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.
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.
For beginner outdoors chefs and guys buying their first smoker, that’s an invaluable bit of knowledge. Knowing that no matter what you do, as long as you follow the standard set up, you’re going to produce professional quality meat with ease, which is why smokers like the ones below are the best choice for anyone looking at buying their first pellet smoker.
Craft amazing wood-fired creations with the Traeger Lil' Tex Elite 22 pellet grill. From grilled steak, to smoked ribs, and even a freshly baked apple pie, the set it and forget it ease of use allows any home chef to cook it all. Swap the gas and charcoal barbecue for 100% pure hardwood pellet flavor and grill, smoke, bbq, bake, roast, or braise a masterpeice.
So, when their patent expired in 2006, large companies capitalized on that one and Traeger began facing cut-throat competitions. Within two years, a few companies had already begun producing some of the best pellet grills with more advanced designs and features. By 2014, around 27 companies had already penetrated the market and newer brands were coming out almost every month. Now, with so many companies already in the market, some of them are creating strategic alliances with other brands producing different grilling equipment.
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I had hung my hat on the Yoder and had even contacted the factory and a couple of distributors in the DFW area. Then I did my usual, search craigslist and see if anyone is moving and selling their unit. Low and behold a Memphis Pro!!! Story was brand new, bought for a built in and now cannot use it now. Brand new but you may not have a warranty though. Price… wait for it! $1600!!! You got to be kidding! Scam?? Ok well I will contact him. Surprisingly he had it advertised for a few weeks and only had a few contacts but none serious. Ok, I will come look and if you can plug it in and show me the controller works I will take it. Called the factory and they were quite responsive. They said we probably won’t warranty the controller because we don’t know the history but it will depend on the failure. Everything else we will cover. So right before Thanksgiving headed to Dallas and it basically all looked brand new, plugged in and it did everything you could do without burning pellets.
Yoder pellet smokers maintain a very strong reputation for quality and precision. Based out of Hutchinson, KS, the company prides itself on producing a 100 percent Made in America product that is one of the sturdiest and most reliable brands of smokers available. Check out this Yoder Smokers promo video to get an idea of how they are branding themselves.
Lauded for its amazingly accurate cook temperatures and times and for affording cookers a real “unfair advantage” at competitions (according to those who lose to them) – Fast Eddy’s Cookshack Pellet Smokers rank among the very best available on the market today. I love the history of Fast Eddy’s pellet grills. In 1986, Ed Maurin (Fast Eddy) – a retired KCMO Fire Fighter – cooked his first American Royal event. From that point on he was hooked on BBQ and on coming up with the very best way to ensure its production. By 1998 the first of his Fast Eddy’s pellet smokers was released to the market, and he was off to winning competitions and helping those who bought his cookers do so as well.
With their portable model, Traeger has their own version of the classic 'tailgater'. Still fairly hefty at a little over 60 pounds, this grill is still far and away the most lightweight model Traeger offers. The legs fold up for ease of storage and transportation. As with all other Traeger products, temperature controls allow grillers to use the Tailgater as either a conventional grill or a smoker.
The Traeger Lil-Tex 22 Wood Pellet Smoker and Grill impressed us the most with its “6-in-1” feature, which lets you braise, smoke, grill, braise, roast and BBQ all kinds of foods. With porcelain-coated racks, this durable grill offers top-grade function that you’d expect from high-quality pellet smoker grills. The smoker features 418 sq. in. of cooking area, enough to cook for medium-sized groups. But if that isn’t enough, other sizes are available, all offering the same functions. It comes with digital temperature controls, so you can leave it to take care of the rest while you relax and play. This durable pellet grill is 2nd not because it’s not as great as our first pick –the grill is a bit more costly that’s all.
On the better models, a temperature probe in the oven area tells the controller what the temperature is and if it is below the target it tells the controller to feed more pellets and air. The best manufacturers, like MAK and Memphis, have designed their own versatile custom controllers that are easy to use and can hold a temperature within 5°F, tighter than many indoor ovens.
With the internal temperature sensor, meat temperature probe, and a digital temperature readout, the PG24 pellet smoker takes the guesswork out of your cooking process. An advanced digital temperature chip gives a more steady smoke and temperature, eliminating large temperature swings and giving a more consistent cooking temperature. The patented Ash Can Cleanout System makes clean up the easiest out there.
Cleaning/Maintenance: The grease catcher on this flat top is pretty decent. It is located on the bottom left hand side and all the oil/grease gets caught without anything dripping elsewhere. I usually wipe the grease catcher's orifice down with a paper towel to ensure it does not get clogged up over time. Other flat-top grills have either grease catchers that drip onto the leg of the grill or have them in the back of the flat top which is a little inconvenient getting to. As for cleaning after every use, I use a stainless steel scrapper/chopper to wipe the grill clean after I am done cooking. I scrape everything down into the grease catcher. For saucy foods or foods that might stick to the flat top, I use water when the grill is still hot to scrape it off and send it to the grease catcher. Afterwards, I put a little bit of oil onto the flat top and spread it all over using paper towels to maintain the seasoning before putting the cover on. Total clean-up time and re-seasoning takes roughly 3 minutes.
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.
This will work using one burner only on the stove when connected to our RV exterior grill connection port. Our camp chef portable stove has one large and one standard burner. It would only operate on the standard burner due to the low pressure regulated on the RV piping system. Be prepared to break out the standard propane tank & regulator hose set if you plan on running a two or three burner camp chef stove. Rating is 4 stars due to the price and short length at $35 price tag, it could have been longer.
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.
The Traeger Pellet grill can accommodate temperatures from 180 degrees to 375 degrees, and high. It has a state of the art digital temperature control system that not only monitors the temperature to keep it consistent and even, but also regulates the pellets the auger feeds to the fire according to that temperature. This is truly a grill worthy of a place in our pellet grill review.
