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It’s not long ago that pellet smokers were the least popular out of the bunch. These out-of-the-box smoking machines were often picked at as being the most difficult to use, highly unreliable and a total waste of time and money. But, times have changed.
Weekend smoking warriors and veteran pitmasters have finally embraced the multiple benefits that a high-quality pellet smoker has to offer, from requiring minimum attention and still doing the job to maintaining a steady temperature for hours at a time. If you are ready to enjoy these benefits (and much more), then it’s time you let go of your old bullet smoker and invest in the future by placing a brand new pellet smoker in your backyard.
The sad part is that finding the perfect match can be a time-consuming and confusing task, considering the vast amount of options out there. But, no worries! We’ve smoked out (ha!) the top 5 pellet smokers on the market plus a whole lot of other info you’ll need to handle your brand new grill like a pro. Ready to get your smoking on?
What Is A Pellet Smoker?
Also referred to as a pellet grill, a pellet smoker is an outdoor device that utilizes wood pellets to cook (or in this case, smoke) food. This cutting-edge appliance is indeed the smoker of the future as it combines the best elements of other smoking/cooking devices for maximum convenience and efficiency.
That said, a pellet smoker fuses the convenience of a gas grill with the temperature-controlling benefits of a kitchen stove and the unique smoky effect of a charcoal smoker. Some of them may even feature an electronic control panel, making each cookout all the more convenient.
Which Pellets to Use?
Contrary to popular belief, the pellets used to fire up this smoker are by no means the same ones used for home heating. In fact, heating pellets usually contain softwood and leftover wood biomass such as bark, both of which tend to release a bunch of harmful chemicals once burnt while infusing the food with a very unpleasant taste. Long story short, heating pellets are not recommended for smoker use.
Instead, we recommend using food-grade pellets which contain just hardwood and are, thus, free of toxic additives. This pellet variety usually consists of oak, mesquite, maple, apple, cherry, pecan, and hickory, all of which release a distinct smoke and can significantly enhance the food’s taste.
How Do You Use A Pellet Grill?
Despite what many people think, pellet smokers are very easy to use. Check out yourself.
- Step 1
Load the pellets into the hopper. First, you have to add the right type of pellet into the hopper, the specially designed “basket” which lies at the top back part of the smoker.
- Step 2
Plug the smoker. Pellet smokers run on electricity. That’s why you need to plug the device into a standard 110V outlet to power everything from the digital control panel to the built-in fans.
- Step 3
Set the required temperature. Then, you have to adjust the smoker’s temperature based on your individual desires. You can do so by setting the temp through the controller.
- Step 4
Let the food cook itself. Now you just need to wait until the food is cooked through. Depending on the temp and time you set, you may need to go back and refuel the smoker at some point. However, if you adjusted the device accordingly, you may only need to go back to take the food out of the smoker.
How Do Pellet Smokers Work?
Pellet smokers and advanced digital technology go hand in hand. These high-tech devices are equipped with a bunch of electronic parts which are designed to control every little detail, from how many pellets will be used during one smoking sesh to how the air will be channeled toward the cooking chamber. But, let’s take a closer look at how this intricate device works.
- As you turn on the smoker and set the temperature on the controller, this device uses a specially designed algorithm to calculate how much fuel (a.k.a. the number of pellets) is needed to reach the desired temp. As a result, it determines how often the fuel will be fed to the fire.
- Once that is out of the way, a rotating auger automatically dispenses the pellets to the fire when needed. The auger’s activity depends on the temp you set earlier.
- Meanwhile, two heavy-duty, metal fans (or sometimes one, depending on the model) stoke the fire while distributing the smoke and the heat throughout the cooking chamber. These fans are usually located just below the hopper.
- At this point, the food is starting to cook, and it may drip some of its juices. Keep in mind that the fire pot is located just beneath the grilling racks. So, to avoid flare-ups, most pellet smokers have a diffuser plate which is placed between the grates and the fire pot.
- The automated smoker keeps dispensing pellets to the fire to maintain the desired temperature and smoke your food to perfection.
How to Clean A Pellet Smoker
Charring those juicy steaks is the fun part of using a pellet grill. But, what happens when it comes to the not-so-fun part, a.k.a. the cleaning? This step-to-step guide will show you how to clean your pellet smoker the easy way.
- Step 1
Unplug the smoker. Your first concern is safety. That’s why you need to unplug the smoker from its power source and make sure it’s cool. That means that you shouldn’t use for at least 24 hours before cleaning.
- Step 2
Remove the remaining pellets. Then, you need to empty the hopper so that you don’t soak the wood pellets as you clean.
- Step 3
Get rid of the ash. If your pellet smoker has a unique ash collecting system like the Deluxe Pellet Grill and Smoker DLX by Camp Chef, then you empty the cup by pulling the lever and removing the ash. However, if your pellet smoker doesn’t have a system like that, you’ll need to dispose of the ash later after you take some of the smoker’s parts out of the way.
- Step 4
Remove all the parts from inside the smoker. Open the lid and take out all the smoker’s parts one by one, from the grates and racks to the diffuser plate and drip can. Make sure you remember how to put them back or better yet, take a pic so that you are 100% sure of the exact order.
- Step 5
Use a vacuum. With a vacuum, suck all the remaining ash from inside the smoker.
- Step 6
Scrape the grease. Using a pan scraper or brush, dislodge all the fat that has built up inside the smoker.
- Step 7
Wash the walls. Using a wet cloth and some soap, wash the inside part of the grill. This way you’ll remove all traces of grease. Once you are done, rinse the surfaces with a clean damp cloth or rag.
- Step 8
Put everything back in place. Once all surfaces are dry, put the smoker’s parts back where they belong.
- Step 9
Give it some more time to dry. Before you go at it again, make sure the grill is completely dry. You don’t want your pellets to get wet, and you definitely don’t want to get electrocuted once you plug it. So, take as much time as necessary, even up to 24 hours.
Why Use A Pellet Smoker?
Even though pellet smokers are still not as popular as the rest of its kind (charcoal, electric, gas smokers), they are slowly making a name for themselves thanks to their easy-to-use design and wow-worthy efficiency. But, that’s not all.
These high-tech cooking devices have a lot more aces up their sleeves that we didn’t even know about up until recently. Intrigued much? Here are the four most compelling reasons to opt for a pellet smoker ASAP.
Struggling to adjust the smoker’s temperature is always a headache, whether you are a newbie or a pro. Pellet smokers help you deal this issue once and for all merely by taking the guesswork out of the equation.
In fact, this smoker type does all the work for you through a sophisticated algorithm that determines how many and how often pellets are needed to reach the desired temp. From then on, the automated device dispenses the pellets at certain times to keep the maintain the chamber’s ideal temperature.
So, you fill the hopper with pellets, set the temp through the controller and let the smoker take it from there. You only need to come back to pick up your perfectly smoked food. If that not hassle-free, then we don’t know what is.
Charcoal smokers are considered the king of smokers mainly due to the unique smoky flavor with which they infuse your foods. But, here’s the twist. Pellet smokers can readily compete with their charcoal counterparts as grade-food pellets also consist of high-quality wood.
So, as the pellets burn, they give off smoke which smells like the one produced in charcoal/wood smokers. What does that mean? You can enjoy that unique smoky taste without the hassle and ash that come with a charcoal smoker. What a way to kill two birds with one stone!
As easy as it sounds, maintaining a consistent temperature throughout a cookout is probably the task that wears you out the most. However, pellet smokers are here to change all that. Featuring an automated fuel feed, these devices add as many pellets as needed to the fire, keeping it feisty for hours and hours. As a result, the smoker gets to maintain a steady temperature overnight (if required) and cook the food as consistently as possible.
The votes are in: Burning food-grade pellet is way better than using charcoal to smoke your foods. In fact, some claim that wood pellets generate far less carbon dioxide, posing as an excellent, eco-friendly alternative to gas or charcoal.
Not only that, but pellets contain wood byproducts which wouldn’t be used otherwise. So, in a way, pellet smokers promote the idea of organic recycling and minimize the consumption of other fuel sources of which we are likely to run out in the future.
Just because this device is called a pellet “smoker,” it doesn’t mean that this is all it can do. Love BBQ flavors? Wanna roast the Thanksgiving turkey but the oven is too small? Care to braise your favorite cuts of meat with some veggies on the side? There is no challenge that your pellet smoker can’t handle. Finally, you can think outside the box and expand your culinary horizons like never before.
What to Check When Shopping For A Pellet Smoker
Knowing how pellet smokers work and how to use them correctly are just a fraction of what you need to keep in check when shopping for one. However, knowing exactly what you need in a pellet smoker is an essential part of your journey. So, if you want to pick the best one out there, make sure to keep an eye out for the following criteria.
Much like all grills on the market, pellet smokers come in various shapes and sizes. That said, you can find anything from medium-sized units to carry around for your tailgating parties to XL smokers which can cater large families and commercial use needs.
So, before you go ahead and buy a pellet smoker, decide what you’re going to do with it. If you’re thinking of firing it up occasionally during small social gatherings, then a medium-sized pellet smoker is enough to do the trick. However, if you plan on smoking your foods every chance you get and have a large family that expects its fair share of the smoked treats, then you can’t go wrong with a big pellet grill.
It’s not every day that you load the truck and go camping. However, when you do decide to hit the road, having the chance to “pack” your smoker along is a huge advantage. That’s why you should choose a pellet smoker with wheels to facilitate a smooth movement. Plus, ensure it’s also easy to lift to make things much more comfortable.
The truth is that pellet smokers don’t always come cheap. From the cutting-edge equipment that they use to the high-quality materials they’re made of, this type of smokers may be costly but is worth every penny.
So, don’t make the mistake of choosing a low-budget pellet grill or the second-class materials and equipment will turn the tables on you in the form of broken and malfunctioning parts. Not to mention, choosing a low-quality pellet smoker is also a matter of safety since there are fire and electronics involved. So, better to be safe than sorry, right?
Cleaning is not the best part of owning a pellet smoker, but someone has to do it. And if that someone is going to be you, then you need to choose a device that is easy to clean and (why not?) features some dishwasher-safe parts.
5 Best Pellet Smokers, Reviewed
Now that you’ve learned everything there is to know about pellet smokers and their sophisticated ways, how about we introduce you to the best of the best? From the newbie-friendly to the crowd-pleaser, here are the top 5 pellet smokers to buy in December 2017 and every little detail you need to know to get the most out of them from the get-go.
Equipped with multiple built-in features, this pellet smoker is all about making every cookout as uneventful as possible. Between the high-quality temperature controller, the spacious cooking chamber and much more, this device has everything an aspiring pitmaster could ask for. So, let’s take a look at the smoker wow-worthy and could-be-better qualities.
- Large Cooking Space
With a total of 573 squares of cooking space, this smoker is excellent for anyone with a large appetite or an even larger family.
- Built-In Digital Thermometer
This thermometer shows you the exact temperature inside the chamber, letting you know what’s going on in there at all times.
- Temperature Sensors
The device has a built-in temp sensor which sets the auger in motion as soon as it senses a drop in temperature. So, the sensors contribute to the smoker’s high-quality temp system by triggering the release of more pellets if less heat is produced.
- Wide Temp Range
The smoker is designed to go as low as 160oF to as high as 500oF. That means that you can use the device for everything from smoking meat at low temps to grilling veggies at high temps.
- Automated Heat Controller
Equipped with a smart digital control system, this smoker is automated to the bone. Through the push of a button, it adjusts the temperature of the chamber and automatically feeds pellets to the fire.
