/>
X
Why you can trust ZDNet ZDNet independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Our process

'ZDNet Recommends': What exactly does it mean?

ZDNet's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.

When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNet nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.

ZDNet's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.

Close

The 5 best pellet grills: Top alternatives to gas and charcoal

What is the best pellet grill? Our expert pick is the Weber SmokeFire EX4 for its cooking surface area, fuel hopper capacity, and wide temperature range. But we researched and compared all the most popular options. Pellet grills combine the best of offset smokers and direct-heat charcoal grills, giving you more possibilities for roasting, grilling, smoking, and searing meat and vegetables.
taylor-clemons
Written by Taylor Clemons, Staff Writer on
Reviewed by Elyse Betters Picaro

Pellet grills combine the best of both charcoal grills and offset smokers, using either hardwood nuggets or pellets of compressed sawdust for fuel. These types of grills also use a motorized auger and hopper system to provide a steady fuel supply to the firebox, ensuring even, consistent cooking temperatures. And you can do more than just grill with one; you can bake pizzas and pies, roast whole chickens, smoke racks of ribs and briskets, and even braise tough cuts of meat for extra-tender shredded beef or pork sandwiches. 

Most pellet grills use a simple LCD screen or dial to adjust the temperature and timer settings, but some higher-end models like the Traeger Timberline XL use a Wi-Fi connection, a virtual assistant, and a companion app to give you hands-free control over your new grill. You can preheat with Alexa so the grill is ready when you step outside, use the app to set reminders to check on your food, and set up alerts for when the fuel is low or the ash and grease tray is full. 

To help you decide if a pellet grill is the right choice for your outdoor cooking needs, I've gathered up five of the best available on the market. I've broken down their features, such as temperature ranges, Wi-Fi capabilities, and fuel capacities, as well as their price points, so you can find a pellet grill that fits both your cooking style and your budget.

Must read:

A man and woman stand next to a Weber SmokeFire EX4 pellet grill while another woman sits in the foreground, talking with a man off-screen.
Weber

Temperature range: 200F-600F | Cooking surface area: 672 square inches | Dimensions: 33x43x47 inches | WiFi connectivity: Yes | Hopper capacity: 20 pounds  

Weber has been a top name in outdoor grills since 1893, and its new SmokeFire EX4 is one of the best pellet grills on the market. It gives you a cooking surface area of 672 square inches, which is perfect for everything from roasting whole chickens to searing burgers and steaks and smoking whole racks of ribs and briskets. The LCD screen lets you quickly and easily check on temperature and timer settings to achieve the perfect food every time; you also can use the companion Weber Connect app to set temperature and timer functions, basting and flipping reminders, and monitor motor and auger function. A removable grease and ash pan makes cleanup a breeze and prevents flare-ups from excess oil and fat. The hopper can hold an entire 20-pound bag of pellets, so you can spend less time filling the grill and more time enjoying your outdoor space. 

Pros:

  • Companion app
  • LCD screen
  • 200F-600F temp range
  • Ash and grease pan

Cons:

  • On the expensive side
  • WiFi connection required for app
Close-up of someone removing a smoked brisket, rack of ribs, and pork roast from a Pit Boss 700FB pellet grill.
Pit Boss

Temperature range: 180F-500F | Cooking surface area: 700 square inches | Dimensions: 41x26.6x44 inches | WiFi connectivity: No | Hopper capacity: 21 pounds

While pellet grills can be more expensive than their charcoal and propane counterparts, you can get a great model from Pit Boss for under $300. You'll get a 700 square inch cooking surface, giving you plenty of room for fish, veggies, ribs, and briskets, while the 180- to 500-degree Fahrenheit temperature range lets you bake, sear, and smoke food. The pellet hopper holds up to 21 pounds of fuel, and it features a simple dial for setting cooking temperatures for easy operation. Along with the main grill grate, there is a warming shelf for keeping things like steaks and chicken warm without burning while you prepare sauces and side dishes. 

