Are you planning a weekend BBQ party but don’t want to spend the whole day standing by the grill as the fun will pass you by? Thinking of cooking smoked meat, but finding it impossible on a gas grill? Would you like to enjoy the natural wood flavor of your food, with notes of cherry or apple instead of charcoal? If the answer is yes, this article is for you! We will explore pellet grills and why they are becoming popular by the day. Not only are these grills easy to use, but they are also multifunctional, and efficient.
After researching, we have found the best pellet grills under $500. When forming the top-5, we considered the criteria that concern many buyers, based on their feedback and questions. Below you can familiarize yourself with the top-5 models and their characteristics.
Comparison table: 5 best pellet grills under 500
|Z GRILLS ZPG-450A|
The most comfortable to move
|Material: Stainless Steel, Metal
Item Weight (pounds): 84
LxWxH (inches): 45 x 28 x 49
Fuel type: Electric, Liquified Petroleum Gas
- Quick assembly
- No grease accumulation due to a grease collector
|Traeger Tailgater 20|
The quickest cooking
Item Weight (pounds): 62
LxWxH (inches): 37 x 18 x 36
Fuel type: Electric
- Heats up quickly
- Folding legs that make it easier to move the grill
|Z GRILLS ZPG-7002B|
The best for a large gathering
|Material: Stainless Steel, Metal
Item Weight (pounds): 84
LxWxH (inches): 48 x 22 x 51
Fuel type: Electric, Liquified Petroleum Gas
- Retains heat perfectly
- Cooks evenly
- Easy to clean
|Traeger Ranger Grill|
The best for travelers
Item Weight (pounds): 60
LxWxH (inches): 20 x 21 x 13
Fuel type: Wood
- Keep warm mode
- Strong and sturdy
|Davy Crockett Green Mountain Sense Mate Electric Wi-Fi Control|
Best value for money
Item Weight (pounds): 57.32
LxWxH (inches): 29.92 x 14.96 x 21.65
Fuel type: Wood
- The easiest to control temperature (Wi-Fi control)
- Can be powered from a car battery or car electrical plug/cigarette lighter
How did we choose?
- Firstly, we looked at the top-rated pellet grills in different contrast categories.
- We consulted with real owners of pellet grills, as well as studied the quality of these grills, in consultation with experts to identify pros and cons that may not be obvious to the individual owner.
- We found 15 models under $500.
- We selected 5 models for a detailed review (excluding low-rated models or those with fewer/ poor reviews).
- We analyzed over 200 customer reviews.
You can find the calculations and results of our research presented in the table below.
What to focus on when choosing a pellet grill
When buying a pellet grill, you should pay attention to several criteria, namely:
- Fast and accurate (efficiency of set temperature) is one of the most important criteria when choosing a pellet grill. When preparing your BBQ dishes, you need to control the temperature and be able to select the desired mode with ease.
The most accurate temperature setting belongs to the Traeger Ranger Grill (review), which is equipped with a digital controller to set the exact temperature. Getting to the set temperature quickly is easy for the Traeger Tailgater 20 (review) because of the Digital Arc controller and the Advanced Grilling Logic. Other pellet grills also perform well in this category, but all of them need to control the temperature earlier on and react differently to temperature changes.
- Size. How many people are you planning to cook for? Will you invite your friends or throw parties? Or maybe you are going on a hiking trip? We looked at the most popular size requests for a pellet grill and concluded that they are most often for a company of 4-6 people. Also during the coronavirus period, local tourism and outdoor recreation are gaining more and more popularity.
For a company of 4-6 people, the Z GRILLS ZPG-450A (review), the Traeger Tailgater 20 (review), and the Davy Crockett Green Mountain (review) are perfect. The main cooking space is sufficient to feed a family. These are medium-sized grills and do not take up much space. If you are looking for a larger grill, you should pay attention to the Z GRILLS ZPG-7002B (review). This grill is designed for 8-12 people and is ideal for BBQ-parties and a large get-together with friends.
- Easy to use and clean. This is also an important factor when choosing a pellet grill.
Many pellet grills have a special container for used fuel, which makes the cleaning process easier. A good example is the Z GRILLS ZPG-7002B (review). This grill has a grease collector that prevents the grease from accumulating.
