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Do you want to change the way you cook while camping? Add a pellet grill to your arsenal. You will find that the number of delicious dishes that you can whip up will grow exponentially. Pellet grills have been around for about 35 years. However, their popularity has exploded in the last five to six years as people have realized the advantages of cooking with hardwood pellets.
Pellet grills are great for cooking traditional outdoor meals such as hot dogs, hamburgers, and steaks. They are also perfect for smoking meats such as pork butts or ribs.
How Do Pellet Grills Work?
A pellet grill uses hardwood pellets as its fuel. An auger feeds the pellets into a hot box, where the small bits of wood become flavorful heat to smoke to cook your food. Pellet grills utilize a fan to circulate the smoke and heat throughout the cooking area. The fan ensures that heat is evenly distributed for a consistent cook.
Advantages of a Pellet Grill
Pellet grills are simple to use with virtually no learning curve. Like an oven, you set the temperature, and the grill will heat to that temperature. The grill will maintain your specified temperature throughout the cook (even in cold or windy conditions). The ability to easily maintain temperature is excellent when at the campsite. Once your meal is cooking, you can relax without having to worry about your food.
Versatility is what makes pellet grills so popular. These grills can smoke, grill, and bake. You can maintain a wide range of temperatures, such as smoking meats as low as 225 degrees or searing steaks at over 500 degrees.
When cooking with pellets, there are very few flare-ups due to the drip tray that lies between the food and the fire. Since a fan circulates the heat throughout the cook box, food cooks more evenly because there are no hot spots. The lack of hot spots lends to consistent flavors throughout your meat.
The pellet grill can produce a wide variety of smoke-flavored food such as steaks or ribs. Wood-fired pizzas are easy as pie with a pellet grill, and you can even bake those pies, cookies, and cakes. There is less waste with a pellet grill than other grills because you only use the pellets needed to cook your meal. When using a charcoal grill, you build a fire using the charcoal, which causes you to use more charcoal than required. An advantage of a pellet grill is that the auger feeds pellets as needed. You can turn off the grill when you are finished and save your unused pellets for the next cook.
Camping with a Pellet Grill
Pellet grills are naturally cumbersome by design. There has to be room for the pellet hopper (the apparatus that holds the pellets), as well as space to grill. Most pellet grills are bulky and challenging to use while camping. However, several portable models are campsite friendly. You will need access to electrical power as pellet grills require electricity to operate the auger and fan. We recommend plugging into the electrical pedestal at the campground to ensure that you do not trip the breaker. This is especially important if you are running the air conditioner in your camper.
Tabletop Pellet Grills
Traeger’s Ranger and Scout
The Scout and Ranger are similar in design, with the Ranger having a few additional features. The Ranger (Check it out on Amazon) is easy to transport, weighing only 60 pounds. It has 176 square inches of cooking space with an 8-pound pellet hopper. The Ranger has a digital temperature control and can be adjusted in 5-degree increments.
The Scout (Check it out on Amazon) is slightly smaller, weighing in at 45 pounds with 176 square inches of cooking space. The hopper holds 4 pounds of pellets. The Scout has a digital temperature control, but it can only be adjusted in 25-degree increments.
The maximum temperature on both the Ranger and the Scout is 450 degrees. They have meat probes so that you can check the temperature of your meat without opening the lid.
In our opinion, the biggest drawback to both the Scout and Ranger is their size. There are only about 5 inches of clearance between the grill grate and the closed lid, which is sufficient for most foods. However, you cannot cook a vertical chicken or larger pork butt in either model. Another concern with these two models is that you have to open the lid to access the hopper, which means that you will lose heat if you have to add pellets during a cook. These grills also have a maximum temperature of 450 degrees, which is a little lower than some other portable models.
