I also was a certified KCBS judge but never judged at an event. Their judging system was flawed in my opinion because if you truly follow their system it is possible that them best tasting piece of meat might not win. In cutting horses (not a judge but read all the rules as I showed a fair amount back then) you were always supposed to judge the best overall horse to win. I asked about leaving a process to make sure the piece of meat you feel is best to win and was told absolutely not you have to judge presentation points, tender points & etc. and not place based on your opinion of the best piece of meat! Not that KCBS is a bad organization, it’s rules didn’t fit my thought process. Passed their class and got the t-shirt just never agreed, was always a spectator.
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.
Actual Cooking: This flat top is a game changer for cooking. The grill heats up very fast and heats up evenly across all 4 burners. It also has traditional grill grates beneath which makes this a 2 in 1 grill. You can cook a plethora of items ranging from tacos, cheese steaks, quesadillas, eggs, pancakes, hash browns, fried rice, assortment of Chinese dishes (beef and broccoli, Mongolian Beef, Garlic Chicken with Veggies, etc), and basically anything that could be cooked in a typical cast iron pan or skillet. It heats up bread, tortillas, and buns in a matter of seconds. The flat top itself can accommodate a lot of food at once and can cook for up to 50 people per hour at max capacity. The ability to cook multiple items on the flat top at once is especially helpful for cleaning as you won't need to have multiple cooking pans or skillets to clean up afterwards. Anyone that has the ability to use this as their main cook top should do so.
From the second I ordered the YS640 to the day it arrived the service and dialogue with ATBBQ was first rate. They actually care about the customers service experience! One word of caution for anyone thinking about buying this beast. Make sure you have someone strong to help you unload it off the pallet! My neighbor was amazed at the heft and build quality!
Hello Mark! Thanks for commenting here. The Kalamazoo Hybrid Grill looks like a BEAST! If you can swing it, I’d go for it. I truly enjoyed cooking on the Memphis Grill, which is to date the most high end pellet grill I’ve used. It offered a nice blend of professional grade convection with the wood fire taste of the pellets. The Kalamazoo hybrid really does seem to offer one step beyond with the addition of charcoal and wood chunks. I see that Derrick Riches of About.com stands behind the Kalamazoo brand. You’re hard pressed to get a better endorsement of a grilling product than that! Keep me posted at kevin@bbqbeat.com and let me know how your search goes! 🙂
Perfect for traveling and tailgating, or even just a smaller patio space, the Traeger Junior Elite 20 is small in size, but delivers big wood-fired barbecue taste. Impress your friends by grilling, smoking, roasting, baking, braising, or BBQing at any tailgate or outdoor activity. The integrated Digital Elite Controller keeps temps within +/- 20 degrees F and makes setting the grill temperature as easy as turning a dial.
Hey DS – You’re dead on correct re: Grilling vs. Smoking. Most to nearly all Pellet Smokers are used as “smokers” in the truest sense. Louisiana Pellet Smokers boast a direct fire feature for grilling, as do Yoder smokers. However, I’m with you in that a grill is a grill and a smoker is a smoker. GMGs are very popular down here on the FBA circuit. However, most folks do find that they don’t produce the amount of smoke preferred for competition meats (which, in truth is a complaint about many pellet smokers). This is why stick burners and “some” gravity feds get a boost in rep among competition cook teams. That said, I do see folks happily using pellet smokers, and some win with them. One “trick” I see used now and again to boost the smoke output on a pellet smoker is to use one of those smoke tubes… like the A-maze-n Tube Smoker. Thanks for your comment, and for stopping by to read this blog post! – Kevin
We have already mentioned this product in our review once and we’re talking about it again. Whenever you are thinking of Green Mountain Grills, Daniel Boone should always be your first choice; it’s simply the best among the GMG products. Due to having other products at much lower prices with the same features, we could not include Daniel Boone in this review. We have, however, included the Davy Crockett in our review as our Budget Pick.
Your choice of the pellet can also dictate how much cleanup you’ll have to deal with (even though generally 10 pounds of pellets can produce at most half a cup of ash, but this varies from pellet variant to pellet variant). Just be warned that when the temperature is high, there’s not much smoke happening, so you need to smoke out your meats at lower temperatures to get that smoky flavor.
With that being said, it’s necessary to understand how much wood pellet would last you and for how long. A 40-pound bag of wood pellets would last you for approximately 24 hours if burned at 250 F. Therefore, if you’re trying to slow-cook a large piece of brisket for 14 hours straight, your 6-9 lb hopper capacity just won’t cut it. You’re going to have to refill it in the middle if you wanted to continue cooking.
If you don't buy this cooker and spend more than $600 on any cheap thin steeled cooker. By year 2 you will realize you paid for quality that lasts. I joke that no one would steal it because it weighs so much. But it's my baby and it's double locked. I promise you in a year you will look at your wife or family and say "That's the best purchase I ever made!" It's impressive, no one makes a better product. If u buy Traeger or any other cooker. In 3 years you will regret not spending the money on a luxury machine. Yoder is the best of the best. Yoder is who the other guys want to be. I would buy it again tomorrow! Don't have regrets. You won't regret this purchasem
JUNK!!!!! Major defects and powder coating coming off and possibly getting my family sick. Very rude customer service telling me to just take it back to Costco! Did I mention I bought the biggest one and will need to disassemble the entire thing to fit it in my explorer! I will be sending the paint chips that came off to a lab to determine what the stuff is and if my family has been exposed to carcinogenic chemicals. A $1,000 for Chinese junk....Stay away for your families sake!!!!!