- Meat Probe
It comes with a built-in temperature meat probe which is located inside the chamber. That feature allows you to check the food’s temperature without opening the lid and losing some of the heat and smoke.
Besides being lightweight, this smoker is also equipped with a set of wheels, making it very easy to move around.
- Easy to Clean
This smoker has a unique feature which makes cleaning a breeze. Known as the patented ash cleanout, this smoker is designed to grant you access to the fire pot in which case you can remove the ash quite easily.
- Reasonable Price
Even though the device’s price tag is high on its own, you need to remember that this is quite reasonable compared to other similar products. Also, note that the said smoker comes with many built-in features in which case it’s practically a steal.
- Expensive Spare Parts
Chances are that parts of the smoker will break down at some point. So, you’ll need to replace them. While that sounds simple, you’d be surprised to find out that some of these spare parts can be quite costly, raising the total budget of the device.
For years now, if you wanted to enjoy a good ol’ smoked steak, you had to turn up the grill and get the smoking started with a couple of clips in hand. But, this pellet smoker is here to replace those long sessions of smoke-filled lungs with a Wi-Fi controlled device that delivers even better results.So, if your inner tech geek is about to scream out of excitement, then you need to check out everything that this smoker has to offer.
- Thermal Sensor
This product comes with a built-in thermal sensor which is continuously in alert and “notifies” the auger when it’s time to throw more pellets into the fire.
Weighing just 57 pounds, this smoker is very easy to move, posing as an excellent choice for tailgating and camping gatherings. Let’s also note that it has folding legs which readily double as handles.
- Multiple Power Options
It has three different adaptors which grant access to different power outlets, whether that’s the standard 110V household outlet, an outdoor generator or a car’s battery.
- WiFi Access
This product is designed to sync with an iOS or Android app that allows you to take full charge of the smoker’s features remotely. That means that you can do everything without even going near the device. That’s especially helpful if you want to control the temperature but -for some reason- can’t reach the buttons.
- Auto-Controlled Fan Speed
Thanks to its high-tech design, this product is perfectly capable of controlling the fan’s speed. While goofy, this quality contributes to temperature regulation which plays a huge role in the food’s smoky taste.
- Drip Bucket
The smoker’s design also favors the use of an angled drip bucket. So, when you cook your favorite cuts of meat, the melted fat is channeled to the said bucket. This way you avoid accumulating grease cookout after cookout and don’t need to scrape or brush the inside surface that often.
- Auto Shut-Off Feature
Safety always comes first. That’s why this smoker is equipped with an automated shut-off valve which prevents further damage in case of flare-ups.
- Sturdy Materials
It is made of steel, making it more durable and sturdier than its competitors while still portable.
- Unstable “Legs”
The device’s “legs” are somewhat flimsy as they are also used as handles.
- Medium Cooking Space
This smoker can fit up to twelve burgers at a time. So, it’s not as large as some, making it an ideal choice for those who want to host small family gatherings or parties.
If simplicity is the name of the game, this smoker should be your one and only. Boasting a hefty cooking chamber and equipped with an easy-to-use digital control panel, all you have to do is throw your food inside and let it cook. It’s as simple as that. But, let’s dive further into the secrets (both good and bad) of this top-drawer pellet smoker.
- Durable Materials
Made of porcelain coated steel, this pellet grill is known for its highly sustainable design which can last for years.
- Flame Broiler
This pellet smoker is equipped with a unique trait, known as the Flame Broiler. This add-on refers to a side-plate that allows you to grill your food over direct (and sometimes indirect) flame while still having all of the control. In other words, you can use the device as a grill in a smoker-safe environment.
- Huge Cooking Space
With a total of 440 square inches of cooking space, this pellet smoker can cook large quantities of food at once. In fact, it’s considered one of the biggest pellet smokers out there.
- User-Friendly Control Panel
This product has a user-friendly digital control panel that allows you to take full control of the smoker in every way imaginable, especially when it comes to temperature.
