We love pellet smokers here at the Barbecue Lab. These machines have taken the guesswork out of smoking and given great success to the most inexperienced barbecuer.

With traditional offset smokers, you’d have to add wood or manage charcoal every 45 minutes. But with pellet smokers, you can get great results without having to babysit a temperamental flame. Not only that, but the temperature range on these pellet grills also give you the ability to smoke, barbecue, grill, and even sear.

Grilling Gift Guide

Looking for gift ideas for yourself or someone special in your life? We've got you covered.

Note: Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links. This doesn’t cost you any more than normal. Read our disclaimer for more info.

How we picked and tested

In the world of pellet grills, there are far more grills available than we could ever include in this post. Please understand that we are well aware that there are many "contestants" missing from this contest. What we have done here is collected first-hand data from all the pellet grills we were able to get in our possession. Some of the pellet grills were provided to us by the manufacturers. Some of the pellet grills were borrowed. Some of the pellet grills were purchased by us.

As with most products out there, pellet grills run a wide spectrum when it comes to price and quality. In order to best be able to determine which is the best wood pellet grill while still comparing "apples to apples", we've broken the entire wood pellet grill population into 5 categories: Under $599, Under $1199, Under $1999 (coming soon), Over $2000 (coming soon), and Portable Pellet Grill (coming soon).

In the end, out of all of the pellet grills personally tested by us, we can tell you which grills ranked highest for us, earning the title "best wood pellet smoker" in their respective categories.

Ready to see how it all shook out?

Best Pellet Grill Winners

Winners

Product Information

UNDER $599

ZGrills 7002C2E

Z Grills 7002C2E

Cooking Surface: 697 sq. inches

Temperature: 180-450℉

Pellet hopper capacity: 24 lbs.

Warranty: 3 years

Winner: Runner Up Under $599

  • 5% discount code: ZGRILLS

UNDER $1199

Grilla Grills Silverback AT

Grilla Grills Silverbac AT

Cooking Surface: 692 sq. inches

Temperature: 180-500℉

Pellet hopper capacity: 20 lbs.

Warranty: 4 years

Winner: Best Under $1199

UNDER $1199

Z Grills Multitasker

Z Grills Multitasker 11002B

Cooking Surface: 1068 sq. inches

Temperature: 160-500℉

Pellet hopper capacity: 28 lbs.

Warranty: 3 years

Winner: Runner Up Under $1199

  • 5% discount code: ZGRILLS

Ok, now that you've seen the winners, let's take a look at how each of the wood pellet grills tested performed against the competition.

2. Runner Up Under $599: Z Grills 7002C2E

ZGrills 7002C2E

Read our full review of the Z Grills 7002C2E here.

Consistency is the name of the game for this cooker. It passed almost all the tests we ran it through and seemed to perform by-the-book in most cases.

What we like:

  • Stainless steel grill lid and hopper lid
  • Most efficient pellet consumption
  • Consistent temperature from side to side and front to back
  • Reaches desired temperature relatively quickly
  • Holds temperature accurately and consistently with little fluctuation
  • Includes dual meat probes

What we don't like:

  • Difficult time-consuming assembly
  • Limited temperature options
  • Missing bark and good color from smoke

This is a very consistent pellet grill that holds temperature within a very tight range whether you're cooking at 250 for smoking or on high for a hot and fast sear.

It's a wood pellet grill that really can both smoke and sear, and it was the most efficient grill in our testing group of 5 units.

A 24 pound hopper means that you can get over 20 hours of cooking at smoking temperatures, so an overnight brisket cook is right in the wheelhouse for this pellet grill.

There's not much to argue with in this unit, and in the sub-$600 price range it performs very well against the competition.

  • 5% discount code: ZGRILLS

Best Pellet Grills under $1199

8 best pellet smokers under $1199

We took 8 different pellet grills from 8 different manufacturers and ran them through 30 different tests to help you decide which pellet grill is right for you.

At the time of our testing, every wood pellet grill in this roundup was priced at $1199 or less. 

The pellet grills we compared at this price point included (pictured above L-R) the Recteq 590, Traeger Pro 780, ZGrills Multitasker 1100, Camp Chef Woodwind 36, Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX 1200, Pit Boss Sportsman 1100, Louisiana Grills Black Label 1000, and the Grilla Grills Silverbac AT.

1. Best Under $1199: Grilla Grills Silverbac AT

Grilla Grills Silverbac was the best Pellet Smoker under $1199

Read our full review of the Grilla Grills Silverbac AT pellet grill.

In this roundup of pellet grills, the Silverbac was the biggest surprise for us in many ways. It was a last minute addition to this group, arriving 2 days into having already begun testing on the others. We weren't sure what to expect or whether it would even be worth it for us to interrupt what we'd already begun with the other 7 pellet grills.

As it turns out, we're thrilled that we made room for one more because for us, this pellet smoker was the standout. 

The build quality and functionality were all top quality and we were shocked with the Silverbac's ability to grill meat even with indirect heat.

What we like:

  • The all-terrain cart makes wheeling this pellet smoker in and out of the garage and through the yard to the patio a total breeze.
  • The heavy duty stainless steel grates put an impressive sear and grill marks on hamburgers and chicken.
  • Stainless steel extends beyond the grates to other parts including the fire pot, deflector, and lid. 
  • Pro smoke mode allows a deeper smoke flavor into the meat than leaving the controller in PID mode.
  • The pause feature on the pellet grill's control panel allows us to work with the lid open without the auger continuing to feed wood pellets.
  • The Grilla Grills app is very attractive and user friendly.

What we don't like:

  • The folding shelf in the front (which we love) is not included in the base purchase.
  • The temperature is controlled by the push of a button. In 5 degree increments that requires a lot of pushes to make drastic temperature changes.

I don't think we would have understood the higher level of quality of this pellet grill without having hands on it next to the competition. The Silverbac is just built solid and built to last and that's why it was our top pick for best wood pellet smoker under $1199.

2. Runner Up $1199: Z Grills Multitasker 1100

Z Grills Multitasker 1100 pellet smoker

Read our full review of the Z Grills Multitasker 11002b pellet grill.

We have reviewed several different Z Grills units here at the lab and they have definitely elevated the game with this model. It is significantly higher quality than the others we've used, and rightly so at this price point.

The double-walled construction and quality gaskets exceeded my expectations at this price point and the spacious cooking chamber offered even cooking throughout. 

What we like:

  • The Multitasker was a standout in build quality as it was the only pellet grill that was built with a double wall cooking chamber and came with a gasket pre-installed around the door. 
  • The Multitasker cooks evenly from front to back and side to side with no significant hot-spots.
  • Assembly was pretty easy with an extra pair of helping hands.
  • 4 swivel casters make moving this pellet grill around a breeze.
  • Sizable front shelf comes in very handy to store trays and tools.
  • 28 pound hopper will last through pretty much any long cook.

What we don't like:

  • Just a little thing, but the plastic protection on the control panel was built into it and impossible to completely peel off without leaving scraps behind.
  • The app has limited functionality compared to others and was difficult to connect to the pellet grill during initial setup.
  • There are wires somewhat exposed between the hopper and the cooking chamber. They're tucked in, but visible. It seems as though this might possibly lead to trouble down the line.

We honestly weren't expecting to like the ZGrills Multitasker as much as we did. From everything we can see this is a very well built pellet smoker.

  • 5% discount code: ZGRILLS

Other $1199 Pellet Grills Worth Considering

Traeger Pro 780

Traeger Pro 780 wood pellet grill and smoker

Over the years Traeger Grills have become synonymous with pellet grills and pellet smokers so we of course had to include one in this lineup.

It was fascinating to observe this industry leading name run side-by-side next to the competition and see the ways that it lived up to the hype as well as those where it maybe didn't. 

What we like:

  • The Traeger Grills app is my absolute favorite out there. It's very user friendly and has a broad range of functions.
  • The Traeger WiFire Technology gives me confidence that I can leave my pellet grill running for the day in my absence, knowing I have all the control I may need from my phone.
  • While the digital controller looks basic, it has great functionality and I prefer the dial over the push buttons on other models.
  • The pellet dump feature works really well in this wood pellet grill. It was simple to get all of the wood pellets out of the hopper and out the chute.

What we don't like:

  • This is a pellet smoker and not a grill. It did not perform great when trying to grill hamburgers at its highest temperature.
  • The Traeger grill grates are light and thin.
  • The lid doesn't seal very tightly allowing more smoke to escape than I would like.
  • Unlike my Traeger Ironwood 885, this model does not have a pellet sensor. However, none of the other pellet grills at this price point have that feature either.

