In the second year, the grill quit working. The auger turns and the heating rod gets hot but the grill shuts itself off within minutes. I think it is the controller but I've had the same experience as others: emails and phone calls to Traeger's customer service are unanswered. My wife just wants to return it to Costco but I'd rather fix it. Given the lack of response and the poor quality of the electronics, I'm starting to come around to my wife's point of view.
Hi Brad! Thanks for your comment. I’d give Grilla Grills a hard look. Their Silverbac model is as solid as they come. The sear box on the Camp Chef is an interesting addition. Given that it’s propane powered, it would be pretty much light, turn and go. So, as you said, low maintenance. Still… with a set of grill grates, you should be able to get a sear at top temps on most pellet grills that would meet your expectations.
Many of the models require you to clean them up for 30 minutes because you have to take out the gooey deflector plate and the greasy grates in order to scrape them off and wash them until they’re shining. Careful cleaning is required when the grease and carbon are covering the deflector plate. The easy-clean grills typically make the parts more accessible but the amount of cleanup remains the same.
When you are looking for a smoker, one of the features that you want is to be able to control the temperature. This means that you will be able to use both a high and low temperature for smoking everything from poultry to fish to beef to vegetables to cheese. This is exactly what you get with the Camp Chef. It has an LED digital temp control system that comes with a food probe made from stainless material.
I purchased a Traeger Lil Tex 22 yesterday. I “grilled” a whole chicken. It overshot the temperature by nearly a hundred degrees which wasn’t a bad way to crisp up the bird but I was afraid it was going to melt itself down so I shut it down. I was up by 5 this morning to smoke a pork butt for pulled pork sandwiches. My wife’s family is coming over for dinner tonight and time being a concern I fired up the “smoker”. It snowed 12 inches last night so the next hour I was shoveling my walks. Imagine my surprise when I checked on the Traeger and it had shut itself off . The meat was colt to the touch. I read through the instructions to make sure I started it up correctly and I did. I removed the meat and restarted the smoker. It smoked for awhile then quit. The temperature never got above 140. I called Traeger technical support twice and each rep gave me a different answer as to why it wasn’t working. After 3.5 hours I gave up on the Traeger for a more conventional method. I purchased the Traeger for the the set and walk away feature. It let me down!! It is 34 degrees outside today so I will wait until it warms up to try again. Should it fail me again I will sell it for scrap! So far I am not impressed. My wood smoker takes time but it is reliable.
Decided that moving these beasts was a little challenging so I bought a Backwoods Party 10 years ago and loved it. But basically have about worn it out. And as I got older I don’t enjoy getting up at 2 AM and then having to get up every couple of hours, after the 45 minutes of getting it ready at 2 AM, to check it and feed it. I also bought a smaller lightly used Open Range, The Good One. Used their recommended method the first time I cooked with it and hated the Q off of it so bad most of it was wasted, wife hated it too and the son ate most of it. It was extremely ash/strong smoke flavored!
So Kevin here is where you come in. Been wanting to make getting consistent Q on the table regularly and easily. Been looking at pellet poopers for about 5 years now and decided to take the plunge. Had already done enough looking a few years ago Traeger’s issues had scared me off. Several friends had them and raved but always mentioned problems. I decided from my work I don’t want to be buying someone’s, ‘we know the problems and are fixing them’ if you can find something solid for similar cost. Yoder and FEC were pretty much my finalists. So I was doing my final thoughts and found your article.
Hi Dillon, thank you for commenting here. As to your question, I think you’d be happy with either a Weber Smokey Mountain cooker 18 inch, or a Daniel Boone Green Mountain Grill pellet smoker. Each are on the smaller side of BBQ Smokers and BBQ Pellet Grills, with just enough extra space to make food for a small family get together as needed. My brother lives in Colorado Springs and had trouble getting his Weber Smokey Mountain cooker to get hot enough and/or regulate temps. He built a wind screen for it at first which helped a ton. Then, he constructed a kind of smokehouse for it to sit in. Works great and functions as desired. You can see more on the Weber Smokey Mountain cookers here. For GMGs, you can find Colorado dealers by visiting this link: http://greenmountaingrills.com/find-a-dealer/.
