What is the Best Pellet Grills under $500?

best pellet grill under 500

For the vast majority of people, when it comes to barbecuing, it just means grilling hamburgers and hotdogs in the backyard grill. But for the real food connoisseurs, nothing less than smoking meat will do.

While many of us might want to do things easy and quick by turning on the gas grill but when it comes to the real barbecue taste, nothing beats the slow cooking approach of pellet smoker grills.

Getting the real smoked taste is almost next to impossible with electric and gas grills, that’s why Grill masters rely on pellet grills as it gives an authentic smoked flavor to the food. Apart from the smoky flavor, these smokers are pretty versatile and can be used for grilling and roasting as well.

How does the Pellet smoker work?

how does pellet grill work

image source: Pitboss grills

A Pellet smoker grill uses small wood pellets as fuel. The pellets are 1/4th of an inch in diameter and made of hardwood. As they are small in size, they burn quickly and cleanly, leaving behind fine ash. These wood pellets burn at around 8,500 BTUs per pound.

The wood pellets are fed into the hopper at the side/back of the grill. The pellets are then fed into the firebox at the grill’s bottom using an electrically powered auger. An electric igniter rod then sets the pellets burning. A thermostat controls the auger to keep the right quantity of pellets burning for slow smoking. The fan keeps the hopper smoke-free and provides the right amount of air movement for convection heating purposes. The indirect heating allows for a better taste and is perfect for roasting, smoking, grilling, or baking purposes.

Also, these wood pellets are available in a variety of flavors, including hickory, cherry, oak, apple, and mesquite – choose whatever flavor you like and start smoking.

At a Glance: Best Pellet Grills under $500 in 2021

We have shortlisted the some of the best pellet grills under $500 and this article aims to make it easier for you to find the right option. Instead of spending hours doing research, we have identified the critical points that you can focus on.

Here are the top options of 2021:

MODELHOPPER CAPACITYTEMPRATURE RANGERATINGS
Z Grills ZPG-7002B
(Best Value)
20 pounds180-450F4.6
Pit Boss 700FB
(Best for Large Family)
18 pounds180-500F4.7
Camp Chef SmokePro DLX
(Best Overall)
18 pounds160-500F4.7
Green Mountain Davy Crockett Sense
(Best for Tailgating)
9 pounds150-550F4.5
Oklahoma Joe’s Rider 900
(Best Heavy Duty)
20 pounds175-550F4.6

1. Best Value: Z Grills ZPG-7002B Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker

z grills 7002b 2020 upgrade pellet grill and smoker

  • Total cooking surface: 700 sq. in.
  • Hopper capacity: 20-pound
  • Temperature: 180°F to 450°F
  • Warranty: 3-Year Warranty

If you are looking for a versatile pellet grill, the Z Grills ZPG-7002B might just be what you are looking for. It’s an 8 in 1 griller that can smoke, bake, sear, roast, char, grill, barbecue and braise.

This grill is made with solid stainless steel material that makes it highly resistant to corrosion, so there is no need to worry about getting damaged when exposed to the outside environment. On top of that, this material gives this grill a sleek and polished look that will add to the aesthetics of any backyard.

With 700 square inches of cooking space, you can frequently host backyard parties and get-togethers. You will have plenty to work with and the unit features a 513 square inch primary grilling section, with an additional 187 square inches for the warming rack. It should be able to cook around 20 hamburgers, 5 whole chickens, and 6 racks of ribs in one go.

The large 20-pound hopper should be more than enough for your pellets when you are smoking for a longer time. Additionally, this grill has excellent temperature accuracy and capable of generating smoking temperatures from 180°F to searing at 450°F.

The electronic start-up is great to ensure that you can get the unit going. it also features a good LED display, which makes it much easier for you to measure the temperature. The automated temperature control should be sufficient for cooking.

It has heavy-duty wheels that make it much easier to move the unit from one location to the other. It should be functional when you need some form of portability.

Overall, Z Grills 7002B is a bargain and if you’re looking to get a pellet smoker with a limited budget, this is it.

What we like:

  • Durable steel construction
  • Large 20-pound hopper
  • Works with liquid propane
  • Automatic temperature control

What we don’t like:

  • Best for smoking, but not for searing

2. Best for Large family: PIT BOSS 700FB Pellet Grill

pitboss 700fb pellet grill review

  • Total cooking surface: 700 sq. in.
  • Hopper capacity: 18-pound
  • Temperature: 180°F to 500°F
  • Warranty: 5-Year Warranty

Pit Boss is one of the leading brands on the market today and if you are looking for a high-end grill, you need not look further than the PIT BOSS 700FB Pellet Grill.

