Best Pellet Grills

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Best Pellet Grills

If you want the absolute best pellet grill on the market, it would have to be a Yoder, but for the average BBQ enthusiast, the price points can get out of reach. We believe the new Louisiana Grills Black Label 800 does everything very well in this comparison and it is priced attractively.

Pellet grills are becoming a standard household appliance and this fact is attracting many manufacturers. Every year it seems the competition is increasing and Traeger isn’t the only pellet grill manufacturer on the market. We went over all the lines from Traeger, Weber, Camp Chef, Pit Boss, Louisiana Grills, Yoder, Lone Star Grillz etc. and rendered this down to our top 5 pellet grills that stand out over the rest.

Louisiana Grills recently launched their Black Label series and brought all the latest WIFI and smart phone app technology to their grills. They’ve brought a lot of feature sets to this grill line and managed to keep the price competitive.

We will explain in detail how and why we chose these 5 pellet grills to be the top for 2021/22.

Angry BBQ’s Top 5 Picks

IMAGE MODEL FEATURES
byb2-table__imageAngry BBQ's top pickAngry BBQ's top pickLouisiana Grills Black Label 800
  • WIFI with Smart Phone App
  • Sear Plate
  • 5-year Warranty
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byb2-table__imageRunner UpRunner UpCamp Chef Woodwind Wifi 24"
  • 10 levels of smoke control
  • Slide and grill technology
  • 22 pound hopper
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byb2-table__imageBest BudgetBest BudgetZgrills Pioneer 450B
  • PID Controller
  • 459 sq/in
  • 15 pound hopper
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byb2-table__imageBest PremiumBest PremiumTraeger Timberline 850
  • Traeger WiFire App
  • Insulated Cook Box
  • 24 pound hopper
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byb2-table__imageBest CompetitionBest CompetitionYoder YS640s
  • Extremely Heavy Duty
  • Mobile Cart
  • WIFI
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Our Top 5 Pellet Smokers


1. Top Pick : Louisiana Grills Black Label 800 Pellet Grill

Louisiana Grills Black Label 800

The Black Label Series is Louisiana Grills’ new wood pellet smoker line that combines the robustness of their original grill line with a more premium design and several technological upgrades. The Black Label 800 has on offer a slew of modern features and offers premium quality materials and construction.

In general we like the Black Label series and recently awarded the Louisiana Grills Black Label Vertical Pellet smoker as our favorite in class.

The matte black look and clean design make the grill an imposing presence and double up on the premium feel. The distinctive look is further enhanced by the design of the grill, which does not feature a smoke stack, but instead makes use of an ingenious proprietary exhaust system. It also sits a little higher from the ground than many competing grills, giving it a commanding stance. 

The Louisiana Grills Black Label 800 provides a generous cooking area of 809 sq. inches, divided into two parts. The main cooking area, at 520 sq. inches, gives enough space for multiple large cuts of meat. The top rack, at 289 sq. inches, can be used as a warming rack or to cook vegetables or delicate proteins. The hopper can contain 18 lbs. of pellets, preventing the need for frequent top-ups. The grill can be configured to cook at a temperature range of 180 to 600 degrees Fahrenheit, making it a versatile choice for all grilling and smoking duties.

Louisiana Grills Black Label 800 Drawing 1
Louisiana Grills Black Label 800 Drawing 2

The grill is made out of high-quality 14-gauge steel and features a stunning powder-coated finish. The heavy grill grates are porcelain-enameled, making for excellent heat retention and transfer. This unit ships packed extremely well and the assembly is fairly straightforward, with clear instructions provided. The proprietary exhaust system works well, enabling the grill to reach high temperatures in very little time.

A standout feature of the Black Label Series that cements its place among the best pellet smokers currently available is the adjustable sear plate. The flame broiler level can be adjusted from outside the grill, giving you the option of cooking with either direct or indirect heat. This means that delicate meats can be protected and the grill can get up to very high temperatures if a quick sear is all you want.

Louisiana Grills Smoke iT App
Smoke iT App
Louisiana Grills Sear Plate
Sear Plate Diffuser

The grill features adequate storage options with a bottom shelf and a folding front shelf. It also has nickel-plated handles and high-quality, durable locking casters. The digital controller and display contribute to ease of use. The grill also has built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi functionality, where you can pair it with the compatible app on your phone. You can control the temperature and monitor readings from the integrated meat probes using the app easily.

