Best Tailgate Pellet Grills – 2020 Top Picks Reviewed

This article seeks to serve as an informative introduction to, explanation of, and buyers guide for pellet grills. In particular, we have taken the liberty of specifically tailoring our exploration into these versatile grills by narrowing our focus to one of the most important aspects of American sports culture -- tailgating.

The following article will dive into what pellet grills are, why they've become a hot commodity for many tailgaters, and finally a comprehensive guide of what to look for on the market, followed by a few reviews of popular models.

We hope that this guide will aid you in your search for a pellet grill, or at minimum, broaden your cooking horizons, and expose you to the newest trend in barbecue. 

Best Tailgate Pellet Grills Comparison Chart

PRODUCTDETAILS
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Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett

  • Bonus items: grill cover and tote bag
  • Extremely portable model - legs fold and double as handles
  • Backed by a 2-year warranty from Green Mountain Grills
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Traeger Grills Tailgater 20

  • Sawhorse chassis, wheels, and handles make it easy to transport and very secure
  • LED display makes for easy reading and control over grilling temperatures (up to 450 degrees)
  • 300-square-inches of cooking space
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Camp Chef SmokePro DLX

  • Extremely easy to clean and equipped with a user-friendly ash removal system
  • Automatic feed system directs pellets into auger to boost efficiency
  • 570-square-inches of cooking space
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Why Are Pellet Grills Ideal For Tailgating?  

As one of the most important aspects of American sports culture, tailgating is a venerated American tradition. The tailgate party transforms one meager sporting event into a full day spectacle filled with charismatic fandom, limitless drinks, and some of the best food you'll find in the States. 

With this in mind, one can see quite clearly why some of the best tailgate cooks have made the switch to a pellet model; but why?

Extremely User-Friendly

The pellet grill is a high-quality, user friendly alternative to other grills.

Its fuel source, and namesake, the pellet, is a 100% pure wood product that has been hyper condensed and rid of any excess air so as to increase burning efficiency, facilitate simple cleanup, and produce a strong smoke flavor.

These pellets are moved into the burning box for use via electric auger, so starting the grill is as simple as flipping a switch.

Pellets (source)

Versatile and Perfect For Every Occasion

However, while its design may be usable and efficient, its true value comes through a different feature. Contrary to its competitors, namely charcoal, gas, and wood grills, pellet grills offer one of the most valuable features on the grilling market: versatility.

Not only can these grills provide a solid barbecue/grilling product, but they can also smoke, roast, and even bake. This level of versatility is unparalleled by other cooking products, and is the clear reason why these grills have become a popular product both for home grill masters and for those who wish to take their cooking on the road.

Mobile Without Sacrificing Quality

Pellet grills come in a wide array of sizes, without sacrificing even an ounce of quality; their condensed tailgate-friendly versions are of the same excellent quality of the larger models. Combine versatility, mobility, and the famous smokey flavor that pellet grills have become known for, and one can see why these new products have taken the tailgating world by storm.  

Considerations When Buying a Pellet Grill For Tailgating

When on the market for a pellet grill, there are a variety of models that offer varying features and amenities. While this is great for the informed customer, for the untrained eye, pellet grill models can seem strikingly similar in all but appearance and price. With that being said, let us delve into a few aspects of pellet grills to consider before making a purchase.

Feasibility

First and foremost, one should look at the feasibility of ownership before making a pellet grill purchase. This may seem like an obvious thing to consider, but in reality, one should know that they have ample room to store the grill at home and in a vehicle for tailgating, and one should be aware of the availability of, and accessibility to, wood pellets at local stores. Pellets are always available online, but having the assurance that emergency backup is only a 5 minute drive away is a definite plus.

Pellet Grills are Compact and Mobile (source)

Efficiency 

With further regard to the fuel source, a potential customer should always consider the efficiency of a potential grill. It is always advantageous to have a grill that works efficiently, so knowing the rate at which a specific model burns through pellets is crucial.

Rate of burn can also affect the quality of smoke notes in the meat, which further reinforces the notion that burn rate and efficiency should play a large role in your choice of grill.

How Pellet Grills Work (source)

Temperature Control

Similarly, temperature control is another aspect of pellet grills to pay attention to. To make sure the grill doesn't burn too hot, or not hot enough, almost all pellet grill models have an electronic thermal sensor that keeps the grill within a certain temperature window.

Making sure that the temperature sensor is of the utmost quality is essential in choosing a high-quality safe product; most problems with pellet grills begin with a malfunctioning temperature control gauge.

Price

Finally, one must consider the price for quality exchange when deciding between multiple options. While one may be more expensive, it may cost less in the long run with maintenance than its cheaper counterpart. Be sure to weigh all of these factors, as well as your own personal preferences and desires, to be sure you've chosen a good pellet grill for your specific needs.

Willy's Top Picks - Best Tailgate Pellet Grills

Review of the Best Tailgate Pellet Grills

Now that we've covered why pellet grills make for a great choice when it comes to tailgating and some of the main considerations to keep in mind while shopping, let's take a look at some of our top picks. We're excited to discuss our favorite grills and explain why they stand apart from their competitors. 

Pros

  • Smoke: Great smoke flavor notes
  • Portable: Foldable legs, small size, lightweight
  • Warranty: Two year warranty offered by the manufacturer
  • Temperature Control: WiFi capable, digital controller
  • Bonus Features: Cover, tote, meat temperature probe
  • Design: Pellet grill versatility, as well as ribrack capability

Cons

  • Inaccurate: Meat probe has been reported to be unreliable
  • Quality: Paint chipping, extra maintenance needed for some customers
  • WiFi: Only works in moderate proximity to grill; turns off when phone is locked

What Recent Buyers Report

Most buyers loved this grill and praised it as the perfect companion for camping trips. Users loved the size of the cooking space and found that their food turned out very well. Some people also reported that it smelled similar to cooking on a campfire. However, some customers found the temperature probe to be a bit inaccurate, while some reported receiving defective items. Fortunately, the two year warranty should inspire some confidence.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The electronic features are what make this unit truly stand out from the competition. With an electronic thermostat, achieving, setting, and maintaining the perfect temperature becomes extremely easy. This further provides exceptional grilling results, giving you more time to spend with your friends and family. Moreover, it is WiFi-enabled, allowing users to set the temperature with a smartphone for a truly hands-off experience. 

The Davy Crockett Pellet Grill by Green Mountain is one of the best options on the market for tailgate grilling. Its small profile and moderate weight of 57 lbs, combined with folding legs that double as handles, make this grill one of the most mobile options available.

Even without considering the added Cover and Tote that comes with the Davy Crockett package, this grill stands out as an optimal candidate for your tailgate cooking needs. Its design also boasts a peaked lid for rib racks, which only furthers the pellet grill's already versatile nature.

The feature that really sets this grill apart from others, however, is its temperature control. This product's internal thermal sensor can not only be controlled via remote, but also through your phone. This Green Mountain grill has the ability to connect to a WiFi network and be controlled at range via an application on your cellular device. This is a perk truly built for tailgating, as cooks can now briefly leave their workstation and enjoy the tailgate without worrying about their grill.

The Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett Pellet Grill Package is a fantastic offer for anyone who wishes to improve their tailgate grilling experience. The versatility of any pellet grill is well represented by this Green Mountain model, and customers can rest assured that this grill will take care of any and all meat cooking projects.

Who Will Use This Most

Since it can run on 120AC or 12V, it is ideal for home use, hunting, music festivals, camping, house-boating, tailgating, or anywhere else you can take it! This model also features foldable legs, so it can fit in the trunk of any car. Adding a beautiful smoke flavor, it can be used to cook all kinds of meat, including beef, ribs, chicken, and mutton.

Bottom Line

All in all, this grill undoubtedly comes out on top. Innovative Open Flame Technology provides even heat distribution, while its lightweight design ensures easy placement. However, an electric hookup is required to use all the features properly.

Its mobility, design, warranty, and numerous added features render this model the absolute best on the market. Relatively cheaper than other alternatives, some have reported paint chipping and extra maintenance. However, despite these few complaints, this grill is a very high-quality product that will serve any grill master well when tailgating. Amazon customer ratings speak for themselves; this is easily one of the most beloved pellet grills on the market.

Pros

  • Size: Small profile and foldable legs
  • Warranty: Three year Traeger policy
  • Design: Ample space to cook despite size
  • Usable: Simple to use; easy to clean porcelain grates
  • Temperature Control: Digitally controlled; kept within 20° range
  • Quality: Traeger brand produces some of the best grills on the market

Cons

  • Price: Name brand means higher price
  • Size: One of the heavier options at 76 lbs
  • Temperature Control: Wild temperature fluctuations are the most occurring customer complaint

What Recent Buyers Report

Overall, this grill has mixed reviews. Some buyers loved its functionality and design and enjoyed using it. They also stated that the drip pan, convection fan, and temperature control made grilling incredibly easy. However, some users reported that it malfunctioned and spontaneously shut down. They also found the setup to be a bit difficult.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Boasting hinged legs, this unit does not need a surface if you want to use it at waist height. It can also be folded away, allowing easy storage and transport. A porcelain grate further makes cleaning extremely easy, while the quality steel construction ensures reliability and durability, even if it’s thrown around in the trunk every week.

As a pioneer of the industry, Traeger Grills is the standard for high-quality pellet grills. This model by Traeger lives up to its trademark brand in offering a fantastic quality product. With a small, convenient figure and foldable legs, this grill is a great option for tailgating; a situation where mobility is crucial. While the small size is advantageous, its conservative design does not discount cooking surface.

Despite its small profile, this grill still boasts 300 sq in of grilling space, which is enough for 12 burgers, or even three racks of ribs. As any good pellet grill should be, the Tailgater 20 is incredibly versatile in terms of how it can be used, as it is capable of grilling, baking, roasting, braising, barbequing, and smoking.

Once it has been decided what function the grill will serve, grill masters have the option to further customize their cooking by choosing both the speed of burn, as well as the grill temperature. This allows for the utmost freedom of cooking personalization and creativity. The temperature setting chosen is kept within a 20° by a built in temperature gauge, which is controlled by a digital controller. The automated temperature gauge renders this model rather user friendly, as cooks need not monitor temperature or fuel efficiency by themselves.

Who Will Use This Most

This unit is a must-have for every party-loving individual looking for a portable, compact grill. Featuring an incredibly large grill, it can be used to grill 2 whole chickens, 12 burgers, or 18 hot dogs at the same time. You can even make a wood-baked pizza! Whether you want to smoke, braise, BBQ, grill, roast, or bake, it’s ideal for all.

Bottom Line

Boasting a stylish, beautiful look and easy-to-carry features, this unit certainly deserves a place on our list of top picks. Featuring 300 square inches of cooking space with the same incredible power, it packs a punch where it really matters: flavor! However, the setup might prove to be difficult for some.

The Traeger Grills Tailgater 20 Portable Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker is a great grill for any tailgate chef who wishes to expand their cooking horizons. While the Traeger name may come with a slightly higher price tag, this model's economic design, incredible versatility, and user-friendly features make it one of the best. This grill is a great purchase for any tailgate grill master; just keep an eye on the temperature gauge.

Pros

  • Warranty: 3-year coverage
  • Size: Offers significant amount of grill space
  • Temperature Control: LED display and automatic temp maintenance
  • Usability: One touch power button, convenient ash cleanup system, smart auger that supplies pellets as needed

Cons

  • Mobility: Difficult to move, but perfect for trucks
  • Size: Considerably larger than competing tailgate pellet grills
  • Price: Size and innovative features mean this model is significantly more expensive than other alternatives

What Recent Buyers Report

The majority of buyers were extremely satisfied with their purchase, with one user even stating that they were able to grill a full 15-pound brisket. They reported that the temperature remained constant, and found it extremely easy to change wood pellet flavors. While users were impressed with the ash cleanout, they were disappointed that it did not come with front wheels. Some customers also reported receiving defected parts.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This unit primarily stands out to us because of its ash cleanout system. Rather than vacuuming out the grill after every use, it’s designed with a lever that empties the ash from the firebox into a small cup. This prevents the ash from mixing with the meat juices and grease and turning into a gooey, sticky mess. Along with making the grill easier to maintain and use, this feature also keeps it from getting clogged, ensuring durability and longevity.

If top tier quality and performance is what you're after, look no further than the SmokePro DLX by Camp Chef. This 127 lb monster grill boasts 570 sq in of rack space, a temperature selection system to maintain heat, an LED temperature display that reads both the temperature of the grill itself and the food, an automatic auger system that adds pellets as required, and a simple, unique ash clean out system.

These features are above and beyond what other pellet grills on the market can offer, and for that reason this is one of the best options available for anyone looking for a patio grill/smoker, as well as anyone who has the capacity to haul a larger, heavier pellet grill to a tailgate. Rest assured, if you can manage to get this grill to the tailgate, you're almost guaranteed to have one of the best grills in the lot.

Bear in mind that this model, due to its size and substantial feature list, is listed at a significantly higher price than competitors. However, for those who are comfortable with a slightly larger investment, the quality of this product will pay huge dividends.

Who Will Use This Most

If you’re serious about your backyard smoking and grilling, and value precision above anything else, then this model is the perfect option for you. It’s also excellent for beginners and can be used to cook everything from lightly smoked salmon to dry rub chicken drumsticks.

Bottom Line

A medium-sized unit that offers excellent value for money, this grill delivers exceptional performance. Along with offering all necessary features, it’s innovatively designed with an ash-cleaning system that makes maintenance much easier. However, the lack of front wheels might be disappointing for some.

The Camp Chef SmokePro DLX Wood Pellet Outdoor BBQ Grill and Smoker is one of the best pellet grills on the market; tailgating or otherwise. It is large enough to be used all year round on the patio, but just small enough to be tailgate-friendly. The SmokePro DLX offers industry-leading features and delivers a fantastic product, but its excellence comes at a price.

Pros and Cons of Tailgating With a Pellet Grill

Pellet grills truly enhance the flavor of every type of meat. But if you’re still unsure about whether or not you should purchase one, here are some pros and cons of tailgating with a pellet grill:

Pros

Pellet grills provide the benefits of a gas grill, a charcoal grill, and a smoker – all in one! Some other advantages include:

Great Flavor

Nothing comes close to the natural smoky flavor of food that’s cooked over a wood fire. A charcoal grill doesn’t add a lot of smoky flavors, while a gas grill adds none at all. For a truly smoky flavor, you need to add wood to a charcoal or gas grill, or you can just use pellets exclusively!

Easy to Use

Pellet grills make it extremely easy to cook with wood. Since wood pellets can be burned instantly, they eliminate the need for cutting and cleaning wood or arranging it for optimal burning. You just need to set the thermostat to the required temperature, and the auger will do the rest!

Versatility 

Pellet grills can be used to do all types of cooking. Offering a temperature range of 160-500F, they allow users to smoke, grill, sear, braise, roast, and even bake.

Cons

Although pellet grills are exceptional products, they have one disadvantage as well:

Requires Electricity

Pellet grills need electricity to power the automatic auger. This means that you need an electrical outlet at all times, in order to use this product.

Conclusion

Investing in a pellet grill is one of the best decisions any grill master can make. Their versatility, usability, and innovative design make them a fantastic addition to any cook's arsenal. For those who wish to take their grilling on the road, pellet grills offer unparalleled productivity and cooking diversity; a big reason why they've become the hot new way to tailgate.

When on the market for one of these all-in-one grills, it's important to consider design, price point, temperature control, and other added features when deciding which model to choose. Remember that certain grills make work better for certain individuals, and that not every grilling need or situation is the same. Take your time thoroughly vetting your options, and choose a product that's right for your specific needs. Regardless of what model you've chosen, you can rest easy knowing that you'll blow the tailgate away with your incredibly versatile pellet grill.

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