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.
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.
Or the fact that it lives up to its “Ultimate Tailgating Grill” moniker for all you campers out there. You need to watch your roast closely so you won’t have to finish your pork butt in the oven. It’s not quite a “set it and forget it” kind of smoker grill because you still have to make sure that there’s a steady supply of pellets so that it won’t shut down.
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?
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.
Editor-in-Chief Sean McCoy is a life-long outdoorsman who grew up hunting and fishing central Wisconsin forests and lakes. He joined GearJunkie after a 10-year stint as a newspaperman in the Caribbean, where he learned sailing and wooden-boat repair. Based in GearJunkie's Denver office, McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.
This is a great pellet smoker! With a few minor tweaks, this thing would be perfect. Ribs, brisket, chicken, pulled pork, sausage, you name it and it comes off of the grates awesome. I've had mine since 2012 and would recommend that you purchase a spare thermocouple in case your's bites the dust in the middle of a smoke (replaced my thermocouple twice since 2012). This thing is built solid with longevity as a guarantee. The customer support at Yoder is unbelievable as well. I have gotten phone calls from them at 8am on Sunday morning when my first thermocouple gave up in 2014. Made in the USA with a commitment on customer support that has been incomparable to anything I've ever purchased! It's a bit pricey compared to the competition but does an amazing job. "The Sauce", with Chef Tom, is a huge help for those just getting their feet wet in pellet smoking. He does an amazing job by keeping it simple and flavorful!
Dealers are happily selling these while Traeger is aware per 1-800 call that they need to replace thousands of drip pans/heat exchangers on units that have been shipped because the ones in the units shipped allow heat to fluctuate widely. Traeger recommended NOT USING THIS BRAND NEW GRILL until I receive the replacement part which they will not receive until the last part of August and they will not commit to expedited shipping when they finally ship.
The Ortech has two knobs. The large one, the "Cook Control" has settings for: Off, Smoke, 180, 225, 250, 275, 300, 325, 350, 375, and High. One smoker manufacturer says that the "Smoke" setting is about 160°F and "high" is about 525°F, but both can vary due to ambient temperature, humidity, fuel type and quality of the smoker. Another knob, a teensy weensy knob to the right of the LED screen looks more like a push button. Labeled "SMOKE" and called the "Smoke Control Knob", it is meant to turn, not push, and it controls the pellet feed rate with auger on/off sequences indicated by "P settings". The P settings range from P0 to P15.
Kevin: I have a gas smoker but would like a wood pellet smoker. I’m looking at Traeger Lil Tex (due to price) but I read about Blazn Grill Works, Grand Slam, made in USA, stainless steel grates and a control unit that is very good. Cost about $1195, can’t find dealers so called and talked with the owner. What I read on web site sounds good. He claims on his short video that his auger is the best and doesn’t put torque on the drive due to the design. Any thoughts on this unit? Any advice would be appreciated. Still looking at the Yoder YS640 as price is very similar.
Camp Chef has already been mentioned several times on this list. It's a venerable company that makes up in quality what it lacks in the name recognition of a Traeger or Weber. Their Deluxe Pellet Grill is built to reach and hold ideal temperatures for smoking. An internal system syncs pellet delivery to temperature instead of simply feeding in fuel when it begins to run out. This ensures a clean, consistent cooking experience. A removable ash can makes clean-up a snap as well.
Kevin- super helpful article. Thanks! I just moved from a big city small apartment with no grill to a house in the country. Most essential purchase is the grill. I’m really on the fence. I like the idea of a pellet grill, but in reality- I’m mostly cooking burgers, fish, steaks, scallops, and veggies. The brisket and ribs will be more of a special occasion. From an economical perspective, am I better buying a gas grill and just getting one of those smoke tubes to add some flavor? From many of the online comments, it seems like the pellet grills benefit from additional smoke anyway, and though you can get additional grates for searing, seems like a square peg in a round hole. The gas grill is sort of the tried and true, and way more economical. Those $500 entry level pellet grills seem a little scrawny, and the next level up is a cool $grand. I’m really on the fence, and getting pressure to “just buy the darn thing” to consummate the move to the country! However the pellet grills seem like the new shiny object and have my curiosity. Any advice? PS- love the website! Thanks, Cary
The wood pellet grill features a dual rack design with a 513 square inch main cooking surface and 187 square inch warming rack. With a 20-pound hopper capacity, the grill has plenty of space for wood pellets to keep grilling during long event and parties when you have many mouths to feed. An automatic pellet feeder makes it easy to maintain the desired temperature, so you can focus on just the grilling itself.