To solve this problem, several companies have come up with alternative ways to expose food to the flame by allowing you to use the small area directly above the fuel pot. It's still not as good as a charcoal or sear burner, but better than the designs that are strictly indirect. Check out the Memphis Elite, Fast Eddy's by Cookshack PG500, and the Yoder YS640 for this feature. Camp Chef also recently introduced its Woodwind pellet smoker, which has a super-hot gas-fueled sear box attached to the right side.

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!
When you’re buying a pellet smoker vs a wood smoker, what you’re buying is convenience and simplicity of use. Whilst electric smokers are arguably more convenient than pellet based smokers because they start quicker, only need a power point and a handful of wood chips, pellet smokers are still incredibly easy to use and far more convenient than wood smokers.
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.

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.


Traeger invented the original wood-fired grill over 25 years ago in Mt. Angel, Oregon, and continues to lead the industry as the worlds #1 selling wood-fired grill, perfected by decades of mastering the craft of wood-fired cooking. Fueled by 100% pure hardwood pellets and controlled with a digital controller, means from low and slow to hot and fast grilling, you'll fire up deliciously consistent results every single time. The Texas Elite 34 packs a huge punch with 646 sq. in. of grilling area, new wider legs for added stability, and an upgraded Digital Elite Controller. It combines powerful, wood-fired convection performance with simple operation. So invite the neighbors and taste the wood-fired difference.
I bought this directly from Traeger. Beware that this model is now discontinued. They replaced it with the Traeger Renegade Pro without notice. The new model has an updated saw horse design and a new digital controller with probes. It does not come with the handy spice rack however. To each their own but I'd check with Traeger prior to purchase. That said, I paid more from them so if this is discounted, grab it. I love mine!

Second on our list of the best pellet grill review the Traeger pellet grill has a 292 square inch cooking surface area. It weigh 70 pounds and measure 21 inch by 23 inch by 21 inch in dimensions. This pellet grill is made out of steel and arrives in a black and bronze body. It has an automatic auger, an electronic auto start and a digital temperature control. The Traeger Pellet grill also feature a Digital Thermostat Control which detects the temperatures inside the grills using an RTD detector, and instructs the auger to fuel the fire and release the pellets according to that.  Other than that, they also come with a manual temperature setting of smoke, medium and high.


The Pit Boss Wood Pellet Series offers superior The Pit Boss Wood Pellet Series offers superior cooking at an affordable cost. Fueled by 100% natural wood pellets Pit Boss grills use fan-forced convection cooking to perfect your BBQ experience. The PB340 features 341 sq. in. of porcelain coated cooking surface and is perfect for individuals or small groups. ...  More + Product Details Close

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! 🙂
Hey Charlie – I’d leave that grate wide open if you want maximum heat. If the grates are only over the burn pot, then you can do sort of a two zone cook (indirect vs direct heat) by putting a thicker steak, chop, or piece of chicken on the ‘non direct’ side to get up to a temp that’s 15 or 20 degrees lower than your target. Then, finish off over the burn pot area. Just one idea.
Designed specifically to heat quickly this little outdoor Designed specifically to heat quickly this little outdoor cooker is a powerhouse when it comes to boiling brewing or frying. With its high-pressure burner system this stove is a great addition to anyone’s gear and works perfectly for all types of canning. The small size and portability also makes this ...  More + Product Details Close
The single biggest advantage though, especially for beginning outdoor chefs, is that when you’re paying this much, damn near everything is automatic. As an example, if we look at our number one choice, the Camp Chef PG64 pellet smoker, literally everything can be controlled by the built in systems, so I could grab a friend who’d never cooked anything more complicated than boxed mac and cheese over, give em a five minute masterclass and be confident that the automatic systems would do most of the heavy lifting when it came to getting everything right.
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.
We’re people like you, people who love outdoor cooking—the food, the fun, the time with family and friends. We’ve turned that passion into expert knowledge and an unmatched selection of BBQ and grilling products. Any question, big or small, we can help. From your first click to your next call, whether you’re interested in backyard BBQ or an outdoor kitchen, we have what you need and same-day ship nearly every order from our huge in-house inventory.
The first thing we have to understand is the anatomy of a pellet smoker. Check the related section on this page to get the idea. Once we know which part goes where, the bigger battle will be won. Next, we’re going to have to be able to analyze the problem if we are to solve it. What seems to be the issue? Are the pellets not lighting up? Are the pellets getting stuck and not working properly? Weird noises coming out from the hopper? Are foods not cooking well? Let’s take a look at these problems and how to solve them:
As more pellet grills enter the market, they are forced to differentiate themselves from the competition. One way of doing that is through innovative technology and advanced abilities. When comparing pellet grills, look at the whole package, including its capabilities, as well as which features are available and whether they come standard or are optional. Some of the more popular features to look for include:

Be that as it may, if your concern mainly lies on something that can be carried on a truck to an open-air grilling party or to a friend’s place, it’s positively a decent proposal. Aside from portability, it also gives you a cooking adaptability as you can grill, prepare, smoke, grill and braises with no bothers. The grill highlights full-size functionalities in a convenient bundle, henceforth a decent decision for anybody searching for versatile decision.
love your article and got lots of good info from it….i do have a question tho that i didnt see an answer to…..do pellet grills have to use just pellets?….i have 3 acres full of oak branches that could be shredded. my question is can a pellet grill use home shredded wood chips to burn and cook with or is it mandatory that the fuel be in the pellet state?….would be great if i could find a good use for all these fallen branches….
Consumer-level Traeger grills are considered a mid-range type of pellet grill, so they’re good for those wanting to try pellet grills for the first time. Traeger models like the Lil’ Tex Elite 22 or the Tailgater cost several hundred dollars and can grill about 12 to 16 burgers at a time. Larger Traeger grills will generally carry low four-figure prices, such as the Pro Series 34 or the Select Pro, which can hold 32 to 40 burgers between the upper and lower grilling racks.
The Z Grills Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker comes with Smart Smoke Technology, which lets you set and forget your grilling. It accurately sets and maintains the desired temperature using an automated electric feed system, heating your unit from 180 degrees F to 450 degrees F. We’ve gotten used to smokers taking around 30-40 minutes to heat up, but with this unit, it took only 20 minutes for the temperature to settle in!

Because the wood pellets are the grill’s fuel, you should pay careful attention to the pellet hopper, the chamber that holds the pellets. You want a large enough hopper to hold all the pellets you need for a single cooking session. Look for a hopper with at least an 18-pound capacity if you want to slow cook for longer periods without having to refill the hopper.
This pellet grill has a 440 square inch cooking surface and weighs 73 pounds. It measures 36 by 18 by 39 inches in dimensions and is made out of durable steel and heavy duty 16 gauge steel construction. It has a dial-in control with an LED read-out. Its temperature reaches from 180 degrees to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. It also comes with a meat probe. This Pit Boss is a worthy name to be in our pellet grill review’ list.
Today I grilled up a T-Bone steak. And I used the Grill Grates. I upped the temps to 600 degrees. The T-Bone came out FABLULOUS!!! Actually, it cooked faster than I expected, and the sear marks were way better than I expected. I have been using Weber Gas Grill for many years and way satisfied with the results, but the Yoder smoker kicks ass...BRAVO YODER!!
Kevin, Im about ready to pull the trigger – im pausing for a moment to consider your thoughts as you mentioned Grilla Silverback or Camp Chef. How do these compare to the Rec Tec on quality and price? (as they are less than Rec Tec) And reverse sear…how well does this work on pellet grill, ie how long does it take to go from 200 cooking temp to 500 searing temp (with grill grates)? Thank you for your time

OK. I’m rambling a bit. To your point regarding Traeger. I think that the models you can buy at big box stores (Costco etc) are OK. I still hear a few complaints about blistering paint etc. But… their Pro Series Models are a different story. The new management at Traeger has come a long way in their efforts to reaffirm the Traeger brand as a legitimate BBQ Pellet Smoker brand that everyone from the backyarder to competition pitmasters can get behind. To that end, they only allow specialty retailers carry the Pro Series models, which are built with a bit more heft and better PID controls, electronics, etc. You can find these at Ace Hardware stores, places like the Whiskey Bent BBQ Supply store we have here in Lakeland, FL (there is now one in Odessa, FL) as well. You can find a Traeger Pro model by going to http://www.traegergrills.com/dealers.

Pit Boss Wood Pellet Grills are fueled by all natural BBQ wood pellets. The digital control board ignites the grill and allows you to set the cooking temperature from 180° to 500°F. Fan forced convection cooking eliminates the need for a rotisserie and creates a versatile environment for grilling, roasting, smoking, braising, searing and baking. The 820 features a Flame Broiler as standard; this adds the option to grill directly over an open flame when direct heat is needed. The Pit Boss 820 features a large 820 sq. in. total cooking surface: 580 sq. in. main and 240 sq. in. removable upper rack. With complete structural strength and durability, the Pit Boss 820 is made to last.
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.
Now comes the best part about pellet smokers: they can conveniently do all these three. Coming with a large cooking space and a lid, the top rated pellet smokers would allow you to keep them open or closed, depending on what results you are looking for. With a dedicated space for putting your charcoal, you can use it as a charcoal grill, smoker or a barbecue. Or you can use it like a kitchen oven using the direct fire from the firepot. Finally, it does what it was made for – pellet smoking. Using small hardwood pellets running over the firepot in a corner, this smoker uses a fan to distribute the heat and smoke throughout the grilling area. This indirect heat ensures that the food is slow-cooked and smoked over long periods of time.
Now, for the good stuff: do not hesitate to spend an extra or even two bucks for a feature that you will use and appreciate. Consider your pellet grill as an investment, something you are going to buy, and be using and enjoying for years and years to come. Features like meat probes to check the internal temperature of foods are excellent for taking the guess work away from cooking meat to a particular doneness. You will never end up with an overcooked and rubbery, or undercooked and raw steak ever again! Features like smartly designed grills that consume and spread heat evenly are also great for cooking food to perfection without having to move it from side to side to find the right temperature spot.

As time passed, a thermostat was added to the equation, and the production BBQ smokers fueled by pellets working in “set it and forget it” fashion was in full force. From this point, several manufacturers of pellet grills began to pop up, with a few key names like Yoder Smokers, Mak Grills, Green Mountain Grills, and Fast Eddy’s Cookshack grills being among the most notable.
×