The Best Pellet Grill of 2024

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Sean Campbell’s love for hunting and outdoor life is credited to his dad who constantly thrilled him with exciting cowboy stories. His current chief commitment involves guiding aspiring gun handlers on firearm safety and shooting tactics at the NRA education and training department. When not with students, expect to find him either at his gunsmithing workshop, in the woods hunting, on the lake fishing, on nature photoshoots, or with his wife and kid in Maverick, Texas. Read more >>