For ease of use, it is extremely hard to beat pellet smokers. The way they allow users to “set it and forget it”—combined with their excellent flavor profile—make pellet smokers fantastic first-buys for newbie pitmasters.
In our quest to find the best pellet smoker out there, we’ve gone through dozens of brands and models in the market. After much debate, we’ve concluded that the Camp Chef SmokePro DLX deserves the highest honors.
With the SmokePro DLX, you get a smoker that has a wide temperature range, can hold in heat effortlessly, and has an efficient pellet consumption rate. (For more details on the SmokePro DLX, see below.)
How to Pick the Best Pellet Smoker For Your Needs
One of the most crucial parts of a pellet smoker is the thermostat. After all, if it’s faulty, then it will either under-feed or over-feed pellets into the smoker, leading to an excess or lack of proper heat.
Either way, it’s going to end in a subpar cooking job on your meat.
The accuracy of the thermostat is, therefore, one of your primary concerns when buying a pellet smoker.
Aside from this, you also need to consider the maximum temperature it can reach. Some models aren’t capable of higher temperatures, stopping short of around 400 – 500 Fahrenheit. If you plan to do any searing, then you need something much hotter than this.
The next vital part to look for in pellet smokers is the pellet itself. Note which kinds of pellets can be accepted by the smoker.
Some brands recommend that you only use specific pellets on their smokers (usually ones they also manufacture). If you like the flavor profile of the pellets they produce, then this is no issue. Personally, we love the freedom of using different kinds of pellets in our smoker. It gives us more freedom to experiment that way.
This is the primary way in which you can control the heat of your grill. There are many different types of smoke controllers available, and they all vary depending on their accuracy and price.
The most basic is the multi-position controller. This is the cheapest option, but it’s also one of the least accurate. This allows you to set the temperature in designated increments. Sometimes, this is as simple as having three settings for low, medium, and high (this is referred to as a three-position controller).
Obviously, this type of controller doesn’t provide very much control over the temperature.
Next up are One Touch Controllers that offer a leg up in accuracy. They feature digital displays and controls, so they usually offer adjustments in finer increments (5 – 10F). However, they burn pellets in fixed cycles, so they only provide accuracies of +/- 15 to 20F.
Lastly is PID Controllers. These are digital controllers that allow pinpoint accuracy in terms of setting and maintaining temperature. They can even be used in conjunction with a meat probe thermometer to achieve an even better cook. If you find this type of controller, get it.
Pellet Consumption Rate
If you don’t want to spend too much on pellets, this is a factor you need to look into.
Find out, on average, how many pellets your smoker consumes per hour. The ideal figure would be half a pound per hour, with one pound per hour being the maximum we recommend.
There are a lot of factors that influence pellet consumption, but the most common is the thickness of the walls of the smoker. And when it comes to pellet smokers, “just right” is very important.
You wouldn’t want the walls to be too thin since a lot of the heat would escape. This would make you consume more pellets just to maintain the temperature of your smoker.
However, you wouldn’t want the walls to be too thick, either. This seems counterintuitive, as most smokers think “thicker is better.”
However, thick walls act as a heat sink – instead of the heat going around the smoker, it gets absorbed by the walls. So the result is that the smoker consumes a lot more pellets to maintain the temperature.
As they’re regularly exposed to high heat, durability is a prime concern when buying pellet smokers. This is mostly dictated by the material used in its manufacture.
Although most of today’s smokers use stainless steel, not all are created equal. What you’re after is marine grade stainless steel, which has the most rust and scratch resistance. If you have this grade of steel, your smoker will last a lifetime.
Powder-coated stainless steel is inferior, but can still offer some protection. However, make sure the coating is of very high quality. If it gets chipped off, the underlying metal will quickly rust and degrade.
This is the total area that you can work with. It determines how much meat you can smoke. This figure is usually specified in square inches, so it’s much easier to visualize.
However, it might not be easy to convert square inches to servings. As a rule of thumb, you need around 300 square inches of space to cook food good for four people comfortably. Larger groups would necessitate about 900+ square inches (or more) of space.
In the end, you need to determine how much space you’ll actually need. Remember, the size of a pellet smoker also means it’s more expensive. If you don’t regularly need the large cooking area, then all of that might just be going to waste.
Ease of Cleaning
Being exposed to heat and soot for a long time means cleanup can be a pain with pellet smokers. That’s why pitmasters (like me!) hate it as much as we love the idea of smoking a beautiful piece of meat.
This is especially true since most pellet smokers are hard to move around, requiring them to be cleaned in place.
