Hey Tom! First, thank you so much for commenting on this article. I hope it’s proved useful to you and helping you make your pellet smoker buying decision. I took a look at the smokers you mentioned in your comment, and they appear to be similar in build to those made by Yoder. I can verify that Yoder does exceptionally good work with both the build quality and the heavy gauge steel Construction of their smokers. I don’t know much about the manufacturing practices of the smokers you mentioned. I do like the fact that their controller automatically dropped down to a warming temperature after your food reaches the programmed temperature setting. That’s a feature that I’ve only seen in higher-priced pellet grills like the Memphis Pro Series that I talk about in this article. However, more grills are starting to utilize this in the programming aspect of their controllers. In any case it’s a great feature. To be honest with you I’m not sure that the auger mechanics are going to be all that different between smokers. I’m sure there are differences, but I don’t feel that they are dramatic enough to offer a distinct selling Advantage for the manufacturer. If you haven’t looked at them yet, you might consider taking a look at the Traeger Pro Series pellet grills. You can’t find it on Amazon, but you can find them at different retailers listed on the main Traeger site. A friend of mine has one major competitions using the pro series models.
When starting on a grilling project, it’s important to know at what temperatures should a food be allowed to settle inside a pellet grill before it reaches its desired doneness. Of course, the time it spends on the grill also plays a major role in it, but you have to understand that cooking on a high heat for long time periods can leave the meat charred while on a low heat can turn it into soft and mushy.
PID Controller–PID Controllers (Proportional Integral Derivative) are devices that most of the grill manufactures don’t fully utilize yet. They can be found as a separate device attached to the grills if you’re handy enough, but all the manufacturers aren’t fully considering them yet. Using a PID controller, you can accurately maintain the temperature while cooking and ensure that the food is cooked automatically to perfection without much supervision.
Hey Shannon – they all have their merits. Budget dictates a lot. If you’re in the $1000 or under range, Green Mountain and Rec Tec are great choices. Both have developed near cult followings, with GMG a little ahead of the curve on that front having been around a bit longer. I love the Yoders as far as moving up on the price range is concerned. Will last you forever and they offer a solid product with great support. MAK grills are just beautifully made. There’s no other way to put it. The “General” models are superbly crafted. Love that MAK offers built in cold smoking as a capability. Am I helping here or just making things worse? Hahaha.
If you are looking to produce competition quality barbecue in your own backyard, then look no further than the Pit Boss Deluxe Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker. This grill has the most versatile cooking system ever built. Sauté, Stir fry, Cook breakfast, or Flame broil dinner in just a few minutes. Sears and broil steaks just like your favorite steakhouse. The 820 Series offers two tiers of porcelain-coated grid construction, totaling 820 sq. inches of cooking surface, allowing you to skillfully prepare food with savory natural hardwood flavor. The Fan-forced convection can bake anything that you would normally bake in your oven. A pellet grill is hands-down the best wood-fired pizza oven that is available. Even smoke your holiday turkey!
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/.
Sometimes, the ideal pellet is something that costs a little over $1 for quality but you can still save money by buying them in bulk (like in 40 pound bags). Half a pound of pellets per hour is consumed on the smoke setting that’s about 175° Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, you can burn 2.3 pounds of pellet within an hour by setting the temperature at 450° Fahrenheit (this is an average on many of the pellet smokers mentioned above).
In smoke mode the controller is no longer controlled by the thermometer, it merely switches the pellet feeding auger on and off. On time is 15 seconds, off time ranges from 45 seconds at P0, to 165 seconds at P15. Temp and smoke are controlled by the duration of off time: the auger always runs at the same speed. More smoke is produced at higher P settings and lower temp settings because longer off times allow the pellets to smolder. At P0 in smoke mode or "High" in cook mode the auger replenishes the pellets at a faster rate, creating more flame, less smoke.
Their behavior is sometimes counterintuitive. The hotter they get, the less smoke they produce, and at their top settings, they don't produce much smoke at all. This is good for when you are baking cakes or pies or doing dishes that don't need smoke. But down under 250°F, they produce plenty of mild, elegant smoke. And even though the fuel is wood, it is hard to oversmoke with a pellet smoker. Burning wood on a charcoal grill produces much more intense smoke flavor.
Kevin, Im about ready to pull the trigger – im pausing for a moment to consider your thoughts as you mentioned Grilla Silverback or Camp Chef. How do these compare to the Rec Tec on quality and price? (as they are less than Rec Tec) And reverse sear…how well does this work on pellet grill, ie how long does it take to go from 200 cooking temp to 500 searing temp (with grill grates)? Thank you for your time
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I purchased my first Traeger Grills over a year and a half ago and now I am on my third grill. I have had the most amazing experience grilling, smoking and baking. I do everything on my Traeger. It accurately holds the temperature, starts up automatically and has convection which cooks my food evenly and thoroughly. I recommend this grill to anybody who’s looking for a amazing cooking experience with little effort and really likes to show off to their friends how good their food tastes. My favorite part is being able to walk away from the grill and not have to babysit it so I can do overnight briskets without even checking them. I love it.
