When people talk about pellet flavors, they're referring to the type of wood used to make the pellets. Smoker pellets come in an array of wood flavors, from the usual BBQ suspects like mesquite, hickory, apple, and cherry to less celebrated woods like peach, pecan, , and sugar maple. Each variety has its own unique taste—from the mild sweetness produced by cherry to the nutty hints imparted by pecan—and can be paired with specific foods to highlight and complement their natural flavors. You can also create complex layers of flavor by mixing and matching different woods.
In reading through the comments section, it seems the recommendations have shifted over time. As it stands today, which smoker would you go with and why: GMG Jim Bowie, Traeger Pro 34, or the RecTec? I like the cooking space of the Traeger Pro 34, but the other 2 seem to have more bells and whistles. I’ve been smoking about 5yrs, so not a pro but not a beginner. Currently have a 10+ year old Traeger Lil Tex elite hand-me down that is ready to give up the ghost. Would appreciate your thoughts!
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.
Number two when cooking with charcoal (yes plain Kingsford is good stuff if you do it right, a lot of the cheaper brick and cheaper lump can put some weird twangs in your food) brick or lump can produce quality high temp steaks or slow & low bbq! To add some nice flavor add some wood, but do your homework! I think Clark ‘Smokey’ Hale has one of the best books ever for the grill and Q master, “The Great American Manual on Grilling and BBQ or something like that. Last I saw you can grab a used one on Amazon for a few cents and some shipping. The most prolific thing I read in there that so many miss, is burn your wood and your charcoal to where it is literally a coal of gray ash covered glowing ember. Do that and you will find a new flavor in your cooking! Problem is so many places think heavy smoke is great, as they are trying to imitate cold smoke flavors! They are not the same! All this talk I see here about, “I want heavy smoke flavor.” I can tell you if you burn your wood and your charcoal (and I feel even lump needs to be well on it’s way to gray ash covered or you get bitter smoke even though many say not necessary) to a red ember with gray ash covering 80 to 90% minimum preferably completely covered your flavor profile will change. Many supposedly good bbq restaurants I have been in serve something with a bitter or ash flavor, which I find much less enjoyable.
The Sense-Mate feature is another one of the best additions to this smoker: it is a thermal sensor system that monitors and reads the internal temperature of the grill within 5ºF of the actual temperature! Once you set your desired temperature using its digital controls, the Sense-Mate technology reads and monitors the temperature, while displaying it on the LCD display. Sense-Mate makes sure that heat is kept at a constant temperature, so whether you are cooking at 150ºF or 550ºF, you can rest assured that your meats will be evenly cooked.
Hello John. Thank you for your comment and questions here! In short, you will not get the same smoke profile on a pellet smoker that you do with your BGE or PBC. That said, I do think there are some ways to mitigate this. Yes, I do feel the Smoke Tube and Mojo Cubes add smoke flavor that is detectable. Fred at Mojo Bricks does good work, and I recommend his products without reservation. This said, I have been happy with the smoke level I see in the pellet smokers I’ve used. Starting low does and ramping up later is a technique I’ve used with success when extra smoke is desired. The Rec-Tec grill gets high reviews across the board. I have no hesitation backing them, along with Green Mountain Grills. Both are made in China, but the companies have great customer service support and strong user communities. I believe each has a well-contributed Facebook group or two.
I have ate a few peoples cooking that have won at the Royal, Houston and Memphis in May. They have all had one thing in common, I didn’t put one drop of sauce on them and they had not been sauced on the Q before serving! The restaurant Cackle and Oink is just a ways from where we live and the owner Aaron Vogel is there regularly. I have tasted all his sauces and they are very good, but the 3 times I have been there, his sauces never touch my ribs and brisket! Aaron does say, if you like this you need to try my competition food (which I will at one of the competitions he is in locally). None of the KCBS, Houston or Memphis in may winners Q had even a hint of ash or bitter smoke flavor. They also had a very light smoke profile. They also all say they cook over well burned down wood.