What We Like…

  • Direct and indirect flame mode
  • Excellent quality of materials and construction
  • Five-year warranty

What Makes Us Angry…

  • Customers sometimes report inaccurate temperature readings
  • 18lbs Hopper is Small vs Competitors
  • Only basic functionality in the app


2. Runner up: Camp Chef Woodwind Wifi 24″ Pellet Grill

Campchef woodwind 24"

The runner-up in our list of best pellet smokers is the excellent Camp Chef Woodwind Wi-Fi 24, representing an excellent balance between an attractive price point and the latest features. The Woodwind 24 is the upgraded version of the SG24, offering customers a better display controller and stainless steel finishes. The steel construction is of high quality and inspires confidence. The grill ships well-packed and is a breeze to set up, thanks to tight manufacturing tolerances and elaborate instructions.

The Woodwind Wi-Fi 24 provides a total cooking area of 811 sq. inches, divided between the main cooking area of 429 sq. inches and an upper rack of 382 sq. inches. The grill has an operating temperature range of 160 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, making it an ideal solution for both low-and-slow smoking and a quick sear. Included are two side shelves and one bottom shelf, making storage a breeze. The pellet hopper can accommodate a whopping 22 lbs. of pellets, which is perfect for uninterrupted long cooking sessions.

Camp Chef Woodwind 24 Inside
Multiple Racks
Camp Chef Woodwind 24 Display
Color Display Controller

The first standout feature is the full-color controller screen where you can adjust the various parameters of your grill. The second-gen PID controller promises excellent granular control over temperature. You also have the option of choosing a smoke level, where you choose a number from one to ten to affect the amount and intensity of the smoke. The PID controller lets you adjust the temperature in increments of 5 degrees Fahrenheit.

Another standout is the Slide ‘n Grill feature which lets you put the heat diffuser on the firepot in an offset position by using a lever. This immediately puts your food in contact with direct heat, with temperatures able to reach up to 650 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are looking for that quick sear with char marks, this feature can really make things easy. Cleanup is also a breeze with the intelligent ash clean-out system where you can pull a knob to drop the ashes onto a container at the bottom of the grill, which can be easily removed and cleaned.

Slide n Grill
Camp Chef Ash Cleanout
Easy Ash Cleanout

The Woodwind has the option to fit four meat probe thermometers and the package also includes four probes. The grill is equipped with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capability, which means you can pair it with the corresponding app on your phone. From the app, you can remotely change the temperature and smoke levels, turn the grill off when you are done cooking, and monitor the readings from the four included meat probes. You can also individually name the probes if you are using them with different cuts.

Camp Chef Connect App
Camp Chef Connect App

An excellent optional accessory is the Sidekick, a propane burner you can attach on the side where you can sear, heat, grill, griddle, and bake.

Sidekick Sear Station Kit
Side Kick Attachment
Camp Chef Pizza Oven Attachment
Pizza Oven Attachment

What We Like…

  • Adjustable Smoke Levels
  • Sidekick Accessories add a lot of great functionality
  • Great color display with smart phone app control

What Make Us Angry…

  • Temperature consistency can be a problem in cold climates or when using old pellets.
  • Still won’t sear a steak like a gas grill.


3. Best Budget: Z Grills Pioneer 450B Pellet Grill

Zgrills 450B Pioneer

The Z Grills Pioneer 450B is an incredible deal, especially at its price point. The 450B does away with all the frills and instead focuses on solid basics, making this a reliable option that can stand up to heavy grilling and smoking duties for years. The powder-coated steel construction lends sturdiness and the relatively diminutive size means that you can move the grill around without any issue. The value package makes it a popular option for BBQ enthusiasts looking for a budget workhorse that can even be taken out on the road once in a while.

The Pioneer 450B provides a total cooking area of 459 sq. inches, divided into a 331 sq. inches main rack and a smaller 128 sq. inches top rack. The grill has an operating temperature range of 180 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. While it does not reach the high temperatures that many competing grills do, it can still be adequate for moderate grilling and searing duties in most cases. The pellet hopper, with a 15 lbs. capacity, is sufficient for about 15 hours of low-and-slow smoking.

