In this guide, we’re going to give a rundown of the ten models we’ve chosen after countless hours of research, for the best pellet smokers available in 2020.
The popularity of pellet smokers has exploded in recent years. And with that has come a large number of products entering the market from many different manufacturers, making it hard to know which to choose.
However, since you’ve landed on this guide, I think it’s safe to assume your mind is made up with a pellet smoker?
Great choice! They are an incredibly simple to use and maintain, highly versatile cooker, able to create excellent BBQ with little time or effort needed to master.
The best pellet grills are the perfect tool for an amateur chef new to smoking, and competition pitmasters alike, for incredibly accurate, replicable and consistent smoking of meats at home.
The purpose of this guide is to show the best pellet smokers in a few different categories, detailing why we love them, but while also highlighting any disadvantages one model may have compared to others.
After detailing our top picks, we finish the article with an extensive buying guide, detailing the specifications and features you want to look for, as well as discussing how a pellet smoker works, how to use one, the benefits of smoking with wood pellets, and where they somewhat fall short of other types of smokers.
By the end of this guide, you will be well-armed with the knowledge to make the right decision when it comes to choosing the best pellet smoker for your personal tastes, needs and budget.
At a Glance: Our Recommendations for Best Pellet Smoker
- Top Pick: Camp Chef Woodwind WiFi Pellet Smoker with Sear Box
- Runner up: Traeger Grills TFB57GZEO Pro Series 575 Smoker
- Budget Friendly: Camp Chef SmokePro DLX Pellet Grill and Smoker
- High End: REC TEC RT-700 Wood Pellet Grill
- Portable: Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett Pellet Grill
- 100% Stainless Steel: Cookshack PG500 Fast Eddy’s Pellet Grill
- Best for Small Spaces: Traeger TFB29PLB Bronson 20 Grill
- Extreme High End: Memphis Grills Pro 28-inch Pellet Grill
- High Capacity: Yoder Smokers YS640 Pellet Grill
Note: Clicking the above links – except for the Yoder Model – will take you to further information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon.
- 1 Best Pellet Smoker Reviews
- 1.1 Top Pick – Camp Chef Woodwind WiFi Enabled Pellet Smoker and Grill with Sear Box
- 1.2 Runner up – Traeger Grills Pro Series 575 Smoker
- 1.3 Best Budget Friendly – Camp Chef SmokePro DLX
- 1.4 Best High End – REC TEC RT-700
- 1.5 Best Portable – Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett
- 1.6 Best 100% Stainless Steel – Cookshack PG500 Fast Eddy’s
- 1.7 Best for Small Spaces – Traeger TFB29PLB Bronson 20
- 1.8 Best Extreme High End – Memphis Grills Pro 28-inch
- 1.9 Best High Capacity – Yoder Smokers YS640
- 2 What are Pellet Smokers? How do They Work?
- 3 How to Choose the Right Model for You
- 4 Other Considerations
- 5 Benefits of Pellet Smokers Compared to Other Types
- 6 Disadvantages Compared to Other Types
- 7 Conclusion
Best Pellet Smoker Reviews
Here is our list of ten high quality, highly popular, recommended grills on the market. They’re of various sizes, budgets and feature sets, all meeting our quality guidelines and suitable for different people with different needs. Somewhere in this list, you are sure to find the right choice for your budget and requirements.
Just a heads up that the following list are, with one exception, all ‘full sized’ pellet grills, and we have a separate guide to the best portable pellet grills if that’s what you’re actually after.
Let’s get into the recommendations.
Top Pick – Camp Chef Woodwind WiFi Enabled Pellet Smoker and Grill with Sear Box
Camp chef is a relative newcomer to the word of smoker manufacturing, having been founded in 1990. But the new kid on the block has earned a solid reputation of creating quality products at affordable prices with their SmokePro and Woodwind range of pellet smokers.
And in late 2019, they have really raised the bar when it comes to the Woodwind WiFi-enabled series, particularly when you add the ‘Sear Box’ accessory!
Yes, the Camp Chef Woodwind WiFi 24 does it all, from 160 F low smoking to 650 F searing in the main grill, to 900 F searing on the propane fuelled side attachment allowing this unit to do anything from smoking to grilling, braising, roasting and anything you could wish to do on an outdoor cooker.
The first impressive feature of this unit is the PID controller with smoke control.
The PID has a constant feedback loop, enabling this smoker to keep temps more accurately than the vast majority of its competitors. Not only this, but it has ‘smoke settings’ from 1 to 10.
To create smoke, pellets must smolder, not burn. But this is hard to control accurately, and so temperature fluctuations do occur, sometimes as much as 20 F in most pellet grills. In this unit, they have this way more under control.
With the smoke setting turned up to high numbers (close to or at 10), the unit does it’s best to maintain a consistent temperature, but while concentrating on producing smoke. Temperature fluctuations do occur, but less so than with other pellet smokers.
