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.
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.
There is no doubt that grilled food tastes better, especially if it is done with wood pellets. This is because it retains the smoky flavor of the wood pellets. However, there are always health concerns when it comes to meals that are grilled. The main issue is always the animal fat, which burns, resulting in the formation of heterocyclic amines, HCAs. This harmful chemical is a known cause of cancer as it easily fills the smoke that permeates into your food.
The biggest cleanup issue is the buildup on the heat deflector under the cooking grates. You'll need good gloves and an apron. On most models, a thorough cleanup means a 30 minute process of taking out the greasy grates and the gooey deflector plate, scraping them and washing them. You should do this when the carbon and grease cover the deflector plate. Stainless parts can go in the diswasher, but I wouldn't do it. That grease is like tar and it could get all over the insides of the dishwasher and hang on for dear life. I use a handheld steamer like the Steamfast SF-320 Portable Steam Cleaner shown here.
Since wood chips are by-products of carpentry and woodwork, they are not only inexpensive but are also helpful for the environment since you’re using up all the parts of a tree. Its death wouldn’t go in vain! If you’re looking to learn more about the types of available wood chips and what kind of flavors they impart with, feel free to check out our post on that topic.
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.
Compared to the Traeger Pro and the other smokers we’ve reviewed, there’s not much not to like about this bad boy. It’s significantly cheaper, packs ample cooking space, and a good, consistent temperature controller. At 173 lbs, it is quite heavy, and not at all portable like the Davy Crocket, and we’d love to see it come with more precise temperature control, and maybe even WiFi in the future. But for the price, it’s a beast of smoker that is almost as good as the Traeger.
The Camp Chef PG24S uses three cleanup and maintenance systems. The Ash Cup Clean Out System collects leftover ash in a cup for easy cleanup. The Grease Management System instantly drains grease into a bucket for easy disposal. Finally, the Pellet Purge System helps you clean out pellets from your auger with ease. Cleaning up has never been so easy.
The original Traeger Grill was invented 30 years ago and was every bit as impressive then as it is now. Although it developed a cult following, the early Traeger never grew beyond a niche product. In the past two years, however, Traeger has stepped up its game, redesigning and upgrading its grills while doing everything it can to build a buzz around its amazing do-everything cookers.
Despite being a little complicated when compared to the other types of grilling equipment (because of the automatic pellet auger and fan), they are pretty easy to repair if you have the right parts. You can find these parts right at a home depot or online. It doesn’t matter if you need to replace the auger or the fan, the ignitor rod or the hopper, for the top brands, you’ll find the replacement parts just as easily. Let’s look at the replaceable parts of a pellet smoker:
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.
At Grills Forever, we work hard to bring you the best product reviews possible through an extensive online research process. We go through countless online reviews and browse through different brands, both known and unknown. We then go through their features and the value they can provide to the users. We shortlist the top products to do physical testing and then come up with a review. We do this on a regular basis to keep our list up-to-date.
Generally speaking cheap grills are not made with quality materials. While the outside may look good, often times you will find the guts of the grill are made with lower grade metals. This of course affects functionality and longevity. If the inside of the grill isn’t made using quality materials you will literally burn through it over a certain period time.
I have yet to have any problems with my smoker, other that what I caused for myself. Please follow the instructions on covering the heat diffuser plate with aluminium foil. When fat from the meats that you are cooking (mine was chicken) it will cook right there, and is difficult to get off. When you follow instructions, this cooker is a dream come true.
Local availability of pellets is only one problem though. How are you, the consumer, supposed to know which is a good pellet brand versus a bad? If you do a Google search for “where to buy pellets” you are likely only to see a lot of advertisements all proclaiming their product to be the best. This situation is very akin to what consumers in the charcoal industry deal with as well.
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.
Tech geeks: A tech geek will also prefer a Pellet smoker grill and some of the latest grills including Green Mountain Grills came up with some exciting tech functionality like Wi-Fi! Just imagine, hanging with friends and monitoring your pork with your smartphone? You can increase and decrease temperature and control pellet feed without even touching the grill. This gives you the ability to cook while you work!
Having the same problem as the rest of the group. Rec Tec, Yoder, Green Mountain, Pellet Pro, or MAK? All seem to be heavy gauge SS, Pellet Pro seems really good value, MAK and Green Mountain seem to have controllers with more features. Have a friend who bought Rec Tec 3 years ago, he cannot say enough about the good customer service and the grill. If you could only buy one (money not the issue among these 5), which one, and why?
Second, more people know about them. More manufacturers are realising the advantages of pellet smokers and hopping on board, the market is expanding, and with the advantage of the internet putting all the info at our fingertips, even someone who hasn’t got the first clue about smokers and grills can find out everything they need in just a few minutes.
Barbecuing and grilling meats to the perfect temperature, texture and doneness is a skill that is acquired over years and years of practice. There is a lot that goes into making a good BBQ than just good seasoning and fresh meat, and any pit master will agree. There are just so many aspects you have to learn how to control: the temperature, the smoke, the placement, the ratios and so on. But you are lucky that this is new of yesterdays.
