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.
To be sure, there are pure “smoker” and pure “grills” but there are some exceptionally well-designed hybrids. I bought a Memphis Elite last year, and it is AWESOME! I made a pulled-pork masterpiece two months ago that was absolutely delicious… 8 hours on low temperature (225) then an hour on open flame (switching from a “smoker” insert to an “open-flame’ insert at 700 was easy) and it was awesome!
Everyone has their price range, but don’t confuse cheap for affordable. As with other types of grills, there are plenty of inexpensive pellet grills that seem attractive at first glance, especially if you're looking to save a little money. However, while a cheap pellet grill might save you a little money up front, it's going to cost you more in the long run. Parts will rust, components will break down, and you will likely find yourself replacing some or all of that affordable grill within five years. Ultimately, you're better off investing a little more money up front and get a quality grill that will keep years to come.
We love recommending and reviewing wood pellet smoker grills, but we also want you to get the most out of them once you purchase. Without proper care and maintenance, even the best pellet smoker is bound to have a shorter lifespan. Therefore, how you use your smoker and how you maintain it after use greatly determines how long it will serve you. A little bit of work will go a long way toward extending the life of your smoker. A thorough cleaning of the smoker should occur at least once a year. If you frequently use it, you should have it done at least three times a year. Buying quality pellets will extend its life as well.
I called Treager the next day just to find out what happened. The customer service guy way REALLY nice. He said, "Don't worry. We stand behind our product 100%." Wow was I impressed! He told me he would email me instructions on how to make a claim. He even told me he would send me a new thermometer ( my Christmas present one was destroyed by the fire). He did everything as promised!
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.
Regardless, it’s worth mentioning the basic types of pellets available on the market to get you started. First there are the hardwood pellets, made from the sawdust from any specific type of hardwood, such as ash, cherry, maple, etc. Then there are different organic hardwood blends: a combination of different types of wood shavings and dust, giving them a customized, special flavoring. For beginners, we’d suggest getting a premium blend, just to be on the safe side (because you can’t go wrong with these). Even then, we’d like to mention a few types of pellets commonly used for different purposes:
The Yoder YS640 is 32 inches wide, weighs 313 pounds, and is said to have a cooking range of 150 to 600°F (65 to 315°C). Yoder is known for heavy-duty competition smokers, and the thick, 10-gauge-steel cooking chamber on this model is durable and great for heat retention. It comes with a sophisticated proprietary digital controller, which Yoder asserts is not based on any off-the-shelf temperature controller of any sort. Yoder states that it designed the board from scratch around a general-purpose micro-controller chip and wrote its own code from the ground up in an attempt to provide superior flexibility, efficiency, and accuracy.
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.
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.
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?
They had the field to themselves for a few years, but the idea was too good to go un-imitated, and soon competitors began popping up. In the early days, most pellet smoker controllers had only three settings—low, medium, high (LMH)—and there was no temperature probe in the oven to create a feedback loop. So, whether you were smoking a few slabs of ribs on a scorching summer day or six pork butts during a blizzard, the controller only knew pellet-feed on and off times for its standard settings. It had no information on the actual temperature inside the cooking chamber.
Barbecuing is supposed to be hard. It should involve chopping wood, breathing in charcoal dust, and hours upon hours to keep a constant temperature from your grill. A pit master would never subscribe to the “leave it and forget it” philosophy that a pellet smoker brings to the table, right? The best pellet smoker reviews show that this isn’t necessarily the case.
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.
Another “set it and forget it” pellet grill, the Camp Chef allows you to set the temperature controls for up to a range of 500 degrees F, and leave it to do the regulating. With its efficient auto-dispensing pellet hopper and digital temperature controls, the pellet grill sets, maintains and adjusts the desired temperature for even cooking each time. With consistent and fuss-free temperature control, you’ll sure to have the most perfectly grilled foods.
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.
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.
I am a pellet grill newby and a recent convert from the backyard charcoal grill to the Yoder YS640. After a ton of research on pellet grills, I jumped in the deep end with this grill and have won raving Family fans after four grilling adventures. I have never cook ribs...tried three racks using a special rub and several ours on the Yoder...and my wife who isn't fond of ribs was eating the left overs the next day! This grill is easy to use and creates fantastic tasting food. My only regret is that I didn't purchase the grill a lot sooner.
Dealers are happily selling these while Traeger is aware per 1-800 call that they need to replace thousands of drip pans/heat exchangers on units that have been shipped because the ones in the units shipped allow heat to fluctuate widely. Traeger recommended NOT USING THIS BRAND NEW GRILL until I receive the replacement part which they will not receive until the last part of August and they will not commit to expedited shipping when they finally ship.
When you think of a portable smoker and grill, you think about basic features. But with the Tailgater by Traeger Grills, you get more than what most portable grills have to offer. At 300 sq. in., this portable grill is enough to cook decent and succulent dishes for small groups. It can even reach to a maximum 450 degrees F, so you’re never limited when it comes to the type of meat you want to grill or smoke. We loved its EZ fold legs, which make it easier to throw into the car trunk, ready for the next adventure.
A pellet hopper is what you put your pellets in. The grill will automatically help itself from the hopper and use it to maintain the temperature you want it to. More heat requirement will use more pellet, and less heat will use less. What you need to make sure is that you have a good sized pellet hopper so that your grill can keep using from it and you do not have to keep refilling the hopper too often. There are pellet grills out there that are powerful and gentle enough to be cooking for hours, and sometimes overnight, all thanks to its large pellet hoppers that keep replenishing and refueling the fire all throughout.
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!
Convert your stove into a powerful barbecue grill. Convert your stove into a powerful barbecue grill. This barbecue grill box is sure to win you over to Camp Chef's savory outdoor flavor. Features a reverse-louvered plate to vaporize grease drippings while distributing heat evenly over the cooking surface to create a more flavorful cooking experience. Cast iron grates ... More + Product Details Close
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And #3, good bbq or grilled meats should taste great without a ton seasonings or sauce. Beef especially can be excellent with simple salt! Make sure your seasonings enhance flavor. Another great read, the late (and much grieved at our house) Paul Prudhomme’s ‘Louisiana Kitchen’ again available on Amazon used for a couple of bucks and a masterpiece! Paul was a master of seasoning. Don’t kill it with seasonings and sauce, enhance the foods flavors. Barks on meat are great if they are right. However burnt, sugar and many other seasonings detract from the meats natural flavor. I personally love a meat you can eat without a sauce and then sauce if you want some added flavors going on!
In true Yoder fashion the 640 is not a fancy cooker with lots of shiny things, bells and whistles. Don't mistake that for poor craftsmanship, the Yoders are all built to the highest quality standards. They just happen to be more muscle car than sports car. Big, bad ass, built to last American muscle car that will blow the doors off the competition on your back deck or on the comp trail.
PID: For the most precise temperature control, some pitmasters feel that a grill with a proportional-integrative-derivative (PID) controller is the way to go. A PID controller uses algorithms to keep the temperature within a couple of degrees of the setting. It doesn’t use fixed cycles to release the pellets. Instead, the controller only adds pellets when it’s necessary to maintain the desired temperature.
***Update: 11/2014: It's been a year now and I still adore this little grill. I've got a kamado and 3 different kettles and this is by far the most convenient and easy to use. The smoke rings this guy puts on a brisket are amazing and the flavor is the perfect balance of wood flavor without overpowering the meat. I've researched about 15 different pellet grills and I still can't find a better value than what this grill offers
I have owned my YS640 for about 9 months now. Before I bought this I researched smokers/grills for about 2 years because I had very little experience with them & cooking in general. With the help of a few good websites I have produced some great food. There is a ton of room to cook on & the heat stays pretty much where you want it. Only a few issues I have had is that where the stack mounts to the side of the grill it drips. I did have a scratch on mine from the shipper & when I called about it I was sent a can of matching high temp paint very quickly. One thing that I like the most about this smoker is it is heavy. You can tell that this thing was built to last.
Although pellet smokers already have their own custom-made wood pellets with different flavor and blends, if you choose to moonlight your smoker as a charcoal smoker for some reason (maybe for a different experience or a cooking experiment), you can use it as a regular smoker using wood chips. Under such circumstances, it’s going to be worth learning a bit about the types of wood chips out there.
Auger Making Weight Noises: It’s usually indicating a problem with the motor that’s responsible for rotating the augers. Under such circumstances, you would be left with no other choice than to replace the motor completely. Since the motors and augers are usually packaged together, this can get quite expensive. In such scenarios, it’s better to let it make noises and run for as long as it would serve you before going to replace it. However, once that problem occurs, you’d often find the auger not feeding the pellets at the expected rate and thus, the desired temperature might not be reached in some cases.
Rifles Delivery Confirmation-Adult Signature Required. Customer must provide a physical address for delivery of this item. Cannot ship to a PO Box or APO/FPO addresses. Black powder rifles are not shipped to customers in IL, MI, NJ, NY and Washington, DC because of restrictions. This item will be removed from your order if your shipping address is to a restricted location.
Thank you for a very comprehensive review and all the helpful advice. I would like to know your thoughts about having the burn pot in the center area as in the Rec-Tec, or on the side. My only interest is smoking, not grilling, and I prefer even heat throughout the cooking chamber. How much difference does the location of the burn pot make? Thank you very much.
Kevin- I’m in the process of researching to get my husband a grill for Christmas. I’m torn between the 820 you mentioned above and the Traeger Pro Series. As far as I can tell they are basically the same except that you get a larger cooking area on the pit boss for the same price you pay for a small cook space in a traeger. I would like to spend around $600 on the grill but would possibly go up to $800 and want 500 sq in cook space or greater. Which do you prefer? Pit Boss, Traeger or another brand?
A pellet grill often comes with many facilities that are usually not available on any other grilling appliances. One of them is its temperature control and settings. This is a huge advantage for inexperienced cooks who do not have the understanding and years of experience of pit masters who know how to cook different foods on different temperatures. This also means that you do not have to fiddle and fidget around with the heat every 2 minutes after slapping on the steak on to the grills.
Now you can control your grill with wifi using the iOS or Android app, so you can attend to other cooking or put your feet up and relax. This grill can use either 110v or 12v and includes adaptors for three different power options. It has legs that fold for transportation, and double as handles, making this ideal for tailgating as well as home cooking.
As you can see in this selection of pellet grill reviews, the act of heating pellets and generating smoke in any pellet smoker is pretty much the same. Yes, some pellet grills use thicker metal, have better thermostats, air flow, racks, drip flow, etc. But the ask any professional BBQ cooker who uses a pellet grill, and they’ll tell you that the quality of your smoke really does come down to the pellets themselves. Here’s what one very astute BBQ pro had to say over at the Pellet Smoke Ring: