Of all the different smoker designs available, pellet smokers are the easiest to use, because they're thermostatically controlled, like your kitchen stove. You just select a cooking temperature, and a controller maintains it by feeding wood pellets to a fire pot as needed to maintain your set temp. Set it and forget it. You can throw a brisket in a pellet smoker, set it for 225°F (105°C), go to bed, and sleep like a baby, knowing you'll wake up to delicious smoked meat.
In reading through the comments section, it seems the recommendations have shifted over time. As it stands today, which smoker would you go with and why: GMG Jim Bowie, Traeger Pro 34, or the RecTec? I like the cooking space of the Traeger Pro 34, but the other 2 seem to have more bells and whistles. I’ve been smoking about 5yrs, so not a pro but not a beginner. Currently have a 10+ year old Traeger Lil Tex elite hand-me down that is ready to give up the ghost. Would appreciate your thoughts!
I had hung my hat on the Yoder and had even contacted the factory and a couple of distributors in the DFW area. Then I did my usual, search craigslist and see if anyone is moving and selling their unit. Low and behold a Memphis Pro!!! Story was brand new, bought for a built in and now cannot use it now. Brand new but you may not have a warranty though. Price… wait for it! $1600!!! You got to be kidding! Scam?? Ok well I will contact him. Surprisingly he had it advertised for a few weeks and only had a few contacts but none serious. Ok, I will come look and if you can plug it in and show me the controller works I will take it. Called the factory and they were quite responsive. They said we probably won’t warranty the controller because we don’t know the history but it will depend on the failure. Everything else we will cover. So right before Thanksgiving headed to Dallas and it basically all looked brand new, plugged in and it did everything you could do without burning pellets.
The Camp Chef Woodwind Pellet Grill was chosen as our sixth choice because it lacked some features found in our Top 5 picks, especially when it came to cooking flexibility. While it does offer an impressive 6-in-1 cooking experience, it lacks an auto shut-off feature, which makes it less of a “set it an forget it” kind of smoker. The grill is rather heavy, at an overall weight of 146lbs. It’s also more expensive than the rest, even though it offers similar (even less) features. It’s a decent choice if flavor is the only thing you’re looking for.
Bought Junior Elite 20 pellet grill at Costco special sales event. Took it home and it simply wouldn't get up to temperature to ignite the pellets. Auger made extremely loud noises and then simply refused to operate. Packed it back up and returned to Costco with no problem. They had no inventory so I called Traeger. Woman on phone was very pleasant and helpful. Asked if I could get Traeger to simply replace the grill at the same price I purchased it for. Her supervisor said no and if I wanted it for that price I would have to drive to another state and purchase it at one of their event presentations. Made no sense to me why they would sell it to someone else for the "event" price but not to me who had already done. Poor customer support and silly supervisor. I will look elsewhere.
Kevin- super helpful article. Thanks! I just moved from a big city small apartment with no grill to a house in the country. Most essential purchase is the grill. I’m really on the fence. I like the idea of a pellet grill, but in reality- I’m mostly cooking burgers, fish, steaks, scallops, and veggies. The brisket and ribs will be more of a special occasion. From an economical perspective, am I better buying a gas grill and just getting one of those smoke tubes to add some flavor? From many of the online comments, it seems like the pellet grills benefit from additional smoke anyway, and though you can get additional grates for searing, seems like a square peg in a round hole. The gas grill is sort of the tried and true, and way more economical. Those $500 entry level pellet grills seem a little scrawny, and the next level up is a cool $grand. I’m really on the fence, and getting pressure to “just buy the darn thing” to consummate the move to the country! However the pellet grills seem like the new shiny object and have my curiosity. Any advice? PS- love the website! Thanks, Cary
Because the burn pot is small, there is usually a hot spot directly over it. Some units have an optional perforated section above the burn pot so you can put the meat over direct flame, but the ones I've tested still do not sear properly. And there is no way to set up a 2-zone cooking system with a cool zone. As with most other grills and smokers, the differences between lower and upper racks is not huge, so think of it as one heckuva indirect heat convection smoker with precision temperature control.
