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.
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.
The range of dishes that can be prepared is unlimited, and the large surface provides a lot of flexibility in adjusting quantities to match the number of folk who will be eating. I generally prepare an extra portion or two to be frozen and used for lunch when I'm working. The money I've saved by preparing daily lunches and not buying lunch at local restaurants has more than paid for my Camp Chef Flat Top Grill.
You want your smoker to retain heat and to maintain a constant temperature. If you purchase something that’s inexpensive, yet made with a thin metal, you’re going to regret it because you’re going to be constantly fighting with the temperature. You could purchase the best smoker pellets, but if you don’t have a high quality smoker, it is all for not.
Well built and compact, this smoker and grill still has a 300 square inch cooking space, and is generally big enough to fit a small turkey inside, so it’s ample for six to eight people. It’s really easy to use, with an automated electric start, front mounted thermometer and idiot proof digital controls that make this so simple, an absolute beginner could walk up to it, have a quick play around and start cooking.
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?
I've had it for right at a year as of the time of this review, and I absolutely LOVE IT. Normally I am of the opinion that you should overspend to get the better product, but I am 100% satisfied with the SE. I've gone through almost 200# of pellets in a year and I've successfully smoked three briskets, pork in various forms, a bunch of whole chickens, salmon, and probably some other thing I'm not thinking of. The show-stopped for me is bacon-wrapped dove breasts. I smoke them for an hour and then finish them on my grill. They are out-of-this-world amazing.
Pellets look like rabbit chow. They are about the width of a pencil and as long as a couple of erasers. If they get wet they turn into a pile of sawdust. The beauty of pellets is that they have none of the additives and fillers in charcoal briquets, so they combust almost completely. Almost zero ash. The pellets provide the heat as well as flavor. No need to add wood chips. Surprisingly, they do not produce overly smoky food. If anything, the food is undersmoked to some people because the combustion is so complete.
Thanks Kevin for the reviews and content. Like many of the folks I too will be purchasing a pellet pooper. I have narrowed my choices to a MAK 2 star and a Memphis Elite. One of the earlier posters indicated on the Memphis that the effective direct grilling space was about 1 square foot. I am assuming that with the smaller footprint of the MAK that the direct “flame zone” is less than that. I’m just wondering how much less.
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.
Secondly, make sure you pay attention to the controls and temperature settings. As well as a thermostat, higher quality smokers come with meat thermometers built in. As you cook, the internal temperature of your meat is going to rise, and unless you’ve got a meat thermometer, there’s no way of knowing exactly how hot it’s got. If you don’t know why this is bad, when you let food sit too hot for too long, you run the risk of drying it out. You’ll undo all of your good work, plus it just tastes bad.
Editor's Note: If you're looking to upgrade your backyard cooking setup this summer, you're probably in need of a little advice. We're longtime admirers of the folks behind AmazingRibs.com, the site dedicated to unraveling the science of barbecue and grilling. Please welcome back Max Good, the only person in the world whose full-time job is testing, rating, and reviewing grills and smokers. The database he maintains includes over 500 grills and smokers, ranging in price from $30 to $50,000. When it comes to barbecue equipment, nobody knows it better.
I did a lot of research, and ended up buying the Camp Chef DLX24. It was at a price that fit my budget, (under $500) and had a lot of features the others didnt. The pellet trap door for quick dumping of the pellet hopper into a bucket, and the ash cleanout under the drum was a clincher. Being able to pull a lever and dump the ashes into an easily removable cup is a great feature that all grills should include.It has a digital temperature controller, and dual probes (one inside the smoker for grill temp, one for the meat) and overall good quality construction. The second shelf inside is standard (you pay extra for that on other grills). If your budget allows, would suggest purchasing the propane powered sear box ($199) which attaches to the side of the grill and allows for reverse searing meat..
When looking at a pellet grill also consider the material its made from. A majority of pellet grills on the market are made from painted steel. However, the quality of that steel and the paint can vary. A good high-temp powder coat paint can stand up to high heat without blistering or flaking. This is essential, because once the steel is exposed, it will rust. Even if the grill body is painted well, you have to look inside. The fire pot and diffuser plate have the potential to corrode and are two of the most common parts that need replacing. With some painted steel grills, such as Traegers®, you can can upgrade the grill and hopper lids to stainless steel, as well as the firepot, diffuser, and drip pan.
Speaking of competition cooks, you’ll find that many competition BBQ pitmasters who use Pellet grills as their primary means of cooking are among the more well rested come Saturday. The next step we’ll cover in this selection of Pellet Grill Reviews is getting your pellet grill / smoker up and running. Again, what you may not see in may Pellet Grill Reviews is repeated mention that you’re not going to get that “deep smoke” flavor profile using a pellet smoker. Though, this can be achieved by using something like the Amazen Pellet Tube Smoker 12″.
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