Pellet smokers are convenient and offer the natural smoke flavoring that only wood-fueled fires can provide. Our Top 5 list of The Best Pellet Smokers can help you select the perfect smoker for your needs.
Quality barbecue requires three things:
For barbecue smoking, the most important of these tools is the smoker itself, especially when you want an authentic, mouth-watering smokey flavor. While you can find smokers that are powered by all sorts of heat sources, only wood-fueled fires can give you a legitimate, all-natural smoke flavoring.
To help you find the best wood-fueled barbecue smoker, here's a review of five of the best pellet smokers for barbecuing.
Pellet smokers are characterized by their consumption of wood pellets made from compacted sawdust as a heat source. They date back to the early 1980s, when Oregon's Traeger Heating developed a pellet-powered grill as a way to continue selling wood pellets in the summertime, when customers no longer needed to heat their homes.
The idea of a grill that could be powered by an inexpensive heat source caught on quickly. Today, there are many brands offering their own version of this classic smoker. And because of their popularity, these smokers are frequently updated with the industry's newest technologies.
Pellet smokers caught on quickly because they were cheaper to use than propane, they have remained popular for many reasons: versatility, ease of use, and the delicious result.
Pellet smokers give you access to more cooking techniques. If you choose a smoker with a traditional grill-shaped body, you can braise, bake and roast meat in addition to smoking. If you choose a barbecue that's compatible with a cold-smoke generator, you can smoke pre-cooked meats and seafood.
Pellet smokers are one the easiest kinds of smokers to use, no matter if you are just beginning to learn how to smoke meats or if you have already smoked hundreds of barbecues. As a consequence of advancements in temperature control technology, pellet smokers are typically equipped with an automatic feeder that will help maintain a constant fire inside of the heating apparatus by feeding the smoker pellets as the temperature drops. The major advantage, of course, is that you will usually be able to "set it and forget it," giving you more time to spend with your family and friends.
Pellet smokers run by burning real wood, meaning that your barbecue will have the advantage of being flavored by a natural smoke source. While they were traditionally made with sawdust, you can now find pellets that are made from all kinds of woods, from mesquite to apple wood to alder -- and more! This means that you'll be able to make your barbecue more and more complex as you experiment with different combinations of meats, techniques, and woods.
There's a good reason why barbecues are typically associated with summer nights: getting a smoker to a high temperature and keeping it in this range is much more difficult in the winter than in the summer, especially if you live in a region where winters are cold and snowy.
Stick to smoking meats and veggies in the spring, summer, and fall to get the best results.
As with any smoker or grill, you'll need to consider your goals for the appliance. How often will you be using your smoker? Will you need it to cook for just your immediate family, or do you need something to cook for parties of ten or more people? Have you considered doing cold smoking, or will hot smoking be sufficient? All of these questions can help guide you to the best smoker for you.
Shape of Cooking Area
Since you'll be able to find this kind of smoker in all sizes, the shape of the cooking area is the most important aspect for you to consider. In general, there are two shapes: a cabinet that contains all elements of the smoking process, and a standard, offset grill. Of these two shapes, most barbecuers prefer to have the standard offset grill shape because it allows you to do direct cooking via barbecuing or roasting in addition to indirect cooking via smoking or braising.
Bells & Whistles
If you're a tech geek, you may also be concerned with the bells and whistles that come with your smoker. For instance, not all smokers have an automatic pellet feeder, so if you are truly interested in having a barbecue that you do not have to tend to during the smoking process, you'll also need to verify that this feature is there.
You might also be specifically interested in a wifi- or remote-controlled model. Other extra features that you might come across include easy cleanup features, such as porcelain-coated grates that you can wipe clean, or a smoker that is cool-to-the-touch to help keep children and pets (and grownups!) from burning themselves.
Camp Chef PG24DLX Deluxe Pellet Grill
Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett Pellet Grill
Char-Broil Vertical Electric Smoker
Traeger Grills Tailgater 20
Bradley Digital 4-Rack Smoker
This cabinet-style, stainless steel smoker is sleek, and it is reliable enough to smoke your food for up to eight hours with little interference on your part.
The Traeger Tailgater 20 is a versatile grill and smoker from the company that first envisioned pellets as a possible fuel source for barbecues. Check out our full review here.
The Char-Broil Vertical Electric Smoker is a cabinet-style smoker made of steel with removable, cast-iron grates. Check out our review of the Char-Broil Vertical Electric Smoker.
The Green Mountain Davy Crockett Pellet Grill is a portable, grill-style smoker made from stainless steel. Check out our full review of the Green Mountain Davy Crockett here.
The Camp Chef PG24DLX model is a large, grill-style smoker made from steel.
Ultimately, the smoker you choose will depend largely upon your own personal needs: the number of people you'll need to cook for, the kinds of foods you want to smoke, your experience with smoking, and the location where you intend to use your smoker.
While cabinet smokers can be useful for smoking a lot of food at home, they are usually electric and require a stable home on your patio. Not only that, they usually do not give you access to an open flame, and so you are limited to indirect cooking. To maximize your options with a pellet smoker, it is best to choose a traditionally-shaped grill that can accommodate both direct cooking on an open flame and indirect cooking from the smoke of your pellet-feeder.
Above all, most barbecuers will find that having a reliable at-home grill will fulfill a majority of their smoking needs, although portability is an added benefit for frequent campers and tailgaters. Because of its overall reliability, generous size, self-regulation, and easy-to-use design, your best bet for a quality pellet smoker is probably the Camp Chef PG24DLX Pellet Grill.
We hope you enjoyed our review of the best pellet smokers for barbecuing. We always appreciate feedback, so feel free to leave some below!