9 Best Pellet Smokers to Feel That Perfect Food Flavor
Last updated: Mar 11, 2020
56Hours of Research
Everyone knows how delicious smoked foods can be. The trouble is, however, that it can be nearly impossible to make these types of food at home. That is unless you have the best pellet smoker you can find at your disposal. These amazing cooking tools use wood pellets to smoke food. This fuel type is incredibly efficient and provides that authentic wood-smoked flavor that tastes oh so good.
Of course, there are lots of things that you need to consider before you get your hands on the best pellet smoker for the money. When we were putting together our list, we first looked at the cooking area of each smoker, since this will dictate how much food can be made at once. Next, we looked at the overall dimensions and weight of each model, as these two factors might limit where you can use your new smoker. Finally, we checked whether or not each model had a warming rack, which will allow you to make sure everyone gets a hot meal when you are cooking.
Top 9 Pellet Smokers Review 2020
To find the best pellet smoker grills on the market today, we have spent tens of hours reading through hundreds of user reviews. This research has not only allowed us to create a comprehensive list of the best-rated pellet smokers available but also to complete in-depth reviews of each model. Of course, if you aren’t quite ready yet to make your final decision, please take the time to read our detailed buying guide, so that you are better prepared to make your purchase.
When it comes to finding the very best pellet smoker on the market, there are several things that are an absolute must. The first thing that you want to look for in a smoker is a large capacity. That way, you’ll be able to make as much or as little food as you want, depending on the situation. The next thing that you should carefully consider is looking for a model that has a large heat range. That way, you have the option to slowly smoke or quickly sear your food to meet your needs.
Plain and simple, this model from Z Grills checks both of these requirements off the list and then some. It has a nice big primary cooking area. This larger than average area will allow you to make enough food for a party with ease. It also has one of the larger warming areas on the market as well. This large warming area will allow you to keep all of that great food you have made piping hot so that no one has to settle for cold meat.
This model will also allow you to smoke, grill, barbecue, bake, or any other kind of cooking you would like to do to your food. This high level of versatility is thanks to its outstanding heat range. While most pellet smokers only heat up a little bit for long term cooking, this model has a maximum temperature of 450 degrees, which is more than enough to grill and sear food as well.
The hopper capacity is also one of the largest available. Even though this hopper can be a bit tricky to clean, the fact that you don’t need to add fuel for so long is quite beneficial. In fact, this hopper can handle up to 20 pounds of pellets at a time. When combined with the fact that this is one of the easiest to program pellet smokers you can buy, it should come as no surprise that this is, by far, our favorite smoker that we looked into.
Weber has a longstanding tradition of making excellent grills and smokers, which dates back to when the company got started many years ago. This is the company, after all, that invented the covered charcoal grill. Which is why it should come as no surprise that their pellet smoker is such an excellently designed and easy-to-use cooker. To start off with, this has one of, if not the, largest cooking areas of any smoker on the market. This large cooking area makes it easy to cook or smoker pretty much anything, no matter if you are doing some ribs, a brisket, or a whole chicken.
Something else that makes this such an excellent option is its versatility. This model has a built-in thermometer in the lid, which makes temperature control nice and easy. Though it, obviously, can be used with wood pellets, you also have the option of working with charcoal in this model as well. This versatility can help to open up a whole new world of flavorful cooking, since switching between the two fuel types is as easy as cleaning out the hopper in the bottom of the smoker.
Of course, since this smoker doesn’t have any sort of auger or computer system to control the temperature and cook time, there is a rather steep learning curve to use it effectively. Thankfully, once this has been conquered, you can rest assured that the food you make with this smoker is always going to be delicious.
The compact design of this smoker only adds to its overall value. Even though this smoker has one of the largest cooking areas available, the overall unit is quite small. This small size makes it a great addition on camping trips or tailgating parties. The smoker is also quite lightweight, making it easy to move from place to place.
Getting into using smokers can be a daunting task. Thankfully, using a smoker doesn’t need to be a complicated process. This is especially true if you get a pellet smoker model that functions in a similar fashion to a grill. This model from REC TEC is a great example of this. To start off with, it has a very large capacity primary cooking area and a huge warming rack. In fact, the warming rack for this model is bigger than some other model’s entire cooking area. This large cooking and warming surface combine to make this a great option if you want to make a ton of food at once.
