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Do you want to wow your friends and family with a perfectly smoked piece of meat at your next BBQ party, but aren't necessarily a fan of the hassle that goes along with cooking it? Then a pellet grill might be for you. Pellet grills, also called pellet smokers, work by using a feeding system to push small wood pellets into a firebox under the grates and built-in technology to regulate the temperature.
Some pellet grills even have associated smartphone apps so you can get feeding and temperature data right into your phone. This technology has made pellet grills more popular, but also more expensive. But this doesn't mean you can't own one with top-notch features if you have a tight budget. Here, we've gathered a list of the best inexpensive pellet grills on the market.
Best Overall: Camp Chef SmokePro DLX Pellet Grill
Consistent temperature control
Pellet feed issues
Pellet grills come in many different sizes with a variety of features. To take the top spot among pellet grills, the Camp Chef SmokePro DLX Grill offers the best combination of grilling space, heat control, and easy-to-achieve flavors that will create tasty meats time and time again. The grill makes cooking with pellets quick, easy, and enjoyable no matter how much skill you have on the grate.
Digital temperature controls with an automatic auger maintain the desired amount of heat without any input. As a result, you can focus on grilling on the large, dual-tier cooking surface. Combined, the two grilling surfaces offer 570 square inches of cooking space. Cleanup is also easy thanks to the built-in hopper/ash cleanout system.
Looking for something a little cheaper? Camp Chef also offers its SmokePro XT 24 Pellet Grill, which is the same size as the SmokePro DLX and is around $100 less. However, the XT is a bit more basic, lacking features like the hopper clean out system and hopper window.
Weight: 140 lbs. | Grilling Area: 570 sq. in. | Hopper Capacity: 18 lbs. | Temperature Range: 160-500ºF
"In testing with standalone grill thermometers, the SmokePro DLX actually stayed within 10 degrees of the set temperature most of the time." –Justin Park, Product Tester
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Green Mountain Davy Crockett WiFi Control Portable Wood Pellet Grill
Lightweight and compact
Included portable power options
Learning curve on temperature interface
Some design quirks
More and more appliances are WiFi-enabled, like this handy pellet grill. Billed as “the ultimate tailgate grill” it can operate on 120AC or 12V, for home use, camping, or tailgating. The legs fold and function as handles when it’s time to pack up the party and go home.
Sense-Mate, a thermal sensor, monitors the grill temperature while the WiFi controller lets you monitor and control the grill via an iOS or Android app. The peaked lid offers enough space for a stand-up chicken or other large foods. This includes a meat probe, a tray with utensils, and a grease tray. Weighing in at 57 pounds, this is designed to fit into the trunk of most cars.
Weight: 57 lbs. | Grilling Area: 219 sq. in. | Hopper Capacity: 9 lbs. | Temperature Range: 150-550ºF
"Once the temperature is set, the smoker mostly behaved as expected: It used the built-in sensor to feed the hopper, maintaining the set temperature mostly reliably." –Justin Park, Product Tester
Best for Steaks: Z GRILLS Wood Pellet Grill Smoker
Large grilling surface
While many people enjoy pellet grills, some find it difficult to use pellets to produce true, flavorful steaks and barbecue since the fuel often lacks the same flavors as traditional grills. That smoky, wood flavor many steaks have is not impossible to get with the right pellet grill, however. The Z Grills Wood Pellet Grill sports a combined grill/smoker setup with temperature control for the best pellet grilling experience available.
The wood pellet grill features a dual rack design with a 513-square-inch main cooking surface and 187-square-inch warming rack. With a 20-pound hopper capacity, the grill has plenty of space for wood pellets to keep grilling during long events and parties when you have many mouths to feed. An automatic pellet feeder makes it easy to maintain the desired temperature, so you can focus on just the grilling itself.
Weight: 112 lbs. | Grilling Area: 694 sq. in. | Hopper Capacity: 20 lbs. | Temperature Range: 180-450ºF
"We cranked the grill up to cook burgers, brats, and steaks and we found that it heated surprisingly fast for a pellet smoker." –Justin Park, Product Tester
Best Versatility: PIT BOSS PB440D2 Mahogany Wood Pellet Grill
Direct or indirect flame cooking
This pellet grill offers the option of either indirect heat or direct heat using the slide-plate flame broiler. Cooking is easy, since it has digital controls with an LED readout, and it can handle a temperature range from 180 to 500 degrees for everything from low-and-slow cooking to searing meats for the perfect crust.
