Pellet Grill Brands Want All The Smoke

Wood pellet smoker grills have gained much traction in the United States. What are the driving factors behind their growing popularity?

5 minutes

A New Grilling Method is Changing the Outdoor Game

Wood pellet smoker grills were introduced during the oil crisis by pioneer John Traeger and have only grown in popularity since. They started to gain traction by the end of 2006 and were heavily endorsed by pit bosses and grill masters all over the country.

A wood pellet smoker grill looks like your standard gas grill, except it uses wood pellets for fuel. The pellets are made using compressed sawdust, which is sourced from several hardwoods like hickory, oakwood, and applewood. 

How Do They Work?

A pellet grill is connected to an electric power source powering a convection fan. The pellets are placed in a funnel-like hopper near the main grill, which directs them onto the auger. The auger automatically relays the pellets to the firepot and feeds the fire. The convection fan allows for warm air circulation that provides indirect heating and cooking. A wood pellet grill acts as a smoker/oven and provides a greater variety of flavors than traditional grills used for heavy searing.

Even in Today’s Economy, Outdoor Grilling is a Growing Market

According to data from NPD Group, sales of grills and smokers in the U.S. soared up to 41%to $3.2 billion for the 12 months ending in March 2021. This creates tremendous opportunity with North America accounting for 32.2% of the total sales, by far the largest region in the barbecue and grill market worldwide.

Pit Boss smoker grills for sale at a local Walmart store
Even traditional retailers are getting themselves into the wood smoker grill market.

Reasons for the Growing Popularity of Wood Pellet Smoker Grills 

In general, gas grill owners don’t love their grills, yet they value the convenience and familiarity of gas. Pellet grills are providing a unique alternative many grillers are showing interest in exploring. The transition from gas to pellet grills has been phenomenal. There are many reasons for the growing popularity of wood pellet smoker grills, such as:

Clean Fuel

While gas and charcoal increase our carbon footprint, 100% hardwood pellets offer a cleaner alternative. Unlike charcoal, they don't need to be stoked for hours to achieve optimum cooking temperatures and readily combust in the firepot. They also do not release harmful fumes that can damage our lungs.

Even Heating

A pellet grill serves as an excellent smoker with its convection fan providing low temperature (200-1000° F) indirect heat for cooking. Gas grill issues like drying, burning, or uneven food cooking are rare in pellet grills; while the former offers a perfectly seared ribeye, the latter offers richly flavored and perfectly cooked meat.

Smart Options

Innovations like remote control, digital thermostat control, and even smart grills are slowly making their way into the market. Companies like Pit Boss offer Bluetooth and Wi-Fi enabled high-end grills at economical rates.

Smoker grill ready heated up and ready to cook
Clean fuel and even heating are two main reasons grill aficionados are moving over to smoker grills.

Pellet Smoker Grill Brands and Manufacturers Face Huge Challenges

The primary challenge is creating awareness at a category level. Pellet grilling is a complete mystery to most grill consumers. The market does have several strong national brands including Weber,  Big Green Egg and Traeger but beyond those, new brands have a lot of work to do to establish trust with a consumer and get them to make the leap to a “new” method of grilling.

A second challenge is that grill brands have historically marketed first and foremost to men and focused primarily on the animalistic “hunter/provider” basic-needs aspect of grilling. When it comes to pellet grills however, research shows that women are a significant growth segment, but they relate to grilling differently than men. For women, grilling is simply another form of cooking so the marketing message will need to be reconsidered in order to have success.

Woman grillig on Traeger pellet grill smoker grill
Women are embracing the wood-fire smoker grilling method and Grill Brands are taking notice.

Where Can You Get One?

While wood pellet smoker grills do not provide high heat cooking options, they have perfected the art of low-temperature cooking. People used to pay top dollar for a single unit, but prices are getting increasingly economical, although a gas grill will still be reasonably cheaper.

Grill section of retail sales floor at Abt Electronics in Chicago Illinois
Chicago-based electronics retailer Abt has a huge portion of their sales floor dedicated to outdoor grilling and pellet grills in particular.

Of course you can find all types of grills at outdoor stores like Home Depot, Lowes, Menards and traditional specialty stores like BBQ Galore, but interestingly enough, we’re seeing major big box retailers expanding or building out sections in stores to accommodate this growing category. If you walk into what would be thought to be traditional electronics retailers like Best Buy or Abt, you’ll find they’ve created robust sections focusing on the outdoor grilling space. More and more of this space is being filled with pellet smoker grills which are growing in popularity.

Pellet grills are for people looking to hone their smoking skills and are interested in low-maintenance cooking. You will not need to worry about meddling with the thermostat or getting burnt food.

Pellet grill prices start from $100 and go beyond $1000 for high-end models like the smart grills we talked about. Some of the most famous names in the market include Traeger Grills, Pit Boss, Yoder, and Rec Tec. The popularity of pellet grills has spiked in recent years, and if you are also interested in perfectly cooked and flavored meat, why not give it a try?