Best Traeger Alternatives of 2020 — Complete Round-up


traeger alternatives can still cook brisket this good

There’s no doubt about it — the Traeger brand is a force to be reckoned with. They’ve built a reputation as a quality, high-tech grill/smoker company. For good reason — you’ll find no shortage of pit-masters, hunters, and meat enthusiasts singing their praises. However, that quality and reputation comes at a premium price. If you’re like me, you’re interested in finding a wood pellet smoker with comparable features, but without a comparable cost! After days of research, I’m proud to report that these are the best Traeger alternatives you can buy today.

Why Pick A Traeger Alternative

After reading my gushing praise for the Treager line of products, you may be wondering why you might want to pick a Traeger alternative at all. Well, there are two main reasons.

To start, Traeger is no longer the only game in town when it comes to wood pellet smokers. Until 2006, they owned the patent on the technology and no other companies could make wood pellet fueled grills. Since that date, more and more companies have entered the scene. The increased competition has actually risen the quality of all smoker brands! To keep that competition going, it’s completely rational to choose a Traeger competitor.

Additionally, the price of the competition is typically more appealing. It’s not a hard rule, but you can often get more grill for the same amount of money (If you read my guide on Weber grill alternatives from earlier in the month, this reason should sound familiar!). This can mean more cooking space and better features. This still leaves a major question though: with an internet full of folks who want to separate you from your hard-earned cash, which should you pick?

What Makes Traeger Smokers Great

To answer this, we first have to define what makes a Traeger pellet grill/smoker so special in the first place. I think of a Traeger smoker, I think of a few distinct attributes.

  • Solid construction
  • Ease of use
  • Fine-grained temperature control
  • Consistent cooks

Naturally, wood pellet fueled is also on that list. If you’re not familiar with the Traeger line of products, you may be wondering what gives them this impressive collection of accolades. I’ll try to briefly explain before we dig into which Traeger alternatives are worth considering.

Solid Construction

Traeger grills are well-made and built to to last for decades. From the Traeger site, they’ve even withstood direct hits by a falling tree without collapsing (source). Additionally, they stand by their construction with a 3-year warranty and an entire year of customer service. If you own a Traeger and take care of it, it’ll last you through the ages. As we look for our alternative smoker, we want to make sure it at least comes close to this kind of heavy-duty construction.

Ease of Use

Another hallmark of the Traeger brand is their attention to detail when it comes to making their products easy to use. No matter your level of experience, a Traeger grill makes it easy to attain similar results as barbecue professionals. In addition to dead-simple controls, Traeger has an ecosystem of recipes and guides to help make sure your meat is perfect every time. Luckily, we can still use their information no matter which smoker we pick! But in a worthy alternative, we want the grill unit to carry a similar level of simplicity.

Fine-Grained Temperature Control

One of the reasons Traeger smokers are so easy to use is because they have such accurate temperature control. A simple turn of a knob can adjust the temperature of your smoker by as little as 5 degrees Fahrenheit. When it comes to smoking brisket or ribs low and slow, 5 degrees can make a huge difference! In a Traeger smoker alternative, we expect the same level of temperature precision.

Consistent Results

Finally, the temperature control offers the benefit of consistent results, every single time. If you’ve ever tried to smoke a brisket using charcoal and wood chunks, you’ll know that the slight differences in temperature can change the outcome of a cook tremendously. Of course, all it takes is practice to get used to a charcoal cook. However, Traeger offers the unique benefit of being foolproof. If you follow the same directions with the same cut/weight of meat, you’ll get the same results. We want this kind of consistency in whatever Traeger alternative we choose.

Alternative Smoker Brands

Let’s go ahead and dive into the different brands of wood pellet smokers we’ll be examining today.

Company NameYear FoundedWarranty
Camp Chef19913 years
Green Mountain Grills 20063 years
Rec-Tec20094-6 years
Z GRILLS20173 years

Most of the smoker brands we’ll be evaluating have been in business a minimum of 10 years. The glaring exception is Z GRILLS, which seemed to pop into the marketplace just two years ago. They all meet Traeger’s 3 year warranty. Rec-tec, being a newer player on the scene, offers up to an impressive 6 year warranty. If you’re looking for a Traeger alternative with a good warranty, the Rec-Tec models below may be exactly what the pit-master ordered (they’re also great for other reasons, but I won’t spoil it just yet).

Traeger Wood Pellet Smoker Alternatives

First, I’m going to give an overview of all the smokers we’ll be covering. This is so you can see the top-level stats without needing to dive into each individual review. I’m not the type to bury the lede, so let’s dive right in.