A detailed review of each model:
Z GRILLS ZPG-450A — The most comfortable to move
- Comfortable to move around the yard
- Strong and sturdy build
- ‘Woodfire’ technology to reach target temperature quickly and accurately
- Easy to use and clean
- There is no door in the pellet hopper (fewer joints where moisture can get in and damage the pellets)
- No hole for a meat probe
If you are looking for a durable pellet grill with sturdy construction — the Z GRILLS ZPG-450A is for you. A distinctive feature of this grill is the comfort of its movement. If it starts raining, you do not have to worry about wet pellets and how you will clean them. The grill can be moved to a more convenient location using the wheels, which do an excellent job. Good quality tires are rubber tires with a plastic center.
This is the smallest pellet grill in the Z GRILLS line. For comparison, the main cooking area of the Z GRILLS ZPG-7002B (review) is 1.5 times bigger than in this model. However, this is sufficient for a family of 4 people. This grill has two racks and can hold 3 chickens, 18 burgers, or 4 ribs. If you have unexpected guests, do not worry, because there is enough grilling space. The advantage of the small size is also a lower consumption of pellets since you need to heat a smaller area. [su_tooltip style=”bootstrap” position=”west” size=”3″ content=”The pellet hopper is a storage and dispensing system for wood pellets.”] The pellet hopper[/su_tooltip] capacity is 15 pounds, which is enough for 15- 20 grill uses.
The maximum temperature that the grill can reach is 450 °F (232°C). Preheating typically takes 45 minutes to an hour. This is a very good result for these types of grills, but if you need faster heating, then you can take a look at the Traeger Tailgater 20 (review) that provides faster heating compared to this grill.
Traeger Tailgater 20 — The quickest cooking
- The quickest to heat up
- Retains the temperature well
- Ease of assembly
- Digital arc controller that allows you to set the temperature in 5-degree increments and provides an accurate temperature control
- Porcelain-coated grill grates for easy cleaning
- More lightweight compared to Z GRILLS ZPG-450A (review) and Z GRILLS ZPG-7002B (review)
- Legs are flimsy
- There have been cases where the outside of the grill has cracked when it was heated at a high temperature
The Traeger Tailgater 20 is for small or confined open spaces.
The Traeger Tailgater 20 heats up the quickest compared to other pellet grills on the list. On a sunny day with the lid closed, it will be ready for use in 15-20 minutes and that is three times faster than the Z GRILLS ZPG-450A (review). Besides, it does an excellent job of controlling the temperature, thanks to the digital arc controller.
This grill can be used as a mobile BBQ grill for tailgate parties. But if you plan to take this pellet grill with you on the road, you will need a power source (generator) or inverter. When folded, this grill is about 20 inches high, making it great for transportation. However, if you are looking for a highly portable grill, it is better to pay attention to the Traeger Ranger (review). Keep in mind that the Tailgater 20 has 50% more cooking space. Also, the Ranger is not very tall, which limits cooking.[su_tooltip style=”bootstrap” position=”west” size=”3″ content=”The pellet hopper is a storage and dispensing system for wood pellets.”]The pellet hopper[/su_tooltip] has a smaller capacity compared to the Z GRILLS ZPG-7002B (review) at just 8 pounds, but it is enough to prepare 2 chickens, 3 ribs, or 12 burgers for a small family.
Z GRILLS ZPG-7002B — The best for a big company
- Large main cooking area, which is perfect for a large company
- Durable quality
- Comes with a weather-resistant cover
- Cooks evenly in contrast to the Traeger Tailgater 20 (review), where the left side of the grill (above the firebox) is noticeably hotter
- High-quality porcelain paint that does not wear off
- The design is more of a rectangle shape than a round/ oval shape (difficult to make a beer-butt chicken and stand the chicken upright without coming close or touching the top of the smoker)
- A thermometer is sold separately
- Takes some time to assemble
This grill is a great option for a large company because the main cooking area is 504 sq. inch, which is 1.5 times more than the Traeger Tailgater 20 (review) and almost 3 times more than the Traeger Ranger Grill (review). Therefore, this grill is the largest on the list. Z GRILLS ZPG-7002B can cook 5 chickens, 6 ribs, or 29 burgers at the same time, which is more than enough for a large party.
