Pellet grilling is all about using hardwood pellets to infuse the tasteful barbecue flavor, using an easy, temperature-controlled system that produces very minimal ash. 

Known for its no-mess, convenient setup and authentic flavor, pellet smokers are a favorite among grillers. One drawback to it, however, is that pellet smokers do not come cheap. Since there is a greater number of people opting for these smokers, the market is pushed into creating more affordable, and innovative designs. Let’s have a look at some of the best pellet grills under $500. 

At a Glance…

IMAGE MODEL FEATURES
byb2-table__imageAngry BBQ's Top Pick!Angry BBQ's Top Pick!Z Grills 450B
  • 459 square inches of cooking space
  • Precise temp. control with PID technology
  • 15 pound pellet hopper
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byb2-table__imageASMOKE AS660N
  • 700 square inches of cooking space
  • Advanced auto pellet feed system
  • 25.8 pound pellet hopper
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byb2-table__imagePit Boss Sportsman 500
  • 542 square inches of cooking space
  • Digital control board with LED reading
  • 15 pound pellet hopper
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byb2-table__imageCamp Chef SmokePro DLX
  • 570 square inches of cooking space
  • Auto start ignition
  • 18 pound pellet hopper
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byb2-table__imageTraeger Tailgater
  • 300 square inches of cooking space
  • Digital elite controller
  • 8 pound pellet hopper
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Z-Grills 450B

A fast-growing manufacturer of pellet grills, the new for 2021 Z-Grills 450B offers 8-in-1 cooking versatility, providing you with a flexible cooking area that allows you to get that authentic smoky BBQ flavor. The big update with the 450B is the addition of the PID Controller. Most pellet grills without a PID controller will have less consistent temperatures in the cook box. A PID controller is constantly sensing current temps and quickly changing the grills fans speed or pellet auger feed speed to maintain that desired temp. PID controllers are typically found on higher end pellet grills and not at this sub $500 price point. You can expect some great and reliably consistent results whether you are baking, roasting, charring, grilling, searing, braising, smoking or barbecuing on this grill.

ZGrills 450B Controller

Design and Structure  

  • The unit sits on 4 stable legs with heavy duty wheels easy mobility.
  • This model features a 15-pound wood pellet hopper that can provide you the extended run times for those brisket cooks.
  • The porcelain-coated cooking grates are easy to clean and a grease collection cup located on the side of the grill makes cleanup an easy task.
  • New pellet hopper cleanout makes wood pellet changeout quick and easy.
  • Pellet level sight glass, lets you quickly confirm your remaining fuel without opening hopper lids.
ZGrills Hopper Cleanout
Pellet Hopper Cleanout
ZGrills Pellet Sight Glass
Pellet Hopper Sight Glass
ZGrills 450B Exterior Drawing
ZGrills 450B Interior Drawing

Cooking Performance

  • The 450B features a total cooking space of 459 sq. in., main cooking area is 331 sq. in. and the rack is 128 sq. in.
  • With a reliable electric ignition system, the grill is controlled by the new digital control center which offers smoking and grilling temps of 180F-450F. An internal fan further maintains the steady combustion, leading to an even heat that is distributed across the cooking surface.
  • PID technology maintains the precise temperature throughout cook time.

The Z-grills 450B is backed by a 3-year warranty for parts.

What We Like…

  • PID Controller
  • Digital Controls
  • Heavy Duty Wheels and Casters
  • Excellent temperature control
  • 8-in-1 cooking options
  • Relatively light and mobile

What Makes Us Angry…

  • Little more grill area would be nice


Asmoke AS660N

The 8-in-1 pellet grill from Asmoke can cook efficiently on both hot/fast or cold/slow modes. Asmoke provides you with a laundry list of extra accessories and grill tools that make this a sweetheart package.

