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 and smokers you can buy.

What Is a Pellet Smoker (or Grill)?

A pellet smoker is a grill-smoker that is fueled by tiny pellets of compressed wood. Generally, most pellet smokers operate between 150 and 500 degrees Fahrenheit and as such, are better used for low-and-slow barbecuing and grilled foods that aren't as reliant on developing a fast sear (e.g. they grill chicken effectively but are not as proficient at grilling steak). Pellet smokers are powered by electricity and much be placed near an outlet (or a generator, if off-grid).

They're known as both pellet grills and pellet smokers; for the most part, the words are interchangeable, the only exception being pellet-fueled cabinet smokers and whatnot.

man adding pellets to a grill

What to Know About Pellet Grills

Easy to use: More so than any other kind of grill, pellet grills strive to eliminate barriers to entry. While revered for high-temperature cooking and its more primal roots, charcoal is especially tricky for new grillers to get a handle on. Gas grilling is quite easy comparatively, but gas grills with the firepower to sear meat quickly are pricier than you'd expect. A decent pellet grill is reasonably priced (about $750) and grants even the most novice cooks the ability to turn out really well-smoked grub.

Smoking, simplified: Traditional wood and charcoal smoking is challenging. You've got 6 to 12 hours to maintain a steady temperature, keep the coalbed happy, monitor internal temperatures and probably entertain guests to boot. Pellet grilling frontloads the work on your end: fill the hopper with wood pellets, preheat the grill, put the food on and you're (pretty much) done. There's no tending to the fire or monitoring vents for heat flow; computers in the grill do all that for you. Like all grills, though, it is important to let it preheat.

"A lot of beginners also throw food right on the grill before waiting for a full preheat. That’s a mistake on any type of grill, but the consequences are worse on pellet grills, which cook almost exclusively with hot air — more like an oven than a char-griller," Tony Matassa, BBQGuys Chef and Product Expert says. "Hot air isn’t the best at transferring heat, so let your pellet grill come to temp for about 10 or 15 minutes before starting to cook."

Grilling from your couch: Manufacturers have begun working smart technology into their latest grills, but pellet grills have had it for years now. Turn on the grill, select a cook cycle and get the interior pre-heated and smoky from the bed (assuming the hopper is full of pellets already). Once you're cooking, you can monitor the internal temperature of the butt you're smoking from your phone via Wi-Fi. More advanced pellet grills will even cut the temperature when you're closing in on that desired temperature.

"Keep in mind that there’s a huge gulf between devices that simply provide digital readouts and smart technology equipped with sensors," Matassa says, "Those purely digital controllers will display temperatures and timers, while the smart technology — usually labeled PID — runs thousands of calculations per second to maintain temperatures and is constantly learning during cooks."

One note, though: Wi-Fi connectivity is largely dependent on the distance and obstructions between your grill and route. If your router is buried deep in the basement, it's unlikely you'll secure a working connection.

More smoker, less grill: As odd as it sounds, pellet grills are better described as pellet smokers. Most max out around 450 degrees, and they don't operate through direct heat like a gas or charcoal grill (though many gas grills today use small diffusers to balance heat distribution). We don't recommend pellet grills if you're interested in grilling steaks or other quick-cooking grilled foods for this reason, though there are a small number of notable exceptions to this rule (like our Step-Up pick, the YS480S).

Technical difficulties: It is a fact that pellet grills have more moving parts than gas or charcoal grills, and more moving parts mean more opportunities for breakdowns. Buying a pellet smoker from a company that backs its products with strong warranties and a functional customer service team is of greater importance in this category of grills than any other. In the same vein, treating yours properly is important to get the most cooks you can out of it. According to Matassa, the shutdown cycle is one step most new pellet grillers miss.

"Shutdown is an extremely important process because it burns off any remaining combustibles in the fire pot, preventing burn-back into the auger and pellet hopper. I’m not trying to cause alarm; burn-back is pretty rare, but this is another easy step to ensure safe grilling," Matassa says. "While some pellet grills enter shutdown mode when they’re turned off — that’s manually turned off, not just unplugged — others have a “Shutdown” setting on the temperature switch."

How We Tested

collage of chicken cooking on a grill and pellets being added to a pellet grill
Gear Patrol Staff

We've always been big fans of pellet grills and smokers, and over the years we've kept up with the latest models and gotten our hands on as many pellet smokers as possible for in-person testing. We've reviewed grills over weeks and months, using them to smoke various meats, taking stock of how they perform, noting any standout features or failures and taking stock of whether or not we ultimately think a particular smoker is worth the cost. The following pellet grills are our current favorites.

Traeger Pro 575 Pellet Grill

Best Overall Pellet Grill

Traeger Pro 575 Pellet Grill

  • Excellent wheels
  • Great stainless-steel build
  • Easy to assemble

  • On the smaller side

  • Cooking Space: 572 sq. in.
  • Pellet Capacity: 18lb
  • Max Temperature: 500° F

    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 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.

    The 575 features 572 square inches of cooking space, which is enough for small groups and families. If you're planning to entertain, our tester recommends buying up to the Traeger 780, which boasts 200 square inches more of grill real estate, which is enough to accommodate larger groups without much issue.

    Read our full review of the Traeger Pro 575 Pellet Grill.

    Yoder Smokers Pellet Grill

    Best Upgrade Pellet Grill

    Yoder Smokers Pellet Grill

    • Max temperature of 700 degrees allows true grilling
    • Incredible build
    • Great for smoking and grilling

    • Expensive
    • On the small side
    • Cooking Space: 800 sq. in.
    • Pellet Capacity: 20lb
    • Max Temperature: 600° F

      Yoder Smokers's pellet grills are, for our money, the best a residential user could ask for. The material selection is unrivaled, it looks incredible and, most importantly, the guts are top-tier. Yoder Smokers made a name for itself with its heavy-duty offset wood smokers, and that fact is important because its pellet smoker design is clearly inspired by that expertise. Where the vast majority of pellet smoker fireboxes (where the pellets are set ablaze) are in the center of the grill and shielded by a large sheet of metal, Yoder Smokers moves the firebox to the side of the grill, better mimicking the movement of heat and flame in a legit smoker. And with a max temperature of 700 degrees, it also gets much hotter than most pellet smokers, earning it the rare ability to grill. As odd as it sounds, very few pellet-fueled grills are capable of grilling.

      The YS480S is its smallest pellet smoker and it's still an absolute monster compared to competitors. Its hopper holds 40 pounds of pellets and there's greater than 800 square inches of cook space. Altogether, Yoder Smokers' pellet smoker is a uniquely excellent product.

      Camp Chef SmokePro DLX

      Best Budget Pellet Grill

      Camp Chef SmokePro DLX
      $599.99 (24% off)

      • Ash catch makes cleanup much simpler than others
      • Reaches a decent max temperature

      • Can smoke decently, but better as a grill

      • Cooking Space: 570 sq. in.
      • Pellet Capacity: 18lb
      • Max Temperature: 500° F

        A healthy balance of technology, quality materials and clever design. In line with most quality pellet grills, Camp Chef’s SmokePro operates between 160 and 500 degrees — hot enough to smoke and grill anything other than (maybe) steak. Three quality-of-life improvements that come standard with the grill: a computer control screen you can actually read, a pellet hopper with a window built-in to see how much fuel is in the grill and a stupid-simple ash cleaning system, which amounts to pulling a small cup away from a trapdoor on the underside of the grill. Unlike other grills in the price range, Camp Chef pellet grills go on sale fairly regularly, too. The SmokePro covers the pellet smoking bases effectively and is backed by a legitimate company in Camp Chef, which is more than most budget-focused pellet grills can claim. We like it for the price and then some.

        Traeger Ranger

        Best Portable Pellet Smoker

        Traeger Ranger

        • Fits in the trunk of a car nicely
        • No step down in food quality from a standard-sized grill

        • No easy way to remove pellets for lighter transport

        • Cooking Space: 176 sq. in.
        • Pellet Capacity: 8lb
        • Max Temperature: 450° F

          Small enough to fold up and throw in the backseat and powerful enough for a 12-hour brisket smoke. Traeger’s Ranger impressed our testers 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 from our tester, however: while this grill is small and portable, it's not so small and portable to take much further than a car camping trip. It’s still 60 pounds of metal, so hauling it around is a bit more of a chore than we'd like.

          Read our full review of the Traeger Ranger.

          Pit Boss Sportsman 820 Wood Pellet Grill

          Best Pellet Grill With a Warranty

          Pit Boss Sportsman 820 Wood Pellet Grill


          • Budget friendly
          • Backed by five-0year warranty

          • No Wi-Fi control

          • Cooking Space: 849 sq. in.
          • Pellet Capacity: 21lb
          • Max Temperature: 500° F

            Likely the most popular budget-minded pellet grill maker, Pit Boss consistently offers grills with the space and looks of more premium pellet grills for a couple hundred dollars less. So if this medium-sized back porch pellet grill doesn't suit your needs it's wise to browse the company's many other options in the pellet space.