While it may not have blown us away in many of the tests we performed, the Traeger continues to be "Old Reliable" for me. It's the pellet grill I know I can count on. I will often set up the Traeger for a long cook and then go about my day with the aid of the Traeger Grills app and a delicious dinner will be waiting for me when I get back home. Controlling the pellet grill with the app is easy, and on weekdays, I like easy.

Camp Chef Woodwind 36

Wifi Woodwind 36 pellet smoker

Read our full review of the Camp Chef Woodwind 36 here.

The Camp Chef Woodwind performed well in a number of the tests we ran at this price point. There are a couple of nice extra features that the Woodwind offers that truly set it apart from the other pellet grills in this price point.

What we like:

  • I really like the control panel on this pellet grill. The spinning dial makes it easy to make my selections quickly without having to continually push buttons.
  • I like the ability to select a smoke mode depending on what I'm cooking and how much smoke flavor I want in my food.
  • With the patented Ash Kickin Cleanout System, the Camp Chef Woodwind requires minimal effort to clean up. 
  • The Camp Chef Woodwind wifi comes with 4 probes. That's double what any of the others offered out of the box. 
  • The option of the Sidekick (extra cost) makes this pellet grill a high quality combo grill with ultimate versatility. 

What we don't like:

  • Though this pellet grill does have slide and grill technology that offers some direct flame grilling (and our apologies for neglecting to feature that in our head to head video), it isn't truly a grill without the sidekick add-on.  
  • I don't care for the wheel locks on this unit and feel that larger casters would be better for improved mobility.

The Camp Chef Woodwind wifi has a lot of great extra features to offer and was a solid contender in this roundup of best pellet smokers

Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX

Oklahoma Joe's Rider pellet grill and smoker

I was excited to try out this Oklahoma Joe's pellet grill as it has a number of extra features that really intrigued me.

What we like:

  • The Oklahoma Joe's Rider includes a pellet storage bin that slides right in under the hopper.
  • Changing pellets has never been easier as the pellets drain right out of the bottom of the hopper directly into the bucket below. Just be sure to remember to remove the lid first!
  • The Oklahoma Joe's Rider comes with two meat probes and even includes a plastic spool to safely store them right under the digital controller. 

What we don't like:

  • The Rider struggles with really low temperatures. In our low and slow test the ribs cooked too fast because the pellet grill was actually running 50° hotter than where it was set.
  • There is no wifi connectivity on this pellet grill.
  • Oklahoma Joe's only offers a 2 year warranty. That doesn't give me great confidence in the longevity of this unit.

If you want a pellet grill that is maybe more grill than smoker but can still do both, this model is a great option to consider. 

Pit Boss Sportsman 1100

Pit Boss Sportsman

What we like:

  • We loved the storage options on the Sportsman. It has a folding shelf in the front, a large shelf on the bottom of the cart, a removable side shelf, and a small spice shelf on the side of the the hopper where we stored the temperature probes. Additionally, there are tool hooks on the side shelf.
  • This Pit Boss pellet grill offers high heat searing with their Flame Broiler Lever. It gives you direct access to the flame right over the fire pot; perfect for searing steak or getting grill marks on a single piece of meat.
  • This was the only pellet smoker in this collection that included a jerky rack.
  • The 30 pound hopper will last through even the longest cook without having to add more fuel.
  • The price is right! This was the most affordable pellet grill in this roundup.
  • It comes with a 5 year warranty; the highest of the 8 pellet grills tested.

What we don't like:

  • This Pit Boss model does not have Bluetooth or Wifi connectivity so the Pit Boss app cannot be used with this particular pellet grill.
  • Though it does offer direct flame access, there is limited grilling space on this unit. It would be impractical to use this pellet grill to cook burgers for a crowd as only a couple of the patties would have contact with the flame.

Though it wasn't our top pick in this grouping, the Pit Boss Sportsman performed quite well and is a good value. 