If you’re in the market to buy a grill, yet you’ve only grilled with propane or charcoal in the past, wood pellet grills may have piqued your curiosity. These grills use a very different cooking method than the direct flame of propane, resulting in more even heating and more precise temperature control. A wood pellet grill is more like a smoker than an open flame grill, as it’s difficult to sear meat with a wood pellet grill. Purchasing and using a wood pellet grill is going to be more expensive than propane and charcoal grills.

Kevin, appreciate your reviews and insights. I am currently looking for my first pellet cooker which will be primarily used for camping, therefore I will likely purchase a portable unit. Your review on the GMG Davy Crocket answered some questions for me. I was initially contemplating the Traeger Junior Elite and GMG Davy Crocket, but after doing some homework I’m now considering the Rec Tec Mini as well. I can purchase the Traeger and GMG now for $350 and the Rec Tec for $500. My dilemma is that I (like many others) take very good care of my gear/equipment, so whatever I purchase, I expect to get a great deal of use out of. With that said, making the wrong decision could be a 7-10 year mistake. There are aspects of each that I like, I guess my question is whether spending another $150 on the Rec Tec, in your opinion, would be worth it to you? I understand if you would rather stay away from specific recommendations, and if that is the case, any other thoughts you have would be appreciated.


PID: For the most precise temperature control, some pitmasters feel that a grill with a proportional-integrative-derivative (PID) controller is the way to go. A PID controller uses algorithms to keep the temperature within a couple of degrees of the setting. It doesn’t use fixed cycles to release the pellets. Instead, the controller only adds pellets when it’s necessary to maintain the desired temperature.
As far as backyard cookers go, Pellet Grills are the newest products on the market. With their roots in the 1970’s, these versatile outdoor grills combine the capabilities of a traditional grill, with the wood-fired flavor of a smoker, and even the convenience of a modern oven. The “Pellet” in the name refers to the specific variety of fuel used. These are specially made cylinders constructed of compressed sawdust. The grill is powered by electricity and doles out specific amounts of pellets to maximize fuel efficiency. The primary benefit of these types of grills is their versatility. Wood pellets can be burned at all different temperatures and volumes, making it possible to sear, smoke, or slow cook a whole array of meats in an infinite variety of styles.
Hey Tom! First, thank you so much for commenting on this article. I hope it’s proved useful to you and helping you make your pellet smoker buying decision. I took a look at the smokers you mentioned in your comment, and they appear to be similar in build to those made by Yoder. I can verify that Yoder does exceptionally good work with both the build quality and the heavy gauge steel Construction of their smokers. I don’t know much about the manufacturing practices of the smokers you mentioned. I do like the fact that their controller automatically dropped down to a warming temperature after your food reaches the programmed temperature setting. That’s a feature that I’ve only seen in higher-priced pellet grills like the Memphis Pro Series that I talk about in this article. However, more grills are starting to utilize this in the programming aspect of their controllers. In any case it’s a great feature. To be honest with you I’m not sure that the auger mechanics are going to be all that different between smokers. I’m sure there are differences, but I don’t feel that they are dramatic enough to offer a distinct selling Advantage for the manufacturer. If you haven’t looked at them yet, you might consider taking a look at the Traeger Pro Series pellet grills. You can’t find it on Amazon, but you can find them at different retailers listed on the main Traeger site. A friend of mine has one major competitions using the pro series models.
Thank you all for a great site and an informative discussion. I am a newbie to smoking and presently have a charcoal grill for when I have more time and a gas grill for a fast meal. Its time to replace my gas grill so I am looking at alternative options. Is a pellet grill overkill, or a timely expedition, if I want to grill a couple steaks or chicken breasts during week nights? I’d also be interested in smoking larger hunks of meat (and ribs!) less often, but am wondering if a pellet grill can cover both? How long does it take a pellet grill to get to temp (e.g. 450°)? With the indirect heat, can you get char marks on your meat? Thanks in advance for the info!
Central to all pellet cookers is a digital controller similar to the controllers on modern indoor ovens. You select a temp you want, and there is an LED display that tells you the actual temp. Some of the controllers also are programmable so you can cook at a certain temp for a determined time. Some have leave-in meat probes that can dial back the ovento a holding temp when the meat hits its mark.
You’re concerned with ongoing costs for fuel and power: The wood pellets used with Traeger grills are more expensive than propane or charcoal. You can expect to spend $1 to $3 per grilling session using wood pellets. Propane is far less expensive to operate in a grill, while charcoal fits somewhere in the middle of the cost range. And beware of cheap pellets from third-party manufacturers that contain softwoods like pine. They burn much faster than hardwoods, so the end cost won’t be that much different because you’ll use more of them. And they can introduce unwanted chemicals and contaminants to your food. You will also have some electrical power costs with these Traeger pellet grills.
Please Note: Prices, promotions, styles and availability may vary by store and online. Inventory is sold and received continuously throughout the day; therefore, the quantity shown may not be available when you get to the store. This inventory may include a store display unit. Online orders and products purchased in-store qualify for rebate redemption. Rebates are provided in the form of a Menards® Merchandise Credit Check valid towards purchases at any Menards® retail store. Not valid for purchases on MENARDS.COM®.
CAMP CHEF: for over 25 years Camp Chef has been making quality cooking gear for all of your outdoor cooking needs. Our products include Outdoor Cookers, Emergency preparedness stoves, Pellet Grills, Smokers, Pizza Ovens, Cast Iron Dutch Ovens, Flat Top Grills, Griddles, Fire Pits, Outdoor Movie Screens, and many more. Camping, Catering, Tailgating, Hunting, Dutch Oven cooking or even just on your deck at home. Cooking is our passion.
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.
Smoking v. Grilling more about the temp you’re cooking at than how it’s heated. Smoking happens below 300F most of the time. The Sawtooth Pellet Grill can get to 550F-600F at the top end so it’s more of a grill at that point that smokes. I’ve grilled burgers and fajitas and other stuff like you would a gas grill. Works great and it’s made in the US!
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.
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.
Therefore, for a reliable and consistent meal/ grill every time, go for the Traeger grill. It is easy to set and control the temperatures, thus the results are always as expected. Besides, a novice griller can master its use immediately, as it is a complete digital experience. On the same note, it can do a lot more than just grilling. You can use it to smoke, barbecue, braise, roast, and bake, all through the digital control system.
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.