The standout feature of the Pioneer 450B is the excellent temperature control, aided by a digital PID controller system, a feature that is usually found in higher-priced grills. The PID controller enables the grill to maintain a temperature within 5 degrees of your setting consistently. This is aided by the large, bright LCD display and the large control knob. The consistent temperature and smoke levels give the grill its set-and-forget quality.

Cleaning the grill is easy as the cast iron grill grates can conveniently be wiped or scrubbed down. You can help the grease tray along and make things easier for yourself by using a layer of aluminum foil. You can also very easily remove unused pellets after a cook using a convenient rear door on the hopper. The hopper also has a clear window that gives you a visual indication of when you need to top up your pellets.

While the Pioneer 450B does take a while to get up to temperature, once it does, it maintains that temperature consistently. The grill comes with limited storage options, featuring a storage cabinet and the hopper lid doubling up as a usable shelf. You also get two locking casters and two rubberized wheels.

Z Grills also offers grills in larger sizes such as 600, 700 and 1000 sq/inches.

What We Like…

  • Excellent PID controller
  • Portable and easy to maneuver
  • Great value for money

What Makes Us Angry…

  • Putting the grill together can be an involved process
  • No Wifi


4. Best Premium: Traeger Timberline 850 Pellet Grill

Traeger Timberline 850
Timberline 850

The Traeger Timberline 850 is a high-end grill from the popular manufacturer that has all the credentials to feature on our best pellet smoker list. The first thing that catches the eye is the short, muscular stance of the grill that speaks for its sturdiness and reliability. The Timberline foregoes the usual barrel shape of many pellet grills and uses an oval-shaped cooking chamber with a high hood. This means that, in spite of its diminutive form, there are three cooking racks packed in.

The model line below the Timberline is the Ironwood series. The Ironwood has some of the premium features of the Timberline but at a lower price point. I did an in depth review / long term test of my Ironwood 650 that is worth a read.

Traeger Timberline 850 Open

The Timberline sets the standard for quality of materials and construction, with the bulk of it being built from thick 16-gauge steel. The hood features double walls made from 304-grade stainless steel, making for excellent heat retention and insulation. The unique design features a curved path for the hot air and smoke, thanks to the downdraft effect created by an exhaust vent that extends for the entire length in the back.

The grill offers a total cooking area of 850 sq. inches and has a massive 24 lbs. pellet hopper built to the side, which has a built-in pellet sensor. It can maintain set temperatures to an excellent degree of accuracy, thanks to the excellent design and the power of the D2 PID controller. The D2 controller makes use of a variable speed fan to precisely control the temperature, airflow, and smoke rate. The air path also ensures that anything you put into the grill receives a healthy amount of smoke.

The D2 system and is proven to work in even the coldest temps. Where I live the winters get cold and I’ve successfully used D2 Traegers in -13 Fahrenheit. These are not the old generation Traeger controllers, the D2 is built to perform in any climate.

Traeger Timberline Drawing
Traeger Timberline Drawing

Engaging the SuperSmoke setting instantly turns off the fan and engages the lowest temperature setting, making this an easy choice if intense smoking is your priority. The grill also comes with a Keep Warm setting. The hopper auger is fitted with a DC powered motor, which is efficient and less prone to failures and jams. This means smooth travel for the pellets, which also helps keep temperatures consistent. The grill has an operating temperature range of 160 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, making it just about perfect for anything between smoking and searing.

The Timberline comes with ample storage, a host of convenience features, and sturdy legs with two wheels and two locking casters. However, the functionality and appeal of this grill increase significantly when you consider its Wi-Fi features. With the WiFire app, you can connect the grill to your phone and operate it remotely.

Traeger WiFire App Current State
My Wifire App in Action

The app has a ton of features, including real-time monitoring and control, usage tips, recipes, and even smart voice control. You can control every aspect of the grill from the app and even be alerted on your phone when your pellets run low thanks to the sensor in the hopper.

The Timberline also boasts another unique feature that most pellet grills do not have. Insulation. Traeger has insulated the cook chamber of their Timberline series which provides a couple benefits. Temperature consistency will be better when smoking during inclimate weather and pellet consumption should be slightly lower as wind and cold will not cool off your smoker.

What We Like…

  • High quality materials and insulated cook box.
  • Traeger WiFire app is flawless with a lot of functionality.
  • Stainless steel shelving on side and front.
  • Reliable D2 Drive/Control System

What Makes Us Angry…

  • Getting Expensive. Close to Yoder Pricing.
  • 3-year warranty. Could be longer for a premium pellet grill.


