Best Vertical Pellet Smoker in 2021 (5 Contenders)


Hi, I’m Chris I started PelHeat.com back in 2007.

So with this post, I want to specifically discuss vertical pellet smokers. If you are not sure if a vertical smoker is your best option, check out my horizontal vs vertical pellet smoker article. In the simplest terms, where a horizontal pellet grill can both grill and smoke, a vertical pellet smoker is designed for purely ‘low and slow’ smoking/cooking. Below we are going to look at the most advanced and largest vertical pellet smokers currently on the market from brands such as Pit Boss, Camp Chef and Cookshack. However, I’ll also link to my other articles on the best vertical pellet smokers for a set budget.

Best Vertical Pellet Smokers
The five contenders for the best vertical pellet smoker currently on the market

Disclaimer: Hey! By the way… any links on this page that lead to products on Amazon or other sites are affiliate links and I earn a commission if you make a purchase.

In a rush? Jump to my conclusion on what I think is currently the best vertical pellet smoker considering features such as temperature control technology, cooking area and hopper capacity.

Introduction To Vertical Wood Pellet Smokers

As I’ve stated above, this article is focused on the best vertical pellet smokers. In the future, I will be writing set budget-related articles, for instance, the best vertical pellet smoker under $500. However, for the moment, this article is focused on the best overall vertical pellet smoker.

1st Contender – Camp Chef XXL WiFi

The Camp Chef SmokePro and Woodwind models are very popular mid-range/premium horizontal pellet grills and their vertical pellet smoker is also one of the most popular currently available. The Camp Chef vertical pellet smoker is now in its second generation and fitted with the Gen 2 PID/WiFi control panel.

Camp Chef XXL WiFi Vertical Pellet Smoker
The XXL WiFi also benefits from Cam Chef’s patented easy ash cleanout pot: Images – CampChef.com

In my previous article on the Camp Chef Vertical XXL WiFi I discussed how the control panel upgrade which links to the Camp Chef Connect App provides a lot of extra utility and functionality. So let’s see how it compares to the rest of the contenders below.

Camp Chef XXL WiFi Key Features

  • Total Cooking Area = 2,408 sq.in (over 8 racks)
  • Pellet Hopper Capacity = 18 lbs
  • Temperature Range = 150 to 350 degrees
  • PID Temperature Control? = Yes
  • WiFi/App Control? = Yes
  • Typical Price = $729 to $765
  • Availability = CampChef.com & BBQGuys.com

2nd Contender – Cookshack FEC100

If you are looking for a made in the USA vertical pellet smoker, well the only contender which that applies to is the Cookshack FEC100. However, along with fact that this is also a full stainless steel vertical pellet smoker, its significantly more expensive than the rest of the contenders.

Cookshack FEC100 Vertical Pellet Smoker
The Cookshack FEC100 is currently the only full stainless steel vertical pellet smoker on the market: Images – BBQGuys.com

As I’ve previously discussed in my Cookshack article, they are producing some really high-quality equipment. However, for their price point, I would really expect them to be fitted PID/WiFi-enabled control panels which currently isn’t the case. However, the FEC100 is a proven performer which has been on the market for over a decade.

Fast Eddy, the designer of the Cookshack FEC100 vertical pellet smoker showing it in action

Cookshack FEC100 Key Features

  • Total Cooking Area = 1,564 sq.in (over 4 racks)
  • Pellet Hopper Capacity = 20 lbs
  • Temperature Range = 140 to 400 degrees
  • PID Temperature Control? = No
  • WiFi/App Control? = No
  • Typical Price = $5,285
  • Availability = BBQGuys.com

3rd Contender – Louisiana Grills 7-Series

Louisiana Grills is the premium brand of Danson LLC, Pit Boss (below) is their more budget-focused brand. The Louisiana Grills 7-Series vertical pellet smoker has been available for quite a few years now, as such it is not fitted with the latest control panel technology.

Louisiana Grills 7-Series Vertical Pellet Smoker
The Louisiana Grills 7-Series is yet to be updated with their latest PID/WiFi control panel: Images – Louisiana-Grills.com

While the 7-Series has a reasonably competitive cooking area and a very large pellet hopper capacity to meet the needs of any smoking session, for the price it now struggles when compared to the other contenders. As such, the Louisiana Grills 7-Series vertical pellet smoker is in need of an update.