Another feature that distinguishes this grill is its great temperature retaining feature. This allows even cooking of the meat, which is not the case with the Traeger Tailgater 20, which has a noticeably hotter left side of the wire rack.
The automatic electric feeding system installed in the grill feeds pellets as needed and provides temperature control to +/- 10 degrees from the set temperature. But it is also worth paying attention to the external factor — weather conditions because they affect the temperature too.
Traeger Ranger Grill —The best for travelers
- Lightweight and portable
- Compact size
- Built-in meat probe that helps control and maintain a safe temperature
- Included cast iron griddle
- Cooking timer
- Rubber feet fall off often
The Traeger Ranger Grill is a great option for full-time RV travelers. This is a tabletop grill that maintains the temperature well, shuts down, and saves any unused pellets for next time. For safe transportation, the grill lid is equipped with secure locks. Also, these clips are great for keeping smoke in. The grill has ventilation on the back and the sides, so you do not need to worry about smoke concerns.
A special feature of this grill is that the [su_tooltip style=”bootstrap” position=”west” size=”3″ content=”the pellet hopper is a storage and dispensing system for wood pellets.”] pellet hopper[/su_tooltip] is located inside the grill. Opening the lid reveals a small 8-pound hopper where you put the pellets. The hopper handle does not heat up, which is very convenient when you need to add pellets since it prevents you from getting burnt.
Despite its small cooking area compared to the Z GRILLS ZPG-7002B (3 times larger than the Traeger Ranger), you can cook one rack of ribs, 6 burgers, or 8 hot dogs at a time. This is enough for two people. Also included is a cast iron frying pan that you can use to cook omelets, fish, vegetables, and other treats.
If you are looking for a compact pellet grill with a user-friendly interface, as opposed to the more complex Davy Crockett Green Mountain (review) interface, then this grill for you.
Davy Crockett Green Mountain – Best value for money
Item Weight (pounds):
29.92 x 14.96 x 21.65
|Benefits:||- The easiest to control temperature (Wi-Fi control)
- Can be powered from a car battery or car
electrical plug/cigarette lighter
- The most affordable price
- Temperature control that allows programming of exact temperatures
- [su_tooltip style=”bootstrap” position=”west” size=”3″ content=”A PID controller is a device that helps you better maintain temperature balance without having to constantly open and close your grill.”] PID controller[/su_tooltip] for precision temperature control
- Duration of use (no signs of corrosion or wearing out)
- Amazing mobile app for control
- Folding legs
- Poor in keeping consistent temperature compared to the Z GRILLS ZPG-7002B
- Zero insulation (using it in the winter means a lot of the heat is lost to the air resulting in increased pellet consumption). Retaining the temperature will require a set of thermal blankets
- Complex interface, unlike in the Traeger Ranger Grill (review)
The price of this grill is 1-1.5 times less than the grills presented on the list, which makes it the cheapest grill. Despite this, the Davy Crockett Green Mountain pleases with the quality of food preparation.
Via Wi-Fi temperature control, this grill allows you to program the temperature using its app, but with the Digital arc controller found in the Traeger Tailgater 20 (review), temperature control is more accurate. This grill, in contrast to the Traeger Ranger Grill (review), has Wi-Fi GMG Smart Control. 80% of grill users said the mobile app worked amazingly well. Not only can you operate your grill from anywhere, but you can also create profiles with steps and instructions so you can improve and enhance your grilling experience.
This smoker is designed for relatively light smoking and cooking for 2 to 6 people in contrast to the Z GRILLS ZPG-7002B (review), which is designed for 8-12 people. The grill does not consume a lot of energy and can run on a battery power for about two hours, which is more than enough for making burgers or steaks.
The included temperature sensor is a nice addition. You can check the internal temperature of your food without opening the lid and it even notifies you when the food is ready. It works like a built-in Bluetooth probe.
Typical mistakes while using a pellet grill
- Worrying about temperature fluctuations.
No matter what temperature controller you have, know that you will have temporary fluctuations and this is normal (+/- 20 degrees Fahrenheit). Cooking is an art, there are no hard and fast rules.