Ok, so where do I start..... Last September or so, I bought my Traeger at the local Costco during one of the Traeger road shows. I heard wonderful things about them. Did the research, they are pricey, but decided to take the plunge and plop down the $750.00 for a new grill and a couple of bags of pellets. Assembly was way harder than the Traeger rep told me it would be. It took me about 4 hours start to finish to get it assembled. Once assembled, I did all the break in "burning" and we made our first meal, a whole chicken. I have to admit, it truly was yummy! Then over the next couple of months we made 4 or five other meals with it and we we actually very happy with the results. Then came the holidays...... We made one of the Ham recipes from a Traeger cookbook. About half way through the process I looked outside to see my grill totally engulfed in flames. I shut the grill down and fortunately salvages most of the ham for Christmas dinner. The grill itself was about 60% destroyed. I called Treager the next day just to find out what happened. The customer service guy way REALLY nice. He said, "Don't worry. We stand behind our product 100%." Wow was I impressed! He told me he would email me instructions on how to make a claim. He even told me he would send me a new thermometer ( my Christmas present one was destroyed by the fire). He did everything as promised! Now, jump ahead to my actually trying to get my Traeger replaced. Per the email, I called Traeger customer service expecting the same service I received right after Christmas. NOPE! I spoke with Frank (Carson) I believe. He did everything from accuse me of shutting my grill off and turning it back on incorrectly (impossible since I was in the house) to not cleaning my grill. Neither of which were correct. He basically made me feel like my grill was unsafe! His attitude was HORRIBLE! He was rude and condescending. A nightmare to work with! I did not get my grill issues resolved until I spoke with his boss Andrew. Way more than I felt was necessary. Fast forward to today. Finally got my new Traeger running again. Had an issue with the smoker temperature. So I called the toll free Traeger customer service line. Low and behold, who answers my call at Traeger customer service? Frank! He is still nasty and ended the conversation with "Hopefully you do not burn your grill up again!" Nice guy! Dude, being a smart aleck didn't exactly earn you any points. You should be ashamed of your self! Bottom line: Love my Traeger. But customer service person Frank is HORRIBLE to work with! Everyone else there is so nice. Why on earth do they keep someone who is supposed to be helping customers, when he has such a horrible and nasty disposition. I will keep my Traeger but hope I NEVER have to speak with Frank again. One star for him!
These food grade wood pellets contain only the best and the pure compressed sawdust from hardwood and are sometimes added with natural vegetable oils, perfectly safe and healthy for your food. However, the carbon in the soot and ashes that fly off the firebox can get embedded into the body of the food, which can get inside your body. The good news is problems such as these can be easily avoided if you can keep your smoker clean.
I have had a Traeger Junior Elite for 4 years. In that time I have used it < 50 times. I have replaced a fan motor, a fuse, and now I have been trying to get a thermometer replaced. First time, the service guy dropped the ball and never sent it. Second time- the thermometer got sent around to multiple post offices. Third time, never got to me- apparently they sent it to the wrong address. Fourth time- still waiting. It's been 5 weeks now, and I cannot get the part, and have no idea if the part will fix the grill. Everyone in service has been polite, but incompetent as well. I have had 2 flash fires in the grill from the auger pushing too many pellets into the hot pot, the temperature fluctuates wildly. Save yourself the frustration: avoid Traeger at all costs!
just received my new YS-640 two weeks ago and I absolutely love it. The shipping process and delivery was just as described. The delivery guy unloaded it off the truck, and wheeled the pallet into my garage. Everything was perfect. I am very impressed with the build quality...this thing is a tank. So far have smoked ribs and a brisket, and grilled chicken breasts. The grill heats up much faster than I expected. Temperature holds very steady over the long cooks. I love having the built in probe ports. Still figuring out and tweaking the baffle to control different cooking zones. Only negative thing I say is it can be difficult to manouver in tight quarters because it's so heavy and only the small caster wheels turn. So if you need to move your smoker around a lot, consider the comp cart.
You want even grilling: One of the downsides of using a charcoal grill is ensuring that the entire grilling area is evenly heated. Spreading the charcoal evenly and avoiding hot spots is difficult. Traeger’s pellet grilling system overcomes this problem with a fan that evenly distributes the heat throughout the grilling area, much like a wood-fired oven would have.
While the Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett Pellet Grill is compatible with most iOS and Android devices, I want to stress, check the compatibility of your device with the grill before purchasing because it would suck to buy this grill only to find out that this feature is not compatible. Also, if you do not plan on using the grill on some elevated surface, the legs are not tall so the grill sits close to the ground. Regardless, this is a GREAT smoker: your meat will come out tender and juicy with that authentic BBQ taste we all love! Neither of these cons affects the quality of your BBQ and both can be worked around.
