This article was updated in May 2022 to ensure all picks previously tested by the Good Housekeeping Institute Kitchen Appliances and Culinary Innovation Lab were in stock. We also added a new pick: the Traeger Timberline Pellet Grill.
Pellet grills can be compared to convection ovens that are used outdoors and can reach low temperatures for smoking and, in some cases, high temperatures for searing food, like steak. They can also be used for baking and roasting. They’re powered by pellets made of compressed wood that sit in a hopper and get pushed into a firebox to create heat. The firebox is typically covered by metal that spans the length of the grill, so food cooks over indirect heat versus an open flame like charcoal grills and gas grills. The results are foods that are juicy and tender with a smoky taste.
Though pellet grills can take up to 40 minutes to come to temperature and are often expensive, they’re convenient to use and offer a set-it-and-forget-it mentality since you don’t have to monitor the temperature by adjusting the gas or coals (or water levels, as is required with some smokers); plus, it’s hard to overcook food at such low temperatures. Do note that they must be plugged in to work, like an electric smoker.
In the Good Housekeeping Institute Kitchen Appliances and Culinary Innovation Lab, we tested five different pellet grills for our most recent test. We tested them similar to the way we test the best outdoor grills but adjusted the cooking methods to highlight the benefits of pellet grills. We cooked three types of meats using different techniques: an hour-long reverse-sear for steak (meaning we slow-cooked for one hour and then seared), a six-hour low-and-slow cook for ribs and a 30-minute “bake” for chicken thighs. We then assessed each for factors like juiciness and smoky taste. We also scored each grill on how easy each it was to use and move. Here are the best pellet grills you can buy in 2022, according to testing and standouts in the category, followed by buying advice.
Our top picks:
Best Overall Pellet Grill
Traeger Ironwood 885
Traeger’s Ironwood 885 is one of the brand’s most popular models. The cook surface is on the larger side, at 885 square inches, with an oversize top grate. The grates are porcelain coated (like those on the brand’s Pro 575 model, which also performed well) for easier cleanup and maintenance. Aside from more cooking space, the Ironwood 885 is loaded with updated features like a control panel that’s easier to read, Super Smoke and Keep Warm settings, a sensor that lets you know when the pellets are low, a door on the hopper to empty the pellets if you want to try another flavor before they finish and a strong side shelf with tool holders. The grill comes with a meat probe (and built-in storage for it) and also connects to the Traeger app so you can keep an eye on it from afar. It has a 20-pound hopper.
In our tests, chicken came out super juicy and tender with crispy skin reminiscent of well-cooked duck skin; it was light, crispy and airy. Steak also turned out tender and was able to achieve grill marks. The grill has a downward exhaust system located on the back instead of a traditional smokestack.
• Dimensions: 53″ x 27″ x 47• Grilling area: 885 sq. in.• Hopper capacity: 20 pounds
Best Value Pellet Grill
Pit Boss 700 FB Pellet Grill
This is a great starter pellet grill considering its price, build and capabilities. It’s super easy to use with a dial temperature control and easy-to-read display. Thanks to the slide-to-expose flame broiler, you can also grill over direct flame — in addition to the standard pellet grill smoking, grilling and barbecuing — plus, you can bake, braise, roast and sear your food on this all-in-one appliance. And with a 21-pound hopper capacity and 700 square inches of space to cook on including the second tier rack, the manufacturer claims you can make over 30 burgers at once! This grill also has porcelain-coated grates, which can make for easier cleanup.
• Dimensions: 24.8″ x 22″ x 43″• Grilling area: 700 sq. in.• Hopper capacity: 21 pounds
Most Durable Pellet Grill
Rec Tec RT 700 Wood Pellet Grill
This Rec Tec Grill’s exterior and many of its accessories are made of stainless steel, while its interior accessories, including the grill grates and fire pot, are made of 304 stainless steel, which has high corrosion resistance, for even more durability. Plus, it’s all backed by an impressive six-year warranty. In addition to top-of-the line materials, it can reach up to 500ºF to achieve sear marks — noteworthy in the pellet grill category, which usually maxes out around 400ºF.
The Rec Tec RT 700 connects to an app and comes with two probes so you can monitor the internal temperature of two different foods. No need to worry about running out of pellets mid-cook either: It has a 40-pound hopper — the largest on our list.