- Grease Bucket
This device features a drip bucket, a feature that makes grease removal much more manageable. So, the smoker’s design captures excess grease and channels it away from the fire pot and into an outside bucket.
- Snap Ignition
It is equipped with an electric starter which sets the pellets on fire as soon as they enter the burn pot. So, you don’t need any additional and perhaps dangerous fire accelerants.
- Wide Temperature Range
It is designed to reach a variety of temps, from 170oF to 600oF. As a result, you can do practically anything, from braising to grilling.
- Small Hopper Capacity
While the hopper on most pellet smokers can hold up to 17-18 pounds of the fuel, this one can only hold up to 10lbs. That means that you may need to refuel the hopper more often than you would with any other smoker.
If you are looking for a pellet smoker that delivers every time and looks fancy AF, then this one is a definite winner. Featuring a one-of-a-kind Smart Grill Technology, this smoker allows you to make accurate temp adjustments and get surprising results every time. But, enough talk, let’s dive into REC TEC’s spectacle of a smoker.
- Huge Hopper Capacity
This smoker can hold up to 40 pounds of pellets while the average capacity ranges between 17-18 pounds.
- Smart Grill Technology
Manufacturers have designed this smoker to handle a broad variety of temps, from 180oF to 500oF, in 5o increments. That means that you can make precise adjustments with the flick of a switch. So, whether you’re smoking, grilling, searing or roasting your foods, there is no chance that something will go wrong.
- Large Cooking Area
Boasting a total of 702 square inches of cooking space, this smoker is a perfect match for large families.
- Durable Materials
It’s made of steel which makes it difficult to rust. On top of that, it’s coated with high-temperature powder and porcelain enamel, both of which protect the grill from the weather elements such as rain, sunlight, and wind.
Even though it’s heavy, this device is equipped with wheels. That makes it somewhat portable, at least when it comes to moving it around your house or backyard.
- Drip Pan
It also has an external drip pan which makes grease removal accessible.
The truth is that this pellet grill is quite expensive. However, the high price is more than understandable as it features the never-seen-before Smart Grill Technology.
If you are on the market for a highly efficient pellet smoker that can get the job done but with a touch of style, then this one is a dream come true. Luckily, efficiency is just one of this smoker’s pros. It’s also straightforward to clean thanks to its unique ash cleanout system. But, let’s get the full scoop on the smoker’s remarkable and not-so-good qualities.
- Smart Smoke Technology
This pellet smoker comes with a unique smart smoke technology that doesn’t just maintain the grill’s chamber temperature, but it also produces enough smoke by controlling the auger’s automatic pellet feed.
- Large Cooking Area
This product has a total of 570 square inches of cooking space, making it an optimal choice for large families and social gatherings. It also has a detachable top shelf which when removed provides you with some extra cooking space.
- Patented Ash Cleanout
Unlike other units, this one features a secure ash cleanout system that allows you to remove the fire’s byproducts merely by pulling a lever and wiping out all the ash. This smoker also has a trap door which helps you get rid of the hopper’s pellet leftovers by merely opening it and letting them all out.
- Sear Box
Unlike others, this pellet smoker comes with a propane-fueled sear box which can be pretty handy, especially if you want to grill other things on the side. Plus, this sear box can reach up to 900oF, serving as a quick griller. It’s like having two grills in one.
- Built-In Thermometer Probe
It is equipped with a thermometer probe that allows you to check the meat’s temperature with the push of a button. Talk about convenience!
Despite being super efficient, this smoker is also super pricey. But, that’s kind of a given considering its various built-in features.
Pellet smokers are the smokers of the future. Equipped with high-ten, automated feats that do all the work for you, they leave little room for mistakes while allowing you to take some time instead of lingering on top of the cooking chamber.
Not only that, but they manage to infuse your foods with that unique smoky flavor without producing as much of a carbon footprint as their fellow charcoal smokers. If you are ready to do yourself and the environment a favor, then you should invest in a pellet smoker. Don’t know where to start? This list of the top 5 pellet smokers is a game-changer.