Pros:

  • Under $300
  • Big cooking surface
  • Simple controls

Cons:

  • Somewhat limited temperature range
  • No side shelves
Partial view of a man removing grilled vegetables and tending to several cuts of meat on a Timberline XL pellet grill.
Traeger Grills

Temperature range: 165F-500F | Cooking surface area: 1,320 square inches | Dimensions: 51x25x71 inches | WiFi connectivity: Yes | Hopper capacity: 22 pounds

If money is no object on your quest to build the outdoor kitchen of your dreams, the Traeger Timberline XL is an excellent choice. You can use it either as a standalone pellet grill or build it into your outdoor counter space, letting you customize your outdoor kitchen layout to suit your needs. With the main cooking surface and dual warming shelves, you'll get about 1,300 square inches of cooking space. The grill also features a rail that allows you to quickly and easily add or remove accessories like extra prep shelves, a butcher paper roll holder, or a storage bin. The left side of the grill features an induction cooktop for making sauces and side dishes, while Bluetooth meat probes let you instantly see internal temperatures for perfectly cooked briskets, steaks, and chicken every time. 

The Wi-Fi connectivity allows you to use Alexa, Hey Google, or the Traeger app to preheat the grill, set temperature and timer limits, and set reminders to check on your food. The pellet hopper can hold up to 22 pounds of fuel and has a built-in sensor that lets you know when you're low on fuel. Keeping the Timberline XL clean is easy with the removable grease and ash keg, which lets you dispose of ashes, spent coals, and waste grease for better airflow and to prevent flare-ups during cooking. This pellet grill is backed by a 10-year warranty, so you can have peace of mind long after you bring the Timberline XL home.

Pros:

  • 10-year warranty
  • Alexa and Hey Google compatible
  • 1,320 square inches of cooking surface
  • Low fuel sensor

Cons:

  • Almost $4,000
  • Very large
  • Accessories can be pricey
Close-up of a Cuisinart pellet grill on a wood deck. Several spatulas hang from the right-hand grill shelf.
Cuisinart

Temperature range: 180F-500F | Cooking surface area: 465 square inches | Dimensions: 39x23x45.5 inches | WiFi connectivity: No | Hopper capacity: 13 pounds

The Cuisinart CPG-465 is a great pellet grill for outdoor cooking spaces that may be on the smaller side. With its dimensions measuring just 39x23x45.5 inches, you'll be able to tuck this grill out of the way on your deck or patio when you need more space for seating and entertaining. You'll still get over 450 square inches of cooking surface, which is perfect for weekend cookouts with your family or get-togethers with friends. The pellet hopper holds 13 pounds of fuel, which is perfect for an afternoon of grilling veggies, burgers, and brats or a day of smoking smaller cuts of meat. You can adjust the cooking temperature from 180 to 500 degrees, and the LED screen lets you quickly and easily adjust settings so you don't burn your food. 

Pros:

  • Compact design
  • Plenty of cooking space
  • Decent hopper capacity

Cons:

  • Somewhat limited temperature range
  • No low fuel sensor
  • No Wi-Fi connectivity
Close-up of an Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX 1200 pellet grill in someone's backyard.
Oklahoma Joe's

Temperature range: 200F-650F | Cooking surface area: 1,234 square inches | Dimensions: 54x55.5x36 inches | WiFi connectivity: No | Hopper capacity: 20 pounds

Pellet grills are great for more than just searing and smoking. You also can bake, roast, and braise foods, turning your outdoor space into a chef's kitchen. The Rider DLX 1200 from Oklahoma Joe is an almost perfect multipurpose pellet grill. Along with the main cooking surface, there are two warming racks for indirect-heat cooking or for keeping food at safe temperatures while you finish the sauces and side dishes. You can adjust the temperature from 200 to an impressive 650 degrees, letting you bake a pizza or pie, sauté veggies, sear steaks and chicken, or steam fish. The hopper holds a whole 20-pound bag of pellets, so you don't have to worry about running out of fuel, while the two included meat probes let you quickly and safely check internal temperatures to ensure proper cooking of beef, chicken, pork, and fish. 

Pros:

  • Wide temperature range
  • Three-tiered cooking surface
  • Two meat probes included

Cons:

  • No Wi-Fi connectivity
  • No low fuel sensor

What is the best pellet grill ?

My pick for the best pellet grill is the Weber SmokeFire EX4. It provides 672 square inches of cooking surface, which is perfect for everything from burgers and hot dogs to racks of ribs and briskets. You can set up both direct and indirect heat grilling so you can quick-sear vegetables while slow-roasting a whole chicken. An easy-clean grease drawer makes it easy to dispose of rendered fat, waste oil, and cooking juices so you don't get flare-ups or start a grease fire. And the 200F-600F temperature range makes it easy to "set and forget," so you can spend more time enjoying your outdoor space and company at parties and less time tending to your grill.