• Dimensions: 56″ x 50″ x 32″• Grilling area: 702 sq. in. • Hopper capacity: 40 pounds
Popular Pellet Grill on Amazon
Z Grills Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker
Z Grills has been making grills for other brands for over 30 years, and in 2017, it started selling under its own name, which allows for its competitive price point. This pellet grill has over 1,000 reviews and a 4.5-star rating on Amazon, and it offers a stainless steel build with a large 700-square-inch cooking surface and a 20-pound hopper capacity. It has updated temperature controls and ranges from 180ºF to 450ºF.
For a step up at a still competitive price point, consider the new 7002 series; it has a PID controller, which helps maintain an even temperature, a temperature probe and a hopper with a viewing window. In our tests, the 7002F performed similarly to its competitors in terms of how it cooked food, although it seemed to be more on the powerful side. Its frame and door was a little thinner than other models and required more careful handling.
• Dimensions: 48 x 22 x 51 inches• Grilling area: 700 square inches• Hopper capacity: 20 pounds
Best Portable Pellet Grill
Green Mountain Davy Crockett Pellet Grill
If you’re looking for a mobile option, the Davy Crockett model from Green Mountain is our go-to portable pellet grill. Great for a day of tailgating or camping adventure, it has a nine-pound hopper capacity and foldable legs so it’ll take up less space in your trunk on game day. (The smaller hopper means you’ll have to add pellets more often, but the size is helpful when you’re on the go.) This is one of the few portable options that features digital controls and an integrated thermometer (referred to as Sense-Mate) to check on the internal temperature of your food. And thanks to Wi-Fi capabilities, you can monitor the progress of your food from your phone. The app also features an integrated food timer so you can get notified when the cook time is over.
• Dimensions: 34″ x 23″ x 31.75″• Grilling area: 219 sq. in. • Hopper capacity: 9 pounds
Best Pellet Grill for Searing
Camp Chef Woodwind Pellet Grill with Sear Box
One of the chief complaints with pellet grills is that you can’t sear a steak as well as you could on a charcoal or gas grill. The Woodwind with Sear Box model from Camp Chef can serve as both a smoker and a searing grill. Use the wood pellet grill for easy temperature control and consistent results. When we tested the cast iron grate, it produced beautiful sear marks, and the grates can reach temperatures up to 900˚F. We loved this pick’s ash-removal system, which made it easier than most to clean since ash is deposited into an easy-to-remove cup under the smoke box. The 24-pound hopper capacity is a good size for most slow-cooking jobs, and it features a viewing window so you can see how many pellets are left without opening the lid.
• Dimensions: 30″ x 42″ x 49″ • Grilling area: 800 sq. in.• Hopper capacity: 22 pounds
Best Pellet Grill for Charring
Weber Smokefire EX4 (2nd Gen)
Pellet grills are a new category for Weber, one of our top-tested grill brands. The Smokefire EX4 (2nd Gen) features the high-quality polished build the brand is known for as well as the same flavorizer bars designed to vaporize drippings during cooking for more moist results.It ranges in temperature from 200ºF to 600ºF, which allowed for char marks on our steak during testing (which is unusual when it comes to pellet grills). Foods seemed to cook a little more quickly with this grill than other brands we tested, but it yielded the style of ribs most people are used to: slightly caramelized, fall-of-the bone and delicious.
One of the Smokefire’s nicest features is its built-in Weber Connect technology, which you can control and monitor right from the grill or from the app. It allows you to keep an eye on the grill’s ambient temperature as well as the internal temperature of foods; one probe is included with the grill but up to three can be bought separately and used at the same time – ideal for keeping track of various items.
The Smokefire comes in two sizes: a large, 432-square-inch version with a 240-square-inch upper rack, or this extra-large, 648-square-inch option with a 360-square-inch upper rack.
• Dimensions: 33″ x 43″ x 47″• Grilling area: 672 sq. in.• Hopper capacity: 20 pounds
Most Innovative Pellet Grill
Traeger Timberline 1300
The Timberline pellet grill is Traeger’s newest model, and while we haven’t tested it yet, we can’t wait to get our hands on it. It’s loaded with many new and innovative features we haven’t seen on most grills before like multiple storage shelves and a powerful induction side burner — imagine using it to get a final sear on steaks or frying smoked wings outdoors. We also love that the induction burner can be used as a shelf when covered with the lid; the hopper also converts to a shelf when topped with the included cutting board that’s secured with a strong magnet. Additional accessories can be purchased to use with the new Traeger Timberline, too, like a butcher paper roll rack or storage bin.
