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.
Although mesquite is often thought of as the quintessential BBQ wood, don’t stock up on it until you’ve tried it. While many who are new to pellet smokers and BBQ immediately choose mesquite pellets, be forewarned: it has a strong assertive flavor than can overpower food. When buying pellets for the first time, its wise to choose flavors that are versatile enough to be used on many different foods.
The best thing about pellet smokers is that unless you’re buying the absolute cheapest models, there are no bad choices. In this list for under $500, you’ll find pellet smokers and grills perfectly suited for dropping a few burgers at home use like the Traeger Junior Elite, for throwing in the back of the van and using anywhere like the Green Mountain Davey Crockett, or for cooking whole turkeys when you have ten people round on Thanksgiving, like the Camp Chef Smokepro.
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.
The online research, the model comparisons, the pricing—choosing the right pellet grill can be challenging, so much so that, by the time you settle on a grill, choosing smoker pellets often becomes an afterthought. While some people simply default to the wood pellets sold by their pellet grill manufacturer, too many others settle for the cheapest pellets available. Because, really, how much difference can the pellets make? A lot, actually.
Eric, I’m sorry for the trouble you’ve had with your Traeger. Not sure this will help, but here is how I make sure I don’t have the problem you had. When I start after a long previous cook or any cook at all really, I vacuum out all the dust and vacuum out the burn pot. Then, I put a handful of pellets into the burnt pot, insert the heat deflector, the drip tray, and grate. I find that this keeps things working well. Sometimes, the burn pot will get too full of ash and this can cause the problems that you had. Give it a try. If it works, please let me know.
With the Camp Chef PG24S, you won’t have to constantly refill your hopper. Your pellets will be used as efficiently as possible, as this product comes with a hopper that can hold up to 18 pounds of wood pellets. With the digital heat control system, it instantly feeds the pellets into the grill to maintain the ideal cooking temperature. This ensures that food is cooked most satisfyingly.
Hi Brad! Thanks for your comment. I’d give Grilla Grills a hard look. Their Silverbac model is as solid as they come. The sear box on the Camp Chef is an interesting addition. Given that it’s propane powered, it would be pretty much light, turn and go. So, as you said, low maintenance. Still… with a set of grill grates, you should be able to get a sear at top temps on most pellet grills that would meet your expectations.
****Update 12/2014: So I finally found something negative to report. Today I was cooking 2 pork butts and a brisket and discovered that this grill does not do well with wind on a brisk day (It was 45 degrees here today). When set at 250 degree, the smoker could barely make it up to 190 degrees. I was able to bypass the problem by throwing a cheap moving blanket over the grill (an $8 fix) but I think it's worth noting.
Just putting a stamp on your info and recommendations. The Pro is definitely a Pro! Consistent, excellent temp control, juicy and great flavor. Smoke ring, some of my ribs are pink all the way through and dripping with juice. Smoke profile, good, not over powering. I have used 45# of hickory so far, 20# of cherry and a few pounds of apple and pecan. Have not tried anything but Lumberjack but that will be the next experiment. I have tried the smoke tube and it is ok. I was worried about getting an ash or bitter taste as the smoke is fairly heavy and a little acrid smelling if you let it burn from bottom to top. So I lay it down and light on my wife’s Weber gas grill side burner and get the whole thing burning good and then blow it out. If it smells acrid your meat will get some of that taste. Starting the tube this way it is still going an hour later.
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.
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This little smoker is just right for people who want small capacity and/or need a compact device for their condo patios; and despite its small size (or, perhaps, because of it) it's also one of the best pellet smokers for the money. Many of our readers who already have other outdoor cookers like to add Davy Crockett to their lineup, especially if they have everything but a pellet smoker.
Camp Chef is the company that perfected the pellet grill formula that Traeger made up, hence its introduction of an effective pellet auger that dispenses pellets only when needed and a large capacity hopper that reduces the need for pellet refills (that people find really annoying). It’s economical in terms of fuel rationing even though the griller itself is quite expensive.