The Pit Boss 700FB is beautifully made with powder-coated steel. It has a unique black color that makes it very aesthetically pleasing. Once again, the unit is made from heavy-gauge steel materials and features a durable porcelain coating to ensure even more durability.

The unit features a combined cooking surface area of 700 square inches, which is enough for a large family of 6 to 10 people. This grill should be able to cook four chickens, 5 Boston butts, or 30 burgers in a go. The unit also has a detachable upper rack that can be used for warming the hotdogs and vegetables.

The large 18-pound hopper can also hold plenty of pellets and it’s big enough for continuous grilling sessions.

What makes this grill different from others on this list is that its temperature can go up to 500°F, which is ideal if you want a good sear on steaks. With the innovative Flame Broiler, you can charbroil steaks and ribeye’s like your favorite steakhouse. It is a slide-plate that provides complete control over direct flame grilling.

Once again, we have a digital LED controller and this will give you all the information you need when it comes to keeping the unit in peak condition. You just have to feed the temperature and the auto-temperature control feature will do everything for you. Also, the cleanup is a breeze due to the grill’s non-stick surface.

With rugged and durable wheels, the unit can easily move across a variety of different surfaces and this will make it great for those that need to transport the grill.

The only downside we can point out is the lacking of a Wi-Fi controller. This wood-fired grill doesn’t come with built-in Wi-Fi feature, so you’ll have to monitor the temperature manually. Not a big issue, take it as an excuse to sit near the smoker and crack a cold one.

Aside from lacking the Wi-Fi controller, there is not much we could find that shouldn’t be liked about this unit and it’s one of the top options in the pellet smokers segment.

What we like:

  • Large cooking surface
  • Holds 21-pounds of pellets in the hopper
  • Suitable for a large family
  • Durable and rugged wheels

What we don’t like:

  •  Doesn’t have Wi-Fi controller
  • No side shelf

3. Best Overall: Camp Chef SmokePro DLX Pellet Grill

campchef dlx pro pellet grill

  • Total cooking surface: 573 sq. in.
  • Hopper capacity: 18-pound
  • Temperature: 160°F to 500°F
  • Warranty: 1-Year Warranty

The Camp Chef SmokePro DLX Pellet Grill is a sleek-looking grill with many interesting features. It’s among the few grills on this list that has color options. You can pick between its beautiful black, bronze, and plain stainless steel variants.

This pellet grill is made with durable stainless steel that makes it rustproof and durable. It can easily withstand the ever-changing outdoor environment. If you plan to move it from one place to another, don’t worry because it’s also equipped with big wheels that make it easy to transfer to a different location.

As for the cooking area, you will have 573 square inches of cooking space and this should be efficient for cooking some of your favorite meals. Unlike the two previously mentioned grills, this might look small, but it’s enough to grill for couples or a family with 4 members.

An additional Sear Box accessory (sold separately) can be attached to the unit as well. With the Sear Box, you’ll have an additional 180 square inches of cooking space. The propane burner pushes out 16,000 BTUs of heat at temperatures up to 900 degrees.

With an 18-pound hopper capacity, this grill is enough for a full day of smoking without having to refill on pellets. Also, if you want to drain out the remaining wood pellets or willing to switch to a different flavor, use the Pellet purge system.

The PID controller is one of the best features this grill has because it does almost everything for you. This controller constantly and continuously measures the grill’s temperature and adjusts the heat accordingly. However, this model doesn’t offer Wi-Fi controller as of now, so if you’re looking for a grill with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth compatibility, consider Camp Chef 24 Woodwind Pellet Grill.

With all these exciting features, the unit is not as expensive as many people might think and it offers good value for the money as well. We would recommend it as one of the best tech grills on the market today.

What we like:

  • High-end temperature control
  • Decent cooking surface
  • Durable construction
  • Pellet Purge system

What we didn’t like:

  • Lacks a good warranty
  • Sometimes temperature swings about 10-30°F

4. Best for Tailgating: Green Mountain Davy Crockett Sense

Green mountain davy crockett sense

  • Total cooking surface: 219 sq. in.
  • Hopper capacity: 9-pound
  • Temperature: 150°F to 550°F
  • Warranty: 2-Year Warranty

If you are looking for something portable, you must consider looking at the Green Mountain Davy Crockett Sense Grill. The unit is made from alloy steel which is built to last, but it is slightly smaller than some of the other options on the market today. It is only 68-pounds and should easily be folded into a small package for storage purposes.

The total cooking area is only 219 sq. inches and can probably accommodate a meal for 2 people at once. But, there is a reason why the cooking area on this grill is sacrificed, and that’s because it is extremely portable.

This grill has a folding mechanism on top of its lightweight build. It can fit in most standard trunks. It can also run on 12V batteries, so it’s perfect for house boating, camping, or tailgating. You can bring it with you anywhere without any hassle.

In terms of modern electronic components, this unit has a sense-mate feature, a thermal sensor that monitors the grill’s temperature so that your meat is cooked evenly and consistently.

Instead of having to rely on your manual control panel, you can use a digital Wi-Fi controller that enables you to monitor the temperature using its app on your mobile devices.

In addition, this pellet grill also comes with a meat probe and peaked lid for rib racks. These attachments make it even more convenient and easier to get the perfect grilled meat from this grill.

What we like:

  • Portable and compact
  • Easy to store
  • Cooking space is 219 square inches
  • Perfect for tailgating, camping and RVing
  • Inexpensive option

What we didn’t like:

  • The cooking space is small
  • No wheels

5. Best Heavy-Duty: Oklahoma Joe’s Rider 900 Pellet Grill

oklahoma joe rider 900 pellet grill

  • Total cooking surface: 900 sq. in.
  • Hopper capacity: 20-pound
  • Temperature: 175°F to 550°F
  • Warranty: 2-Year Warranty

Last but not least is the Oklahoma Joe’s Rider 900 Deluxe Pellet Grill. Upon first glance, its solid black color will automatically make you think that it’s well constructed and durable. That impression is quite true, given that it’s made with heavy-gauge steel so that it lasts for a long time.

Moreover, this griller has an integrated flex grate and rack system that offers users with utmost versatility. You have a wide option of configuration but take note that some accessories are sold separately. This grill also comes with a live-fire plate which is perfect for searing.

This pellet grill has an impressive cooking area of 900 square inches. 578 square inches is a porcelain-coated cast iron grate, while the remaining 328 square inches are in the upper rack. This will let you cook meat for a group of 6 to 8 people without any worries.

The hopper capacity on this grill is 20lbs which is generous enough to let you smoke and grill continuously. It’s also equipped with a quick draw feature that lets you drain the pellets for seamless storage and convenient flavor swapping.

The most notable feature of this pellet grill is its Pit control system. This feature offers you two modes: Timer and Temperature Probe mode.

The time mode indicates whether your desired temperature is achieved in a set amount of time. On the other hand, the probe mode will tell whether your food has reached your target internal temperature. Whichever mode you pick, it enables you to cook meat perfectly.

Despite its large build, this grill is quite portable. It is equipped with two wagon-style wheels that allow you to move it without much effort. It also has a solid, lid-mounted handle that is easy to grip during transportation.

The overall design of the unit is great and it features numerous compartments on the side that should give you additional storage space. The temperature control is standard so that means you might still need a thermometer. However, for the affordability of the unit and the cooking space available, we would highly recommend it.

What we like:

  • Built like a tank
  • Huge 900 square inch of cooking space
  • Large 20lbs hopper
  • Suitable for large parties

What we didn’t like:

  • No thermo technology included

Buying Guide: How To Choose a Pellet Grill?

Now that you have seen some of the top pellet grills on the market today, you might be wondering which features were used to select them. We have isolated the most important features for you.

Now, you can see which features we used in making sure that we find the best pellet grills and smokers on the market today:

Cooking Space

The first thing you have to consider is the cooking space. If you have plenty of people you have to cook for, you will have to look at the available cooking surface area. For the most part, these grills will have two cooking areas and the first one is the large cooking area. The main area will be used for all your grilling.

The second part of the grill is the warming rack and the warming rack is smaller than the cooking area. However, when using the smoking feature, you can use both of these cooking sections to cook some of your favorite meals efficiently. The warming rack is often used to keep food warm when you are grilling different meats.

Material

The materials have a direct link to the overall durability of the unit and the more durable it is, the better unit will perform. Most of the top grills are made from heavy gauge steel and the steel also features a rust-resistant coating. The grill will enable you to leave it in bad conditions, but we don’t often recommend it.

The best grills also have porcelain for the coating and the porcelain adds a non-stick feel to the unit. You don’t need to worry about cleaning the unit. Should you use a non-stick surface, the unit can simply be wiped down once you are done.

Hopper Capacity

The hopper capacity is what you will use for storing your pellets or adding new pellets to the unit. The hopper capacity is generally more than 20-pounds, which means you can add an entire bag of pellets. Depending on the grill and the selected temperature, it should last you a couple of hours before you have to refill the unit.

When selecting a new grill, you always have to look at the hopper capacity as this will give you an indication of how often the unit needs to be filled. As mentioned, if the unit holds more than 20-pounds, it should be enough.

Temperature Control

Unless you want to spend the entire day sitting next to the grill and looking at the temperature, you need some form of temperature control. The two most common are the PID controller and the non-PID controller. Here is a breakdown of each:

PID Controller: The Proportional-integral-derivative controller is one of the top options when it comes to accuracy. However, these controllers are also a little bit expensive for most people to buy.

Non-PID Controller: The non-PID controllers are some of the more affordable on the market today. However, they still offer some great value for your money, but you need to manually add the temperature control.

How to Maintain a Pellet Grill

Don’t have any experience with pellet grills, do follow these general considerations in regards to pellet grills maintenance:

1. Electronics will have a hard time surviving rain and snow. Put it under a covered shelter when not in use. Rain water will still accumulate under a cover or tarp in humid weather and stuff will rust or oxidize

2. Always clean out the firepot of excess pellets and ash (vacuum it out) every 8 hours or after any long cook, particularly when you frequently get undesirable white smoke. Ash in the pot and auger tube cools down the fire or causes freshly added pellets to take a while to come up to heat. Pellets need good airflow to burn, even with the fan.

3. Periodically remove all the pellets from the bin and vacuum out any fine particles. They won’t burn and end up clogging the airflow of the smoker.

4. Never allow the unit to run empty during a cook. The pellet dust in the auger may catch fire producing smoke back up the pellet bin, but worse yet is the ash will conglomerate to concrete in the auger tube meaning you’ll have to disassemble the unit to clean the pipe. Prevention is much smarter.

5. Do not leave pellets in the bin (hopper) for a couple of months when you store the unit. The pellets may gather moisture, swell causing jams, or not burn properly due to moisture content.

6. Store open pellet bags in a cool dry, none humid place (I put mine in a water-resistant bin).

7. Don’t use a water bath, this cools the inside too much and may result in the unit shutting itself off due to low temperature assuming it’s out of pellets.

8. Line the drip pan with 5-6 layers of heavy-duty foil. Peel off each layer as it gets too dirty, then when down to 1 or 2 layers, re-foil it again up to 5-6 layers to speed up later cleanup.

Most of the above will be true for pellet grills if you want them to last. Under warranty, the manufacturers will send replacement parts ASAP to keep you happy.

Other than that, have fun smoking with different pellets.

Knowing how to use the equipment is more important than the equipment (i.e. experienced cooks using a pellet smoker can get a better result than inexperienced cooks using a kamado or other smoker.

What size Pellet Smoker do I need?

It is hard for us to determine which size will be perfect for you. There are plenty of different sizing options, but for the most part, you want to cook at least one steak per person.

For smaller families, the 250 square inch grills offer more than enough cooking space for a couple of steaks or burgers. However, you might have to look for a 500-square inch grill when it comes to big families or you want to host larger gatherings.

Do Pellet grills work only with pellets from their brands?

Much like certain items, you will find that some of them often only work with items from their brands. However, most grill brands don’t have a pellet brand that comes along and they work with a variety of pellets. It is much better to have a grill that works with a variety of different pellets to ensure that you can always find them.

We have not seen grills that cannot be modified to work with different pellets if that is the case. It is important that you consider looking for your grill and to look at what pellets it will need before you decide to purchase the unit.

The Bottom Line

Finding the right pellet grill might seem like a tough task for many people. However, when you have all the knowledge, you will never be fooled by marketing again. We hope that this article has given you some insight and you will find the right option for your needs.