They had the field to themselves for a few years, but the idea was too good to go unimitated, and with the digital age came the electronic controller that allowed Traegers and others to create a system that had a thermostat in the cooking chamber that would tell the fan and auger when to do their thing. Today there are more than a dozen manufacturers making increasingly sophisticated machines.
Cleaning up after grilling is every cook’s dreaded part of the process, but this pellet grill simplifies that. Its warming rack comes with a patented ash-catcher system, the Ash Can Cleanout System, that allows for an easier cleanup of the unit. Additionally, it also features a grease drip disposal system that comes with a bucket. You won’t have to waste precious time cleaning up afterward!
The digital controller controls temperatures from 150F to 500F in 5-degree increments; that’s the most precise we’ve found on a pellet grill, and gives you a good, precise burn. There’s also Sense-Mate, a thermal sensor that monitors the smoker’s internal temperature, so you can keep an eye on it remotely on your phone via Wifi, letting you adjust the temperature from the app.
Words like Grilling, Barbecuing and Smoking are often used interchangeably by us. However, when looking at them from a grill master’s point of view, there are some subtle methodological differences among these three: One is done with the lid up, BBQ is done in a closed circulation with the lid down, and smoking is a slow cooking process in a closed circulation.
Like with e-cigs and their gimmick of flavorful e-liquids, pellets for pellet grills and smokers also have different flavors added to their pellets, and they include bourbon, maple, apple, cherry, mesquite, alder, pecan, and hickory. You can mix flavors, change flavors, or use different flavors for every day of the week if you do everyday barbecues and grills for your restaurant or something.
Joe Traeger designed and developed pellet grills back in 1985 and he patented the design one year after. But these didn’t go into full commercial production until 1988. Because of the patented design, Traeger held a monopoly in the pellet grill market for twenty years. But being a small family-run company, they did not diversify and kept supplying their products only to a select network of stores.
I paid $700.oo for my Traeger. My heating element went out in 2 BBQ seasons. Not good considering the price I paid. It's just me, so it's not like it was in overkill. Bi-weekly meal give or take? Smokes fur shit!! Planned on some good'ol smoked salmon (cause I like to fish for salmon), or some pheasant jerky (cause I have Springers, and I hunt pheasant***) NOT HAPPENING. The only smoke there is...is when you start the damn thing. If you want smoke flavor, you have to add artificial smoke flavor from a bottle. Conventional outside oven heated by wood pellets. If you want BBQ this is not the way to go. If you want smoke this is not the way to go. If you want to leave something inside the oven to cook outside your house....this is the way to go. Wasted $
The Camp Chef Woodwind Pellet Grill was chosen as our sixth choice because it lacked some features found in our Top 5 picks, especially when it came to cooking flexibility. While it does offer an impressive 6-in-1 cooking experience, it lacks an auto shut-off feature, which makes it less of a “set it an forget it” kind of smoker. The grill is rather heavy, at an overall weight of 146lbs. It’s also more expensive than the rest, even though it offers similar (even less) features. It’s a decent choice if flavor is the only thing you’re looking for.
Some cheaper models, such as the Brinkmann, have a controller with only three settings, Low, Medium, High (LMH), and there is no temperature probe in the oven to create a feedback loop. We do not recommend these units. You actually have less control over temp than you do on a gas or charcoal smoker. The whole reason to buy a pellet grill is because it is set-it-forget-it and it hits a temp and holds it regardless of the ambient air temp outside, winter or summer. On these LMH controllers, the temp fluctuates widely and it cannot correct itself for the weather. They just aren't as smart as a digital device. Whether you're smoking a few slabs of ribs on a scorching summer day, or six pork butts during a blizzard, the three position controller only knows auger on and off times for Low, Medium, and High. It has no information on the temperature inside the cook chamber.
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.
Third name to make it to my list of the best pellet grill review is The REC TEC Wood Pellet grill. It has a trademark Smart grill Technology, which maintains precise temperature. This amazing pellet grill has a whopping 702 square inch cooking area, and a 40 pound capacity pellet hopper. It is made out of high quality stainless steel. It comes with a drip pan.
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!
Personal review of the Traeger: The auger fed the pellets after the fire pot went out making a large pile up which caused it to catch fire and burn up my grill. I had to use a fire extinguisher to put out the flames and prevent my house from catching fire. I sent Traeger the description of damages with photos. After much waiting and no response from the management team regarding my Traeger grill we gave up. The service team was very responsive but lacked any authority to make decisions to fix the grill. We worked with the service team for awhile having a different person each time respond and request information and photos that were already provided. Then, we got passed up to the management which is highly ineffective because we never heard from them, even after an email requesting an update. We really did like our Traeger grill and had high hopes that since it was under warranty and caught fire due to a failure we would have the grill repaired. Because of the terrible unresponsive service of Traeger we took our money and purchase a Green Mountain Grill.
You visited your friend’s house and saw his amazing pellet smoker. Now you want one. But you don’t want just any pellet smoker. You want the best pellet smoker that you can afford. Now, you could spend a lot of time reading hundreds of pellet smoker reviews, or you could spend a few minutes going over this comprehensive guide that we have prepared.
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.
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.
An attractive option for many people are stainless steel pellet grills, which are rust-resistant, more durable, and easier to maintain. While pellet grills made from commercial-grade 304 stainless steel are the most desirable, they come at a higher. However, there are also some pellet grills made from 430 stainless steel, which is more affordable and still incredibly durable.
Most pellet smokers have a flat drip plate under the cooking grate that diffuses heat and catches grease and gunk. Louisiana uses a curved "Arched Flavor Guard" that mirrors the shape of the lid. The company claims that this design presents a larger surface for meat drippings to sizzle and enhance flavor. The Flavor Guard also has a section over the fire pot that can slide out of the way to expose large, slotted openings, which allow meats to sear over open flame.
The biggest cleanup issue is the buildup on the heat deflector under the cooking grates. You'll need good gloves and an apron. On most models, a thorough cleanup means a 30 minute process of taking out the greasy grates and the gooey deflector plate, scraping them and washing them. You should do this when the carbon and grease cover the deflector plate. Stainless parts can go in the diswasher, but I wouldn't do it. That grease is like tar and it could get all over the insides of the dishwasher and hang on for dear life. I use a handheld steamer like the Steamfast SF-320 Portable Steam Cleaner shown here.
With a temperature probe for the meat inside the chamber, this allows you to keep an eye on the temperature of your meat without opening the grill. Nothing ruins a brisket or roast faster than the griller who constantly fiddles with the meat on the grill. Opening the chamber lets the heat out and that can quickly make for some tough meat. This handy feature takes the guesswork out of how ready your meal is, helping you get the best outcome.
Purchased my grill last fall at Costco, overall it works OK, some meats like Lamb Chops are just delicious. However, customer service seems to be deteriorating as the company is having success. My kids recently purchased me an add on to my Pro 34, a cold smoker. Traeger sells this but does not support it. The installation instructions are incomplete, I was sent parts that do not go with the unit, then customer service couldn't figure it out, this went on for weeks. After getting it installed, I asked for some instructions or recipes on how to use it, there are none. The old cover does not fit now, and Traeger does not sell one to go with a unit with a cold smoker, or plan on doing so. After a web search, I found one at Charbroil that kinda fits. Also, I just saw the same model at Orchard Supply, it now comes with more shelves and upgrades which I now have to buy as extras.
The digital controller has a temperature dial (180 F to 400 F), shutdown cycle setting and an on/off switch which is very basic. Compared to the Camp Chef, it misses out on bypass startup button, food probe, feed button, lo smoke/high smoke settings and most importantly access to the fuse. In order to change the fuse in the Traeger, you’ll have to remove both screws on the digital controller and pull out the controller.
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.
Thanks for the great information and the research you did. I am a retail store owner in Boise, Idaho area and we sell a pellet grill smoker in our store. I would like to encourage to look at the Sawtooth Pellet Grill. It is made local here and is American Made. It is an excellent grill for the price with an awesome company backing it. You can find their website at sawtoothpelletgrills.com. Again thanks for the information and if you do another publication regarding pellet grills, I would love to see what your opinion of the Sawtooth would be 🙂
Something you may not have read in other Pellet grill reviews is that there are two key concerns: flavor and fuel consumption. As previously stated, pellet smokers are not known for producing a strong smoke flavor, no matter what pellets you use. Though, some brands can be more pronounced than others. Hardwood pellets provide longer overall burn times per pound than fruit wood pellets. 1oo percent fruit wood pellets will also be more expensive on average.