Pellet grill

Price

Temperature range

Hopper Capacity

Weber SmokeFire EX4

$1,099

200F-600F

20 lbs.

Pit Boss 700FB

$297

180F-500F

21 lbs.

Traeger Timberline XL

$3,800

165F-500F

22 lbs.

Cuisinart Pellet Grill

$400

180F-500F

13 lbs.

Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX 1200

$1,099

200F-650F

20 lbs.

Which is the right pellet grill for you?

Choosing a pellet grill follows the same criteria as when you shop for a propane or charcoal model. You'll want to make sure that you're getting enough cooking surface area to fit your most frequently cooked cuts of meat as well as a fuel source you're comfortable and familiar with. When looking at pellet grills, you'll want to look at fuel hopper capacity, temperature ranges, and available accessories to help narrow down your choices to those best suited for your cooking style and needs.

Choose this pellet grill…

If you want…

Weber SmokeFire EX4

A well-rounded, easy to use pellet grill

Pit Boss 700FB

A pellet grill for under $300

Traeger Timberline XL

A high-end pellet grill with premium features

Cuisinart Pellet Grill

A compact pellet grill for smaller decks and patios

Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX 1200

A pellet grill with multiple attachments for different kinds of outdoor cooking

How did we choose these pellet grills?

While "budget-friendly" is a very subjective term when shopping for pellet grills, I tried to make sure that all of my picks for the best pellet grill were able to fit a variety of spending limits. I also chose models with wide temperature ranges for both direct-heat grilling and all-day smoking. And I chose both "smart" and "dumb" grills, so customers looking for a no-nonsense pellet grill won't have to worry about setting up extra features they'll never use and others can get the fully automated grill of their dreams.

What is a pellet grill?

A pellet grill is similar in construction to a charcoal-fueled model, but rather than briquettes, you fill a hopper with hardwood pellets. These can be small nuggets of wood like hickory or pellets of compressed sawdust. A motorized auger then moves the pellets to the firebox, ensuring consistent burning for more even cooking temperatures. A pellet grill will also have controls for adjusting the fuel flow rate, auger speed, and temperature settings so you can combine the best of direct heat grilling, smoking, and convection ovens to cook a variety of meats, vegetables, and side dishes.

Are pellet grills worth the hassle?

If you've ever used a charcoal grill, you'll already have an idea of the effort it takes to use a pellet grill. An advantage that a pellet grill has over a charcoal-fueled model is that the pellet hopper reduces the number of times you have to add fuel while the motorized auger ensures a consistent supply of fuel. A typical pellet hopper will hold about 12 pounds of fuel, which is enough to handle either a full day of smoking ribs and brisket or a few days of direct heat grilling. The biggest downside is that your grill must be plugged into a power source like a wall outlet to operate the auger and burner; so you'll have to make sure your patio or deck has waterproof outlets approved for outdoor use.

Are pellet grills dangerous?

Pellet grills are no more dangerous than their liquid propane and charcoal counterparts. You will have to do regular maintenance and inspections to make sure that the auger, hopper, and firebox are all working properly to prevent damage to your grill and dangerous operating conditions. An inoperable auger can ruin the firebox by not providing enough fuel to prevent damage to ignitors. A broken firebox can cause a buildup of unused fuel, which can damage the auger and motor. And as with charcoal and propane grills, make sure your outdoor cooking area has plenty of space around your pellet grill to prevent melting, cracking, or fires as well as plenty of ventilation to clear smoke and carbon monoxide.

Are there alternative pellet grills worth considering?

As pellet grills gain popularity with pit masters and backyard BBQ cooks, it's easier to find lots of different models built for different types of cooking. Here's a short list of alternative picks that I thought were great choices:

Related

The 5 best dishwashers of 2022
Placeholder product image alt text

The 5 best dishwashers of 2022

Kitchen & Household
The 5 best juicers of 2022
Placeholder product image alt text

The 5 best juicers of 2022

Kitchen & Household
The 5 best thermometers for colds and flus in 2022
Placeholder product image alt text

The 5 best thermometers for colds and flus in 2022

Home & Office