Table of contents
- Portable Pellet Grills: Which is the Best?
- How Portable Are They?
- What about Power?
- Traeger Scout vs Traeger Ranger: Differences
- Portable Pellet Grill Recommendations
Portable Pellet Grills: Which is the Best?
Portable pellet grills offer a solution for a few different types of people. So there really is no “best portable pellet grill” without considering your specific needs.
Different Needs in Portable Grills
Some people own a large grill at home and wish to have the ability to smoke food at a tailgating function or while camping. Perhaps they want to take it on a family vacation. Regardless, the ability to bring a smaller version of a full-sized pellet grill is the key. Portability and convenience is as important to them as performance.
The other common use for a portable pellet grill is that you perhaps just don’t need a full-sized grill. You may have a household of just 1 or 2 people. Perhaps you only have the patio or balcony space for a portable pellet grill. If this is you, portability is a bonus, but not the main determining factor. What you need is the same day-in-day-out functionality of a full-sized unit, just smaller and perhaps cheaper.
How Portable Are They?
What do we mean by smaller? Well, ideally it should fit in a car trunk. Every grill reviewed here does just that, though some may take up the ENTIRE trunk of a car. The sizes of the portables we review range from extra large cooler (with legs folded) to medium-sized suitcase.
What about Power?
All portable pellet grills require electricity in order to turn the auger to feed pellets. Additionally, they require a decent amount of electricity at startup in order to get the firepot lit and burning. We covered several solutions for portable pellet grill power, but know that you’re going to need a minimum of about 300W (more is better) of startup power, and about 30-50W of power to keep it running after startup.
The Traeger Tailgater is a small-sized version of a full-sized pellet grill. Like the Recteq RT-340, the Grilla Chimp, the Pit Boss Tailgater, and the Camp Chef Pursuit, this grill is essentially a small version of a pellet grill, with legs that tuck up under the unit, with one set of wheels to roll it like a very large (and heavy) rolling trunk. The grill isn’t hard to roll once folded, but at over 60 pounds it is still too heavy and cumbersome for one person to just throw in the trunk of a car. It’s portable, but not super portable.
The Tailgater, once set up, is a fully-functioning pellet grill, with 300 square inches of cooking space. This translates to about 10-12 burgers, 2 large racks of ribs, or 2-3 chickens.
How we determine actual cooking space: We give a max amount, based on packing items edge to edge on the grate. A pellet grill, however, has hot spots at the front and rear edges of the grate that aren’t over the drip pan. Any food that is directly above this gap will burn. The effective capacity, then, is the number of items that fit on the grate area above the drip pan. In other words, it’s the capacity without being affected by the hotter edge zones of the grilling chamber.
The Tailgater uses an advanced PID controller, which will provide superior temperature control over a conventional controller. The hopper is on the side of the grill, and holds 8 pounds of pellets which should provide 8-10 hours of cook time at low temps, not quite enough for a pork butt or brisket, but plenty for ribs.
The grill grates are porcelain-coated steel, which is good for non-stick cooking, but can chip over time and is inferior to stainless steel grates. The entire grill is made of powder-coated steel, with no stainless steel used. With the legs out, the grill is pretty stable, but a little bit wobbly. Nothing severe, but not rock-solid stability.
Performance is average, with reliable holding of low temperatures and a top temperature of 450 degrees. There are the usual amount of mechanical complaints among owners, and the grill has a 3-year warranty.
The Traeger Tailgater pellet grill has an MSRP of $469.99 and is available on Amazon.
Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett
The Davy Crockett is not meant to function as a permanent grill, but is instead a portable-only model. It doesn’t have full-sized legs but rather has small legs that fold up to act as a handle for transport. The legs, when extended, are only about 18″ tall, so you’ll probably want to set it up on a table or a tailgate. Thought it seems like more portable option that the folding full leg type portable pellet grills, it actually weighs in at a hefty 68 pounds. Note that the folding process is a bit difficult with one person, though unfolding is easy.
The Davy Crockett is your best choice for a pellet grill for RVs and boater, as it fits inside a large storage cuddy.
