Grills by Price
Pellet Grill Buying Guide
Find the Best Pellet Grills
About the Prices
The prices listed on the left are the typical sale prices for these products and while I endeavor to keep this page up to date, prices and availability change frequently in this business. These prices are not necessarily the list price, manufacturer's suggested retail price, or minimum advertised price. In this day, prices for products can be a little confusing. Though found to be unscrupulous, some retailers sell products on sale for what is actually the suggested retail price and artificially inflate the 'list price'. I have tried to be accurate with the price you can generally expect to find. The prices listed should be close to what you will actually spend (minus any shipping costs). If you find a price that is seriously out of line with what you are seeing, please contact me.
What is a Pellet Grill?
To understand what a pellet grill is, its first necessary to understand what we mean by wood pellets. Made from compressed wood, pellets are small, shafts around a quarter inch in diameter. Basically, pill-like bits of wood, they burn efficiently and easily and were first introduced as a fuel source during the energy crisis of the 1970s. The wood used to make pellets comes from the waste materials of sawmills and other wood industry sources. Wood pellets are used for heating and cooking and are considered a renewable energy source.
To burn wood pellets, they are feed from a hopper via a rotating auger into a firepot. The firepot is electrically heated until combustion starts and an induction fan accelerates and controls the combustion rate in conjunction with the feed rate via the auger. Initially, simple controls maintained a steady rate of pellet feed, but these days most pellet grill use complex computer controls to maintain optimal temperature. Some grills can connect this controller to handheld devices via wi-fi allowing for remote monitoring and control of the grill.
The pellet grill was invented by Joe Traeger and the company he founded controlled the patent for 20 years. That patent expired in 2006 and since then more than two dozen companies have introduced pellet grills.
Since pellet grills burn only natural hardwood, they produce both heat and smoke producing a real fire flavor in foods and are perfectly suited for both grilling and smoking. It is this smoked flavor aspect that has made pellet grills popular with the barbecue community. It also helps that pellet grills are simple to use and with modern technology, reliable in operation.
The growth in popularity of pellet grills means that wood pellets are readily available and can be found in a wide range of 'flavors'. This means that matching food to wood is easy and many aficionados of this style of cooking produce their own blends of woods for their own preferences. Pellet grills can produce the same quality of smoked foods as more traditional smokers and do it is a more controlled, cleaner, and easier fashion.
Pellet grills require electricity to operate and are mechanically complicated. While the increased competition has led to a number of innovations and improvements, the grills have moving parts. Augers can jam and while no longer common, fire can back up into the hopper which can cause some serious damage to the grill.
Wood pellets are not inexpensive and the cost per cookout can be high when using a pellet grill. Conversely, pellet grills have become much more affordable, but be careful. In the rush to compete, and as larger retailers have started offering pellet grills, there has been something of a race to the bottom. Cheap, low-quality pellet grills have flooded the market in recent years so it is important to research your purchase if you are considering one of these grills.
While billed as grills, many pellet cookers struggle to reach cooking temperatures over 500 degrees F and many can't get close to this point. While high temperature, direct grilling is possible on some models, more pellet grills cook in the 'baking' temperature range. If you are looking for a serious sear on a steak, a pellet grill might not be the answer. Further, many promise higher temperatures, but in my testing of dozens of models, I have found that most can't reach their advertised temperatures. As smokers, these are good (though a dedicated pellet smoker might be the better option). As lower temperature grills, these are great. Pellet grills are different, and knowing this before you buy is vital.