So that brings me to the one thing I have learned in all this that I basically read when I was getting started. One of the biggest keys is “Temperature Control”! If you want consistent food make sure you get that under control. It is the key to solid consistent food! Once you get your food consistent you can experiment with a lot of other things. But if you can’t get that down, you will always be looking for another magic bullet. The number one magic is temperature!
According to Bruce Bjorkman of MAK, his cookers use about 1/2 pound of pellets per hour when set on "Smoke" (about 175°F). At 450°F, the high temp, they burn about 2.3 pounds per hour. This is about the same average as I have experienced on a variety of pellet eaters. The burn rate will vary somewhat depending on the outside air temp, and how much cold meat is loaded in the grill, but cooking load should not have a major impact. Cooking pellets run about $1 per pound depending on the wood flavor, brand, if you get them on sale, and if you have to pay shipping. As a point of comparison, Kingsford briquets list for about $0.75 per pound, but they don't pack the same BTUs because there are fillers. I usually buy 40 pound bags of BBQr's Delight pellets from BigPoppaSmokers.com for $45 and shipping is free to IL. That's $1.13 per pound. That means that if I cook a slab of spareribs for six hours at 225°F I will probably burn about 4 pounds at about $4.50. If I put 8 slabs in there in rib holders, and allocate 1/2 slab per person, my cost for 16 people is about $0.28 each. If I grill a mess of chicken parts at about 325°F for about 1 hour, I will use about 1.5 pounds of pellets for a cost of $1.70.
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:
Traeger invented the original wood-fired grill over 25 years ago in Mt. Angel, Oregon, and continues to lead the industry as the worlds #1 selling wood-fired grill, perfected by decades of mastering the craft of wood-fired cooking. Fueled by 100% pure hardwood pellets and controlled with a digital controller, means from low and slow to hot and fast grilling, you'll fire up deliciously consistent results every single time. The Texas Elite 34 packs a huge punch with 646 sq. in. of grilling area, new wider legs for added stability, and an upgraded Digital Elite Controller. It combines powerful, wood-fired convection performance with simple operation. So invite the neighbors and taste the wood-fired difference.
As far as backyard cookers go, Pellet Grills are the newest products on the market. With their roots in the 1970’s, these versatile outdoor grills combine the capabilities of a traditional grill, with the wood-fired flavor of a smoker, and even the convenience of a modern oven. The “Pellet” in the name refers to the specific variety of fuel used. These are specially made cylinders constructed of compressed sawdust. The grill is powered by electricity and doles out specific amounts of pellets to maximize fuel efficiency. The primary benefit of these types of grills is their versatility. Wood pellets can be burned at all different temperatures and volumes, making it possible to sear, smoke, or slow cook a whole array of meats in an infinite variety of styles.
Camp Chef is a leading manufacturer of camping stoves, dutch ovens, and other outdoor cooking equipment. If you want quality cookware to take on your next camping trip or barbecue in the park, Camp Chef has the solutions - from camp stoves to cast iron dutch ovens. Camp Chef makes cooking gear for campers, hunting, for traveling by RV, even for your next tailgate party. Camp Chef was built around the idea of finding better ways to cook outdoors - no matter the location, from woods to parking lots to campgrounds - and from that philosophy has come a whole line of outdoor cooking equipment, made to let you go gourmet in the wild!
I use to have a charcoal/wood fired smoker and it was a nightmare maintaining temperature especially on a long brisket cook. Instantly I've fallen in love my YS640 coupled with a fireboard. You literally set the temp load it up and walk away with no stress or worries about maintain temperature. It provides great smoke flavor too. Yes it is an expensive purchase but that is because this thing is built like a tank and will last for decades.
I have had a Traeger Junior Elite for 4 years. In that time I have used it < 50 times. I have replaced a fan motor, a fuse, and now I have been trying to get a thermometer replaced. First time, the service guy dropped the ball and never sent it. Second time- the thermometer got sent around to multiple post offices. Third time, never got to me- apparently they sent it to the wrong address. Fourth time- still waiting. It's been 5 weeks now, and I cannot get the part, and have no idea if the part will fix the grill. Everyone in service has been polite, but incompetent as well. I have had 2 flash fires in the grill from the auger pushing too many pellets into the hot pot, the temperature fluctuates wildly. Save yourself the frustration: avoid Traeger at all costs!
Thanks Kevin. I am about to buy both a 5 burner gas grill and a smoker for a new bbq island. Rather than buy both, will one of these higher end pellet grills take the place of a traditional propane grill? I can apply the funds for the gas grill to a higher end pellet if it can really do double duty. It has to be able to cook burgers and dogs and steaks etc. Just like a gas grill though. Thoughts?
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.
They are often called grills, but, at the time of this writing, I consider them to be primarily smokers. Almost all of them cook with indirect heat and those that try to grill over direct flame don't do it well. If you love steaks, there are far better ways to cook them. But if you love smoked turkey, ribs, salmon, pork chops, brisket, and smoked foods, a pellet smoker may be the best solution available.
Personal review of the Traeger: The auger fed the pellets after the fire pot went out making a large pile up which caused it to catch fire and burn up my grill. I had to use a fire extinguisher to put out the flames and prevent my house from catching fire. I sent Traeger the description of damages with photos. After much waiting and no response from the management team regarding my Traeger grill we gave up. The service team was very responsive but lacked any authority to make decisions to fix the grill. We worked with the service team for awhile having a different person each time respond and request information and photos that were already provided. Then, we got passed up to the management which is highly ineffective because we never heard from them, even after an email requesting an update. We really did like our Traeger grill and had high hopes that since it was under warranty and caught fire due to a failure we would have the grill repaired. Because of the terrible unresponsive service of Traeger we took our money and purchase a Green Mountain Grill.
Camp Chef's Woodwind Pellet Smoker is a quality smoker and super searing grill wrapped up in one. As I mentioned above, though pellet smokers are often referred to as pellet grills, most have a limited grilling capability at best. To fill this gap, in 2017, Camp Chef introduced its optional LP gas Sear Box, which can be added to any of its current SmokePro pellet smokers. Woodwind is a package deal that comes standard with the Sear Box and sells for about $50 less than a SmokePro with the optional Sear Box. As a bonus, Camp Chef is one of the few brands on the market with an ash-removal system that deposits ash in a cup under the smoke box for easy disposal.
So what about the question of blends versus 100% pure species pellets? Should you avoid blends? Should you only use 100% pure? That is a web to unweave and depends greatly on what you are cooking as to the correct answer. Through our testing we found many blends to work very well. We liked them so much that we incorporated them into what we offer. Not all blends are created equal though and the amount of hardwood versus flavor wood varies widely across brands. We also found that some 100% pure pellets such as cherry and apple had harder times reaching higher grilling temperatures and lacked the harder core flavor punch of hickory or mesquite. Coming from the world of stick burners many new pellet grill owners assume that going 100% cherry or apple is going to work for them since that is what they have grown accustomed to. At the end of the day, they end up moving to a pellet with a deeper flavor like hickory or mesquite to get the results they are used to.
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.
After about 10-15 hours of cooking, you should remove the burn cup and dump the ash. If the ash builds up it can prevent ignition. Ash also accumulates in the bottom of the unit, but doesn't impact cooking. A vacuum cleaner with a hose makes short work of it. Only a few manufacturers, such as Blaz'n Grill Works and Camp Chef have a slide out combustion cup that makes cleanup much easier, but you still have to get underneath the deflector occasionally and suck out fly ash that has scattered around the lower part of the grill body.
Second, It would be just my wife and me BBQing so I’m looking small. I’m considering the REC TEC Mini Portable Wood Pellet Grill (RT-300) after reading your reviews. Having only ever BBQed with hard wood coals on a Webber, is there going to be a taste fall-off going to the pellet grill as far as charring and/or smoke? I’d hate to spend that kind of money and get bland steaks. Really, steak is all we ever cook outside, though that would probably change with a nice grill.
In reading through the comments section, it seems the recommendations have shifted over time. As it stands today, which smoker would you go with and why: GMG Jim Bowie, Traeger Pro 34, or the RecTec? I like the cooking space of the Traeger Pro 34, but the other 2 seem to have more bells and whistles. I’ve been smoking about 5yrs, so not a pro but not a beginner. Currently have a 10+ year old Traeger Lil Tex elite hand-me down that is ready to give up the ghost. Would appreciate your thoughts!
It doesn't matter if you're talking about pellet grills, pop songs, or pizza, everyone always wants to know which is the best. While that might seem like a fairly straight forward question, there is no simple one-word answer. Is the best pellet grill the most popular one made by the best-known brand? Is it the most expensive one with the most advanced features and high-end bells and whistles? Is it the one that offers the best combination of price and performance? Really, the answer depends on you, your means, and your needs. Or, put another way, maybe the question shouldn't be what's the best pellet grill? but what's the best pellet grill for you?
Now, for the good stuff: do not hesitate to spend an extra or even two bucks for a feature that you will use and appreciate. Consider your pellet grill as an investment, something you are going to buy, and be using and enjoying for years and years to come. Features like meat probes to check the internal temperature of foods are excellent for taking the guess work away from cooking meat to a particular doneness. You will never end up with an overcooked and rubbery, or undercooked and raw steak ever again! Features like smartly designed grills that consume and spread heat evenly are also great for cooking food to perfection without having to move it from side to side to find the right temperature spot.
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.
It can be said often enough: the best pellet grill is the one that's best for you. Ultimately, you're the one paying for it and you're the one who will be cooking on it, so make sure whatever pellet grill you choose is the one you'll be happy with. Just because you're friend has no qualms paying top dollar for the most advanced grill on the market doesn't mean you should feel bad about spending half as much on a grill that does the things you want it to do. The best advice: do your research, be informed, and know what you're purchasing. If you can do that, you're unlikely to experience buyer's remorse.
We were surprised to see that the pellet grill was WiFi-compatible. Usually, grills come with basic remotes, but this one comes with a digital WiFi controller. It allows you to control and monitor your cooking through an app on your iOS or Android phone. We found this convenient, since we didn’t have to get up to check on our grill every few minutes. This is probably why it’s one of the top pellet grills in the market.
Next in our pellet grill review is the Green Mountain Davy Crockett pellet grill. Its small size makes it a portable grill. It weighs 57 pounds and measures 14.5 by 20 by 29.5 inches in dimensions. The Green Mountain pellet grill has 110V or 12V adaptors for 3 power options. It has foldable legs that also function as handles. This pellet grill also features a thermal sensor which monitors the grill temperature called Sense-Mate. One coveted feature on this pellet grill is that is Wi-Fi compatible.
Extremely high build quality. It's heavy. Solid. Nothing flexes or bends. The temp displayed is very accurate when referenced with a thermometer. My only complaint is that the 2-piece diffuser should either be standard equipment, or an optional upgrade at order time (in exchange with the stock diffuser). The 2-piece diffuser is a MUST HAVE accessory. Cleaning the firepot is a messy pain the A** without the 2-piece diffuser. I didn't think I would need it, But I ended up ordering it about 6 weeks after receiving my YS640. I also highly recommend the direct grilling grates. I was able to get rid of my gas BBQ because the direct grilling feature works so well on the YS640.
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.
This podcast is great for anyone that has ever had an interest in BBQ, grilling, smoking, etc. The guests that are brought on to this pod along with the dialogue that Kevin has with them makes this a great podcast that would be enjoyable for anyone to listen to regardless if they liked BBQ or not. There is a great wealth of knowledge to be found in these pods, and each time I listen to the BBQ Beat I feel genuine excitement to go outside and try something new with my grill or smoker. Aside from all of this, the audio is great and the topics are interesting which makes the experience engaging for not only the guest on the pod, but also you the listener. Suscribe and listen often. I promise you won't be disappointed.
PID Controllers - The most sophisticated type of pellet grill controller, PID controllers use complex algorithms to achieve and maintain the desired temperature within a few degrees. They, too, feature LCD display and one-touch buttons for setting the temperature in 5° increments. However, unlike controllers that use fixed cycles, a PID controller continuously measures the grill’s temperature then adjusts its cycle, adding pellets when necessary to hold the correct cooking temperature throughout the cook. Because they’re more sophisticated, PID controllers can accommodate programmable meat probes that have the ability to automatically lower the grill’s temperature when food is done.
