Best Pellet Smokers of 2022

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Best Pellet Smokers of 2022

If you like wood-fired flavor, but don’t like the time and labor involved in cooking on a traditional stick burning smoker or charcoal

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If you like wood-fired flavor, but don’t like the time and labor involved in cooking on a traditional stick burning smoker or charcoal grill, then you should consider buying a pellet smoker. I’ve tested the best pellet smoker on the market to see how quickly they heat up, if they have any hot or cold spots, how easy they are to clean, and to test their features. After extensive testing and many good meals, here are my top recommendations.

Methodology 

For this review, I tested the best pellet smokers by cooking on them and running a systematic set of experiments to test their functions. To see how each smoker performed, I considered these factors:

  • Ease of assembly 
  • Heating up (How long it took to reach 250 and 400 degrees) 
  • Even heating (Were there any hot or cold spots in the smoker)
  • Features ( Wi-Fi, bluetooth, controls, etc.)
  • Cleaning (How easy it was to clean)

Since most of the smokers came unassembled, I ranked the difficulty in putting them together from opening the box to ready to cook with a letter grade of A-F, with A being the simplest and F being the most difficult.

Four chicken thighs on one of the best pellet smokers
The author cooked four chicken thighs in each smoker to test for hot and cold spots. Michael Pendley

I then checked the time it took the smoker to reach 250 and 400 degrees, common temperatures for slow smoking and grilling things like steaks and burgers, respectively. Temperature checks were done at a 60-64 degree air temperature. Since each tested smoker had a digital temperature readout, I used a calibrated remote thermometer to verify the accuracy of the displayed temperature versus actual temperature in the center of the cooking area. Most of the smokers held within a few degrees of the set temperature. If a smoker ran consistently above or below the set temperature, I noted it in the review.

Next, I cooked four seasoned chicken thighs spaced evenly over the cooking surface to check for hot or cool spots and uneven cooking. 

If the smoker featured Wi-Fi or bluetooth controls or an app, I checked the ease of connection and use of each one. 

Finally, I cleaned the smoker after cooking and rated the ease or difficulty of the clean up process on the same A-F scale as assembly. For smokers sent with pellets from the same manufacturer, I used the branded pellets. If a smoker came without a matching pellet, I used Traeger-brand pellets. 

I’ve fed a lot of friends and family while working on this test. You’ll notice on some of the photos that the smokers show obvious signs of use, especially the models received early on for testing that I’ve been using the longest. 

Choosing the Best Overall Smoker

The best pellet smoker overall in the test was a tight race between the Myron Mixon Barq 2400 and the Traeger Timberline 1300. Both smokers offer large cooking surfaces, well-made, insulated smoker bodies, easy Wi-Fi control, great Apps, and steady temperature control. 

In the end, I went with the Barq 2400 as the best pellet smoker overall. It has the largest cooking surface out of all the smokers, a durable commercial design, an easy-to-use app, and it produces outstanding smokey flavor. This smoker should give you years of premium grilling and smoking.

Key Features

  • 2258 square inches of cooking space
  • Four-level rack system designed to hold full sized roasting pans
  • Made in the U.S.
  • Integral meat thermometer
  • Stainless steel interior

Test Results

  • Time to 250: 14 minutes 
  • Time to 400: 27 minutes
  • Even temperature across the cooking surface
  • Ease of assembly: N/A demo unit arrived fully assembled
  • Ease of cleanup: B-

Why It Made the Cut

The Barq 2400 is designed with the pro griller or smoker in mind but is intuitive enough for the weekend BBQ chef. 

Pros

  • 28-hour burn time on a full hopper of pellets
  • Stainless steel drip pan
  • Great temp control

Cons

Product Description

BBQ Master Myron Mixon designed the Barq 2400 for easy use, commercial-level cooking space, and competition quality food. And it excels in all of these areas. I really like the deep, square hood shape that allows for four full sized racks, instead of the graduated smaller upper racks found in most barrel shaped pellet smoker bodies. 

A black pellet smoker smoking
Barq 2400 has enough space to cook a feast. Michael Pendley

You get four cooking levels with an easily customizable rack system that allows you to cook large cuts like whole turkeys or multiple layers of flatter cuts like brisket. With all four racks in place, the Barq 2400 features a whopping 2250 plus square inches of cooking space. That’s over 15 square feet packed into a smoker that measures just under five feet wide. I’ve fed lots of hungry deer camps on much smaller smokers. This one makes it easy to feed a crowd, yet it’s so well insulated and efficient that you can fire it up for a couple of steaks or burgers. I’ve cooked chicken, whole turkeys, ribs, brisket, and more on the Barq 2400, and everything has turned out top notch. The crisp, flavorful bark on the pork and brisket that came out of this smoker is as nice as any I’ve seen on meat from a pellet smoker.

With a top temperature of 400 degrees, the Barq 2400 can reliably handle grilling duties for things like steaks, burgers, backstrap, or chicken wings. You can dial it down to 200 degrees, where it holds a steady temperature and produces a clean, blue smoke that is perfect for low and slow barbecue like ribs, pulled pork, or brisket. The control unit on this one is user friendly. Set it and forget it until the cook is finished. The extra rack space made it perfect for cooking side dishes like baked beans or mac n cheese that taste great with the added smoke flavor. If you want to purchase one smoker to last the rest of your life, this is it. 

Key Features

  • 1300 square inches of cooking surface
  • WiFIRE technology
  • Fully insulated
  • Reversible auger to clear pellet jams
  • Low pellet level sensor alerts you before your pellets run out mid-cook

Test Results

  • Time to 250: 20 minutes
  • Time to 400: 40 minutes
  • Cooking evenness: Excellent, very little temperature variance. Slightly hotter along the edges than the center of the main cooking grate.
  • Ease of assembly: B
  • Ease of cleanup: B-

Why It Made the Cut

The Timberline 1300 is Traeger’s flagship model. It’s large enough to cook a whole hog but easy to move around your deck or patio, and the WiFiRE technology lets you easily monitor your smoking process from your phone.

Pros

  • Fully insulated body for steady temperatures
  • Best app in the business
  • Adjustable grate height for grilling or smoking
  • Easy to run on generator or inverter 

Cons

  • Ran about 10 degrees cooler than displayed temperature

Product Description

Traeger is the pioneer in the pellet smoker game, and the Timberline 1300 has one of the best Wi-Fi features I tested. With Traeger’s WiFiRE technology, I monitored cooks and adjusted smoker temperature. Another easy-to-use feature on the Timberline 1300 is the reversible auger. It makes clearing pellet jams quick and easy. 

A black open best pellet smoker
The Timberline has a great app for controlling the smoker remotely. Michael Pendley

The smoker has a fully insulated body, three levels of removable cooking racks, and a special low rack position close to the fire box for easy searing of steaks and burgers. I found it to be one of the slower smokers to heat up, but it held a consistent temperature. I found the courtesy light that comes on when you open the pellet hopper and the low pellet indicator on both the smoker and the app to be nice touches. 

This is actually one of my personal smokers that I’ve put through quite a bit of use already. I’ve cooked everything from side dishes to a whole 50-pound pig on the Timberline 1300 with excellent results, and it heats faster than other Traeger models I’ve used in the past.

A small black best pellet smoker

Key Features

  • 202-inch cooking surface
  • Easy grease management system
  • 450-degree max temperature
  • Easy dial style temperature control
  • Up to 10 hours of smoke time on one hopper fill

Test Results

  • Time to 250: 30 minutes
  • Time to 400: 46 minutes
  • Cooking evenness: Even temps across the grate, but temperature fluctuated above and below set temperature.
  • Ease of assembly: B+
  • Ease of cleanup: B

Why It Made the Cut

The Cruiser 200A packs the flavor and connivence of a pellet smoker in a small, travel size set up.

Pros

  • Packable for camping or travel
  • 10-hour burn time on a full hopper
  • 180-450 degree temperature range

Cons

  • Wider temperature swings than larger smokers

Product Description

The Z Grills Cruiser 200A packs all the features of a full size smoker in a travel sized package. With an 8-pound pellet hopper, it’ll run up to 10 hours with it set, and forget its convenience. The 202 square inch cooking surface is large enough for a full rack of ribs, six burgers, or a couple of large steaks.

I really appreciate the small size and lockable case that makes transporting the smoker on camping or hunting trips a breeze. And the wide temperature range makes this a versatile smoker that’s perfect for hot and fast cooking like steaks and burgers or low-and-slow barbecue. Even though the Cruiser 200A has a smaller cooking area than full-sized smokers, it’s still big enough for a couple large steaks or a full rack of ribs.

Key Features

  • 25,000 BTU pellet burner
  • Adjustable smoke level
  • Easy ash cleanout system
  • Bluetooth or Wi-Fi control 
  • Available Sidekick gas burner 

Test Results

  • Time to 250: 16 minutes
  • Time to 400: 29 minutes
  • Cooking evenness: Even temperatures across the grate at both temperature ranges
  • Ease of assembly: B-
  • Ease of cleanup: B

Why It Made the Cut

The Sidekick package, which includes a gas burner, means you can slow cook your steaks and sear them for a perfect finish or prepare side dishes while your meats slow cook.

Pros

  • Large cooking surface
  • Smoke Control allows user to choose smoke level on food
  • Access to direct grilling over open flame
  • Outstanding display
  • One of the best accessory selections found in today’s pellet smoker lineup

Cons

  • App takes longer to connect than others

Product Description

With the built in Wi-Fi and PID control unit, you can control the Camp Chef Woodwind 24 from anywhere. With a total of 811 square inches of cooking space split between two racks, the Woodwind 24 holds a lot of food. I’m a huge fan of the Slide and smoker feature that allows the user to cook over a direct flame by sliding a door to expose the pellet burning chamber. You can raise or lower the level of smoke that reaches the food without changing the temperature by using the Smoke Control feature.

Besides being an all around outstanding pellet smoker, the Woodwind 24’s accessories make this an option worth considering. For an additional cost, you can add the Sidekick gas burner to the smoker. It mounts directly to the sidel and allows you to slow smoke steaks with pellets, then sear the surface over a hot gas flame for a perfect exterior. The Sidekick system is also perfect for making side dishes while you smoke, and it even comes with an available flat top griddle and pizza oven attachments. 

Key Features

  • Riot mode reaches 749 degrees
  • Stainless steel smoking chamber
  • Direct flame grilling
  • 2-year warranty

Test Results

  • Time to 250: 11 minutes
  • Time to 400: 23 minutes
  • Cooking evenness: Even temperatures across the grate
  • Ease of assembly: B-
  • Ease of cleanup: B

Why It Made the Cut 

The wide temperature range on the Bullseye allows you to do everything from slow smoking a pork shoulder to searing a ribeye with perfect smoker marks. 

Pros

  • Industry-leading high temperature
  • PID produces solid temperature control
  • Heats up fast

Cons

  • Smaller cooking surface at 380 square inches

Product Description

Designed to last with a stainless steel smoker chamber and firepot and a porcelain coated smoker rack, the Bullseye B380 reaches unheard of temperatures at 749 degrees. This makes it perfect for searing, which isn’t easy to do at the lower maximum temperatures on most other pellet smokers. Coupled with the ability to hold steady low and slow temperatures, this makes it one of the most versatile smokers on the market, and the round design takes up less patio or deck space than barrel shaped smokers. 

For this review, I slow smoked ribeyes at 135 degrees on the Bullseye, then pulled them to rest while the smoker heated in Riot Mode. Once the smoker reached the perfect temperature, I quickly seared them for a minute or two per side for perfect smoker marks and a delicious crust. If you want one smoker for every use–including a pizza oven–this is it. 

Key Features

  • Open flame grilling capability 
  • Camp Chef connect app
  • 811 square inches of cooking area over two racks
  • Sidekick burner compatible

Test Results

  • Time to 250: 18 minutes
  • Time to 400: 30 minutes
  • Cooking evenness: Excellent temperature across cooking grate
  • Ease of assembly: B-
  • Ease of cleanup: B

Why It Made the Cut

If you like the look and features of the Camp Chef Woodwind 24 but want to save some money, take a look at the SG 24. Sharing many of the same features like Slide and smoker for grilling over direct flame, Camp Chef Connect, Wi-Fi ability and updated PID controller, but in a slightly less flashy package, the Camp Chef SG 24 is just about the perfect family sized smoker. 

Pros

  • Steady temperature ranges
  • Fast heating and temp rebounds

Cons

  • 429-square-inch main cooking grate can be tight when cooking for a crowd, but upper rack helps extend cooking area

Product Description

Featuring two racks offering 811 square inches of cooking space, the Camp Chef SG 24 is a great family-sized smoker. With many of the same features as the company’s Woodwind 24, in a more-affordable package, the SG 24 is a great value. It includes the Slide and Grill feature that allows you to grill directly over an open flame, an easy ash clean out, and an updated control system. The SG 24 is even Sidekick Burner compatible if you want a burner for searing or cooking side dishes while you grill. 

Key Features

  • Nearly 1000 square inches of cooking surface
  • Viewing window
  • Easy ash clean removal system
  • Bluetooth and Wi-Fi control system

Test Results

  • Time to 250 degrees: 12
  • Time to 400 degrees: 20
  • Cooking evenness: Fair, some noticeable hot and cold zones
  • Ease of assembly: D, no pre-assembly made this one take a while to assemble
  • Ease of cleanup: B

Why It Made the Cut

With many of the same features as smokers at higher price points, the Cuisinart Oakmont Pellet smoker packs a lot of value. 

Pros

  • Large cooking area
  • Double walled lid and firebox
  • Viewing window in pellet box

Cons

  • Wide temperature fluctuations
  • Noticeable hot and cold spots

Product Description

The Cuisinart Oakmont pellet smoker comes in at a lower price than several of the comparable sized smokers I tested, but it comes with many of the same features found on the more expensive smokers. Top features include a large cooking area, a viewing window that allows you to check on food without opening the lid, and double 10-watt lights for convenient nighttime cooking. I was surprised at how handy the interior lights were on nights when it got dark before dinner was ready. And I’m honestly not sure why more manufacturers don’t include them. The Oakmont also had one of the easiest temperature and control systems on any of the smokers. It wasn’t the easiest to assemble, but if you’re looking for a pellet smoker that is comparable to others at higher price points, the Oakmont is an excellent option. 

FAQs

Q: What are the advantages of a pellet smoker over charcoal or gas?

The advantages of pellet smokers have the best features from both gas and charcoal smokers. Like a gas smoker, start up requires a simple push of a button or two, and you can easily regulate temperature. And pellet smokers give you the wood-fired taste of a charcoal smoker without the hassle.  

Q: What are some disadvantages to pellet smokers?

Like gas and charcoal, pellet smokers have their own disadvantages. They require a bit more maintenance than a charcoal or gas model. As the pellets burn, the ash needs to be removed between uses to prevent build up. Some smokers have removable ash pots, making the task easy, but others require vacuuming out after they cool. 

Q: Do I have to use pellets from the smoker manufacturer?

No, you don’t have to use pellets from the smoker manufacturer. Most smokers will run fine with different brands of pellets. Rather than brand, pellet performance depends on how you care for and store them. Pellets should be stored inside a dry area, either in a sealed bag or in a moisture proof plastic container. Many manufacturers offer pellet containers, but a five gallon bucket with a tight fitting lid also works well. If you have pellets that are swollen or softened due to moisture, you should discard them. 

Things to Consider When Purchasing a Pellet Smoker

Joe Traeger patented the pellet smoker in 1986. His design used compressed wood pellets to slowly feed a fan-controlled burn chamber below the cooking grate. This provided the user the convenience of a gas grill with the wood-fired flavor of a smoker. For the next 20 years, Traeger existed as the sole commercial producer of pellet style smokers in the United States. The patent expired in 2006 and other companies soon jumped into the market. 

Today’s outdoor chefs have a wider selection of pellet smokers and grills than ever before. From large, commercial style models to tiny portable smokers, you can easily find one that matches your cooking style and family size. 

While the basic function of the best pellet smokers resembles Traeger’s original design, they come with bells and whistles that make outdoor cooking more precise. Most pellet smokers have computer controlled cooking programs, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi controls that allow you to adjust settings and monitor temperatures from your phone, and notifications that alert you when your pellet chamber is running low. Insulated smoker walls and PID (Proportional, Integral, Derivative) controllers allow precise real-time temperature adjustments that make today’s pellet smokers more efficient by using fewer pellets and less energy. 

Here are the key factors to consider when choosing the best pellet smoker for you: 

Size

The first thing to consider when buying a new smoker is just how big the cooking surface needs to be. Total cooking surface on the tested models ranged from a gargantuan 2200 plus square inches on the Myron Mixon Barq 2400 to a petite 202 square inches on the Z Grills Cruiser 200A travel model. For an average family who occasionally smokes, something in the neighborhood of 400-700 square inches should work just fine. If you’re a BBQ nut who enjoys cooking 50 pounds of pulled pork for the local little league team or a few briskets for hunting camp, look for something in the 1000-2000 square inch range. Most of the smokers I tested have multiple cooking levels that allow the user to add or remove racks as needed. 

Cooking Style

While several of the tested models are designed for low and slow barbecuing, a few like the Recteq Bullseye, will reach a scorching 750 degrees, which is perfect for searing steaks, cooking burgers or making wood fired pizzas. Match the smoker’s temperature range to your favorite cooking style. If you continuously ask a smoker to do something it wasn’t designed to do, you won’t be satisfied with the results. 

Control Features

If you are someone who wants to set a smoker at the desired temperature and carry on with your day, models with basic controls are your best bet. But if you’re a gadget lover who wants to control every aspect of the cooking process from your phone or a remote, look at some of the models with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, programmable cooking cycles, and other nifty electronic features. 

Final Thoughts

After testing the best pellet smokers on the market, the advice I’d give is to use this buyer’s guide to choose the smoker with the features you find most important. For example, if you prioritize a hot sear the Recteq is perfect for you. Or if you need a portable pellet smoker for camping, the Z Grills Cruiser is ideal. With that in mind, you can’t go wrong with any of the smokers on my list.

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