6 Best Pellet Grills for Smokey, Delicious BBQ All Summer Long

Nicole Papantoniou, Good Housekeeping Institute, Rachel Rothman, Good Housekeeping Institute
Photo credit: amazon, williams-sonoma
Photo credit: amazon, williams-sonoma

From Good Housekeeping

If you're looking for the convenience of a gas grill with the taste and flavor of a wood smoker, wood pellet grills offer wood-smoked taste with a set-it-and-forget-it mentality. Plus, there's no need for natural gas or propane as they plug into a standard electrical outlet.

The Good Housekeeping Institute Kitchen Appliances and Technology Lab tests to find the best grills, from gas grills to charcoal grills, indoor grills and beyond. We rate ease of use and performance attributes like evenness of heating and speed of cooking. For pellet grills, temperature control and temperature range are important, so we consider the type of material used and insulation it provides, control panel, pellet dispensing system, and hopper size when choosing recommendations.

Though we haven't conducted formal Lab tests on pellet grills, our recommendations are based upon our categorical expertise and century-long history of testing grills and appliances. Our picks are loaded with features that make a great pellet grill from brands we trust and test. Below, you'll find a range of sizes for every type of pellet griller, in addition to ones with unique attributes, like portability, WiFi connectivity, and stand-out warranties. Ahead, you’ll find more info on our top selections, followed by buying advice and usage tips. Here are the best pellet grills to buy:

Best Overall Pellet Grill

Traeger Pro Series 575 Grill

Traeger is synonymous with pellet grills, as they were the first manufacturer of this type of grill. They're among the best-selling in the industry and are versatile enough to be used as a grill, smoker, and oven that holds precise temperatures. The key feature that sets them apart is their built-in logic; Traeger's new grills (including this Pro 575) have a D2 direct drive, which doses pellets and adjusts air flow according to the internal environment that's monitored by sensors every 30 seconds.

The Pro 575's temperature ranges from 165ºF to 500ºF, which means you can use it for everything from grilling to smoking, braising, baking, and roasting. It also connects to an app – equipped with more than 1,500 recipes – so you can program it directly from your phone, if you choose, and monitor the cooking process from there. With nearly 600 square inches of grilling area, you can fit several whole chickens or 16 burgers on it, enough to feed the fam and neighbors, too!

  • 18-pound hopper capacity

  • 572 square-inch cooking surface

Best Value Pellet Grill

Z Grills Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker

This Z Grills pellet grill stands out on Amazon for having over 400 positive reviews. When we dug a little deeper, we learned that this new-sounding company has been making grills for other brands for over 30 years. In 2017, it started selling under its own name, which allows for its competitive price point. (It even comes with a free grill cover!)This grill offers a solid stainless steel build and a large cooking surface. It has updated temperature controls and ranges from 180ºF to 450ºF. While common, reviewers like the grease collector, which makes for easy cleanup.

  • 20-pound hopper capacity

  • 504 square-inch cooking surface

Best Portable Pellet Grill

Green Mountain Davy Crockett Pellet Grill

If you're looking for a mobile option, the Davy Crockett model from Green Mountain is our go-to. Great for a day of tailgating or camping adventure, it has foldable legs so you’ll take up less space in your trunk on game day. This is one of the few portable options that feature digital controls and an integrated thermometer (referred to as Sense-Mate) to check on the internal meat temp of your food. And thanks to Wi-Fi capabilities, you can monitor the progress of your food from your phone if you’re too busy watching the game. The app also features an integrated food timer so you can get notified when it's done.

  • 9-pound hopper capacity

  • 219 sq in cooking surface

Best Pellet Grill for Beginners

Pit Boss 700 FB Pellet Grill

This is a great starter pellet grill considering its price, build, and capabilities. It’s super easy to use with its dial temperature control and easy readout display. Thanks to the slide-plate frame broiler you can also grill over direct flame in addition to the multitude of grill cooking styles already expected with a pellet grill (smoking, grilling, and barbecuing); plus, you can bake, braise, char-grill, roast and sear your food on this all-in-one appliance. And with 700 square inches of space to cook on including the second tier rack, the manufacturer claims you can make over 30 burgers at once!