But here’s the good part! After you are satisfied with the amount of smoke (remember, smoke stops being taken on by food after 145 F or so is reached) then you simply turn down the smoke setting to a low number, and the unit concentrates on keeping the most consistent temperature possible instead, by burning the pellets in a more controlled fashion and not worrying about smoldering them for smoke. Temp accuracy is best in class in this setting.
The second impressive feature is the WiFi capability.
You can connect this unit to your home WiFi, and then use the ‘Camp Chef Connect’ app to monitor your cook from anywhere in the world you have a mobile internet phone signal.
This means monitoring both smoker and food internal temps, receiving notifications, and changing settings on your unit from the palm of your hand, anywhere in the world. No more being tied to the grill, so you can enjoy more time with family or guests while you cook.
The third impressive feature that sets this grill apart for me is the addition of a ‘Sear Box’ attached to the side.
Although pellet smokers are also interchangeably called pellet grills, they have never actually been that good at searing, which is a most important flavor adding stage of grilling due to the maillard reaction.
Good searing has to happen at high temperatures, and most pellet smokers simply cannot reach them. Well, Camp Chef came up with a solution.
The Woodwind series has a selection of ‘Sidekick’ attachments, including a flat top griddle, pizza oven or sear box attachment. It is the Sear Box that’s grabbed my attention!
A 180 square inch, 16,000 BTU propane fuelled searing grill that can reach up to 900 F means you can smoke foods low n slow in the main unit, before searing to perfection on the side box, or flip that process for perfectly reverse seared steaks.
With this, Camp Chef has finally laid to rest the main argument that pellet smokers cannot sear, and enables pellet smoker users to do away with having to fire up a second grill purely for searing. A time and money saver.
Other standout features include:
Slide and Grill – With the simple pull of a knob, you can move the ‘flame deflector’ out of the way of the firepot, so that flames lick through the slotted drip tray and can reach the meat, for 650 F searing inside the main unit. (You may think: Why the Sear Box then? The Sear Box is just better, cleaner, and more capable.)
Simplified Ash Cleanout – Generally speaking, to clean out a pellet smoker, you would get into the guts of it, take out most of the innards and vacuum out the ash. With this unit, with a simple pull of a knob, ashes from the firebox fall into a removable cup underneath the grill. It couldn’t be easier!
4x Meat Probes Included – That’s right, Camp Chef include four meat probes with this unit, not sold separately. This enables you to monitor the internal temperature of 4 meats at the same time, without having to purchase a separate smoker thermometer.
Full-sized upper and lower grates – Many competitors have only the one cooking level, or a main grill and ‘warming rack’ style set up. Camp Chef has made the Woodwind extra tall and included a full-sized second cooking grate, increasing overall cooking surface area to more than 800 square inches, in a grill with only a medium-sized footprint.
22 lb Hopper with Window and ‘easy empty’ – Most bags of pellets are 20 lb, most hoppers are less than this. The Woodwind has a 22 lb hopper meaning you can dump in a full bag. I’m not the only one who hates having to store partial bags of pellets, I’m sure? The hopper also has a window so you can see how much is left inside with ease, a feature almost no others include, so this removes the guesswork.
Also, the hopper is easily emptied by way of a chute. Simply pull a knob, a trapdoor opens and pellets fall down a chute into whatever container you use. No more scooping out pellets if you wish to store your smoker, or change your smoking wood pellets.
For an excellent overview and all-around look at the Woodwind and some of it’s best features, check out this video from Camp Chef:
- Smart smoke, best in class temperature monitoring (160-500 degrees F)
- WiFi enabled for monitoring and control anywhere
- Can sear at 900 F
- Durable and stable
- Easy cleanup and emptying of unused pellets
- Huge cooking area
- Extremely versatile
- 3 year warranty
- A lot of technology that is new to market, so longevity is as yet unproven
The Woodwind pellet grill and smoker with side sear box is probably the most versatile, fully featured, easy to use, maintain and clean pellet smoker I have seen come to market, and all at a reasonable price. It also helps that it’s aesthetically pleasing to look at too!
Digitally controlled, WiFi enabled for remote monitoring and control, a wide temperature range, GENUINE searing capability all combine to make the simplicity and power of this unit perfect for novice cooks and experts alike.
There’s honestly almost nothing I don’t like about this grill, and a hell of a lot that I do. That’s why I’ve awarded top spot in my list of best pellet smokers for 2020. For current prices and even more details, please click here:
Runner up – Traeger Grills Pro Series 575 Smoker
Traeger is the original brand of pellet grills and easily (at the time of writing) the most popular brand with the highest number of worldwide sales. They’ve produced quality and reasonably priced grills for almost three decades, so they were bound to feature high in this list.
Of their stable of products, the ‘Pro series’ are their bestsellers, and in late 2019 they released upgraded models with a host of updates and new features that keep them at the forefront of pellet smoker providers.
The brand new Traeger Pro 575 brings a new advanced controller and WiFire technology to what was an already highly versatile grill that can smoke, roast, bake, braise, and grill.
Many of the features in the Pro 575 used to only be available in their high-end Timberline range that cost a fair whack more, so they’ve really brought their best tech to the Pro range in this iteration. Let’s look at what you get:
WiFi Connected D2 Controller
Traegers new D2 controller is a PID controller with constant temperature feedback and variable speed fan that work together to hold temperatures steady, and is an improvement and fix to complaints of swinging temperatures in older models.
It also ships with a meat temperature probe that connects to the controller for monitoring internal temps of your food, so need for a separate 3rd party smoker thermometer.
The Pro Series 575 controller is also WiFi connected with technology Traeger are calling the ‘WiFire Controller.’
This allows you to connect the smoker to the internet so that you can monitor and change temperatures, set timers and more all from the palm of your hand, with an app on your mobile, from anywhere in the world.
The app also contains a grilling guide full of recipes, that can upload settings to your smoker from your phone automatically and control the entire cook from start to end with optimal setting changes throughout, all done hands-off for you. Cool feature, I’m sure You’ll agree?
WiFire also makes the Pro 575 ‘Alexa Enabled’ so you can ask Alexa to make setting changes with voice commands too.
D2 Direct Drive Auger Motor
Rarely – but it has happened to some – the auger in a pellet smoker can clog and become stuck. This means no further pellets can be fed into the firepot, and of course, cooking stops.
In the Pro series, Traeger has upgraded the pellet delivery system with a higher torque, lower RPM brushless direct-drive motor and drivetrain.
This means the parts are more resilient, stronger, far less likely to clog, and have a longer time frame between any necessary maintenance.
Again, Traeger’s answer to some previous complaints on older models, so well done them! They listen and react to customer feedback.
Turbotemp is a feature that combines the new PID controller and D2 drive train motor, along with the variable speed fan to accomplish faster warm-up and start-up times.
As well as reaching cooking temperatures far more quickly, the combo creates a strong vortex of smoke and heat throughout the cooking chamber, that envelops the foods more uniformly and helps to stabilize temperature gradients from left to right, and top to bottom of the cooking chamber, so you get more consistent cooking throughout.
Take a look at the following video from BBQGuys for a rundown of all this Traegers new features and an in-depth look at the build quality and all angles of the grill:
- Push-button easy operation, great for novice smokers and pros alike.
- Fast starting and accurately maintained temps with a PID controller and variable speed fan.
- Good sized capacity to cook for a crowd
- More efficient and cost effective use of wood pellets compared to previous models.
- WiFire technology to monitor and control temps and timers from anywhere in the world, or while spending more time with guests instead of at the grill.
- Max temp of 450 F a little on the low side, when many competitors reach 500 F. However, you almost certainly want a separate searing station at either temp, so not really an issue.
- Dual (or more) meat probes would have been nice.
The Traeger Pro Series 575 is a very capable and versatile grill, hitting the right balance between affordability, features, and advancements in technology. I’m a huge fan and happily recommend this grill, giving it second place only to the Camp Chef Woodwind above, despite the fact the Traeger does come in at a more affordable MSRP at the time of writing.
I’m positive almost anyone would be happy to own this grill and will enjoy years of beautifully smoked BBQ foods, with consistent results all the while being helped by this units feature-packed capabilities.
For current prices, more pics and customer reviews, follow this link:
Best Budget Friendly – Camp Chef SmokePro DLX
The Camp Chef DLX pellet grill and smoker comes with features you don’t find even on more expensive models. At 127 pounds, this is a very capable smoker with a generous 429 cubic inches of cooking space.
Including the removable upper warming rack, you get 429 square inches of cooking area. It comes with a built-in meat probe that runs through a special port in the sidewall. It attaches to the smart digital temperature controller that provides cooking temperatures from 160°F up to 500°F (71°C to 260°C). You can set to low smoke or high smoke which is about 225°F (107°C).
This smoker holds two large chickens or three racks of baby back ribs. And with attachments available – including an optional pizza stone – you can even bake pizza! Also available are a sear box, and flat top griddle.
The back is square instead of round, so there is more room on the upper rack.
Two of the nicest features on this smoker are the ash cleanout system and pellet clean out door. To clean the ash pan, there’s no vacuuming needed, you simply pull a lever and the ash empties out from the firebox into a cup mounted underneath the burn area. A trap door gives you quick clean out for the pellet hopper too.
Leaving pellets in your hopper can cause them to become damp and hard to burn. Plus, there are times when you want to change wood pellets to enhance the smoke flavor.
This smoker has an 18-lb. hopper with an easy release trap door so you can empty it fast. Also, the lid over the pellet hopper does not keep rain out, so you want to empty it and store your pellets in an airtight container.
It has two plastic wheels on the right side while the left legs are stationary, making for a very stable platform. Camp Chef makes it easy to set up and get cooking with seven online training videos in their multimedia selection window. This smoker comes with one year warranty.
