And of course, it’s definitely a plus when the company that makes your grill includes a multi-year warranty and top notch customer service. Pellet grills are finicky compared to gas or charcoal grills simply because there are so many more parts that require electronics or that have electrical components… which means there is a fair bit more that can actually go wrong or require service at some point.
On Tabletop Models: I didn’t include them here because though extensive, this post is more of an overview of a few select makers of Pellet Smokers I think do a fine job with both manufacturing and product support. The one exception is that I did include a link to where you can find the Rec-Tec mini. That’s Rec-Tec’s answer to the smaller, tabletop or tailgating models.
It comes with some unique features, such as its proprietary “Sense-mate” technology that uses a thermal sensor to monitor the ambient temperature. If used in a cold weather, this grill fires up the turbo mode so you won’t have to wait for it to heat up before you start using it. It comes with “fan-only” mode to blow off the ash and automatically clean the grill once it has been shut off.
Thanks Kevin. I am about to buy both a 5 burner gas grill and a smoker for a new bbq island. Rather than buy both, will one of these higher end pellet grills take the place of a traditional propane grill? I can apply the funds for the gas grill to a higher end pellet if it can really do double duty. It has to be able to cook burgers and dogs and steaks etc. Just like a gas grill though. Thoughts?
Brad Barrett at Grill Grates makes a fantastic product. Reverse searing 2″ steaks and chops (or thicker) works great on pellet smokers as you can get the internal temp up to 10-15 degrees below your desired finish temp, remove them and loosely wrap / cover in foil, crank up the smoker with the grates on to say, 400 degrees, and then sear off your protein getting great grill marks with little to no sticking at all. Huge fan of Grill Grates.
Despite being a little complicated when compared to the other types of grilling equipment (because of the automatic pellet auger and fan), they are pretty easy to repair if you have the right parts. You can find these parts right at a home depot or online. It doesn’t matter if you need to replace the auger or the fan, the ignitor rod or the hopper, for the top brands, you’ll find the replacement parts just as easily. Let’s look at the replaceable parts of a pellet smoker:
If you get it that BBQ is more than burning hotdogs on a propane grill, you could likely benefit from The BBQ Beat podcasts. Kevin interviews the best Pitmasters in the country. They share their knowledge, stories, and experiences. There is something to be learned in each podcast. So if you're serious about your bbq, check out these podcasts. They are time well spent.
My traeger has had some good moments but it very unreliable. I really do not enjoy cooking with it. I have no confidence in the temp readings and the smoke control. Every time I open the lid the temp drops like 200 degrees. I'll smoke at the "smoke" setting but as soon as I turn it to 225 it spikes to like 300-500 degrees. Wtf? I thought this POS was supposed to be a set it and forget it type smoker. Very unreliable. Temp fluctuates so much and if there is even a slight breeze the temps just go up and down up and down. The pellet feeder is garbage. It will all the sudden just start smoking like crazy because the pellets have jammed into the burner. Completely ridiculous smoker. I use it still but only when I can sit and watch the feeder. The guys comment below is true about the feeder always just using the middle pellets. I always have to check it and push the pellets to the center. Some simple engineering would change this. Never again will I purchase a traeger. There are much better options out there and better price.
Perfect for traveling and tailgating, or even just a smaller patio space, the Traeger Junior Elite 20 is small in size, but delivers big wood-fired barbecue taste. Impress your friends by grilling, smoking, roasting, baking, braising, or BBQing at any tailgate or outdoor activity. The integrated Digital Elite Controller keeps temps within +/- 20 degrees F and makes setting the grill temperature as easy as turning a dial.
Over time, as other companies started entering the scene, the designs saw some massive improvements. Later, the firepots were brought closer to the hopper, reducing the distance the pellets had to travel to reach it. This move reduced the probability of a pellet jam. Later, more features began to be added to these grills to further improve the reliability, safety, and convenience.
I don’t know how many meals I cooked on that thing, but it’s been enough to make me a hero and de facto camp chef among my friends. I seared up a tri tip large enough to feed four hungry kayaking buddies at the Salmon River Festival one year, then covered it with foil and cooked it on indirect heat for one of the best steaks of my life, which we happily consumed in the middle of nowhere. The grill also perfectly charred onions and peppers to deliver a mountain of chicken and beef fajitas to a crowd of ten. I still get compliments on that one.
