I believe the little Green Mountain Davy Crockett is the best portable pellet smoker currently on the market. Surprisingly, many of the portables out there still have an antiquated LMH controller, while Davy Crockett employs Green Mountain’s advanced digital touch-pad controller, with an integrated meat thermometer that lets you check internal meat temp with the flick of a switch. Furthermore, it includes adapters to run the electronics from your car battery or cigarette lighter. And Green Mountain is aggressively—ahem, hello price cut—promoting its WiFi capabilities, which enable you to monitor Davy Crockett from your smartphone or laptop.
Everyone has their price range, but don’t confuse cheap for affordable. As with other types of grills, there are plenty of inexpensive pellet grills that seem attractive at first glance, especially if you’re looking to save a little money. However, while a cheap pellet grill might save you a little money up front, it’s going to cost you more in the long run. Parts will rust, components will break down, and you will likely find yourself replacing some or all of that affordable grill within five years. Ultimately, you’re better off investing a little more money up front and get a quality grill that will keep years to come.
Grills and smokers are all made of metal, which means they are all more or less prone to rust. The only way to stop your investment from literally falling apart in front of your eyes is to keep up on basic maintenance. Still, some require a lot more attention than others, and some have obstacles that further complicate maintenance.
Sharp-eyed readers may note that there are no electric smokers on the list. We know owners of electrics are rabid in their devotion, that electrics are easy to use, and that the food they make is very good, but they get their heat from glowing metal elements and we think the flavor is less exciting than devices that get heat from combustion of charcoal, wood, or gas.
The mini porcelain enamelled water pan produces steam to add to the smoke during the long process of curing. This keeps the meat moist and absorbing beautiful flavors. This is the only product from our list that offers this great feature.
This smoker offers a decent 418 square inches of grilling space. This is enough to cook around sixteen burgers or four whole chickens. If the grilling space isn’t enough, Traeger also offers a larger unit that offers the same features at a higher price range. But, the medium sized one is enough to cook for large groups of people already. Built to have a high capacity, this smoker allows for multiple cooking at the same time.
Use of the P settings in smoke mode is easy to understand. But one can also use them as a dual function feature in cook mode. Remember, in cook mode the auger idles when the temperature is correct, but the P settings continue to function in idle mode. Ortech recommends the P2 setting as the default idle rate in cook mode. However, as one gains experience, the P settings can be used to improve the grills performance. For example, when using high temperature settings, select P1 or P0 to reduce auger off time and maintain strong, steady heat. If you have trouble hitting low temperatures on a sweltering day, increase the P setting to increase auger off time. It does not have a significant effect on smoke production. The basic rule remains: Low heat = more smoke, high heat = less smoke.
One Touch Non PID controllers are a lot more accurate than the previous two controllers. However, keep in mind they too deliver pellets on a fixed cycle. Because of this accuracy is limited to +/-15–20°F.
Only two companies manufactured pellet grills or smokers back in 2008, and they’re MAK and Traeger (both of which are based in Oregon). This changed when Traeger’s original patents expired and the floodgates for competitors opened.
Many people prefer the taste that a charcoal grill provides. Luckily, if you know how to use a charcoal grill, you’ll find using a charcoal smoker to be a breeze. Some models are easier to use than others, but they all utilize charcoal to heat up the wood chips and produce smoke. In fact, charcoal smokers produce larger smoke rings and larger quantities of smoke than the other smoker options do, which can provide more of a smoky flavor than electric and gas options.
You aren’t limited to basic barbecuing. For us, what really stood out was its ability to deliver pro chef-level cooking even at home. This smoker lets you explore all there is about cooking, letting you braise, grill, smoke, bake, roast, braise and BBQ all kinds of food. Using only pure hardwood pellets, you’re sure to have the juiciest and tastiest meats and vegetables every time you host your outdoor parties. If you think you have to give up quality because of the quantity of foods it can cook, that’s not the case. Quality is maintained whatever it is you’re cooking.
2016 was The Year of the Pellet Smoker and we hoped 2017 would be The Year of BBQ Technology. For some time many manufacturers have been wary of adding too much technology because electronic components are susceptible to failure under the harsh conditions imposed by outdoor cooking, and failure means customer complaints and tarnished reputations. Pellet smokers, digital thermometers and some electric smokers are the exception. We note increased offerings of remote control and monitoring in those three categories, with sophisticated aps that work from smart phones. Much to our ongoing consternation, however, gas grill manufacturers still have not stepped up to the plate with effective, affordable, thermostatically controlled grills. We’ve had the “luxury” of thermostatic temperature control in our gas fired kitchen ovens for decades. In our view it is way past time to bring it outside. As the performance, durability, and affordability of electronic components continues to improve, we hold out hope. Maybe next year.
Hey Kim – thank you for this. I’ve had this happen with numerous pellet smokers, including GMGs. What happens most often when it happens is that I’ve been remiss in properly cleaning the grill out after several uses (vacuuming the fire pot out). This causes the ash etc to cover up the heating rod, thus making the temperature lower than expected. The auger keeps feeding the fire pot to compensate and you get what you’ve described.
