We Tested the Best Inexpensive Pellet Grills for Your Next Barbecue

The winner is the Camp Chef SmokePro DLX Pellet Grill

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Tested & Approved

Take your grill game up a notch with the Camp Chef SmokePro DLX Pellet Grill. It was chosen as the best overall during our testing with its consistent temperature control, grilling capacity, and high level of performance. Despite its compact design, the Oklahoma Joe's Rider 600 Pellet Grill has more than enough space for a couple pork shoulders and can keep smoking all day long without a refill.

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 similarly to an oven—all you have to do is set your desired temperature, and they'll automatically maintain the perfect heat level to cook your food.

Some pellet smokers can be quite expensive, but we wanted to try out some of the more affordable options. We tested a variety of inexpensive pellet grills, both in the backyards of our experts and in our Lab. Our testers were using them to cook everything from hamburgers and pork ribs to chicken thighs, and we evaluated each one on factors such as temperature control, ease of use, special features, and more.

Here are the best inexpensive pellet grills on the market, based on our testing.

Best Overall: Camp Chef SmokePro DLX Pellet Grill

4.8
Camp Chef SmokePro DLX Pellet Grill

Amazon

What We Like
  • Simple interface

  • Consistent temperature control

  • Competitive price

  • Unique features

What We Don't Like
  • Narrow dimensions

  • Pellet feed issues

Who else recommends it? Gear Patrol also picked the Camp Chef SmokePro DLX Pellet Grill.

What do buyers say? 89% of 1,700+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.

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. When we sent this to the home of our product tester, he found the set-up extremely easy, "easier than putting together the average piece of furniture from IKEA." After seasoning the grates, he fired up the grill and liked how this stayed within 10 degrees of his desired temperature. He also appreciated that it reached 500 degrees, 50 degrees higher than most models offer.

During testing, our reviewer found was with the 18-pound hopper. When the pellets run low, it has difficulty pushing them into the grill, and can create an error message. You'll want to keep that filled. Lastly, cleanup is easy thanks to the built-in ash cleaning system. If you need a slightly larger hopper and prefer a smart pellet grill, Camp Chef SG 24 Pellet Grill performed well in our Lab tests. It stayed connected to our phones, plus the automatic temperature control and shutdown menu made it incredibly easy-to-use.

Camp Chef SmokePro

The Spruce Eats / Justin Park

Dimensions: 45 x 21 x 51 inches | Weight: 140 pounds | Grilling Area: 570 square inches | Hopper Capacity: 18 pounds | Temperature Range: 160-500 degrees Fahrenheit

What Our Testers Say

"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

Best for Novice Grillers: Z Grills 450A Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker

4.5
Z GRILLS ZPG-450A 2020 Upgrade Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker

Walmart

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Food is extremely flavorful

  • Maintains consistent heat within +/- 15 degrees

  • Includes cover

What We Don't Like
  • Takes longer than expected to preheat

  • Prep tables are too small

  • Doesn't get hot enough to sear

Z Grills updated its ZPG-450A pellet grill, making it easy enough for new grillers. They fixed a few issues like improving the temperature control and pellet feed systems. Now, the digital control board ignites the grill automatically and provides 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 before folding 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 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.

Our tester used this grill to make hamburgers, steak, pulled pork, and even pizza. She was impressed with the flavor of meat and the grill's ability to maintain a consistent temperature. While this grill isn't going to get hot enough to sear, and it does take a while to preheat, our tester deemed it "an unbeatable value." It's simple and effective controls also make it perfect for someone just starting out in grilling.

While we tested the 450A back in 2021, Z Grills has a newly released upgraded version, the Pioneer 450B. The Spruce Eats has not yet tested this model, but it features upgraded digital controls and a new pellet cleanout system. It's also similarly priced.

Z Grills 450A Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker

The Spruce Eats / Camryn Rabideau

Dimensions: 45 x 28 x 49 inches | Weight: 84 pounds | Grilling Area: 452 square inches | Hopper Capacity: 18 pounds | Temperature Range: 180-450 degrees Fahrenheit

What Our Testers Say

"It delivered unbelievably flavorful hamburgers and steaks (even though it sometimes took a painfully long time to preheat). We could definitely tell the difference between meat cooked on the pellet grill versus meat cooked on our gas grill." Camryn Rabideau, Product Tester

Best Traeger: Traeger Tailgater 20 Pellet Grill

4
traeger-tailgater

Home Depot

What We Like
  • Easy-to-use interface

  • Lightweight and portable

  • Good for grilling and smoking

What We Don't Like
  • Prone to temperature swings

  • Small hopper

Traeger is one of the best-known pellet grill bands, and for good reason. Its grills are generally reliable, well-built, and easy to operate. However, they're also on the more expensive side, so if you're shopping with a tight budget, the Traeger Tailgater 20 is one of the most affordable options from the brand. While technically designed for tailgating, its 300 square inches of cooking space can easily be used on a small patio or outdoor camping. Our Lab tester noted that it could fit enough food for a few people, handling up to four 8-ounce steaks at once.

This previous version of this grill had an incredibly simple interface, and it's gotten even easier. Our Lab team simply set the digital controls to the desired temperature, then let it take care of the rest. While it came to temperature quickly, it doesn't reach up to 500 degrees which is an issue if you like to sear a lot. It can hold up to 8 pounds of pellets in its hopper, so you will need to monitor it carefully during long smoking sessions, as we found out during a 7-hour pork butt roast test.

After setting up the grill, our home tester experienced occasional wild temperature swings, but our Lab team only observed hotter temperatures towards the back of the grill. That all said, this is a very versatile grill in a compact package. Additionally, you can't beat the lightweight (for a pellet grill) design, which has folding legs for easy storage, though we found it was slightly awkward to transport during home testing.

Traeger Tailgater Pellet Grill

The Spruce Eats / Justin Park

Dimensions: 37 x 18 x 36 inches | Weight: 62 pounds | Grilling Area: 300 square inches | Hopper Capacity: 8 pounds | Temperature Range: 175-450 degrees Fahrenheit

What Our Testers Say

"We found that grilling was easy enough—crank the controller dial to the higher temperature ranges for burgers, hot dogs, and more traditional quick-sear fare. Folks accustomed to gas grill convenience will immediately notice that it takes a few minutes longer to come to those temperatures than with a gas grill, but we thought the improved flavor from the addition of real wood smoke was a fair trade-off."Justin Park, Product Tester

Most Compact: Oklahoma Joe's Rider 600 Pellet Grill

4
Oklahoma Joe's Rider 600

Oklahoma Joe's

What We Like
  • Ideal for smaller households

  • Separate mode for searing

  • Enough space to smoke 4 pork shoulders at once

  • Includes pellet storage bin

What We Don't Like
  • No handles to help move

  • Slightly hard to clean

If you typically only cook for one or two people, chances are you don't need a huge grill. Consider the Oklahoma Joe's Rider 600 Pellet Grill, which has a more modest size without compromising on features. This grill has an exceptionally deep main cooking area of 380 inches—plus a removable warming rack—and when we tested it in the Lab, the team reported that this grill could handle at least four pork shoulders or two large beef briskets. Its hopper can hold up to 20 pounds of pellets, and did not require frequent refilling.

The grill offers two modes of operation: smoking between the temperature of 175 and 300 degrees, or grilling on low, medium, or high heat. It came to temperature quickly when we tested it and performed well when we tested it for baking and grilling. The final batch of chicken wings ended up being the best from all 18 pellet grills we fired up that day.

The Oklahoma Joe's Pellet Grill is on the more basic side of features. It helps you keep track of your food with a built-in timer and and it can be fitted with a two temperature probes to alert you when your meat reaches the desired internal temperature. There's a removable ash cup on the bottom of the cooking chamber for easy cleanup, though it took a little bit of scrubbing to get the grates clean after testing, and it even comes with a pellet storage bin that hangs conveniently underneath the hopper. You should also handle with care when moving it since there are no handles and if you lift it the wrong way, the pellets will spill, as our Lab found out.