5. Best Competition Pellet Grill: Yoder YS640s Competition

Yoder YS640s Best Competition Pellet Smoker

Yoder has always been synonymous with quality and the YS640S is testament to that fact. Built out of high-quality stainless steel and constructed in the USA (the only grill on this list made in the USA), the grill is made with great attention to detail and is incredibly easy to use, yielding delicious results every time. The confidence Yoder has with this grill is established by the generous ten-year warranty they provide on the grill body. The YS640S weighs in at 418lbs, so you know that it is built with heavy steel. The Traeger Timberline in comparison weighs 213lbs.

When Yoder decided to make a pellet grill, they did something different, they tried their best to emulate an Offset smoker by locating the firepot on the far side of their grill. Most other pellet grill manufacturers locate their firepot in the center of the grill which makes the center the hotspot. In a true offset, the firebox is located on the side of the cook box and the heat flows through the cook box and out the stack. So the heat and smoke in a Yoder, move more similarily to an Offset. Offsets still create the best smoked brisket, ribs and pork butts, but the Yoder YS640s yields the best results from a pellet grill.

The YS640S offers a whopping 1,070 sq. inches of total cooking area, separated into two racks, with 640 sq. inches on the main bottom rack and 430 sq. inches on the top rack. The pellet hopper can fit in 20 lbs of pellets and the grill has an operating temperature range of 150 to 600 degrees Fahrenheit, making it an incredibly versatile machine.

Yoder Ceramic Igniter
Ceramic Ignition System
Smoked Ribs in Yoder Pellet Grill
Heavy Duty Grates and Racking

One of the main standout features of the YS640S is the Variable Displacement Damper, which can be manually operated from outside the unit and can be used to create two separate temperature zones inside the grill. The damper can be moved to one side to concentrate heat on a single side of the grill, or moved to the other size to keep the heat consistent all over. The heat deflector plate also works to keep the heat consistent, and the quality hood has an intelligently placed counterweight.

The smokestack is also adjustable, allowing for the right amount of airflow over the pellets for clear blue smoke. Cleanup is easy and ample storage is provided with the grill, which also comes with two sturdy wheels and two locking casters. The stay-cool handles really help with handling.

The standout feature of the YS640S would be the advanced controller. The chip and code controllers used by Yoder are an improvement upon the standard PID controller in many ways. The ACS or Adaptive Control System adapts to the environment and specific user actions to best maintain temperature and smoke levels. This means that when you put meat on the grill or open the hood, the controller makes decisions that still keep the heat consistent. The ceramic igniter also works flawlessly every time.

Yoder Controller
New Yoder Controller
YFi App
Yoder YFi App

On top of all this, the grill also has built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. With the companion mobile app, you can connect with the grill and receive real-time feedback on the grill temperature, readings from your meat probes, and the pellet level in the hopper. You can also control every aspect of the grill from the app, removing the need to remain tethered to the grill for the cooking process. Moreover, there is a wealth of accessories to choose from directly from the manufacturer.

Read our full review here.

What We Like…

  • The best construction and materials on the market.
  • The closest resemblance to an Offset Smoker on the market.
  • Very consistent temperatures.
  • 10-year warranty

What Makes Us Angry…

  • Will make you want to quit your job and start a BBQ business.
  • Price


How To Choose The Best Pellet Smoker

What I look for in a good pellet grill smoker comes down to a couple key items. Listed below are the items that are most important to me and if the pellet grill can achieve most of this list, then we have a great pellet grill.

  • Build Quality and Materials Used
  • Consistent Temperature Management
  • Temperature Ranges
  • Technology and Features
  • Track Record
  • Warranty

We will go over these topics in more detail and explain what to look out for in each category.

Pellet Grill Build Quality and Materials

Build quality and materials are probably the most important items that I look for in pellet grills. What gauge of steel was used to fabricate the grill? How good are the weld joints? What fire box and ignition system are they using? Paint finish quality? Here are the key components to look at when buying a pellet grill.

Metal Construction

If the pellet grill was made out of a thin gauge steel, you will feel a cheapness to the grill instantly. Thin steel creates a couple problems for these smokers.