Louisiana Grills Black Label 1000

Louisiana Grills

What we like:

  • Assembly was a breeze for this particular pellet grill and came together faster than the others in this roundup.
  • Just like the Pit Boss Sportsman, this Louisiana Grills pellet grill offers high heat searing with their slide plate flame broiler. This is perfect for a reverse sear situation where you're only wanting to sear an individual piece of meat at a time.
  • The Louisiana Grills BL1000 was almost always the first of the 8 grills to hit its target temperature during startup.  This is likely due to it using a drop in pellet system instead of a long auger.
  • It comes with a 5 year warranty; the highest of the 8 pellet smokers we tested.

What we don't like:

  • Though this model does have a pellet dump feature, we found it to be rather ineffective and had to utilize kitchen utensils to push pellets down toward the door.
  • Though it does offer direct flame access, there is limited cooking space on this unit. It would be impractical to use this pellet grill to cook burgers for a crowd as only a couple of the patties would have contact with the flame.

Recteq 590

Recteq 590

What we like:

  • We were impressed with the amount of stainless steel used in this build, including the fire pot, heat deflector and drip pan.
  • The Recteq has a huge pellet hopper with a capacity of 30 lbs.
  • The Recteq cooked quite evenly from front to back and side to side with no visible hot spots to watch out for.
  • This pellet smoker comes with a 4 year warranty which is better than half of the other grills at this price point.
  • The Recteq app was very user friendly and has pretty much all the features we look for in app control. 

What we don't like:

  • There is no way to exchange pellets in this pellet smoker. And with a hopper of this capacity, you've got to be really committed to the pellet flavor you're filling it up with. 
  • The Recteq claims to be able to reach 700° in temperature but we were barely able to get it to reach 500° (on a 70° day). This unit did not perform well in our grill test and therefore is definitely more pellet smoker than grill.
  • We didn't care for how low to the ground the controller is on this unit.

Do pellet grills give good smoke flavor?

Most pellet grills have a reputation for lacking in smoke flavor.

Some pellet smokers include features like a super smoke mode or smoke boost that allow the user to select the level of smoke desired for a particular cook. Typically what that does is allow for more swings in temperature that will then produce more smoke flavor.

Typically, pellet grills holding more consistent temperatures, particularly those with a PID controller will produce less smoke flavor than those with a wider swing in temperature.

However in our smoking tests at both price points we detected minimal difference from pellet grill to pellet grill in actual smoke flavor while we did see more of a visual difference in the outside bark, color, and smoke ring.

Pellet smokers: what makes them different? 

Pellet smokers are designed to be all about convenience, and they are by far, the most convenient smoker on the market. What makes them convenient? You don’t have to babysit. You can fill up the hopper, plug in the pellet grill, and let it do most of the work for you.

You don’t have to worry about managing the flame or air flow or maintaining consistent temperature with pellet smokers. The pellet grill does all that for you, and you get pretty dang good barbecue. Beginners and pit masters alike get great results with a wood pellet grill.

Wait, is it ‘pellet smoker’ or ‘pellet grill?’

Every industry has its quirks, and the barbecue world is no exception. While some experts believe that these machines should only be called pellet smokers, and not pellet grills, really the words are used interchangeably. 

Since you’re not traditionally cooking with direct flame the way you would with a gas grill, technically you aren’t grilling, per say. But you are cooking at grilling temperatures on a product that’s designed to cook outside. So we here at the Barbecue Lab say that you can call it either a pellet smoker or pellet grill. Trust us, if you’re making great food on it, no one really cares what you call it. 

The Importance of Materials and Construction 

When you’re choosing the best wood pellet smoker for you, you’ll need to consider what the weather is like where you live, what type of environment you’ll be cooking in, and where you’ll be storing your wood pellet grill. 

You want to choose materials that are resistant to the weather and can hold up to extreme temperature fluctuations. Not only will it affect the longevity of your unit, but it will also affect your cooking.

Some grills have cold rolled steel, which is fine, but it has little ability to stand up to the elements. You have to keep the paint intact with touch ups. The repeated heating and cooling of  the unit will also weaken and thin the paint and allow rust to get through. 

We like grills that are made of stainless steel. 304 stainless steel is the industry standard that won’t rust, and is made to be uncovered. 

If you can afford the double walled chamber models, even better. The double walled construction helps keep heat in and weather out. Keeping a stable, even cooking temperature will let you have more consistent results and remove some of the frustration of cooking with cheaper models. 

If nothing else, make sure you have an oven gasket around the chamber. They are relatively inexpensive and easy to install. 