Pellet grill uses various types of flavored wood pellets to flavor the food by infusing smoke into it. Pellets of numerous flavors are available on the market:  hickory, strawberry, oak and olive are just to name a few. Many pellet grill companies also manufacture wood pellets alongside the pellet grills that go hand in hand with their respective grills. So know your options, and be sure to spend a few extra bucks into buying a good quality wood pellet for your pellet grill as this is what will set apart your smoked exotic BBQ from the mainstream flavors out there.


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.
Pit Boss have made this heavy duty beast as a semi-professional pellet based smoker, and it shows. It’s absolutely massive, with a colossal amount of cooking space and a lot of tech that makes using it a serious pleasure. It’s actually probably too big for most households, but if you need the most cooking space possible, this is the biggest on our list.
It may have taken a few years to catch on, but it’s hard to dispute that pellet grills are here to stay.  Pellet grills are easily the fastest growing segment in the grilling industry.  This has left many new pellet grill owners with a few questions concerning pellets.  Chief among them “what constitutes a good pellet?”   Second, “where can they find pellets to fuel their prized grill?”
Coming over to the cooking area, you will find 2 stainless steel grill grates that give you 702 sq. in. of cooking space with an option of the second shelf that makes it 1054 sq. in. Its tall enough for turkeys and large enough to fit 6 large-sized racks of ribs. So, hosting a bunch of people for a BBQ party, and cooking delicious meat for them, would be as easy as it could get.
The MAK Pellet Boss will increase or decrease with the press of a button in 5°F increments and has a probe in the oven that keeps the temp pretty solid. As with any thermostatically controlled oven, even your indoor oven, the thermostat cycles heat on or off as needed. So it you set it for 225°F it cycles on til it hits 225°F, then off until it drops to 220°F, then on to 225°F. There are three meat probes and the Boss can be programmed to change the cooker temp when the meat hits a target. I've had one for several years outdoors in the Chicago winters and summers without a cover and no problems.
Many of the models require you to clean them up for 30 minutes because you have to take out the gooey deflector plate and the greasy grates in order to scrape them off and wash them until they’re shining. Careful cleaning is required when the grease and carbon are covering the deflector plate. The easy-clean grills typically make the parts more accessible but the amount of cleanup remains the same.
Although pellet grill smokers are more expensive than your regular electric smokers, they come with great convenience as they do not demand your undivided attention. Now although there are a lot of reviews online available about pellet grills in general, none of them provided in-depth information about different models of Traeger Grills. So we decided to take on the challenge!

