Top 7 Most Recommended Pellet GrillsPublished on 07/01/2023 · 9 min readExplore the 5 best pellet grills for flavorful, effortless cooking. Learn about their unique features, and performance, and find the perfect one for your needs.
Photo by Michael C.
Traditionally, there have been two main options for the backyard grill: charcoal or gas. The advantage of the charcoal grill is the ability to add a really smokey flavor to the food, but it often takes more monitoring and effort than a gas grill. A gas grill allows the backyard barbecuer to cook virtually anything in an easy-to-maintain temperature—without requiring lighter fluid. However, over the past several years, pellet grills have started to become the go-to option for many backyard cooks.
Because of the rising popularity of pellet grills, the market has been flooded with options. Though not all of these options are the best at everything. For example, some pellet grills are the best for smoking food low and slow, some are best for high-temperature cooking, and others are good at both but not excellent at either.
Expert-Recommended Pellet Grills
Let’s explore the top-recommended pellet grills for each type of category:
1. Camp Chef Woodwind Pro: Best Smoker
If you’re like me, and the majority of your food is slow-smoked, then the Woodwind Pro by Camp Chef is the best option on the market. This grill is designed to accomplish one thing, and that is a high-quality smoke flavor.
To achieve this, Camp Chef added a firebox that can hold wood chunks, chips, or charcoal to add the flavor of a stick burner. They also added a gasket around the entire lid to help seal in the smoke.
Unlike most pellet smokers, on this grill the smoke vents out the back instead of a chimney. So, the smoke rises to the top of the lid and then is pushed back down to circle the food before going out of the back vents. The lid is double-walled to help maintain temperature and heat in all weather situations.
2. & 3. Broil King Crown 500 & Camp Chef Woodwind: Best Grilling
The best grilling category is tough in the pellet-grill world. The main reason for this is that pellet grills were originally designed to be smokers and use indirect heat. Many pellet grills have a top temperature of 500 degrees Fahrenheit—which is not quite hot enough to sear a burger or steak like most want. While there are some pellet grills out there that have a gas attachment or secondary fuel option, I am only including those that grill with pellets and not gas. There are two stand-out options for grilling on pellets. The Broil King Crown 500 and the Camp Chef Woodwind.
The Broil King Crown 500 is a traditional-looking grill that resembles a charcoal grill but with a smoker box off the side. However, this pellet grill can reach a top temperature of 600 degrees Fahrenheit, allowing it to sear. The cast iron cooking grates also help improve the searing ability of the grill. Plus, the Crown 500 features an easy-to-use ash-cleanout system.
By comparison, the Camp Chef Woodwind does not initially look that different from other pellet grills on the market. It does not have the same bells and whistles that the Pro version has to make it a best-in-class smoker, and the top temperature is 550 degrees Fahrenheit. However, it has one feature that most pellet grills don’t—direct flame grilling.
Further, the heat deflector on this grill can be moved away from the burn pot with the pull of a lever, and you have an instant direct flame grill with wood pellets. This is different from other brands direct flame grilling options because Camp Chef doesn’t just open the vents in the heat deflector; the entire heat deflector is moved so the whole burn pot can is exposed, resulting in direct flame (heat) cooking.
However, in my opinion, the ultimate reason the Woodwind is not better than the Broil King Crown 500 is that the burn pot is still a small area, so only the area near the burn pot gets the direct flame grilling. In the 24-inch version, that would be about the middle third of the cooking area; and in the 36-inch version, it will be more on the left side, as that is where the burn pot is.
4. Camp Chef Apex: Best Versatility
As I mentioned above, this is the category where I start to include options that don’t use the pellets for grilling and instead have a searing station or a way to sear the food that isn’t the normal grill area. I will also note that all of the Camp Chef pellet grills allow for the Sidekick attachment, which allows for gas grilling.
The Camp Chef Apex is a pellet grill unlike any other. It has every bell and whistle available. The cook box is all double-walled, stainless steel. This improves heat and moisture retention when you’re cooking low and slow. Inside there are also lights to help you see the grilling area when it’s dark. The electronics have a low pellet sensor, wifi, bluetooth, and four-meat probe connections. All of that makes the Apex a top-tier pellet grill, but the gas attachment option is what elevates its versatility over others on the market.
Unlike the Sidekick on other Camp Chef grills, this gas attachment adds gas burners to the main grilling area. That means four burners to the 24-inch model and six burners to the 36-inch model, as well as the sidekick off the side. These burners give you the option to either cook low and slow with the pellets for a good smokey flavor, or turn on the gas and grill high heat for burgers, steaks, etc. The combination also gives you the option to do some reverse searing on burgers, steaks, and wings by smoking until you’re almost at temperature, then switching to gas to finish off the cook and create that crisp sear without worrying about drying out your food.
The main grilling area can only run on pellets or gas at one time, but the Sidekick being there allows for you to do small amounts of high-heat grilling while slow-smoking something in the main chamber. However, Camp Chef’s safety features include that if the grill gets too hot, it shuts down the pellet.
5. & 6. Traeger Ironwood & Traeger Timberline: Best Appearance
Features are a big part of selecting the right grill, but appearance can also be a huge part of the selection process. Everyone looking at adding a new grill—be it pellet, gas, or charcoal—wants their backyard/grill space to have a particular aesthetic.
The next two grills really elevate any grill space, and are both from the same brand: Traeger. The O.G. when it comes to wood pellet grills, every Treager is a very clean and nice-looking grill, but the Timberline and Ironwood are absolutely stunning.
The Traeger Timberline series went through a redesign in 2022. The update took the Timberline and made it a show stopper on a display floor, a backyard, or pretty much anywhere it is. The major change in the update is the storage space underneath and the induction cooktop on the side. The storage space elevates this pellet grill from a traditional look to the feel of an outdoor cooking station. The underneath storage is a combination of a cabinet area directly under the grill area and then an open shelving area under the hopper.
The left side of the grill is an induction cooktop that allows for the high-heat cooking you can’t get in the pellet grilling area. But while the induction cooktop is a nice feature, it is not as large as I’d like to see. There is also a cover that goes over the cooktop to allow it to function as a prep space.
The Timberline series is the first in the Traeger lineup to have any sort of ash-cleanout system. However, it also functions as a grease cleanout. The idea is to scrape the grease off into the plug on the drip pan, but you have to remove the grill grates to do so.
While both the induction cooktop and ash/grease cleanout are great features, the best feature added to the Timberline is the Pop-And-Lock. This allows for each person to customize their grilling experience by adding different attachment options and placing them anywhere on the rail. Some of the options include a folding front shelf, a paper towel roll, a storage bing, and a drink holder. This is one of my favorite things about this grill because if you set it up one way and realize you don’t like it, you can just move the items around or adjust what you need based on the cook you’re doing.
The Traeger Ironwood went through a similar redesign in 2023. The Ironwood previously was one of my favorites in the Traeger lineup, but the addition of the Pop-And-Lock rail, ash/grease cleanout, and overall look update made it jump to the top of my list now. The new Ironwood has the same look as the Timberline, except the underneath storage has been removed. This gives you all of the benefits of the Timberline, including a slick, modern look, yet it still feels like a traditional backyard grill. I’d say it’s fancy without being fancy.
7. Camp Chef Smoke Pro SE: Best Value
Like the other Camp Chef grills, the Smoke Pro SE features the same, easy-to-use ash-cleanout system. The biggest advantage of the SE is that it gives you a quality pellet grill with a really good size. The 24”x22” main grilling surface is big enough for a brisket, four racks of ribs, a few pork shoulders, etc.
It’s also one of the largest pellet grills at its low price point. While it does not have a wifi/bluetooth controller, a simple wireless thermometer will help you monitor temps from anywhere. The Camp Chef SE also stands out because of its ability to add the Sidekick for added versatility and grilling space.
With the Camp Chef SE , you’re able to get a good-sized pellet grill for less money and then add the gas attachment the following year, or whenever it fits your budget. Like this, you can elevate the SE to an even better grill.
Connect With a Real Expert
I tried to cover everything that most people ask about when looking for a new pellet grill. But the best way to find the perfect grill for your backyard is to connect with me or one of my fellow Grill Experts here on Curated for free, personalized recommendations. We’re happy to help you find the best grill for your needs.