Design and Structure

  • A total grilling area of 700 sq. in. spans 484 sq. in. of primary grilling surface and 216 sq. in. of insulation rack.
  • A 25.8-pound hopper capacity ensures this grill can run all day.
  • An advanced auto pellet feed system helps run the grill continuously and an LCD controller helps display real-time temperature.
  • The lid comes in a stainless steel construction, and a sliding Flame Broiler Plate gives excellent results in both direct and indirect cooling.
  • Porcelain-coated cast iron cooking grates make maintenance easy.
Asmoke AS660 Overview

Cooking Performance

  • A heating fan maintains temperatures between 180-500 degree Fahrenheit
  • The sliding broiler plate prevents flare-ups and aids in providing direct flame searing heat for steak cooks

This grill is backed by a 5-year warranty.

What We Like…

  • Large cooking capacity
  • Automatic pellet feeder
  • Good warranty
  • A lot of prep space
  • Sliding boiler plate ensures offset or direct cooking

What Makes Us Angry…

  • New Brand that hasn’t Proven Themselves Yet


Pit Boss Sportsman 500

A great option for outdoor cooking, the Pit Boss Sportsman 500 comes power-packed with features like a large cooking area, dial-in digital control board, the iconic Flame Broiler Lever blended with Pit Boss’s characteristic open flame searing system.

Design and Structure

  • With a hopper capacity of 15 pounds, the Sportsman 500 measures a grilling area of 542 sq. in.
  • The unit features a built-in spice rack and bottle opener, detachable stainless steel side shelves and rests on inline-styled sturdy legs with wheels for easy movement.
  • Porcelain-enameled cooking grates are standard and easy to clean.
Pit Boss Sportsman 500 Controller

Cooking Performance

  • The digital control board with LED reading helps you adjust the temperature to your preference and the adjustable Flame Broiler Lever allows excellent heat control for direct and indirect cooking.
  • An open flame of about 1000 degrees Fahrenheit coupled with an open fan convection heating system gives you some fantastic searing results.
  • Cooking temperatures range between 180-500 degrees Fahrenheit.

What We Like…

  • Easy to use
  • Good heating and searing capacity
  • Flame Broiler Lever helps heat evenly
  • Mobile wheels
  • Spice rack holds platters and prep material

What Makes Us Angry…

  • Grill Handle is too close to lid which can burn your hand


Camp Chef SmokePro DLX

A maker of reasonably priced pellet grills, Camp Chef’s SmokerPro DLX is all about grilling in style. This smoker comes in an innovative design and a host of features that aren’t available in other budget smokers. Check out our Camp Chef vs Traeger comparison.

Design and Structure

  • The build of this smoker is very good and comes resting on 4 legs, 2 connected with wheels. Designed with superior quality materials, this grill is durable and produces consistent results in diverse temperatures.
  • A built-in temperature probe helps monitor the temperature, and a power failure restart helps automatically restart if the power gets cut mid-cook. Very nice option to have.
  • LED readouts through dual temperature display and the auto-start ignition make this smoker easy to use.
  • A hopper capacity of 18 pounds, supports a total cooking surface of 570 sq. in. that includes a warming rack.
  • A drip bucket and effective ash cleanout system makes collecting and cleaning ash a breeze with this smoker.
Camp Chef Ash Cleanout
Easy Ash Cleanout

Cooking Performance

  • A super-fast temperature pickup ranging between 160- 500 degree Fahrenheit allows you to cook a variety of food.
  • Pre-setting the temperature and choosing the mode helps get the right temperature for your food.
  • Adjustable smoke settings from 1-10 is a special feature from Camp Chef.

This smoker is backed by a 3-year warranty.

What We Like…

  • Quick Ash Removal
  • PID Temp Controller Technology
  • Various Smoke Level Settings
  • 2 Meat Temperature Probes

What Makes Us Angry…

  • Closest to $500 price range
  • Some customer concerns on temp fluctuations


Traeger Tailgater

A portable pellet grill with excellent temperature control, the Traeger Tailgater is compact, lightweight, and comes in just under the $500 mark. It combines the convenience and smoky flavor of cooking with pellets and an easily transportable design, making it perfect for camping and tailgating. Traeger started the pellet grill revolution but can they make a great option under $500 today? Lets find out.