Brad Barrett at Grill Grates makes a fantastic product. Reverse searing 2″ steaks and chops (or thicker) works great on pellet smokers as you can get the internal temp up to 10-15 degrees below your desired finish temp, remove them and loosely wrap / cover in foil, crank up the smoker with the grates on to say, 400 degrees, and then sear off your protein getting great grill marks with little to no sticking at all. Huge fan of Grill Grates.
Accurate, powerful, with a lot of options, good build quality and a nice set of features, all at an excellent price, the Camp Chef PG64 is our best overall pellet smoker. Of course, the RecTec still offers more options, but it’s more expensive, so if you want the absolute most for your money, without breaking the bank, you’re going to want to look closely at this.
Brad Barrett at Grill Grates makes a fantastic product. Reverse searing 2″ steaks and chops (or thicker) works great on pellet smokers as you can get the internal temp up to 10-15 degrees below your desired finish temp, remove them and loosely wrap / cover in foil, crank up the smoker with the grates on to say, 400 degrees, and then sear off your protein getting great grill marks with little to no sticking at all. Huge fan of Grill Grates.
The real innovative feature of this monster pellet grills is that with it can be divided into two independent grills or opened up into one that can accommodate a whole hog (though a rather small one). The best part of this is that it can be a 600 square inch pellet grill when it needs to be or a 1,200 square inch grill when it has to be. For the person who might need to do a lot of cooking once in a while, this is a very good option. With two pellet controllers, mounted on opposite ends this pellet grills has all the versatility imaginable.
Got the Traeger Pro grill. I was so excited after seeing all of the commercials, unfortunately once I got it together it did not work. No heat on the glow rod no fan nothing. The only thing that worked was the auger and the front panel lights up. Called customer service spent 2 hours on the phone for them to tell me what I already knew they did not work. I told the man on the other end of the line that if it could not work out of the box I did not want it, he stated no returns. Now I am stuck with it. He says, "I will send you the parts needed you can replace them."
So, I say go for the best pellet grill you can get within your budget. I reviewed the little GMG Davy Crockett pellet grill recently and was impressed. At just under $400, it’s a good option. That said, I would like to see them put the unit on fold down legs with casters or some other option to make it easier to move around. You’ll see what I mean in the post. Hope this helps.

With the traeger, rec-tec or cam chef smokers all seem to burn 1-2lbs per hour. But for a long 18hr brisket it seems like I will have to continue to use pellets the whole time to keep the heat in range over over 200 which will mean I am using almost a 20-40lb bag depending on the time year per smoke. This is even more expensive than the bradley seems even with the wasted briquette. IS this correct or is there something I am missing?

They had the field to themselves for a few years, but the idea was too good to go un-imitated, and soon competitors began popping up. In the early days, most pellet smoker controllers had only three settings—low, medium, high (LMH)—and there was no temperature probe in the oven to create a feedback loop. So, whether you were smoking a few slabs of ribs on a scorching summer day or six pork butts during a blizzard, the controller only knew pellet-feed on and off times for its standard settings. It had no information on the actual temperature inside the cooking chamber.
The Vulcan is a Picnic Time original design The Vulcan is a Picnic Time original design and the ultimate tailgating cooler and propane barbecue set in one. Don't be fooled by other similar looking items on the market. Only picnic time's Vulcan features a PVC cooler that conveniently nests inside the compartment that houses the portable propane BBQ. ...  More + Product Details Close
So how do you know which are good pellets and which aren’t? It’s not easy. There are plenty of problematic pellets on the market that have glowing online reviews but which we know cause issues. Quality pellets usually cost in the neighborhood of $17 to $22 for a twenty-pound bag. If you see a price on pellets that seems too good to be true, there’s probably a reason for it.
Hey Kevin great article. I too am currently looking for a pellet smoker. I’ve narrowed it down between a Yader, Memphis Pro and the Rec Tec. The Green Mountain did not seem very well built. The wheels looked liked the would break on the first roll and the stainless steel door was flimsy and did not have a good seal. I know the Rec Tec has a 6 year warranty. Do you know how long the warranties are on the other two?
The first name to kick start our list of the best pellet grill review is the Camp Chef PG24 Pellet grill. It measures 45 inches by 21 inches by 51 inches, in dimensions. This pellet grill weighs 127 pounds and capacitates a 550 cubic inch cooking surface. It has a removable upper rack, and it comes with a stainless steel food probe. Camp Chef PG24 Pellet grill comes with an LED digital temperature control system, and has a patented down cleaning system. It can provide temperatures from 160 degrees to 500 degree Fahrenheit, and has an internal sensor.

Pellet grills preheat quickly, so you can start cooking almost immediately, and the pellets are available in a number of woods, for different smoke flavors. The smoke has a subtle wood-fired flavor with less of the acrid flavor that comes from standard wood or charcoal. For the maximum smoke flavor, it’s best to cook at a temperature lower than 250 degrees, while higher temperatures cook faster with less smoke.
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