  1. The grill will not hold consistent temperatures very well.
  2. Pellet consumption will be higher.
  3. Life expectancy of the cook box will be lower if thin gauge steel is used. These can burn out over time.

Pellet Drive Auger

The pellets are moved through the internals of your grill using the “Auger” which passes the pellets through the internal systems of the grill from the hopper to the fire pot where they will be burned to produce the smoke and flame you need to make your meal. Several pellet grill manufacturers have moved to a DC driven auger which has proven to be more reliable. Ex. Traeger

Temperature Controller

Camp Chef Woodwind 24 Display

The key to a good pellet grill is in the temperature controls. The better the temperature controls are, the more consistent your grilling will be. You can get pellet grills with three main types of temperature controls.

There are the older model of temperature controllers, called non-PID controls. They are much less precise than their counterparts. They are still functional, but they operate within a larger range compared to where you set your desired temperature than other variants. You could expect to see a difference of up to 40 degrees Fahrenheit from where you set your desired temperature.

The other main type of temperature control is the PID control. It essentially operates the same as a non-PID controller, but it is constantly performing calculations using data it receives from several different sources to get more accurate readings on the temperature. It takes steps to adjust the heat, so that it remains within your desired range.

The final type of controls are PID-Plus controls, which are PID controllers that have even further added benefits on top. The most common variety of PID-Plus controllers are ones that have Wifi functionality, which allows you to walk away from the grill and get updates on its progress on your phone.

Combustion Fan

As the pellets are moved from the hopper into the grill itself, they pass over the combustion fan and it begins to cycle air through the internal parts of the grill which is used to fuel the fire that will burn the pellets and give your grill the heat it needs to cook your food.

Igniter

The igniter is what causes combustion and ignites the fuel as it passes into the fire pot where the fuel actually burns and creates the smoke you’re after. This is where the air from the combustion fan is going to keep the fire strong and consistent. The air that is cycled over the igniter will keep the flame healthy and make it more powerful if you decide to increase the temperature of your cook. Yoder offers a ceramic igniter that has proven very fast and instant pellet ignition.

Yoder Ceramic Ignitionn
Yoder Ceramic Igniter and Fire Pot

Fire Pot

Inside the fire pot is where the fuel finally ends up and where it burns. The more fuel that is inside of the fire pot, the higher the temperature will be, but the lower the temperature it is the more smoke will be produced, so there is a fine balance that needs to be struck to get the right temperature and the right amount of smoke to infuse your food.

Location of the firebox is important to me. Most locate the fire pot in the middle of the cook chamber which is not similar to an offset smoker where the fire box is located on the far side. Yoder locates their fire box on the far side of the cook chamber.

Pellet Grill fire pot

Cooking Chamber / Barrel / Box

The cook box is where the magic happens in your pellet grill. The key items you want to consider here is steel thickness for temp consistency. Is the cook box insulated? Traeger offers insulated cook boxes in their Ironwood and Timberline models. Yoder builds with such heavy steel, that they do not offer insulated cook boxes. Most grill manufacturers offer an insulated exterior blanket to cover the grill when being used in cold temperatures.

Space in the cook box is also important. If you cannot fit a packer brisket in the cook box, why even consider the grill?

Traeger Timberline 850 Open
Timberline Cook Box

New Technology and Features for Pellet Grills

As wood pellet grills and smokers have become more popular, they have started to go through a modernization process that has resulted in a lot of new technologies being implemented into them. Pellet grills identify themselves from other grill types with their added convenience and ease of use, so technology finds a natural place with them since they share the same purpose. You can find different tools being added to them often with different purposes, like allowing you to cook without being near your grill, or checking the temperature of your food without having to remove it from the grill.

Built in Meat Probe

A lot of pellet grills are now implementing internal meat probes for checking the temperature of your meats versus the temperature of the grill. This is especially useful as a way to tell you when your meat is finished cooking and ready for consumption, without having to cut it open and check it visually.

It has the added convenience of being part of the grill’s function instead of being a separate tool that you would have to open your grill to use. Instead, you can take advantage of the convenience this new feature implements into the grill directly.

Wireless Connections

Another highly convenient feature being added to a lot of pellet grills today is the ability to connect to them from your phone and manage the temperature and other things while on the go by connecting to it through the internet or Bluetooth. 