Design and Structure

  • With the main cooking area of 300 sq. in. constructed in durable powder-coated steel, these grills come with foldable legs for easy portability.
  • Cooking grates are made of porcelain-coated steel and are easy to clean.
  • With an 8-pound hopper capacity, this grill starts with an electronic auto-start ignition.
  • The digital elite controller helps in precise temperature control.
  • This grill is not only suited for smoking, it bakes, braises just as well.

Cooking Performance

  • With temperature ranging from 180 to over 450 degrees Fahrenheit, this grill offers very good grilling and searing for its size.

The Traeger Tailgater is backed by a 3-year warranty.

What We Like… 

  • Perfect for a small home, or travel
  • Foldable legs make transporting and storing easy
  • Simple to use
  • Good pellet capacity for a travel smoker
  • Efficient grease management system

what Makes us Angry…

  • Almost $500 for the least amount of options/features
  • Small Cooking Area
  • Small Pellet Capacity

How To Choose The Best Pellet Smoker  

Based on a ‘set it and forget it’ premise, pellet smokers produce consistent results whether you are baking, grilling or smoking. With a variety of options to choose from, here’s what you need to consider while picking a pellet smoker best suited for you. 

Construction

Some of the best pellet grills are made of stainless steel and finished with a powder coated paint. These powder coatings are high temperature resistant and also stop metal corrosion. Most higher-end models are made entirely of stainless steel.

Temperature Controller

One of the best things about a pellet smoker is fantastic temperature control. The temperature controller is what regulates the temperature and makes these grills practically run themselves. The controller manages pellet consumption, and maintain the fire to achieve the necessary heat and smoke. 

Of the different types of controllers, PID controllers are gaining popularity even if some models can work effectively with less precise controls. With PID controllers, LCD touch screens, Wi-Fi connectivity, integrated recipes through smartphone apps, pellet smokers take convenience to a whole new level.    

Warranty

Since there’s more technology and several moving parts to a pellet grill, pellet grills are priced higher. Due to the more complex design of pellet grills (pellet delivery systems, variable speed fans, ignition systems etc.) the odds of having a failure compared to a gas grill are higher. Warranties vary with different manufacturers, so ensure you are backed against any damages and repairs. Also, clearly understand what the warranty does NOT cover. Most of these grills come with 3 to 5 year warranties.

Features And Capabilities

Pellet grills come with a bunch of bells and whistles that you can make the most of. 

  • Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi added to anything increases productivity. Likewise, grills that come with Wi-Fi integration help you monitor and control the temperature of your grill from anywhere. Added to this is integration with smartphone apps that helps in convenient use. Wi-Fi is not available on pellet grills under $500, so far!
  • Meat Probes: Some smokers allow meat probes to be plugged in directly, allowing accurate readings of your meat on the screen.
  • Pellet Removal: Smoking a brisket after you did ribs? You probably want to switch the pellet wood flavor. A lot of these models make for easy pellet hopper clean out. In other models, you’ll have to vacuum it out.
  • Grilling Options: Pellet smokers provide versatile cooking options, depending on the company and model. This is done either by providing a separate grilling area or by adjusting a part of the diffuser plate.

Can You Get A Quality Pellet Grill Under $500?

Pellet grills come with a lot of fancy technology like an electronic control panel, hopper, motorized feed auger and much more, explaining why they cost more than traditional charcoal or gas grills. Having said that, it doesn’t mean that pellet smokers aren’t available at lower price points.

Current options meet a wide range of budgets, but the added cost justifies the convenience and reduced cook time you can expect with this grill. Many budget models work just as effectively to a certain extent, but the higher-end models come with ‘smarter’, more intuitive features that add value to your experience. 

Also, lower budget grills may need you to compromise on construction and lower warranties too. The technology that makes pellet smokers so cool, like Wi-Fi connectivity, temperature controls, etc. can be limited in these grills. 

Things To Look For In A Pellet Grill

Choosing the right pellet grill depends largely on your needs and budgets. Here are some important elements you’ll need to make the right decision.