Pellets not Lighting: It’s a simple issue. There is a problem either with the connection of your lighting rod or a damaged system. Repairing the wiring, if that’s where the problem is, might be a little complicated for most. So, for the average griller, the best and the easiest option is to replace the lighting mechanism altogether. When you buy the replacement part, it will come with a detailed instruction manual that anyone can follow.
My budget range is $1200-$1500. The same as the cost of the XL Primo or BGE. I’ve looked at the Rec-Tec. They look like a great deal. I did notice that they were made in china. Also read they assemble them in Ga. I have concerns with the durability of the lower priced ones. I looked at the Fast Eddie PS 500 also. Now that one is cool. Those are the two I have looked at. The Yoders are getting above what I want to spend.
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!!
Is it food quality? All of my foods are the best I have ever grilled. The ribs are nearly falling off of the bone, yet still moist! In the past, if I tried to get them to that point, they would have been very dry. All of my meats have been moist with a lightly smoked flavor. My breads perfectly crusted on the outside, moist inside with a perfect crust!
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Since wood chips are by-products of carpentry and woodwork, they are not only inexpensive but are also helpful for the environment since you’re using up all the parts of a tree. Its death wouldn’t go in vain! If you’re looking to learn more about the types of available wood chips and what kind of flavors they impart with, feel free to check out our post on that topic.
I also was a certified KCBS judge but never judged at an event. Their judging system was flawed in my opinion because if you truly follow their system it is possible that them best tasting piece of meat might not win. In cutting horses (not a judge but read all the rules as I showed a fair amount back then) you were always supposed to judge the best overall horse to win. I asked about leaving a process to make sure the piece of meat you feel is best to win and was told absolutely not you have to judge presentation points, tender points & etc. and not place based on your opinion of the best piece of meat! Not that KCBS is a bad organization, it’s rules didn’t fit my thought process. Passed their class and got the t-shirt just never agreed, was always a spectator.
From the models and brands that I have reviewed here, I highly recommend the REC TEC 680 Wood Pellet Grill as the best pellet smoker. This comes with a grill technology, which gives you more convenience, whether you are a novice or an experienced grill master. If you have found this article to be helpful, please share it with your friends and family and help them make the right decision.
This podcast is great for anyone that has ever had an interest in BBQ, grilling, smoking, etc. The guests that are brought on to this pod along with the dialogue that Kevin has with them makes this a great podcast that would be enjoyable for anyone to listen to regardless if they liked BBQ or not. There is a great wealth of knowledge to be found in these pods, and each time I listen to the BBQ Beat I feel genuine excitement to go outside and try something new with my grill or smoker. Aside from all of this, the audio is great and the topics are interesting which makes the experience engaging for not only the guest on the pod, but also you the listener. Suscribe and listen often. I promise you won't be disappointed.
At present, pellet grills are mainstream products, with pellet refills filling the market versus having to find timber, sticks, and charcoal to start a fire (since these pellets are made of sawdust, it’s easier for them to cast fire and completely combust into smoke with minimal residue). Old school pit masters dislike this product mostly because it’s too easy to use, like a microwave versus an oven.
Moving on from the orangish-red looks of the predecessor RT-680, this newer model has a black hood, with stainless steel built. It is 2.5” taller than the RT-680 and has 2 stainless steel bull horn handles on the outside that will have you falling in love with its built. Everything from the towel rings, the controller shelf, the hopper lid to the spill-proof bucket hook is stainless steel and even the smallest of details like the laser cutout of “Rec Tec Grills” on the side will never fail to impress.
Retail pricing for the Traeger Grills Pro Series pellet smokers come in at $799 for the 22 in. and $999 for the 34 in. At this time, they’re available only through approved Traeger retail locations. If you’re in the Central Florida area, Whiskey Bent BBQ Supply in Lakeland, FL is a Platinum Traeger Dealer. Otherwise, you can find a list of approved Traeger dealers via their network locator page.