How much food are you going to smoke? This is important because some of the top pellet smokers are relatively large. And if you’re not looking at smoking a lot of meat, you might purchase a unit that’s too big. Conversely, if you buy a unit that’s too small, you are going to be frustrated because you’re going to make some delicious meat just not as much as you need.
Thanks for all the great information. This article was very useful on my most recent purchase. Sorry for the long book but tends to be my style of sharing. Hope others get some use out of my lessons learned. Killing (literally, dried out, burned, inedible) a thousand dollars or so of briskets over the last 20+ years should help some save a little pain as they are stepping out.
Hey Bill! I think you’d be very happy with a Yoder pellet smoker. From a product and manufacturing standpoint, they’re great pellet smokers. If you’re looking at spending $1,700 and can perhaps go a little higher, you can then consider either a MAK grill or a Memphis Grill Pro Series. These are fantastic pieces of equipment. They are insulated at the point where the lid touches the body at closing, and provide superior convection cooking. Anytime you feel you want some extra smoke, you can always throw in an Amazn Pellet Tube or use a Mojo Cube. These will amp up your smoke profile in a manner you can predict and keep under control. I would NOT recommend adding anything foreign to your burn pot ever. Just keep things from the main pellet smoker function working as per the manufacturer’s design.
I had an American made Traeger for 6 years and after it rusted out I was looking something built for the long haul. The YS 640 is it. Built like a tank it will hold up for years and the extra steel helps retain the heat. Temperature control is spot on and recoverey after opening the lid is amazing. I thoroughly researched all my options and I could not be happier. I cooked steaks the other night in 40 degree weather and had no issues whatsoever. The grille grates are a must and leave beautiful lines. Before you buy anything else, investigate what the other cookers are made of. There really is no comparison.
Larger, more expensive smokers run anywhere up to 900 square inches, which will basically let you feed your whole street. It’s also a whole lot more convenient when you’re planning on cooking multiple things to be able to throw every single sausage, joint of meat and rack of ribs on at once, flip ’em around and move things to the edge when they’re done.
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.
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.
As another one of the most important elements to consider when it comes to a quality grill, we wanted to make sure that the grill was easy to use, turn on, and cook with. With this, we discovered that all brands have the same design system when it comes to using the grill. The best quality grills, which we have shared, come with an electronic auto-start ignition so individuals do not have to deal with starting a fire or having to light a propane grill. Everything is done with a flip of a switch or a press of a button. With that said, this happens to be one of the best design elements of the grill that makes it easy to cook. The next is the controller system, which quickly became a criterion on its own.
Mixing flavored woods with oak offers a couple of advantages, starting with price. Woods like cherry and hickory aren’t nearly as plentiful as oak and therefore cost more, making 100% flavored wood pellet more expensive than those that use a base of oak or alder. By using a blend of oak and cherry, pellet makers can keep prices down—and because oak is fairly neutral the cherry wood smoke flavor still shines through.

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.
Thank you for a very comprehensive review and all the helpful advice. I would like to know your thoughts about having the burn pot in the center area as in the Rec-Tec, or on the side. My only interest is smoking, not grilling, and I prefer even heat throughout the cooking chamber. How much difference does the location of the burn pot make? Thank you very much.
When was the last time you actually got to sit back with your family and friends and chat away over the recent events? While it is understandable that work is important, that is it crucial to put the bread on your table and that you do it to make the lives of your loved ones more comfortable and fulfilling, but it is in no way to live. There is nothing sadder than have to work on presentations on the weekends while you kids wait behind your desk to finish up and take them to their soccer practice. Nothing is worse when you cannot make time to visit your old folks and best buddy because you have to run to the banks and attend the same old meetings.
You want longevity in a pellet grill: As the Traeger brand name has been around for a few decades, you can have some peace of mind that you’re purchasing a grill that should have replacement parts available for the foreseeable future. And Traeger grills tend to have good longevity ratings, working in top condition for several years, as long as you follow the manufacturer’s maintenance recommendations.
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.

The SG and ZG are not exactly the same though. Just from the pictures I can see that the bases are different. The SG has L-shaped legs and a bottom shelf while the ZG has square legs that are larger than the DLX legs but no bottom shelf. There were also different specs for many features. I took a picture of the ZG spec sheet at the store and compared it to the SG specs on the website and there are slight differences in capacities. For example ZG 3778 cubic inch - SG 4859, grilling area ZG 776- SG 811, hopper volume ZG 18 lbs - SG 22, ...
Igniter: An igniting rod, heated up to a red hot level, ignites wood pellets as they fall inside the firebox. A cooling fan blows air into the pellet smoker from behind the pellet auger to prevent heat backdraft, while the fan underneath the firebox fans the flame – distributing heat evenly throughout the smoker. This heat is used to smoke and slow cook food in the smoker to give it the best flavors possible.
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.
Wood pellet grills are a great addition to any home because they combine everything you love about a smoker with a standard grill. Depending on the model that you buy, you can make smoked dishes like brisket and sausage at the same time that you make burgers, hot dogs and other dishes on the grill. These grills are great for family dinners in the summer and for parties and special occasion celebrations.