  • Cooking Area and Size: While small pellet grills measure about 450 sq. in. of primary grilling surface, larger grills are only slightly bigger, with about 500-700 sq. in. of primary grilling area. This is sufficient to cater to a large family. The size of the hopper is also important as it decides the number of pellets it uses at a time.
  • Portability: This is one kind of grill that gets moved around a lot, so be sure to choose a portable one. Whether it comes with wheels or foldable legs as in some models, pellet grills are great to take on camping and tailgating.
  • Ease Of Use: Perfect for our current lifestyle, pellet smokers don’t need much tending to and leave very little residue, making cleaning a breeze. Many pellet grills come with tech-friendly features like Wi-Fi connectivity and automatic functions that give you great control over the temperature wherever you are, freeing up a lot of your time.
  • Pellet Consumption: A vital aspect of a pellet smoker, make sure you don’t invest in a smoker that uses a lot of pellets. This happens if the walls of your smoker are too thin, and the grill is trying to maintain heat across the cooking surface by consuming too many pellets. So, check the number of pellets consumed by the griller per hour. Ideally, up to a pound per smoking hour is what you can expect.

Why Choose A Pellet Grill Over A Gas Or Charcoal Grill

All the 3 types, pellet, gas and charcoal grills come in a variety of sizes and budgets. While they have their advantages and disadvantages, pellet grills have an edge over the other two in a few aspects. 

Temp Management: Perfect temperature management is the biggest reason to pick a pellet grill over gas or charcoal. Set the temp on the digital controller just like an oven and walk away. Try to get perfect temperature management on a gas or charcoal grill.

Versatility: Yet another strong suit for pellet grills. Use it as a smoker holding a temp from 165-235F or sear that steak at 500F. You can do both, to an extent.

When compared to gas and charcoal grills, pellet grills are admittedly more expensive. But the cost of running them is a lot less when compared to the other two. Spending a little more upfront is not a bad idea if you wish to enjoy a stress-free, healthy cooking option for many years to come.

Disadvantages Of A Pellet Grill 

Though pellet grills are a very popular choice among BBQ enthusiasts today, they come with their share of issues. Here’s where pellet grills fall short;

  • Electric Dependent / Portability: Since pellet grills rely heavily on electricity, portability is limited. In places where there is no electricity or in times of outage, without a generator, a pellet grill will be offline.
  • Lack of High Temps: These are more ‘smokers’ than ‘grills’ as they lack the true high searing heat that gas and charcoal can provide.
  • Price: These grills are more expensive than gas or charcoal grills. You can buy an excellent gas, electric or charcoal grill for about $200-$500 but a decent pellet grill costs around $400 and can easily go over $1000.
  • Fuel Availability: Pellets and their unique flavors are the key selling point of pellet smokers, so you’ll need to always have an emergency stock of your favorite pellets. These are not available as easily and need to be stocked in advance.

Back in the early 1980s, Joe Traeger was the first to experiment with wood pellets as a cooking fuel, and this led to a revolutionized, new cooking style. Until 2006 when the patent of his company expired, Traeger was the pioneer of the first-ever wood pellet grill.

Interestingly, in 2006 Traeger sold the family-owned business and joined hands with a rival company Dansons, the owners of Pit Boss. Through this alliance, Traeger and other competitors hopped on the booming trend and created innovative pellet smokers in varying sizes, with better temperature control, diverse cooking styles and many such features.

Currently, many attempts are made to improve pellet grilling and many more features have been added. Of the manufacturers that have made noteworthy contributions, Pit Boss has furthered Traeger’s original invention. Pit Boss grills are known for their variety of wood flavors and good temperature control and are cheaper than Traeger grills. 

There are many newbies in the grilling game that have also done an excellent job in making pellet grills the versatile, tech-friendly, easy-to-use grilling methods that they are.

The Verdict

Choosing a grill on a certain budget can be challenging, but not always so. If you have an idea of what you consider excellent value for money, it’s easier to make a choice. My pick for this round-up is the ZGrills 450B. Its reliable PID controller offers the consistent smoking/cooking temps you need to make a great meat entrée.

More to spend? Here are our top picks under $1000.

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