Hey Jeff – I think that due to pellet smokers requiring much of the wood pellet for “fuel” leaving a smaller part for the “smoke” means that you want as much of the smoke to stay in the chamber for as long as possible. Just my opinion. I’ve not used charcoal pellets. Those I’ve spoken with who have used them weren’t extremely happy with the results. Regarding the water pan, I feel that pellet smokers don’t typically require water pans. However, you can surely use one and see how your results go.
I bought a Yoder YS480 three years ago. I still use my cheaper pellet grill for everyday smokes, but I use the Yoder when I want to get serious. It does a beautiful job on baby back ribs (can do up to 8 racks laying flat on the grate) and I have smoked two complete turkeys at a time. The only time I have had a problem after 2 1/2 years of smoking was caused by a failed temperature probe. I got a new probe, installed it in a few minutes, and was back up and smoking again.
Hey Shannon – they all have their merits. Budget dictates a lot. If you’re in the $1000 or under range, Green Mountain and Rec Tec are great choices. Both have developed near cult followings, with GMG a little ahead of the curve on that front having been around a bit longer. I love the Yoders as far as moving up on the price range is concerned. Will last you forever and they offer a solid product with great support. MAK grills are just beautifully made. There’s no other way to put it. The “General” models are superbly crafted. Love that MAK offers built in cold smoking as a capability. Am I helping here or just making things worse? Hahaha.
For beginner outdoors chefs and guys buying their first smoker, that’s an invaluable bit of knowledge. Knowing that no matter what you do, as long as you follow the standard set up, you’re going to produce professional quality meat with ease, which is why smokers like the ones below are the best choice for anyone looking at buying their first pellet smoker.
When was the last time you actually got to sit back with your family and friends and chat away over the recent events? While it is understandable that work is important, that is it crucial to put the bread on your table and that you do it to make the lives of your loved ones more comfortable and fulfilling, but it is in no way to live. There is nothing sadder than have to work on presentations on the weekends while you kids wait behind your desk to finish up and take them to their soccer practice. Nothing is worse when you cannot make time to visit your old folks and best buddy because you have to run to the banks and attend the same old meetings.

Is it customer support? I ordered a grill cover(made by a outside vendor in Kansas as well) for my YS640. It ended up with a small leak. I called Don, and by the end of the week I had a brand new one. Also, I was getting ready for my first cook on my brand new YS640, and I invited the whole family over for baby back ribs. I called Joe, and he talked with me on the phone for 20 minutes explaining how the grill worked, what temp to set the pit at, when to rotate the ribs and even which ribs will need to be rotated. Joe was spot on! Best ribs I have ever had!!!
I have used Bradley, Masterpiece, Green Egg, New Braunfels, Oklahoma Joe, Weber and now Traeger. So there is some experience in these comments. The “set it and forget” it is a misnomer and should not be used with Traeger (or any smoker/grill.) With Pellet Drive before you buy Read up on Er codes. The worst is when the fire pot fills up with pellets because the fire can’t keep up with the auger push and the whole cook is ruined or delayed. You have to pull everything out and basically start over while your expensive prime brisket is trying to be saved in the oven. Doesn’t matter what the weather is or wind conditions. Doesn’t matter if you stare at it and stir the hopper continuously. It will happen. Customer support at first was well you are at fault (didn’t leave the lid open on fireup for exactly 2 to 4 minutes or didn’t vacuum out the firepot between every cook) which is crazy. Finally, after so many calls over the past 6 months they are trying to make it right. Problem is, DO NOT believe the “set it and forget it.” That does not exist with any good cook. I have replaced the controller the fan and now getting a new probe. Do not waste your money. Unless someone out here in BBQ land can give me a recommendation on a product that won’t do this stay away from Pellet Drive?
Z Grills is a lesser known manufacturer and a great low-cost alternative to the more expensive Traeger grills. Their pellet grill is a sturdy, heavyweight model with a roomy 500 square inches of cooking space and an electronic feeding system for fuel pellets. An additional warming rack provides additional space for cooking at lower temperatures. Furthermore, Z Grills also ensures their product with a generous 3 years warranty.

Ready for the camp or cabin, this reliable, no-frills stove features two 30,000-BTU commercial-grade cast burners. The all-steel range features sturdy grates built to support hefty cast-iron cookware. It's surrounded by a three-sided steel screen to block drafts and grease splatter. The heavy-duty steel legs slide off for transportation and storage. Cooks up to 15 hours on a 20-lb. propane cylinder (not included). Includes hose and regulator. 

One of the most outstanding features of this smoker is its digital thermostat controller. It is also small enough to be used for family gatherings but large enough to be used for tailgating parties. With it’s 292 in.² of cooking space, you can cook a lot at one time. The entire cooking surface is 15 x 20″. It is made from steel and has a porcelain coated grilling grate.
I don’t know how many meals I cooked on that thing, but it’s been enough to make me a hero and de facto camp chef among my friends. I seared up a tri tip large enough to feed four hungry kayaking buddies at the Salmon River Festival one year, then covered it with foil and cooked it on indirect heat for one of the best steaks of my life, which we happily consumed in the middle of nowhere. The grill also perfectly charred onions and peppers to deliver a mountain of chicken and beef fajitas to a crowd of ten. I still get compliments on that one. 
The argument for bark is that it smolders really well, providing more smoke during the cook and therefore more smokey flavor. Think about it: When you put a log on the fire, the bark almost immediately begins to smoke and smolder. And therein lies the second half of the pro-bark argument: when cooking on an offset you use logs with bark, so why should pellets be any different?

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.
The Traeger Lil-Tex 22 Wood Pellet Smoker and Grill impressed us the most with its “6-in-1” feature, which lets you braise, smoke, grill, braise, roast and BBQ all kinds of foods. With porcelain-coated racks, this durable grill offers top-grade function that you’d expect from high-quality pellet smoker grills. The smoker features 418 sq. in. of cooking area, enough to cook for medium-sized groups. But if that isn’t enough, other sizes are available, all offering the same functions. It comes with digital temperature controls, so you can leave it to take care of the rest while you relax and play. This durable pellet grill is 2nd not because it’s not as great as our first pick –the grill is a bit more costly that’s all.
Access to electricity has its downfalls. First, if the cord isn’t long enough you will need to make sure you have a proper extension cord. Using the wrong cord is a fire hazard. Do the math (watts / volts = amps) and make sure you have the right extension cord.  The smoker is also less mobile, and if it's stored outside it absolutely must have a cover. Electrical components and weather don’t mix.

One-Touch Non-PID Controller - Featuring a LCD display and one-touch buttons for setting the cooking temperature in 5° or 10° increments, these controllers allow you to more accurately set a desired cooking temperature. However, like multi-position controllers, they use fixed cycles for delivering pellets and so are limited in accuracy to +/-15–20°F. These controllers may have inputs for meat probes that monitor the internal temperature of food.
A FOLLOW UP: Traeger has agreed to send me replacement parts for the defective ones and I don't have to return them. However I am not returning the grill. I tried to cook a prime rib and a Boston butt. The grill randomly turned off three times and it had the "mini-explosion" others have talked about where the unit actually has an explosion within the housing lifting off the lid a couple inches and making a loud boom. This is not only a potential safety issue, but the "set and forget" is simply not true. It turned off within an hour after setting the temperature at 225 and leaving it unattended for an hour. This is not what I expected or wanted. Sorry Traeger quality is not what it is cranked up to be and certainly not worth the premium pricing they charge for their name. DON'T BUY THIS IF YOU EXPECT TO GET A GRILL THAT WORKS AS ADVERTIZED.
Hey Corry – GMG and Traeger have shown that they support their brands very well of late. In many cases, they both provide parts support even when warranty limits run out. If you’re considering a Traeger, I’d urge you to go with their Pro Series 22 or 34. Sounds like that’s what you’re probably looking at where they are concerned if you’re looking at a dealer.
This heavy-duty top-notch grill and smoker has a total cooking area of 429 square inches, which is large enough for cooking around twenty burgers at once. If that’s not enough, it comes with a secondary rack of 144 square inches that you can use for smoking or warming. With a height of 32.5 inches, you can cook a variety of meats and foods to your heart’s desire.
The Memphis Elite is the largest cooker in Memphis Wood Fire Grills' impressive line of luxury pellet smokers. They're extremely well designed and well built. The top-grade 304 stainless steel is thick and extraordinarily well machined. Fit and finish are impeccable. Meathead proclaims Memphis smokers to be "some of the best cookers [he's] ever had the pleasure to use." At $4,999, the Elite is clearly not in everyone's budget, but this beast is impressive enough for us to include in our 2016 Top 10 Luxury Grills and Smokers list, where prices go up to $50,000.
Editor's Note: If you're looking to upgrade your backyard cooking setup this summer, you're probably in need of a little advice. We're longtime admirers of the folks behind AmazingRibs.com, the site dedicated to unraveling the science of barbecue and grilling. Please welcome back Max Good, the only person in the world whose full-time job is testing, rating, and reviewing grills and smokers. The database he maintains includes over 500 grills and smokers, ranging in price from $30 to $50,000. When it comes to barbecue equipment, nobody knows it better.
Hey Ben! Cool re: your Camp Chef! Pellet smokers produce a light smoke as compared to stick burners, gravity fed smokers, Ugly Drum Smokers, etc. Most feel that the smoke provided is enough. If you need more – check out the Amazn Tube Smoker. You can find the Tube Smoker and Cookin’ Pellets via this link. Look for the Pellet Smokers and Pellets links.

I have several smokers I have used over the years. I have dialed in everyone I own over a course of trial and error. They all get great results, but require me to tend them all throughout the cook. I wanted a smoker that I could easily get to the desired temp, maintain the temp, provide good smoke flavor, and have the size to do a small or large cook, and not need me to be tending it throughout the cook. The learning curve on this smoker is super easy if you know all your temps, your first cook will give you the results your looking for. I was a little worried that I was not going to get the smoke flavor with a pellet smoker, but my brisket turned out amazing, very tender, the smoke ring was perfect. When I was searching for a new smoker I was a little shy of the Yoder based on the price, but when you figure in the ability to grill as well this became a better alternative. The quality is top tier, this is built to last a long time. I'm so glad I went with the Yoder YS640 no regrets.
Bake, braise, grill, smoke, and sear – all of these cooking techniques can be fully experienced by just using one unit of backyard cooker! Yes, you can definitely do different kinds of cooking to your pork, beef, fish, pizza, or pie by just using the Camp Chef Smokepro STX Pellet Grill without burning charcoals and woods to start the cooking process.
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.
With the summer right around the corner, it’s about that time of the year that consumers are thinking about hosting outdoor picnics and having their friends and family in the backyard. Now, to make this year special, many people are flocking towards purchasing pellet grills. In efforts to assure our readers that each grill on today’s list is the absolute best, we performed an update on this buying guide. Included in this update, readers will get to learn about the criteria that we used to evaluate each grill and a list of answers to some commonly asked questions. Before the summer arrives, check out this update!
Traeger Smoker – Buyer beware. My Traeger stopped working both times I’ve used it. It just stops after about 2 hours. Traeger’s response is their pillory is they don’t make refunds. The nearest service is 3 hours away and it’s just too far for them. They said the solution to it stopping is for me to partially disassemble it when it stops and vacuum out the burner pot. They said they would talk me through some troubleshooting. They offered to send me replacement parts but said they don’t think it will help. I can’t return it, they can’t determine a fix for it. I’m supposed to just eat the $830 cost for a smoker that doesn’t work.
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.
I did a lot of research, and ended up buying the Camp Chef DLX24. It was at a price that fit my budget, (under $500) and had a lot of features the others didnt. The pellet trap door for quick dumping of the pellet hopper into a bucket, and the ash cleanout under the drum was a clincher. Being able to pull a lever and dump the ashes into an easily removable cup is a great feature that all grills should include.It has a digital temperature controller, and dual probes (one inside the smoker for grill temp, one for the meat) and overall good quality construction. The second shelf inside is standard (you pay extra for that on other grills). If your budget allows, would suggest purchasing the propane powered sear box ($199) which attaches to the side of the grill and allows for reverse searing meat..

Camp Chef is a leading manufacturer of camping stoves, dutch ovens, and other outdoor cooking equipment. If you want quality cookware to take on your next camping trip or barbecue in the park, Camp Chef has the solutions - from camp stoves to cast iron dutch ovens. Camp Chef makes cooking gear for campers, hunting, for traveling by RV, even for your next tailgate party. Camp Chef was built around the idea of finding better ways to cook outdoors - no matter the location, from woods to parking lots to campgrounds - and from that philosophy has come a whole line of outdoor cooking equipment, made to let you go gourmet in the wild!


The first time I grilled something on it -- pulled pork, which takes a long time on the grill -- the fire kept going out on me. My husband called the company, and they said they knew they had that problem. So he told the nice lady on the end of the line that what they needed to do was to add something to the hopper to keep it jiggling just a little so that the pellets continued to go down. "We're working on a solution," she said. "I just told you the solution," my husband, who's a mechanic and loves solving mechanical problems using unusual, but straightforward solutions. His trick? -- get one of those cheap, plastic, clip-on fans and clip it to the hopper, pointing the fan down into the hopper. The fan jiggles it just enough. The air into the hopper "couldn't hurt, either," he told me.
Well built and compact, this smoker and grill still has a 300 square inch cooking space, and is generally big enough to fit a small turkey inside, so it’s ample for six to eight people. It’s really easy to use, with an automated electric start, front mounted thermometer and idiot proof digital controls that make this so simple, an absolute beginner could walk up to it, have a quick play around and start cooking.
Though it is technically a grill, you can carry out so much cooking styles in it. It can be used to sear meats and other food to a perfect golden crusty perfection; it can be used to bake quiches just like you would in a normal indoor oven. This is absolutely a trademark appliance that can also be used to smoke food, it can also be used to slow braise food, making it ideal for cooking up winter stews and casseroles. And very obviously you can grill in this thing. The lid on the pellet grills also aid in fast cooking by trapping smoke and heat and allowing the food to cook and flavor through quickly and more evenly.
Access to electricity has its downfalls. First, if the cord isn’t long enough you will need to make sure you have a proper extension cord. Using the wrong cord is a fire hazard. Do the math (watts / volts = amps) and make sure you have the right extension cord.  The smoker is also less mobile, and if it's stored outside it absolutely must have a cover. Electrical components and weather don’t mix.
-Warranty-(Forgive my soapbox here, folks.) I'd give it 5 stars if Camp Chef would give it a real warranty. One year is pathetic and WAY below the industry standard. Camp Chef, I know you are reading this because you guys are too excited about your great new product to not pay attention to feedback like this. Nut up and stand behind your awesome product. Why would anybody buy a product from an industry newcomer with no track record when you yourself are only willing to stand behind it for 1 lousy year?... Especially when the "industry leader" will guarantee their product for 3 years?!?! You are communicating that you have 1/3rd the amount of trust in your product that Traeger does. That's terrible! You should exceed what they are offering just to make the point in the industry! At a minimum, you should at least match their warranty just so it doesn't become a stumbling block to potential customers. Look, you basically took the lil tex and said "ok boys, so how can we make this better?!?" You did that! You totally knocked it out the park! Why cheap out with the warranty?!? As a customer, it makes me nervous that you know something I don't.
The argument against bark is that it can cause an inconsistent burn and produce excessive ash. Again, consider a log on a fire. Because they have different compositions, the bark and hardwood burn at different rates and produce different amounts of heat. Furthermore, bark doesn’t burn cleanly, it creates more ash than the hardwood. When that ash builds up, it interferes with your grill’s ability to accurately read the temperature, causing large swings. If too much of that ash builds up in the fire pot, it can cut off the oxygen and snuff out the fire.
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).
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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!
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