The Best Pellet Smokers for Barbecuing

Best Pellet Smokers for Barbecuing

Getting a quality barbecue requires three things: 1) patience, 2) high-quality ingredients, and 3) reliable and efficient tools. The most important of these tools is, of course, the smoker itself -- especially when you want an authentic, mouth-watering smokey flavor.  In this article, we give you the best pellet smokers for barbecuing.  

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 some of the best pellet smokers.

Comparison Table

Product Name

Price

Rating

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

$$$

About Pellet Smokers

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 their customers no longer needed to heat their homes. This idea of a grill that could be powered by such an inexpensive heat source caught on quickly, and today, there are many different brands offering their own version of this classic smoker. Better yet, these smokers are frequently updated with the industry's newest technology because of their popularity.

Advantages of Wood Pellet Smokers

While pellet smokers caught on so quickly because they were cheaper to use than propane, they have remained popular for many more reasons: versatility, ease of use, and the delicious result.

Above all, with a pellet smoker, you can give yourself access to more cooking techniques. If you choose a smoker with a traditional grill-shaped body, you'll be able to braise, bake, and roast meat in addition to smoking. On the other hand, if you choose a barbecue that is compatible with a cold-smoke generator, you'll have the capability to smoke pre-cooked meats and seafood.

Beyond this, pellet smokers are often 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.

Finally, 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.

When You Should Use Your Pellet Smoker

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.

What to Consider When Choosing a Pellet Smoker

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.

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.

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.


The Best Pellet Smokers on the Market

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.

Check out our full review of the Bradley Digital 4-Rack Smoker

Pros

  • This smoker is completely electric, which can be useful if you will use it in an area that has fire restrictions.
  • You can cold smoke with a compatible cold smoke generator. 
  • You'll be able to spend less time focusing on your cook; this smoker comes with an automated pellet feeder, and it auto-regulates its temperature.

Cons

  • Because it is electric, you might have some issues with the initial pre-heating process. Fortunately, once you've reached this temperature, maintaining it isn't as much of an issue, but you may still need to plan enough time to get the smoker ready for your barbecue.
  • This smoker can only accept pellets manufactured by the brand. 
  • The instructions for setting up and taking care of this smoker may not have all the details that you need to maintain it. 

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.

Pros

  • With an attached grill, you can use this appliance for both direct and indirect cooking. This kind of combination can give you access to a wide range of cooking techniques.
  • This smoker is designed to be portable with a relatively light weight and legs that collapse into the sides.
  • There is an automatic temperature regulator that will feed pellets into the smoker as needed.

Cons

  • Because it is portable, this smoker is pretty small. You will have difficulties cooking for large parties with its 300 square inches of cooking space.
  • The instructions that are included with the smoker are not well written, so you may need to do your own research to adequately assemble and prepare the smoker for use.
  • You will need an electricity source in order to keep the automated wood pellet feeder running. 

Char-Broil Vertical Electric Smoker

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

Pros

  • This smoker is sizeable enough to accommodate enough food for about eight people. You should be able to fit cuts of meat as large as half a ham inside.
  • The temperature is controlled automatically, but you will still need to keep an eye on how many pellets are left inside the chamber.
  • The exterior features a thermometer, which means you won't need to open the cabinet and risk losing heat in order to gauge if you need to add more wood pellets.

Cons

  • To be used as a pellet smoker, you will likely need to invest in a smoke tube that is not included.
  • There have been many issues reported for the door's design. Most significantly,
    you may have some issues getting the door to latch properly. Once it is closed, however, you shouldn't have to worry too much about it staying closed.
  • There are no vents in the design of this smoker that allow you to control the air flow inside. This can be frustrating if you are used to having this kind of control when you cook.

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.

Pros

  • This model is lightweight and all the external elements can be folded into the sides, making it a portable option for camping, tailgating, and at-home use.
  • You can monitor and control the temperature of the smoker using its mobile app, which features a unique password for your grill. Inadvertently, this will also tell you if the pellet feeder runs out.
  • With an attached grill, you will be able to do a variety of direct and indirect cooking with this model.

Cons

  • Because it is very lightweight, you may have more troubles keeping this smoker insulated enough to maintain its temperature. Heavier smokers tend to have more insulation to maintain their cooking temperature.
  • The legs for this portable smoker are short, so you may have to find a heat-resistant table that can go with your grill if you don't want to crouch during the cook to check on your meat or add wood pellets to the feeder.
  • Portability means that this smoker is too small to accommodate enough food for a large party. This model is best used for smaller gatherings with up to four people.

The Camp Chef PG24DLX model is a large, grill-style smoker made from steel.

Pros

  • This grill features a unique ash clean-out system that allows you to remove the ash via a lever system, rather than with a vacuum.
  • With 570 square inches of cooking space, you'll be able to cook for any range of people, from a small family gathering to a huge party.
  • Because it doubles as a grill, you can benefit from both direct and indirect cooking.

Cons

  • You will most likely want to use this grill in a covered patio setting, as the metal is not very waterproof.
  • The large cooking space is not accompanied by an equally-as-large drip catcher.
    You will probably want to extend the drip catcher component to minimize the risk of grease fires in the bottom of this grill.
  • The large size of the grill also means that you may have trouble heating this grill to a high temperature, and remedying this problem often requires you to use more pellets.

Conclusion

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.

About the Author David Johnson

Hi there, I'm David and I'm the creator and editor of this site. I have been grilling and smoking for the past 7 years and my goal is to share my knowledge and experience with you.

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