Oklahoma Joe's Rider 600 pellet grill Spruce Eats product photo

The Spruce Eats / Will Dickey

Dimensions: 35.5 x 38.9 x 47.9 inches | Weight: 149 pounds | Grilling Area: 617 square inches | Hopper Capacity: 20 pounds | Temperature Range: 175-525 degrees Fahrenheit

Best Easy Cleaning: Camp Chef SmokePro SE Pellet Grill

Camp Chef Smoke Pro SE Pellet Grill

Walmart

What We Like
  • Lever-operated ash cleaning system

  • Includes meat probe

  • Easy maintenance

What We Don't Like
  • 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 two meat probes 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.

Dimensions: 40.5 x 25 x 22 inches | Weight: 110 pounds | Grilling Area: 429 square inches | Hopper Capacity: 18 pounds | Temperature Range: 160-500 degrees Fahrenheit

What The Experts Say

"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"

Final Verdict

The Camp Chef SmokePro DLX Pellet Grill is our top pick thanks to its professional-grade performance for a reasonable price. It offers 570 square inches of cooking space, and we were impressed by its consistent temperature control and unique features. If you're new to pellet grills, the budget-friendly Z Grills 450A Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker is easy-to-use and will help you cook up extremely flavorful meals.

Pit Boss PB440D2 lab testing top down

The Spruce Eats / Russell Kilgore

How We Tested

We sent these products directly to the homes of our expert food writers and to our Lab. At our Lab, our testers grilled, seared, baked, and smoked using each grill to thoroughly analyze every feature and the grill's performance. The grills were then rated on heat control and retention, size, features, performance, ease of cleaning, and overall value. Our home reviewers spent weeks using them in their backyards to see how the stood up to everyday cooking and cleaning. They were also able to offer additional insights including how easy they were to set up and store, and using these during typical weather conditions. After testing, our writers submitted their feedback on what they liked and didn't like.

Other Options We Tested

  • Green Mountain Davy Crockett WiFi Control Portable Wood Pellet Grill: Billed as "the ultimate tailgate grill," this lightweight option has a few things going for it, most importantly its Wi-Fi connectivity and efficient burning of pellets. But when we tested it in our Lab, the testers found many other important aspects to be lacking. It struggled in most of the tests, except for searing steak, and its design caused at least one grease spill. Due to these reasons, we've removed it from our recommendations.
  • PIT BOSS PB440D2 Mahogany Wood Pellet Grill: This grill performed great when it came to searing steaks and slow smoking in our Lab, and got good marks for good heat retention. Where this former Most Versatile pick fell short was its size and features. Both the hopper and grill are too small for feeding 4 or more people and there are no extra features plus the analog lid thermometer often displayed the wrong temperature. Add to that our home tester's experience of uneven heating, and we now feel there are better pellet grills on the market.
  • Char-Griller Wood Pro Pellet Grill: The simple design and ample cooking area of this Char-Griller has a lot of appeal to many, so we tested it both with a home reviewer and in our Lab. All the testers found its performance left much to be desired. All of the testers found that it struggled to get up to and over 400 degrees, which is necessary if you love a final sear. It also developed a hot spot in our Lab test that ended up burning food. If you're in the market for a basic pellet grill, we stand behind Oklahoma Joe's Rider 600 Pellet Grill.
Char-Griller_Wood_Pro_Pellet_Grill_05

The Spruce Eats / Camryn Rabideau

What to Look for When Buying an Inexpensive Pellet Grill

Capacity

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.

Portability

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.

Unique Features

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.

FAQs

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 Eats. She's tested several pellet grills included in this article, including the Z Grills ZPG-450A Wood Pellet Grill, Char-Grill Wood Pro Pellet Grill, and Oklahoma Joe's Rider Deluxe Pellet Grill.

Sources

Jess Pryles is a grilling expert and author of "Hardcore Carnivore: Cook Meat Like You Mean It."

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Watch Now: Get a Taste of Our Favorite Pellet Grills In Action

Updated by
Siobhan Wallace
Siobhan Wallace
Siobhan is a freelance writer specializing in food, wine, and kitchen products. She has a Master's degree in Food Studies, passed the WSET Level 2, Wines, with Distinction, and has written two cookbooks.
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  1. The 10 Best Pellet Smokers and Grills You Can Buy in 2022. Gear Patrol. https://www.gearpatrol.com/home/a739916/best-pellet-smoker-grill/#product-0969e276-391e-4f13-80f1-49a4e0d319d8-anchor

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