Due to the lower oxygen at 9200 FASL, I cannot keep the smoker hot and I cannot get it above 250 Deg. F. I seem to be limited due to the diameter of the smoker…just can’t get enough coals and air to get and maintain temps. Therefore, I want to buy a new smoker, on that will regulate temperature at temperatures of 200 – 450 deg F. Any experience or guidance for a smoker brand and type (wood pellet, charcoal, or electric) at high altitudes? i am looking for a smaller size smoker unit.
Hey Brad, you’ve got 3 great grills there. Rec Tec has the edge on Pellet quantity. I like the build quality and support on the Grilla a bit better, especially with the extra insulation and updated comp wheel set up. Figure 10 min or so to get to top temps. Just remember to drop to around 300 F temp setting before going into the shut down cycle on any pellet grill if you’re cranking it up to the highest setting.
I bought my second Traeger Grill around Thanksgiving (my last one died after 3 months), spent most of the day assembling it only to find it didn't work. Customer service told me to reset the thermostat, I did and it shut down. I did this routine a few more times with customer service and it kept shutting down, day after day. Traeger reluctantly sent me a replacement grill and promised it would be Fully assembled (I have little use of my left hand and can't work with small parts) Well it showed up unassembled in a bunch of little boxes. Customer service told me 4 times that they would call back with a local Traeger dealer to assemble it. Four promises to have someone come out and not even a phone call. This is the worst customer service from a consumer goods manufacturer I've experienced in years! All BS, all the time! I had the pleasure of returning all the little boxes of parts today to Home Depot for a refund. I wish I had seen all the Traeger reviews 3 months ago when I bought this pile of ... Three months without a working grill because of their cheap Chinese construction. The infomercial looks good, don't do it! Hello WEBER!
Therefore, for a reliable and consistent meal/ grill every time, go for the Traeger grill. It is easy to set and control the temperatures, thus the results are always as expected. Besides, a novice griller can master its use immediately, as it is a complete digital experience. On the same note, it can do a lot more than just grilling. You can use it to smoke, barbecue, braise, roast, and bake, all through the digital control system.
Hey Jeff – I think that due to pellet smokers requiring much of the wood pellet for “fuel” leaving a smaller part for the “smoke” means that you want as much of the smoke to stay in the chamber for as long as possible. Just my opinion. I’ve not used charcoal pellets. Those I’ve spoken with who have used them weren’t extremely happy with the results. Regarding the water pan, I feel that pellet smokers don’t typically require water pans. However, you can surely use one and see how your results go.
Yes, no one likes to read the instruction manual. But there are many advantages of learning the specifics of your grill and reading the manual is key. Generally, you should not use water to clean your pellet smoker, so keep your hose pipe far away. These smokers have digital controllers, a motorized auger, a fan and an igniter rod for the fire pot. These parts will get destroyed if they come into contact with water. You should gently dry scrub the dirt off these parts, making sure not to disassemble any parts. Cleaning the thermostat will also prove to be essential; otherwise, it may read internal temperatures inaccurately.
With that being said, it’s necessary to understand how much wood pellet would last you and for how long. A 40-pound bag of wood pellets would last you for approximately 24 hours if burned at 250 F. Therefore, if you’re trying to slow-cook a large piece of brisket for 14 hours straight, your 6-9 lb hopper capacity just won’t cut it. You’re going to have to refill it in the middle if you wanted to continue cooking.
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The control panel is simple, uncomplicated and easy to use, no codes of crazy steps to remember. Turn the switch on, set the temp once it lights and you are ready to go. On the outside the controls may look simple but behind the scenes it is working to constantly monitor feed rates and temperatures to lock into your set temperature as close as possible. The longer you cook the smaller the adjustments , making this one of he most consistent cookers on the market.
Seeking to produce the pellet cooker that is both a great smoker and a powerful grill. The truth is that burning pellets in a controlled way is not the best method for producing high grilling temperatures. Most pellet grills top out at 500 degrees F while the hottest units can hit 600 degrees F. This pellet cooker is in reality, a combination grill with a large smoking space, and a small but powerful direct grilling area. Reasonably priced with quality construction, this is definitely a pellet grill to look at.