Z GRILLS or Z Grills is a maker of smokers, grillers, and stainless steel prep work tables galore. It entered the world of pellet grills recently and launched an IndieGoGo campaign in order to fund its “affordable wood pellet grill” for $500,000 and currently gives even Traeger’s economical offerings a run for their money with its ability to accept all types of pellets and do all sorts of cooking styles.
Thankfully the popularity of pellet grills spurred many new pellet fuel manufacturing companies to enter the industry. There are also some very big names in the grilling world that have seen the light and are now producing pellets as well. This has helped the availability of pellets for sure, but we are still not to a point where pellets are commonplace in stores in all areas.
Yoder Smokers has overcome this challenge with their YS Series of pellet grills outfitted with their direct grilling package. When fit with this package, the grate temperature on the left side soars past the 700-degree mark and produces those coveted steakhouse quality grill marks, fast cooking times, intense caramelization, color and texture common to cooking over an open fire or gas fired grill.
It’s built pretty solidly, which is what you want with a portable system as it’s obviously being moved around a lot more. I’d say it’s similar in build quality to the Traeger Junior Elite, which as a top of the line smoker says all that needs to be said. If something does go wrong, there’s a two year warranty. I’d have liked more, but it’s there, and that’s good enough.
This smoker offers a massive 560 cubic inches of grilling area with a large-capacity pellet hopper. Even though it’s the perfect starter grill, it’s still packed with plenty of extras that even the pro chefs will enjoy. If the grilling space isn’t enough, the removable upper racks can be turned into extra cooking space. The smokestack behind the unit can also be converted into a prep area.
When it comes to construction, few companies can beat Traeger. Its grills come with construction features like cast-iron grates with a clear and nontoxic coating that prevents food from sticking to the grill and fireboxes made from a similar material. Though Pit Boss grills feature similar elements, many look flimsy, and most will not keep up with your grilling and smoking demands.
Craft amazing wood-fired creations with the Traeger Lil' Tex Elite 22 pellet grill. From grilled steak, to smoked ribs, and even a freshly baked apple pie, the set it and forget it ease of use allows any home chef to cook it all. Swap the gas and charcoal barbecue for 100% pure hardwood pellet flavor and grill, smoke, bbq, bake, roast, or braise a masterpeice.
I think you get the picture. In any case, you can see how pellet smoking really does have its own culture to it. I really hope you’ve found value in this selection of Pellet Grill reviews. If so, please consider sharing it with your BBQ friends! And for sure comment below and let me know about your favorite pellet grills, pellet blends, and methods! 🙂
Kevin- I’m in the process of researching to get my husband a grill for Christmas. I’m torn between the 820 you mentioned above and the Traeger Pro Series. As far as I can tell they are basically the same except that you get a larger cooking area on the pit boss for the same price you pay for a small cook space in a traeger. I would like to spend around $600 on the grill but would possibly go up to $800 and want 500 sq in cook space or greater. Which do you prefer? Pit Boss, Traeger or another brand?
The MoJack has huge barrel with lots of cooking space. With the 24 inch model, you are going to have 418 in.² to cook on. You will easily be able to read and monitor the temperature with the LED digital temperature control. This model has a bottom storage rack, which makes a great place for you to put extra pellets or tools that you will use for cooking.
I've had it for right at a year as of the time of this review, and I absolutely LOVE IT. Normally I am of the opinion that you should overspend to get the better product, but I am 100% satisfied with the SE. I've gone through almost 200# of pellets in a year and I've successfully smoked three briskets, pork in various forms, a bunch of whole chickens, salmon, and probably some other thing I'm not thinking of. The show-stopped for me is bacon-wrapped dove breasts. I smoke them for an hour and then finish them on my grill. They are out-of-this-world amazing.
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.
Most people recommend the Green Mountain Grills smoker for its affordability, despite its plethora of features including Open Flame Technology, which ensures that meats are thoroughly cooked. But what impressed us the most was its Sense-Mate feature. For a budget pick, we were surprised to see that it had some of the most advanced technologies that even the most high-end products use. There’s no denying that you’ll get more than what it’s priced at!
Regardless, it’s worth mentioning the basic types of pellets available on the market to get you started. First there are the hardwood pellets, made from the sawdust from any specific type of hardwood, such as ash, cherry, maple, etc. Then there are different organic hardwood blends: a combination of different types of wood shavings and dust, giving them a customized, special flavoring. For beginners, we’d suggest getting a premium blend, just to be on the safe side (because you can’t go wrong with these). Even then, we’d like to mention a few types of pellets commonly used for different purposes:
Though the Memphis Pro works great as a high heat, sear, and direct flame grill, I chose to do some IBP ribs and a couple all natural pork loins I picked up from the store. I won’t go into too much detail on the pork loin and rib prep here, suffice it to say that I was very impressed with the smoke output I got from this unit, which I filled with a full compliment of CookinPellets Perfect Mix Pellets.