If you want that delicious smoky flavor that barbecued food is famous for, you'll definitely enjoy having a pellet grill in your yard. It uses wood pellets to infuse the meats and veggies you cook with plenty of flavor. It's easy to use because it features electronic controls, which means you only have to push a button to start the grill. Best of all, a pellet grill offers plenty of versatility. You can smoke, bake, roast, and braise in it, which means you can make nearly any meat, fish, or vegetable dish you can think of.
Keep reading our buying guide to learn everything you need to choose the best pellet grill for your next barbecue. We've even included some specific product recommendations like our top choice, the Pit Boss Wood Fired Pellet Grill w/ Flame Broiler, which offers excellent temperature control and more than 800 square feet of cooking area.
Considerations when choosing pellet grills
If you want your money's worth, you have to choose a pellet grill that features high-quality construction and durable materials. Many pellet grills are made of stainless steel because it doesn't rust and can last for many years.
For the best results, opt for a grill that's made of commercial-grade 304 stainless steel or 430 stainless steel. Those made from 304 stainless steel are usually the best quality, but you'll pay more for them. Models made with 430 steel are typically more affordable and can still hold up well for years.
As with any grill, it's important to choose a pellet grill with enough cooking space for the size of the group that you usually cook for. Most pellet grills have a primary cooking area as well as additional racks that provide a secondary cooking area. Pay attention to a grill's total cooking area to determine how much food it can handle at a time.
As a rule of thumb, you'll want at least 300 square inches of cooking space for a group of four. If you usually grill for just yourself or one other person, a smaller grill can work. If you often throw barbecues or entertain large groups, you'll want a grill with more than 300 square inches of total cooking space.
Pellet hopper capacity
A pellet grill's hopper is the chamber that holds the wood pellets that give your food a delicious smoky flavor. For convenience's sake, you want to be sure that the hopper is large enough to hold enough pellets to last through an entire grilling session. That means you should choose a grill with a hopper that can hold at least 18 pounds of pellets, so you don't have to wait for the grill to cool to refill it halfway through grilling.
Pellet grills with wide temperature ranges are the most versatile. To effectively sear meat when you're grilling, you'll want a model that can heat to at least 500°F. Some grills can become as hot as 700?, which provides even more cooking options.
For other cooking methods like smoking and roasting, you'll need a cooler temperature. You may want a model that can go as low as 180?.
Temperature controller type
A pellet grill can use several different types of temperature controls to keep the temperature constant during grilling. You can choose from:
Three-position, which offers low, medium, and high settings, so you aren't able to control the temperature as effectively as with other controllers.
Multi-position, which lets you choose the temperature in 25º intervals for greater control. Though these controls can be thrown off by wind and cold temperatures.
PID, which can maintain a temperature within a couple of degrees of the setting that you've chosen. It provides plenty of control over the grill's temperature.
One-touch non-PID, which allows you to set a temperature in 5- or 10-degree increments but aren't as accurate as PID controls.
Ensuring your meat is fully cooked is key for healthy delicious grilling. Some pellet grills have built-in meat probes, which you insert into the meat when you add it to the grill. The grill's display shows the temperature of the meat as it's cooking, so you don't have to open the grill to check if your meat is done.
If you're a fan of smart home technology, you'll probably like the idea of a WiFi-enabled pellet grill. It allows you to check the grill's temperature and your food's temperature through a connected app on your phone or tablet. You won't have to stand over your grill constantly to know your food is cooking properly.
Pellet grills usually range from $175 to $2,600. Small grills with a limited temperature range and limited special features typically cost between $175 and $350. Mid-size grills with a wider heat range and some special features run from $350 to $775. High-end large grills with a wide heat range and plenty of special features generally cost between $775 and $2,600.
Q. What types of wood flavors can I find pellets in?
A. You can choose from a wide range of wood types when it comes to pellets for your pellet grill. The most common options are hickory, mesquite, apple, cherry, and oak. You can also find some pellets that contain a mix of woods to give your food a more complex flavor.
Q. How long do pellets usually last in a pellet grill?
A. It depends what temperature the grill is heated to, but in most cases, you'll need about four pounds of pellets for every hour of grilling at higher temperatures and two pounds of pellets for every hour of low-temperature smoking.
Pellet grills we recommend
Best of the best: Pit Boss Wood-Fired Pellet Grill With Flame Broiler
Our take: Provides a wide array of grilling and smoking options for any backyard, making this one of the best pellet grills on the market.
What we like: Offers user-friendly operation and easy cleanup. Allows for precise temperature control, so the grill temperature can be low enough for smoking and hot enough for searing. Provides 820 square inches of total cooking space. Flame broiler lets you use both direct and indirect heat while cooking.
What we dislike: Some buyers experience peeling with the exterior paint and inconsistent temperatures.
Best bang for your buck: Char-Broil The Big Easy TRU-Infrared Smoker Roaster & Grill
Our take: Isn't a genuine smoker but still gives food a rich smoky flavor, and offers easy operation at an attractive price point.
What we like: Comes in at the best price of all the most popular grills. Offers easy assembly and user-friendly controls. Can accommodate as much as a 21-pound turkey. Has two convenient side-mounted carrying handles, so it can be moved easily.
What we dislike: Grilling surface is limited. Doesn't offer the most precise temperature control, which is why you can't truly smoke foods in it.
Choice 3: Camp Chef Deluxe Pellet Grill and Smoker
Our take: A feature-packed grill that boasts high-quality construction and easy maintenance.
What we like: Assembles and cleans easily. Provides outstanding temperature control. Includes a convenient meat probe. Hopper has an 18-pound capacity. Offers 570 square inches of total cooking space. Heats to 500?.
What we dislike: Some buyers experience issues with temperature probe and control shortly after purchase. Lid doesn't always close tightly.
Jennifer Blair is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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