Product is decent but customer service really didn't help me out when they sent me a wrong accessory part that was ordered by their customer service department. Explained that the representative misunderstood my request for an inside shelf but I was sent outer shelf which I have already . Tried to be fair and asked them to pay for the return shipping so I could return it back. They said we will gladly return your $ . Well till this day after numerous calls and false promises for the credit return .. there still is no refund. They seem to care but actually they did nothing. It's been 3 months of calling. Sorry to say we are Done with this company. If they can't settle a small concern and have A + service then don't bother! Good thing they are not the only smoker on the market. Shop around folks.
You need some temperature control in your grilling system: Even though most propane and charcoal grills include a temperature gauge, they’re not precise. Because the pellet Traeger grill works more like an oven, cooking at a precise temperature setting is a lot easier to do. It’s not quite as precise as the oven in your kitchen, but the Traeger system’s temperature control is surprisingly accurate most of the time. Some manufacturers of low cost pellet grills only offer low, medium, or high temperature settings.
You like the idea of cooking different types of foods on the grill: If you’re someone who wants to grill food other than meat, the Traeger grilling system gives you this option. With the precise temperature control of the Traeger, cooking things like fruit pies can be a successful endeavor, something you wouldn’t dare try with a propane-fired grill.
I purchased my unit new this last weekend, and had the privilege of working with the owner directly. Extremely polite and informative gentleman who is straightforward and wants you to buy what you think is best. He was not pushy at all and doesn't need to be. The product sells itself. I have a friend who has a Traeger and I have grilled/smoked with him on several occasions. There is a reason this grill weighs significantly more than the Traeger. If you are truly going to invest this amount of money in a grill, please make sure you are completely happy with your investment by purchasing this Yoder grill.
I'm a certified BBQ Judge and found the following; The new portable Traeger Ranger seems to be not well thought out. All the cooking directions are for the large units and over cook everything in the smaller unit. All the pellet smoke is wasted, it is drawn out the back vent and very little ever reaches what you're cooking. They have a grease bucket on the back that is supposed to catch the grease but doesn't, Grease coats the inside of the bbq and runs down the sides and out of the grill landing on whatever you have the grill on. I've been using this Traeger Ranger since June 18, 2018.
In 2008 there were only two consumer pellet grill manufacturers. Today there are dozens. The market for these relatively expensive devices is small but growing fast. Not all of these small manufacturers will survive. Forget the warranty and ask "When it breaks will the manufacturer still be in business?" They do not have repair shops near you. When it breaks will they be able to diagnose the problem over the phone? They may be able to figure it out, but then you have to buy the replacement parts and do the repair work yourself. Are you up to the task?
Cooking Area – Search for one with a substantial cooking region. Keep in mind that pellet barbecues arrive in an extensive variety of sizes. In this manner, pick a unit that can meet your size necessities in light of its cooking territory. You don’t need to purchase an additional extensive unit in case you’re utilizing the grill for your home. Check for the physical measurements of the item and figure out which one can fit your space and stay aware of your cooking style and lifestyle.
Joe Traeger designed and developed pellet grills back in 1985 and he patented the design one year after. But these didn’t go into full commercial production until 1988. Because of the patented design, Traeger held a monopoly in the pellet grill market for twenty years. But being a small family-run company, they did not diversify and kept supplying their products only to a select network of stores.
You prefer a direct heat method of grilling: The Traeger grill uses an indirect heating source, much like an oven, so you won’t be able to sear meat, as many people like to do when grilling a steak. The Traeger system is better for those people seeking more of a smoker type of cooking system, although you can sear your meat by using a frying pan with a little oil initially before you finish cooking it with the Traeger grill. You can use the frying pan on a stove top burner or on the surface of the Traeger grill.
I cannot comment on the quality or Function of the Grills as I never received mine. I order a Texas Elite 34 at the Minnesota State Fair on Aug. 23rd for $899 with a few extras and was told this was the lowest price ever (Not True). They did not tell me about the pro series which I found later. They said it would be delivered within 7 days. 2 weeks later no grill so I called customer service just asking on when I would get the grill. They could not find my order and did not believe I ordered one... They said I had to email them my receipt as they could do nothing on the phone.
Hey Jimmy, thanks for commenting here about your experience. I’m sorry to hear your experience was less than optimal. I have only cooked on the Traeger pro models. I do know that it is good practice to vacuum out the burn pot after cooks of a few hours or more. Not sure this was where your problems were initiated. Did you contact Traeger support? If so, what was their response?
As time passed, a thermostat was added to the equation, and the production BBQ smokers fueled by pellets working in “set it and forget it” fashion was in full force. From this point, several manufacturers of pellet grills began to pop up, with a few key names like Yoder Smokers, Mak Grills, Green Mountain Grills, and Fast Eddy’s Cookshack grills being among the most notable.