We all know about Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, but Traeger is the true pioneer of pellet smoking. This company introduced the first pellet smokers, and it remains the best-known brand, although competition is growing. There's nothing fancy here. Instead of a touch-pad controller, Traeger employs an older-style digital dial controller. No WiFi or meat probes; just no-frills schmokin' from the industry leader.
Hey Chris, IMHO the Blazing Pellet Smoker looks like a solid unit. There’s a good review of it here. I think between the units I might give them a run. Yoder makes quality stuff, and if made in the USA is important to you, they fit as do the Blazings. All this said, if you’re basically using the pellet smoker like a Cambro, you could opt to save a little money and go with the Rec-Tec. Good customer service and solid following.
One final word of caution when it comes to pellet pricing. If you see a price on pellets that seems too good to be true, there’s probably a reason for it. If the pellets you got an amazing deal on creates twice as much ash, doesn’t burn as well, generates wild temp swings and ends up ruining a $65 brisket were they worth it? What about if that flame out or temp swing cost you a whole pit full of meat and ruined the family reunion the next day? We are all for saving money as much as anyone, but perspective is key here. We are in no way saying that great pellets cannot be had for pennies per pound, but we are definitely saying, that if those pennies saved are not on a proven brand that you can trust then it’s probably not a bet worth taking.
On Tabletop Models: I didn’t include them here because though extensive, this post is more of an overview of a few select makers of Pellet Smokers I think do a fine job with both manufacturing and product support. The one exception is that I did include a link to where you can find the Rec-Tec mini. That’s Rec-Tec’s answer to the smaller, tabletop or tailgating models.
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If you’re one of the serious barbecue enthusiasts, you would not want to leave any stone unturned to get your hands on the best of the best pellet smoker the market has to offer, in that case, you need the REC TEC Wood Pellet Smoker. The REC TEC has a large surface which takes care of all sizes of cuts, the thermostat maintains the temperature and ranges all the way from 180 F to 500 F. It has been leading the market for so long that the company now provides warranty for 6 years.
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.
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.
This maker of top-quality wood and pellet grillers is the company spearheading the digital revolution in the pellet smoker industry like its digital controller that manages pellet flow to control internal temperature and WiFi that connects your phone to the grill, allowing you to use it to control your grill for good measure. It’s the more gimmicky of the different pellet grill makers.
I have found that using the upper shelf gets more airflow around the meat than the lower shelf. I asked the AmazingRibs.com science advisor Prof. Greg Blonder about the problem (he has a MAK 1 Star). He explained that smoke sticks to cool surfaces and wet surfaces, and the surface of meat warms and dries out after a few hours. When he wants more smoke flavor he uses a strong smoke wood like hickory or mesquite, he starts with cold meat, and then he keeps the meat moist by painting or misting it with apple juice or a mop like Lexington Dip or East Carolina Mop or Texas Mop Sauce. A awter pan can help because the water condenses on the cool meat and attracts smoke. Read his detailed research on the subject in my article on the Science of Wood and my article on Basting.
Even and fast cooking – this is the common feedback of the new and past users of this pellet grill cooker. Although some of them would say that the temperature is inaccurate, they can still manage to adjust everything well by means of its digital temperature controller. Additionally, you may need to add more pellets if you will set the temperature on a high setting.
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!)
Alex Coleman’s family has been farming in the Piedmont region of North Carolina longer than anybody remembers. The area is famous for “Lexington Style” barbeque, which focuses on pork shoulder barbeque served up with a variety of sauces based on ketchup, vinegar, and peppers. But Alex’s daddy taught him so much more than that about grilling and smoking...Read more
Loved the article and read the entire thing. Thank you so much for taking the time to write such an in-depth piece to help the rest of us out. With that said, I now want one of each!! It’s really so difficult to purchase one without being able to compare the taste side by side for each. We also just bought one of the Traeger’s on the last day of a Costco show. We have LOVED the taste, and aren’t looking back, from a pellet perspective that is. However, we’ve already had a couple of issues that concern me from a longevity and a safety perspective. So we’re going to return it, and ‘upgrade’ to something more substantial. I was leaning pretty hard toward Yoder, and then after reading the article, the Memphis really intrigued me (could have something to do with being born there, and raised on southern pulled pork). And then, Fast Eddy came into the picture. Any advise on how to make a decision without being able to conduct taste comparisons, which is really the most important thing. (We’ve been smoking a brisket and pork shoulders every week, with the occasional steak and veggies. So we’d like something that does both smoking and grilling, so both important, with the smoking component being the feature we’ll use a bit more of.)
Hello.. You recommended a couple weeks ago to go with a GMG grill and that is the one I’m going with. I’m just a little torn between the DB and JB. They are only $150 apart but I’m not sure if the bigger size is worth the money when I can spend that on a cover and some pellets. Do you think the bigger size is worth it for a back yard smoker with the occasional party? I know people say bigger is better but I went bigger with my previous barrel smoker and it was much harder to keep an even temp with the bigger size. I would have went smaller given the chance. Thanks for any input!
