Pellet grills have electronic temperature controls that (should) keep the heat consistent. Top quality pellet grills can maintain temperatures within 5 degrees or less for hours at a time, with the auger releasing pellets as needed into the fire box to do so. A consistent temperature means less guess work and fantastic food! (If you read words like “heat zones” or “baffle”, that means that you’ll need to be playing with the heat to keep it consistent… so steer clear of those!)
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.
I have used Bradley, Masterpiece, Green Egg, New Braunfels, Oklahoma Joe, Weber and now Traeger. So there is some experience in these comments. The “set it and forget” it is a misnomer and should not be used with Traeger (or any smoker/grill.) With Pellet Drive before you buy Read up on Er codes. The worst is when the fire pot fills up with pellets because the fire can’t keep up with the auger push and the whole cook is ruined or delayed. You have to pull everything out and basically start over while your expensive prime brisket is trying to be saved in the oven. Doesn’t matter what the weather is or wind conditions. Doesn’t matter if you stare at it and stir the hopper continuously. It will happen. Customer support at first was well you are at fault (didn’t leave the lid open on fireup for exactly 2 to 4 minutes or didn’t vacuum out the firepot between every cook) which is crazy. Finally, after so many calls over the past 6 months they are trying to make it right. Problem is, DO NOT believe the “set it and forget it.” That does not exist with any good cook. I have replaced the controller the fan and now getting a new probe. Do not waste your money. Unless someone out here in BBQ land can give me a recommendation on a product that won’t do this stay away from Pellet Drive?
A: As one of the most frequently asked questions, we can see why individuals are interested in this question. The lid material depends on the manufacturer. However, we have commonly seen that most brands use a steel lid that is powder coated or a stainless steel lid that is reflective. With that said, individuals can expect that the will be very durable and hold in the heat of the grill very well.

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!
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.

Spent thousands on Traeger, they are ok. Wouldn’t have an issue if they were only $500. But the last one I bought, (Timberline 850) cost $2500 Canadian. Almost burnt my house down because it got over 600F and was still climbing. All Traeger does is mail you more Chinese parts to fix your China made grill. By the end of it you will know your Traeger in and out because you WILL have to take it apart to repair! Overpriced for a smoker with many issues. Timberline lower grill has a portion of the grill removed for some kind of design. They added a 1/4 lip to justify this Grand Canyon of a hole in the back of the grill. Well needless to say if you cook wings or something small and toss them around you will for sure lose the wings to this big stupid hole. But they said they pit the little lip to stop the food from falling... Do they not test these products?


Thank you so much for this very informative post!! My husband and I just bought the Traeger Select Elite Pellet Grill On Cart yesterday as a somewhat impulsive buy on a Costco shopping trip. It was the last day in the road show so I figured we could always return it if we have buyer’s remorse. Having no past experience with pellet smokers/grills, I am doing my due diligence in researching the reputation of this company and comparing to others in the market. The selling point for us with this particular Traeger grill was the ability to convert this to a built in unit by simply taking off the right side shelf. The sales rep at Costco had a picture of one that his parents had built into an attractive brick surround and we liked the option, however, after reading your post and several other sites, I am finding that Traeger may not be the best investment comparatively and with a purchase this expensive, long-term quality is extremely important to us. In staying within the same price range, I am very interested in the Rec-Tec and it’s stainless steel build. My question is, do you know if the Rec-Tec or another pellet grill @ the $1000 price point can be made to look “built-in” and if so, are there any dangers or potential problems with this.

Now, there are different materials that certain pellet grills are made from. Since steel is such a heavy duty and heavy item, some brands have opted in for more cost-efficient materials, such as a stainless-steel lid to remove some of the weight from the pellet grill. With that said, the interior grill gates are as equally important as the exterior. For example, some grill gates are made from an easy to clean porcelain material while some are designed from stainless steel to be more user-friendly and cost-effective. With that said, let’s discuss another important element to consider when it comes to a pellet grill.
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.

