Wood pellet grills have gone a long way from being tricky to master to incredibly easy to handle. Today, the digital heat control and other perks of technology don’t even require you to be by your unit while it does its magic. If you don’t want to waste the entire afternoon grilling food or you prefer talking to the visitors of your BBQ party, it is possible if you decide to buy one of the best pellet grills on the market. We will try to explain to you why the ideal choice is wood and cover the most appropriate models across four different categories in this review article. Finally, we will teach you what features you should focus on when buying a hardwood grilling system.
Why You Should Choose a Pellet Grill
If you are still unsure whether the wood is the right type of the grill for your needs, take a look at some of the advantages it provides:
If you only have the option to choose one grilling system for your backyard, picking a pellet grill will cover all your needs. Each of the best pellet grills offers incredible versatility that includes six different ways of preparing food. That includes grilling, barbecuing, roasting, braising, smoking, and baking your food. All this is possible by using just one unit – a pellet grill. Do you want to slow roast a whole chicken? No problem! Would you like to grill some burgers quickly? It can be done! Some models even include a sear station that delivers direct heat cooking and enables that tasteful sear marks we all like when our food has.
Suitable for Beginners
If you are not an experienced griller and you don’t want to spend hours next to your grilling system trying to get the heat going and making sure your food doesn’t burn, you should choose pellet BBQ systems. People say that gas grills are a child’s play, but that is even truer for wood-fueled grills. Most of them have an auto-start ignition activated with the push of a button. The only thing you need to do before starting your unit is to make sure that the hopper is loaded with pellets, which is a job that doesn’t take more than a minute.
The best pellet grills have digital heat control and require no babysitting. That means that you need to preset the desired temperature and the product itself will ensure to keep the heat as close to that level as possible. It’s this feature that enables wood BBQs to deliver the most consistent temperature of all types of grills. Aside from that, the gas range of these models is broad, and they have no problem going from 160F up to 600F or even 700F in some cases.
The wood-fired deliciousness of your food is a no match for other types of BBQ systems and probably tops even the charcoal alternative. The smoky flavor that pellet grills deliver is their thanks to the fact that these models use maximum smoke while cooking and infuse the food with it. Aside from that, there are dozens of hardwood types available to fuel a pellet grill, and you can experiment with numerous flavors until you find the perfect one for your taste.
There is no doubt that wood pellet grilling systems are a bit more expensive than charcoal or even gas options. However, they are also incredibly efficient and that, along with durability, makes them an excellent long-term investment. It varies from one model to another, but you can get up to 20 hours of cooking with an average-sized pellet bag (20 pounds).
Best Pellet Grills for the Money
You can’t imagine the list of best pellet grills for the money without adding at least one Traeger to it. The company was founded in 1985 and has become one of the most reputable manufacturers of food grilling systems ever since. We are going with Texas Elite 34 now, a premium pellet BBQ that delivers 646 square inches of grilling area. The most prominent perk of the model is a digital thermostat that controls the temperature in the cook box. It makes sure to always keep the heat within 20 –degree radius from the preset level, which means that this unit provides as consistent temperature as possible. Just as you would expect from a pellet model, it offers incredible versatility. You can grill, barbecue, bake, smoke, braise, or roast your food using only this unit.
Let’s turn our attention to REC TEC Wood Pellet Grill, which offers 700 square inches of cooking space and high-quality designs. The manufacturer emphasizes their Smart Grill technology as one of the selling points for this product. It works just like Traeger’s digital thermometer and controls the heat that can achieve up to 500F. The capacity of the hopper is 40 pounds which means that you don’t have to worry about fuel for a while after you fill it. The users that already tried this unit praise its performance that is almost flawless, and it seems that the only real drawback of this model is that it is a bit more expensive than Texas Elite 34.
Camp Chef Woodwind Pellet Grill also offers digital heat control, which makes all these BBQ systems suitable even for beginners who never had anything to do with grills before this unit. Aside from the so-called no-babysitting feature, it also offers a cooking area of 570 square inches plus a warming rack to simmer some vegetables or keep your food warm. But the biggest perk of this product is the sear box that can reach up to 900F and give that crispy sear to your meals. After finishing smoking your steak on the Camp Chef grill, just move it to the sear station that delivers beautifully caramelized sears. The only thing to take into account is that you will need propane to fuel the sear box.
