The popularity of pellet grills has grown considerably in recent years. However, there is a general criticism of pellet grills that you may have heard ‘pellet grills don’t get hot enough to sear!’. Now, that’s a very general statement and its not true in many cases. However, some pellet grills, such as earlier generation Traeger pellet grills would not exceed 450 degrees. That’s not really hot enough to get a good sear going on steaks and burgers etc. Now, pellet grill searing performance can be improved with a set of GrillGrates which I’ll discuss in more detail below. However, what this post is mainly about is to highlight which pellet grills get the hottest and will provide the best searing performance out of the box/off the shelf.
Pit Boss pellet grills are generally regarded as providing the hottest temperatures of sub $500 pellet grills: Image – Amazon
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As I’ll discuss below, the pellet grills with the highest/hottest temperatures are Luxury Class pellet grills. However, those pellet grills are expensive and not everyone (include me) has over $2,000 to spend on a pellet grill. Therefore, below I’ll discuss which pellet grills under different price brackets have the hottest temperature settings. So I’ll discuss the hottest pellet grills under $500, under $1,000, under $2,000 and then the hottest Luxury Class pellet grills over $2,000. If you would like to learn more about the different pellet grill classes please check out my post on how to choose the best pellet grill for your needs and budget.
Introduction On The Hottest Wood Pellet Grills
Before I start to discuss which pellet grills can reach the hottest temperatures for different budgets, we need to discuss something. How hot a pellet grill/smoker can get is not just about what the highest number is on the temperature dial/display. For instance, Pit Boss pellet grills don’t get to the hottest temperatures because they have the highest temperature settings on their control panel. In fact, many Pit Boss pellet grills have the same maximum temperature setting as Traeger pellet grills at 450-500 degrees. The reason Pit Boss (and some other pellet grill brands) will exceed the maximum temperature setting on the control panel is due to direct flame searing/broiling.
Now, Pit Boss is by no means the only brand to offer direct flame broiling/searing. Its available on several Camp Chef pellet grills and others. Its just that Pit Boss are the second most well know pellet grill brand after Traeger. Therefore, Pit Boss is the most well-known brand that offers direct flame searing/broiling where the surface temperature of the grate may exceed 700 degrees. So you may be wondering, ‘why doesnt Traeger offer direct flame broiling?‘. And that’s a valid question. Its not because the pellet burn pot does reach the same temperatures as Pit Boss pellet grills or the combustion fan is less powerful etc. The reason is likely to do with the fact the user has to be very careful when direct flame broiling to avoid issues with flare-ups/grease fires. Hence, allowing such a feature as direct flame searing does add an element of risk for the pellet grill manufacturer.
That’s not to say direct flame broiling is a feature you will never see on a Traeger. Take Green Mountain Grills (GMG) as an example, each of their pellet grills can direct-flame sear if you specifically ask for the optional accessory grease tray with the required holes, however, its not provided as standard. Why, well Green Mountain Grills only wants customers to have access to direct-flame grilling who fully appreciate the risks. So Traeger may adopt a similar sales strategy in the future. In the meantime, a way to significantly improve the searing/broiling performance of any pellet grill that does not provide a flame broiling feature is to fit a set of GrillGrates.
GrillGrates fitted to any pellet grill can increase the surface cooking temperature by another 100-200 degrees: Image – Amazon
The Difference Between Indirect and Direct Heat
The temperature dial on all pellet grills is the reading from an internal thermostat (thermocouple) positioned within the cooking chamber. In other words, its the temperature of the air within the cooking chamber. So the highest temperature setting on a pellet grills control panel is the highest temperature which will be achieved for in-direct/convection cooking. Essentially the same method of cooking as your kitchen oven.
