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
- What Makes Traeger Smokers Great
- Alternative Smoker Brands
- Traeger Wood Pellet Smoker Alternatives
- Rec-Tec RT-340 — Best Overall
- Rec-Tec RT-590 — Best Upgrade
- Green Mountain Grill Davy Crockett — Best Portable
- Z GRILLS ZPG-7002E — Best Value
- Camp Chef SmokePro PG24MZG — Best For Small Family
- Camp Chef SmokePro SGX — Most Cooking Area
- Wood Pellet Grills FAQ
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.
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.
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 Name||Year Founded||Warranty|
|Camp Chef||1991||3 years|
|Green Mountain Grills||2006||3 years|
|Z GRILLS||2017||3 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.
|Brand||Model||Current Price||Wi-Fi||Cooking Area||Max Temp|
|Rec-Tec||RT-340||$763.14||Yes||511 sq inches||500 F|
|Rec-Tec||RT-590||Price not available||Yes||772 sq inches||500 F|
|Green Mountain Grills||Davy Crockett||Yes||219 sq inches||550 F|
|Z GRILLS||ZPG-7002E||$509.00||No||700 sq inches||450 F|
|Camp Chef||SmokePro PG24MZG||$581.31||No||811 sq inches||500 F|
|Camp Chef||SmokePro SGX||$899.99||No||1236 sq inches||500 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
Rec-Tec RT-590 — Best Upgrade
Green Mountain Grill Davy Crockett — Best Portable
Z GRILLS ZPG-7002E — Best Value
Camp Chef SmokePro PG24MZG — Best For Small Family
Camp Chef SmokePro SGX — Most Cooking Area
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 Area||Amount of Food|
|450 square inches||3 whole chickens|
4 Boston butts
1-2 pork shoulders
4 racks of ribs
|600 square inches||4 whole chickens|
6 Boston butts
3 pork shoulders
6 racks of ribs
|800 square inches||8 whole chickens|
8 Boston butts
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.