The style of this smoker is very reminiscent of a grill as well. Though it does have a very large hopper built-in, it is not obtrusive or in the way. This not only helps to make this a very effective option but also one that is more appealing to the eye. The hopper is quite large, however, and can hold up to 40 pounds of pellets at any given time. This, of course, helps to give this smoker one of the longest cooking times possible.
You can, as you would imagine, make the cooking time last even longer by operating at lower temperatures. This can be a bit problematic with this model, however. Though it is able to maintain higher temperatures when grilling with ease, it struggles to keep constant temperatures when you are using it with less heat.
This model also has very accurate and very easy to use devices in place to help you set up and control the cooking process. It features built-in meat probes that will allow you to check your meat to see if it is ready to eat. The PID controller is also very accurate and easy to use, which helps to make the cooker all the more useful.
One of the best things about pellet smokers is that, unlike models that rely on wood or charcoal as their heat source, they are very easy to use. Since wood pellets burn so efficiently, the temperature is much simpler to control, which makes for a much better cooking experience. Of course, not all pellet smokers are super simple to use. This model, thankfully, is one of the easiest to program that we found.
What makes this such a simple smoker to utilize correctly are the built-in digital controls. These controls make it simple to get the smoker started, set the temperature, and keep the pellets burning exactly how you want them to so that you get the right amount of heat and smoke to cook your food exactly the way you want to.
Something else that helps to make this such an easy to use model is its large hopper. The pellet chamber on this model is able to handle about 18 pounds of pellets, which is more than enough to keep it running for a good long time, especially if you are cooking at lower temperatures. You just need to be sure that you only load as many pellets as you want to use, however, since you cannot remove them once they have been loaded into the hopper.
This model is also quite easy to keep clean. One of the biggest things you need to worry about with a smoker is grease and condensation. Thankfully, this model has an easy-to-use drip bin, which will catch any drippings from your meat and condensation from the heat. This will, in turn, help to make the smoker that much easier to clean.
Digital temperature control
Easy to program
Pellets cannot be removed without using them first
Even though you might think that buying a new smoker is going to cost you a ton of money if you want to get a high-quality model, that doesn’t need to be the case. Take this model from Green Mountain, for instance. This is an extremely effective smoker, in spite of the fact that it is one of the cheapest that you’ll be able to find. Of course, this cheaper price tag does come with some sacrifices.
The only thing that you are going to lose by purchasing this model is some cooking area. Unlike the more expensive smokers, this model is relatively small. While it is certainly large enough to make enough food for a small family gathering, it would not be all that great for a large party. Thankfully, this is the only concession that the designers made in order to lower this smoker’s price point.
As you would expect from such a small smoker, this model is extremely portable. The legs completely fold up, which makes it that much easier to fit inside of a vehicle to take camping. This compact design also makes storage a lot simpler, as well.
What is really surprising about this value-priced smoker is the fact that it is Wi-Fi enabled. While all pellet smokers are very easy to set up and run, this model takes it to a whole other level. Since you can connect this smoker to your home’s Wi-Fi, you can actually control this grill with your smartphone. You can set the temperature, keep track of the cooking time, and see the temperature all from the comfort of your favorite chair. If you are looking for an easy-to-use and budget-friendly pellet smoker, then this is a great place to start.
One of the only downsides to using a pellet smoker in comparison to a charcoal model is that charcoal ones are much more portable. The reason for this is simple. Most pellet smokers are quite large, mostly due to their need for a separate hopper. These hoppers are usually quite large in their own right, which only makes the overall dimensions of the smoker that much bigger.
If you are looking for a portable pellet smoker, however, this is a great model to start with. It has a smaller capacity hopper, which means that the smoker isn’t all that large. The primary cooking area is also on the smaller side, which makes transporting this unit quite easy.
Of course, this smaller size does have its issues. For instance, since the hopper is much smaller, you can’t cook quite as long as you can with other models. Of course, since the primary cooking area is on the smaller side as well, you won’t be using this model to cook tons of food all at once, so this smaller hopper shouldn’t be too big of a deal.
This smoker also features a very easy to read LED display system that will let you know what the exact temperature is when you are cooking. This easy to read and operate system will allow you to cook with a high level of accuracy, which will let you make great meals every time.
Aside from the smaller sized hopper and cooking capacity, something else to keep in mind with this model is that the grease bin is not all that stable. You need to be especially careful when you are putting the bin on or taking it off of the stand, as it has a tendency to tip.
Whenever you buy something as expensive as a new smoker or a grill, you want to make sure that it is going to last. One way that you can do that is to make sure that you buy your new cooking apparatus from a good company that has a long reputation for making quality products.
This model, which is made by Cuisinart, is a great example of this. You can tell that this smoker is made from a quality company right from the get-go just by looking it over. The outside has a corrosion-resistant coating, and the smoker itself is made from extremely durable and thick steel. Thanks to both this coating and the quality of the parts used to manufacture this smoker, you can rest assured that if you do select this model, it will last you for years and years to come.
The company also includes a high-quality cover with this particular smoker. Even though this is a great product on its own, this cover will help it to last even longer. This cover helps to not only make this a very durable model, but also a great value since you would probably want to buy a cover anyways.
One of the drawbacks to buying a high-quality, heavy-duty smoker like this is that such models tend to be difficult to assemble. That is, unfortunately, the case with this otherwise wonderful product. If you do decide to purchase this smoker, just make sure that you have someone to help you and you have a bit of time to spare, since it will probably take you a bit to put together correctly.
If you are a grill master, then odds are that you don’t want to mess around when it comes to finding a new smoker. You are probably only looking for models with extremely high capacities so that you can make as much food at once as possible. If this is exactly what you are looking for, then this just might be the right model for you. It has an extremely large overall cooking area, making it the perfect cooker for making mountains of mouthwatering food.
As you would expect with a pellet smoker with capacity this large, this model also has a very large hopper. It can hold up to 18 pounds of pellets at one time, which makes it a perfect option if you intend to smoke your foods for a good long during each time.
The ignition and heating system for this model is quite easy to use. You can easily ignite the pellets with the touch of a button. From there, setting the temperature is also quite simple, as all you have to do is turn a dial to your preferred temperature and let the smoker do the rest.
Even though this is a larger capacity smoker, it is still quite portable. This is thanks in part to the high-quality wheels on its base. If you don’t have enough space to keep your smoker out all of the time, then this would be a great option, since you can easily maneuver it so that it is out of the way.
One thing to keep in mind with this model is that it tends to leak smoke at higher temperatures. The seals are great for lower temperatures, but higher heat levels lower their effectiveness at holding back the smoke. Of course, this shouldn’t be too big of a deal, since you probably won’t need to use higher temperatures if you are using this as just a smoker.
Vertical pellet smokers are not quite as common as horizontal models, but they are still quite useful when it comes to making delectable dishes. They are especially good for making food in bulk. This model, for instance, is able to hold an otherworldly amount of food. For example, with this smoker, you can cook 12 chickens at once! This large capacity makes it a perfect option for a business or anyone that likes to throw large parties.
It might come as a bit of a surprise with a smoker with this type of capacity that it has such a small hopper. Thankfully, the reason for this is twofold. First, it helps to keep the overall footprint of the smoker to a minimum, which is always a plus. Secondly, with the way that this smoker is designed, you can add pellets while it is cooking. So even though the hopper is relatively small, it shouldn’t be too big of a deal, as long as you have the time to add the pellets when they are needed.
One thing that you will want to be careful of if you do decide to purchase this smoker, however, is the thermometer. It is, unfortunately, not very accurate. The last thing that you want to do is smoke all that food for a long time at the wrong temperature, so it is a good idea to get an external thermometer. While this will cost you a bit more upfront, it will be well worth it in the long run.
This is also one of the more straightforward pellet smokers out there. The dial ignition and heating system are very easy to use. Since the interior is so large, it is also very easy to clean, as this unit’s cavernous design makes reaching those tricky spots a whole lot easier.
Easy to load
Easy to clean
Simple to program
In this section, we will go through everything that you need to know to find the best pellet smoker for your needs. We have also taken the time to answer several frequently asked questions, so be sure to check those out as well if you need any further clarification.
Why you do need a pellet smoker
There’s no two ways about it; smoked food just tastes better. Of course, charcoal and wood have been the primary fuel types for smoking meats for a long time, so why should you use a pellet smoker instead? There are tons of different benefits that this type of smoker can offer when compared to conventional models, such as:
Versatility – While the primary job of any good smoker is to, of course, smoke food, a pellet smoker can be used for so much more. With these amazingly versatile cookers, you can smoke, grill, roast, bake, and barbecue. This versatility makes this one of the most useful tools you can have in your food making arsenal.
Easy to start – Charcoal and wood smokers can be extremely difficult to get started, especially charcoal. Sometimes, depending on the weather, you might not be able to get a good enough fire going, and you can’t make your food at all. That is, thankfully, not the case with a pellet smoker. Since most pellet smokers have an electronic start and self-feeding auger, you simply have to press a button, set the temperature, and let the smoker do the rest.
Temperature control – As we mentioned in the previous point, pellet smokers make it nice and easy to control the temperature of the fire you have going at any given time. This makes it that much easier to cook your food in the exact manner that you want to so that all of the guesswork that you go through with normal smokers can be a thing of the past.
Indirect cooking – Pellet smokers rely on indirect heating to smoke meats. This helps to make them extremely efficient since the heat doesn’t escape very easily. This also helps to make any food cooked on a pellet smoker especially juicy in comparison to food cooked on a wood or charcoal smoker.
Flavoring – One of the best things about using wood pellets is that they are, in fact, made of wood. This makeup will allow you to experiment with different wood types to bring different flavors to your meats.
Easy to maintain – Most pellet smokers are comprised of two different parts, the hopper, and the cooking surface. The hopper is extremely easy to clean out after each use since the only thing that will be left are finely burnt ashes. The cooking surface or chamber will need a bit more cleaning time, but since you most likely won’t burn any food in a smoker, a simple wiping with soapy water every few uses is all that you’ll need to keep your smoker in tip-top shape.
Pellets vs. charcoal – which is better for you?
While both pellet and charcoal smokers can do a fine job of making delicious foods, there are several reasons that you might want to stick with a pellet smoker instead of a charcoal model. For starters, they are much healthier for you. Wood pellets, for instance, do not produce the same type of smoke or as much smoke as charcoal. Since they burn much more efficiently, there are not as many carcinogens floating around in the air while you are cooking. The last thing that you want is to sacrifice your health just to cook your food.
Something else to consider when comparing the two fuel types is how much time you will need to spend fiddling with the fires to get your food cooked just the way you want it. Charcoal fires take a lot of tending, so you will need to check on this type of smoker often. Wood pellet smokers, on the other hand, can usually be programmed to follow the cooking schedule you desire. This easy programming helps to make cooking with a pellet smoker a basically hands-off approach to cooking.
Features to consider while choosing a pellet smoker
As you can imagine, there are lots of different features that you will need to carefully consider before you decide upon your new pellet smoker. In this section, we will go through everything you need to know so that you can make an informed decision and make the best food possible.
There are two basic types that you need to carefully consider when you are looking for a new pellet smoker. The first, and more common, type on the market today are those models that have a look very much like a standard grill, except they have a hopper on the side. These horizontal smokers, like the Z GRILLS ZPG-7002E, offer up tons of cooking area and are very easy to load, light, and utilize to make perfect meals every time. They are, however, a bit large when compared to the vertical smokers, which is your other option.
Vertical, or upright, smokers will still usually have a hopper on the side. They might also keep their wood pellets and combustion area on the bottom as well. These smokers, as the name would imply, have a vertical smoker and cooking chamber. While this will limit the amount of food you can cook, they are much easier to use in smaller spaces, making them a great option for tiny backyards or apartment balconies.
Primary cooking area
Before you even decide on the type of smoker that you are going to get, it might be a good idea to first think about how big you want your primary cooking area to be. Since this is the space that you are going to be doing the bulk of your smoking, you need to make sure that you get a smoker with enough space to cook all of the food you want to make.
If you are in the market for a larger model, then the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker just might be the right model for you. It has over 700 square inches of primary cooking area, making it a great option for anyone that needs to cook a ton of food. On the other hand, if you are only thinking about smoking up some grub for one or two people, you can probably get by with a smaller model, like the Green Mountain Grill Davy Crockett Pellet Grill. The smaller size of this smoker will also save you a bit of money on the purchase price, and also be easier to fit into smaller areas with ease.
Something else that you will want to consider, especially if you get a larger model, is whether or not you need a warming rack. Warming racks, as the name would imply, are a place that you can put any finished food to keep it warm. This is especially helpful if you are a real grill master, and you intend to make tons of food for large gatherings.
A warming rack will guarantee that everyone, regardless of when they come to you for food, will get a nice warm meal that hasn’t had the chance to lose any of its flavor or juiciness. If you are looking for a smoker with a warming rack, then the REC TEC Grills RT-700 is a great option. It is nice and big, which will give you all the room you need to keep tons of food warm for anyone that is late to the party.
You will also want to take the size of the hopper on your new smoker into account. After all, the only way that you can cook anything with a pellet smoker is if you have enough pellets in the hopper to keep the fire going. This is especially important if you intend to smoke anything that needs to cook for a longer duration. A larger hopper will let you stretch out the cooking time for a good long while, which will result in delicious food.
Something else that you want to keep in mind, however, when it comes to looking at hoppers on your new pellet smoker is whether or not you can add pellets while you are cooking. If you can, even the smallest hopper won’t be too much of a detriment, since you can just refill it while you are cooking. Of course, this will mean that you won’t be able to simply let your smoker alone, but it will allow you save a bit of money on the purchase price since you won’t have to pay for the larger hopper.
Dimensions and weight
After you have carefully considered all of the other factors when it comes to finding your new smoker, one of the last things that you want to keep in mind are the overall dimensions and weight of your new unit. If you have a large backyard and don’t ever intend to move your smoker, then you can pretty much get any size model you want.
On the other hand, if you want to use your smoker for tailgating, or you simply need to move it out of the way when you are not using it, you will want to find a smaller model, like the Camp Chef PPG20. That way, you will be able to position it appropriately whenever you want to use it and move it out of the way when it is not in use.
Whenever you make any big purchase for a new piece of cooking equipment, it is always a good idea to look for a model with a good warranty. That way, you can rest assured that you are completely covered in case something goes wrong during normal use.
You just need to be sure to read through all of the fine print carefully. Many companies will claim that they offer a long and comprehensive warranty, while they actually only cover a small set of features for their model. By reading through all of the fine print, you can help to make sure that you understand what is and what isn’t covered by the company warranty.
Unlike standard propane, wood, or charcoal smokers, models that use pellets are relatively high-tech. They need to be plugged in more often than not to work properly, so the first thing you want to look for is a model with a long cord. A longer cord will allow you a bit more freedom in your cooking locations, which is a big plus.
Something else to consider when it comes to technology on your new smoker is whether or not you want a model that is Wi-Fi capable. Since most pellet smokers can be programmed to follow a set cooking schedule, getting a model that is Wi-Fi enabled will allow you to set the temperature and start/stop times remotely. This will make cooking even easier, which is always a plus.
Finally, something else that you want to look for is an easy-to-read and accurate thermostat. Smoking meats need to be done at constant, low temperatures to be effective. By getting a smoker with an accurate thermostat, you will enable yourself to monitor the temperature with ease, which will result in even better food.
How to maintain your pellet smoker
Just like any cooking appliance, you need to make sure that you take good care of your pellet smoker. Otherwise, it might not work as well as it should, which could result in you ruining some of your food. Here are some simple steps to clean out your smoker to keep it working at full capacity.
After the smoker has cooled down, wipe out the hopper.
Make sure to remove any ashes or unburnt pellets, as they could clog up the auger, which would make the combustion process much less efficient.
This area can then be wiped out with soap and water and air-dried.
The main cooking chamber should also be wiped down with soap and water.
After several uses, the cooking grates should be removed and thoroughly scrubbed to make sure that there is no buildup.
Heating up a pellet smoker is quite easy. Once you have started the combustion process, these efficient cookers will only take about 10 to 15 minutes to preheat. After this short amount of time, you can start cooking right away.
Since all of these smokers are made to be used outdoors, they are usually corrosion resistant. It might be a good idea to keep your smoker covered, however, since coatings can and will fade away over the years.
If you are looking to step up your smoking and flavor game, then flavored pellets are definitely worth the purchase price. Flavored pellets will allow you to try out new flavors and recipes to help keep your appetite for deliciously smoked foods satisfied.
The Z GRILLS ZPG-7002E is one of, if not the, best overall pellet smokers on the market today. It has a very large capacity, huge warming rack, and it is very easy to both start and operate. This makes it a tough model to beat and one that we highly recommend you check out!
If you are someone that loves to try tons of different cooking methods, then the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker is for you. This vertical smoker can be used with either wood pellets or charcoal, which will allow you to create unique flavors each and every time that you fire it up.
If you are new to smoking meats, then the best pellet smoker for you is going to be one that is very much like a grill. In that case, the REC TEC Grills RT-700 is a great starting point. It functions very much like a grill, all while still giving you the option to smoke your food if you so choose.