Thank you so much for the kind words! I think you would be very happy with a smaller pellet grill / smoker. The wording changes depending on how you are using the device. For instance, if you are cooking at low temperatures you will get a stronger smoke profile then if you burn a pellet smoker / grill at its higher temperature range. One thing you could do for steaks is cook them at the higher range thus being able to get a sear much like you would on a direct heated Grill service, for instance on your Weber. Another option would be to cook the steak in the reverse see your method, by bringing it up to temperature at a lower smoker setting and adding some smoke flavoring that way, then removing it and bringing the smoker up to its higher settings so you can finish off the steak with some of the effect you would achieve on direct flame. I normally do this by bringing the steaks up to about 15 degrees below where I want them to finish. Then, I finish them off at the higher temperature to where they are about 5 degrees below my target. This usually means a few minutes on each side but I use a Thermapen to be sure.
The Davy Crockett comes with a PID controller that runs off of a WiFi enabled app. The app can also be used to monitor the internal meat thermometer and turn the heat down once the meat reaches the target temperature.
The 20 pound capacity pellet hopper means you’re not even stressing about running out of ‘gas’ while you’re cooking and the pellets are automatically dispensed. We did say it’s like having your buddy doing the BBQ for you. The electronics used inside the thermostat are very precise, and if your cooking temperature falls, the hopper throws another pellet on the fire to heat the unit up. You will not get this kind of control from wood, charcoal or gas units.
You’re not going to be able to cook as hot as some other pellet grills out there, but this unit should easily reach 420 degrees. For a relatively small package you can still cook a good amount of food. A 10lb brisket or a few slabs of ribs shouldn’t be a problem which should keep the campers happy!
Next up is the Pit Boss 71700FB Pellet Grill which shines in some areas, and is a very viable option. Before we continue, it’s worth pointing out that everything on this list of the best pellet smokers and grills is an excellent choice, you can’t go wrong with any of these options. While our number 1 pick is the top choice for a reason, there wouldn’t be a grill on this list that wasn’t worthy of your patio. Pit Boss pellet grills are solid for beginners. Be sure to check out our full review of the Pit Boss 71700FB.
In conclusion, it is a basic pellet grill & smoker that is easy to use and doesn’t come with any advanced features. It provides precise temperature control within +/- 20 degrees and works great for long meat searing at low temperatures.
As new manufacturers are getting into the market to cater to the growing need for pellet smokers and they are coming up with unique features to help them stand out from their competitors. This is a great advantage for the users, since the competition is pushing for more innovation into the barbecuing industry.
This pellet smoker and its humongous 20 inches by 15 inches or 300 square inches of grilling space is capable of holding 3 rib racks, 18 hotdogs, 4 chickens, or 12 burgers at the same time. This is also one of the most Affordable pellet smokers around. Its thermostat control is LED digital so that you can set it as easily as your microwave. Just press buttons and get the setting you want every time.
The Primo Oval is a ceramic kamado style grill that doubles as a smoker. Its versatility lands it with a spot here in best smokers, as well as top choice for a kamado on our best grills list. What sets this Primo apart from other ceramic cookers is its oval shape, giving it more grill space and better two-zone cooking.
It’s not perfect, though. There are certain features left to be desired. For instance, this smoker doesn’t have a temperature probe as we’ve seen with some models. It’s not a deal breaker, it does come with a very accurate thermometer, but we have seen probes on units in this price range, so that’s left to be desired.
If you can move up from there cost wise, I’d go with the Yoder pellet smoker. While the Rec Tec looks like a beast, the YS640 absolutely IS one. Weighing in at 315 lbs and boasting solid control components and features, you won’t ever need another pellet smoker in your life unless you just want another one.
This little baby looks like a dorm fridge and it shares a lot in common with it. The walls are well insulated, the door latches tight, there’s a clever reverse flow heat and smoke transit system, temp control is incredibly simple, and it can hold standard hotel pans. A water pan between the charcoal and the food keeps the cooking chamber moist. There are larger sizes that are popular among the professional competition teams. We have the next size up, the Party, and it is truly impressive. Click here to read our complete review of the Backwoods Smoker Chubby.
Smoking with logs as both a heat source and flavor source is trickier than any other fuel, but the Karubecue C-60 Pit is designed to let the greenest novice smoke meats like a wizened Texas Pit Boss. You have to feed the fire every half hour, but that’s all you have to do, Karubecue’s brilliant design makes perfect smoke from start to finish every time you fire it up. The results are truly extraordinary!
Pay attention as well to what temperatures your grill can heat up to. Most of pellet grills can maintain a temperature within 160-500 degrees F ( with much more expensive models is even 600 degrees F ). Why am I mentioning that? Because you have to think about what is the most popular grilling style for you. It will influence whether your pellet smoker will be a good choice for you.
Temperature vary depending on different cooking, making this an important factor to consider when selecting the best pellet smoker for you. What type of cooking do you practice? Most if not all pellet smokers are good when used at indirect cooking and the maximum temperature they can get ranges from 180 – 425 degrees. This temperature range is good when one is grilling, roasting, baking or smoking. It becomes a challenge when you want to sear, which requires a temperature range of 500 – 550 degrees.