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With that said, we can guarantee that all of the grills on this list are designed from the best quality materials and design elements to ensure that it not only lasts the test of time, it is safe to use, easy to set up, and also designed to cook the best meals possible. With that said, let’s talk about a pillar that has added to the quality criteria, the material design.
Thanks for the quick response and advice. I see a pellet pro hopper assembly is around $250 compared to the Memphis pro at over $2000. I didn’t realize that drafting isn’t important for the sake of temp regulation but what about how the smoke travels from the firebox towards the meat? I also would like to include an element of humidity, is simply putting a pan of water in the cooker or is there a better way?
Auger Making Weight Noises: It’s usually indicating a problem with the motor that’s responsible for rotating the augers. Under such circumstances, you would be left with no other choice than to replace the motor completely. Since the motors and augers are usually packaged together, this can get quite expensive. In such scenarios, it’s better to let it make noises and run for as long as it would serve you before going to replace it. However, once that problem occurs, you’d often find the auger not feeding the pellets at the expected rate and thus, the desired temperature might not be reached in some cases.
There’s so much about this grill to love, but one aspect that gets RAVE reviews is the customer service. Rec Tec has pretty much the best customer service in the industry. First off, there’s a 6 year warranty, meaning, they expect their product to perform. But in the unlikely case that you have issues, their customer service is incredibly fast to respond, is available even on the weekends, and believe it or not, the owners even provide their cell phone numbers so they can help you through a problem when you’re stuck. Incredible!
Hey John – great question. My experience is that I use maybe 8 lbs of pellets for a 7 or 8 hour cook at 275 degrees. Pellet grills are relatively fuel efficient. The brand of pellet you choose will play into this. Cost for pellets varies by manufacturer, similar to charcoal. I think you’ll find them very efficient if you’re just firing them up for high heat, shorter grilling sessions.
The Z Grills Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker comes with Smart Smoke Technology, which lets you set and forget your grilling. It accurately sets and maintains the desired temperature using an automated electric feed system, heating your unit from 180 degrees F to 450 degrees F. We’ve gotten used to smokers taking around 30-40 minutes to heat up, but with this unit, it took only 20 minutes for the temperature to settle in!
Ease of Use: At first, the unit appears somewhat mind boggling to use however when you get over it the first occasion when it turns out to be very simple. For one thing, there is a get-together video instructional exercise from the maker’s site for a less demanding get-together. Else, anybody that has used a BBQ before wouldn’t have any type of trouble with the unit.

Moving on from the orangish-red looks of the predecessor RT-680, this newer model has a black hood, with stainless steel built. It is 2.5” taller than the RT-680 and has 2 stainless steel bull horn handles on the outside that will have you falling in love with its built. Everything from the towel rings, the controller shelf, the hopper lid to the spill-proof bucket hook is stainless steel and even the smallest of details like the laser cutout of “Rec Tec Grills” on the side will never fail to impress.
This grill actually came about because of an IndieGoGo campaign. IndieGoGo is a crowdfunding platform wherein interested parties on the Internet can donate money to the maker if they want his invention or service to come about. The Z Grills Wood Pellet BBQ Grill and Smoker got its $500,000 from its donators and now the previously nonexistent Z Grills Company now exists to make their wildly popular grill.

Product is decent but customer service really didn't help me out when they sent me a wrong accessory part that was ordered by their customer service department. Explained that the representative misunderstood my request for an inside shelf but I was sent outer shelf which I have already . Tried to be fair and asked them to pay for the return shipping so I could return it back. They said we will gladly return your $ . Well till this day after numerous calls and false promises for the credit return .. there still is no refund. They seem to care but actually they did nothing. It's been 3 months of calling. Sorry to say we are Done with this company. If they can't settle a small concern and have A + service then don't bother! Good thing they are not the only smoker on the market. Shop around folks.
This grill actually came about because of an IndieGoGo campaign. IndieGoGo is a crowdfunding platform wherein interested parties on the Internet can donate money to the maker if they want his invention or service to come about. The Z Grills Wood Pellet BBQ Grill and Smoker got its $500,000 from its donators and now the previously nonexistent Z Grills Company now exists to make their wildly popular grill.
The Tailgater 20 Series Freestanding Grill is one of the best wood pellet grills from Traeger for those who like to cook away from home. It’s small and lightweight enough that you can load it in your car for tailgating before the big game, cooking while camping or grilling at the park. The ash bucket collects all ash created, which makes cleaning up before heading home easier.
While the Traeger Lil-Tex does offer similar features as our top pick, such as a digital LED temperature control system and an auto-dispensing auger, there was one missing feature which we thought was necessary. This product has a smaller grilling area and lacks a removable upper rack, which gives you less grilling and prep space. I should mention that the unit does come in a bigger 700 square inch version for $200 more, as well as a smaller version that costs less. If this smoker is too big or too small for you, there are always other options available. Compared to our top pick, it’s also more expensive despite offering similar specs. Aside from that, this is a very efficient and reliable smoker – might even have been the best if our top pick wasn’t available on the market.
Vista Outdoor will pay a total purchase price of $74 million for Camp Chef, comprised of $60 million in cash paid at closing and $14 million in cash to be paid out in equal installments on the first, second and third anniversaries of the closing date, subject to certain conditions described below. However, the effective purchase price is lower, due to value created by certain tax assets resulting from the transaction and the deferred purchase price structure, leading to an effective multiple of approximately 6.4x Camp Chef's expected calendar year 2016 EBITDA. Vista Outdoor financed the purchase price paid at closing using borrowings under its existing revolving credit facility. Vista Outdoor expects the acquisition to be slightly accretive to FY17 earnings per share (EPS), including impacts associated with transaction expenses. A majority of the payment of $14 million of deferred purchase price will be contingent on continued employment of key members of management and certain other conditions. As a result, Vista Outdoor plans to record the payments conditioned on continued employment as a compensation expense in future periods in accordance with GAAP. However, for purposes of presenting certain non-GAAP financial measures, including adjusted EPS, Vista Outdoor expects to treat those deferred payments as deferred purchase price and will therefore adjust the payments out of its financial results in future periods as payments are made. The purchase price will also be subject to a customary working capital adjustment. Additional information, including impact on full-year guidance, related to Camp Chef will be presented during Vista Outdoor's second quarter FY17 earnings call and webcast.
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.