- Built-in meat probe and port make monitoring your meat easy.
- Trap door access to clean the burn pot makes for quick and easy
- The hopper clean-out door, lets you change pellets fast or store them inside.
- Rear-mounted smoke stack leaves right side open as a prep area.
- Big enough for six beer can chickens.
- The lid is thin and does not seal tightly. On cold, windy days, it has trouble maintaining temperature without help from a wind break or insulation like a welding blanket.
- Pellet cover is not rainproof and can get your pellets wet if you don’t cover it.
- The controller is not programmable, so you will need to monitor more often.
If you are looking for a hassle-free clean-up and a grill that will smoke two chickens and one brisket at the same time, this grill is for you.
Most grills require you to disassemble and vacuum to clean the ash. But as we stated before, with the PG24 you simply pull a lever, and the ashes fall into a cup mounted on the bottom. This is a huge time saver, and will encourage you to use the smoker more – or at least, not discourage you through fear of the cleaning routine!
For an even closer look at this model, you can check out our in-depth Camp Chef SmokePro DLX review. Or for current prices, more pics and customer reviews, click here:
Best High End – REC TEC RT-700
The REC TEC RT-700 replaces what was once possibly the most recognizable pellet smokers from a distance, the bright red powder coated RT-680 with stainless steel bull’s horn shaped handles.
This new model RT-700 smoker holds a generous 40 pounds of pellets, making it suitable for long cooks. The construction is sturdy, most of the internal parts are stainless steel including the cooking chamber, grill grates, towel ring, controller shelf, hopper lid and handles, lid piano hinge and a whole lot more.
The RT-700 uses Smart Grill Technology™, a PID (proportional-integral-derivative controller) to keep the temperature steady. The grill has a working temperature of 200°F to 500°F (93°C to 260°C) programmable in 5°F degree increments for better cooking results.
REC TEC includes an internal hood light wired into the system for better visibility. A nice feature is the control box on the left that doubles as a small shelf with tool hooks attached. The hopper lid on the rear works as a nice warming shelf.
This model has 702 square inches of cooking space, one of the largest cooking areas of the grills we’ve looked at. You can cook 6 large racks of ribs, double if you have rack holders. Or, it can hold a brisket and two pork ribs at the same time. If that’s not enough, you can expand to 1045 sq. in. with the optional second shelf.
Moving the grill is easy with the grab handle located under the chimney.
- Large 40 lb. hopper and grill size gives plenty of room to cook for a crowd.
- The internal parts and grill are stainless steel for long life.
- It looks striking on your patio.
- Internal hood light for 24-hour cooking.
- The 6-years warranty is one of the longest that you’ll find for any pellet grill and smoker.
- There is no pellet hopper release should you want to change to a different pellet.
- The fire pot doesn’t come out for cleaning, but you can always vacuum it out.
REC TEC (BULL) RT-700 Wood Pellet Grill is user-friendly, good for beginners and competition level cooks alike.
The stainless steel finish to many components and the shelves will make this the centerpiece of your deck or backyard. It’s great for parties, easy to move, produces excellent results and deserves top spot as our best pellet grill.
We take a more in depth look in our Rec Tec RT-700 pellet grill review article. Or you can click here for current prices and customer reviews on Amazon.
Best Portable – Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett
Drive other campers crazy with the smell of smoked meat. The Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett Pellet Grill and smoker combines portability with the convenience of a digital Wi-Fi controller. You can control and monitor your meat with the iOS or Android mobile application. Take it camping, set it up and go off and play.
It uses a thermal probe, and the digital controls adjust in 5-degree increments. The “Sense-Mate” thermal sensor monitors the temperatures of the meat and the grill. It’s fully programmable from any Wi-Fi enabled device.
The Davy Crockett has three power options for the ultimate in portability. It runs on the 12-volt cigarette lighter, a 110-volt converter or even the 12v jumper cables that come with the kit. At 69 pounds (and a little help) it fits in the trunk of a car. The fold down legs acts as handles.
The lid is peaked instead of rounded, adding height for ribs or whole birds. It comes with an attachable tray with utensil hooks and a grease catching cup on the outside for easy cleaning.
- It comes with three power source options including your vehicle’s cigarette lighter making it portable.
- Wi-Fi enabled digital control means you can monitor and adjust the cooking progress from any device, anywhere.
- Large enough to hold both a brisket and a beef tenderloin at the same time.
- It has an open flame option and can go up to 500 degrees for searing.
- Only 69 pounds and the legs fold into handles for easy carrying.
- Because the unit is so compact, the pellets in the auger can pre-ignite.
- The hopper only holds 8 pounds of pellets.
- The left side tends to cook hotter due to the slanting grease plate below the grill.
The Davy Crockett is the best choice for tailgate smoking. It’s compact, portable and runs off your car cigarette lighter. You can smoke a split chicken from start to finish in just 2 hours, and can program and monitor the entire cooking progress on your phone if you are out and about.
