Whether you prefer your chicken smoked or your steak well done, the best pellet grills will deliver. Their versatility and ease of use set them apart from other types of grills. Wood pellets can simmer on low at around 250 degrees Fahrenheit or smolder at temperatures that—depending on the grill model—may top 600 degrees Fahrenheit. The set-it-and-forget-it design relies on digital controls, an internal thermostat, and an electric hopper that automatically feeds pellets to the firebox to ensure easy use. But, keep in mind, because of these automated and electric features, pellet grills require not just fire but electricity, too.
This guide will examine the features to consider when shopping for the best pellet grill and offer up the top choices on the market from small portable models to large units ready for a big backyard barbecue.
- BEST OVERALL: Traeger Pro 575 WiFi Pellet Grill and Smoker
- RUNNER-UP: Camp Chef SmokePro DLX Pellet Grill
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Z GRILLS ZPG-450A Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker
- BEST UPGRADE: Weber SmokeFire EX6 Wood Fired Pellet Grill
- BEST VERSATILE: Pit Boss Platinum Lockhart Grill and Smoker
- BEST PORTABLE: Green Mountain Davy Crockett Portable Pellet Grill
- BEST FOR STEAKS: Oklahoma Joe’s Rider Deluxe Pellet Drill
- BEST SMART: Traeger Timberline 1300 Wifi Pellet Grill and Smoker
- BEST LARGE: Traeger Grills Pro Series 34 Pellet Grill and Smoker
What to Consider When Choosing Best Pellet Grill
When shopping for a pellet grill, consider cooking surface size, construction quality, hopper capacity and these other key attributes.
Grill size refers to the cooking surface as well as the overall size of the appliance and how much space it will require on a deck or a patio.
Most pellet grills offer between 350 and 550 square inches of cooking surface. Chefs cooking for two can work with surfaces of 300 square inches. Food for a family of four will require at least 450 square inches. Larger grills of 500 square inches or more make a great centerpiece for entertaining.
Of course, the larger the cooking surface, the larger the grill and the more space it will require. While all grills have a similar depth and height, they vary in width. Compact pellet grills are around 40 inches wide. Larger models can measure 50 inches wide or more.
Pellet grills and smokers spend their days outdoors in the elements and withstand temperatures of up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s why quality is crucial. You’ll find them in either painted steel or stainless steel. Cheaper painted steel will eventually rust when the paint wears away and exposes the steel to oxygen and water. More durable stainless steel with its layer of rust-resistant chromium makes the ideal metal for grill construction.
Higher-end pellet grills include stainless steel internal parts, such as burners, grates, and heat plates, within a sheet metal body. On the best models, the sheet metal is thicker and resists warping.
The hopper on a pellet grill automatically adds pellets to the grill based on the temperature setting on the control panel. An electric auger feeds the pellets from the hopper into the grill’s firebox, so the chef won’t need to add fuel to the fire manually. This automation accounts for the typically higher cost of pellet grills compared to their gas and charcoal counterparts. Pellet consumption depends on the size of the grill as well as the temperature settings. Most pellet grills use about a ½-pound of pellets per hour to smoke and about 2½ pounds per hour to grill.
Precise temperature controls set pellet grills and smokers apart from charcoal and gas grills. Unlike these other types of grills, a pellet grill allows the operator to set the grill to a specific temperature like an oven. These controls come in either analog or the more expensive digital format. A thermostat inside the grill box assesses the temperature, which then adjusts the hopper to add pellets at a rate that will allow it to maintain the set temperature. Some pellet grills even have Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connections that allow the user to set the temperature remotely from a smart device.
Most pellet grills have features that make them easy to clean once the grilling or smoking is done. A knob on the hopper releases the unused pellets for proper storage until the next grilling session. A catch at the bottom of the grill makes it easy to remove pellet ash. A bucket under the grill collects drippings for easy disposal.
Pellet grills serve as both smokers and grills. They’ll sear the perfect crust on steaks and burgers at high temps that could reach 600 degrees Fahrenheit and smoke meats at low temps in the 200-degree Fahrenheit range. This versatility helps justify the higher price tag of a pellet grill.
Portable models of these automated appliances that both smoke meat and grill it make great campsite and tailgate companions. A portable pellet grill offers about 200 square inches of cooking surface and weighs in at about 50 pounds. The pellets themselves are easy to transport, too.
Additional Features and Accessories
Many pellet grills come with additional useful features that facilitate use, such as wireless connectivity that allows the user to adjust the grill’s controls or monitor temperatures remotely from a smartphone app.
Our Top Picks
The list below takes into account size, quality, and additional features to narrow the field to some of the top pellet grills on the market. This list includes portable models as well as full-size pellet grills from some of the top names in the business.
A model from one of the most highly regarded names in pellet grills, the Traeger Pro 575 features a solid build and smart design that make it one of the best pellet grills on the market. Traeger’s D2 drivetrain starts and heats up faster than those of other pellet grills. Traeger’s WiFire technology gives outdoor chefs control of the grill from a smart device through the Traeger app or voice commands when paired with Alexa.
Heavy-gauge steel construction makes this a sturdy appliance. A large 18-pound-capacity hopper ensures it will run for many hours without a refill. Its 575 square inches of cooking surface can help feed a crowd.
- Cooking surface: 575 square inches
- Width: 41 inches
- Hopper capacity: 18 pounds
- High-quality build
- Large cooking surface
- Excellent hopper capacity
Get the Traeger grill at Ace Hardware, The Home Depot, and Traeger.com.
A solid pellet grill for a reasonable price, Camp Chef’s SmokePro DLX features 573 square inches of cooking surface and a hopper that holds 18 pounds of pellets, an ample supply for a full day of smoking or hours of grilling.
Connections for two meat probes allow the chef to view the temperature of food from the grill’s digital controls without raising the lid. Newly updated controls on this 2021 model help maintain temperatures more consistently. Camp Chef’s SmokePro DLX comes in black, bronze, or stainless steel to fit a variety of styles.
- Cooking surface: 573 square inches
- Size: 45 inches wide
- Hopper capacity: 18 pounds
- Reasonably priced
- Inputs for meat thermometers
- Improved temperature controls
Get the Camp Chef grill at Amazon, The Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Tractor Supply.
At a price that’s hundreds of dollars less than other pellet grills, this model from Z GRILLS offers one of the most affordable ways to add a pellet grill to an outdoor kitchen. A side-mounted, 15-pound-capacity hopper feeds a 450-square-inch cooking surface for ample space and grilling time. Digital controls like those typically found on higher-end pellet grills allow for precise temperature settings. Steel construction and a powder-coated finish protect against rust. At 45 inches wide, it’s one of the more compact pellet grills on the market.
- Cooking surface: 450 square inches
- Width: 45 inches
- Hopper capacity: 15 pounds
- Ample cooking surface
- Digital temperature controls
- Steel construction
- Smaller hopper capacity
- Lower max temp of 450 degrees Fahrenheit
Get the Z Grill on Amazon.
Perhaps the best-known name in grills, Weber waited until 2020 to launch its first pellet grill, but the SmokeFire EX6 was worth the wait. A common critique of many pellet grills is that they can’t achieve high enough temps for searing. Weber takes what it’s learned from more than half a century of manufacturing grills to produce a pellet grill that heats to a max temp of 600 degrees, about 100 to 150 degrees hotter than most other pellet grills.
Weber’s SmokeFire EX6 brings the same sturdy build and high-quality materials as the brand’s other grills. One of the larger models on the market, it packs more than 1,000 square inches into its cooking surface. A large LED control screen and smart controls round out its attractive features.
