I purchased a Traeger Elite Grill from the website. I use the grill one time and it worked fine. A couple of weeks later we fired up the grill to cook some steaks. Approximately 10 minutes into cooking the auger stopped working. We had to finish our meal cooking it on the stove. I looked at the troubleshooting guide and the steps needed to be taken. To determine what was wrong you basically needed to dismantle the electric box and auger housing. I am not an electrician Nor a mechanic and feel this is excessive for a consumer to have to do.
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, jump ahead to my actually trying to get my Traeger replaced. Per the email, I called Traeger customer service expecting the same service I received right after Christmas. NOPE! I spoke with Frank (Carson) I believe. He did everything from accuse me of shutting my grill off and turning it back on incorrectly (impossible since I was in the house) to not cleaning my grill. Neither of which were correct. He basically made me feel like my grill was unsafe! His attitude was HORRIBLE! He was rude and condescending. A nightmare to work with!
Competition: If you are buying a smoker for participating in any competition, then pellet smokers are your best choice. Gas or electric smoker grills are not allowed in any competition as they are using automation. Though you are getting temperature control and electronic start in pellet smoker it is accepted in competition. This pellet smoker review will point out the ones best for a competition.
Hey Rob! First, I really appreciate you reaching out. That’s what The BBQ Beat is for! To your question, I own a Davy Crockett Tailgate Model pellet smoker and really like it. Full disclosure, it was given to me by the company to test and Jason Baker of GMG said I could just keep it. But, I get a good number of products to review sent to me and a whole lot of them don’t make it onto the blog. I’d rather “omit” than “detract” – keep things positive sharing the stuff out there that I can get behind.
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.
Now, what that means is that if you have a lower hopper capacity, your pellet smoker will run for a smaller period of time. It also depends on the cooking temperature you have selected for your cooking purposes. However, at higher temperatures, they will provide less smoke; thus would be more suitable for grilling and barbecuing, but not so much for smoking.
Thank you so much for the kind words! I think you would be very happy with a smaller pellet grill / smoker. The wording changes depending on how you are using the device. For instance, if you are cooking at low temperatures you will get a stronger smoke profile then if you burn a pellet smoker / grill at its higher temperature range. One thing you could do for steaks is cook them at the higher range thus being able to get a sear much like you would on a direct heated Grill service, for instance on your Weber. Another option would be to cook the steak in the reverse see your method, by bringing it up to temperature at a lower smoker setting and adding some smoke flavoring that way, then removing it and bringing the smoker up to its higher settings so you can finish off the steak with some of the effect you would achieve on direct flame. I normally do this by bringing the steaks up to about 15 degrees below where I want them to finish. Then, I finish them off at the higher temperature to where they are about 5 degrees below my target. This usually means a few minutes on each side but I use a Thermapen to be sure.
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.
Rec Tec has always been known for making advanced Rec Tec wood pellet grills coming in at a higher price. However, some of the popular models come in smaller sizes, like Trailblazer 340 or Bullseye 380. However, compared to their capacities and features, the products in our top ten lists would be better choices. So, among its products, the RecTec Bull 700 is the only one that falls in our Honorable Mentions.
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.
When looking at a pellet grill also consider the material its made from. A majority of pellet grills on the market are made from painted steel. However, the quality of that steel and the paint can vary. A good high-temp powder coat paint can stand up to high heat without blistering or flaking. This is essential, because once the steel is exposed, it will rust. Even if the grill body is painted well, you have to look inside. The fire pot and diffuser plate have the potential to corrode and are two of the most common parts that need replacing. With some painted steel grills, such as Traegers®, you can can upgrade the grill and hopper lids to stainless steel, as well as the firepot, diffuser, and drip pan.
The Camp Chef SmokePro is probably the best pellet grill on this list by rating and by performance. It has a decently large area for cooking at 19.2 inches by 22 inches plus its smoking or warming rack is also 6 inches by 24 inches in size. This is one of the best pellet smoker for home use because of its combination of quality features that are never superfluous and works as advertised.
Novices: Do you consider yourself a novice with a smoker grill? If so have no shame, in fact, look at me, I started as a novice too! Realistically, no one becomes a geek in 2 weeks of studying or research. So as a beginner you must look for an easy to use smoker grill. Well, the primary concept of a pellet smoker lies in its easy to use features. Set it and forget represents the motto and the main aspect you crave, right?
According to Bruce Bjorkman of MAK, his cookers use about 1/2 pound of pellets per hour when set on "Smoke" (about 175°F). At 450°F, the high temp, they burn about 2.3 pounds per hour. This is about the same average as I have experienced on a variety of pellet eaters. The burn rate will vary somewhat depending on the outside air temp, and how much cold meat is loaded in the grill, but cooking load should not have a major impact. Cooking pellets run about $1 per pound depending on the wood flavor, brand, if you get them on sale, and if you have to pay shipping. As a point of comparison, Kingsford briquets list for about $0.75 per pound, but they don't pack the same BTUs because there are fillers. I usually buy 40 pound bags of BBQr's Delight pellets from BigPoppaSmokers.com for $45 and shipping is free to IL. That's $1.13 per pound. That means that if I cook a slab of spareribs for six hours at 225°F I will probably burn about 4 pounds at about $4.50. If I put 8 slabs in there in rib holders, and allocate 1/2 slab per person, my cost for 16 people is about $0.28 each. If I grill a mess of chicken parts at about 325°F for about 1 hour, I will use about 1.5 pounds of pellets for a cost of $1.70.
Next in our pellet grill review is the Green Mountain Davy Crockett pellet grill. Its small size makes it a portable grill. It weighs 57 pounds and measures 14.5 by 20 by 29.5 inches in dimensions. The Green Mountain pellet grill has 110V or 12V adaptors for 3 power options. It has foldable legs that also function as handles. This pellet grill also features a thermal sensor which monitors the grill temperature called Sense-Mate. One coveted feature on this pellet grill is that is Wi-Fi compatible.
A: As another key question that many individuals are asking for, users want to know if the grill is water resistant. Now, the inside of the grill in no scenario should be exposed to water. However, the exterior of the grill, once covered can be exposed to water. However, it is always best to ensure that the grill is powder coated and is able to withstand a bit of moisture, so it does not rust. If this is the case, then an individual will need a grill cover, which brings us to the next question.
It’s also worth double checking the precision of the controls. Less expensive smokers sometimes have cheap control panels that only allow you to set the temperature to a few discrete settings, for example just low and high. This is, generally speaking, awful, and leads to improperly cooked meat and a whole host of other issues. Avoid it if you can.
On Tabletop Models: I didn’t include them here because though extensive, this post is more of an overview of a few select makers of Pellet Smokers I think do a fine job with both manufacturing and product support. The one exception is that I did include a link to where you can find the Rec-Tec mini. That’s Rec-Tec’s answer to the smaller, tabletop or tailgating models.
I only just learned about “wood pellets” recently when my husband and I were researching ways to heat the small mountain cabin we just moved into a few months ago, and I had no idea there were so many options for pellet grills. Wow! I hadn’t even know these existed to consider them, and now your reviews have me wanting to try one out. You’ve offered amazingly detailed and positive information on each model listed to help buyers make an informed decision. Your writing style is so fun and upbeat, I can only imagine that your backyard and backyard gatherings rock! Thanks for giving me food for thought on our next grill, Nate. (And for making me hungry, too! lol)
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.
Hey Jim, first – thank you for commenting on this post! As you probably know from reading the contents, pellet smokers are a great choice for set it and “nearly” forget it BBQ. Of course, you’re not going to get the same smoke profile with “pellet poopers” that you are likely getting with your other smokers. That said, the smokers listed here are all going to hold temp very well – even in lower temperature or windy weather. I do see instances where temps and wind effects pellet grills, but solutions including a fireproof blanket over the top of the smoker seem to mitigate things well enough.
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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.
The Dyna-Glo Signature Series DGSS681VCS-D Heavy-Duty Vertical Charcoal The Dyna-Glo Signature Series DGSS681VCS-D Heavy-Duty Vertical Charcoal Smoker will satisfy your outdoor cooking needs. This Heavy-Duty Vertical Charcoal Smoker features a porcelain enameled steel charcoal chamber which keeps briquettes tightly packed for improved burn efficiency. The removable high capacity ash pan handles large amounts of ash facilitating hours of ... More + Product Details Close
Thanks for your question! I think you’ve actually selected the grill that I’d recommend too. The Camp Chef pretty much has it all. It’s quality, it’s priced nicely, it does a great job smoking… and honestly, that ash cleanout feature is pretty much something that I wouldn’t want to do without. Especially if you’re new to pellet grilling, anything that makes the job smoother and simpler will be appreciated!
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.
How much food are you going to smoke? This is important because some of the top pellet smokers are relatively large. And if you’re not looking at smoking a lot of meat, you might purchase a unit that’s too big. Conversely, if you buy a unit that’s too small, you are going to be frustrated because you’re going to make some delicious meat just not as much as you need.
Despite often being called “pellet grills,” they still cook via indirect heat, as opposed to flame, and are better seen as a smoker. They’re excellent for smoking briskets, chicken and turkey, salmon and other fish, but maybe not for steaks, as you won’t be able to get the same crispy, browned sear they call for, and that you can get with an open-flame grill.