Other unique features include its contained, two-in-one ash and grease collector, a full-color touchscreen and the two Meater meat thermometers, so you can easily monitor the internal temperatures of food on the app. It has 880 sq. inches of cooking space, including two additional cooking tiers. It’s also available in a bigger, 1,300-square-inch cooking size and can even be designed to be built into your outdoor kitchen.
• Dimensions: 59″ x 25″ x 51″ • Grilling area: 880 sq. in.• Hopper capacity: 22 pounds
How we test the best pellet grills
When we test pellet grills, we use many of the same rigorous test methods as we do when testing charcoal and gas grills, however, we also use cooking methods that make the most of pellet grills. We cook steak by using a classic reverse-sear method and cook ribs for six hours, uncovered and covered, basting during the last hour. We also cook chicken thighs on each pellet grill.
Our Lab experts then assess each piece of meat for doneness levels as well as juiciness and tenderness. We also compare the smoke rings on the food (how much the smoke penetrated the food) and the level of smoke flavor. In addition to performance, we score each grill for ease of use by testing how easy it is to move around, how many wheels it has, whether it has shelves or tool holders and more. We then take all of this into account and tabulate hundreds of data points to give each a final score and choose the best pellet grills.
What to look for when shopping for the best pellet grill
✔️ Cooking capacity is something you should factor in before you purchase any grill. Will you be using it for small family dinners or larger backyard parties? Also consider what type of food you’d like to cook. Most will comfortably accommodate your typical barbecue fare, like steak and ribs, but if you want to smoke a large piece of meat like a brisket, or cook multiple dishes at once, a large grill is a better bet.
✔️ Hopper size affects how long you can leave the pellet grill unattended in addition to how often you’ll need to refill it and buy more pellets. A larger hopper allows for long smoking sessions that don’t require frequent check-ins. The amount of pellets used per hour varies based on the pellet and grill. It also varies based on the desired cooking temperature — more pellets are burned at a higher temperature versus a lower one, but lower temperatures usually mean longer cook times and, thus, more pellets.
✔️ WiFi capability allows you to keep an eye on your food without being at the grill. Connected apps often monitor the internal temperature of foods with temperature probes as well as the grill’s ambient temperature and the amount of pellets left in the hopper.
Are pellet grills worth it?
Pellet grills offer a great deal of versatility as they can be used for smoking, grilling, roasting, baking and more. If you like wood-smoked food, pellet grills make it easier to achieve this taste profile than burning wood on a grill or smoker, and unlike charcoal grills, pellet grills require no effort to start and little maintenance other than ensuring that there are pellets in the hopper. Pellet grills don’t require any propane or gas, and wood chips are easier to have delivered and to store than propane tanks or charcoal. Pellet grills also preheat quickly like a gas grill, usually in about 10 minutes.
How does a pellet grill work?
Pellet grills use hardwood pellets as fuel. Simply load the pellets into the hopper, turn the grill on, set the temperature and wait for the grill to heat up. The pellets make their way to a fire pot beneath the grill via a motorized auger, and a hot rod is used to ignite the pellets to create a fire while a fan stokes the flames, creating convection.
What pellet brand is best?
We recommend sticking to the pellets made by the manufacturer of your pellet grill. All pellets are made differently and are usually designed to work best with the specific pellet grill. You can experiment to see which brand works best for you but starting with the same brand is best.
In terms of pellet flavor, you can select from a variety of hardwood flavors to complement whatever you’re cooking. For instance, apple hardwood pairs well with chicken and veggies, but you may want to opt for oak or maple for beef.
Is it true that pellet grills are healthier?
Manufacturers of pellet grills claim that because you are using an indirect heating source, the formation of carcinogenic chemicals is minimized. However, there is little scientific research showing that pellets reduce the formation of cancer-causing chemicals. And most pellet grills are required to list Prop 65 in California, meaning cancer-causing chemicals are present. So if you’re opting for a pellet grill, do it because you prefer the taste imparted by hardwood.
Why trust Good Housekeeping?
Nicole Papantoniou runs the Good Housekeeping Institute Kitchen Appliances and Culinary Innovation Lab, where she oversees all content and testing related to cooking products. She started testing and developing cooking tools, gadgets, gear and appliances in 2014. She’s trained in classic culinary arts and is a professional recipe developer.
For this article, she worked closely with Rachel Rothman, the Good Housekeeping Institute’s chief technologist and head engineer. She has a B.S.E. in mechanical engineering and applied mechanics with a mathematics minor from the University of Pennsylvania and has been testing grills with the Kitchen Appliances Lab for years.
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