Top-Rated Pellet Grills
If you take a look at the customer reviews over the internet, they would recommend Camp Chef PG24DLX Deluxe as the perfect grill on the market. In fact, this unit was labeled as the Amazon’s choice by the famous manufacturer. It is smaller than the Camp Chef model we mentioned above, and it doesn’t have a sear station, but other than that the features are similar. PG24DLX has 424 square inches of central grilling area and can achieve a temperature of up to 500F. Digital thermometer puts everything under control and keeps the heat consistent without you having to be around. You also have electronic ignition and grease and ash management systems. The hopper capacity is 18 pounds, and there is a feature that handles emptying the pellets swiftly. If you need extra prep space or a working area, you can use the side shelf on the right.
Next in the line of top-rated pellet grills is Z Grills Wood Pellet Grill that comes with a cover included in the package. You get all this for about $550, which is a sweet deal for a high-quality BBQ system. Just like Camp Chef models, it can deliver up to 25,000 BTUs of power, but its maximum heat is 450F. That doesn’t affect the versatility, but the best way to use the model from Z Grills is for smoking your food. The cooking area spreads to 700 square inches, but only 513 are considered to be the central grilling space, while the rest is a secondary warming rack. No-babysitting comes as a typical feature with these BBQs and this unit also doesn’t require you to be there while it’s doing its magic.
Traeger Lil Tex Elite 22 Wood Pellet Grill is another bestseller on Amazon, which is a fact that speaks enough about the popularity of this model and brand. As for the Lil Tex Elite 22, it’s a little smaller compared to other grills from this company, but it still has 418 square inches of cooking surface. The digital thermometer controls the heat and keeps it consistent, which means that your only job is to arrange the food on the grill and adjust the settings. The 6-in-1 versatility is present, as well as the durable construction characteristic for Traeger units. However, these models also have a drawback since the manufacturer demands you to fuel them only with Traeger pellets. That doesn’t mean that other brands of wood won’t work, but you will lose a warranty if you use it.
Best Portable Pellet Grills
Out of all types of portable BBQ systems, perhaps it is the trickiest to make a pellet one. There are not many models out there, but Traeger has you covered even if you are preparing for the road. The first unit you want to check out is the Tailgater 20 Portable Wood Pellet Grill, which is available in two colors – bronze and blue. Their features are the same, but keep in mind that the bronze model is currently on discount on Amazon. As for the perks, the legs are foldable, which means packing and unpacking is a piece of cake. However, the fact that it weighs over 70 pounds makes things trickier. That weight is arguably the upper limit for portable grills, but the model is still far from being light. It boasts the same features as the other Traeger systems and includes digital heat control, versatile cooking, and electronic ignition. However, the surface area is considerably smaller, but 300 square inches should be enough to cover your camping or tailgating needs.
If you are looking for a model that is not that heavy, check out the 6-in-1 Portable Tabletop Pellet Grill from the same manufacturer. It weighs only 40 pounds, and it has a hopper capacity of 5 lbs. The primary cooking surface is 173 square inches, which means that you can fit 8-10 average-sized burgers on it. The modest power of 16,000 BTUs is enough for the compact grilling area. Automatic temperature control means that you don’t have to be near the unit while it’s working, which earns it a place among the best portable pellet grills. If the weather conditions are severe outside, you can move the grilling inside. The tabletop model is excellent for kitchen counters, and it can be plugged into a power outlet.
Last, but not least, comes the Davy Crocket Pellet Grill designed by Green Mountain Grills. The innovation in this model can be seen in more than just the name of the unit. It has a digital temperature controller with Wi-Fi support. You can monitor and adjust heat settings on the grill by using a mobile application available on both Android and iOS. That sounds pretty cool because it is as it makes you feel in control and gives you the power over the unit from afar. The grill has foldable legs and weighs 57 pounds. It perfectly fits the trunk of any car, which makes it perfect for camping, hunting, and other situations when you need it on the road.
Best Pellet Grills Under $500
Pellet BBQs are not cheap, especially when you compare them to some other types of grilling systems that you can purchase for dozens of dollars. However, regardless of the unit you choose, you get a high-quality, versatile, and durable product with a wood-fueled model. Some units can be purchased at an affordable price, and we selected the best pellet grills under $500.
We are starting with perhaps the most renowned brand on the market. Traeger has their candidate in this category, too, and it’s the Junior Elite Wood Pellet Grill that also packs a smoker. It has all that you would expect from this company – digital heat control, versatile cooking that includes grilling, barbecuing, smoking, braising, roasting, and baking, as well as a considerable hopper capacity and an easy-to-remove wood feature. The cooking space of 300 square inches is enough for four to five people.