I have used this cooker at least once a week for two years. I recently had a couple of issues with it going out and was thinking it was having a serious issue. Quite frankly as much as I use it it should be worn out by now. Here is what I discovered. Carbon had built up on the tempeture probe and the grill wasn't getting accurate readings. Suspecting the temp probe I checked it with an external one and it was off 50 degrees or more. I am assuming that the readings were off enough that the grill controller just shut it off kind of a fail safe? 30 seconds with steel wool and we are back in business.
Because most Traeger grills make use of an Ortech digital temperature controller that’s precise within about 15 degrees of your setting, they may not be precise enough for the type of cooking you want to perform. If so, some pellet grill manufacturers, such as MAK, Yader, and Memphis, can give you temperature control within about 5 degrees of the setting. These types of grills use multiple temperature probes inside the cooking area to guarantee the temperature remains consistent. And some of these high-end brands can reach a higher cooking temperature (such as 600 or 700 degrees Fahrenheit) versus the Traeger family of grills (usually around 450 or 500 degrees). Additionally, MAK, Memphis, and Yader grills are made in the United States, while some parts of Traeger grills are made in China.
Regarding getting a good draft, this is a common misconception for pellet grills. The burn pot on pellet grills receives oxygen via a fan unit. As such, there’s no need for a draft to get a measured burn in the traditional sense. Most pellet grills lack sufficient insulation / gaskets, etc to prevent smoke from leaking out of the body. So, unless you’re going with the Memphis or something that uses oven style insulation, you don’t really need a chimney at all IMHO.
A portable offering from Green Mountain Grills, the Davy Crocket is the most affordable pellet grill on our list, and the only one with WiFi capability. It’s compact, weighs only 57 pounds, and has folding legs so you can pack it up and bring it camping, tailgating, or to the beach. That’s something you can’t do with the Traeger Pro 22, and something we’re really excited about.
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.
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.

I purchased my unit new this last weekend, and had the privilege of working with the owner directly. Extremely polite and informative gentleman who is straightforward and wants you to buy what you think is best. He was not pushy at all and doesn't need to be. The product sells itself. I have a friend who has a Traeger and I have grilled/smoked with him on several occasions. There is a reason this grill weighs significantly more than the Traeger. If you are truly going to invest this amount of money in a grill, please make sure you are completely happy with your investment by purchasing this Yoder grill.
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.
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.
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.
This website has a lot of negative reviews... I mixed some salt and pepper, rubbed onto some ribs, and put on the Traeger. After about 5 hours sitting in my a/c living room, looking out the window, at perfectly managed temp, the ribs were done, perfect, juicy, with a beautiful wood smoky flavor that I've never gotten on charcoal or even in restaurants with professional pitmasters and all. I did phone Traeger when I was putting the grill together and doing the 1st burn in, there were humans there (!) and they were knowledgeable and helpful on the 1st time.
In 2010, I sprung for a discounted Rainer with $80 in tip money and a pro deal through the whitewater rafting company I worked for. It was an expensive purchase for me at a time when my monthly food budget was around $60. But hey, along with a Roll-a-Table, two chairs I “borrowed” from the rafting company, and my cooler, I had almost a full kitchen that I could deploy from the back of my truck. And the Rainier quickly proved a wise investment.
Sometimes an inexpensive, less efficient pellet blend might be just fine for burgers or chicken breasts. Other times, you may want to step it up with a premium flavored pellet where whole turkeys, prime rib roasts, or a nice brisket can really shine. No matter what you read in any grouping of pellet grill reviews, know this: pellets are not all made equally. You will wind up with one or two “go to” brands over time that you simply prefer – sometimes for their efficiency (leaving little ash), others for their flavor.
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