When buying an item as important as a grill, it is evident that an individual should look for the best quality for what they desire as well as learn properly what are the best in the industry. With that in mind, pellet grills are even more unique than a regular grill because of the design and the way the grill functions. With that said, the quality of a pellet grill is the first criteria we took into consideration because there is a slew of different elements that have to ensure the grill is made of the best possible quality design. With that in mind, one important aspect of quality design that we took into consideration is how all of the functions are built. Meaning, we wanted to make sure that no area was designed and manufactured in a cheap way. Other than that, one method in which we figured out the best quality grills is how the grill cooked and how the items tasted. However, since we cannot buy every single grill and spend weeks cooking steaks and vegetables, as nice as that sounds, we relied a lot on individual reviews and what people had to say about that particular grill.
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.
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….
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.
If you have faced or currently face the problem with common things like pellet feed jamming or wear and tear of your smoker, then replacing the exact component will solve your problem. Thus, without changing your whole smoker you can continue with some $40 – $50 changes. It might seem complicated for you if you face a problem with your digital control system. Adding the element of professional knowledge will help tremendously. Solving problem with $150 is much better than spending $500, right?
Due to the lower oxygen at 9200 FASL, I cannot keep the smoker hot and I cannot get it above 250 Deg. F. I seem to be limited due to the diameter of the smoker…just can’t get enough coals and air to get and maintain temps. Therefore, I want to buy a new smoker, on that will regulate temperature at temperatures of 200 – 450 deg F. Any experience or guidance for a smoker brand and type (wood pellet, charcoal, or electric) at high altitudes? i am looking for a smaller size smoker unit.
Camp chef grill is usually compact and ideal for outdoor adventures like camping but some models of the Traeger grill are hard to camp with. The Traeger grill is usually large and ideal for home cooking or large parties and weekend gatherings. However, you can still find small compact designs of its model. It depends on your demand. Nonetheless, even the smallest model of the Traeger grill can pack a lot of food. As for the big green egg grill, it has a unique shape, like an egg, but comes in different sizes for your needs. Therefore, you can buy one that suits your needs.
The first thing to consider before purchasing a pellet smoker is your budget. This will allow you to buy the best pellet smoker for the money. If you are a beginner, you do not need to get an expensive unit in order to produce results. However, if you have some experience and you want to take your smoking to the next level, you may look into a more expensive model with the goal of getting some of the features you want.
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.
Background: I've had this flat top for a month now and do 99% of my cooking on it. I have it set up next to my kitchen balcony which allows me to cook outside in most weather conditions and allows me to keep my kitchen clean for the most part due to a natural gas hook-up that I have outside. I purchased the Natural Gas Kit Hose (NGKIT) and converted the flat top to only intake natural gas. Please note that once you make the conversion then you cannot convert it back to propane unless you get new orifices. I had to drill all 4 orifices with a #45 drill bit to ensure that sufficient gas will be funneled through to the flat top. This process took a couple hours and will take more if you don't have the proper tools.
It doesn’t matter what it is that you’re buying, you want to get the best bang for your buck and not pay more than you have to. We all have this same mentality when it comes to making a purchase. This is why when we see price tags that indicate something is “on sale’, we immediately think we are getting a good deal. But is that really the case? The answer is no. When it comes to buying your new pellet grill “on sale” from a distributor or retailer, it means that they are essentially reducing the markup that you have to pay. Aside from the rare instances where a retailer is selling a product as a loss leader where they are intentionally losing money on a product to get you into the store and buy other more profitable products, you will still be paying more money in the end than what the manufacturer would price the grill at if they were to sell it to you directly.
Second, It would be just my wife and me BBQing so I’m looking small. I’m considering the REC TEC Mini Portable Wood Pellet Grill (RT-300) after reading your reviews. Having only ever BBQed with hard wood coals on a Webber, is there going to be a taste fall-off going to the pellet grill as far as charring and/or smoke? I’d hate to spend that kind of money and get bland steaks. Really, steak is all we ever cook outside, though that would probably change with a nice grill.
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.
Regarding your question about a decrease in smoke flavor when using the pellet grill / smoker, I do believe you will experience a little bit of a drop off. This said, many people find the flavor from pellet grills / movers to be adequate. If you require a stronger smoke profile, you can always use one of the tube smokers that sits inside of the cooking chamber.
Second, you’ll have to figure out what BBQ pellets you want to use. There are many different brands, blends, and mixes to choose from, and you’ll likely want to do some side by side testing to see what you like best on what meats. My very good friend and BBQ buddy Shane Draper really likes to make his own blends – using different woods in different proportions depending on what he’s cooking.