Hey David, Is there a particular reason why the Grilla grills interest you? I tend to find they’re great smokers, just expensive for what they are. If you’re working with limited space (say smoking on a condo balcony) then the Grilla models vertical footprint can make all the difference between having a smoker or not. But for the price, and for a standard model smoker, the Traeger models tend to be better all around.
I use to have a charcoal/wood fired smoker and it was a nightmare maintaining temperature especially on a long brisket cook. Instantly I've fallen in love my YS640 coupled with a fireboard. You literally set the temp load it up and walk away with no stress or worries about maintain temperature. It provides great smoke flavor too. Yes it is an expensive purchase but that is because this thing is built like a tank and will last for decades.
BBQ pellets are 100% natural hardwood, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the pellets are 100% of the type of wood listed on the bag. When you buy cherry wood chips or chunks, that wood is 100% cherry wood. However, when you buy cherry wood pellets, they’re usually a blend of cherry and another wood, such as oak or alder. While that may sound deceptive, there are good reasons for this practice.
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One huge advantage with pellet smokers is that because of how they work, they’re all generally of a higher standard than a lot of other types of smoker. But just because you’re less likely to grab a bad model doesn’t mean that you don’t want the best, right? There’s still things to think about that make sure you get the absolute best fit for you and your family.
Wood pellets are an all natural product. No petroleum products in them, no fillers, chemicals, or binders. They are an excellent source of smoke flavor and compact energy, 8,500 BTU per pound. No hot coals, no flareups. There is also very little ash: 10 pounds of pellets will produce about 1/2 cup of ash. All the rest is converted to energy and combustion gases. I clean out the bottom of the ones I tested after about 10 cooks. At high temps there is very little smoke, at low temps the pellets smolder and produce superb but understated smoke flavors. Click here for more about pellets.
Buying factory direct means that you are purchasing a product directly from the manufacturer, which eliminates the need for a middleman. There’s no need for the product to go through any kind of supply chain and acquire additional costs in order to reach you. The price tag that’s displayed on factory direct products doesn’t contain any markup to compensate for additional costs. Buying factory direct gives you the best chance at receiving the lowest price possible for the product you’re purchasing.
So how do you know which are good pellets and which aren’t? It’s not easy. There are plenty of problematic pellets on the market that have glowing online reviews but which we know cause issues. Quality pellets usually cost in the neighborhood of $17 to $22 for a twenty-pound bag. If you see a price on pellets that seems too good to be true, there’s probably a reason for it.
Pellet cookers usually have an auger or another feed mechanism that pushes the pellets into a burn pot typically about the size of a beer can ripped in half. An igniter rod sits in the bottom of the pot and when you turn on the grill it glows like the element on an electric stove. As the pellets ignite, a fan blows to feed them oxygen, and the igniter shuts off. The Traeger L'il Tex, an inexpensive model, draws 300 watts an hour while the igniter rod is on in the first four minutes, then it drops down to 50 watts an hour for the duration of the cook session, less than a standard light bulb.
My wife purchased this cooker for me for Christmas three years ago when I was working on the road. I had been a gas man for years and had converted to charcoal with great success and enjoyment. I built a UDS smoker and was really getting into the slow smoking with better temp control. Then my son ratted on me and told my wife that I had been drooling over a Yoder Pellet Grill. She surprised me to say the least as I would have never bought this unit myself. I've had several cars that cost less than this smoker! Wow. In person, this grill is build by people that love their job. The smoke flavor compared to a Weber kettle is more delicate than harsh. Temperatures are very even across the grill with warmer sides within an inch of the body of the grill. Being able to start it in two minutes and get to cooking in ten is very handy. Being able to run downtown without worrying about the temp is awesome. I've had it get a little lower than where I had set it, but not by more than 15 degrees. It has great reliability in any weather. We live in northern Montana and this thing just does what you want it to do. Great for making jerky, slow smoke, grilling, and baking. Wood fired cookies are one of our favorites. I've smoked cheese on it during the dead of winter at -15 degrees. Bacon...wow. If you have never had slow smoked bacon I feel sorry for you. Don't worry about not liking this unit after the purchase. I've thanked my wife more times than I can remember and I've received just as many compliments back from everyone who has sampled the food. Great job Yoder!