I talk with a lot of teams out there, and I know for certain that some of them have turned to my buddy Fred Grosse’s MojoBricks to boost their smoke profile when using pellet grills. In fact, of the teams who win with Pellet Smokers – I’d wager at least a quarter of them to maybe half have used MojoBricks to round out their final product. I really like Fred as well – which makes it a pleasure to include his products in this grouping of pellet grill reviews.
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Hey DS – You’re dead on correct re: Grilling vs. Smoking. Most to nearly all Pellet Smokers are used as “smokers” in the truest sense. Louisiana Pellet Smokers boast a direct fire feature for grilling, as do Yoder smokers. However, I’m with you in that a grill is a grill and a smoker is a smoker. GMGs are very popular down here on the FBA circuit. However, most folks do find that they don’t produce the amount of smoke preferred for competition meats (which, in truth is a complaint about many pellet smokers). This is why stick burners and “some” gravity feds get a boost in rep among competition cook teams. That said, I do see folks happily using pellet smokers, and some win with them. One “trick” I see used now and again to boost the smoke output on a pellet smoker is to use one of those smoke tubes… like the A-maze-n Tube Smoker. Thanks for your comment, and for stopping by to read this blog post! – Kevin
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
Hey Mike, thanks for touching base. It’s always a pleasure to connect with you, man! If you have the space, I’d go with the JB. You can always cook under your pellet smoker’s capacity, but you can never cook more than it will hold! As such, you can always find use for the extra room in the JB. It’s like the umbrella and the rain scenario – bring one and you’ll never need it. Go out without one, and it’ll pour on you! Holding temp and managing the cook is the same for each of these GMGs. You’ll have smooth going with both, I’m sure. If you are cooking in very cold temps, you might want to consider the thermal blanket GMG puts out. Helps a bit re: getting to / maintaining temp. Some folks use it all the time as they feel it keeps more smoke in the chamber. As you know, nearly all pellet smokers produce a bit less smoke than your barrel smoker will. Hope this helps, bro! Thanks for your comments!
Pellet grills are every lazy man’s dream appliance. These grills need absolute zero to minimal maintenance. You just need to lightly wipe through it after every use, and maybe thoroughly clean it 2 to 3 times a year! All pellet grills now come with a drip pan that catch the accumulating oils that drops from the food. They are also made with good quality raw materials that enable them to withstand the outdoor atmospheres all year round. If this does not entice your lazy bones, no other appliance will, and that is a fact. Period!
This smoker is one totally awesome product. It is more that just a smoker, it is a true convection oven, we have baked bread in it! As for being able to hold the temp for low and slow, wonderful. The beef that I smoked was delectable. I just this week smoked 10 venison loins at the same time; it took 1 hour for the most tender, delicious venison I have ever tasted!
OK. I’m rambling a bit. To your point regarding Traeger. I think that the models you can buy at big box stores (Costco etc) are OK. I still hear a few complaints about blistering paint etc. But… their Pro Series Models are a different story. The new management at Traeger has come a long way in their efforts to reaffirm the Traeger brand as a legitimate BBQ Pellet Smoker brand that everyone from the backyarder to competition pitmasters can get behind. To that end, they only allow specialty retailers carry the Pro Series models, which are built with a bit more heft and better PID controls, electronics, etc. You can find these at Ace Hardware stores, places like the Whiskey Bent BBQ Supply store we have here in Lakeland, FL (there is now one in Odessa, FL) as well. You can find a Traeger Pro model by going to http://www.traegergrills.com/dealers.
As you can see in this selection of pellet grill reviews, the act of heating pellets and generating smoke in any pellet smoker is pretty much the same. Yes, some pellet grills use thicker metal, have better thermostats, air flow, racks, drip flow, etc. But the ask any professional BBQ cooker who uses a pellet grill, and they’ll tell you that the quality of your smoke really does come down to the pellets themselves. Here’s what one very astute BBQ pro had to say over at the Pellet Smoke Ring: