The world of pellet grills is getting crowded! Ever since the Traeger patents expired a few years ago it seems like every grill manufacturer is making pellet grills!
Let’s start with a couple of articles to introduce you to pellet grills and see if they are right for you and then jump into some of the different brands and models.
Pros and Cons of Pellet Grills: Are They Worth It? I love cooking on my pellet grill and it is just about the only grill I use anymore. It is easy to dial in an exact temperature which is one of the hardest things about traditional smokers and grills. There are a few downsides to pellet grills though. Pellet grills are expensive with some of the least expensive models costing almost as much as a high end gas grill. You also will not get the same smoke flavor on a pellet grill that you get from cooking with wood splits or charcoal.
Are Pellet Grills Better Than Gas Grills? This is a tough question! While pellet grills do not provide as much flavor as charcoal grills they do provide much better flavor than a gas grill. Pellet grills are easier to use than gas grills as you can dial in the temperature you want and don’t have to deal with flare ups. On the flip side, gas grills are more reliable than gas grills, are easier to use in the rain and are more fun since you get to play with fire a little.
Let’s dive in and look at specific brands and models.
Traeger Grill Reviews
Most people’s introduction to pellet grilling is through Traeger’s marketing program. Traeger is the 800 pound gorilla in the pellet grill market with a long history, strong branding, great marketing and some pretty nice products.
General Information About the Traeger Product Line
Why Are Traeger Grills So Expensive? Are They Worth it? This article is the heart of the matter as far as I am concerned. Traeger makes some fine grills but, in my opinion, they are overpriced. There are pellet grill that are even nicer than a Traeger that cost hundreds of dollars less. There are other pellet grills that, while not as deluxe as a Traeger, are perfectly functional and good enough for most folks and will also save you hundreds of dollars.
Can You Use A Traeger Grill In The Rain? I see this question asked a lot specifically about Traeger grills but the answer is pretty universal for all pellet cookers. Technically you can use a pellet smoker in the rain but it is not a great idea for several reasons. This article covers the pros and cons of using one of these grills in the rain and what to do if you find yourself grilling when a rain shower pops up out of nowhere.
Traeger Pellet Grills: Pro Series Vs Ironwood vs Timberline The main Trager product lines look very similar which creates some confusion when people are trying to figure out which one they should purchase. This article breaks down the differences between these product lines and shows the real world user reviews.
Traeger Pro Series 575 and 780 Pellet Grills With D2 Wi-Fire Controllers This article is a deeper dive look into the Pro Series 575 and 780 grills. These are the least expensive of the redesigned Tragers with the D2 drivetrain and are being sold at Home Depot and Ace Hardware so they are getting a lot of eyeballs. This article compares features and real world user reviews for both products
Which Traeger Grills Have Super Smoke? The latest grills from Traeger have an updated D2 drivetrain and digital control system. What is not obvious is that some of these have a Super Smoke mode while others do not. This article covers which grills have this feature and why it is important. The fact that not all of the new grills have Super Smoke mode, when they easily could, is an example of why I think these grills are too expensive.
Small Traeger Grills: Junior Elite, Tailgater and Bronson Reviews Traeger has a line of smaller, sometimes portable, pellet grills and this is a snapshot of those offerings. These smaller grills are not core products for Traeger and they keep rebranding them.
Is The Traeger Silverton 620 At Costco Worth It? While most Traegers are overpriced the Silverton series, available only at Costco, just might be the exception. Costco worked with Traeger to get these grills down to a more reasonable price and came up with a different cosmetic design so people wouldn’t immediately compare them to their more expensive retail counterparts. I had a chance to put my hands on the Silverton 620 and it is a nice grill. If I was in the market for a new pellet cooker then I would consider this one. The one downside of the Silverton 620 is that it does not have a Super Smoke mode.
Comparison of Traeger to Other Brands
Weber Smokefire vs Traeger Weber is a brand associated with premium gas and charcoal grills but they see that the future is the use of wood pellets. Weber decided to enter the pellet grill market with two grills that were designed specifically to compete head to head with Traeger. Weber had some awesome ideas and brought real innovation to the table and built grills that, on paper, would kick Traeger’s butt. Unfortunately, with so much innovation and being new to pellet grill game, Weber had some design flaws that made their grill a sub par product.