One way to make this burden a little lighter is by looking for easy cleanup features in the pellet smoker.
One of the most basic to look for is an ash removal system. This is usually a removable tray underneath the burner that collects burnt out pellets in the form of ash. After use, you merely empty and wash the tray. Without it, cleaning the burner would be infinitely harder.
Some pellet smokers also have drain outlets underneath the main chamber. This allows you to wash the whole thing while the water quickly drains through the outlet. It makes cleaning in place very easy.
Finally, removable parts are great to have, since you can wash them in a sink and give them a proper scrubbing.
In relation to the consumption rate, the size of the pellet hopper is also a reasonable consideration. This determines how long you can smoke continuously without having to refill the hopper.
An excellent place to start is with a 40-pound hopper. At an average consumption rate of one pound per hour, this should give you 40 hours of cooking time. This isn’t actually very long if you consider some meats need to be smoked for 20 hours or more.
Some manufacturers take the “set it and forget it” philosophy of pellet smokers one level higher with the inclusion of WiFi capabilities. Now, you can set it and forget it anywhere!
Using WiFi, you can control and monitor your smoke from anywhere as long as you have an Internet connection. Considering some smokes take 20 hours or more, this allows you to go about your day and still maintain complete control of the process.
Traditionally, pellet smokers were made for one purpose only – to smoke meat. Except for those who smoke on a regular basis, some people found this limiting. So to expand their functionality, some pellet smokers have additional features.
The most common add-on is a griller. This makes your pellet smoker a 2-in-1 deal, eliminating the need to buy a separate griller for those backyard barbecues. You can even sear your smoked meats in the griller for a beautiful finish.
Checking the temperature of the pellet smoker is useful for gauging how well the heat is maintained inside. However, it tells you next to nothing about the actual cook of the meat itself. You can only guess based on the smoke’s ambient temperature.
If you want to get really accurate, get a pellet smoker with a meat probe included. This allows you to check the temperature of the meat, telling you precisely how done it is.
If this isn’t included, at the very least, you should look for a hole or port where you can insert a separate thermometer probe into the smoker and into the meat.
Top 9 Pellet Smoker Reviews
The Camp Chef SmokePro DLX is what you might call a very balanced pellet smoker. This mid-priced model gives you all the essential features you need to produce fantastic results with minimal effort.
The SmokePro DLX features a total of 429 square inches of cooking space. We find this is a good middle ground in terms of working space and the amount of room the smoker takes up.
Of course, like any pellet smoker, ease of use is a primary concern. The control panel allows you to set the temperature using a rotary dial. The range is between 175F and 400F, which is a fairly average range.
You can also choose from presets such as “Low” or “High Smoke,” so it removes some of the guesswork when it comes to the right smoking temperature.
The heating power of the SmokePro DLX is impressive, to say the least. It can start itself up in as little as 10 minutes, and can easily maintain stable temperatures within a degree, for as many hours as you need. It can even hit 500F, hot enough to sear.
Despite this, pellet consumption is rather efficient with the unit. Our experience is a little less than one pound per hour, in fair weather. Your mileage will vary, of course.
Cleanup is also a breeze with this unit, more so than any smoker we encountered. You’ll appreciate the ash removal system, which makes dumping ash and soot quite easy.
All in all, you really can’t go wrong with the Camp Chef SmokePro DLX. It excels at maintaining temperatures with the most efficient use of pellets ever in a smoker. This is a model that both beginners and experienced pitmasters will enjoy using.
The Big Horn Outdoor Pellet Grill and Smoker is a piece of versatile cooking equipment that facilitates numerous cooking styles, not just smoking. You can grill, bake, sear, and even braise on this unit.
However, at the heart of the Big Horn you still find the pellet system. Pellets are housed in a hopper with a capacity of 8 pounds. On average, that’s enough for 8 hours of smoking time in standard conditions.
Everything is controlled via the control panel located at the bottom of the hopper. Using the rotary dial, you can specify your desired temperature from 225F to 450F. Heat retention is superb, and the unit is able to maintain its target temperature consistently.
The unit provides up to a total of 700 square inches of cooking space. That’s 430 square inches for the main chamber, plus 270 square inches for the secondary cooking area.
For your information, a temperature gauge is also installed on the cover of the Big Horn. It’s semi-accurate as far as we can tell. Luckily, it’s not really crucial for the operation of this smoker, as it’s all reliant on the internal digital thermostat of the Big Horn.
Though not very portable, the Big Horn does have two wheels to make moving it easier. The smoker also has a smaller footprint, so it doesn’t consume that big of a space in your backyard.