  • 21-pound hopper capacity

  • 700 square-inch cooking surface with top rack

Best Pellet Grill for Searing

Camp Chef Woodwind Pellet Grill with Sear Box

One of the chief complaints with pellet grills is that you can’t sear a steak as well as a charcoal or gas grill can. The Woodwind with Sear Box option from Camp Chef can serve as both a smoker and searing grill. Use the wood pellet grill for easy temperature control and consistent results, then finish it off with sear marks on the cast iron grate that can reach temperatures up to 900ºF. Its ash-removal system makes it easier than most to clean since ash is deposited in an easy-to-remove cup under the smoke box.

  • 24-pound hopper capacity

  • 429 square-inch lower cooking surface (plus 141 sq in upper rack)

Most Durable Pellet Grill

Rec Tec RT 700 Wood Pellet Grill

This Rec Tec Grill's exterior and many of its accessories are made of stainless steel, while its interior accessories, including the grill grates and fire pot, are made of 304 stainless steel for even added durability. Plus, it's all backed by an impressive six-year warranty. In addition to top-of-the line materials, it can reach up to 500ºF to achieve sear marks, a hard to come by detail in the pellet grill category, which usually maxes out around 400ºF.

The Rec Tec RT 700 connects to an app and comes with two probes so you can monitor the internal temperature of two different foods. No need to worry about running out of pellets mid-cook either – it has a 40-pound hopper that can cook up to 40 hours, the largest on our list.

  • 40-pound hopper capacity

  • 702 square-inch lower cooking surface

What you need to know before buying a pellet grill

Why pellet over charcoal or gas? Pellet grills offer a greater deal of versatility as they can be used for smoking, grilling, roasting, baking, and in some cases, far more. If you like wood smoked food, pellet grills makes it easier to achieve this taste profile than burning wood on a grill or smoker and unlike charcoal grills, pellet grills require no effort to start and little maintenance unless the pellets run out (which is unlikely because one pound usually lasts an hour). Plus, it doesn't require any propane or gas, and getting wood chips is easier to ship and store than propane tanks or charcoal. Pellet grills also preheat quickly like a gas grill, usually about 10 minutes.

How does a pellet grill work? Simply load hardwood pellet into a hopper, turn the grill on, set the temperature, and wait for it to heat up. The pellets make their way to a fire pot beneath the grill via a motorized auger and a hot rod is used to ignite the pellets to create a fire while a fan stokes the fire, creating convection.

Choose your flavor. You can select from a variety of hardwood flavors to complement whatever you’re cooking. For instance, apple hardwood pairs well with chicken and veggies, but you may want to opt for oak or maple for beef.

Is it true that pellet grills are healthier? Manufacturers of pellet grills claim that because you are using an indirect heating source, the formation of carcinogenic chemicals is minimized. However, there is little scientific research showing pellets to reduce the formation of cancer-causing chemicals. And most pellet grills are required to list Prop 65 in California meaning cancer-causing chemicals are present. So if you’re opting for a pellet grill, do it because you prefer the taste imparted by hardwood.

How to find the best pellet grill for you

Cooking capacity is something you should factor in before you purchase any grill. Will you be using it for small family dinners, or larger backyard parties? Also consider what type of food you'd like to cook. Most will comfortably accommodate your typical bbq fare, like burgers and ribs, but if you want to smoke a large piece of meat, a large grill is your better bet.

Hopper size affects how long you can leave the pellet grill unattended in addition to how often you'll need to refill it and buy more pellets. A larger hopper allows for long smoking sessions without having to check in often. The amount of pellets used per hour varies based on the pellet and grill. It also varies based on the temperature used – more pellets burn at a higher temperature versus a lower one, but lower temps usually mean longer cook times and more pellets.

WiFi capability allows you to keep an eye on your food without being on top of it. Connected apps often monitor the internal temperature of foods with temperature probes, the air temperature, and the amount of pellets left in the hopper.

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