This type of thermometer/thermocouple found in every pellet grill cooking chamber tells the control panel the indirect temperature within the grill: Image – Amazon
However, the other form of heat your pellet grill is providing is direct heat. In other words, how hot is the main grate able to get on the pellet grill? As discussed above, if the pellet grill provides the option of direct flame broiling/searing the grate surface is going to get hotter than a pellet grill without that feature. Though as also referenced above, a set of aluminium GrillGrill grates can also provide a much hotter (direct heat) cooking surface temperature. You will also find that pellet grills that come with cast-iron cooking grates apposed to thin wire racks will provide higher direct heat temperatures. The reason is, like the GrillGrates, cast-iron grates can hold heat much better.
How Can You Measure The Direct Heat Of A Pellet Grill?
So below I’m going to discuss the indirect maximum temperature settings of different pellet grills for different budgets. However, what about direct heat temperatures? In other words, how can you measure the temperature at the grate (direct heat). Well, the easiest way to do that is with an Infra-red (IR) heat gun. You simply aim the gun at the grate, pull the trigger and it will tell you the surface temperature of the grate. Now, depending on the location/position of the pellet burn pot on the pellet grill there will be colder and hotter spots across the surface of the grate. This can also be tested/demonstrated with the ‘biscuit test’. I’ll be writing another post in the future on this topic with some more specific figures on direct heat capabilities of different pellet grills. For now, this post is mainly focused on the in-direct maximum temperature settings of different pellet grills for different budgets.
A cheap infra-red (IR) heat gun is the best tool to measure the direct heat/grate surface temperature on a wood pellet grill: Image – Amazon
Hottest Pellet Grills Under $500
So as referenced above, under $500 for the hottest pellet grills you could consider a Pit Boss pellet grill with flame broiling. In terms of in-direct temperature, the budget line of Pit Boss pellet grills is nothing to shout about, with a maximum temperature setting of 450 degrees. However, as discussed above ‘most’ Pit Boss pellet grills offer flame broiling which will provide a cooking surface temperature potentially up to 700 degrees. However, it should be noted some of the cheapest models such as Pit Boss 340 don’t actually offer flame broiling, so its not a universal feature on all budget Pit Boss pellet grills.
A relatively new player to the pellet grill game is Oklahoma Joe’s. For under $500 the Rider 900 is available with direct flame broiling/searing capabilities which again should be up to 700 degrees. However, the Rider 900 does a higher temperature setting of 500 degrees on the control panel. Hence, it has a higher in-direct temperature setting over the current budget Pit Boss range. Another pellet grill worth considering under $500 that also offers in-direct heat up to 500 degrees and flame broiling for higher direct temps is the GMG Davy Crockett. This is a portable pellet grill, therefore the cooking area will be less compared to the pellet grills from Pit Boss or Oklahoma Joe’s. However, the GMG Davy Crocket actually has a much better control panel (PID and WiFi).
Now as standard, as discussed above GMG do not provide a perforated grease tray to enable direct flame broiling/searing as standard. It would have to be purchased separately. However, as the GMG Davy Crockett costs significantly under $500 (typically around $350) you can purchase the additional perforated grease tray and their Sear Kit (GrillGrates) and still be under $500.
Hottest Pellet Grills Under $1,000
If you have a larger budget up to $1,000 to spend there are several more options to choose from. For instance, you could consider one of the Pit Boss Platinum Series. Available as either a combined horizontal pellet grill with vertical smoker cabinet or a combination pellet/gas grill, both options offering direct flame broiling over the pellet fire. Now, the gas side of the Pit Boss KC Combo grill will achieve even higher temperatures than the pellet grill, even when direct-flame is enabled. As the gas grill surface temperatures will get up 900 degrees. Therefore, more of these pellet/gas combination grills are coming onto the market. Cuisinart also offers a pellet/gas combination grill (Twin Oaks) and Camp Chef have their propane Sear Box/Sidekick attachments which can be fitted to either SmokePro or Woodwind models.