All in all, the Big Horn Outdoor Pellet Grill and Smoker is a good choice if you want a piece of versatile, can-do-everything cooking equipment. It certainly gives excellent value for money.
The Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett is one of the best portable pellet smokers currently available. It also has advanced WiFi features that make wireless control a breeze.
For one, the Davy Crockett has a compact frame that can easily fit in your trunk or trailer. It weighs in at only 68 pounds, which is manageable to haul around. The legs of the smoker are also foldable to a convenient handle you can carry around.
More than being compact, however, the Davy Crockett has features with the outdoors in mind.
It comes with a myriad of adapters that you can use to draw power from any source. You can plug it to your conventional power outlet, connect it via your car’s cigarette lighter port, or even a portable generator if you have one.
You also get WiFi connectivity, allowing you to monitor and control the smoker using your smartphone. More than just being convenient, you can even program complex cooking schedules with multiple time and temperatures changes happening easily. Perfect if you have other things to do, like setting up camp (or lounging by the pool).
The smartphone app also lets you make finer adjustments than the control panel on the Davy Crockett. With the app, it’s possible to achieve 1-degree increments as opposed to the control panel’s 5-degree increments.
That being said, you can cook a fair amount of food with the Davy Crockett, but don’t expect a feast. A few racks of ribs or a sizeable 10-pound brisket is fine.
Overall, the Davy Crockett is the ultimate portable smoker you can use pretty much anywhere. With lots of power options and WiFi connectivity, it sets the standard of what an outdoor smoker should be.
Z Grill’s ZPG-7002E is a whopping 8-in-1 workhorse, combining the functionalities of a smoker, griller, and oven. The “8” refers to the many cooking methods you can achieve with this unit, which includes roasting, baking, braising, searing, char-grilling, and of course, smoking.
The versatility of the ZPG-7002E is well-matched with the cooking space you get from it. You get 700 square inches worth of area on which to cook, which includes the main cooking/smoking area and a warming rack.
The pellet system works exceptionally well, and the consumption rate is conservative (less than one pound per hour) as far as we’ve seen. It has a 20-pound hopper, which is enough for 20 hours of smoking on average.
The temperature control system also uses an internal thermostat to maintain temperatures from 180F to 450F. Other users report, however, that this doesn’t always work accurately. A simple workaround is just to use an external thermometer, and adjust accordingly.
This flaw is a minor hiccup, however, and personally didn’t detract much from our experience. We still got great results with next to minimal supervision.
The ZPG-700DE is well-made, with a thick iron exterior and a solid frame. To further add to the quality, you also get a 3-year warranty which covers all major parts.
In a word, the Z Grills ZPG-700DE is an excellent all-in-one smoker and griller. It wins for its versatility, large cooking area, and heat retention. The warranty is also a bonus.
The Woodwind is another mid-range smoker from Camp Chef and a slight improvement on their Smoke Pro line. Additions to this model include a more substantial and stable frame and the addition of a shelf on the bottom legs for storage.
This smoker uses the patented Smart Smoke Technology, which is basically just a way of describing its pellet system. The internal thermostat automatically feeds the correct amount of pellets from the hopper to the burner to maintain the desired smoke level and temperature.
The temperature range on the Woodwind is good, however. You can set it anywhere from 160F all the way up to 500F. The higher temps, in particular, allow you to achieve searing temperatures with this unit. We actually listed this as one of the best pellet smoker for searing. See here.
The Woodwind also has a more spacious cooking area, at 570 square inches. It also has a warming rack, so you can load in more batches than your usual smoker.
Two standout features of the Woodwind, however, can be found in its pellet system. One is the Ash Removal System, which is made easy by simply pulling a lever. It then dumps the entire load of ash and soot from the burner for easy cleanup.
The other is the Hopper Cleanout System. Using a spout that’s strategically located in the hopper, you can completely empty it of pellets. This allows you to swap it with a different pellet, giving you the chance to achieve different smoke flavor profiles quickly.
The one drawback, however, is that it’s quite expensive compared to other smokers in its price range. The jump is also significantly large from the Smoke Pro line.
Nevertheless, the Camp Chef Woodwind is still a worthy buy given the performance and clean out systems it has in place.
Traeger is somewhat of a legend in the pellet smoker market. After all, they were one of the pioneers of this kind of technology! So it’s only fitting that they’re included in any list of the best pellet smokers.
The TFS60LZC Select Elite is the so-called professional smoker from Traeger. And as with any of their smokers, this unit also has grilling capabilities. And you get a ton of prep and storage space.
A hallmark of any Traeger smoker is the easy to use control panel. Here, you’ll have access to preset grilling temperatures to take some of the guesswork out of smoking. It also has an internal Digital Temperature Controller, which can maintain precise temperatures with an error margin of +/- 20F.
The pellet system is also quite conservative in the amount of wood pellet it uses. The TFS60LZC comes with a huge 18-pound hopper, so extended sessions are definitely possible here.
The 589 square inches of cooking space is somewhere in the middle ground as far as other smokers are concerned. It’s more than enough for most users, however, and is enough to feed a small family.
All in all, the TFS60LZC works exceptionally well. However, it suffers from the same complaint people have regarding Traeger in general: it’s pricey. There are definitely more straightforward and cheaper alternatives out there.
Nonetheless, if you’re looking for the best performing smoker money can buy, you really can’t go wrong with a Traeger. And their TFS60LZC Select Elite is one of their standout models to date.
If money is no object and you want the absolute best experience out of a smoker, there’s the REC TEC Grills RT-700. This is a smoker that combines exceptional craftsmanship and performance with advanced features and a generous 1,000 square inches of cooking space.
The cooking chamber is made of high-quality stainless steel, which makes it impossible to scratch or damage. It’s also rust-resistant as well.
One of the highlights of the RT-700, and why it warrants a high price, is its temperature control. The PID controller allows you to adjust your set temperature in 5-degree increments. This makes it one of the most precise controllers ever put in a smoker. It is certainly leagues ahead of other models on the market.
Matching the accuracy of its controller is the precision at which the RT-700 can maintain its temperature. You’ll encounter minimal loss, if any, when the RT-700 is used in standard weather conditions.
Temperature readings are made more accurate with the two built-in meat probes, which are directly connected to the temperature controller.
In essence, you’re adjusting the desired meat temperature and NOT the chamber’s temperature. This will result in possibly the most accurate and consistent cook you’ll ever achieve.
All of this can be controlled via the panel, or (preferably) via the smartphone app using the RT-700’s WiFi connectivity feature.
Of course, all of this comes at a steep price: the RT-700 easily costs more than $1,500. But for that price, you’ll get amazing, consistent results you’ll have a hard time achieving anywhere else.
If you have a massive barbecue cook-off in your hands, only an equally massive smoker can help you with that. One such smoker is the Louisiana Grills Whole Hog.
Size matters with this smoker, and it gives you plenty of it. It features a humongous 1,700 square inches of cooking space, enough to feed a village. This cooking space, however, is divided into two chambers.
In essence, it’s like combining two smokers into one. Each side has its own temperature control and pellet hopper. This allows you to cook two different things at the same time, using vastly different temperatures and smoke profiles.
You can also use one side as a griller and the other as a smoker. Really, the versatility and flexibility are off the charts.
The pellet system on the Whole Hog uses a simple chute mechanism. It has no fancy convection fans or the like. This may result in uneven cooking at times, so you have to monitor it more often. This might be a minor drawback of this smoker, but really, if you’re cooking that many, you might as well watch over it.
Nevertheless, if you’re cooking for a crowd, this smoker is unparalleled in terms of size and performance.
The Memphis Grills Elite Pellet Smoker is a powerful smoker that’s capable of an extensive temperature range.
You can go as low as 180F to as high as 700F. This allows you to do lots of things with this smoker, from cold smoking to grilling and even searing. Not a lot of pellet smokers can do this, which gives the Memphis Grill a leg up over the competition.
This smoker also has one of the bigger pellet hoppers on the market, with a 24-pound capacity. With efficient pellet consumption, you can smoke for up to 62 hours in ideal conditions.
Plus, you can control all of this via a smartphone app, thanks to the Memphis Grill’s WiFi connectivity.
All of this comes at a high price tag, however, with it easily costing upwards of $5,000! But if you have the budget for this, the Memphis Grills Elite Pellet Smoker is one of the absolute best you can get.
Final Verdict: The Best Kamado Grill for Your Money
We’ve reviewed and tested quite a lot of models in this review, in pursuit of the best pellet smoker out there. We realized that, all things being equal, how well one smoker performs depends significantly on its pellet system and temperature regulation.
In this regard, the Camp Chef SmokePro DLX passes with flying colors. It can achieve temperatures anywhere from 175F and even up to 500F, plus reasonably maintain these temperatures consistently. It also has a very efficient one pound/hour pellet consumption rate.
With a decent cooking area of 429 square inches and an easy to use ash removal system, the SmokePro DLX is a flexible smoker for just about anyone.
If you already have the decision to buy, then it goes without saying that if you have an outdoor grill, then you would need a great grill cover for protection. See this article to know what to buy.