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.
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
This is a great smoker for beginners who are willing to take the time to understand how pellet smokers work. You can follow the instructions in the video provided on the manufacturer’s website to see how to put it together. It is also great for people who have been pellet smoking for years. It has a huge cooking surface, which is perfect for entertaining large groups of friends.
A FOLLOW UP: Traeger has agreed to send me replacement parts for the defective ones and I don't have to return them. However I am not returning the grill. I tried to cook a prime rib and a Boston butt. The grill randomly turned off three times and it had the "mini-explosion" others have talked about where the unit actually has an explosion within the housing lifting off the lid a couple inches and making a loud boom. This is not only a potential safety issue, but the "set and forget" is simply not true. It turned off within an hour after setting the temperature at 225 and leaving it unattended for an hour. This is not what I expected or wanted. Sorry Traeger quality is not what it is cranked up to be and certainly not worth the premium pricing they charge for their name. DON'T BUY THIS IF YOU EXPECT TO GET A GRILL THAT WORKS AS ADVERTIZED.
The first thing we have to understand is the anatomy of a pellet smoker. Check the related section on this page to get the idea. Once we know which part goes where, the bigger battle will be won. Next, we’re going to have to be able to analyze the problem if we are to solve it. What seems to be the issue? Are the pellets not lighting up? Are the pellets getting stuck and not working properly? Weird noises coming out from the hopper? Are foods not cooking well? Let’s take a look at these problems and how to solve them:
First impression was this thing isn't built like a mass produced unit, it's more like something you would expect from a master fabricator. The assembly instructions were incredibly detailed, and the way it was packaged made it really easy. It takes a little time to get temp steady for low smoking, but once it's there it seems to be pretty steady. So far absolutely impressed with everything about this cooker, and made in the USA!!!
2. The grill does not come back to the set temperature after the lid is opened and closed to place the meat. I start it, close the lid, set the temp (startup procedure has changed to this according to Traeger service tech) and after 15 or 20 minutes it is not at the set temp yet...in fact it is declining. Well I need to cook on it and cannot wait forever so I open the lid quickly, throw the meat on, and close the lid quickly.
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.
Whether you enjoy smoking, or if grilling is your passion, the Camp Chef® SmokePro Deluxe helps create the perfect meal! From the backyard to the campsite, this pellet grill and smoker cooks up your favorite dish. Durable and heavy-duty, this smoker/grill boasts outstanding temperature sensor gauges to eliminate the guessing associated with smoking. The SmokePro provides internal cooking temps and internal food temps for delicious results.
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 Texas Elite 34 pellet grill is a fairly basic pellet grill that still gives you lots of versatility: you can grill hot and fast, or smoke low and slow, you can bake, braise, roast, or bbq all sorts of food to juicy perfection! Just like an oven, you set the temperature and the Integrated Digital Elite Controller keeps the temp within +/- 20 degrees F for as long as you need it!
Whether it's smoking a rack of ribs or grilling a wood-fired pizza, to even baking a homemade apple pie, do it all with Traeger's 6-in-1 versatility. No matter what you grill, smoke, bake, roast, braise, or BBQ, it all gets flavored with amazing Traeger wood-fired taste. Don't settle for a grill that can only grill or smoke when you can do it all with a Traeger.
At present, pellet grills are mainstream products, with pellet refills filling the market versus having to find timber, sticks, and charcoal to start a fire (since these pellets are made of sawdust, it’s easier for them to cast fire and completely combust into smoke with minimal residue). Old school pit masters dislike this product mostly because it’s too easy to use, like a microwave versus an oven.
3-Position Controller - 3 position controllers, also called LMH controllers, have just 3 temperature settings—low, medium, and high—which correlate to roughly 225°F, 325°F, and 425°F. They feed pellets in fixed cycles that are determined by which setting you choose. With just three settings to choose from, though, you have less control over cooking temperatures than more advanced controllers. These controllers are often found on lower priced pellet grills.
Traeger Smoker – Buyer beware. My Traeger stopped working both times I’ve used it. It just stops after about 2 hours. Traeger’s response is their pillory is they don’t make refunds. The nearest service is 3 hours away and it’s just too far for them. They said the solution to it stopping is for me to partially disassemble it when it stops and vacuum out the burner pot. They said they would talk me through some troubleshooting. They offered to send me replacement parts but said they don’t think it will help. I can’t return it, they can’t determine a fix for it. I’m supposed to just eat the $830 cost for a smoker that doesn’t work.
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.
I store it in the Camp Chef cover. It takes about a minute to pull the cover off, install the gas cylinder and side tables, move it into cooking position on my deck, and light the burners. It doesn't take much longer to clean up. After getting the griddle back up to high temperature for cleaning, the active work of squirting, scraping and wiping down takes just a couple of minutes. After cool down, removing the gas tank and side tables (which fit nicely on top of the griddle for storage) and putting the cover on takes another a minute.
Got the Traeger Pro grill. I was so excited after seeing all of the commercials, unfortunately once I got it together it did not work. No heat on the glow rod no fan nothing. The only thing that worked was the auger and the front panel lights up. Called customer service spent 2 hours on the phone for them to tell me what I already knew they did not work. I told the man on the other end of the line that if it could not work out of the box I did not want it, he stated no returns. Now I am stuck with it. He says, "I will send you the parts needed you can replace them."
Many people misunderstand a pellet grill of consuming a large amount of power for its working. But it is not even remotely true. While it is true that a pellet grill will use up a good amount for power initially, but it only uses that to come to temperature and form. Once it is ready and in form, it power consumption drops so dramatically that some pellet grills use almost as little power as a light bulb; an ideal choice for keeping power costs to a minimum.
Never worry about overcooking or burning your food. Masterful control of airflow throughout all chambers allows you to skillfully prepare food with savory natural hardwood flavor. Our propriety exhaust system makes for even grilling and smoking in the main grilling chamber, and sliding damper vents allow great versatility and control when using the upper and lower smoke cabinets. The fan-forced convection airflow in the main barrel allows the grill to work like a convection oven with indirect flame cooking, while the sliding plate on the flame broiler gives the option to sear a steak using direct flame cooking when desired. The removable upper cooking racks in the main barrel adds additional cooking space: cook dinner on the bottom and prepare vegetables and dessert at the same time on the top racks.
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.
The major issue is the size. It’s the smallest smoker at this price range, and barely bigger than the Junior Elite. Considering the price difference in the two, it’s hard to justify the extra expense, and when you compare it to the other smokers at this level, the Lil Tex seems more than a little lackluster. There’s less cleaning options, less automation, less cooking space. Just less of everything.
My wife and I were one of the first buyers of the YS640 in 2010. We had owned a couple of gas grills that, of course, eventually rust out. My wife saw the YS640 at the Kansas State Fair and called me and said that I HAD to look at this smoker! At first, the smoker had many problems--inaccurate temps, huge swings in temps, etc. Don and Joe kept working on the problems and installing updates--never charging us for updates or service calls. Finally, in about March of 2011, they installed the update that really was the solution. Since then, the YS640 has been a consistent workhorse that does everything as advertised. Built like a tank. built to last. Don and his staff stuck by his product and by his customers. In this day and age, customer service is uncommon. By the way, I thought the YS480 would have been big enough, but my wife said, "our family isn't getting smaller,".....I'm very glad we got the 640 and the second shelf. I have needed it many times. Thanks Don!
Hey Tom, first, thank you so much for reading the article and expressing your approval of it. It means a lot to me that the information posted on this site is useful for the people. To your question about pellet grills, yes. You must always use BBQ grilling pellets with these cookers. You cannot use raw wood with them. However, should you find yourself with access too hard woods like Hickory or maple, or fruit woods like apple, cherry, or peach – this is something that could be readily used in a charcoal smoker.
Rec-Tec has a strong following, and – as with the rest of the pellet grills in this review, will do you right. They’ve recently gone to an all black (no more red) look with their newer models. Though, you can probably still get the red. They have the most pellet holding capacity of any other grills pretty much, so that might be a plus for you. Getting temps back down is pretty fast… 5-10 minutes or so. I’d consider reverse searing, so long as your steaks are 1 and 1/2 inches or more. Thinner cuts won’t work. So, basically – you get the steak up to around 125-35 at around 225-250 F. Wrap it in foil. Then, crank your heat up to the highest setting, remove your steak from the foil, and sear it off on both sides to your desired doneness level. This limits the amount of grey – making for a more uniform pink from the top to the bottom of the steak.
Editor-in-Chief Sean McCoy is a life-long outdoorsman who grew up hunting and fishing central Wisconsin forests and lakes. He joined GearJunkie after a 10-year stint as a newspaperman in the Caribbean, where he learned sailing and wooden-boat repair. Based in GearJunkie's Denver office, McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.
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!
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.