Another new player to the market offering a high in-direct heat setting of 600 degrees is Broil King with their Baron and Regal pellet grills. While these pellet grills do feature cast-iron grates which will hold heat very well, direct-flame is not available on these pellet grills. However, as stated above, that also means pretty much a zero risk of a grease fire. Therefore, it could be argued as the Broil King pellet grill range has a such a high heat setting of 600 degrees and cast-iron grates does it really need a direct-flame feature? After all, with direct-flame not only is there an increased risk of grease fires, its also much easier to dry out and burn the food, which is obviously not ideal. Another option under $1,000 which offers a 600-degree in-direct temperature setting and direct-flames is the Weber SmokerFire. However, the current version of the SmokerFire is an example of the risks with offering direct flame access, with many reports of customers experiencing issues.
Hottest Pellet Grills Under $2,000
With a budget up to $2,000 there are two pellet grills that I want to draw your attention to. Not only are both of these pellet grills stainless steel, but they are both notably made in the USA. They are the Cookshack PG500 and the Memphis Grills Beale Street. The Cookshack PG500 is the cheaper of the two, currently retailing at just over $1,800. The Cookshack PG500 does offer direct-flame access to the pellet fire and the control panel offers an in-direct maximum temperature setting of 600 degrees. Hence, a very capable pellet grill. What I particularly like about the Cookshack pellet grills (besides being stainless steel) is they provide a cold smoking draw. Its a feature not found on my wood pellets grills at the moment. Cold smoking is obviously not directly relevant to what we are discussing with this post about pellet grills with the ‘hottest’ temperatures. However, I think cold smoking is a feature more people would enjoy.
The Memphis Grills Beale Street is quite simply one of, if not the best pellet grill you can get for under $2,000 (just). Its a very sleek looking pellet grill in polished stainless steel. In terms of in-direct heat, the maximum temperature setting on Beale Street is 550 degrees, therefore not quite as high as the Cookshack PG500 at 600 degrees. Though the Beale Street does provide direct-flame access, so again the searing performance will be similar to the Cookshack PG500. What I should note is the Beale Street does have a WiFi-enabled control panel, unlike the Cookshack PG500 (currently).
Hottest Luxury Wood Pellet Grills
If you have over $2,000 to spend on a wood pellet grill which pellet grills provide the hottest in-direct/direct temperatures? Well, there are other pellet grills from Memphis and Cookshack to consider which do offer higher temperature settings above the PB500 and Beale Street, however, they are not the hottest pellet grills. An honourable mention goes to Coyote pellet grills which offer a very impressive maximum temperature setting of 700 degrees! But again, they are are not currently the hottest pellet grills. That honour goes to Twin Eagles, as their pellet grills have a 725-degree temperature setting. The Twin Eagles pellet grills also have a charcoal basket insert which fits just under the grate. Why would you want to put a charcoal basket on a pellet grill? Well, with the forced air pellet fire underneath that charcoal basket it results in a cooking grate surface temperature of between 1,000 and 1,500 degrees! Hence, the Twin Eagles pellet grills currently offer the highest/hottest cooking temperatures on the market.
Conclusions On The ‘Hottest’ Pellet Grills On Market
So there is a couple of things I would like you to take away from reading this article. First, is with a pellet grill you need to appreciate the difference between its in-direct heat capabilities (convection cooking) and its direct heat capabilities (searing performance). Even if a pellet grill does not offer direct-flame capabilities, that doesnt mean it cannot offer good searing performance. If the pellet grill has cast-iron grates that will help with searing performance. If not, you can add in a set of GrillGrates and you’re golden! I wouldn’t recommend choosing a pellet grill within your budget purely on which one offers the highest in-direct and direct temperatures. There is so much more to choosing the best pellet grill for your needs, from its cooking area, control panel (PID/WiFi) and general build quality/materials.
That’s it! Thanks for reading, I hope you found this article interesting on the which pellet grills offer the hottest cooking temperatures within the different price brackets. As I’ve stated above, there is so much more to choosing the best pellet grill your needs/budget. Therefore, please check out my Wood Pellet Grill/Smoker Guide to learn more. 🙂