When we decided to live in our motorcoach and travel, we knew we needed to downsize. That meant choosing things that we would be willing to give up. When it came time to choose between our grill and our smoker, the smoker lost.
Even though we loved smoking everything from ribs to turkey, and even fish, we used our grill more than our smoker. And while we do have a large 45 foot Class A RV, a smoker was just too big to fit underneath the coach.
Then I heard about pellet smokers and how some of them were considered portable. That made me want to learn more.
If you are considering a pellet grill or smoker for your RV, let me share my research on how I found the perfect portable pellet grill… and smoker!
Why Davy Crockett Beats Traeger’s Portable Pellet Grill for RVing
Read our review of the Davy Crockett portable pellet grill. Higher quality construction, more features (including Wi-Fi), weighs less and is about $130 cheaper than the Traeger Tailgater.
Researching Pellet Grills and Smokers
Let me start by saying that when it comes to Pellet Smokers/Grills, I was a total newbie. We have a great portable gas grill made by Coleman that works well, but it’s not capable of easily smoking foods.
My old smoker was an electric kettle smoker with hardwood chunks and a pan of water that you had to keep refilling. These types of kettle smokers require constant monitoring to maintain temperatures and avoid flare-ups that can burn your food.
So when I started researching Pellet Smokers, I knew I would have a lot to learn. I didn’t even know how they worked. Here’s what I learned about Pellet Grills and Smokers.
Differences Between Grilling, Smoking, and Barbecuing
I know that there’s a difference between smoking meat and grilling meat, but isn’t grilling just another name for barbecuing? Surprisingly, no it’s not!
Grilling, smoking and barbecuing are all done at different temperatures for different periods of time.
Time for a quick lesson on the different types of outdoor cooking so we can choose the right pellet grill or pellet smoker.
You grill to seal in natural juices of meats that are generally tender to begin with. Grilling is done over high heat (400-550 degrees F) for just a few minutes. Think steaks, burgers or chicken here.
When you barbecue, you may be using the same grill that you used for your steaks, but this time your heat is much lower (190°F to 300°F) and you cook for much longer (a few hours). You grill steaks or hamburgers, you BBQ ribs.
Smoking Food- Two Different Ways?
Smoking food is entirely different than barbecuing. There are two types of smoking, cold smoking, and hot smoking.
Cold smoking is done at very low heat (68-86 F) for hours or even days and is normally done on meat that has been previously cooked or cured.
Hot smoking involves cooking at temperatures in the range of 180-225 degrees F for many hours and is used on foods than need to be fully cooked.
None of the pellet smokers we found cooked at temperatures below 150 degrees, so we are only talking about hot smoking food in this article.
Can Pellet Grills Smoke and BBQ Food too?
Ok, now that we know a little bit about the differences in outdoor cooking, time to answer the question of- Do we need to carry around two different appliances in order to enjoy grilling and smoking during camping?
Notice how I keep changing the way I refer to them? Sometimes it is Pellet Smoker, and sometimes it is Pellet Grill. That was one of the first things I learned. It turns out that some Pellet Smokers can also grill, and some Pellet Grills can also smoke. How about that?
How Does an Electric Pellet Grill or Smoker Work?
The smoker/grill is electric and has a hopper that you put hardwood pellets into. At the bottom of the hopper, there’s an auger that turns and, as it turns, it feeds the pellets into a firebox.
The firebox has a heat-rod in it that ignites the pellets, and a combustion fan circulates the air to keep them burning.
A built-in digital controller manages the temperature of the grill by controlling the airflow and pellet supply to the firebox. High-Tech stuff.
The very precise temperatures achieved inside your smoker grill helps you cook delicious smoked or barbequed foods.
Tip: Smoking food is done at relatively low temperatures, usually in the range of 180-225 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything over 250 degrees Fahrenheit and you are barbecuing your food- not smoking it!
Why Choose A Wood Pellet Grill
One of the major advantages of wood pellet grills is that you can use different woods to create different flavors in your foods.
The other major advantage with electric wood pellet grills is that they are very easy to use- just push a button to start so no propane tanks or refills needed. They keep consistent temperature ranges so no flare-ups or worries about over smoking or cooking your food.
All you have to do is make sure there are wood pellets in the hopper!
Why So Much Research on Pellet Grills- Isn’t Traeger the best?
Joe Traeger developed the Traeger pellet grill in 1985 and patented it in 1986. They are the oldest Pellet Grill manufacturer and have a long reputation for being the best.
Technology has changed a lot since 1986, and there are now several competing pellet grill manufacturers that are also offering top quality products. We needed to learn about the features of pellet grills so that we could pick the right one for camping.
Who Makes Portable Pellet Grills?
