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  • Traeger Grills Ironwood 650

  • How We Tested Pellet Grills and Smokers

  • What You Should Know About Pellet Grills

  • Other Pellet Grills We Tested

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Traeger Ironwood 650 Pellet Grill
Credit: Traeger

The Traeger Ironwood 650 Pellet Grill is our top pick.

Best Overall
Traeger Grills Ironwood 650

Traeger is the original name in pellet grills, so it didn’t surprise us when the Traeger Ironwood 650 ranked higher than any pellet grill in the test group. These grills have come a long way from the analog version I purchased in 2013, now featuring Downdraft Exhaust Systems that eliminate the need for the classic smoke-stack look and Wi-Fi enabled apps like Traeger’s WiFIRE app.

We had very few complaints about the Ironwood 650. It heats quickly, reaching smoking temperatures in an average of 10 minutes and higher temperatures in 20 minutes. The temperature is remarkably consistent, too, ranging no more than 10°F from the setting we chose at both high and low temperatures. That created a perfectly juicy brisket, and it contained the perfect amount of smoke flavor, especially when we used the grill’s Super Smoke mode to inject extra smoke into the grill. When we set the grill to 450°F, our chicken wings cooked evenly, no matter where we placed them on the grill grate. These crispy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside wings definitely rivaled deep-fried restaurant wings!

Traeger also nailed its design. The grill rolled easily on four wheels without rattling or shaking, leading us to believe the construction is solid and secure enough to last the test of time. We loved the WiFIRE app functionality, which made it easy to adjust probe and grill temperatures while also keeping an eye on the percentage of pellets left in the hopper. Our only complaint is the control panel. It seemed outdated compared to some of the grills in the test group, and it was hard to read after sitting out in the sun for hours.

Read our full Traeger Ironwood 650 review.

Pros

  • Precise temperature control

  • Quick to heat

  • Great WiFi-enabled app functionality

Cons

  • Outdated control panel

How We Tested Pellet Grills and Smokers

Brisket smokes on a pellet grill.
Credit: Reviewed/Lindsay D. Mattison

We smoked brisket on each pellet grill to see how it could handle low-and-slow cooking temperatures

The Tester

Hi, I’m Lindsay Mattison, a trained professional chef and a barbecue weekend warrior. You’ll find me outside almost every weekend, cooking over an open fire pit or smoking on a pellet grill. I’ve tested over three dozen grills over the years for Reviewed, so I’ve learned a thing or two about what works (and what doesn’t).

The Tests

A brisket sliced in half showing its smoke ring detail.
Credit: Reviewed/Lindsay D. Mattison

If the pellet grill produced enough smoke to create a smoke ring, we knew the brisket would be delicious before taking the first bite.

After selecting several top-rated pellet grills available online and at local retailers like Lowes and Home Depot, we got started with the tests. We used an iPhone XR on iOS 14.6 to connect to any apps that may work with each specific grill.

If the grill included a built-in probe thermometer, we used that to measure the meat’s internal temperature as it cooked. We also used a ThermoWorks ChefAlarm (our top pick when we tested probe thermometers) to double-check the built-in probe’s accuracy. Finally, we hooked up an ambient grill probe to check the grill’s actual internal temperature against the set temperature.

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After building each grill, we ran it through the initial burn-off process specified in each owner's manual. This process removes any machine packing oils and ensures the auger and fire pot work properly. Then, we cycled the grill on and off dozens of times to test ignition times and see if there were any issues with the pellet auger system.

From there, we started cooking. We wanted to see how each pellet grill could handle low smoking temperatures and tough cuts of meat with a lot of intramuscular fat and connective tissue. After setting the temperature to 250°F, we added a whole packer brisket, trimmed to have a 1/4-inch fat cap. When the grill’s meat probe reached an internal temperature of 165°F, we compared the built-in probe to the ChefAlarm, wrapped the brisket tightly in aluminum foil, and lowered the grill’s temperature to 225°F. We returned the brisket to the grill until it reached 202°F.

Next up, we wanted to know how the pellet grill worked with high-heat temperatures. We cranked the dial up to 500°F (or the highest setting if the grill didn’t have that setting). After preheating, we cooked a dozen chicken wings, hoping they would crisp up as well as they do in an indoor oven without burning.

During these tests, we were able to assess several crucial elements of a good pellet grill: Did it maintain its temperature during the entire cook time, or did we have to fiddle with the settings to keep it where we wanted? Did the grill quickly adjust to temperature changes? Did we have to refill the pellets during a long cooking session, and were there any issues with pellet jams? Most importantly, did the brisket turn out juicy and moist with a smoke ring or a deeply smoky flavor? Did the wings cook evenly and crisp up without burning?