Louisiana Grills 7-Series Key Features

  • Total Cooking Area = 2,059 sq.in (over 6 racks)
  • Pellet Hopper Capacity = 60 lbs
  • Temperature Range = 150 to 450 degrees
  • PID Temperature Control? = No
  • WiFi/App Control? = No
  • Typical Price = $849
  • Availability = Louisiana-Grills.com

4th Contender – Pit Boss Pro Series II 4-Series

The model name of this vertical pellet smoker from Pit Boss is a little confusing, so let me explain. The Pit Boss Pro Series is now in its second generation (Series II) the 4-Series refers to the fact this is a 4 rack smoker. Being a second-generation Pro Series this unit is fitted with their latest PID/WiFi control panel.

Pit Boss Pro Series II 4-Series Vertical Pellet Smoker
The Pit Boss Pro Series II 4-Series is a mid-sized vertical pellet smoker: Images – Lowes.com

As with all Pit Boss Pro Series models as I discuss in my Traeger vs Pit Boss article, they are a Lowes exclusive product range. Therefore, there is no shopping around for the best price, its whatever Lowes is selling them for. You can also not purchase Pro Series models directly from Pit Boss either.

Pit Boss Pro Series Key Features

  • Total Cooking Area = 1,077 sq.in (over 4 racks)
  • Pellet Hopper Capacity = 65 lbs
  • Temperature Range = 150 to 420 degrees
  • PID Temperature Control? = Yes
  • WiFi/App Control? = Yes
  • Typical Price = $449
  • Availability = Lowes.com

5th Contender – Pit Boss Platinum Brunswick

The second Pit Boss vertical smoker in this comparison is the Brunswick which is part of the Pit Boss Platinum Series which is exclusive to Walmart. While of a similar size to the Pit Boss Pro Series smoker, there are some important differences.

Pit Boss Platinum Series Brunswick Vertical Pellet Smoker
The Pit Boss Brunswick vertical pellet smoker offers a split door design: Images – Walmart.com

The Brunswick is the only vertical pellet smoker of the contenders to feature a split door design. The advantage being with smaller cuts of meat its possible to tend to the meat by opening just one door and not letting out as much heat/smoke.

Pit Boss Brunswick Key Features

  • Total Cooking Area = 1,164 (over 4 racks)
  • Pellet Hopper Capacity = 98 lbs
  • Temperature Range = 150 to 420 degrees
  • PID Temperature Control? = Yes
  • WiFi/App Control? = Yes
  • Typical Price = $497
  • Availability = Walmart.com

Round 1 – Temperature Control & Cooking Performance

Most of the contenders above are fitted with the latest PID technology for more accurate temperature control, such as the Camp Chef XXL, the Pit Bos Pro Series and the Pit Boss Brunswick vertical pellet smokers. However, the Louisiana Grills 7-Series and the Cookshack FEC100 are not currently fitted with PID technology.

Now, as I discuss in my PID article linked above, more accurate temperature control can come with less smoke production. However, its possible to design a PID control panel with software to add temperature swings resulting in more smoke production, as Camp Chef has done with their Smoke Control settings.

Importantly though, what PID technology can provide is temperature control and accuracy to within 5-degrees which is possible on the Camp Chef. While the Pit Boss products are fitted with PID technology as it currently stands their temperature control options are in 10-degree increments.

When it comes to smoking and temperature settings, how low the smoker can go is obviously relevant. Well, most of the contenders have 150 degrees as their lowest setting. However, the most premium option of the contenders the Cookshack FEC100 can go a little lower at 140 degrees.

Round 2 – Cooking Area & Hopper Capacity

When it comes to cooking area on the face of it there would appear to be a clear win for the Camp Chef XXL and its massive 2,408 sq.in. However, if you look at the images above and note that’s over 8 racks and there is far less vertical space over the racks compared to the other contenders. Hence, the Camp Chef over just 4 racks fitted is providing closer to 1,204 sq.in.

As a result, the Pit Boss Pro Series and Pit Boss Brunswick with 1,077 sq.in and 1,164 sq.in are not far off the cooking area capacity of the Camp Chef. In fact, over 4 racks, its the Louisiana Grills 7-Series and Cookshack FEC100 which are providing the most cooking area at 1,372 sq.in and 1,564 sq.in respectively.