BrandModelCurrent PriceWi-FiCooking AreaMax Temp
Rec-TecRT-340$763.14Yes511 sq inches500 F
Rec-TecRT-590Price not availableYes772 sq inches500 F
Green Mountain GrillsDavy Crockett Yes219 sq inches550 F
Z GRILLSZPG-7002E$509.00 No700 sq inches450 F
Camp ChefSmokePro PG24MZG$581.31 No811 sq inches500 F
Camp ChefSmokePro SGX$899.99 No1236 sq inches500 F

I tried to pick Traeger alternatives that would cover many features and price points. I’m not going to presume the kind of thing that drew you to a Traeger in the first place, so I won’t presume to know the kind of thing that you’ll want in one of it’s alternatives. Whether you’re looking for something cheap, portable, heavy-duty, or a smart smoker with WiFi, this list should have you covered. Without further ado, here are the smokers!

Rec-Tec RT-340 — Best Overall

If you can get past the sticker shock, Rec-Tec’s mid-tier smoker is a fantastic Traeger alternative. The RT-340 only sports a modest 511 sq inches of cooking surface, but manages to get the top spot on our list for a few reasons. For one, this is a 95% feature complete Traeger alternative. You sacrifice nothing but a small amount of cooking area when picking this Rec-Tec workhorse. It even includes Wi-Fi, a feature most of these models are missing.

The Rec-Tec makes up for the smaller cooking area by being slightly better at the following:

  1. A cheaper price than the equivalent Traeger Pro 575. The model we linked is a bundle that includes 80 lbs of wood pellets, a cover, and grill mats.
  2. The Rec-Tec warranty is an impressive 6 years instead of Traeger’s 3, as we mentioned above.

Overall, I was nothing but impressed with this model and won’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking for a Traeger alternative with feature parity.


Rec-Tec RT-590 — Best Upgrade

With this Rec-Tec model, I wanted to include an upgraded option to the standard Traeger alternatives you might find. This is the big brother of the RT-590, and it carries the exact same pros and cons as the RT-340, just with ~250 more square inches of cooking area.

Unfortunately, this still puts it slightly below the Traeger model of the same class. However, the Rec-Tec beats the Traeger Pro 780 on price and warranty again. However, instead of the 6 years offered by the RT-340, the RT-590 only has 4 years. This is still longer than the Traeger warranty, but it’s worth noting.

Green Mountain Grill Davy Crockett — Best Portable

Finally, we come to cheaper Traeger alternative that won’t cost an arm and a leg. I included the Green Mountain Grill Davy Crockett on this list for three main reasons:

  1. It’s one of the lowest prices I could find for a wood pellet smoker.
  2. It’s one of the only portable wood pellet smokers on the market, making it a wonderful option for camping and tailgating.
  3. The Davy Crockett is the only non Rec-Tec smoker with WiFi.

While I don’t do as much tailgating as I used to, the Davy Crockett would be a perfect companion for game day. Not only is it small (and light) enough to throw in the back of the truck, but the WiFi allows you check the temperature via a custom phone app. The future is here!

Another item of note is that the Crockett offers a higher upper temperature than any of the other smokers on this list. While the others have a max temperature of 500 degrees, the Crockett boasts a 550. I’m not sure how much of a difference that will make in your cook, but it can’t hurt!

Z GRILLS ZPG-7002E — Best Value

Z GRILLS is a relatively new brand in the realm of wood pellet smokers, but it’s hard to argue the niche they’ve managed to carve out. They’ve managed to become the “value” leader in the space. I would sum up their offerings as impressively adequate.

This particular smoker, the ZPG-7002E definitely wins for worst name. But it’s also a well-constructed sub-$500 wood pellet smoker with 700 square inches of cooking area. That’s hard to find, no matter where you look. Unfortunately, they hit this price point by making a couple of trade-offs:

  1. The max temperature is 50 degrees less than most models, coming in at 450 F.
  2. There’s no WiFi option.

Even with the above short-comings, this smoker manages to be everything a good smoker should be: well-constructed, consistent, and easy to use. If you’re like me and don’t care so much about a name-brand option, the Z GRILLS ZPG-7002E (again, what a terrible name) definitely deserved a second look.

Camp Chef SmokePro PG24MZG — Best For Small Family

Camp Chef is another brand worth considering, especially if you have a young family. While the other Traeger alternatives I’ve listed are worthy in their own right, the SmokePro PG24MZG offers something the others don’t. I’m talking about the Camp Chef patented ash clean-out system. This makes Camp Chef smokers way easier to clean than most wood pellet smokers.

How does it work? All wood pellet smokers have an augur that feeds the fuel into an ash basin where it’s heated to temperature and burned. Although wood pellet grills don’t leave much behind, they do leave a little. On a Traeger, you have to clean it out once every 20-30 hours or so (2-4 cooks). Also on a Traeger, you have to take the grill grates, grease ramp, and heat distributor off before you can extract the ashes. If that sounds annoying, that’s because it is.

The Camp Chef cleanout system is as easy as pulling a lever and catching the ashes. This makes the unit way easier to clean. If you have young children, you’ll appreciate getting the few minutes of time back that you’d otherwise spend with a Shop-Vac in hand.

This model offers an impressive amount of cooking area and has dual probe thermometers. These thermometers make it easy to keep track of two separate smoked meats at once. Just imagine it: you could easily monitor a rack of ribs and a whole turkey at the same time. This also makes it great for small-to-large families, as you’ll always be prepared for extra guests at holidays!