            We recommend the Sportsman 820 because it fulfills its base functions — grilling and smoking — extremely well for the price and size, and comes with a 5-year parts warranty that covers electrical components, ceramic parts, steel parts, wood parts and even the caster rollerblade-style wheels (which we liked). This level of warranty is usually reserved for more expensive grills or differs from part to part. Electrical issues are fairly common in the pellet grilling world, so 5 years of coverage on issues related to the motor or onboard computer is a strong selling point. This specific Pit Boss model does not come with Wi-Fi control, though, so if you're set on managing your pellet grill from your phone or another controller, consider Pit Boss's Pro line, sold exclusively at Lowe's.

            ZGrills 1000E

            Best Pellet Grill for Parties

            ZGrills 1000E

            $629.00 (26% off)

            • Storage cabinets on a pellet smoker is rare
            • Temperature builds more quickly than most sub-$1000 options

            • Occasionally goes out of stock (usually back in-stock after a few weeks)
            • Cooking Space: 1,056 sq. in.
            • Pellet Capacity: 20lb
            • Max Temperature: 450° F

              A pellet grill that does most things well. ZGrills' 1000E runs in the typical pellet grill range ( 150 to 450 or so) and manages to fit a lot of cooking space into a relatively small grill. Its primary cooking area is only 431 square inches, but there are also two more racks above it that see the grill's total cooking area nearly triple that figure (1060 square inches). The short of it: it's a rib-smoking machine. The space between each rack may not accommodate larger cuts of meat unless you remove one of them, but it can feasibly handle 7 to 8 racks of ribs. It's also got an extra-deep hopper that holds 20 pounds of pellets, which means you spend less time checking on fuel level and more time perfecting your barbeque sauce.

              Green Mountain Grills Daniel Boone

              Best Pellet Grill for Beginners

              Green Mountain Grills Daniel Boone


              • Surprisingly steady temperature regulation for a budget smoker

              • No Wi-Fi or app connectivity, if you're into that
              • Cooking Space: 458 sq. in.
              • Pellet Capacity: 17lb
              • Max Temperature: 500° F

                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 with 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.

                Green Mountain Grills Daniel Boone Prime Plus

                Best Smart Pellet Grill

                Green Mountain Grills Daniel Boone Prime Plus


                • Excellent wheels and mobility
                • Sturdy materials
                • Wi-Fi connectivity

                • Must purchase through a licensed dealership

                • Cooking Space: 458 sq. in.
                • Pellet Capacity: 18lb
                • Max Temperature: 550° F

                  The upgraded version of the standard Daniel Boone comes with Wi-Fi controls, which takes the pellet grill from a slightly hands-off grilling experience to a completely hands-off grilling experience. The Prime Plus also comes with handy quality-of-life improvements like a built-in rotisserie, collapsible front shelf and perhaps the best sleeper grill feature there is in an under-hood light. Its motor and pellet efficiency are better, too. If you're struggling to decide between the two, consider how often you might expect to use the grill. If the answer is less than once every other week, the more affordable option should do the trick. More than that, though, the convenience and options presented by the Prime Plus make the few hundred dollar price hike worth it.

                  Recteq RT-590

                  Best Direct-to-Consumer Pellet Grill

                  Recteq RT-590


                  • 30-pound pellet hopper is significantly larger than most
                  • Absurdly strong warranty
                  • Bottom storage space is great
                  • All-steel build; no plastic component parts

                  • Styling is a bit kitschy

                  • Cooking Space: 592 sq. in.
                  • Pellet Capacity: 30lb
                  • Max Temperature: 700° F

                    If you want value in build quality, this is it. Recteq is a direct-to-consumer pellet company that makes its grills for the long haul. Where many companies might throw some chintzy plastic wheels to save a few bucks, Recteq's are literally for rollerblading. All of the component parts — from the vents to the handles — are stainless steel. It also boasts a super-high max temp of 700° F and an absolutely massive (for the grill's size, at least) 30-pound pellet hopper, which supports more 30 hours of consecutive smoking. Perhaps the biggest selling point, though, is its 4-year warranty, which covers every component in the grill. This is especially uncommon in the pellet grilling space, where the reliance on moving parts and electronics makes the grills less reliable over time.