When you search the internet for portable pellet grills, a bunch will come up but not all of them are what we as RVers would consider really portable.
We decided that in order for a pellet grill to be portable for us, it would need to weigh less than 65 pounds (so we could lift it out to cook on) and be small enough to fit into one of our RV basements. It makes no sense to buy a pellet grill if you have to leave it behind when you travel!
Pellet Grill Features- What We Looked for
There are many different features available on pellet grills, and we had to do a lot of research to be able to compare them equally. Here are the features we felt are most important in a portable pellet grill and smoker.
In order for us to be able to take our pellet grill with us camping, we wanted it to weigh no more than 65 pounds.
We needed our pellet grill to fit into one of our RV basements, so we wanted the smallest outside dimensions.
Cooking Surface Area-
Even though we wanted a compact grill, we looked for whichever ones had the biggest cooking surface area for their size.
The hopper is where you put the hardwood pellets. We didn’t want too small of a hopper so we didn’t have to keep refilling it during a cooking session. Around 10 pounds seems good to us.
We wanted the option to be able to sear our food, and still have smoker capabilities so having a high cooking temperature available was important to us.
Some pellet grills are WiFi-enabled to allow you to control and monitor temperatures, create cooking profiles and set timers and receive alerts. This was also an important feature to us.
|Brand||Weight in Pounds||Dimensions in Inches||Cooking Surface Area|
|Camp Chef Pursuit 20||82||38×18.5×32||501|
|Pit Boss Tailgater||93||40x23x42||341|
|Rec Tec RT-340||92||39x24x19.5||304|
|Green Mountain Davy Crockett||57||27.75×20.5×17.5||219|
|Brand||Hopper Size||Temperature Range||WiFi Enabled|
|Camp Chef Pursuit 20||10 lbs||160-500||No|
|Pit Boss Tailgater||5 lbs||180-500||No|
|Rec Tec RT-340||20 lbs||200-500||Yes|
|Traeger Tailgater||8 lbs||180-450||No|
|Green Mountain Davy Crockett||9 lbs||150-550||Yes|
The Pellet Grill Analysis
Camp Chef Pursuit 20
Camp Chef offers what they call a portable pellet grill in the Pursuit 20 model. It has folding legs, the largest cook surface (501 square inches) of any of the pellet grills but was way too heavy for us to consider. At 82 pounds, I think this may be considered a tailgater grill instead of a portable RV pellet grill. Plus, it doesn’t come with Wi-Fi abilities, so we crossed Camp Chef off of our list of portable pellet grills.
Pit Boss Tailgater
Pit Boss has a reputation for making good grills and the Tailgater model looks like a good choice. It has the next largest cooking surface of 341 square inches, but with a weight of 93 pounds. I think the name Tailgater is an accurate one! Again, no Wi-Fi and a very small hopper bin of only 5 pounds and the Pit Boss was not in the running for an RV grill.
Traeger’s Three Portable Grills- The Scout, Ranger, and Tailgater
For Traeger, there were really three portable grills to consider. There were two Table-top models called the Scout and the Ranger, and they had a stand-alone model called the Tailgater.
The Small Table Top Traegers
The two table-top models were very intriguing considering that they were contained all in one, with a case-like enclosure.
The main difference in the two was that the Ranger had a more precise temperature adjustment, and the hopper held 8 lbs of pellets instead of 4 lbs for the Scout. They both had a cooking surface of 176 square inches which just seemed too small.
The other issue with the table-top models was the lack of availability. I couldn’t find them anywhere. Every place I checked including Amazon was out of stock.
So, for Traeger, it came down to the Tailgater.
The Traeger Tailgater
I really wanted to get a look at this grill to check out the hype surrounding Traeger. The closest dealer that carried the Tailgater in stock was 20 miles away, so my wife and I loaded up and headed that way. I really expected to come home with the grill since it fit my weight criteria at 62 lbs, and it had such a good reputation.
When we finally got to the dealer and took a look at the grill, I found that I was a little underwhelmed. This is not to take anything away from the Tailgater. It is a nice grill, and it is portable, though maybe a bit bulky.
Tailgater Lacks Features Found In Competing Pellet Grills
My issue with the Tailgater is that it is just so basic for the price. I learned about all of the grills that had Wi-Fi, and apps and meat probes to help control cooking. The Tailgater is not Wi-Fi capable, and it does not have a meat probe. This is meant to be a portable grill for, well tailgating, and small spaces. So, I can understand how some of the other features would be limited to maintain that portability.
Not Stainless Steel
I was also not as big of a fan of the Tailgaters construction. It is nice enough, but it is not stainless steel like the others I looked at. You had to spend a lot more money to get these features which are found on Traeger’s larger models, and then I would lose the portability.
