Get off the couch; enjoy the outdoors; get some fresh air; help with the cooking. Have you heard many of these comments lately? You can tick all of these boxes with a pellet grill while checking why this cooking method is getting so much buzz.
This fantastic, futuristic outdoor cooking device will make you want to cook every day. And when you aren’t cooking, you undoubtedly be looking up recipes to try next. In addition, they are somewhat dummy-proof, so they make the ideal starting point for a hobbyist just getting into smoking and outdoor cooking.
A pellet grill is also known as a pellet smoker and can often work as both a traditional grill and a smoker. The best of both worlds, really, but you need to check out the specifics as not every pellet grill works the same, and that’s where we come in.
And the best part – some of the best pellet grills on the market can have you sitting back on the couch and watching the game while simultaneously monitoring your food from an app on your phone. Check out our choices for the best pellet grills under $500.
Benefits of Pellet Grills Under $500
Pellet grills are known for their ease of use and mixture of modern technology with traditional fiery cooking methods. If you’re on the fence about getting a pellet grill, check out some of the benefits, and we think you’ll be hooked:
- Highly efficient use of fuel compared to gas, charcoal, or wood
- Great for beginner grillers and smokers as more dummy-proof than their traditional counterparts
- Allow you to digitally set the temperatures and then get on with other tasks
- They don’t need to be babied and tended as much as conventional grills or smokers
- The temperature can be controlled automatically without the need for stoking the flames
- Roasting or baking is possible with the use of internal convection fans
Pellet grills do come in more expensive than traditional offset smokers or grills, but there are benefits which certainly justify the added cost. Even though pellet grills are basic enough for newbies to use, they are increasingly becoming sought after by professionals because of the pinpoint accuracy and set-it-and-forget-it qualities.
The Best Pellet Grills Under $500 – Full Reviews
Nothing is worse than watching out for the delivery truck and receiving your much-anticipated parcel… only to find you need a degree in engineering and a bit of divine intervention to get the thing assembled. However, you don’t need to worry about that with the Z GRILLS ZPG-450A 2020 as the assembly is straightforward, so you should be able to get cooking the same day as delivery.
The temperature control can be finicky and tends to stray from the set level by a good twenty-five degrees. This might be a game-changer for those entering cooking competitions, but it isn’t a significant factor for the average household.
This grill touts itself as being an all-in-one pellet grill, capable of doing just about everything except butchering your meat and cleaning up afterward. In reality, it is a fantastic smoker, though perhaps a little light on the smoke. It is also great at roasting and baking.
Charring and searing, though, is where it lets itself down since the temperatures don’t get hot enough, and we wonder why it even claims it can. This model will fit one full brisket, but that’s about it. If you tend to cook more in one go, then opt for a bigger model.
|Includes a free waterproof grill cover||It can be challenging to regulate the temperature|
|180-450-degree Fahrenheit temperature range||It doesn’t have a good sear feature|
|452 square inches of cooking space||Difficult to clean out the hopper to change pellet type|
|Can grill, smoke, sear, braise, bake, roast, barbeque, char-grill||Pellets tend to get stuck going from the hopper to the auger|
|15-pound hopper capacity|
|Relatively easy to assemble|
You get a lot of value with the Z GRILLS ZPG-450A 2020, but it is essential to realize that it isn’t effective at doing everything that it markets itself to be. If you were expecting this pellet grill to replace your traditional grill, then you’ll feel let down.
Likewise, if you want to cook food for a crowd all of the time, then this isn’t the pellet grill for you. However, if you are after a superb smoker that is excellent value for money and offers versatility, then this is a great product.
The BIG HORN OUTDOORS Pellet Grill & Smoker looks excellent in a backyard.
Sure, that shouldn’t matter; it should be all about how easy it is to use (which it is) and how great the food will be (which it will), but regardless, we were proud to show this bit of kit off to the family and the nosy neighbors peering over the fence.
Regarding robustness, this pellet grill wins hands down for having a solid, almost indestructible design. For the price, you rarely get a grill that is this heavy and well-constructed. In addition, it has the largest cooking area of any of our pellet grills under $500.
The main downfall of this pellet grill, which is a common complaint, is the lack of getting to high enough temperatures to sear. You’ll have complete control over temperatures from 225 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit but not beyond that.
|700 square inches of cooking area||Difficult to remove unused pellets from the hopper|
|Can grill, smoke, roast, bake, braise, and barbeque||The warming rack isn’t adjustable, but it is removable|
|8-pound hopper capacity|
|Adjustable smokestack damper|
|Straightforward to assemble|
The BIG HORN OUTDOORS Pellet Grill & Smoker is fantastic for those that have no intention of moving it beyond a short diameter in their backyard. Yep, it’s got wheels, but it’s also cumbersome. However, we take this as a good thing since if you want a portable pellet grill, then get one specific to that purpose.
What the BIG HORN OUTDOORS does have is a large cooking area, so you can make enough food for a crowd of hungry carnivores and still throw on something for the vegetarians. You also can’t beat the price.