Finally, we assessed each grill’s aesthetics and build quality, looking to see if it wheeled around easily without rattling and whether it was built to last. We also factored in if the grease tray was easy to clean, grill grate design, and the location of side tables.

What You Should Know About Pellet Grills

A man holds wood pellets in his hands.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Wood pellets are used to smoke and smolder as you grill, creating flavors similar to grilling over wood or charcoal.

Wood pellet grills have been around since the mid-1980s when a wood-pellet stove manufacturer thought to use the technology to fuel grills. The biggest name in pellet grills is Traeger, the original manufacturer, and they were the only game in town for decades. When Traeger’s patent expired in 2006, the competition began to emerge.

Pellet grills are different from other grills because they’re dual-fuel. Instead of being heated by gas, propane, or electricity alone, an electric-powered auger moves wood pellets to a fire box, where they’re ignited to create the fire that heats the grill. That process means pellet grills have set-it-and-forget-it functionality. There’s no need to fiddle around with dials or vents to reach the desired temperature like with other smoker grills. Simply ensure the hopper is full of pellets, select the temperature from the control panel, and let the grill do all the work.

When used at low-and-slow cooking temperatures, the pellets smoke and smolder, creating flavors similar to grilling over wood or charcoal. They can also be used at higher temperatures, and most manufacturers cap out at maximum temperatures between 400°F and 500°F. That’s not far from gas grills (which often max out at 550°F), but the use of a heat deflector plate prevents direct searing and grill marks. If the pellet grill features a sliding sear plate, it can be used to access the flames and cook food like it’s on a traditional grill.

How Does a Pellet Grill and Smoker Work?

Pellet grills are powered by wood pellets that are similar to the ones used to fuel indoor pellet stoves. They’re made by compressing wood that’s ground into sawdust, and grill pellets are usually made with 100% hardwood or contain food-grade oils to add flavor.

To use the grill, the pellets are loaded into a hopper to the side of the grill. An electric-powered auger transfers the pellets to the fire pot inside the grill. The ignited wood pellets produce flames until the box reaches the set temperature, and the auger slows to drop fewer pellets into the pot to maintain the heat. The grill’s heat deflector plate acts as a physical barrier to keep the food from being exposed to the flames, and it also keeps the grease from creating flare-ups. Then, the grill’s internal fans disperse the heat and smoke around the grill, surrounding your food and heating the inside of the grill similar to a convection oven.

At low temperatures, the pellets will smoke without creating a large fire. That infuses smoky flavors into the food, similar to what you’ll find when grilling over wood or charcoal. When set to higher temperatures, less smoke is produced, and the fire pot focuses on creating heat. Since the heat deflector plate prevents direct searing and grill marks, the food crisps up like it would when roasted inside a high-temperature oven.

Why Are Pellet Grills So Expensive?

Smoked chicken wings inside a silver bucket.
Credit: Reviewed/Lindsay D. Mattison

The best pellet grills were able to crisp-up chicken wings without burning them when we used the highest heat setting

While some pellet grills can be found under $500, most range between $1,000 and $2,000 depending on the size and features. They have more moving parts than other types of grills, and controlling the temperature is a bit more complicated than a grill that uses dials or vents. A thermostat and an onboard computer control the grill’s auger, fan, and ignition system.

If it doesn’t come together correctly, the automated pellet delivery system will fail to deliver pellets to the fire pot, and the grill won’t reach appropriate heat levels. Worse yet, the grill could turn off mid-session, or the ignited pellets can back up into the hopper, creating a fire hazard.

Modern pellet grills are also smart-capable. They have built-in probe thermometers that connect to smartphones via Bluetooth or WiFi, allowing users to monitor long-cooking items like brisket or pulled pork remotely. These apps also allow you to change the grill’s temperature, activate any smoke boost functions, set a timer, monitor the pellet level in the hopper, and turn the grill off. That’s convenient, but it comes at a price.


Other Pellet Grills We Tested

Product image of Z Grills ZPG-7002F2
Z Grills ZPG-7002F2

After testing the Z Grills 7002BPRO, we found out it was discontinued. The company recommends the 7002F2. This new, 2021 model is the same as the 7002B but it comes with a PID controller (a device that helps regulate the temperature). We didn’t test the 7002F2, but we can say that we were extremely happy with the 7002B’s performance. And considering its affordable price, if you're shopping for a best value recommendation, this would be a great choice.

For starters, we must comment that this grill didn’t have any of the bells and whistles we found on most of the other pellet grills we tested. Instead of a digital control panel, it had a turn dial that allowed us to set the temperature in 25-degree increments. It also didn’t have a built-in thermometer (although we used an external ZGrills EasyBBQ Wireless Thermometer to great success). This pellet grill is also lacking the popular sear plate we found on most pellet grills, but we actually thought that was a benefit when it came to performance.

