This definitive guide to the best pellet grills of 2020 explores everything you need to know to find a pellet grill best suited to your needs, including features to look for, materials and price.
Table of Contents
The Short List
- Best Pellet Grill (Overall): Traeger 575
- Best Cheap Pellet Grill: Green Mountain Grills Daniel Boone
- Best Portable Pellet Grill: Traeger Ranger
Best Pellet Grills for the Money
- Weber SmokeFire
- Green Mountain Grills Daniel Boone Prime
- Camp Chef Woodwind Wi-Fi
- MAK 1-Star General Pellet Smoker
Pellet grills are no longer just for nerds. Invented in the ’80s by the folks who would eventually found Traeger, which remains one of the most popular brands in the category, they work by pushing tiny pieces of compressed would from a hopper and into a firebox under a tray, which is fixed under the grates. Most have onboard computers and fans that regulate temperature, even feeding cooking and temperature data to smartphone apps. It is the only category in grilling to wholeheartedly embrace such technology into even its entry-level products, technology that has made the category as a whole the easiest, most relaxed path to properly smoked meat there is. But as pellet grilling has become more popular, so have the grills that make it happen. From great value to just plain great, these are the best pellet grills you can buy.
The Short List
Best Overall Pellet Grill: Traeger 575
It’s uncommon that a category’s most popular product is genuinely the best choice for most folks. It’s easy-to-assemble, made of heavy-gauge steel, rarely encounters technical difficulties and operates with more precision than any pellet grill below $2,000. Plus, it’s far more pellet fuel-efficient than its competitors and comes in comfortably under the $1,000 mark and is regularly on sale. Traeger’s 575 grill is the benchmark for the pellet grill category.
Best Cheap Pellet Grill: Green Mountain Grills Daniel Boone
Straight up, shopping for a “cheap” pellet grill isn’t wise. All the grill’s features are flaws when executed poorly or cheaply. Technology, moving parts and Wi-Fi connectivity create more avenues for problems to occur than any other kind of grill. That said, Green Mountain Grill’s Daniel Boone line — specifically the “Choice” line — offers a lifeline. For $500 retail, you get a sturdy grill good guts, but no Wi-Fi, which, in this case, is a good thing. The more flashy features, the more potential problems. It’s still run by an onboard computer and it still holds steady temperatures, you just have less to worry about breaking down mid-smoke. As with most pellet grills, the temperature range is 150 to 500, which is plenty of juice for a long smoke but not quite hot enough to sear a steak properly.
Best Portable Pellet Grill: Traeger Ranger
Small enough to fold up and throw in the backseat and powerful enough for a 12-hour brisket smoke. Traeger’s Ranger impressed when we reviewed it at launch in 2018, and it remains the standard bearer for portable pellet grilling. The drip tray and porcelain-coated grates are easy to clean, too. One thing to note: it’s small and portable, but not so small and portable to take much further than a car camping trip. It’s still 60 pounds of metal.
Best Pellet Grills for the Money
In 2020, the king of American grilling got into pellet grills for the first time, and after a somewhat unstable launch, it’s begun to come into its own. Along with plenty of Weber standards — sturdy materials, simple assembly, solid warranties, etc. — it also has a superpower almost no other pellet grill has: searing power. Unlike those pellet grills that place a drip tray under the grates that blocks direct heat, the SmokeFire employs the same upside-down, V-shaped heat diffusers its gas grills do, which allows for the heat source to interact more directly with the meat. In practice, it gets about 150 to 200 degrees hotter than 95 percent of other pellet grills.
Green Mountain Grills Daniel Boone Prime
The upgraded version of our “Best Cheap Pellet Grill” pick comes with Wi-Fi controls, which takes the pellet grill from a slightly hands-off grilling experience to a completely hands-off grilling experience.
Camp Chef Woodwind Wi-Fi
A healthy balance of technology, quality materials and clever design. In line with most quality pellet grills, Camp Chef’s Woodwind line operates between 160 and 500 degrees — hot enough to smoke and grill anything other than (maybe) steak. Two quality of life improvements that come standard with the grill: a computer control screen you can actually read, and a pellet hopper with a window built-in to see how much fuel is in the grill. Unlike other grills in the price range, Camp Chef pellet grills go on sale fairly regularly, too.
MAK 1-Star General Pellet Smoker
Only serious pellet grillers need apply. The MAK 1-Star may not look like much, but if you’re ready to invest in this way of grilling, it’s hard to beat. It’s grill is made of alumizined steel, which retains heat far more effectively than regular stainless (it’s what the interior of your oven is made of). Thanks to what the brand calls a “Flame Zone” system, it’s capable of genuine grilling temperatures, unlike the vast majority of pellet grills. It even has a pellet dump chute that allows you to completely empty the 20-pound pellet hopper for cleaning or maintenance.
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