Rec Tec vs Traeger: Two Great Pellet Grills With One Clear Winner Rec Tec produces what I believe to be a better grill than Traeger and sells them at a lower price point. I think Rec Tec has better build quality and my personal opinion is that Rec Tec grills simply look stunning. The RT-700 and RT-590 are the flagship products from Rec Tec and should absolutely be considered by anyone wanting to purchase a high end pellet grill.
Traeger vs Pit Boss: Budget Friendly Wins Again Pit Boss, a division of Danses, makes budget friendly pellet grills that you can pick up at Walmart or Lowes. Pit Boss has a lot of different models and not all of them are great. However, when you look at the two basic models, the Classic and the Austin Xl, and compare them against the lower end Traeger counterparts you will see that the grills function about the same and have similar user reviews but have a wide price discrepancy. If you just want a simple, functional pellet grill then take a look at Pit Boss.
Six Traeger Grill Alternatives: Here is a summary of six other brands of pellet grill that I would consider before buying a Traeger. Some of teh brands are not as fancy but work well enough for most people. Other brands are nicer than Traeger and cost either the same or less.
Z Grills Review
Z Grills is an old but new company when it comes to making pellet grills. Z Grills appears to be the company that used to make Traeger grills in China. Z Grills appears to have taken the design of the previous generation of Tragers, changed up the styling, and are offering them at a direct from the factory type pricing.
According to their website they have been anonymously building pellet grills for reputable companies for 30 years and are now offering them direct to consumers at “severely affordable pricing“.
I am an affiliate for Z Grills and proudly recommend their products.
Both Z Grills and Traeger have affiliate programs. The Traeger program pays a higher percentage of the sale and the grills are more expensive. I would make a heck of a lot more money if I told you to buy a Traeger but I won’t ever try to sell you a Traeger. I recommend Z Grills instead.
Z Grill Pellet Grill and Smokers An overview of the models and history of the company. This article needs to be updated for the 2020 model year.
Hands On Review of the Z Grill 7002 I used the Z Grills 7002 pellet grill for a couple of years and really enjoyed the product. I smoked up some pretty amazing ribs, briskets and burgers with the grill. The only downside with the product was it struggled to hit temperatures over 400F. I eventually gave this grill to a friend (who also loves it) and upgraded to the Z Grills 1000E.
Dansen Smoker Reviews (Pit Boss, Louisiana Grills, Country Smokers)
Dansen is the company behind three brands of pellet grills. Dansen makes Louisiana Grills, Pit Boss Grills and Country Smokers. Let’s take a look at some of the different grills offered by Dansen.
Pit Boss Austin XL Pellet Grill Review The Austin XL is a massive and beautiful looking pellet smoker that has an extremely affordable price tag. The combination of size, looks and price have made this grill a great seller for Pit Boss. When you dig deeper and look at all of the user reviews that have been posted on the internet you see that while the grill is pretty good there is a certain amount of “you get what you pay for”.
Pit Boss Pro Series 820 and 1100 Review The Pro Series 820 and 1100 are available only at Lowes and are beefier versions of the Austin XL. At first glance the 820 looks like a smaller version of the 1100 but there are three reasons other than size why the Pit Boss Pro Series 1100 is a better grill than the 820 or Austin XL.
Pit Boss Pro Series 1100 Combo Pellet Gas Grill Review The Pro Series 1100 Combo is a dual fuel grill that has a pellet grill on one side and a gas grill on the other. The grill was introduced in 2020 and is only available at Lowes. Given the novelty and limited availability of this grill there are not many real world user reviews for this product. If you are interested in the 1100 Combo then you should also look at the Pit Boss Platinum Series KC Combo.
Pit Boss Platinum Series KC Combo Pellet and Griddle Review The KC Combo is a massive grill that has a pellet grill/smoker on one side and a propane fired grill on the other. The nice feature about the gas fired section of the grill is that it comes with a drop in griddle and griddles are a heck of a lot of fun! The KC Combo, which has wireless connectivity and comes with a PID controller, is only available at Walmart.
Pit Boss Platinum Series Lockhart Pellet Grill and Smoker Review The Pit Boss Platinum Lockhart in an intriguing “over/under” pellet grill and smoker combination. The bottom of the Lockhart is a PID controlled pellet grill that exhausts into an upper vertical smoking chamber. There is not an independent temperature controller for the upper chamber. The Lockhart, which has wireless connectivity and comes with a PID controller, is only available at Walmart.
Louisiana Grills Champion Backyard Pro The Champion Backyard Pro from Louisiana Grills is only available at Costco. This pellet grill has a primary cooking chamber and a secondary offset chamber for large capacity cooks. This is an attractive, high quality grill at the upper end of the Dansen product line.
Pit Boss Copperhead Vertical Pellet Smoker This article needs to be updated. I originally wrote this when the Copperhead 5 smoker came out at Walmart a few years ago. Pit Boss has expanded the product line and now has six different vertical pellet smokers for sale.
Pit Boss Whiskey Still Pellet Smoker Review The Whiskey Still is a gimmicky vertical pellet smoker that I do not recommend. There are some inherent flaws in the design and the user reviews reflect this. The Whiskey Still looks pretty and I give Pit Boss points for the creativity.
Other Pellet Grill Reviews
Oklahoma Joe’s Rider DLX Pellet Grill Review The Oklahoma Joe’s Rider DLX is an absolute blast to use. The Rider is not a traditional pellet grill as it has a wood fired blast furnace in the center of the primary grate that is ridiculously fun for searing steaks. The ability to heat the sear zone of the Rider to 700F is fun and impressive but it does make using the grill as a smoker tricky to learn. The quick fix is to place a water pan over the central hot spot and then this guy can go low and slow like a dream.
Masterbuilt XL Pellet Smoker: Strong First Impressions This is a large capacity vertical pellet smoker from Masterbuilt that looks impressive. The XL is about the same size as a Copperhead 7 Series from Pit Boss but it appears to have some quality issues as user reviews are not that positive.
Camp Chef Pellet Grill Review Camp Chef makes some extremely nice pellet grills. Camp Chef has a patented ash clean out system and all of their products are solidly built. There are over 15 pellet grills in their product line with their top end being the Woodwind series. There are three sizes of Woodwind grills (20, 24 and 36) and all of them have PID controllers and are WiFi enabled. For the 24 and 36 inch models you have the base model option of having a side table on the side of the grill or upgrading to the “Sidekick” propane fired griddle or the “Sear Station” which is a propane fueled infrared burner for world class searing. Article need to be updated for 2020 models.
Outdoor Gourmet Triton XL Pellet Grill Review I found this grill at Academy and thought it looked pretty cool. The basic design is solid and it has plenty of size. Unfortunately the user reviews for this grill are horrible as there appears to be a massive issue with the reliability of the controller.
Rec Tec Grills: Bull, Stampede, Trailblazer, Bullseye and Matador Rec Tec makes high quality grills that are absolutely beautiful. The RT-700 and RT-590 are amazing cookers with wifi connectivity and solid build construction. Rec Tec grills have PID controllers, stainless steel construction and are easily identifiable by the bull horn handles. Rec Tecs are not cheap but they are less expensive than Traegers. If you want the most bang for your buck on a high end grill then take a close look at Rec Tec. Article needs to be updated for 2020 models.
Grilla Grills Silverbac Review Grilla is a company based out of Michigan that also makes a very nice line of pellet grills. Their flagship product is the Grilla Silverbac and, like Rec Tec, is a better grill than Traeger at a cheaper price. Both Grilla and Rec Tec can beat Traeger on price by selling directly to consumers. While you can buy a grill directly from Traeger their prices are based on the markups that their distributors use to maintain a profit.
Big Horn Pellet Grill Review The Big Horn pellet grills are another Traeger knock off. They are designed to be extremely affordable and attract shoppers who are buying on price alone. These grills do not get very good reviews and, if you are on a budget, I would suggest buying the Z Grills instead.
Best Portable Pellet Grill Options I did a roundup review of the portable pellet grill options from Traeger, Country Smokers and green Mountain Grills. I was surprised to discover that the least expensive of all the options, the Traveler from Country Smokers, had the best reviews and stands apart as a best buy.
Wood Pellet Information
Best Wood Pellets for Smoking Meat There is a lot more to the wood pellets used in these grills than I first imagined. You need to be very careful when you read the label to understand exactly what type of wood you are getting.
Kingsford Pellet Review: Three Ways to Enjoy the Smoke The folks at Kingsford sent me a bag of pellets to try and I really liked them. I used them for three different types of cooks and had a lot of fun. The biggest downside to Kingsford pellets is they are hard to find. Supposedly they are for sale at Lowes but I have never seen a bag on the shelf.