Check out our GMG Davy Crockett review for a more in depth look, or click below for current prices and further details.
Best 100% Stainless Steel – Cookshack PG500 Fast Eddy’s
The two big differences between the Cook Shack PG500 and other smokers are construction and access. The PG500 is made in the U.S. using riveted, all-stainless steel construction, inside and out. And instead of a lid that opens vertically, this grill/smoker uses two doors, left and right. The cooking chamber is rectangular instead of rounded, providing a flat warming shelf on top.
The reason for the two doors is the way they configured the main cooking surface. By dividing the primary level into a direct flame and indirect flame, they created four cooking zones:
- Zone one is a 10″ wide x 18″ deep direct cooking area directly above the fire pot and diffuser plate for grilling and searing. It does a nice job of searing and grilling steaks.
- Zone two is on the right of the firepot, an 18″ x 18″ indirect zone for high or low temperature roasting with or without smoke.
- Zones three and four refer to the upper 10″ x 28″ nickel plated steel rack. Zone three is above the firepot, making it much hotter than Zone four above the indirect cooking area.
In all, the PG500 has 784 sq. in. of the cooking area which you can turn into 4 zones of cooking, direct, indirect, cold smoking and holding. It has the versatility of either grilling steaks or smoking cheese.
It requires a 120 VAC power source with at least five amps for the 36,000 BTU burner. The digital controller has a range of 180°F – 600°F (82°C to 315°C). At 600°F (315°C), this is the hottest smoker we tested, although the direct cooking area is small.
The 22-pound hopper capacity should give you about 33 hours of smoke time at 225°F (107°C).
They’ve designed a convenient front access ash drawer for easy cleanup. The grease drips into a pail that hangs off the spout on the right side. It has two casters and two stationary legs for maximum stability.
CookShack covers the grill with a 2-year limited warranty, but also give you a 30-day money back guarantee, which gives you a chance to try it.
The PG500’s Digital Controller maintains a constant temperature of a few degrees from start to finish.
- All-stainless inside and out provides maximum durability.
- The 4-zone cooking gives you more cooking options with the same grill.
- Clean out is simple with two pull out drawers for grease and ash.
- Large 22 lb. hopper capacity for longer cook times.
- The direct fire zone gets hot enough to grill steaks perfectly.
- Because of the open design of the fire pot for the high heat zone, ash can blow onto the food from the fan forced convection air.
- The high heat area of Zone 1 is relatively small and holds only four striploin or 6-8 burgers.
- No meat probe option for the controller means you have to check the internal temperatures by opening the door, losing heat in the process.
The PG 500 does a great job of smoking meat and holding temperature. It’s versatile enough to use as a grill if you only cook small amounts at a time. It’s durable and easy to clean. It also comes with a side prep shelf and a 40-pound bag of pellets to get you up and smoking right away.
Cookshack, Inc. makes these pellet grills in the USA.
Best for Small Spaces – Traeger TFB29PLB Bronson 20
At 77 pounds this compact traeger pellet grill is perfect for small areas and small families. It’s only 38 inches wide and 22 inches deep. One interesting feature is that it has no open flame complying with most HOA rules. The 300-sq. in. (20″ x 15″) grilling area will hold up to four chickens or a 20-lb. beef brisket. The grill grates are porcelain coated steel for easy cleaning and rust protection.
The grill frame and body feature powder-coated steel combining economy and durability. It has the “sawhorse” frame for stability and oversized plastic wheels make it easy to roll around.
The temperature controller has an LED display and oven-type knob for settings. It is not as accurate as other models with 25°F increment settings and a +/- 15-degree fluctuation. The generous 10-pound pellet hopper provides about 8 to 16 hours of smoke time depending on cooking temperature. It comes with a 10-minute cooldown cycle where the fan also blows out excess ash from the fire pot.
This grill is perfect for smaller households, tailgating or as a second grill for your vacation home.
- Compact size makes this a perfect smoker for small areas.
- This smoker complies with most HOA rules regarding open flames on balconies.
- Oversized plastic wheels make it easy to move.
- Porcelain coated steel grill grates for long life.
- 3-years warranty Overall, 1-year warranty on the grates.
- The controller is not as sensitive as it could be.
- There is no meat probe option.
- Pellet hopper requires a better design as pellets don’t all go in the auger without help.
The Traeger Bronson 20 is a good choice for a second smoker or ideal for small balcony or patio. This smoker is economical and has all the basic features that larger or more expensive grills have.
This grill runs off a standard 110-volt outlet. It uses about 300 watts to fire up the igniter for the first four minutes. Then it only requires about 50 watts of power after that.
Best Extreme High End – Memphis Grills Pro 28-inch
If you are looking for the highest quality construction, materials, features and design, the Pro-28 inch by Memphis Grills is what you want. They built this smoker/grill out of 430 stainless steel, double walled where it counts. There is a 304-stainless steel upgrade available. All internal and extra parts are stainless, so you’ll never worry about corrosion. The lid has a commercial grade oven gasket for a tight seal.