We found the Davy Crockett to be a bit squirrelly with temperature controls. Overall, it functions fine and is probably the best solution for a purely-portable grill. See our full review of the GMG Davy Crockett here.
The one advantage the Davy Crockett has over other portable grills is that it better addresses the main problem when running a pellet smoker remotely: the power source. Because pellet grills require a standard outlet, your options for taking them on the road were either to have a generator or a car battery and separate converter. Green Mountain solves this partially by including 3 separate connectors: a standard 110v AC plug, an auto cigarette lighter connector, and a 12v battery option (think miniature jumper cables.) This is a definite plus and one of the reasons that it might be the perfect tailgating-only grill, even if it’s less usable at home.
The Davy Crockett has wifi, which is a nice bonus. No, you don’t have to be on a wireless network to use it. You can operate it on a local network on your phone, allowing you to control and monitor temperatures from your tent or RV.
As we reported in our full review, the grill grate is very flimsy on the Davy Crockett, and it’s grilling area is pretty small–about 6-8 burgers or one large pork butt. It will hold 2 racks of ribs, though it will be a tight fit. The hopper capacity is 9 pounds, a bit larger than some similar hoppers in this comparison.
The MSRP for the Davy Crockett is $329, but can be had for less on Amazon, usually.
Recteq’s portable pellet grill offering is on the folding legs, rolls like a suitcase model. But aside from its folding legs, it’s essentially just a smaller version of the larger RT-590 and RT-700. This includes the materials used, which are almost entirely high-quality stainless steel. The Recteq RT-340 has been known previously as the Rec Tec Mini, then the Rec Tec Trailblazer, then Rec Tec rebranded to Recteq.
As with other Recteq models, the build quality and superior materials are very evident and put this smoker at the top of the class. The only place where cost-cutting is even slightly evident is with the round Recteq logo badge, which seems to be stamped metal instead of the solid stainless medallion used on the full-sized RT-700.
The RT-340 has the same PID wifi digital controller as its big brothers. Temperature performance, predictably, is superior. The grill is able to hold temps within 5 degrees of set point, compensates well to outside conditions like wind and cold, and hits a high temp nearing 500 degrees. The app performs well, and the ability to monitor both food probe temps and change grill temps via your phone, and the ability to set alarms for temperature goals is a big deal, especially if you’re looking to use this as smaller permanent grill.
The hopper holds 20 pounds of pellets, which makes it even more “main grill” capable. And yes, you can fold it up and take it with you, though it’s not easy to lift into a trunk or truck bed. The legs are solid and steady, and the grill grate height is exactly the same as large “permanent” grills. At 80 pounds, it’s the second-heaviest we reviewed.
Folding up the legs and unfolding isn’t impossible, but it’s not the simplest process. One thing Recteq could improve upon here is a pellet chute to empty the hopper before transporting. One other thing to be aware of: the grill doesn’t use a chimney to vent air and smoke. Instead, it has two ports at the top rear of the grill chamber. While this works fine for cooking, it lets rain in if left out in the elements. A cover is therefore a must.
Grate size is almost identical to the Traeger Tailgater, Pit Boss Tailgater, and Grilla Chimp. So it will cook 8-10 burgers, 2 racks of ribs and a couple of average sized pork butts.
The warranty on the RT-340 is only 2 years, which is uncharacteristic for Recteq who is known for their best-in-class warranties. Recteq sells direct for $599 and, though they used to sell on Amazon, buying through their site is the only option to purchase.
Camp Chef Pursuit
The Camp Chef Pursuit is another portable pellet grill with the “rolling suitcase” design, as seen in the photo below from Camp Chef’s website. Like the other models, its legs fold under the grill for travel. And, like the others, it sits unfolded at regular grill height and can function as a smaller “permanent” pellet grill.
Overall, the Pursuit has a much flimsier and cheaper feel to it. It just isn’t as substantial a grill as the Recteq or the Grilla Grills Chimp. It uses thinner powder coated materials like the Traeger and Pit Boss grill.
The Pursuit has a 10-pound hopper capacity, which means it can maybe do an entire pork butt without adding more pellets. Some notable differences in the Pursuit from its compeitors:
- Two-tiered grill grates, increasing cooking area to 500 sq inches
- An ash cleanout system, handy for transporting after a cook
- Sliding heat deflector allows for direct grilling and temps up to 650 for searing
The pursuit has a PID controller for more accurate temperature control and performance. The smoker has two built-in meat probes, but no wi-fi capability like the Davy Crockett or the Recteq. Overall weight is the heftiest of all the grills here at 82 pounds.
Some other notable features are the built-in bottle opener (a nice touch) and the adjustable height legs, which along with it’s wide-angle stance, give it superior stability, especially on uneven ground. It also has latches to secure the lid during travel. These are nice touches that hint at it’s high convenience factor for campers. There is no method to empty pellets, which is kind of a pain when transporting a pellet smoker.
The Camp Chef Pursuit has a 3-year warranty, which is among the best portable pellet grill warranties. Overall, the Pursuit is fairly problem-free according to customer feedback. There are some notable reports of auger troubles with some customers’ grills, as well as general part breakage and malfunctioning, which is to be expected with its lower price and cheaper materials.
The Camp Chef Pursuit retails for $440 at Camp Chef, but can be had on Amazon for a bit less, usually.
Pit Boss Tailgater
The Pit Boss portable grill is very similar in design to the Traeger and Grilla models, with a few notable exceptions. And though it’s one of the heaviest at 88 pounds, it has the same cooking capacity as the Traeger, Recteq and Grilla.
The hopper holds only 5 pounds of pellets. This would give you about 5 hours of cooking at 250, less at higher temperatures. That’s not enough to cook ribs without refilling, but is fine for burgers and hot dogs. If you’re hauling around a pellet grill to just cook burgers and dogs, then you need to branch out in your tailgating and camping.
The Tailgater is almost half the price of the Recteq, which is a significant factor in your decision. As expected, for a much lower price, you get a conventional (and less predictable) temperature controller, flimsier construction materials, and little to no bells and whistles. But if you’re just looking for something to allow you to cook on the road every now and then, perhaps the trade-offs are worth it to you.
Unlike others in this category, the Pit Boss has cast iron grates. These are great for durability, but definitely add to the weight. And cleaning and maintaining cast iron grates may not be something you want to deal with on the road. They aren’t very maintenance-free.
Like the Camp Chef Pursuit, the Pit Boss has two tiers of grill grates (the upper one is conventional wire) which expands the cooking area somewhat. And, just like most other grills in this category, the main grate is about 350 sq inches, so expect to be able to cook 8-10 standard Bubba Burgers, 2 racks of ribs and 2 medium pork butts.
The things you’ll be giving up at this price point are a PID controller, wi-fi capability, and heavy duty stainless steel components. On the plus side, the grill has some conveniences that other pricier models don’t: two food probes, and a pellet clean-out chute for emptying and changing pellets. Also of note is the Pit Boss 5-Year Warranty, which is better than other portables reviewed here.
The Pit Boss has a slightly below average level of customer complaints, mostly having to do with temperature accuracy. The Tailgater has an MSRP of $350 and, oddly enough, isn’t sold on the Pit Boss website (the link takes you to Wal-Mart), but is available on Amazon.
Grilla Grills Chimp
The Grillla Grills Chimp may not have the name recognition of Traeger or Recteq, but it should. Grilla uses higher-quality materials than most and, like Recteq, incorporates more stainless steel in its pellet grills than competitors. The Chimp portable pellet grill is probably the closest comparable to the Recteq RT-340 in many ways, from material quality to temperature control and performance.
The Chimp uses Grilla’s Alpha Smoke controller, a PID controller that also allows you to switch to conventional mode. Some say this adds a bit more smoke. Read about the differences in PID and conventional controllers here, but Grilla is the only grill that gives you the choice of both. The Chimp has full digital functionality, and includes one built-in food probe. Unlike the Recteq, it doesn’t have wi-fi control capability, which could be important if you’re using it as your main grill.