- Cooking surface: 1,008 square inches
- Width: 55 inches
- Hopper capacity: 22 pounds
- Capable of reaching 600 degrees Fahrenheit
- Sturdy Weber construction
- Smart controls
- LED display
Get the Weber grill at Amazon, Ace Hardware, and The Home Depot.
While all pellet grills are versatile, backyard chefs would be hard-pressed to find one that offers more ways to cook more meat than this model from Pit Boss. A smoking cabinet that sits atop a grill allows outdoor gourmets to smoke and grill simultaneously over an eyebrow-raising 2,137 square inches of cooking space. That’s 719 square inches of cooking surface and 1,418 square inches of smoking space. A 40-pound-capacity hopper keeps up with all that cooking on very few refills, while cooks keep on top of the temperature via four WiFi- or Bluetooth-connected meat probes.
- Cooking surface: 2,137 square inches (719 square inches of grill surface)
- Size: 55 inches wide
- Hopper capacity: 40 pounds
- Massive cooking surface
- High-capacity hopper
- Ability to smoke and grill simultaneously
Get the Pit Boss grill at Walmart.
With its ample cooking surface within a manageable overall size, Green Mountain’s portable pellet grill makes a great addition to camping trips and tailgating events. It boasts more than 200 square inches of cooking surface (notably large for a portable grill) in its 57-pound frame. A bit on the heavy side for a portable, it’s compact enough to load into a trunk.
Compatible with 12- and 15-volt power sources, a car battery or vehicle accessory outlet, this grill goes just about anywhere. But the chef won’t have to hover. With its Sense Mate smart Bluetooth connection and meat probe, the grill master can monitor the meats while mingling with friends. But make sure they check out the grill, too. With its handsome stainless steel lid and optional extendable legs and rolling cart, this is an appliance meant to show off.
- Cooking surface: 219 square inches
- Size: 30 inches wide
- Hopper capacity: 9 pounds
- Broad cooking surface
- Attractive stainless steel looks
- Smart capability
- Heavy for a portable grill
Get the Green Mountain grill on Amazon.
At its max temp of 650 degrees Fahrenheit, Oklahoma Joe’s Rider Deluxe easily achieves that sought-after crust on seared steaks. Remarkably, the Rider also holds steady at temps as low as 175 degrees Fahrenheit for delectably smoked meats, too.
Backyard gourmets can configure the system of grates and racks for grilling or smoking. They can also monitor temperatures and the grill’s total runtime through an innovative probe system. Dual smoke stacks allow for optimum airflow. Heavy-gauge steel construction ensures a durable appliance.
- Cooking surface: 1,234 square inches (575 square inches of grill surface)
- Size: 46.5 inches wide
- Hopper capacity: 20 pounds
- High max temperature
- Heavy-gauge steel construction
- Multiple air vents
- Multiple timers
Get the Oklahoma Joe grill at The Home Depot.
Traeger’s Timberline boasts more than 1,300 square inches of cooking surface and a 24-pound- capacity hopper. Grill chefs control the appliance through a smartwatch or via voice commands when paired with a digital assistant. A double-walled stainless steel interior makes for easy cleanup and maintenance. Other notable features include LED controls and ample space for prep and storage with stainless steel front and side shelves and a large drawer.
- Cooking surface: 1,300 square inches
- Size: 58 inches wide
- Hopper capacity: 24 pounds
- Compatible with smart watches and digital assistants
- Stainless steel construction
- Large cooking surface
Get the Traeger grill at The Home Depot.
With nearly 900 square inches of cooking surface, this behemoth from Traeger provides enough space to handle a half-dozen racks of ribs or up to 40 burgers. To support that large cooking surface, the Pro Series 34 features Traeger’s Digital Pro Controller, which uses the grill’s built-in fan and pellet-feeding auger to maintain a consistent temperature throughout the grill’s large cooking chamber.
At more than 4 feet wide, this grill doesn’t wobble thanks to a steel sawhorse chassis. Dual meat probes allow the chef to keep an eye on meat temperatures via a digital display without opening the lid. Wheels make it easy to maneuver the outsize appliance. Just keep in mind that at 53 inches wide, this grill takes up a substantial piece of real estate on decks and patios.