It weighs 213 pounds and has four locking casters for mobility and stability on hard surfaces, but don’t try and roll it over soft ground, because they are too small.
The cooking area is 562 sq. in. or 834 sq. in. with the optional grates. This grill has one of the highest temperature ranges from 180°F to 650°F (82°C to 343°C). All internal parts are stainless steel for long life. You switch from direct to indirect heating using the “Genie Tool” they provide. This tool cleans the grill grates and grips the various parts of the grill for access and cleaning.
You can program your cook from start to finish using the Intelligent Temperature Control (ITC) at the grill or from any Wi-Fi enabled device. This unit has two fans instead of one for better circulation and cooling down. The Pro-28 comes with one stainless steel meat probe, but the control has jacks for two more if you want to monitor different meat.
This smoker comes with a rear mounted, dual hopper holding a total of 18 pounds of pellets. You can add two different pellets at the same time for different flavor profiles.
Two nice features unique to the Pro-28 are the combination storage shelves left and right. The tops flip up to reveal stainless steel holding pans to hold all your secret ingredients.
The Memphis Grills Pro-28 comes with a direct flame insert, Genie tool, one meat probe, and a free 20 lb bag of pellets. Manufactured in the U.S., this grill has a 7-year limited warranty.
- All stainless-steel construction makes it durable for a lifetime.
- 7-year limited warranty means the company stands by their product.
- Dual hopper for mixing wood pellets.
- Two shelves with hidden storage is a feature no other smoker has.
- Wi-Fi enabled, so you can set it and forget it. Monitor the cooking from any device.
- The hopper does not have a cleanout making for a difficult pellet change.
- You must clean out the burn pot after each use, or it could make too large a fire the next round due to startup cycle misreading.
- You must purchase the Direct Flame Flavorizer separately to achieve higher temps for grilling steaks.
If you are looking for a grill with low maintenance but high tech, this is the one. Double walled stainless steel construction will last a lifetime.
This grill/smoker is on the higher end of cost but pays for itself over time. The convenience of Wi-Fi programming and ability to use three separate meat probes make this pellet smoker competition worthy, right in your backyard.
Best High Capacity – Yoder Smokers YS640
The Yoder YS640 Pellet Grill is true “set & forget” smoking. Yoder opted out of using a common PID controller. Instead, they custom built the controller with software specifically for Yoder and the many variables of cooking and smoking meats. It has proven to be very accurate and reliable.
Set from 150°F to 600°F (65°C to 315°C) in 5 deg. increments. It stays within a few degrees of your set point. With the optional “Direct Grilling Package,” the left side will climb to 700°F (371°C) for steakhouse style grilling. Another feature unique to this unit is the Variable Displacement Damper. It’s a metal plate you adjust from left to right along the smoke box to help concentrate or disperse the heat.
The main cooking surface is 640 square inches with two 16”x20” grates. Adding the second 15.5″x28″ slide-out shelf provides a total cooking area of 1,070 sq. in., plenty of room for competition or feeding a hungry crowd. Featuring a 20-pound hopper, you get plenty of smoking time before you need to refill. It’s about 12” tall inside, plenty of room for a turkey or beer can chickens.
The heavy-duty auger with high torque motor prevents jams. The offset burn pot allows for both direct and indirect heat and acts as an offset smoker.
The YS640 weighs a substantial 335 lbs. and has a 10-gauge steel cooking chamber with 14-gauge steel for the hopper and cart. The finish is a high heat, satin-coated paint. It’s not powder coated. The reason, grills get scratched. It comes with the territory. So, Yoder’s decided to use paint because it is easier and cheaper to touch up when you need to.
- The heavy-duty construction using 10 and 14-gauge steel.
- Warranty is 1-year on the igniter, 3-years on the control system and 10-years on the cooking body is the longest in the industry.
- Custom built controller.
- 20-pound hopper capacity for long cooking times.
- Chrome-plated ¼ inch steel bars for the cooking grates.
- You must vacuum the fire pit because it is not
- The casters are too small to roll on anything besides concrete.
- Pellets can back burn into hopper if you don’t keep it clean.
Yoder is a well-known brand in the competition and commercial barbecue world. The YS6740 is their attempt to capture the home market, and this smoker hits the mark. It has all the features the commercial models have plus the quality of materials and construction you expect from a commercial manufacturer. If you plan on cooking and smoking on a regular basis, then you should consider this as your first choice.
Yoder believes in their product, so you get the best warranty of any pellet grill.
What are Pellet Smokers? How do They Work?
If you’ve landed on this guide and gotten this far, it’s quite likely you already know how pellet grills work, but for those don’t, here’s a quick run down.
Pellet smokers work by generating heat from burning small wooden pellets made by compressing sawdust into a small cylindrical shape. They are incredibly dense, burn hot and last a long time.