Pit Boss 71700FB comes with a flame broiler, which enables you totally-controlled direct heat cooking that you can use to sear your burgers or steaks. The total cooking surface is 700 square inches, but that includes an upper rack of food that is more sensitive to heat. The maximum temperature that this unit can reach is 600F, which means that versatile cooking is a given feature as long as you purchase the Pit Boss unit. The grids are made of cast iron to keep the food from sticking to the surface, which combined with digital temp controller means that you don’t have to babysit the grill once it starts working,
There is a newer model that fits this category, too. Smoke Hollow 24” Pellet Grill is priced just under $500, but it comes with a free cover included, which means that you will protect your product against severe weather conditions for the same cost. The unit is designed for steel and looks pretty durable. You can use the cart below the core components as storage space. The capacity of the hopper is admirable, and it will ensure that one session lasts for hours. As for the cooking area, it has 440 square inches of space, which is enough to grill for six to eight people. There is a digital heat controller to make the product suitable for beginners.
How to Choose the Right Pellet Grill
Now you’ve browsed through the best pellet grills we listed across various categories, but the question which ones are the fit for you remains. You might have specific demands that make one model more appropriate than the other. That is why you should take a look at our tips on how to choose the right wood-fueled BBQ system:
Do You Need an Ample Cooking Surface?
The first thing you want to consider is how many people will you be serving with the grill. If you are only planning to cook for your family, there is no need to spend thousands of extra dollars for a massive grilling area. The general rule applied is that you need around 70 square inches of surface per person, which means that 400 square inches or less should cover your family needs.
Do You Need It to Be Portable?
If you would like to take your grill on the road, you might have only a small portion of pellet BBQ systems available to choose from, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t find one that suits your needs. In that case, you should look for one that has foldable legs or is tabletop by default so that you can make the transport more manageable.
On the other hand, if you would only like the mobility option on the unit, the good news is that most of the best pellet grills have cartwheels. They will enable you to move the product from one location in your yard to the other in no time.
You already know that it is a child’s play to use a hardwood BBQ unit. However, there are still some convenient features that can make the whole cooking process more enjoyable and comfortable. For starters, you need to make sure that your desired model has digital temperature control. That is a pretty standard feature, but it comes in different variations. Some units only have three temperature settings, which don’t give you enough freedom in controlling the heat. That is why you should ensure that you can adjust the heat in increments of at least 25F. Of course, the smaller the increases, the more control you have, but you shouldn’t go below the suggested minimum.
The next thing you should turn attention to is the hopper, which is where you will be loading the fuel. The standard size is somewhere around 15-20 pounds, although you shouldn’t expect more than 5-10 lbs. if you are purchasing a portable unit. In all other cases, anything below 15 pounds means that you will find yourself adding pellets way too often, which can be a hassle.
Finally, a fast cleaning process is something that undoubtedly contributes to convenience. The majority of the pellet grills come with a tray that catches any ash residue, but you should make sure that there is such a pan in your unit just in case. Some models also have a grease management system that collects all the drippings, which also eases the maintenance of your grill.
If you would like to see some bells and whistles in your grilling system, you can consider some extra features as well. For example, some best pellet grills have a sear station. That is a box that secures the option of direct heat cooking, which is an excellent way to give your food the tasteful sear marks we all know and love.
Aside from the primary cooking area, hardwood units can also have a secondary warming rack. You can use it to simmer some veggies, such as mushrooms or onions, and prepare other side dishes without going to the kitchen. Another thing that might help you is a side table or a shelf, which can be incredibly useful as a prep area. If you are grilling a lot of food, there is a good chance that you will have a bunch of platters. Table working space will secure that you don’t have to juggle and worry where you will put them. Some models also have an enclosed cabinet as part of the cart, which can be used as a storage space.
In the end, let us mention a perk brought to us thanks to the advancement of technology. Some units, such as Traeger Timberline, have a built-in Wi-Fi control. That means that you can download an app and use it to monitor the current temperature of your grill and adjust the heat any way that you see fit. That means that you can go inside and watch TV while using your phone to check up on the unit. It’s another step forward in the no-babysitting feature that is usual for pellet BBQ systems. However, keep in mind that the models offering this perk are not that cheap.