Like us, you are probably wondering if having WIFI on your pellet grill is just adding another layer of unnecessary complexity to your life? We’re here to say, “Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.” This machine is so much more than a gimmick, which you’ll realize after devouring your first brisket.
You can’t actually ignite the Green Mountain Davy Crockett Pellet Grill via WIFI for (hopefully) obvious safety reasons. Still, you can monitor the internal temperature to within 5 degrees and increase or decrease accordingly. You can create customized, programmable cooking profiles, and the food timer on the app will tell you when your food is done. The app also comes with built-in recipes and cooking profiles to get you started.
For the non-techy amongst us, another big benefit is that you won’t have to sweat beside your grill all day; you can mingle with your guests, and you won’t constantly reek of smoke. If you like talking about gadgets, most people are up to hear about something as unique as a WIFI pellet grill. For the single folks out there, this is a win-win-win situation.
This grill is small enough to fit in the trunk of most vehicles and at only 68 lbs. is a good option for hauling around to a tailgating bash, but keep in mind that you will need either 110V or 12V electricity. What you gain in portability, though, you lose in cooking capacity; expect to fit only the equivalent about two racks of ribs.
|WIFI and Server mode for remote monitoring and control||Small capacity|
|Excellent customer service|
|Simple to put together|
|Temperature management from 150-550 degrees in 5-degree increments|
|Variable speed fan and motor|
|9 lb. pellet hopper capacity|
|Includes meat probe|
This wouldn’t be our top choice for home entertaining or batch cooking, but if you are after a pellet grill to use both at home and on the go, then The Green Mountain Davy Crockett might be just the ticket.
It cooks exceptionally well, and the associated app means that even amateur cooks should be able to produce show-stopping food from the first attempt. This is a winner of a product and so easy to use that you’ve no excuse not to light it up a few times a week.
Traeger is a sought-after brand in the world of pellet grills and smokers. If you’ve been around the brisket block, then you likely know that this brand comes with a price tag to match its reputation for quality and durability. Because of this, we were pretty excited to get our hands on a Traeger for less than $500. The included bag of pellets was also a bonus.
Due to the brand’s rep, many hold Traeger up on a pedestal; however, the Ranger Grill TBT18KLD is worthy of its place. You can use it almost immediately out of the box, and you’ll instantly notice how robust it is for the size. The addition of a cast iron griddle is a hit for making veggies and seafood or even pizza.
Our only grumbles with this model are due to its portability. It’s heavy considering its size, and it holds its heat. This means that you have to wait a significant amount of time after cooking to be able to pack it away. The portability also means that it doesn’t have a large cooking space, so don’t be expecting to cook full briskets in here.
|184 square inches of cooking space||Impossible to add pellets while operational without opening the unit|
|8-pound hopper capacity||It takes quite a while to cool down|
|Easy to clean||It might be portable, but it’s still heavy|
|Includes a cooking timer|
|Highly portable with a latched lid|
|Well-known pellet grill brand|
|Includes cast iron griddle|
|Barely any assembly required|
We don’t doubt that the Traeger name adds a significant boost to the Ranger Grill TBT18KLD Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker cost, but you’ll still find us drooling over it even before putting anything in to cook. You’ll be proud to show this pellet grill off, as anyone in the know will know, you know?
It’s portable, so it’s inevitably going to be smaller, but that is about our only gripe. After all, you certainly won’t want to be sharing your ribs with too many people as they will be too darn tasty.
For starters, the Z Grills Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker ZPG-L6002B arrives well packaged and most reasonably intelligent and handy people should be able to get this together within about 45 minutes. If you take longer, then be sure to have your excuses lined up and ready to go. The rolling wheels are a bonus as most will want to move their pellet grill out into the open air when operational to disperse the smoke and heat.
The big advantage of the Z Grills ZPG-L6002B is that it can sear. If a pellet grill can sear at all is a great feature, but this one steps it up by doing so exceptionally well. If you leave the cover open, then you can reach the scorching temperatures needed to get those fantastic grill marks.
This grill’s downfall is the capacity; however, this only is the case if you intend to cook tall items like a large Thanksgiving turkey or ham. By the way, if you do manage to fit in a turkey, then we highly recommend it – so good!
|600 total square inches of cooking space||The drip tray can be challenging to clean, so use aluminum foil|
|Real-time LED temperature display||Grill height would only accommodate a small turkey|
|Can grill, smoke, sear, braise, bake, roast, barbeque, char-grill||Not quite a smoker nor a grill, so doesn’t get the best of either|
|Able to reach high temperatures to sear|
|PID temperature controller accurate to within 10 degrees Fahrenheit|
|10-pound hopper capacity|
|Includes an attached foldable working shelf|
|Relatively easy to assemble|
The Z Grills ZPG-L6002B is one of the best pellet grills in the under $500 price bracket when it comes to searing. Top that off with its excellent ability to operate as a smoker, and you’ve got a surefire hit on your hands. This pellet grill model’s capabilities could rival those of commercial or industrial standards but at a fraction of the price. Go for it; you won’t be disappointed.