Pellet smokers will have a hopper holding anything up to 22 lbs of pellets at a time, that feeds an auger or pellet delivery device, that pushes the pellets into a firepot sitting inside the cooking chamber.
In the firepot will be an electronic ignition that glows hot enough to cause the wood chips to catch fire. As the pellets burn, a fan feeds oxygen to the flames as a means of keeping them lit, to ‘fan the flames’ and to circulate the heat more evenly throughout the cooking chamber and around any food being smoked.
The brains of a pellet smoker is the digital controller that tells the auger how much to feed at a given time. More pellets mean higher heat and less smoke, while fewer pellets will produce lower heat and more smoke.
The controller measures the temperature of the cooking chamber at all times, and from the feedback it receives, decides how many more pellets to feed into the firepot, as well as how slow or fast to blow the fan to control the heat.
Pellet grills look very much like some charcoal or offset smokers, but with a squared-off hopper instead of a cylindrical firebox.
However, unlike these other smokers, they are very hands-off and set and forget, which we’ll cover more in the next section.
How to Choose the Right Model for You
Size and Cooking Capacity
From small portable models suitable for tailgating to huge 1000 square inch+ cooking surface monsters, they come in all different sizes…with prices to match.
If you will only ever cook for 2 to 6 people, there’s little point splashing out on a model that can cook 4 full-sized briskets.
Know what size you need before looking at what to buy.
The Pellet Delivery System
Things to look for:
- The auger and tube should be large enough so that it won’t jam.
- There should be enough separation from the end of the auger tube and fire pot so that there is no chance of fire going back into the hopper.
- Will the hopper stay dry in the rain?
- The larger the hopper, the less you have to babysit.
- Hopper Cleanout. Is there a clean out door or do you have to scoop them out manually?
The Combustion System
There are two parts to the combustion system, the fire pot, and the igniter. The fire pot is nothing but a thick steel can with some holes punched in it for ventilation. The igniter rod works much like the cigarette lighter in a car. The tip glows red hot during the initial startup, and once the controller senses the heat in the grill, the igniter shuts off.
Look for stainless steel or thick metal fire pots. Igniters can burn out over time so ask about how difficult it is to replace and availability.
The Grills and Construction
In general, the more stainless steel used in the construction, the less chance for corrosion, but the higher the cost. Most manufacturers build using steel that has been either painted or powder-coated, an enamel-like coating that is baked on.
Look for internal parts like the grill grates and fire pot made with stainless steel for the longest life. Porcelain coated iron grates are the next best choice.
Digital Controls and WiFi Capability
Most modern pellet smokers come with programmable digital controllers. Some are Wi-Fi accessible and programmable with your phone.
One newer innovation is the PID (proportional–integral–derivative) controller. It calculates the variables in the grill and keeps the temperature within 5 degrees of the set point. These controllers make cookers as close as you can get to smoking meat on auto-pilot.
Other older types of controllers such as the 3 position and multi-position controllers that have only 3 temp settings or step up in 5 or 10-degree increments, often suffer from as much as 15-degree Fahrenheit swings either way.
In addition to a temperature probe for the smoker, look for controllers with at least one meat probe to monitor the internal temperature of the meat for better results. Some models can have up to three separate meat probes.
Ease of Use
Do you want a simple, analog dial model with an on/ off switch and 3 to 10 temperature settings? Or an ‘all bells and whistles’, WiFi-enabled, Bluetooth enabled, smartphone-controlled technologically advanced model?
In all fairness, all pellet grills are easy to use, just some more so than others. But make sure you know which you’d prefer.
All pellet smokers can smoke, but you want sear at high temperatures too? Perhaps you’d like a flat top griddle attachment? What temperature range do you want out of your purchase?
I think it pays to decide before looking, to try to avoid getting sucked into added features you may not actually want or need.
Easy to Clean Features
Most of us hate to clean. So, finding features that make the job faster and easier becomes an important consideration. Some features to look for are:
- Removable firepot or access door to clean it
- Easy access to ash and grease cleanout
- Pellet hopper clean-out door or easy access
Some cheaper or older models, you have to open the lid and scoop out the pellets from the top to empty it, and worse, you need to disassemble the insides to clean out the firebox.
Definitely look for modern time-saving and effort saving design features here. Your future self will thank you.
You will find warranty periods from one to ten years from different manufacturers. Although the warranty is not usually a deal-breaker, it can give you an idea of what the manufacturer thinks about their product and whether they are happy to stand by their products.
We feel a robust warranty is a must with a pellet smoker because they have so many mechanical and electronic parts when compared to other more straightforward types of smokers, that there’s just more that can go wrong.
You will see the guarantee in each one of our reviews.
Power – Think about how far your smoker will be from the nearest outlet because all pellet grills require 110v/120v AC power. Unless you plan on a permanent installation by an electrician, you want to buy a heavy-duty outdoor extension cord with a least 12-gauge wire.