The cooking grids are porcelain-coated steel, offering a total of 465 square inches of cooking space (in addition to a removable upper cooking rack) so there’s plenty of space for family meals. The pellet hopper holds 5 pounds for several hours of grilling before more pellets need to be added. Two large wheels make this easy to move to the perfect place in the yard or on the deck, and the side table is great for holding tools or condiments. To save space on a small deck or when the grill needs to be stored, the side table is removable. The bottom shelf offers room to stash a bag of pellets or other gear, while the mahogany-colored lid gives this grill a unique look that stands out among its peers.
Weight: 140 lbs. | Grilling Area: 518 sq. in. | Hopper Capacity: 5 lbs. | Temperature Range: 180-500ºF
"I tend to stick to the traditional pellet profiles that use Oak or Hickory, since they are universally complementary to all meats. Swapping out pellets can be a pain, so for me the ideal scenario is a flavor that will work well with anything from beef to chicken and the occasional vegetable!" –Jess Pryles, grilling expert and author of "Hardcore Carnivore"
Best Easy Cleaning: Camp Chef SmokePro SE Pellet Grill
Lever-operated ash cleaning system
Includes meat probe
Low level of smoke
Camp Chef is a familiar name in grills and smokers, including pellet grills. This one offers a heat range from 160 to 500 degrees and includes a stainless steel meat probe to monitor your roasts.
The adjustable chimney top and smart smoke technology help to maintain the optimum temperature when you prefer smoking over grilling.
This has a convenient lever-operated ash cleanout system and a grease management system for easy cleaning and maintenance, while the roller wheels make it easy to position anywhere you want it. The ample cooking area and 18-pound pellet hopper make it easy to cook for the family or for a party. Additional warming racks and an additional front shelf are sold separately.
Weight: 110 lbs. | Grilling Area: 429 sq. in. | Hopper Capacity: 18 lbs. | Temperature Range: 160-500ºF
Best for Novice Grillers: Z GRILLS ZPG-450A 2020 Upgrade Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker
Easy to operate
Fold-down front table
Temperature control unit isn't always accurate
Z GRILLS updated its ZPG-450A pellet grill, fixing a few issues like improving the temperature control and pellet feed systems, making it easy enough for new grillers. Now, the digital control board ignites the grill automatically and it can provide temperatures from 180 to 450 degrees for a wide range of cooking methods. A generous fold-down front table provides space to hold food, plates, and tools, then folds out of the way when it’s not needed.
It’s simple to check the temperature on the LED display, while the automatic feed adds pellets as they’re needed to maintain the chosen temperature. The grates are porcelain-coated cast iron and provide a total of 452 square inches of cooking space, with 324 inches on the main grill and 128 inches on the smoking/warming rack. With a hopper capacity of 15 pounds, this can handle multiple cooking sessions without refilling, or up to 15 hours in one go. The bronze color on the lids looks attractive and the two large wheels make it easy to move into place.
Weight: 84 lbs. | Grilling Area: 450 sq. in. | Hopper Capacity: 18 lbs. | Temperature Range: 180-450ºF
Best for High-Heat Searing: Oklahoma Joe's 20202106 Rider Deluxe Pellet Grill
Reaches high temps in sear mode
Large cooking surface
Two smokestacks for even heating
Auger sometimes jams
Higher price point
This grill features the Pit Control System that makes cooking nearly foolproof. The timer lets you know when your food has spent the required time at the desired temperature while the temperature probe monitors the internal temperature of the food.
This grill has a 578-square-inch, porcelain-coated cast-iron grate and two adjustable 328-square-inch upper racks, so there’s plenty of space to cook for the family or for a party. Plus, you can choose from a variety of cooking configurations with or without the additional racks and accessories that are sold separately. A towel bar, hanging hooks, a side shelf, and a bottom shelf make this a pleasure to use, while the large wheels make it simple to move.
The grill can reach a whopping 650+ degrees in sear mode for the perfect crust on meats and can go as low as 175 degrees for low-and-slow cooking. Two smokestacks increase airflow for more even heating throughout the cooking chamber. The hopper holds 20 pounds of pellets and has a “quick-draw” system that releases the pellets through the bottom of the hopper, so it’s easy to remove pellets to change flavors or to store them if the grill won’t be used for a while. While this is on the high side of the budget category, the features certainly make it worth consideration.