Big Cooking Area, But Also A Big Variance In Temperature
One of the nice things about the Tailgater is that it has a large cooking area of 300 square inches. That’s the 2nd largest of the portables. It has a hopper with an 8 lb capacity and a temperature range of 180º F to 450º F. The temperature variance seems high though, being within 20 degrees as compared to others as low as five degrees.
The Rec Tec RT-340
I have a friend who has a Rec Tec grill in his Motorcoaches summer kitchen, and it’s a monster. The construction of the grill is like a tank. Right down to the 304 polished stainless handles shaped like bull horns! His is the RT-700, and just standing next to it made me drool. Now this is a serious grill, but not a portable one.
At that point I didn’t know if they made a portable one, but I was definitely going to check. It turns out they do make a portable one; the RT-340. It has those same polished stainless steel bull horn handles and in fact, the whole cooking chamber was stainless.
The Rec Tec RT-340 has Wi-Fi, two meat probes and a large 340 square inches of cooking area. The temperature controller is adjustable to 500º F in 5º increments. It has a Lo setting that smokes under 200º F.
Shame About The Weight
What’s the downside of the RT-340? Weighing in at 92 pounds, it’s just too heavy to be a portable RV grill.
The construction is exceptional, but that quality of build easily makes this one of the heaviest of the portable grills.
The Green Mountain Davy Crockett
The Green Mountain Davy Crockett is one of the smallest portable pellet grills. It has a cooking surface area of only 219 square inches. This is one of the reasons why it’s lighter than the other grills, weighing only 58 pounds.
Lots of Features
As small as it is, it does not lack in features. It has Wi-Fi and a single meat temperature probe. There is an app that lets you fully customize your cooking profiles, and the temperature is adjustable from 150º F to 550º F in 5-degree increments.
Lots of Accessories Available
Another great feature of the Green Mountain grills is the cool accessories. They have all the typical accessories that you see with the other pellet grill manufacturers, but one of the coolest ones we found is a Wood Fired Pizza Oven Attachment!
Careful though, there are two different models of pizza grill attachments and the one that fits the Davy Crockett is the GMG-4108 10”x10”. There’s also a Pizza Oven Peel that fits in the Davy Crockett and a Stainless Steel Pizza Rocker Blade that’s better than the typical roller pizza cutters.
You can get all three for around $100. Can you imagine having your own wood-fired pizza oven at your camping trip?! We’re ordering that!
The second accessory that we ordered after we got our Davy Crockett is the Stainless 2 Piece Grease Tray. With the two-piece grate, you can slide it open to allow direct open-flame grilling. We only found this on the Green Mountain website, but it’s under $20 and should let us sear food.
Great Price and Quality
One of the best features of this grill is the price. Coming in at just over $300, it’s over $100 cheaper than the others.
It does not sacrifice quality to achieve this. Quality construction along with stainless steel grilling grates, makes it stack up very well against the competitors. The fold-able legs that double as handles along with the weight savings makes for a truly portable grill.
The big drawback to this grill is its smaller cooking area. At 219 square inches, it is the third smallest pellet grill.
Added Bonus- Use This To Store Your Pellet Grill
While I was researching the Davy Crockett, I found a YouTube video showing that it fits perfectly into a Husky 37-inch workbox!
Tip- We bought ours at Home Depot instead of Amazon and it was a lot less!
Why did I choose the Green Mountain Davy Crockett?
Each of the grills that I investigated had their own unique benefits.
The Traeger Tailgater met my weight requirements and has a solid reputation for being a good grill, but it lacked many features others offered.
I really loved the Rec Tec RT-340, and if the weight wasn’t an issue, with everything it offered for the price (around $600), I would have chosen it.
However, the weight and features of the Davy Crockett, along with the price made it an easy choice.
So, if you are considering a pellet grill and smoker for your RV, take a look at the Davy Crockett grill and I don’t think you will be disappointed!
People Also Ask
What Happens If Your Pellet Grill Runs Out of Pellets While Cooking?
If your pellet grill runs out of pellets while you are cooking, the fire will go out. Some grills have a low pellet alarm to alert you when they are running low. If your grill does go out, you will need to follow your specific grill restart procedures.
How Much Wood Does a Pellet Grill Use in An Hour?
It depends on temperature and ranges from ½ pound per hour at 150 degrees to 2 pounds per hour at 400 degrees. At a setting of 225 degrees, your pellet grill will burn about 1 pound per hour.
Which type of wood pellets should you use for smoking?
The type of wood pellets you use depends on the type of food you are smoking. Trager put this handy chart together that shows which wood pellets complement each type of food: