Wood pellets are an all natural product. No petroleum products in them, no fillers, chemicals, or binders. They are an excellent source of smoke flavor and compact energy, 8,500 BTU per pound. No hot coals, no flareups. There is also very little ash: 10 pounds of pellets will produce about 1/2 cup of ash. All the rest is converted to energy and combustion gases. I clean out the bottom of the ones I tested after about 10 cooks. At high temps there is very little smoke, at low temps the pellets smolder and produce superb but understated smoke flavors. Click here for more about pellets.
Manufacturers advertise this piece of equipment as both a smoker and a grill, but it's best to think of it as a superb indirect-heat convection smoker, not a grill. Most models just don't do as good a job of searing a steak as a charcoal grill or even a gas grill with a sear burner can. You'll sear steaks better on a $20 hibachi than on most pellet smokers.
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!
I bought a Yoder YS480 three years ago. I still use my cheaper pellet grill for everyday smokes, but I use the Yoder when I want to get serious. It does a beautiful job on baby back ribs (can do up to 8 racks laying flat on the grate) and I have smoked two complete turkeys at a time. The only time I have had a problem after 2 1/2 years of smoking was caused by a failed temperature probe. I got a new probe, installed it in a few minutes, and was back up and smoking again.
Decided that moving these beasts was a little challenging so I bought a Backwoods Party 10 years ago and loved it. But basically have about worn it out. And as I got older I don’t enjoy getting up at 2 AM and then having to get up every couple of hours, after the 45 minutes of getting it ready at 2 AM, to check it and feed it. I also bought a smaller lightly used Open Range, The Good One. Used their recommended method the first time I cooked with it and hated the Q off of it so bad most of it was wasted, wife hated it too and the son ate most of it. It was extremely ash/strong smoke flavored!
Although mesquite is often thought of as the quintessential BBQ wood, don’t stock up on it until you’ve tried it. While many who are new to pellet smokers and BBQ immediately choose mesquite pellets, be forewarned: it has a strong assertive flavor than can overpower food. When buying pellets for the first time, its wise to choose flavors that are versatile enough to be used on many different foods.
If you’re looking for a cheaper charcoal smoking experience, go for a charcoal or a bullet smoker. If you’re looking for everyday cooking, you’d be better off with a griddle or a gas smoker. But if you really want to get the best of all of them, dedicate your life to grilling of all sorts and if you are not afraid to spend a little more, then pellet smokers are definitely for you.
To compound the complexity of this issue the consumer also has to deal with some grill manufacturers recommending the use of only their branded pellets. Then to make matters even worse pellet consumers have to navigate all the different flavors available and whether to use a blended pellet (a blend of multiple kinds of wood such as oak, hickory, and cherry) or a 100% pure pellet (a pellet that uses only the flavor listed on the package). This doesn’t even take into consideration some pellet companies using things such as oils and fillers in their pellets.
Let's just say I really love to cook! Especially BBQ. I've had the YS640 a couple months now and can't say enough great things about it! I've grilled ,smoked and high temp roasted with excellent results! After week's of comparing and watching videos I know I made the right decision. There's just no comparison to the Chinese makes and the over priced stainless steel models. I considered the MAK smokers but at double the price couldn't justify it. For the price and USA build quality there isn't anything that can touch the Yoder!
Pellets are available from a number of sources because they are popular for use in home heaters, so if you are worried that you will be buying a gizmo that might be worthless someday if the pellet supply runs out, it is unlikely. As more and more pellet grills appear, and word of their excellence spreads, sources for pellets will become numerous. I've even heard of a few Home Depot's carrying them. The bad news is that I have tried several brands and I always return to BBQr's Delight. They seem to have the least sawdust, so they are less likely to clog the auger, and they have a higher percentage of the flavor wood on the label.
It’s also worth double checking the precision of the controls. Less expensive smokers sometimes have cheap control panels that only allow you to set the temperature to a few discrete settings, for example just low and high. This is, generally speaking, awful, and leads to improperly cooked meat and a whole host of other issues. Avoid it if you can.
As the last criteria that we took into consideration, we have shared this a couple of times but we really wanted to focus on variety. We not only wanted to share some of the best tops of the line brands in the industry but we also wanted to share brands that may be unknown but offer excellent craftsmanship and material design. For instance, some of the grills we have shared are perfectly designed for everyday use, while some are designed for large events and parties.
Before buying, please note that pellet smokers need access to electricity to run the digital controller, the auger that transports the pellets to the firebox, and the convection fan that circulates the air in the cooking chamber. These cookers can use a lot of pellets at high temps. At high temps there is little or no smoke, and at low temps smoke is unavoidable. So if you want to cook, say, a chicken breast low and slow to retain juices, but you don't want any smoke flavor, you're outta luck. If you want to torch a thin burger to get a crunchy crust and add a little smokiness, you'll get great smoke flavor, but it is hard to get the crust. But if you want killer ribs, bacon, smoked salmon, etc., pellet burners are hard to beat for convenience and quality.
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.
Who says bigger is always better? Our fourth contender to make it to our pellet grill review is the The Traeger TFB29LZA Junior elite grill. This petite pellet grill has been specifically designed to meet the needs of small households. Its small body makes it ideal for travelling and tailgating. It features a 300 square inch cooking surface. This pellet grill weighs just 60 pounds. You will get an LED digital, multi-position thermostat that comes with a 3 year warranty.
It also has the standardized dial-in digital control with LED readout (not to the point that it has WiFi like the Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett Pellet Grill, but still quite convenient). However, it’s rated low on this list because of poor quality control. Too many customers ended up with bad Pit Bosses that have inconsistent temperature control (going all the way to 615° Fahrenheit).
We purchased our wood pellet grill (Model TFB57CLB) from Costco in August 2017. It came with one bag of the gourmet blend pellets. We used the Traeger cookbook to try a few different recipes in the fall. Most of these involve a period of smoking followed by a period of grilling. The grill seemed to work fine at first. We used it a couple of times on warmer days in the winter and it had some trouble getting up to the desired heat level. We started using it regularly again in April 2018. I was careful to clean it and check the pellets etc. The smoking feature seemed to work alright, but when I would turn the heat up for grilling, the grill would usually struggle to get much over 225. I would resort to turning it up to 375 or more just to get it to 225 and then often it would sink back down to 180 or 160. I went to the troubleshooting guide on the manufacturer's website and checked all the components, which seemed to be working fine.
With the Camp Chef PG24S, you won’t have to constantly refill your hopper. Your pellets will be used as efficiently as possible, as this product comes with a hopper that can hold up to 18 pounds of wood pellets. With the digital heat control system, it instantly feeds the pellets into the grill to maintain the ideal cooking temperature. This ensures that food is cooked most satisfyingly.
With 341 square inches of cooking space and a digital control board that sets the temperature from 180 to 500 degrees, you’ll be cooking whole meals in this grill, even though it’s the smallest model that Pit Boss makes. It will hold up to a dozen burgers for parties, or a chicken and vegetables for the family dinner. When cooking is done, the porcelain coated grill grates are easy to clean.