If you are keen to own your first wood pellet grill but you’re on a tight budget there are now so many grills on the market it can be very confusing understanding what the differences are between different units. As Traeger started the whole idea of pellet grills back in the 1980s their name has become synonymous with the term pellet grill. However, there are now many other brands on the market. With this post, I want to discuss the best pellet grills available for under $500. Hence, the cheapest/entry level pellet grills on the market today. I recently came across the video below from Stove & Grill Parts For Less who produced a video on three pellet grills they found available for under $500 in the big box stores. I want to discuss the grills covered in this video along with some other options you could consider.
The video above from Stove & Grill Parts For Less is well-produced and they cover a lot of the key points you should be looking at when buying a pellet grill. In other words, not only the cooking area of the grill but also what is the temperature control panel capable of, how large is the pellet hopper etc. Below I’ll discuss my thoughts on the three pellet grills referenced in the video above along with some other pellet grills you could consider. Now the caveat. While the price of these grills were under $500 at the time of me writing this post (May 2020) prices do change, often down but sometimes up. Therefore, I’ll do my best to update this post over time, but please bear the above in mind.
All pellet grills available for under $500 will fall under the Economy/Budget class. If you are not sure on the different pellet grill classes I encourage you to read my post on how to choose the best pellet grill to suit your needs/budget. I also wish to point out that with this post I’m purely discussing pellet grill/smokers, not vertical units which can only smoke and not grill.
Traeger Pellet Grills For Under $500
In the video above a Traeger Eastwood 22 was found at Home Depot for under $500. The Eastwood is part of a collection of Traeger pellet grills based on their previous generation time-based temperature controllers and AC control systems as discussed in the video above. Traeger is now more focused on their D2 Direct Drive system installed in second-generation Pro Series, Ironwood and Timberline pellet grills. However, all of these grills retail for far more than $500, so they are not what I’ll be discussing in this post. There are a couple of different Traeger pellet grills you can still get today for under $500. They include models such as the Eastwood 22, Tailgater and Scout/Ranger pellet grills.
All of these pellet grills use Traegers previous-generation controllers. Though as shown in the video, you can also upgrade them with the Gen 1 Pro Series control panel. However, I should note the Tailgater and Ranger which is Traeger’s premium portable pellet grill actually uses their Digital Arc Controller which is more advanced with tighter temperature control than the standard controller fitted to the Eastwood 22 as seen in the video above.
As a general rule for all Traeger pellets below $500 you should expect good smoking/convection cooking performance, though their grilling/searing performance is limited. As these particular pellet grills will not get over 450 degrees, that’s not really hot enough to properly sear and leave pronounced grill marks etc. Also please note that no Traeger grill allows for direct flame broiling from the pellet fire as is the case on certain Pit Boss grills as is shown in the video above. Though I should also note, Pit Boss is not the only pellet grill manufacturer that provides for direct flame kiss from the pellet fire.
Pit Boss Pellet Grills For Under $500
As shown in the video above, Pit Boss offers some of the largest pellet grills for under $500. However, always take the cooking area figures provided by all pellet grill manufacturers with a ‘pinch of salt’. All pellet grills due to a single source of heat from the firepot will have areas on the cooking area hotter than others. They do not have heat same fairly even heat over the whole cooking surface often found with a propane grill with lots of individual flames under the cooking surface. Though I should also note more expensive pellet grills generally provide better heat spread.
My point is, while all pellet grills feature various heat deflector plates, there are still hotter and colder spots on the cooking surface which I’ll cover in a future post. So on pretty much every budget/economy pellet grill when cooking a lot of burgers you will have to be moving them around on the cooking surface during the cook. The 340 is the cheapest pellet grill produced by Pit Boss, if you check out their Amazon Storefront they also offer some of their larger 700 series units for less than $500.
Camp Chef Pellet Grills For Under $500
Camp Chef currently produces two ranges of pellet grills the SmokePro and Woodwind series. However, you will only be able to purchase a SmokePro model for under $500. Though the Pursuit 20 which is their compact/portable pellet grill is also available below this price point (just). The SmokePro range of pellet grills were the first line that Camp Chef brought to market. They included their patented ash removal feature under the firepot which is now found all Camp Chef pellet grills which makes it quick and easy to clean the pellet grill and dispose of ash after a cook.
If you only have $500 to spend on a pellet grill I think there are a couple of reasons why you should consider a Camp Chef SmokePro, besides the easy ash cleanout feature. A SmokePro is a grill you can upgrade over time to provide more features and better temperature control. So while you may only have $500 to spend now, in the future when you have some more spare cash you can improve your existing pellet grill. For instance, with a SmokePro model, you can add either the Sear Box or SideKick which provides the ability to high-temperature sear. Hence, you then truly have an ‘all in one’ pellet grill. You can use the pellet grill for ‘low and slow’ to get flavour into your food and then finish it off on the Sear Box/Side Kick.
Another reason you should consider a Camp Chef SmokePro is you can upgrade it with a Gen 2 PID/WiFi controller. A PID controller provides for much more accurate temperature/smoke control. Furthermore, the WiFi feature along with Camp Chef Connect means you can then control your grill and monitor the cook from anywhere with a WiFi/4G/5G connection. Hence, while a SmokePro may start out as a budget/economy pellet grill for under $500 over time with a SearBox/Side and Gen 2 PID/WiFi it becomes equivalent to a Practical/Premium Class pellet grill.
Z Grills Wood Pellet Grills For Under $500
Entering the market in 2016 Z Grills are a budget brand focused purely on low cost/affordable pellet grills. Hence they produce several products which are available for under $500. However, as I discuss in my post on Z Grills wood pellet grills these units will not reach temperatures higher than 450 degrees. Hence, as discussed with regards to Traeger pellet grill models priced under $500, you shouldn’t expect a Z Grill to have great searing performance.
Z Grills wood pellet grills start from as low as $350: Image – Amazon
However, the latest range of Z Grills the 6000 series does use a grease tray which allows for direct flame broiling/searing from the pellet fire below. On that particular model, searing performance will be improved. However, when cooking over direct flames from a pellet fire you do have to be careful with meats which contain a lot of grease/fat. Flare-ups on pellet grills are not as quick to put out as they are on gas grills. Therefore you do have to be very careful when using direct flame capabilities on some pellet grills. For instance, this became apparent with the launch of the Weber SmokeFire pellet grill range.
Green Mountain Grills (GMG) Pellet Grills Under £500
Established in 2008 Green Mountain Grills (often referred to as GMG) produce very capable wood pellet grills with good all-round features/specs. Now, I actually regard all GMG pellet grills as fitting in the higher specification Practical, not the Economy Class where all other sub $500 pellet grills are currently found. However, GMG does offer a pellet grill for under $500 and its one of their most popular grills due to its portable nature but advanced feature set. The pellet grill I’m referring to is the Davvy Crocket.
Part of what makes the Davvy Crocket so impressive for a pellet grill available for under $500 is that it features a PID/WiFi control panel. This means you get accurate and precise temperature control within a 5-degree range and the ability to control the grill with your phone via the GMG app. If you want to learn more about the features of the Davvy Crocket and why PID temperature controllers are better than basic time-based controllers please check out my post on GMG wood pellet grills.
Conclusions On Pellet Grills For Under $500
As you can see from the video above and my own comments on a few other pellet grills you currently have quite a few options if you are looking to purchase a pellet for under $500. Generally speaking as these are the cheapest pellet grills you can buy they are not going to include the latest and greatest pellet grill developments and innovations. However, what you should at least expect is to be able to purchase an excellent and convenient smoker to introduce you into the world of ‘low and slow’ cooking.
Personally, if I was going to purchase one of the grills listed above and I wanted a compact unit I would probably go with the GMG Davy Crockett for its PID/WiFi controller. However, if I wasn’t looking for a portable grill I would probably choose the CampChef SmokePro due to its future upgrade options with the Sear Box/Side Kick and Gen 2 PID/WiFi control panel.
That’s it! Thanks for reading, I hope you found the above useful if you are looking for a pellet grill for under $500. If you head over to the BBQGuys.com you can purchase any of the grills referenced above. There is also a range of vertical pellet smokers under $500 you may want to consider. If you want to step up your budget I have another post on the best pellet grills under $1,000. Or if you would like to research your options a bit more please check out my wood pellet grill/smoker guide. 🙂