- Cooking surface: 884 square inches
- Size: 53 inches wide
- Hopper capacity: 18 pounds
- Massive cooking surface
- Two digital meat probes
- Solid steel construction
- Bulky size
- Hopper capacity small for grill size
Get the grill on Amazon.
With its ample cooking surface, large hopper capacity and useful features such as Wi-Fi connectivity and an LED display, Traeger Grills Pro 575 WiFi Pellet Grill is worthy of most any backyard living space. Those looking for a more affordable entry into the world of pellet grills may want to consider the Z GRILLS ZPG-450A Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker.
How We Chose the Best Pellet Grill
We considered a variety of criteria when selecting the top pellet grills for our list. We chose models with precise temperature controls that could maintain lower temperatures for smoking pork butts as well as searing heat for grilling steaks. We only considered models made of heavy-gauge steel with durable enamel or powder-coated finishes that protect them from rust. We also gave special consideration to models equipped with large-capacity hoppers to reduce the need for repeated pellet refills.
Tips on How to Use a Pellet Smoker and Grill
Pellet grills are decidedly different from charcoal and gas grills, so you’ll have to operate yours accordingly.
Wood pellets not only produce the heat that cooks the food, but they can also flavor the meats as they come in hickory, cherry, and mesquite among other varieties. Look for wood pellets that best suit the type of food you’re smoking or grilling.
Use a thermometer rather than a timer to determine when the food’s ready, especially if you’re using the grill to roast or smoke meat.
Smoky flavors adhere better to cold surfaces than warm ones, so keep your pork butts, chickens, and ribs in the fridge until it’s time for them to go on the grill.
Finally, reverse sear your meats to crisp the skin of chicken or create a crust on thicker cuts of steak.
Here’s a recap:
- Use wood pellet flavors that complement the food
- Use a meat thermometer to ensure the meat is cooked through
- Use refrigerated meat to achieve the best smoke flavor
- Use the reverse sear method
The Advantages of Owning the Best Pellet Grill
Among the many benefits of pellet grill ownership is versatility. Unlike most charcoal and gas grills, a pellet grill can maintain low heat for smoking and reach the high temperatures required for proper grilling. This versatility eliminates the need to purchase separate grills and smokers. Since pellet grills use automated hoppers and fans that circulate air for ventilation, they maintain specific temperatures on their own without much intervention from the cook. A full baffle that covers the heat source on most pellet grills means fewer flare-ups. The wide variety of pellets on the market, including hickory, cherry, and mesquite, offer flavors to please almost any palate.
- Broad temperature range
- Easier to use
- Wide variety of smoke flavor
- Fewer flare-ups
If you’re wondering exactly how a pellet grill works, read on for answers to commonly asked questions about these outdoor appliances.
Q: How does a pellet grill work?
Pellet grills have a hopper that holds the pellets. An electric auger moves the pellets from the hopper into the fire pot where they are ignited by a heated rod. An electric fan provides ventilation, helping to control the temperature of the burn. A thermostat that’s connected to the controls regulates the fan and auger to meet the temperature set on the control panel.
Q: How long do pellet grills last?
Most pellet grills will last between 6 and 10 years with normal use. High-quality pellet grills may last longer with proper maintenance and care.
Q: Does a pellet grill need electricity?
Since a pellet grill uses an electric auger, a fan, and a digital control panel, it does require electricity.
Q: How do I clean my pellet grill?
Clean a pellet grill every three to five uses to ensure it stays in tip-top operating condition. Begin by using a putty knife to scrape any buildup from the inside of the lid. Remove the internal parts and scrape out the inside. Use a shop vac to remove all the debris you’ve scraped loose. Wipe down the inside and outside of the pellet grill, then reassemble it. Clean the grates after each barbecuing session while they are still hot.