Kevin, appreciate your reviews and insights. I am currently looking for my first pellet cooker which will be primarily used for camping, therefore I will likely purchase a portable unit. Your review on the GMG Davy Crocket answered some questions for me. I was initially contemplating the Traeger Junior Elite and GMG Davy Crocket, but after doing some homework I’m now considering the Rec Tec Mini as well. I can purchase the Traeger and GMG now for $350 and the Rec Tec for $500. My dilemma is that I (like many others) take very good care of my gear/equipment, so whatever I purchase, I expect to get a great deal of use out of. With that said, making the wrong decision could be a 7-10 year mistake. There are aspects of each that I like, I guess my question is whether spending another $150 on the Rec Tec, in your opinion, would be worth it to you? I understand if you would rather stay away from specific recommendations, and if that is the case, any other thoughts you have would be appreciated.
If cost isn't an issue, check out the Elite Wood Fire. This 200+ pound behemoth from Memphis Grills costs more than some used cars, but it's fully loaded. Wifi-enabled, an extraordinary temperature range, and a cooking space large enough to be used by a small restaurant - the Elite has it all. The pellet hopper is built to match capacity, with enough fuel space to smoke for up to 62 hours straight.
A pellet grill often comes with many facilities that are usually not available on any other grilling appliances. One of them is its temperature control and settings. This is a huge advantage for inexperienced cooks who do not have the understanding and years of experience of pit masters who know how to cook different foods on different temperatures. This also means that you do not have to fiddle and fidget around with the heat every 2 minutes after slapping on the steak on to the grills.
In 2010, I sprung for a discounted Rainer with $80 in tip money and a pro deal through the whitewater rafting company I worked for. It was an expensive purchase for me at a time when my monthly food budget was around $60. But hey, along with a Roll-a-Table, two chairs I “borrowed” from the rafting company, and my cooler, I had almost a full kitchen that I could deploy from the back of my truck. And the Rainier quickly proved a wise investment.
Some products feature the wood-pellet fuel system as a bonus, but the Camp Chef SmokePro SG makes its wood-fired function the star of the show. Using 100% real hardwood pellets, recreating 5-star-cuisine level dishes on a large scale is now made convenient. Though it still has limited reviews, it wouldn’t be a surprise if this smoker quickly becomes a best-selling choice. It’s the kind of smoker that you need if you want hassle-free and fast cooking.
So that brings me to the one thing I have learned in all this that I basically read when I was getting started. One of the biggest keys is “Temperature Control”! If you want consistent food make sure you get that under control. It is the key to solid consistent food! Once you get your food consistent you can experiment with a lot of other things. But if you can’t get that down, you will always be looking for another magic bullet. The number one magic is temperature!
This purchase, the customer service and the lack of understanding from Traeger Pellet Grills, LLC, has been very unfortunate. I've since stopped payment with AMEX and Traeger is now telling AMEX that they will do nothing until they get the damaged grill back. Well, I'm in Florida and my brother is in Virginia, and at his age is not capable of handling a Grill that weighs over 100 pounds by himself. Additionally, he's not a "Grill Repair Man" and does not have the knowledge to tear down a Grill Body including electronics and putting it back together as assembled at Traeger.
We purchased our wood pellet grill (Model TFB57CLB) from Costco in August 2017. It came with one bag of the gourmet blend pellets. We used the Traeger cookbook to try a few different recipes in the fall. Most of these involve a period of smoking followed by a period of grilling. The grill seemed to work fine at first. We used it a couple of times on warmer days in the winter and it had some trouble getting up to the desired heat level. We started using it regularly again in April 2018. I was careful to clean it and check the pellets etc. The smoking feature seemed to work alright, but when I would turn the heat up for grilling, the grill would usually struggle to get much over 225. I would resort to turning it up to 375 or more just to get it to 225 and then often it would sink back down to 180 or 160. I went to the troubleshooting guide on the manufacturer's website and checked all the components, which seemed to be working fine.
Although these are marketed as grills, they do much more, including baking or roasting. Because they heat by convection, you might not get the grill marks that a gas or charcoal grill will give you, but you also won’t have the flame-up problems. While many pellet grills offer high cooking temperatures, the maximum depends on ambient temperature and wind. Many users wrap their grills in special insulating covers to help maintain heat, reduce fuel use, and reach the higher temperatures they desire.