Camp Chef SmokePro SGX — Most Cooking Area

Last but not least, the final smoker is the Camp Chef SmokePro SGX. While it shares the same patented ash clean-out system as the PG24MZG, it offers a major advantage over it’s little brother.

It has an absurd cooking area of 1236 square inches. This eclipses other models on the list by more than 400 square inches! That’s almost enough for an entire other grill! There’s no way around it: the SmokePro SGX is the best at this price point for cooking an immense amount of food. With the cooking area it provides, you could easily cater a party of 30-40 people without breaking a sweat. All for a sub-$1000 price point.

Similar to the PG24MZG, it has dual probe thermometers (with the cooking area it provides, it really needs more than this).

The one area I really wish they would’ve spent more time on was creating a larger hopper capacity. With a smoker this large, you’re bound to go through a large amount of pellets. A hopper capacity of only 22 pounds seems paltry!

Wood Pellet Grills FAQ

Are Wood Pellet Grills Worth The Money?

I’d argue “yes”. While you might have noticed that the models I listed above are quite a bit higher in price than comparable charcoal smokers, wood pellet grills offer something those charcoal smokers don’t: consistency. Wood pellet smokers turn smoking delicious meat into a science.

Are Wood Pellet Grills Safe To Use?

Yes! Not only is the wood pellet smoke just as safe as corresponding wood chunk smoke, but the wood pellet grills are less prone to flare-ups. In most cases, they’ll actually be safer to use. The one caveat here is that the smoke emitted from these smokers is as dangerous as any other smoke. You won’t want to run the unit indoors or in an area with improper ventilation. Carbon monoxide poisoning is real.

How Hard Is Clean Up?

Cleaning up a wood pellet grill is easy, but can be a little time consuming. To understand why, you have to understand where these smokers get their heat. The auger inside the smoker feeds wood pellets to the heating reservoir. The heating reservoir burns the wood, generating heat and smoke. Unlike chunk wood, almost all of the wood pellet material is used.

For the few ashes that remain, you have to open up the smoker and use a shop-vac to clean it out. However, you should always wait until the grill is off for many hours before attempting this. Please follow the manufacturers recommendation and check the area for heat before attempting to remove the lingering ashes.

For most models, the manufacturers will recommend you clean out the basin every 20 hours of run time (so usually 2-3 smoke sessions). I’ve pushed this a bit with mine, but I try to make it a point to be proactive with my smoker maintenance.

Does Wood Pellet Smoke Taste Different?

I haven’t used every wood pellet brand on the market, but in my experience there is no discernible difference in taste between wood pellets and wood chunks. I have a few dozen cooks under my belt so far and each one has had the same signature wood-fired taste that my old wood chunk smoker provides. If you choose off-brand pellets, your mileage may vary.

Do You Need Both A Grill And A Smoker?

I put off buying a wood pellet smoker for too long, primarily because I already had a perfectly functional charcoal grill. I’ll be honest with you: the wood pellet smoker I bought was a complete game-changer. I have perfect smoked meats every single time. Additionally, I bought an option with WiFi monitoring. This means that I can comfortably sit in my living room (or even run a quick errand) and monitor my mouth-watering brisket slow cooking outside. To answer the question, you don’t need both a grill and a smoker. But it sure does help!

How Much Cooking Area Do I Need?

One thing you’ll notice about all of the models listed above, is that they have varying amounts of cooking space. You may be tempted to just choose whichever model has the largest, but this would be a mistake! You really need to sit down and determine the maximum amount of food you’re likely to be cooking at once. For example, will a family of four ever need to smoke more than two turkeys at once? Typically not.

However, if you regularly host large gatherings, it may make sense to spend the extra money for a larger cooking area. If you need a hand figuring out how much cooking area you actually need in a smoker, I’ve created this handy table to assist. Please note: You won’t be able to fit all the food that I list on the right in your smoker. For example, you can fit 3 whole chickens or 1-2 briskets in 450 square inches of cooking area.

Cooking AreaAmount of Food
450 square inches3 whole chickens
1-2 briskets
4 Boston butts
1-2 pork shoulders
10 steaks
12 burgers
4 racks of ribs
600 square inches4 whole chickens
3 briskets
6 Boston butts
3 pork shoulders
12 steaks
16 burgers
6 racks of ribs
800 square inches8 whole chickens
5 briskets
8 Boston butts
20 steaks
25 burger patties
5 pork shoulders
10 racks of ribs

You should also be aware that the above is only a rough guideline. Different smokers have different internal dimensions. Since the real world is 3D, we can’t know that 450 square inches will fit 2 briskets vertically. However, this table should give you a rough idea.

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Captain

I'm Chuck (the Captain). I'm passionate about my outdoor space and love sharing my experiences with the world at large. I want Captain Patio to become the best place on the internet to find, share, and learn about all things patio-related. When I'm not keeping up my content schedule, I'm spending time with my wife and two kids (usually on my patio!).

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