Wood pellet grills look like standard barbecue grills but some with a separate firebox for making smoked meats that will also let you smoke vegetables and other ingredients. As Traeger and Pit Boss both get good reviews from customers, it’s important that you look at the top features of this grills and how each company compares in relation to those features.
This is the single main advantage of a pellet smoker. Unlike charcoal, gas or wood fired smokers you don’t need to do anything with fuel except make sure it’s full when you start. This means no more having to go back and check fuel levels, no fluctuating temperatures, no spending ten minutes setting up charcoal and getting it at the right temperature, and no random heat variance giving you oddly cooked food ’cause you set it all up wrong.
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.
If you get it that BBQ is more than burning hotdogs on a propane grill, you could likely benefit from The BBQ Beat podcasts. Kevin interviews the best Pitmasters in the country. They share their knowledge, stories, and experiences. There is something to be learned in each podcast. So if you're serious about your bbq, check out these podcasts. They are time well spent.
Hey Pete, first thanks for your kind words. Traeger pellet grills fell off a bit quality wise over the past several years. That said, they’ve hired a new CEO – formerly from the Skull Candy Head Phone company – who brought that company’s valuation up considerably. I see them making moves to get back to their roots… aligning themselves with some of the more well known names in BBQ again. From a build quality, they’re making solid pellet grill bodies using fairly heavy steel. The area I’d like to see them improve on is the controllers they use. Right now, GMG is making great strides in claiming some of the entry level pellet smoker market share away from Traeger. This is due to a superior PID controller, advances in built in Wi-Fi monitoring, and outstanding customer service.
Because the burn pot is small, there is usually a hot spot directly over it. Some units have an optional perforated section above the burn pot so you can put the meat over direct flame, but the ones I've tested still do not sear properly. And there is no way to set up a 2-zone cooking system with a cool zone. As with most other grills and smokers, the differences between lower and upper racks is not huge, so think of it as one heckuva indirect heat convection smoker with precision temperature control.
One other thing to know about the wonder of pellet grills is that they come with pellet hoppers, varying in capacity from brand to brand, that accommodates and use the pellets you put it accordingly and automatically as per the heat setting, eliminating the need to refill the hopper manually so frequently. So throw on some lamb ribs on to those hot grills, and go enjoy some cold beer while the pellet grill does the rest for you!
Instead of logs, the pellet smoker is fed with food-grade cylinders of wood pellets that are an inch long and ¼-inch wide and are made of compressed hardwood sawdust. According to the best pellet smoker reviews, pellet grills are easy to use because it’s easier to maintain its temperature because of these sawdust pellets that are subjected to great heat and high pressure, which ignites lignin (natural wood glue).
One-Touch Non-PID Controller - Featuring a LCD display and one-touch buttons for setting the cooking temperature in 5° or 10° increments, these controllers allow you to more accurately set a desired cooking temperature. However, like multi-position controllers, they use fixed cycles for delivering pellets and so are limited in accuracy to +/-15–20°F. These controllers may have inputs for meat probes that monitor the internal temperature of food.
From the second I ordered the YS640 to the day it arrived the service and dialogue with ATBBQ was first rate. They actually care about the customers service experience! One word of caution for anyone thinking about buying this beast. Make sure you have someone strong to help you unload it off the pallet! My neighbor was amazed at the heft and build quality!
This great build extends itself to its porcelain coated grates allowing it to be used for years with no signs of rust and also allows for an easy clean by the user. You can expect to have excellent results on your food with beautiful grill marks. Temperature control is made easy with its digital elite controller which makes you able to manage temperatures with ease. Its ignition is quick to start meaning there is no stress to be felt when lighting up your device.
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.
Pit Boss Wood Pellet Grills are fueled by all natural BBQ wood pellets. The digital control board ignites the grill and allows you to set the cooking temperature from 180° to 500°F. Fan forced convection cooking eliminates the need for a rotisserie and creates a versatile environment for grilling, roasting, smoking, braising, searing and baking. The 820 features a Flame Broiler as standard; this adds the option to grill directly over an open flame when direct heat is needed. The Pit Boss 820 features a large 820 sq. in. total cooking surface: 580 sq. in. main and 240 sq. in. removable upper rack. With complete structural strength and durability, the Pit Boss 820 is made to last.
Whenever you want to smoke with a pellet smoker, you will have to make a choice: What type of wood pellets should I use? Well, the answer may sound simple – whichever flavor you like the best – but might be pretty difficult if you’re smoking for the first time. Unfortunately, the only way to know which flavor you like most is to try them all at least once and then decide upon which one floats your boat.
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.
One of the most common problems people encounter with pellet grills is abnormal temperature fluctuations—the controller is set to 250°F, but the grill is dropping to 200°F then climbing to 325°F. Usually people assume that it's a mechanical issue and either the controller or RTD probe need to be replaced. However, very often the problem is far simpler and the solution far easier.
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Whether it's smoking a rack of ribs or grilling a wood-fired pizza, to even baking a homemade apple pie, do it all with Traeger's 6-in-1 versatility. No matter what you grill, smoke, bake, roast, braise, or BBQ, it all gets flavored with amazing Traeger wood-fired taste. Don't settle for a grill that can only grill or smoke when you can do it all with a Traeger.
Apart from the aforementioned problems, you might face some minor issues like the smoker staying hot for hours in the end even after your cooking is over and it’s turned off? It’s better to check out the backdraft preventing cooling fan for your grill. Although this wouldn’t cause any major issues with your grilling experience, it’s a safety feature that is always worth checking out and fixing.
Central to all pellet cookers is a digital controller similar to the controllers on modern indoor ovens. You select a temp you want, and there is an LED display that tells you the actual temp. Some of the controllers also are programmable so you can cook at a certain temp for a determined time. Some have leave-in meat probes that can dial back the ovento a holding temp when the meat hits its mark.
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.
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.
Versus other hardwood pellet grills, Traeger represents a good value whether for a gift or for general use, although if you’re looking for a fully Made in America grill, you’ll want to consider other options. If you decide to go with Traeger, be certain you’ve thought about how much grilling area for food you’ll need and pick an adequate model, as the various Traeger grill price points depend heavily on available grilling area.
Now, what that means is that if you have a lower hopper capacity, your pellet smoker will run for a smaller period of time. It also depends on the cooking temperature you have selected for your cooking purposes. However, at higher temperatures, they will provide less smoke; thus would be more suitable for grilling and barbecuing, but not so much for smoking.
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In 1982 Traeger Heating in Oregon began experimenting with a furnace that would burn wood pellets made from compressed sawdust, a byproduct of the area lumber mills, and before long introduced a home heating system that they sold mostly locally. Since furnaces sold mostly in cold months, before long they began experimenting with a grill that would burn pellets, too. Eventually they created a device with an auger to feed the pellets and a blower to help them burn.
At present, I am sponsored by and continually use pellets produced by CookinPellets.com. There are two versions of pellets – the Perfect Mix (Hickory, Cherry, Hard Maple, and Apple Woods) and 100 Percent Hickory. In each of these versions, CookinPellets uses all wood, no bark, no filler woods like oak or alder and no flavor oils. Just 100% of what is on the bag. I get consistently great flavor using these two varieties of pellet smoker pellets from CookinPellets.com, and I think you’ll enjoy them very much as well.