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.
One option is to put a griddle or a frying pan on the grill, high heat, get it blistering hot, add just a little oil to prevent stickling, and sear by conduction on the metal. It should only take two to three minutes per side. This is a good technique for reverse seared meats. You start them indirect, low and slow, with a little smoke, and then Maillard the outside in a hot pan or on a griddle. No, it's not cheating. It's making food better.
This will work using one burner only on the stove when connected to our RV exterior grill connection port. Our camp chef portable stove has one large and one standard burner. It would only operate on the standard burner due to the low pressure regulated on the RV piping system. Be prepared to break out the standard propane tank & regulator hose set if you plan on running a two or three burner camp chef stove. Rating is 4 stars due to the price and short length at $35 price tag, it could have been longer.
For as long as I can remember, the REC TEC RT-680 has been setting the standards for the best pellet smokers on the market, which is why REC-TEC is America’s fastest growing Pellet Smoker Company. And when they came up with the 2018 version of the REC TEC Pellet Grill, we knew it was going to be the very best pellet grill any barbecue lover could get their hands on.
The best thing about pellet smokers is that unless you’re buying the absolute cheapest models, there are no bad choices. In this list for under $500, you’ll find pellet smokers and grills perfectly suited for dropping a few burgers at home use like the Traeger Junior Elite, for throwing in the back of the van and using anywhere like the Green Mountain Davey Crockett, or for cooking whole turkeys when you have ten people round on Thanksgiving, like the Camp Chef Smokepro.
If you’ve ever wanted an 8 in 1 wood pellet grill that you can just “set and forget”, then this grill makes a perfect unit for you. It was the best smoker we’ve used in terms of hassle-free use which is why it had to be one of our top picks. Digitally-controlled, this smoker ignites the unit and uses a Smart Smoke Technology™ to heat it up from 160 to 450 degrees F. This pellet smoker comes with 513 square inch grilling area, plus a 2nd cooking rack! While it doesn’t have any auto/one-touch cleanup system, its auto-shutdown feature makes it worth the value.
Choosing the one perfect pellet grill that could change your cooking experience is easier said than done. There is just so know you have to know before committing to it. Though I did give you a run-through of all the basic and important things to look for in a pellet grill before buying one, it is still a scratch on the surface. It is tiring to have to go from store to store to find the quality ones that you can choose from. So, to come to your rescue once again, I will now give you the some pellet grill review.
Eric, I’m sorry for the trouble you’ve had with your Traeger. Not sure this will help, but here is how I make sure I don’t have the problem you had. When I start after a long previous cook or any cook at all really, I vacuum out all the dust and vacuum out the burn pot. Then, I put a handful of pellets into the burnt pot, insert the heat deflector, the drip tray, and grate. I find that this keeps things working well. Sometimes, the burn pot will get too full of ash and this can cause the problems that you had. Give it a try. If it works, please let me know.
The Smokepro comes with many of the extras that define the Camp Chef line of products, such as the easy-to-use ash removal system as well and an interior fan. This model comes with easy-to-use controls and an LED temperature readout so you can monitor internal temperature at all times, even if you're cooking at night. The unit also comes with a convenient meat probe for ensuring that perfect finish.
-Warranty-(Forgive my soapbox here, folks.) I'd give it 5 stars if Camp Chef would give it a real warranty. One year is pathetic and WAY below the industry standard. Camp Chef, I know you are reading this because you guys are too excited about your great new product to not pay attention to feedback like this. Nut up and stand behind your awesome product. Why would anybody buy a product from an industry newcomer with no track record when you yourself are only willing to stand behind it for 1 lousy year?... Especially when the "industry leader" will guarantee their product for 3 years?!?! You are communicating that you have 1/3rd the amount of trust in your product that Traeger does. That's terrible! You should exceed what they are offering just to make the point in the industry! At a minimum, you should at least match their warranty just so it doesn't become a stumbling block to potential customers. Look, you basically took the lil tex and said "ok boys, so how can we make this better?!?" You did that! You totally knocked it out the park! Why cheap out with the warranty?!? As a customer, it makes me nervous that you know something I don't.
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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.
To be sure, there are pure “smoker” and pure “grills” but there are some exceptionally well-designed hybrids. I bought a Memphis Elite last year, and it is AWESOME! I made a pulled-pork masterpiece two months ago that was absolutely delicious… 8 hours on low temperature (225) then an hour on open flame (switching from a “smoker” insert to an “open-flame’ insert at 700 was easy) and it was awesome!
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.
My propane smoker lived a good life, but after just 18 months it's another rusted out piece of junk that's was unsafe to use. I wanted to replace it with something that would last so I began researching the internet. I was delighted to stumble upon 1) pellet smokers and then 2) the Yoder 640. This is a premium price item that had me wondering if I should spend that much, but I was sold by the online reviews and YouTube video's. ATBBQ had it at my house in less that 5 days and the build quality, ease of use, and the food it helps produces are all second to none. I'm thrilled companies like Yoder can build the best products in the industry right here in America! Its a large investment in cooking, but worth every penny.
I bought my second Traeger Grill around Thanksgiving (my last one died after 3 months), spent most of the day assembling it only to find it didn't work. Customer service told me to reset the thermostat, I did and it shut down. I did this routine a few more times with customer service and it kept shutting down, day after day. Traeger reluctantly sent me a replacement grill and promised it would be Fully assembled (I have little use of my left hand and can't work with small parts) Well it showed up unassembled in a bunch of little boxes. Customer service told me 4 times that they would call back with a local Traeger dealer to assemble it. Four promises to have someone come out and not even a phone call. This is the worst customer service from a consumer goods manufacturer I've experienced in years! All BS, all the time! I had the pleasure of returning all the little boxes of parts today to Home Depot for a refund. I wish I had seen all the Traeger reviews 3 months ago when I bought this pile of ... Three months without a working grill because of their cheap Chinese construction. The infomercial looks good, don't do it! Hello WEBER!
Cleaning and Maintenance: Keeping the grill clean is critical if you need to get the most out of the unit. Old debris can influence the viability of the unit thus normal cleaning is vital. In addition, while moving it around, take alert not to thump it since it accompanies little legs which can without much of a stretch tip over the unit when thumped.
To sear a steak you need direct radiant heat. I don't care if you can heat the air to 1000°F, it is still indirect heat and that does not deliver as much energy as direct radiant heat. It's physics, but not hard to understand. In short, heat is not the same as temperature. It feels hotter at 80°F if the sun is shining on you than if it is 80°F in the shade. I discuss the concept in more detail in my article on thermodynamics of cooking.
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.
Depending on size, the Traeger grill is very easy to store. However, the camp chef is usually the most portable with ease of transport and storage while the big green egg grill has a weird egg shape but a bit compact depending on size. Therefore, depending on your size, you can easily store any of these grills in as little space as you want. Besides, most have wheels for easier movability. As for cleaning, the Traeger grill is easier to clean and maintain, when compared to the other two grills.
The Pit Boss really is the boss with its 700 square inches of cooking surface. The space alone isn’t what makes the Pit Boss 71700FB one of the best wood pellet smoker available. If you thought the Traeger TFB29LZA Junior Elite Grill had a lot of space at 300 square meters, then get more than double that with Pit Boss (the Rec Tec grill below beats it by only 2 inches).
I would make that decision based upon desired temperature. Very few of the smokers on your list can surpass the 485 to 500 degree mark. You’ll read a lot of discussion about grill grates helping you get into those higher temperatures and that product does work. I would simply pick a smoker that can get to the desired temperature you want like the Louisiana and the Memphis. Both can exceed 500 degrees and both can hit 600 degrees without problems.
Is it common to have a lot of ash blowing throughout these pellet smokers? I thought it was supposed to be minimal ash and that it’s supposed to stay in the firepot. I noticed after two short cooks I have ash everywhere. The pellets are Perfect Mix from cookingpellets.com, but by “perfect mix” I don’t think they mean to mix ash from their product with your BBQ. Also, didn’t put off a lot of smoke, and really couldn’t taste any smoke at all.
I have a pro series Traeger. Both casters broke with minimal use. Bought new casters from Traeger. Neither one fits correctly and were very difficult to install. Casters came without instructions, so I had to guess. I went to u tube and found that people had to build a whole new leg assembly just to fit on new wheels that were not made for this smoker. I do not want to spend four hours of metal work to simply replace the casters that Traeger should have gotten right in the first place. Can of worms! Take that Traeger!
All the talk about made in China...... well it could have likely been made anywhere and inside the hopper it says "Tested". Well the LED display does not work correctly, i.e. not all the letters have all the LEDs light up to correctly state the temperature. The frame had a crimp in it on the front and when I closed the lid, it cam down crooked. It was not put on square with the grill. The warranty says that defective parts will be replaced, but the defective part has to be returned, pre-paid by me. That is B.S. This adds to my cost of the grill. Unless they pay for the return of parts, then it will just be fully returned to Amazon.
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!
The Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett smoker lets you get more than what you paid for. At a surprisingly low price, you get to have tons of great features that are sure to elevate your BBQ experience. For its price, we were quite surprised to see that it satisfied most of the features on our review. We tested over fifty products, and even the expensive ones were no match for this product. In terms of value per dollar, this product deserves the top spot.
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
One comment I see a lot in various forums like Pellet Heads Forum is that you want as much efficiency as you can get. As with lump charcoal, this means burning as clean of a cook as you can with as little ash as possible. Different pellet mixes will produce differences in what you get in this area, and the cooker you’re using will dictate this to some degree as well.