With more options than ever, shopping for a pellet grill can be confusing. In a market filled with pellet grills that claim similar capabilities, it’s often difficult to discern what makes one different from another. So, if you know which factors to consider and what features to look for, choosing a good pellet grill or a good pellet smoker (as some people call it)for you is a whole lot easier.
Choosing A Good Pellet Grill and Smoker
So what do you need to watch out for if you’re in the market for a good pellet grill/smoker for you?
Price – The Difference Between Affordable and Cheap Pellet Grills
Everyone has their price range, but don’t confuse cheap for affordable. A quality pellet grill is built to last and will offer years of reliable performance. Bargain grills not only lack the capabilities of better grills, but they’re also more likely to break down.
No matter your price range, as long as you want is choosing a good pellet grill for your cooking, look for a pellet grill that’s built well and offers consistent performance. Fortunately, there are quality pellet grills for under $500, as well as high-end pellet grills for under $1,000.
One way to ensure your pellet smoker lasts for years to come is to purchase one constructed from a high-quality material like stainless steel or heavy-gauge powder-coated steel, both of which are durable and resist corrosion.
It should be sturdy; all the joints and seams should fit together snugly, no gaps or spaces for heat to escape. Beyond its durability, a well-built pellet grill will retain heat better, allowing it to be used as a year-round cooker, even in cold weather.
Depending on the type of cooking you want to do, the temperature range can be important. A pellet grill with a broad temperature range is more versatile, allowing you to smoke, roast, grill, and sear.
Many pellet grills only offer a variety of about 180°F to 425°F, which is perfect for smoking but isn’t hot enough for true searing, cooking pizza properly, or open flame grilling.
Higher-end pellet grills have upper ranges of 500°F- 700°F, which is hot enough to get a great sear, fire-bake a pizza, or offer an open-fire infrared direct grilling option to sizzle a steak.
Type of Pellet Grill Controller
Like your kitchen oven, a pellet grill/smoker must keep a consistent temperature to produce great food. To get tender brisket, the temperature needs to stay as close as possible to 250°F for the entire 12-hour cook.
Its control board largely determines a pellet grill’s ability to do that. There are different types of controllers, and their precision and consistency varies.
3-Position Controller – 3 position controllers, also called LMH controllers, have just 3 temperature settings—low, medium, and high—which correlate to roughly 225°F, 325°F, and 425°F. They feed pellets in fixed cycles that are determined by which setting you choose.
With just three settings to choose from, though, you have very little control over cooking temperatures, can’t cook with any accuracy, and the swings in temperature are large. Outdated, these controllers may still be found on some bargain pellet grills/smokers.
Multi-position Controller – A step up from the 3-position controllers, a multi-position controller features a knob with temperature settings that can go from 180°F to 420°F in 25° increments and may have an LCD.
In addition to more settings, these controllers offer more temperature control. However, they also run on fixed cycles and can only maintain about +/-20°F in ideal conditions—in cold, windy weather; they are less accurate and reliable.
Some versions of these multi-position controllers have inputs for meat probes that can monitor food temperatures.
One-Touch Non-PID Controller – Featuring an LCD and one-touch buttons for setting the cooking temperature in 5° or 10° increments, these controllers allow you to set the desired cooking temperature more accurately.
However, like multi-position controllers, they use fixed cycles for delivering pellets, and so are limited in accuracy to +/-15–20°F. These controllers may have inputs for meat probes that monitor the internal temperature of food.
PID Controllers – The most sophisticated type of pellet smoker controller, PID controllers, use complex algorithms to attain and maintain the desired temperature within a few degree fluctuations.
They, too, feature an LCD and one-touch buttons for setting the temperature in 5° (F) increments. Still, unlike some controllers that use fixed cycles, a PID controller continuously measures the grill’s temperature then adjusts its cycle, adding pellets when necessary to hold the correct cooking temperature throughout the cook.
Because they’re more sophisticated, PID controllers can accommodate programmable meat probes that can automatically lower the grill’s temperature when food is done.
Size and Cooking Area
Pellet grills are available in a range of sizes for a variety of needs—everything from portable models for tailgating to extra large commercial units.
When choosing a good pellet grill, consider grill size. Look at the cooking area as well as physical dimensions to choose one that fits your space and lifestyle. Like other grills, pellet smokers list cooking area two ways: primary cooking area, which refers to the main cooking grate, and total cooking area, which is the main cooking grate plus any secondary racks.
For an average size family, a pellet grill/smoker with a primary cooking area of about 450-500 square inches should be adequate. Singles and couples can go for smaller, while larger families and those who like to entertain should consider larger pellet grills.
Capabilities and Features
When comparing pellet grills, look at the whole package, including capabilities and standard features, such as:
- Control boards with inputs for meat probes
- Included meat probes, and whether they’re programmable or monitor temperatures
- The ability to do the open-flame grilling and whether the open flame grill grate is included
- Included secondary/upper cooking racks
- WiFi capability
As long as you know what pellet grill you’re looking for, getting the best one in the market is not too far away.
What are your thoughts on “choosing a good pellet grill/smoker for you?” Was this helpful? Let us know.