                    Weber SmokeFire EX6

                    Best Pellet Grill for Grilling

                    Weber SmokeFire EX6


                    • Higher max temperature (600 Fahrenheit) than most pellet grills
                    • Weber customer service + warranty remains excellent
                    • More than 1000 square inches of grill space

                    • Fickle to use
                    • Reviewers complain of it shutting down mid-cook
                    • Cooking Space: 1,008 sq. in.
                    • Pellet Capacity: 20lb+
                    • Max Temperature: 600° F

                      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 block 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.

                      New and Upcoming Releases

                      Our recommendations are based on real-world testing. Here's a snapshot of new and unreleased pellet grills our testers are considering for future updates to this guide.

                      Weber Smokefire Sear+: The latest pellet smoker line from the grill kings over at Weber aims to fix one of the pellet grill segment's biggest shortcomings — searing — by having a max temperature of 600°F and incorporating a Dual-Sided Sear Grate.

                      Traeger Ironwood: In 2023, Traeger introduced an entirely revamped Ironwood line consisting of two new models: the Ironwood and Ironwood XL. These pricey grills (the Ironwood XL is $2K) are still a bargain compared to Traeger's top-of-the-line Timberline range (the Timberline XL is $3,700) while borrowing many of that line's most advanced features.

                      How Does a Pellet Smoker Work?

                      Load a pellet grill's hopper with pellets (most brands claim you need to use their brand-specific pellets, but this is usually not true), calibrate the onboard computer to your desired temperature and walk away for 15 or so minutes. The grill's computer ignites the firepot at the center of the grill and begins turning an auger that feeds pellets into it to generate heat and smoke. This process is typically helped along and regulated by a series of interior fans and temperature monitors. For the most part, fire pots are not directly exposed to the grill grates; they're usually separated by an angled steel plate, which catches dripping grease and feeds it away from the fire pot and into a catch. This means the majority of pellet grills cook with indirect heat, which is why temperatures are lower than their gas and charcoal counterparts.

                      Are Pellet Smokers Safe?

                      The short answer: yes, safer than the vast majority of other grills. Unlike grills that cook with direct food-to-flame contact (or something close to it), pellet grills cook more like a smoky oven, using convective heat. This means that for 95 percent of pellet grills, the food on the grill will not be dripping into a hot fire. Matassa says that because the grills are typically unsafe due to user error rather than a mechanical or design failure, but are plenty safe.

                      "A lot of pellet grill safety depends on common sense from the user. Don’t leave your grill lit for days at a time, keep combustibles away from the grill, things like that," Matassa says. "But I can say that pellet grills are designed for safe use over hours and hours, particularly in the form of diffusers and grease management systems that make it extremely difficult for food drippings to reach the fire pot. That goes double if you’re cooking at lower temperatures, which is presumably the only scenario in which you’d leave your grill unattended for longer than a few minutes at a time."

                      The high level of technology in the grills is also useful here, as most phone apps will send alerts if the temperature begins to spike or the grill encounters an issue.

                      What About Pellets?

                      Some brands suggest the only pellets that will work in their grills are their own brand's, but this is mostly untrue. So long as you're using BBQ pellets, you'll be fine. This means you should not use pellets used in the pellet stoves sometimes used to heat homes; they're often not 100 percent hardwood and will come with some filler or other materials you wouldn't want on your food.

                      Pellets come in a variety of types, so choosing is ultimately a matter of taste, but storage is universal: don't leave the bag exposed.

                      "A really easy misstep is leaving your bag of pellets opened and exposed to the elements. Even the slightest bit of moisture overnight will cause the pellets to puff up and become unusable. The easiest solution for proper storage is a 5-gallon bucket kept sealed, but the higher-end option would be a gasketed container," Matassa says.

                      Are Pellet Smokers Worth It?

                      Pellet smoker grills are flawed but still valuable, depending on what kind of cook you are. If you want to grill the perfect steak, pork chop or carne asada, consider a charcoal or gas grill. If you're interested in smoky ribs, pulled pork, burnt ends, chicken, turkey and really any other meat (or hardier veggies), pellet grills are worth the money, as they effectively eliminate the learning barbecuing learning curve associated with manual smokers and smoking on a charcoal grill. The convenience of Wi-Fi controls, which is present in many mid-market pellet grills, accentuates this.

                      Assistant Editor, Home and Design Will Price is Gear Patrol’s home and drinks editor.
                      Johnny Brayson is Gear Patrol's associate home editor.