Maintenance – Anytime you mix steel, electronics, and weather, you can have problems. Motors, igniters, and electronics can and do wear out. Consider the age of the company and ask about the availability of replacement parts for the future. Some parts are common, and others are custom. Will you be able to get spare parts later?
Your Cooking Style – Before you decide on a pellet smoker, think about how much you are actually going to use it. Are you opening a restaurant serving smoked meats or will just smoke an occasional brisket for you and the wife?
Pellet grills are smokers first and a grill second. Typically, the burn pot is small and will not do as good a job of grilling large quantities of steaks and burgers as your standard charcoal grill. Most of them do well with one or two burgers if that is all you need.
Benefits of Pellet Smokers Compared to Other Types
Ease of Use
Yes, the single most important benefit is the sheer ease of use!
No charcoal or wood fire to get lit, no top and bottom vents to first master and then tweak to control airflow and heat inside the cooking chamber, no topping up of wood chunks or chips to produce smoke, and no topping up of fuel mid-cook either.
Getting a pellet grill started is as easy as turning it on, setting the desired temperature on either a rotary dial or digital push buttons, and then off it goes entirely by itself, maintaining a near-perfect cooking temperature and smoke output until the cook is done.
Most are able to hold temperatures ranging from under 200 F to 500 F or more. This means on a pellet grill you can smoke, roast, braise, bake, grill and BBQ.
You can pretty much cook anything on a pellet smoker that you can cook in your kitchen, on the hob or in the oven.
Low Maintenance and Easy to Clean
Pellet grills are very easy to fill up, simply pour a bag into a large opening in a hopper.
And when cooking is finished, because the pellets produce little ash, cleaning after is easy too.
Most models these days will even have a door or flap you pull open to discharge ash out the bottom, though some cheaper models do require an ash vacuum.
They also have grease management systems, where oils and fats dripping from food collects into a grease pan for easy removal and cleaning in a kitchen sink or even a dishwasher.
Wood pellets are very dense, high energy, and cost-efficient to burn, similar in cost to run as using gas.
Most pellet smokers are also very well constructed, sealed, and insulated so they hold heat well. They also have a convection fan that blows heat around the cooking chamber.
All this adds up to them being reasonably fuel and cost-efficient.
Quick to Start-Up
Charcoal and wood burning smokers take a good amount of time, sometimes as much as 45 minutes, to come up to cooking temperature after being lit.
A good pellet smoker will be up and ready in just 15 minutes after turning them on, which is time saving and avoids occasional frustration.
Disadvantages Compared to Other Types
Not Great at Grilling
The biggest bugbear of most opponents to pellet grills is the fact that although they are called a ‘grill’, they don’t do grilling particularly well! (They are officially smokers that happen to grill too!)
Because pellet grills are limited to 450 F to 500 F at the top end, they will never sear as well as a charcoal or gas grill. However, as you can see from the top pick in this list, manufacturers are finding solutions!
High Initial Cost to Buy
You can get a perfectly good charcoal, electric smoker or gas smoker for sub $200 to $400. Pellet smokers average between $500 to $1000. So the initial outlay to acquire one is far greater.
Availability of Fuel
You can buy charcoal or gas refills at any convenience store, you are never far from a source. However, wood pellets used for food smoking aren’t so readily available.
So if you MUST make sure you keep a good stock of pellets and aim never to run out, because often the only source to buy pellets for you will be online, and mean a 24 hour or more delivery.
Don’t ever run out of pellets mid-cook!
Weaker Smoke Taste
Many people accustomed to smoking on charcoal grills, or offset wood burners, find the taste of smoked food from a pellet grill is lacking a certain…something. The smoke flavor not strong enough or deep enough.
While this is somewhat true, it isn’t pronounced as food from a charcoal or wood fired smoker, it’s also actually a cleaner taste, a bit more refined, and some say allows the ingredients of the food to shine through more.
Running on electricity, you are somewhat tethered by the length of the power cord and being near to a mains supply. If you wish to relocate to another area of your garden, its not always easy to do.
Pellet grills combine the experience of pit-masters with the technology of thermal probes and computer chips to make meat smoking easy for everyone. The “set it and forget it” technology makes these grills indispensable for anyone wanting quality smoked meats every single time.
Grilling and smoking are two very different cooking techniques. While every smoker does a great job of smoking, only a few do a great job of reaching high enough temperatures for grilling too.
That’s why we have chosen the Camp Chef Woodwind as our most highly recommended model in our search for the best pellet smoker and grill.
It has unparalleled performance and unmatched temperature control. It has a large cooking area and the direct flame portion of the grill achieves high temperatures that would cook a steak properly…but has a side sear box capable of hitting 900 degrees Fahrenheit just in case.
Not only this, it’s very advanced with it’s color screen, WiFire capabilities and smartphone app. It’s also damn good looking to boot, is easy to maintain, is well built and should last many years making this the only smoker/grill combination you will ever need.
If you have any comments about the review or experience with any of the pellet grills here, please let us know in the comments below!
Image credits: © Amazon.com