Although there’s nothing fancy about the ZGrills pellet grill, it created delicious-tasting food. The grill heated quickly and reached 485°F within 15 minutes. Since there was no sear plate that exposed the food to the fire pot’s flame, the chicken wings cooked evenly and resulted in a perfectly crispy exterior. When it came to low-and-slow cooking, the grill had no problem hovering around 225°F, and we only noticed a +/-10°F swing during the 10-hour smoke time. The brisket turned out smokier than most of the briskets we cooked, too.

Where this grill lost points was entirely design and aesthetic. There’s no way to drain the pellets if you want to change wood flavors, so you’d have to scoop them out by hand. We also found the grill hard to move around since the wheels are only on one side. It also lacks any work tables or shelves, and it only has one rack and a small warming rack inside. That said, it was the least expensive grill we tested but performed as well as our winning grill, so all these aesthetic complaints come at a price we were willing to live with.

Pros

  • Maintains consistent temperatures

  • Excels at high-temperature roasting

Cons

  • Hard to move

  • No work tables or shelf

  • Limited cooking surface area

Product image of Weber SmokeFire EX4 (2nd Gen)
Weber SmokeFire EX4 (2nd Gen)

We’ve tested many Weber grills over the years, but they’ve never sold a pellet grill until the Weber SmokeFire. We tested both the first- and second-generation Weber SmokeFire grills (the former now being discontinued). Our favorite feature of this pellet grill was its connection to the Weber Connect app, which allows you to control the grill’s temperature and access the built-in probe thermometer information without being right next to the grill.

When it came to performance, the SmokeFire produced the best brisket in the group. The grill did experience wild temperature swings, though (about 50°F at low temperatures and as much as 80°F when set to higher temperatures). Activating the SmokeBoost function helped the grill maintain low smoking temperatures, but it did require constant attention and monitoring. This SmokeBoost setting also filled the barrel with a robust amount of smoke, creating the best smoke ring in the group.

At higher temperatures, the SmokeFire was unique because of its open grill design. Most pellet grills contain a deflector plate that runs under the grill racks. Some contain a sliding sear plate that creates a section of the grill that has access to the flames in the fire pot. The SmokeFire looks like any other Weber grill, though, with an open design and a heat deflector plate that only covers an eight-inch area over the fire pot. That means it was able to function more like a traditional grill when cooking at higher temperatures. We were pleased with the results, and our chicken wings cooked evenly over the entire grill grate.

We did have some gripes with this pellet grill. Most notably, the open design is ripe to start grease fires after smoking fatty meats like brisket or pulled pork one day and cranking it up to 500°F to sear the next. While we were happy to see that Weber improved the pellet delivery system in the second generation model (something that was a big issue for consumers the first time around), we wish they had also updated the control panel. It doesn’t display an accurate grill temperature, instead displaying the same number as the grill’s set temperature most of the time. That meant we had to rely on our ambient probe to trust the actual temp.

Read our full SmokeFire EX4 review.

Pros

  • Great smoke flavor

  • Able to sear and smoke

Cons

  • Temperature swings while cooking

  • Doesn’t display correct temperature

Product image of Cuisinart CGWM-080 Clermont Pellet Grill & Smoker
Cuisinart CGWM-080 Clermont Pellet Grill & Smoker

If you’re looking for a grill that performs well and looks good doing it, the Cuisinart Clermont Pellet Grill is the way to go. The initial building process is time-consuming (it took over 90 minutes, compared to the 45 minutes we experienced with most of the other grills), but it’s worth it in the end. The Cuisinart looks impressive right off the bat, with its large wrap-around table, built-in hooks for hanging cooking tools, and double doors with viewing windows that open up at the front. Inside, it features three customizable racks for a total of 1400 square inches of cooking space. It also holds 40 pounds of pellets at once, twice the amount of most of the pellet grills we tested.

This pellet grill did a fantastic job of holding temperatures at higher temps. Our chicken wings cooked evenly throughout the grill and resulted in a perfectly crispy exterior when set to 500°F. Unfortunately, the Cuisinart struggled a little with holding low temperatures, and we had to set the grill to 210°F to maintain an even 225°F for the brisket. It didn’t produce as much smoke as some of the other grills, either, but it did result in a juicy and flavorful brisket.

If we had complaints, they were small. The double doors started to stick after a few sessions, and they let out a lot of heat when they opened, so it took longer for the grill to recover to the set temperature after opening the doors. We also didn’t love the touch-sensitive buttons on the digital control panel. They were difficult to push, so we used the Bluetooth-enabled app to adjust the grill whenever possible. Finally, the pellets ran down the auger unevenly, causing us to get a low-pellet alert when the hopper was more than half full. It’s easy enough to resolve by pushing a mound of pellets towards the auger to relieve the sensor, but it also means you’ll need to keep a close eye on the grill for longer smoking sessions.