Despite its steel body, the Summit Charcoal performs every bit as well as a ceramic kamado. The air insulated double-walled construction retains heat as well as a ceramic kamado, allowing it to hold a steady low temperature for smoking BBQ and easily reach 800°F for high-heat grilling. Better yet, it cools down quickly, giving you the ability to go from grilling to smoking in about 45 minutes. That’s unheard of on a ceramic kamado, which takes several hours to cool.
With the Camp Chef PG24S, you won’t have to constantly refill your hopper. Your pellets will be used as efficiently as possible, as this product comes with a hopper than can hold up to 18 pounds of wood pellets. With the digital heat control system, it instantly feeds the pellets into the grill to maintain the ideal cooking temperature. This ensures that food is cooked most satisfyingly.
The grill is plated with beautiful stainless steel that gives the grill a refined and impressive look. The huge cooking area includes 570 square inches of surface area. That’s enough to hold 20 burgers or 4 rib racks! It also contains a second warming rack and bottom shelf that provides the grill stability and extra storage. This version comes with a sear box that can reach temperature of up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit, which caramelizes your food. There’s a cheaper version without a sear box that costs around $200 less if a sear box isn’t a necessity for you. Additionally, the legs are built with extreme thickness giving the grill a grounded base. The caster wheels add portability to the grill so you can find that perfect place in the backyard.
The push-button ignition sets and maintains the selected temperature throughout the entire cooking process and the pellets are automatically fed into the firebox, which means there are no temperature fluctuations. No other grill on the market has this sophisticated ‘brain’. Also you can adjust temperatures from 180 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
In smoke mode the controller is no longer controlled by the thermometer, it merely switches the pellet feeding auger on and off. On time is 15 seconds, off time ranges from 45 seconds at P0, to 165 seconds at P15. Temp and smoke are controlled by the duration of off time: the auger always runs at the same speed. More smoke is produced at higher P settings and lower temp settings because longer off times allow the pellets to smolder. At P0 in smoke mode or “High” in cook mode the auger replenishes the pellets at a faster rate, creating more flame, less smoke.
This smoker’s claim to fame is its digital technology. Rather than adjusting the temperature manually by handling hot coals, you simply press a few buttons on the top display. A digital timer with an automatic shut-off keeps things safe and prevents meats from drying out. The exterior is powder-coated steel, and each cooking rack is chrome plated. Heavy insulation promotes energy efficient cooking.
One thing we humans tend to forget amidst hustle bustle of our fast paced and commercial lives is that we should earn to live, not live to earn. So I think it is high time you ditch your shoe-box of an office behind for a day and live. Spend a day with your family at the park, or maybe catch up with your childhood friend over a beer or two and start doing barbecue. You cannot even begin to imagine how much spending some quality time with your loved ones can help you and them, revive and replenish the monotonousness. And there isn’t a better way to mingle than over a small get-together with some amazing food and great company cooked on your pellet grill.
Hey Kev, I was wondering about that cooking surface and its capacity. Have you found the 16×20 to be sufficient for a brisket and/or other large chunks of meat? This is my biggest concern as we love to cook a good amount of meat at one time.
This 30-gallon, porcelain-coated steel drum has only one vent that stays in position, creating a low-oxygen environment to help prevent flare-ups and save on fuel. This means shorter more controlled smoke sessions every time you barbecue. It’s what we call a “set it and forget it” system for barbecuers of all levels of experience.
Today, there is no general disadvantage that is present among all pellet grills. Each model or brand has its pros and cons. There are a lot of different pellet grill manufacturers in the market today, including some cheap Chinese ones that you should steer clear from.
Set it and forget it. That’s the main attraction of electric smokers, and an important one. No lighting charcoal, no checking the fuel supply every hour or so, no messy ash to clean up. Just turn it on, crack a bear and take a snooze in your lounge chair.
The CB940X also has some really handy features like dual removable cutting boards not he sides, adjustable dampers, and a simple and easy ash pan removable system. The total cooking space isn’t huge (540 square inches), but the overall functionality and simplicity of the design are really helpful.
However, in terms of affordability, it’s only natural that the Traeger TFB29LZA would have the edge. As the innovator of pellet smoking or grilling, Traeger knows how to lower its production costs since it invented pellet grills in the first place. Its economically smaller grills naturally require constant refilling since they have smaller hoppers in turn.
Some users have remarked that it goes through pellets faster than other units, which is certainly influenced by the size. If you’re not cooking a lot at once, one of the smaller units on this list would be a lot more economical.
For example, it has a decent 570 sq. in. of cooking area, a patented ash cleanout service, endless versatility (wherein you can barbecue, braise, roast, bake, smoke, and grill to your heart’s delight), and an advanced digital control (the same one that allowed the Camp Chef SmokePro to take the top spot). However, the quality control for this unit is a little worse than SmokePro.
When it comes to the best smoker grills, there are a lot of options on sale. It is bewildering sometimes, but the amount of choice and the wide availability of all these different styles, types, capabilities and price ranges makes it a smoker griller’s paradise.