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.
So back to the Internet for one last attempt on making a decision on the smoker that is of great quality and can also fill my need grilling needs as well. I am almost sold on the Rec Tec, but I’m curious about the Grilla Grill Silverbac. It’s a little smaller than RT and metal is a gauge off from the RT. It doesn’t run off a PID system but a digital controller and is priced at $699. I do like the underneath storage of the Grilla and the second tier cooking grates.
Got my Camp Chef Smoke Pro SE four days ago. My son and I put it together, it is a two person job because it's heavy. Seasoned it and smoked two chickens that turned out awesome! Today I have hamburgers on. Smoking on low smoke for half an hour, take them off and crank it to 450 put em back on and grill till done. Easy to use. Very happy so far. Just hoping it holds up!
Ever since my visit(s) to All Things BBQ in Wichita, my heart has belonged to the Yoder Smokers. I had researched many comparable size smokers, and guess what - they really are not comparable. The smoker started first time, quickly, and heated up well. I did ribs as my first foray and they were as perfect as my meager talents could get them. The fact that this smoker weighs in at almost 360 pounds speaks volumes as to how well built and how heavy gauge the metal is( something severely lacking in most other smokers). I had the extra shelf put in and the cooking space is easily double what I had seen in other smokers about the same dimensions. Hats off to All Things BBQ for the high quality Yoder smokers they so proudly distribute!!
Similarly, online retailers like Amazon add to the cost of your products as well. When you order from Amazon the manufacturer has to pay a hefty fee to Amazon, even if the manufacturer of your grill ships it to you directly from their factory. So, while the grill may ship to you directly, Amazon usually takes around 15% of the total price, meaning that the manufacturer has to factor that cost into their margin as well.
And #3, good bbq or grilled meats should taste great without a ton seasonings or sauce. Beef especially can be excellent with simple salt! Make sure your seasonings enhance flavor. Another great read, the late (and much grieved at our house) Paul Prudhomme’s ‘Louisiana Kitchen’ again available on Amazon used for a couple of bucks and a masterpiece! Paul was a master of seasoning. Don’t kill it with seasonings and sauce, enhance the foods flavors. Barks on meat are great if they are right. However burnt, sugar and many other seasonings detract from the meats natural flavor. I personally love a meat you can eat without a sauce and then sauce if you want some added flavors going on!
You are worried about flare-ups: When grilling fatty types of meat on a propane grill, you run the risk of having flare-ups, where the flame gets too high and too hot, burning the meat. You have to keep a close eye on the propane grill to guard against them. But with the Traeger grilling system, the even distribution of the heat and the indirect heating system prevent this problem.
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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, ...
Hey Kevin great article. I too am currently looking for a pellet smoker. I’ve narrowed it down between a Yader, Memphis Pro and the Rec Tec. The Green Mountain did not seem very well built. The wheels looked liked the would break on the first roll and the stainless steel door was flimsy and did not have a good seal. I know the Rec Tec has a 6 year warranty. Do you know how long the warranties are on the other two?
Despite often being called “pellet grills,” they still cook via indirect heat, as opposed to flame, and are better seen as a smoker. They’re excellent for smoking briskets, chicken and turkey, salmon and other fish, but maybe not for steaks, as you won’t be able to get the same crispy, browned sear they call for, and that you can get with an open-flame grill.
Now, there are different materials that certain pellet grills are made from. Since steel is such a heavy duty and heavy item, some brands have opted in for more cost-efficient materials, such as a stainless-steel lid to remove some of the weight from the pellet grill. With that said, the interior grill gates are as equally important as the exterior. For example, some grill gates are made from an easy to clean porcelain material while some are designed from stainless steel to be more user-friendly and cost-effective. With that said, let’s discuss another important element to consider when it comes to a pellet grill.
It makes party hosting, as well as small crowd-feeding a breeze! Pellet grills are easy to use because they often come with easy temperature controls (along with other variable facilities depending from grill to grill), making it ideal for beginners who do not have prior grilling and cook-out experiences. A pellet grill is the answer to every cook enthusiasts who love to cook, but lack the knowledge and experience of skilled pit masters.
This presumably has the most exact temperature perusing of any grill right now available. Accompanying a cookbook, a simple get together, and a decent outline, the PG24 is definitely justified even despite the cash. I enjoyed the decision of a wood screw framework rather than a suction framework, since it spares cash on pellets, and manages temperature better. For those needing to get into pellet grilling, this would be an astounding decision.
You want a set-it-and-forget-it option: Traeger grills work best when they’re allowed to cook and smoke the food over long periods of time. As long as the system has fresh wood pellets in the hopper to feed the fire box, it will be able to maintain a steady temperature. So you can set up the grill and then leave it for half an hour, a couple of hours, or even longer, something that’s difficult to do with other grilling systems.
GrillGrates(TM) amplify heat, prevent flareups, make flipping foods easier, keep small foods from committing suicide, kill hotspots, are easier to clean, flip over to make a fine griddle, and can be easily removed and moved from one grill to another. You can even throw wood chips, pellets, or sawdust between the rails and deliver a quick burst of smoke to whatever is above. Every gas grill needs them.
PID: For the most precise temperature control, some pitmasters feel that a grill with a proportional-integrative-derivative (PID) controller is the way to go. A PID controller uses algorithms to keep the temperature within a couple of degrees of the setting. It doesn’t use fixed cycles to release the pellets. Instead, the controller only adds pellets when it’s necessary to maintain the desired temperature.
Thank you so much for this very informative post!! My husband and I just bought the Traeger Select Elite Pellet Grill On Cart yesterday as a somewhat impulsive buy on a Costco shopping trip. It was the last day in the road show so I figured we could always return it if we have buyer’s remorse. Having no past experience with pellet smokers/grills, I am doing my due diligence in researching the reputation of this company and comparing to others in the market. The selling point for us with this particular Traeger grill was the ability to convert this to a built in unit by simply taking off the right side shelf. The sales rep at Costco had a picture of one that his parents had built into an attractive brick surround and we liked the option, however, after reading your post and several other sites, I am finding that Traeger may not be the best investment comparatively and with a purchase this expensive, long-term quality is extremely important to us. In staying within the same price range, I am very interested in the Rec-Tec and it’s stainless steel build. My question is, do you know if the Rec-Tec or another pellet grill @ the $1000 price point can be made to look “built-in” and if so, are there any dangers or potential problems with this.
I purchased a Traeger Select Elite from Costco for both my personal residence as well as for my vacation home. I am now on the third grill at my residence. Traeger will tell you that they expect to offer Awesome customer service. I have replaced the auger assembly, the controller and now the fan. I can't get the grill up to temperature. Awesome customer service says it should be no problem. Just replace the _______ (fill in the blank). I don't think these people have ever seen a grill let alone use one. Costco (love their return policy) is about to get another one back. Am I too harsh to expect the product to perform as they say it will? I would think when you pay as much as Traeger thinks their grills are worth, that they should work out of the box. Well, quality control under the new management has gone to hell. Then they expect you to "try" all the fixes that might work on your own. This is self service, not customer service.
One thing we humans tend to forget amidst hustle bustle of our fast paced and commercial lives is that we should earn to live, not live to earn. So I think it is high time you ditch your shoe-box of an office behind for a day and live. Spend a day with your family at the park, or maybe catch up with your childhood friend over a beer or two and start doing barbecue. You cannot even begin to imagine how much spending some quality time with your loved ones can help you and them, revive and replenish the monotonousness. And there isn’t a better way to mingle than over a small get-together with some amazing food and great company cooked on your pellet grill.
Aside from durability, a well-built pellet grill has another significant advantage: It will perform better. High-quality materials and good construction allow the grill to retain heat better, making it more efficient and providing better pellet consumption, even in cold weather. Furthermore, it's unlikely that a brand offering a cheaply made grill invested much time designing it to maximize airflow or engineering a control board that can hold a tight temperature.
The MAK Pellet Boss will increase or decrease with the press of a button in 5°F increments and has a probe in the oven that keeps the temp pretty solid. As with any thermostatically controlled oven, even your indoor oven, the thermostat cycles heat on or off as needed. So it you set it for 225°F it cycles on til it hits 225°F, then off until it drops to 220°F, then on to 225°F. There are three meat probes and the Boss can be programmed to change the cooker temp when the meat hits a target. I've had one for several years outdoors in the Chicago winters and summers without a cover and no problems.
Renegade Pro is built to suit all your cooking needs; it can cook, braise, broil, char, sear, bake, smoke, roast, grill, and barbecue your food to that “melt-in-the-mouth” perfection. To bring about this versatility, it offers different temperature settings, such as “Hot and Fast” and “Low and Slow” that can be controlled using its Digital Pro Controller.
I also was a certified KCBS judge but never judged at an event. Their judging system was flawed in my opinion because if you truly follow their system it is possible that them best tasting piece of meat might not win. In cutting horses (not a judge but read all the rules as I showed a fair amount back then) you were always supposed to judge the best overall horse to win. I asked about leaving a process to make sure the piece of meat you feel is best to win and was told absolutely not you have to judge presentation points, tender points & etc. and not place based on your opinion of the best piece of meat! Not that KCBS is a bad organization, it’s rules didn’t fit my thought process. Passed their class and got the t-shirt just never agreed, was always a spectator.