So you want to get a pellet grill and are torn between a Traeger and a Pit Boss.
I get it. Traeger’s are expensive and the Pit Boss looks nice. I have spent quite a bit of time looking over both of these brands and do not hesitate to say that if you are looking at a Traeger vs Pit Boss comparison then the answer is…..do not buy either one.
What you want is a Z grill.
Hang with me here.
The Pit Boss Smokers are made by Danson’s, the same folks behind the Louisiana Grill brand. Louisiana Grills are fine smokers that can go toe to toe with a Traeger. The Louisiana Grills are also priced the same as Traegers.
Here is a nice video showing a head to head of a Louisiana Grill vs a Traeger
While Louisiana Grills have made progress in taking market share from Traeger the folks at Danson’s realized that they could sell more grills if their product was cheaper. And thus the Pit Boss Smoker brand was born.
But here is the deal, the Pit Boss Smokers are just that…cheap.
Louisiana Grills come with a five year warranty on all steel components and a three year warranty on the electronics. They are built to last.
Pit Boss grills come with a one year warranty.
Take a look at this excerpt from the Owner’s Manual for a Pit Boss pellet grill:
The manufacturer of the grill is actually telling you not to get your hopes up. You should EXPECT a Pit Boss grill to fall apart in 2-3 years.
(Update 2/24/18: Some folks interpret this phrasing to mean that you will only be able to use the grill for 2-3 seasons out of the year instead of my interpretation that the grill will only last 2-3 grilling seasons. Please see the discussion in the comments below for more information)
As far as Pit Boss customer service is concerned all I can tell you is that my experience was ridiculously awful. I called Customer Support to ask a question about grate size and was routed into an automated system. Every three minutes the automated system gave me two options to HANG UP the phone. After 10 minutes and the third time the system asked me to, I hung up.
Update 2/18/2018: I made another call to Pit Boss today to get more information about their Copperhead vertical smoker. The phone was answered on the second ring by a man in Oregon. He was incredibly helpful and even went out to the warehouse and measured the grates for me. It looks like if you can get past the automated system and reach a real person then these guys will take care of you.
Many people have bought a Pit Boss and enjoy them. Heck, Pit Boss even has a few raving fans. The Pit Boss pellet grills can turn out good barbecue and are very affordable.
The thing is, I just can’t recommend a product that costs between $400 and $700 when the manufacturer essentially says that the product won’t last more than a couple of years.
So if I am going to take a pass on the Pit Boss then why not get a Traeger? A lot of folks are introduced to this brand through the infomercials for the Traeger Renegade Elite. And while the Elite and other models like the Tailgater are fine cookers I am not going to recommend a Traeger for the exact same reason that you are thinking about a Pit Boss.
Traeger’s are, in my opinion, over priced.
And that brings us to a new player on the market, Z Grills.
Z Grills just started selling pellet grills into the retail market in 2017 but has a long history of making pellet grills for other companies. Below is a snapshot off of their website.
Take a peek at the lower right hand corner.
These are the same folks that were building pellet grills for Traeger for six years. When you look at the Z grill product line it looks like they are almost clones of Traegers.
Z Grill stopped selling to Traeger and is now selling directly to the retail market.
Z Grills are budget priced like Pit Boss and carry a three year warranty like Traeger.
I am cooking on a Z grill these days and really enjoy using it.
But I suspect you aren’t too interested in my opinions and really just want to know what is different between these two brands. So on that note…….
Four Primary Differences Between Traeger and Pit Boss Pellet Smokers
- Price: Pit Boss has a grill that matches the size of every grill that Traeger has. Each of the Pit Boss grills is between $100 and $200 cheaper than its Traeger counterpart.
- Warranty: Traegers come with a three year warranty compared to one year on a Pit Boss.
- Controller: The controller on the Traeger is more precise than what you get on the Pit Boss. Pit Boss controllers do pretty go at maintaining a temperature but have been known to swing about pretty wildly when you are changing temperatures.
- Heat Management: The location of the fire pot and how heat is distributed is very different,
Let’s take a closer look at the differences in heat management between the two brands.
Traeger Heat Management System
On a Traeger the fire pot is on the far left side of the grill and is covered by a heavy steel heat deflector.
The fire pot and heat deflector are then covered by a solid metal grease tray.
Pit Boss Heat Management System
On a Pit Boss pellet grill the fire pot is located in the CENTER of the grill and does NOT have a heat deflector over the pot.
The fire pit on the Pit Boss is covered by a domed metal shield with open slits.
The open fire pot and the slits in the shield are intended to let you do do “open flame grilling”. When you want to smoke instead of grill there is a second metal shield that slides over the open slits.
I don’t have a strong basis to judge which heat management system is better and they both look like they work fine.
I wish you the best of luck in your grill selection and hope that my ramblings were useful 🙂 If you do not have your heart set on either of these brands let me point you in a few other directions.
If you want to get something BETTER THAN a Traeger at the same price point then check out this Traeger vs Rec Tec comparison.
If you want to get something as nice as a Traeger at a LOWER PRICE then check out the Camp Chef grill that I featured in this article on The Best Pellet Grill for the Money.
Lastly, if you do not have your heart set on a pellet smoker check out this list on the Ten Best Smokers Under $1,000.