Depending on size, the Traeger grill is very easy to store. However, the camp chef is usually the most portable with ease of transport and storage while the big green egg grill has a weird egg shape but a bit compact depending on size. Therefore, depending on your size, you can easily store any of these grills in as little space as you want. Besides, most have wheels for easier movability. As for cleaning, the Traeger grill is easier to clean and maintain, when compared to the other two grills.
Seeking to produce the pellet cooker that is both a great smoker and a powerful grill. The truth is that burning pellets in a controlled way is not the best method for producing high grilling temperatures. Most pellet grills top out at 500 degrees F while the hottest units can hit 600 degrees F. This pellet cooker is in reality, a combination grill with a large smoking space, and a small but powerful direct grilling area. Reasonably priced with quality construction, this is definitely a pellet grill to look at.
Controlling temperature is the best way to get the desired piece of cooked meat. This smoker grill has a built-in thermostatic control and a digital thermometer, so that means you won’t have to do much guesswork during barbecue. If the sensors sense a fall in temperature, more wood pellets are added to the burner, which allows you to place the meat on grill and relax.
I bought this grill in May 2018. Had to return it to Ace 9 days later because it wouldn’t keep temp or would go out and fill up with pellets. I had to have the GM of Ace fight for me to get a new grill from Traeger. Once I did the new one seemed to work for about a month. Since then this one does the same thing as far as heat and pellets. I thought this thing was supposed to be a set and forget grill. If I don’t watch the heat it will be 200+ degrees over the set heat or sometimes be at ambient temperature and I have to pull me meat, grill and grease tray out so I can empty the heat pot of all the Unburned pellets. This thing is nothing but trouble. Does it cook great meat? Yes! When it works and you babysit it the whole time. On top of that customer service is about as useless as ** on a boar! They will try and tell you it’s something you’ve done wrong. I will be buying another brand smoker and giving this one to someone who like to deal with troubles.
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.
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!
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.
Craft amazing wood-fired creations with the Trager renegade Elite pellet grill. From grilled steak, to smoked ribs, & even a freshly baked Apple Pie, the set it & forget it ease of use allows any home chef to cook it all. Swap the gas & charcoal barbecue for 100% pure hardwood pellet flavor & grill, smoke, roast, bake, braise, or BBQ your next masterpiece.
The grill is plated with beautiful stainless steel that gives the grill a refined and impressive look. The huge cooking area includes 570 square inches of surface area. That’s enough to hold 20 burgers or 4 rib racks! It also contains a second warming rack and bottom shelf that provides the grill stability and extra storage. This version comes with a sear box that can reach temperature of up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit, which caramelizes your food. There’s a cheaper version without a sear box that costs around $200 less if a sear box isn’t a necessity for you. Additionally, the legs are built with extreme thickness giving the grill a grounded base. The caster wheels add portability to the grill so you can find that perfect place in the backyard.
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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.
And of course, it’s definitely a plus when the company that makes your grill includes a multi-year warranty and top notch customer service. Pellet grills are finicky compared to gas or charcoal grills simply because there are so many more parts that require electronics or that have electrical components… which means there is a fair bit more that can actually go wrong or require service at some point.
Hey Tom, first, thank you so much for reading the article and expressing your approval of it. It means a lot to me that the information posted on this site is useful for the people. To your question about pellet grills, yes. You must always use BBQ grilling pellets with these cookers. You cannot use raw wood with them. However, should you find yourself with access too hard woods like Hickory or maple, or fruit woods like apple, cherry, or peach – this is something that could be readily used in a charcoal smoker.
Also own a Big Steel Keg which I love! Didn’t want an egg or a Primo while I was up north WY & CO as I had to many friends complain about cracking when trying to use them in cold weather! Many times at Thanksgiving or Christmas I have cooked on any or all of these devices at -5 to -10. It can be done but with a strong wind it is quite a challenge! My Weber (been thru a couples) and my Keg still have high ratings for great steaks and burgers. But for low and slow you are pushing it to get there and my friends with the ceramic style units say it takes some practice and close attention. What I don’t like about and Egg or my Keg is if you do need to end up feeding the fire on a long cook it is a real serious challenge!
I’ve had the chance to use one the the Traeger Grills Pro Series grills now for some time, and I find it to be a great pellet grill. They really beefed up the chassis of this model, with a stronger, wider-stance sawhorse base, larger wheels, a nice strong side lift bar, and an upgraded Digital Pro Controller with Advanced Grilling Logic that keeps temps steady, but allows for a temp swing of about 15 degrees. I mention the temp swing here as a positive, rather than a negative. By allowing a tiny bit of temperature fluctuation, I find the grill actually puts out a bit more smoke throughout the cook as pellets are fed in to regulate temps.