to person and do depend on exactly you want to get out of your pellet smoker. Let’s have a look at some of these other factors to keep in mind when you are choosing a pellet smoker.
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 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.
3-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 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 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 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 high temperatures.
Additional features and add-ons:
In the world of pellet smokers, there have been some real technical advancements in the past few year. 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.
Cleaning and Looking After Your Pellet Smoker
It’s a lot of fun sharing 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 & 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 & 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.
Here is a basic breakdown of what you should be maintaining and what to keep on top of.
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 smoker, 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 smoker.
Your pellet smoker’s 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.
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 flavour’s’ build up will enhance the flavours of your cooking. I disagree, you should always clean your smoker before you put anything In there. This is to prevent any nasty flavours 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 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 wood pellets.
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.
Checking and Replacing The Gaskets:
There are some parts of your smoker that will get a lot more use or wae 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.
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.
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.
Cooking for your family or a group of your closest friends is really satisfying, I feel it brings everyone closer and you get a real sense of family, not to mention the delicious food that is involved.
I hope that I have helped some of you make a choice about choosing a smoker and very soon you start reaping the joys of your new purchase! I would love to hear from who has read this and has been inspired to get out in the backyard and get cooking! Please leave me a comment below!
Happy smoking everyone