Traeger WiFire App Current State

This is great for when you need to step away from the grill to check something inside of your home or even when you need to leave your home entirely. Gone are the days when you would have to shut down your grill and postpone your meal because something came up and it was unsafe to leave your grill unattended. 

Now you can connect to it with your phone and receive alerts if something happens so you know it’s time to rush back and take care of whatever problem might have occurred, and if all goes smoothly then you can manage the temperature and adjust it any time, from anywhere.

There are two ways to use this new technology, using Wi-Fi and the internet to connect to your grill from anywhere or using Bluetooth within a certain radius of your grill.

Wi-Fi Enabled Pellet Grills

Wi-Fi could theoretically be used to connect to your grill from anywhere. As long as you have an internet connection, and your grill is connected to your internet at home, you should be able to connect to it. That said, this technology is relatively new and pellet grill manufacturers are still working out the kinks, so we would still recommend that you take the time to check in on your grill frequently while using this feature.

BBQ WiFi App

Bluetooth Enabled Pellet Grills

Bluetooth icon

Bluetooth is another way that you can connect to your grill from a device and manage it remotely, but it will only work within a certain radius, so this is good for when you need to step away from your grill, but you aren’t going to be traveling too far. It is especially useful if you want to cook something overnight while you are sleeping because if something does happen your phone can wake you up and you can take care of it, but otherwise, your meal will be done by the time you wake up.

Warranty

I find it surprising how different the warranty options are from each manufacturer. Some are very short and others surprisingly long but you have to read the fine print. Some will brag a long warranty but it is only on very specific parts of the grill.

Pellet grill Warranty Comparison

ManufacturerYears Of Warranty What Is Included
Traeger3 yearsDefects from materials and workmanship under normal use.
Yoder10 years, 3 years, 1 year10 years on cooker body, 3 years on control system, 1 year on igniter.
Camp Chef3 yearsDefects from materials, and workmanship under normal use. Excluding paint and finish.
Louisiana Grills5 years Defects from materials and workmanship under normal use.
Z Grills3 years Defects from materials, and workmanship under normal use. Excluding paint/finish, firepot and cover.

A History of Pellet Smokers

Pellet grills did not form out of a vacuum. They are actually an alteration to an earlier device, called a pellet stove. In 1973 there was an oil crisis that resulted in a demand for alternative sources of heat for your home. One of the alternatives that was considered, and then put into use, was the pellet stove using wood. In the late 1970s, in the United States of America, we created pellets out of wood for our fuel source. They were small, capsule-shaped pieces of sawdust that were compressed to about the size of a pencil’s eraser.

In the early 80s, there were two different people experimenting with using these wood pellets as a fuel source for stoves, Joe Traeger, a heating company owner in Oregon, and Jerry Whitefield, who worked as an engineer in Boeing aviation in Washington. These wood stoves that were being created by them looked a lot like the traditional wood stoves you are probably familiar with, but they were run on electricity and they worked a lot like what we described earlier, with the pellets being moved through the system using an auger into a fire pot that was fueled by a combustion fan and an igniter.

Old Traeger
Early Model Traeger. The Lil Tex.

In 1986, the first pellet grill was made by Traeger. He signed a patent for his design which made it exclusively his property for the next 20 years and he continued to hone his craft over that time without any competition. The original designs for the first Traeger pellet grills used what was called an “LMH” temperature controller. It was called “LMH” because he allowed you to adjust the heat between Low, Medium, and High. Each of those different settings was representative of a certain range and fed a specific amount of pellets to the fire pot to achieve those temperatures.

Unfortunately, this early system was pretty unsophisticated and didn’t have any means for adjusting the number of pellets it used to regulate the temperature based on any factors other than the setting that the user set, so they required a lot more tending and management by the user. 

Today, this type of controller is called a non-PID controller because PID controllers are much more sophisticated and common, so much so that they are likely what you are familiar with working with and most users have probably never seen an LMH controller except on the cheapest of pellet grills.

Quality of Wood Pellets Effects Pellet grill Performance

Wood Pellets as a Fuel

The fuel source used for a pellet grill is what gives it its name. Pellet grills use wood as their source for fuel, in the form of small pellets that are fed through a hopper, typically found on the side of the grill. The pellets are usually made out of pure, hardwood that is ground into dust. That dust is then compressed under a large amount of physical pressure while in a very high temperature environment to condense it into the pellets that you use as fuel in a very similar process to the creation of diamonds.