Pellet Grills: A Quick Buyer’s Guide
This article aims to showcase the best pellet grills under $500. We know that there are products well over this price point, but if you aren’t yet at the level of entering BBQ competitions on the weekends, then we wouldn’t splurge quite yet. However, there are a few features and considerations that you should look out for when buying a pellet grill, including:
Temperature – The indirect heat offered by a pellet grill is exceptional for roasting, smoking, grilling, and even baking. These can all be accomplished around 180-425 degrees Fahrenheit, which most pellet grills can maintain. If you want a sear on your meat, though, these temperatures won’t be sufficient as you would want temperatures above 500 degrees Fahrenheit. If the pellet grill has a direct grilling option, rather than only indirect heat, then the problem is solved.
Cooking Area – The pellet grill’s overall size will determine if it is portable and how much you can cook at one time. However, keep in mind that you are likely best to get a pellet grill that accommodates that amount of food you generally cook; otherwise, you are burning additional fuel for no reason.
Construction – Like most things, if you pay bottom dollar, then you’ll get shoddy materials. Ideally, look for stainless steel options when purchasing a pellet grill as they are easier on upkeep. Durability is also enhanced by good design, ensuring that the lid closes well and all handles and rivets are tight and inline.
Grill Controller – Maintaining a consistent temperature is one of the key benefits of a pellet grill, and it comes down to the grill controller to make this happen. Look out for models that can control the temperature to within five degrees and can be adjusted accordingly. Cheaper models will generally only have low, medium, and high-temperature settings, and we certainly wouldn’t be trusting this with 12-hour 10-pound brisket.
Meat probes – Whether you purchase a pellet grill with a meat probe included or buy it separately, you will undoubtedly want to invest in one. Some fancier models have programmable meat probes that adjust temperatures accordingly.
WIFI – Check out the Green Mountain Davy Crockett Prime WiFi Control Portable Wood Pellet Grill for our choice of the best WIFI pellet grill. We thought it would be a bit gimmicky, but we are hooked on how easy it is to use and how perfectly cooked the results can be – total converts.
Direct Grilling – If you intend to use your pellet grill for searing, then this feature is a must. It isn’t present in all models, so be on the lookout if you need to see those crisscross grill marks to be satisfied.
How long will a 20lb bag of pellets last?
The answer to how long a 20lb bag of pellets will last undoubtedly depends on if you plan to be cooking with your pellet grill every waking hour. The ease of cooking can become addictive, as are these bourbon BBQ smoked chicken wings.
It also depends on your method of cooking and if you burn hot or prefer low and slow. However, you can typically expect to average about one and a half pounds of pellets per hour. Smaller pellet grills will use less than this, and large ones will use more.
What kind of pellets should I buy for my pellet grill?
The pellets used in pellet grills are specifically formulated to be of the quality for food-grade fuel. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that any old pellets are OK, as others may contain contaminants that you don’t want anywhere near your brisket.
Pellets are essentially just highly compressed sawdust from hardwoods. There are typically no other ingredients except perhaps a food-grade oil. Ensure that you keep the pellets completely dry as any moisture may seriously disrupt their effectiveness.
Once you get more accustomed to using your pellet grill, you can customize your own blend of pellets by mixing the different flavors in your own proportions. To start with, you can buy prepackaged pellet flavor mixes as some woods give off a flavor profile ideal for either pork, chicken, or fish.
Hickory – A staple flavor for any pellet grill or smoker, hickory has an intense, pungent taste that quickly infuses the food cooked with it. Hickory works so well that many pellet grill cooks prefer to tone this flavor down by mixing their pellets with another hardwood. Hickory pairs well with beef, chicken, pork, or veggies.
Mesquite – This is a flavor synonymous the world over with American BBQ and bold, smoky flavor. Excellent for beef, pork, or seafood.
Maple – Canada might be famous for maple syrup, but your pellet grill will be one-up this by infusing the distinctively sweet smell and flavor into your cooking. Give it a try with your beef, pork, or veggies.
Apple – If you enjoy a subtler smoky flavor and fruity notes, then apple pellets are a real winner. It’s excellent for poultry, pork, or veggies in particular.
Cherry – Bursting with flavor, cherry wood pellets add fantastic taste to beef, poultry, pork, or veggies.
Oak – The middle of the road, old standby; oak is one of the woods that work well with seafood but also adds great flavor to beef.
Alder – Another of the indispensable pellet woods, alder offers mild flavor infusions, so is perfect for pairing with poultry or seafood.
Pecan – Your friends will be thoroughly impressed when you pull out the pecan pellets and let them taste the difference. This pairs wonderfully with beef, poultry, pork, or veg.
Forking out for a big purchase like a pellet grill isn’t taken lightly, so we hope that you feel more confident now with your choice. Our advice is that you should go for the pellet grill that fits in with you and your family’s lifestyle. If you plan on doing a lot of tailgating or camping, then a portable model is ideal; however, if you never leave the house, then go for a pellet grill that allows you to set it and forget it. Then make friends with your local butcher.