Third, we’re experienced: We have burnt our foods and fingers; and while we were at it, we learned from our mistakes. In doing so, we’ve managed to become the best and mastered the art to perfection. So, we went through the same learning curves that you did or might do. So, we’re aware of the things that matter and we’re going to impart that knowledge with you, so that you don’t make the same mistakes as us.


Camp chef grill is usually compact and ideal for outdoor adventures like camping but some models of the Traeger grill are hard to camp with. The Traeger grill is usually large and ideal for home cooking or large parties and weekend gatherings. However, you can still find small compact designs of its model. It depends on your demand. Nonetheless, even the smallest model of the Traeger grill can pack a lot of food. As for the big green egg grill, it has a unique shape, like an egg, but comes in different sizes for your needs. Therefore, you can buy one that suits your needs.
The Champion Competition Pro Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker by Louisiana Grills takes outdoor cooking versatility to all new heights. A total cooking area of 3432 sq. in. (8718 sq. cm) and fully integrated multi-chamber smoking cabinets, the Champion Competition Pro is designed to be a show stopper. With direct and indirect flame grilling in the main barrel, hot smoking in the lower smoke cabinet, and cold smoking in the upper smoke cabinet, the Champion Competition Pro is the ultimate grill for the outdoor barbecue enthusiast. This grill revolutionizes grilling in three different ways: the digital control center and lid thermometer allows for precise temperature control of a dynamic range of 60°F-600°F (15°C -177°C) for grilling and smoking, the use of all-natural hardwood pellets allows you to enjoy the amazing wood flavor with the single push of a button, and a programmable meat probe that works together with the digital control center to regulate temperature.
4 years ago I made a 700 hundred dollar mistake a bought a China made grill it never worked right from day one. My wife suggested that I should replace it. I decided I wanted a us made grill after seeing the yoder series and all of the great reviews I couldn't wait for it to arrive.so glad a bought the ys640 works like a dream, any one reads these reviews and buys another grill you have made a mistake
Its advanced cooking system comes with a “set and forget” temperature control system that is monitored using its programmable meat probe. Its flame broiler allows for direct and indirect cooking. It has an automatic start up and cool down feature and LG’s proprietary exhaust mechanism for even second tier cooking. Its adjustable temperature can be set from as low as 170 F to 600 F.
Ninth spot to make it to our compilation of the pellet grill review is the Louisiana pellet grill. It has 2 cooking levels and a total 1061 square inch cooking surface. The Louisiana pellet grill has got porcelain cast iron main grids and porcelain steel removable upper cooking grid. It also has a digital controller centre. This grill weighs around 173 pounds and is made with high quality material that is going to last you a life!
Once you start paying more than $500, you’re looking at a big boy professional level machine. It’s going to be big enough that you don’t have to worry about having the neighbours over as well as the family. You’re also looking at more expensive sensors and thermostats, so you get a more consistent temperature, which leads to a much better end result, and there’s generally some sort of cleaning assist built in, which makes cleanup and putting it away at night so much easier.
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I've been using a pellet grill for a LONG time (Traeger for ~15 years?), so I know an upgrade when I see it. I just picked up a YS640, and it's amazing. I love removing the diffuser, adding the Grill Grates, and doing so nice searing! My first cook was a batch of rid eyes, and they were both beautiful as well as delicious. My "guest list" of people wbo want to come over for food keeps growing... Nice problem to have. Good friends, good food, good times.
Thanks Kevin for the reviews and content. Like many of the folks I too will be purchasing a pellet pooper. I have narrowed my choices to a MAK 2 star and a Memphis Elite. One of the earlier posters indicated on the Memphis that the effective direct grilling space was about 1 square foot. I am assuming that with the smaller footprint of the MAK that the direct “flame zone” is less than that. I’m just wondering how much less.

Hey Jim, first – thank you for commenting on this post! As you probably know from reading the contents, pellet smokers are a great choice for set it and “nearly” forget it BBQ. Of course, you’re not going to get the same smoke profile with “pellet poopers” that you are likely getting with your other smokers. That said, the smokers listed here are all going to hold temp very well – even in lower temperature or windy weather. I do see instances where temps and wind effects pellet grills, but solutions including a fireproof blanket over the top of the smoker seem to mitigate things well enough.

PG24 by Camp Chef has a weight of 124 lb with a pellet hopper that has 20-pound capacity. That’s so large, you won’t need to worry of getting more before your meal is done. This approach allows you to have the ultimate cooking experience. When the temperature drops, one wood pellet is released. This convenience can’t be found in other grill types, like gas or charcoal.


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!
Up next to find its place in our pellet grill review is the REC TEC’s mini portable pellet grill. It has a 341 square inch cooking surface with 180 degrees to 550 degrees Fahrenheit temperature limit, with 5 degrees increment. But it can easily reach 600 degrees Fahrenheit in full mode. It has a satisfactory pellet hopper capacity and has folding legs. It is great for travel and movement as it is compact and small in size.
Today, all serious players in the pellet smoker market have switched to digital thermostatic controllers that dictate pellet-feed commands based on a temperature sensor inside the cooking box. Just like with the oven in your kitchen, you set the desired cooking temperature, and the heating system kicks on and off to maintain that set point. An LED display shows your set temp, and most models allow you to toggle between set temp and actual temp readings from the internal thermostat. Actual temperatures will fluctuate a bit as the controller switches on and off to hover around your set temp, but many sophisticated touch-pad controllers can maintain tighter tolerances than your indoor oven. Some pellet controllers also have integrated probes that let you monitor the internal temperature of whatever you're smoking. Wireless remote control and monitoring from your smartphone or tablet are also increasingly common. (You can learn more about pellet smokers on AmazingRibs.com.)
REC-TEC, also known as Rec Tec, has been in business for more than 7 years. Its pellet grill offers up to 702 square inches of the cooking surface real estate, beating out the Pit Boss and its 700 square inches by (only) about 2 inches of extra space. Its grills can also calibrate themselves in 5° increments and its pellet hopper is capable of holding 40 pounds of pellets (no constant refills required).

Camp Chef has already been mentioned several times on this list. It's a venerable company that makes up in quality what it lacks in the name recognition of a Traeger or Weber. Their Deluxe Pellet Grill is built to reach and hold ideal temperatures for smoking. An internal system syncs pellet delivery to temperature instead of simply feeding in fuel when it begins to run out. This ensures a clean, consistent cooking experience. A removable ash can makes clean-up a snap as well.
It’s also worth double checking the precision of the controls. Less expensive smokers sometimes have cheap control panels that only allow you to set the temperature to a few discrete settings, for example just low and high. This is, generally speaking, awful, and leads to improperly cooked meat and a whole host of other issues. Avoid it if you can.
For example, many grills use and charge for collaborating with a software application on it. I, personally, think this is an absolutely silly feature to include on a pellet grill. Yes, it does start on and off from your phone and change temperatures while you are at Switzerland enjoying Swiss cheese on a lake, but really, is it even logical? I mean, pellet grills have already made the cooking experience as easy as a dream, the least you can do is set the temperature by the click of a button on the appliance yourself! You can’t possibly be that lazy!
Depending on your budget and grilling needs, there are a variety of Traeger options ,including the Renegade. With the Traeger Pro Series 22 you get a bigger Traeger with more advanced features at about the same price, while the Junior Elite, Tailgater, and Bronson also offer an incredible value. Or, if you prefer a pre-set package deal, the Outlaw Package comes with upgraded accessories and and costs less than the Renegade.
Temperature range is an important factor. What you’ll need will depend on what kind of cooking you want to do. Top pellet grills can hit temperatures between 180 F to 425 F, enough for baking, smoking, roasting, and grilling. On the other hand, ioif you want to sear meat you need something that reaches the 500-550 F range. A functioning thermometer is a must. You’ll need a precise and accurate reading so you’ll know you’re cooking your meat at the right temperature.
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."
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.
Hey Ben – thank you for your comment. From a retail user standpoint, I think you’d be happy with either a Yoder or FEC. I really like the PG 500 for the purpose that you’re looking at. Best of both worlds it seems the more I’m looking at it. You can see how they approach grilling steaks in this video. You can incorporate the use of GrillGrates in either pellet grill. Both companies make their units in the USA. Both have great reputations. I’m just partial to Cookshack’s pellet smokers over Yoder as I know more folks who use them.
Although mesquite is often thought of as the quintessential BBQ wood, don’t stock up on it until you’ve tried it. While many who are new to pellet smokers and BBQ immediately choose mesquite pellets, be forewarned: it has a strong assertive flavor than can overpower food. When buying pellets for the first time, its wise to choose flavors that are versatile enough to be used on many different foods.
As far as size goes, bigger is usually better when it comes to pellet grills. A large hopper means a longer time you can cook without needing to refill your fuel source. A bigger grill size means more room for a variety of meats or side dishes. Look for at least 700 sq inches of cooking space (that can include the upper rack as well – remember, pellet grills work like convection ovens.)
On the better models, a temperature probe in the oven area tells the controller what the temperature is and if it is below the target it tells the controller to feed more pellets and air. The best manufacturers, like MAK and Memphis, have designed their own versatile custom controllers that are easy to use and can hold a temperature within 5°F, tighter than many indoor ovens.
To compound the complexity of this issue the consumer also has to deal with some grill manufacturers recommending the use of only their branded pellets.  Then to make matters even worse pellet consumers have to navigate all the different flavors available and whether to use a blended pellet (a blend of multiple kinds of wood such as oak, hickory, and cherry) or a 100% pure pellet (a pellet that uses only the flavor listed on the package).   This doesn’t even take into consideration some pellet companies using things such as oils and fillers in their pellets.

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!

As you can see from the image of a Traeger Pellet Grill above, pellets move from a hopper (left) via an auger to a burn pot (far right). The rate at which the pellets are fed into the hopper is dictated by your Pellet grill’s thermostat. Extra fuel in the form of oxygen is blown over the burn pot to increase the burn rate and help regulate a nice, steady, and efficient burn. The lower your temp, the more smoke is created.
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