Hi Joshua – Rec-Tec makes a solid product. I can’t say a bad thing about them. I think you’d be very happy with the Silverbac. Email Shane Draper – Pitmaster for Grilla Grills at firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s super quick with responses and can answer all questions re: Grillas. The Traeger pro series is a solid buy as well. You can check them out at Ace Hardware Stores or via stores acting as dealers for the pro model (find these on the Traeger website). I have the smaller Traeger 22 pro model and have been very happy so far. Regarding controllers, my verdict is still out on whether they’re what you need. It’s almost getting to a point where I “want” some temp swing, especially at the lower settings, in order to get a bit more smoke from the cooker. 15 degrees either way on temp is pretty normal. You might find that this is the case, even when controller units “read” steady. Pellet grills all feed pellets into burn pots in cycles. So some swing is inevitable. Hope this helps.
Thanks for all the great information. This article was very useful on my most recent purchase. Sorry for the long book but tends to be my style of sharing. Hope others get some use out of my lessons learned. Killing (literally, dried out, burned, inedible) a thousand dollars or so of briskets over the last 20+ years should help some save a little pain as they are stepping out.
I spent months checking out Memphis, Fast Eddy, Mak, and Yoder grills. I must say the Yoder is by far the most robust pellet grill of them all. I noticed many reviews with 3 or 4 star ratings for price and I must disagree; fit, finish, build quality, and material robustness of the Yoder was better than the Memphis Pro & Elite...and we all know how expensive the Memphis is.
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.
Hey John – great question. My experience is that I use maybe 8 lbs of pellets for a 7 or 8 hour cook at 275 degrees. Pellet grills are relatively fuel efficient. The brand of pellet you choose will play into this. Cost for pellets varies by manufacturer, similar to charcoal. I think you’ll find them very efficient if you’re just firing them up for high heat, shorter grilling sessions.
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.
Another option is to put a griddle (or GrillGrates) on the pellet smoker when it's cranked to high heat, get it blistering-hot, add just a little oil to prevent sticking, and sear by conduction on the metal. It should take only two to three minutes per side. This is a good technique for reverse-seared meats: You start them indirect, low and slow on the cooking grate, with a little smoke, and then sear the surface with direct contact to the hot metal griddle to create a delicious brown crust. It's not as good as searing directly over hot coals or gas, but it's a good compromise.
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.
Other elements of the grill are the legs, which come in varies designs and construction materials. The automatic ignition starter to start the fire as well as the digital controller where individuals can achieve up to six different cooking methods ranging from grilling to baking and smoking. With that said, one of the most important aspects that we highly recommend individuals to consider is a green with a grease bucket or an ash cleanout design that vents out all of the ash sediment from the grill.
Instead of logs, the pellet smoker is fed with food-grade cylinders of wood pellets that are an inch long and ¼-inch wide and are made of compressed hardwood sawdust. According to the best pellet smoker reviews, pellet grills are easy to use because it’s easier to maintain its temperature because of these sawdust pellets that are subjected to great heat and high pressure, which ignites lignin (natural wood glue).
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.
A few other mentionable features are that it has a highly durable temperature proof textures powder coat finish, it features auto start. The REC TEC Wood Pellet Grill accommodates temperatures from 180 degrees Fahrenheit to 500 degrees Fahrenheit with 5 degrees increment. This amazing temperature control features let you be in control of how much heat you want to cook your food in, without having to worry about it getting dry or burnt. This low increment allows you to cook delicate meats like fishes and seafood as well! It smart grill tech makes sure that the temperature you set is always consistent and constant. It also has an “Extreme” smoke feature from the 180 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit setting that intensifies the smoke in the grill.
I believe the little Green Mountain Davy Crockett is the best portable pellet smoker currently on the market. Surprisingly, many of the portables out there still have an antiquated LMH controller, while Davy Crockett employs Green Mountain's advanced digital touch-pad controller, with an integrated meat thermometer that lets you check internal meat temp with the flick of a switch. Furthermore, it includes adapters to run the electronics from your car battery or cigarette lighter. And Green Mountain is aggressively—ahem, hello, price cut—promoting its WiFi capabilities, which enable you to monitor Davy Crockett from your smartphone or laptop.
There are other options, KBQ for one, but I want it to look like a grill. Not a refrigerator, although I’m sure they make great Q I have narrowed my search to Pellet poopers or the Primo or Egg. The Pellet poopers will have more capacity than even the XL Primo/Egg. But are they one trick ponies? Smoking and baking. WIth limited smoke profile. I wish I could taste the Que off of one to know for sure. I got rid of my gasser because of the limited flavor it produced. Rec-Tec’s tag line is Do you cook with wood. But does it produce enough smoke flavor for most people? How do your neighbors respond to your Que? Do they like the smoke profile of the Que? Sorry for all the questions. Just trying to figure out what the next smoker will be at Mi Casa.
This smoker comes with two cooking settings: hot and fast, and low and slow. Its Digital Elite Controller makes setting the temperature a breeze — all you have to do is turn the dial to your desired temperature, and you can leave it for the rest of the cooking process. This smoker can reach the temperature of up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. The digital display on top of the grill lets you monitor the heat conveniently.
Tech geeks: A tech geek will also prefer a Pellet smoker grill and some of the latest grills including Green Mountain Grills came up with some exciting tech functionality like Wi-Fi! Just imagine, hanging with friends and monitoring your pork with your smartphone? You can increase and decrease temperature and control pellet feed without even touching the grill. This gives you the ability to cook while you work!
While the Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett Pellet Grill is compatible with most iOS and Android devices, I want to stress, check the compatibility of your device with the grill before purchasing because it would suck to buy this grill only to find out that this feature is not compatible. Also, if you do not plan on using the grill on some elevated surface, the legs are not tall so the grill sits close to the ground. Regardless, this is a GREAT smoker: your meat will come out tender and juicy with that authentic BBQ taste we all love! Neither of these cons affects the quality of your BBQ and both can be worked around.
Igniter: An igniting rod, heated up to a red hot level, ignites wood pellets as they fall inside the firebox. A cooling fan blows air into the pellet smoker from behind the pellet auger to prevent heat backdraft, while the fan underneath the firebox fans the flame – distributing heat evenly throughout the smoker. This heat is used to smoke and slow cook food in the smoker to give it the best flavors possible.
Nothing says “you are welcome to my home” than some delicious and succulent baby back ribs; some beer can whole chicken cooked your special spice mix, and some wood smoked salmon. There is no better way to wins the appreciation of your favorite people than cooking up some wood grilled steaks and baked potatoes. But there is a catch, there always is.
Now, there are different materials that certain pellet grills are made from. Since steel is such a heavy duty and heavy item, some brands have opted in for more cost-efficient materials, such as a stainless-steel lid to remove some of the weight from the pellet grill. With that said, the interior grill gates are as equally important as the exterior. For example, some grill gates are made from an easy to clean porcelain material while some are designed from stainless steel to be more user-friendly and cost-effective. With that said, let’s discuss another important element to consider when it comes to a pellet grill.
The Tailgater 20 Series Freestanding Grill is one of the best wood pellet grills from Traeger for those who like to cook away from home. It’s small and lightweight enough that you can load it in your car for tailgating before the big game, cooking while camping or grilling at the park. The ash bucket collects all ash created, which makes cleaning up before heading home easier.
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.
The Pit Boss really is the boss with its 700 square inches of cooking surface. The space alone isn’t what makes the Pit Boss 71700FB one of the best wood pellet smoker available. If you thought the Traeger TFB29LZA Junior Elite Grill had a lot of space at 300 square meters, then get more than double that with Pit Boss (the Rec Tec grill below beats it by only 2 inches).
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.