This pellet grill is a deluxe model, and Oklahoma Joe's also offers its standard Rider 600 Pellet Grill for a lower price. It's significantly smaller with just 617 square inches of cooking space and one smokestack, and it lacks the Deluxe's searing abilities. However, it's a solid budget-friendly option for those who are predominantly looking to smoke.
Weight: 245 lbs. | Grilling Area: 1,234 sq. in. | Hopper Capacity: 20 lbs. | Temperature Range: 175-650ºF
Best with Right-Hand Pellet Hopper: Char-Griller Wood Pro Pellet Grill, Black
Easy to clean
Convection cooking delivers even heat
Fire rod needs to be replaced periodically
The Char-Griller brand is quite popular in outdoor cooking equipment, and this pellet grill is a good example of its offerings. It has a total of 580 square inches of cooking space on porcelain-coated cast-iron cooking grates—plenty of room for cooking for a large party. While most pellet grills have the hopper on the left, this one places it on the right. While that doesn’t affect cooking, some cooks might have a preference.
The two 10-inch wheels plus two casters make it super simple to move this grill to the perfect spot on the deck or patio, while the bottom shelf offers convenient storage space. For easy cooking, this has auto ignition and the temperature is electronically controlled. The hopper holds 18 pounds, so there’s plenty of time for cooking before a refill.
Weight: 170 lbs. | Grilling Area: 580 sq. in. | Hopper Capacity: 18 lbs. | Temperature Range: 180-400ºF
What to Look for When Buying an Inexpensive Pellet Grill
Just like with other grills, cooking capacity is an important consideration. Will you only be using the grill for family dinners, or will you be hosting backyard parties where you’ll need to feed a crowd? While pellet grills cook food quickly, you don’t want to make your guests wait in line while you’re putting the second wave of burgers on the grill.
Even if you never take your pellet grill on a road trip, you might want to move it from one side of the yard to the other when you’re having a party, or move it out of the way when you’re not using it. While some pellet grills are light enough to pick up and carry, wheels make the job easier. Of course, if you have a permanent spot for your grill, portability is less of a consideration.
Though all of the pellet grills on our list perform the same basic function, each has unique features that make it stand out from the crowd—like Wi-Fi capability or foldable legs for portability. While some of these add-ons may be of little interest to you, others might make that particular grill a must-buy—so look closely!
How does a pellet grill work?
Pellet grills operate a little bit differently than a gas- or charcoal-powered grill. These grills have a "hopper" that you fill up with hardwood pellets, and when you turn the grill on, the pellets are automatically fed into a cooking chamber by an auger. The pellets are burned in the cooking chamber, and heat and smoke are dispersed throughout the grill, cooking food with indirect heat instead of open flames. One of the main differences between pellet grills and other fuel types is that they maintain their own temperature. Similar to an oven, you set the temperature you want to cook at using the grill's control panel, and the unit holds the temperature on its own, adding more pellets when needed. This saves you from having to monitor the grill constantly.
Does a pellet grill need electricity?
Unlike a gas or charcoal grill, pellet grills do require electricity to function. Typically, a pellet grill's control panel, thermometer, auger, and fans are all electric, so the unit must be plugged in before you can start grilling.
What are the advantages of pellet grills?
There are a number of reasons some people prefer pellet grills over traditional charcoal or gas models. One of the main benefits is that they provide precise temperature control with minimal oversight, which is useful if, for instance, you plan to smoke food for long periods of time. Pellet grills also give food a wonderful smoky flavor, and you can use different types of pellets to control the flavor profile of your meals. Further, because pellet grills cook using indirect heat, they prevent flare-ups and result in more even cooking.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Freelance food writer and cookbook author Donna Currie is an expert on all things food, from cookbooks to cooking gadgets. She's also a product tester for The Spruce Eats and has cooked with every type of grill out there, including pellet grills.
This article was updated by Camryn Rabideau, a grilling expert and product tester for The Spruce. She's tested several pellet grills, including the Z Grills ZPG-450A Wood Pellet Grill and Traeger Ironwood 885, and she interviewed Jess Pryles, a grilling expert and author of "Hardcore Carnivore" while researching grills for this article.