Pros

  • Large cooking surface area

  • Large hopper capacity

  • App functionality

Cons

  • Struggled at maintaining low temperatures

  • Pellets slide down hopper ramp unevenly

  • Control panel buttons hard to push

Product image of Pit Boss Sportsman 820
Pit Boss Sportsman 820

We got off to a shaky start with the Pit Boss Sportsman 820. After unboxing the pieces, we found a welded-on nut had broken off of one of the legs. Fortunately, Pit Boss’ customer service was quick to respond with a workaround and get a replacement part shipped out so we could start enjoying the grill right away.

For the price, we were impressed with this pellet grill. It didn’t feature the precise temperature control we found with more expensive grills, but the knob on the digital control panel sets the temperature in 20°F increments. It does have a Bluetooth and WiFi-enabled app to view the grill and two built-in probe temperatures, but it’s not a very robust app. We also liked how the folding front table and removable side table provided plenty of room to store items on their way in or out of the grill, and all four legs contained wheels to make the grill easy to move around.

When it came to performance, the Pit Boss tended to range in temperature between 20°F to 25°F from the set temp. That made it difficult to maintain low smoking temperatures without constant adjustment. While cooking at high temperatures, the range widened. When set to 475°F, the grill ranged from 490°F to 580°F. That might be good for opening up the sear plate and grilling a steak, but it wasn’t ideal for indirect-heat baking. The wings burned on the right side of the grill while cooking perfectly on the left.

For the price, we were fine with these discrepancies, but it’s an indicator that you get what you pay for. The build materials also feel and look cheaper than other grills we tested, so we’re not convinced this grill will last as long as some of the others in the test group.

Pros

  • Heats quickly

  • Easy to move

  • Built-in probe thermometers

Cons

  • Inconsistent temperature control

  • Poor build quality

Product image of Camp Chef Woodwind WiFi 24 with Sear Box
Camp Chef Woodwind WiFi 24 with Sear Box

While there was a lot to like about the Camp Chef Woodwind 24 with Sear Box, we found it lacking in performance—especially given its high price tag. The grill itself has ample surface area for all your grilling needs. It’s more compact than some of the other grills we tested, but it contains dual racks inside, each boasting roughly 400 square inches of grilling surface area. There’s plenty of room to grill several briskets, pork shoulders, or racks of ribs in this grill.

We also liked that the digital control panel used temperature increments of five degrees, allowing us to create more precise temperatures. The grill also allows for an extra smoke mode, with settings that range from 1 to 10. The WiFi- and Bluetooth-connected app was great for changing and monitoring both grill temperature and the four thermometer ports, too.

When smoking the brisket, the grill did a good job at staying within 5 to 10°F of the set temperature, so the grill created a perfectly cooked brisket in the end. That said, it lacked a smoke ring or robust smoky flavor (despite our using the smoke setting set at 10). We weren’t as impressed when using the grill at higher temperatures, though. When set to 450°F, the right side of the grill was significantly hotter than the left side, burning the wings on part of the grill before the other side cooked.

All in all, this is a fine pellet grill, but we preferred other grills at the same price point.

Pros

  • Large cooking surface area

  • Precise temperature control

  • Built-in probe thermometers

Cons

  • Doesn’t perform well at high temperatures

Product image of Louisiana Grill LG 1000 Black Label
Louisiana Grill LG 1000 Black Label

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to fully test the Louisiana Grills LG 1000 Black Label Series Grill. After building the pellet grill, we proceeded with the initial burn-off process without any issues. The next day, we fired up the grill to smoke a brisket, and that’s where the trouble started. The auger continuously fed pellets into the fire pot, but they never caught fire. The ignitor was active and glowing red-hot, but the smoldering pellets were continuously covered with new pellets. We attempted to remove the excess pellets and help the ignition along with a handheld bellow but to no avail. After some time, the grill shut itself off and would not turn back on.

We followed the troubleshooting advice in the owner's manual, removing the pellet access panel and inspecting the electric components, but could not identify an issue. At the time of this publication, we have reached out to Louisiana customer support with no reply.

As a result, we cannot recommend this pellet grill. It broke after a single use, and customer support did not assist us with a resolution.

Pros

  • Large cooking surface area

  • Easy to move

Cons

  • Broke after one use

  • Customer service not responsive

Meet the tester

Lindsay D. Mattison

Lindsay D. Mattison

Professional Chef

@zestandtang

Lindsay D. Mattison is a professional chef, food writer, and amateur gardener. She is currently writing a cookbook that aims to teach home cooks how to write without a recipe.

See all of Lindsay D. Mattison's reviews

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