Hopper: Size matters…. Maybe

Not sure what size of hopper you need? It depends on how long of cook you plan to do and your availability to refill it if it runs low. 

Most pellet grills we're looking at have a hopper capacity of 18-22 lbs of wood pellets, or roughly one whole bag. While, our portable pellet grill picks have smaller hoppers for obvious reasons, longer cooks are definitely possible. You’ll just have to refill the hopper - set it and forget it overnight cooks aren’t possible on the smaller models. 

Pellet consumption

One 20 lb. bag of wood pellets can run about 20 hours at smoking temperatures. The general rule of thumb is 1 lb of pellets used for 45 minutes - 1 hour of cook time. So if you’re doing shorter cooks, one bag of wood pellets will last you quite a while, about as long as a tank of propane. 

What size of pellet smoker do YOU need?

What do all the square inches of cooking space translate to for you? What size do you need? Think about what you want to cook and how many people you want to be able to cook for on your wood pellet grill. 

Here at The Barbecue Lab, we recommend that you buy a pellet grill or smoker based on whether the main grate itself can support what you’re generally wanting to cook. For a family of 4, a bottom grate of around 500-600 square inches would be enough of a cooking area for about 90% of what you want to do, including cooking for a crowd. 

How to choose a pellet smoker

  1. 1
    SIZE: How many people do you typically cook for? Choose based on the main cooking area grate size! Use our recommendation for a family of 4 plus occasional entertaining as a starting point. The main grate should be about 500-600 square inches.
  2. 2
    TEMPERATURE RANGE: If you’re looking for all in one machine to dominate your outdoor cooking, select a wood pellet grill that has a wide range of temperatures and some nice accessories. If you’re wanting to do everything like smoke, grill, and sear, choose a pellet grill that will reach 650-700 degrees. If you’re just wanting to smoke and grill with indirect heat, 500 degrees should suffice. If you’re wanting a nice addition to expand your outdoor cooking options, then go with a simple pellet smoker. You’ll save a bit of money and still get great results. 
  3. 3
    COOKING LOCATION: Where are you going to cook? Your environment and wood pellet grill storage options should also be taken into consideration when choosing your pellet smoker.

If you’re going to be mainly smoking on the road or have limited space, then a portable pellet grill like the Green Mountain Grill - Davy Crocket or Asmoke AS300 will be a good choice.

Just make sure you choose models that have stainless steel construction on the parts where it matters - which is anywhere water would potentially sit and pool. Make sure to get the right stainless steel (316) if you live next to an ocean. If you choose not to get stainless steel, make sure to keep up on maintenance so the paint doesn’t chip on it. 

If your backyard patio or garage/driveway grilling area is prone to breezes, then make sure your wood pellet grill has an oven gasket or similar feature to keep the heat in your smoker where it belongs and help regulate pellet consumption. A thermal blanket can also help if you're cooking in cold and breezy temperatures. 

Other Grill Types To Consider:

While pellet smokers offer plenty of options when it comes to the types of food that they can cook, other grills may be your preference for different styles of cooking.

Gas Grill

Gas grills tend to be a fan favorite for those quick weeknight meals as they're simple to light, simple to manage, and just all-around easy to use. Check out this article on the Best Gas Grill.

gas grills

Charcoal Grill

Where charcoal grills may not rank high in the ease-of-use category, they make up for it in the flavor department. From kettle cookers to kamado grills, there are several options when it comes to price and difficulty when it comes to cooking with charcoal.

Offset Smoker

For those who enjoy the whole experience of good barbecue, an offset smoker may be the way to go. While it doesn't provide the precise temperature control you'll find in most pellet smokers, the wood fire taste is unmatched. Check out this article on the Best Offset Smokers.

Lone Star Grills Offset Smoker

Gravity-fed Grill

Gravity-fed grills are newer to the scene and marry the technology of pellet smokers with charcoal cooking. Check out this article on the Best Gravity Smokers.

Char-Griller Gravity 980 digital charcoal grill and the Masterbuilt Gravity series 800

Flat-Top Grill

Flat top grills, or outdoor griddles have become wildly popular in the last several years, popping up on patios and porches everywhere. From breakfast favorites like pancakes and bacon to fajitas and hibachi cooking, the flat-top grill can do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to backyard cooking.

8 flat top grills lined up for testing