Green Mountain Davy Crockett
The Green Mountain Davy Crockett (Check it out on Amazon) is Campers and Campfire’s favorite model and the one that we use. The price is about the same as the Traeger Scout or Ranger, and less expensive than the Traeger Tailgater or the Camp Chef Pursuit. The Davy Crockett weighs 68 pounds and has 219 square inches of cooking space. This grill has a 9-pound hopper, which is attached to the side of the unit. You can easily add pellets without lifting the lid and letting heat escape. Another great feature is a window located on the back of the pellet hopper, where you can view how many pellets are left.
The Davy Crockett has a wide array of cooking temperatures, ranging from 150 to 500 degrees. These temperatures can be adjusted in 5-degree increments. You can use either a 120-volt outlet or a 12-volt battery power source to operate this grill. It has dual meat probes so that you can monitor the internal temperature of two cuts of meats.
One of our favorite features is the peaked lid. There are 7.75 inches of vertical cooking space, which is enough room to cook a chicken. There is also room to place an additional rack stand and increase the amount of cooking space.
The Davy Crockett can be connected to WiFi. You can control it with your phone as you relax by the campfire.
If you choose to purchase a Davy Crockett, we recommend also purchasing the pizza oven attachment (Check it out on Amazon). The pizza oven attachment allows you to bake delicious wood-fired pizzas in a matter of minutes. The pizza stone is 10 inches by 10 inches and the perfect size to make everyone their own personal pizza.
Another option we recommend for winter camping is a thermal blanket (Check it out on Amazon). One of the advantages of a pellet grill is that it will maintain its temperature even in cold conditions. However, to do so, it has to burn more pellets. Using a thermal blanket makes it easier for the grill to maintain its cooking temperature. Cooking more efficiently means using fewer pellets for the cook and saving a little more dough in your wallet. If you do much cooking in cold weather, the thermal cover will pay for itself quickly.
The Husky 37-inch Tool Chest (Check it out) is fantastic for hauling your Davy Crockett grill. The grill fits in the tote perfectly. The chest has wheels and a built-in handle, making it much easier to transport your grill to and from the campsite.
Pellet Grills with a Built-in Stand
The Traeger Tailgater (Check it out on Amazon) is a slightly larger grill. This Trager has advantages such as holding more food. The Tailgater has a stand with wheels so it can be moved around the campsite easily. No table is needed because the grill has legs. The legs on the cart fold, making it easier to transport. The grill weighs 62 pounds and has a 10-pound pellet hopper. Like the Traeger Ranger, the temperature can be adjusted in 5-degree increments with a maximum of 450 degrees.
The Tailgater has a meat probe, making it easy to monitor the internal temperature of what you are cooking without opening the lid.
Camp Chef Pursuit
The Camp Chef Pursuit (Check it out on Amazon) is our favorite of the slightly larger grills. Like the Tailgater, the Pursuit comes on a stand with folding legs. The Pursuit has a 10-pound hopper to help support longer cooks.
One of the reasons we prefer the Pursuit over the Tailgater is that the temperature range is broader. The cooking temperature on the Pursuit can be adjusted in 5-degree increments from 160 degrees to 500 degrees. There is also a pull-out screen that allows you to cook with direct heat up to 650 degrees. The higher temperature is excellent for searing steaks.
Another cool feature of the Pursuit is that you can control the amount of smoke within the cooking chamber. The Pursuit has two meat probes so that you can monitor two cuts of meat. The grill has two cooking racks. The upper rack holds 248 square inches of food, and the bottom rack covers 253 square inches. Together they provide 501 square inches of cooking space.
Pellet grills are a great way to add versatility to your campground cooking. The variety of foods that can be cooked on pellet grills are limitless. Not to mention, nothing smells better than smoking meats. Add a pellet grill to your set-up, and you will be the envy of the campground.
Do you use a pellet grill while camping? We would love to hear what you cook! Please drop us a line in the comment section below.
Are you interested in all types of grilling while camping? Check out the Best Grills and Outdoor Cooking Tools for Camping.
New to camping? Check out Essential Equipment for RV Owners!