There are a lot of differences, though, between different types of wood and there are variations on the process we just described for different brands. You can see this at a glance by comparing two different brands of wood pellets because you will notice that they often look different and are different sizes.

smoker wood pellets on fire

Wood Pellet Flavor

Different types of wood will have different flavors and they will pass those flavors on in the smoke that they infuse your food with. It can be hard to figure out what kind you like in the beginning, before you have experimented with a lot of different kinds. While taste cannot be transferred through text and it is a purely subjective sensation, there is still a bit of advice we can give you to help you along your way and focus your experimentation so you can find the kind that will work best for you.

Smoking Wood Chart

The smoke produced by different woods will have stronger flavors than others. Using something like Mesquite or Hickory wood pellets will result in a very strong smoke flavor being added to whatever you cook with them.

If you want a lighter or subtler flavor, then consider using something like Apple or Cherry. These two kinds of wood are very similar and both result in a very subtle taste infusion so that the smoke doesn’t overpower the natural taste of the meat or vegetables. They are very good options when you are working with a very delicate meat or something with a lot of flavor on its own that doesn’t need much added to it.

Heating vs Food Grade Wood Pellets

Something else you should keep in mind is that there is a difference between heating pellets and food grade pellets. Many people have heard that heating pellets can be used in a pellet grill and they are further vindicated by the fact that pellet grills can use heating pellets as fuel. That said, this is a case of misinformation being spread far and wide, just because you can use them as fuel doesn’t mean that you should. 

You should not use heating pellets in your pellet grill under any circumstances. They are not intended to be used with food and this is because they will infuse that food with unhealthy byproducts of combustion that can result in serious health problems. You should always check to see if the pellets you are buying are food grade before making that purchase and do not listen to the advice of others if they are telling you to use heating pellets for cooking food.

Why choose a pellet grill over other grill options?

The primary reason you would choose pellet grills over other grill types is for their ease of use. Even a novice griller can produce excellent food. Using these smokers is very similar to using a standard oven. All you have to do is set a temperature you want to cook at and the grill will handle the rest. You don’t have to worry about tending the fire or managing the fuel source, because top rated pellet grills will handle all of that for you. Charcoal Grills or Offset smokers typically need to be tended to much more than a pellet grill.

Are There Downsides to Using a Pellet Smoker?

Pros vs Cons

The primary downside to using a pellet grill or smoker is that you may have a difficult time getting them as hot as other grill types. Premium units will reach acceptable temperatures, but cheaper ones might have some trouble getting above 600 degrees Fahrenheit. You should make sure you look into this before purchasing a pellet grill and adjust cooking instructions, if necessary. I typically always use a gas or charcoal grill to sear my steaks.

What you need to know about using these smokers

While pellet grills do use wood for fuel, they actually run off of electricity, so you need to make sure that there is a source of electricity wherever you plan to use your new grill.

There is a bit of conversation around what kind of pellets you should use for your smoker. There are a surprising number of people that claim to use “Heating Pellets” to fuel their grill. This is a huge mistake and you should not follow in their footsteps. Not only will these pellets make your food taste bad, but they are also detrimental to your health! You should make sure that you are using food-grade pellets to heat your grill and only those.

If you live in a place with harsh winters like I do, but you want to experience the joys of a grilled burger at any time of year, don’t worry about it! Pellet grills DO work in cold weather. That said, they might burn more fuel to maintain their temperature, so you should purchase an insulated blanket for your grill to help mitigate that problem and save yourself some cash in the long-term.

You should also note that you don’t necessarily have to use the brand of pellets made by the creators of your grill. Give the owner’s manual a look to see what the requirements are for pellets used by your grill. If that sounds like too much work or you are confused at any point, then just stick with the brand-name pellets because they are specifically designed to be perfectly compatible with your grill.

Conclusion

Of all of the pellet grills, the Louisiana Grills Black Label 800 is the most consistent and versatile. It has decently accurate temperature controls and comes with a lot of features that make it very convenient and easy to use so even novice smokers and grillers should have a smooth grilling experience and can take their time learning the ins and outs of smoking without having to worry about producing something inedible while they’re still learning. I loved working with this grill and I’m fully convinced that anyone else will be too. On a tight budget? Check out our favorite pellet grills under $500.

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