When it comes to hopper capacities its the three Danson LLC products which offer significant size advantages. The Camp Chef and Cookshack are a little disappointing with 18 lbs and 20 lbs respectively. However, the Louisiana Grills 7-Series holds 60 lbs, the Pit Boss Pro Series holds 65 lbs and the Pit Boss Brunswick holds a bonkers 98 lbs.

Now, for an overnight smoking session in winter consumption could be around 2lbs per hour. Hence, over say 12 hours of unattended smoking, that may be an issue on the Camp Chef/Cookshack. It obviously would not be probably on the other contenders due to their, to be honest, overly large pellet hoppers. However, in spring/summer with lower pellet consumption, the Camp Chef hopper will last over 12 hours.

Round 3 – Pricing & Value

I do believe the Cookshack FEC100 is the best made and uses the best materials due to its full stainless steel construction, however, its price point of over $5,000 means it cannot be a general recommendation. Furthermore, as discussed above it is missing features such as PID temperature and WiFi functionality.

While the Louisiana Grills 7-Series offers the second-largest cooking area, with its lack of PID/WiFi and a typical price of over $800 I don’t think its offering great value for money. Especially compared to the other Danson LLC products above from Pit Boss which are likely made at the same factory.

The Pit Boss Pro Series and Pit Boss Brunswick may have smaller cooking areas compared to the other contenders but their PID/WiFi functionality and large pellet hoppers for under $500 does make them both good value. The Brunswick is a little more expensive, but it does offer the slightly larger cooking area and larger hopper.

The Camp Chef XXL currently has the most advanced PID temperature controller with adjustments of temperature in 5-degree increments and independent smoke control adjustment. Its 18lb pellet hopper is a little disappointing, though a relatively simple bit of DIY and that capacity could be increased.

Conclusion On The Best Vertical Pellet Smoker

So which of the above contenders would I recommend? Well, for under $500 I think the Pit Boss Brunswick is the best option, its PID/WiFi feature set and split door design and very large pellet hopper give it a lot of functionality at a relatively low price point.

If your budget can stretch a bit further, I think the Camp Chef XXL is worth considering. Yes, its 18lb pellet hopper is not ideal, but it is currently fitted with the best PID/WiFi control panel of the contenders and offers one of the largest cooking areas.

That’s it! I hope you found this article on the best vertical pellet smokes interesting/informative. If you would like to spend more time consider whether a vertical pellet smoker or horizontal pellet grill/smoker is your best option please check out my Wood Pellet Grill/Smoker Guide. Enjoy 🙂

Click above for our suggestion tool to help you find a pellet grill/smoker within your budget

A to Z List of Pellet Grill/Smoker Brands

A to Z List of Pellet Grill/Smoker Brands

Back in 2007 when I first become aware of pellet grills and smokers the only brand I was really aware of was Traeger. Traeger is really where this whole concept of cooking with pellets started in the 1980s. It was a ‘slow burner’ (pardon the pun) but since the 2010s is really when pellet grills and smokers started to get mainstream awareness, discussed alongside gas and charcoal grills. There are now over 30 pellet grill/smoker brands that I’m aware of, and the link above goes to my A to Z list of brands article.

Now, you may already be aware of a few of the other brands such as Pit Boss, Camp Chef, Z Grills and I’m sure you are aware of Weber, though you may not have known they have entered the pellet grill game. However, they are now many, many more brands to look into. Some may be what are commonly referred to as ‘Traeger clones’, but many others are offering their own unique designs and features.

A to Z List of The Best BBQ Wood Pellets

A pellet grill/smoker is only as good as the BBQ pellets you put into it. The type/quality of the BBQ wood pellets you use will impact temperature performance and smoke flavour. There are many pellet flavours including Apple, Hickory, Mapel, Oak and Walnut to name but a few. However, some brands are hardwood blended pellets whereas others are 100% single wood species.

In this article, I provide details on over 20 brands of BBQ wood pellets, their range of flavours, whether they are 100% single wood species or hardwood blended pellets, their typical price and where they are available. I also provide tips on how to get the best deal when buying BBQ wood pellets and how to test pellet quality. Finally, I discuss the new kid on the block, charcoal pellets and their special attributes compared to all other hardwood BBQ pellets.

Chris - PelHeat

Hi, I’m Chris. I started PelHeat.com back in 2007. This website is intended to be an educational resource on how pellets are made and their various uses. I hope you find the information useful.

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