The Chimp, at 90 pounds, is one of the heaviest portables we reviewed. Grilla makes up for this, though, in its portability extras. The Chimps legs are the easiest to fold and unfold with one person. The grate and drip pan are essentially “locked in” when the lid closes, which helps during transport. And the Chimp has small leveling pads on the bottom when the legs are folded, which can help on soft ground or to prevent gouging your bed liner. The grill is super stable when unfolded.
Internally, the Grilla Grills chimp has almost as much stainless steel as the Recteq: the handles, grill grates, drip pan, heat deflector, and burn pot are all stainless. This is a big plus and, like the Recteq, makes the grill a strong choice as your sole grill if you don’t need a lot of cooking space. Like the Recteq and others, cooking space is about 300 sq inches, with an additional top warming rack that brings the total to 420 sq inches.
We didn’t like the open rear vents on the Recteq and the Traeger, as they can let in rain. The Chimp has side vents instead, which prevents this from happening. Of note, however, are reviews of people claiming a bit less smoke than they would like. This could be due to the side venting, but the effect should be minor at best. More likely, people don’t quite understand that higher temps means less smoke.
The Chimp has a 2 year warranty, and Grilla has a really solid customer service reputation. The biggest difference we see between this and the equally recommended Recteq is the lack of wi-fi control. But it’s also $50 less and has a few more portability features.
Traeger Ranger and Scout
If you’re looking for a super portable option, these large briefcase sized units may be for you. For some people, namely RVers, boaters, and (see video) even truckers, these micro-pellet grills may be the only logical option, as they are much smaller than the others. They are still not lightweight, at around 60 pounds. And the cook time is limited by the small hopper- 4 to 8 pounds for the Scout and Ranger, respectively.
Cooking space is, of course, smaller than the others. Both the Scout and Ranger are the same size, and will realistically cook about 4 burgers at a time. Think two average sized T-Bone steaks and you’ll get a good idea of the size. A smallish rack of baby back ribs might squeeze onto the grate, or you may half to halve it. It will fit a smaller pork butt.
How is this compact box a funtioning pellet grill? The video below gives a pretty good overview of how the units operate. The hopper is a small compartment diretly adjacent to the cooking surface. The Scout and Ranger are almost identical, with a few differences outlined in the chart after the video.
Traeger Scout vs Traeger Ranger: Differences
|Traeger Scout||Traeger Ranger|
|Hopper Capacity||4 lb||8 lb|
|Overall Weight||45 lbs||60 lbs|
|Controller Type||Conventional||Digital PID|
The downside to this amazing portability is that the reliability of the grills seems a bit suspect. Though many people seem satisfied, there are a decent amount of people that see very unreliable temp swings, including uncontrolled overheating. Note that both these models were recalled due to fire hazard in 2018, but this issue (grease improperly draining) has evidently been fixed in current models.
Portable Pellet Grill Recommendations
Best for Limited Space: GMG Davy Crockett
The Ranger and the Scout are definitely good solutions for a certain user: namely someone looking for a portable-only pellet grill. And for an RVer or boater, it may be the only option because of limited storage. The GMG Davy Crockett, however, offers more cooking space and remote control via phone for only a slightly larger footprint (and a lower cost).
Runner-Up: Traeger Ranger
Best Small Pellet Grill (That’s also Portable): TIE: Grilla Chimp/Recteq RT-340
Though not the lowest-priced, the Recteq RT-340 is without question the best-built grill among the portables. It also is the most full-featured grill. If you need a smaller grill that functions like its bigger cousins, with the added ability to transport it occasionally (or never), then the Recteq is the choice.
The Grilla Grills Chimp has slightly lower material quality than the Recteq, but is a bit easier to fold for transport, has some locking mechanisms that make it more transportable, and doesn’t have the rear vents that can allow rain in.
Best Budget Choice: Camp Chef Pursuit
If you are looking to save money, and especially if you just want a decent second pellet grill for the road, the Camp Chef Pursuit will save you a bit compared to the Recteq, and will smoke food just fine for your portable needs. It’s not the same quality as the Chimp or the Recteq and so isn’t quite up to being the best choice for your only grill, but is a solid choice as a secondary portable grill on a budget.