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Convert your stove into a powerful barbecue grill. Convert your stove into a powerful barbecue grill. This barbecue grill box is sure to win you over to Camp Chef's savory outdoor flavor. Features a reverse-louvered plate to vaporize grease drippings while distributing heat evenly over the cooking surface to create a more flavorful cooking experience. Cast iron grates ... More + Product Details Close
The real innovative feature of this monster pellet grills is that with it can be divided into two independent grills or opened up into one that can accommodate a whole hog (though a rather small one). The best part of this is that it can be a 600 square inch pellet grill when it needs to be or a 1,200 square inch grill when it has to be. For the person who might need to do a lot of cooking once in a while, this is a very good option. With two pellet controllers, mounted on opposite ends this pellet grills has all the versatility imaginable.
The PK-360, with 360 square inches of cooking space, this rust free, cast aluminum charcoal grill is durable and easy to use. Four-way venting means it's easy to set up for two zone cooking with more control than single vent Kamado grills. It is much easier to set up for 2-zone cooking than any round kamado. Beautifully designed and completely portable. Meathead says it is his preferrred grill.
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!
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.
You like the idea of cooking different types of foods on the grill: If you’re someone who wants to grill food other than meat, the Traeger grilling system gives you this option. With the precise temperature control of the Traeger, cooking things like fruit pies can be a successful endeavor, something you wouldn’t dare try with a propane-fired grill.
Pit Boss Wood Pellet Grills are filled by all regular BBQ wood pellets. The computerized control board lights the grill and permits you to set the cooking temperature from 180° to 500°F. Fan constrained convection cooking takes out the requirement for a rotisserie and makes an adaptable situation for grilling, simmering, smoking, braising and preparing. The Pit Boss 340 has 340 sq. in. total cooking surface with porcelain covered cooking grids. With complete structural quality and strength, the Pit Boss 340 is made to last.
It's true that even the entry-level models of pellet smokers are a bit pricey. But I've never met an unhappy pellet smoker owner, even if they paid a few hundred bucks more than the cost of their neighbor's grill. And manufacturers are rising to meet increased consumer demand, with more selections, more features, and more competitive pricing. While many folks struggle trying to get cheap offset and bullet smokers to work, with a pellet smoker, it's easy to make the best smoked ribs, brisket, and pulled pork in the neighborhood.
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.
With a large cooking space and the most advanced cooking techniques, this is easily one of our favorite products among our top ten. While it lacks some of the features that the other grills and smokers in this review have (such as an ash and grease cleanup systems), it does deliver fine-dining quality foods, which is the ultimate goal of every grilling enthusiast. For its price, it offers some of the best features you can find in high-end products.
Remote Accessibility: This level of control and observing is critical on the grounds that the container does not generally sustain the pellets into the wood screw accurately and the fire in the firepot can go out. The Davy Crockett will tell you that the container is not sustaining wood pellets and that the temperature is dropping. The Davy Crockett application will reveal to you something isn’t right.
Z Grills is a lesser known manufacturer and a great low-cost alternative to the more expensive Traeger grills. Their pellet grill is a sturdy, heavyweight model with a roomy 500 square inches of cooking space and an electronic feeding system for fuel pellets. An additional warming rack provides additional space for cooking at lower temperatures. Furthermore, Z Grills also ensures their product with a generous 3 years warranty.
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.
I've been wanting a Yoder for the last year and a half. Finally pulled the trigger on a 640 a couple months ago. Absolutely fantastic. I've been a Weber guy forever and this is my first smoker. This defiantly took my food over the top. My 640 has been incredibly accurate with keeping the heat on the grate to the setting I punch in. Just finished my first brisket and it was fantastic. The only way to go!
All this said, I believe the girls you are looking at already will both provide you with long lasting grilling and smoking satisfaction. Honestly, when you get to a point where are your in the price range that you are in, it’s really hard to choose a bad option with pellet grills. The biggest Advantage you have over the ones you’re looking at and the Yoder models is that they are heavy built giving you excellent heat retention over your Cooks.
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.
A pellet hopper is what you put your pellets in. The grill will automatically help itself from the hopper and use it to maintain the temperature you want it to. More heat requirement will use more pellet, and less heat will use less. What you need to make sure is that you have a good sized pellet hopper so that your grill can keep using from it and you do not have to keep refilling the hopper too often. There are pellet grills out there that are powerful and gentle enough to be cooking for hours, and sometimes overnight, all thanks to its large pellet hoppers that keep replenishing and refueling the fire all throughout.
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.