- Not stirring your pellets.
It is necessary to stir the pellets at least every 45 minutes or so to make sure that the pellets are evenly spaced for automatic feeding to the auger. After all, if the process stops, it may result in a fire.
- Not cleaning your ash pot.
If you do not clean your ash pot, you are going to risk a fire, which can lead to an explosion and damage the grill. It is advised to clean the ash immediately after use to prevent accumulation.
- Forgetting to clean out the dripping tracks.
Residues of fat droplets flowing into the bucket remain on the grill walls and accumulate along with the debris, which can eventually cause the grill to flash as a fire can ignite the fat and cause a fire. Therefore, you need to clean the grill once a month to avoid this problem.
Maximize your cooking and cleaning: pellet grill accessories for the best experience
Meat thermometer for smoker grill
Temperature control with the ThermoPro TP20 BBQ probe is a great way to know exactly how well your meat is cooking.
Champion Power Equipment
You no longer need to worry about power cuts – this generator will be a godsend.
POTEK 500W Power Inverter
The POTEK 500W is an ideal option for buyers looking at power inverters that are properly sized for a car and keep the energy flowing to a slew of electronics and hand-held devices.
Thermal insulation blanket
Stanbroil BBQ Grill Thermal Insulation Blanket
Cold weather is no longer a hindrance to grilling food. Enjoy your cooking and forget worrying about temperature changes.
This is a premium brush that is perfect for both regular grooming and a deep, long-standing scrub. It can handle just about anything you throw at it and will greatly simplify the somewhat difficult task of keeping your grill clean.
Set of 2 BBQ Grill Scrubbers – thick scouring pad with a handle
Quickly remove dirt from the grill surface with a grill brush. Great for scratch-free cleaning of the grill.
Non-stick spray for grills
Pam Grilling No-Stick Cooking Spray
You no longer need to worry about burnt grill grates. This spray minimizes food adhesion and speeds up the cleaning process.
DripEZ Drip Pans for pellet grills
If cleaning your grill is your least favorite part of using it, then lining the drip-pan comes in handy.
Citrusafe Grill Cleaning Spray – BBQ Grid and Grill Grate Cleaner
There is no need to delay cleaning your grill anymore — it can be done quickly with this clean agent spray.
Planning a delicious dinner after work, or a weekend party? Or, maybe you have to feed your guests outside? The pellet grill is the best device for you. With it, you can enjoy juicy meats, fish, vegetables, and many other great smoked dishes.
When choosing a pellet grill, start by paying attention to the ability to set the temperature both quickly and accurately. Also consider the size of your pellet grills, because if you have a large family or are planning parties, you will need a bigger grill. We also advise you to pay attention to the ease of use and cleaning, and the material from which the grill is made to be sure of its quality and long-term use.
Our top-5 pellet grills under $500 are based on these criteria and include the following models:
|Z GRILLS ZPG-450A||The most comfortable to move|
|Traeger Tailgater 20||The quickest cooking|
|Z GRILLS ZPG-7002B||The best for a large gathering|
|Traeger Ranger Grill||The best for travelers|
|Davy Crockett Green Mountain Sense |
Mate Electric Wi-Fi Control
|Best value for money|
☑️ How much electricity does a pellet grill use?
The largest amount of electricity is consumed in the first few minutes. The metal rod placed in the middle of the grill must be as hot as possible to ignite the first set of pellets. This requires approximately 300 watts.
📔 Do pellet grills use gas?
No, pellet grills require an electrical connection. However, the electricity is not used to generate the heat. The heat is created by burning pellets — small wood cylinders made from hardwoods.
✏️ What is the advantage of a pellet grill?
– Versatility: food can be baked, smoked, and fried
– Practically nothing needs to be done — fill the pellets, set the required temperature, and you are ready for a BBQ
– Experiments with the taste and smell of food — you can choose granules with a flavor
📝 What can you use to clean a pellet grill?
Use a cleaning agent to clean your pellet grills, but it must not be very concentrated. Use a brush to clean the grill grates and then wipe with a damp sponge. You can also use scrapers for added convenience. After the grill is dry, spray the grates with a non-stick spray.