Second, you’ll have to figure out what BBQ pellets you want to use. There are many different brands, blends, and mixes to choose from, and you’ll likely want to do some side by side testing to see what you like best on what meats. My very good friend and BBQ buddy Shane Draper really likes to make his own blends – using different woods in different proportions depending on what he’s cooking.
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.
Revising Product review to include photos! Excellent size and performs better than hoped for. Doe great job of smoking meats. Did a 12hr Pork Butt last weekend, tasty. Ran into a snag lately with the smoke stack though. Installed a aluminum patio cover over our deck $5,000. Now when I use my Traeger, the smoke has only a few feet to rise due to new roof over it. If windy, smoke billows in circles, trying to escape. And smoke will race into sliding door when opened. Experimented and came up with cure that works 100% excellent! Home Depot for 25ft roll of 6" Flexible Aluminum Duct. The 6" size goes over the hat on top of Traeger stack, pull down a few inches, wrap aluminum foil around bottom to seal. Other end over end of deck rail. Tried to keep as straight as possible, then trimmed to fit when expanded. Works like a charm and solved problem. Now smoke goes out end of 8ft long alum tube and out from under roofline, up into the air. No more smoke trapped under deck. With the flex alum tube, I can place it on East, West or North deck rails for smoke direction. Just thought I would pass this along as it did not effect the Traeger at all. Actually most likely helps with keeping air draft from entering thru smoke stack.
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.
The MAK 1 Star General boasts our favorite digital controller: It's highly programmable and easily accessed via the internet from anywhere in the world. Made entirely in the USA, the 1 Star General is solid-feeling, with a heavy-duty powder coat. The hood is a rolltop, meaning that, unlike a lot of its competitors, the 1 Star doesn't need much rear clearance, and there's plenty of room inside. An optional upper grill grate adds 190 square inches of cook surface. Our only criticism: Not only is it built like a tank, it kinda looks like one, too.
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.
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.
160ºF up to 500ºF temperature range for slow smoking to grill (25,000 BTU). Stainless Steel meat probe measures internal food temperature. Simple Ash Cleanout System (patented).Smart Smoke Technology. Stainless Steel fire box. Digital controller automatically maintains cooking temperature. Grease Management System. Blue LED digital temperature display..Bottom utility rack. Large, heavy wire grilling area dimensions: 19.5" x 22". Included warming rack provides (570 sq. in. total cooking surface).
I had my Traeger grill now at least a week. Not really satisfied because every time I use it it does good for about a hour then it starts to cool down very quickly. Have to turn it off and start over and over again. This take all day to do this. I should not have to do this all day. Just a waste of pellets. Done wasted a whole bag of pellets. Called customer service. They tell me do the same thing. I think a grill should not do this. The meat I cook sometimes is not cooked. Have to start over again. All of this I have described take hrs. Have to stay outdoor to babysit. This grill should not have to do this. That tell me the grill is not good.
Just putting a stamp on your info and recommendations. The Pro is definitely a Pro! Consistent, excellent temp control, juicy and great flavor. Smoke ring, some of my ribs are pink all the way through and dripping with juice. Smoke profile, good, not over powering. I have used 45# of hickory so far, 20# of cherry and a few pounds of apple and pecan. Have not tried anything but Lumberjack but that will be the next experiment. I have tried the smoke tube and it is ok. I was worried about getting an ash or bitter taste as the smoke is fairly heavy and a little acrid smelling if you let it burn from bottom to top. So I lay it down and light on my wife’s Weber gas grill side burner and get the whole thing burning good and then blow it out. If it smells acrid your meat will get some of that taste. Starting the tube this way it is still going an hour later.
Pellet grills have a couple of very distinct advantages and disadvantages. The best can hold a constant temperature more or less indefinitely, provide even smoke at low temps, cook w/o smoke at high temps, make it possible to evenly cook several different meats and do a good job at two zone cooking. The Yoder excels at these. It is built like a tank, easy to use and I love it. One drawback for some pellet grills is the inability to reach high temps and sear. With the GrillGrates I have reached almost 600F and can sear with the best of them. Drawbacks. Well, it is a bit tricky to clean, but I guess I am keeping it cleaner than I did my previous grills!
It’s got built in manual controls, but there’s also the option to download an app to your phone so you can control your smoker through your wifi! Honestly, this really impressed me, and I don’t know why other manufacturers aren’t all over this. Apparently there’s a cloud based app coming out soon so you can control your grill anywhere you can get internet, so you could be sitting at your kids football game whilst checking the status of your post-victory feast! The controls are also fully programmable, so you could for example set it to smoke for 5 hours and then cook for 2, finishing just as you pull up onto your drive.
"The Camp Chef transaction aligns with Vista Outdoor's strategy to deliver long-term value through acquiring complementary, market-leading brands that will benefit from Vista Outdoor's balance sheet, distribution network, and sales and marketing expertise," said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mark DeYoung. "Led by an entrepreneurial management team, Camp Chef has a nimble and responsive product development process. Camp Chef continues to grow its market share in the outdoor cooking category, and the brand serves many of our current consumers who are engaged in a wide variety of outdoor pursuits. Acquiring Camp Chef strengthens our leadership position in outdoor recreation, allows us to enter the growing camping and outdoor cooking market, and the brand's effective multi-product, multi-channel strategy increases our presence across both brick-and-mortar and ecommerce distribution platforms."
One comment I see a lot in various forums like Pellet Heads Forum is that you want as much efficiency as you can get. As with lump charcoal, this means burning as clean of a cook as you can with as little ash as possible. Different pellet mixes will produce differences in what you get in this area, and the cooker you’re using will dictate this to some degree as well.