Your choice of the pellet can also dictate how much cleanup you’ll have to deal with (even though generally 10 pounds of pellets can produce at most half a cup of ash, but this varies from pellet variant to pellet variant). Just be warned that when the temperature is high, there’s not much smoke happening, so you need to smoke out your meats at lower temperatures to get that smoky flavor.
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.

Hey Dan – I think you’d really up your versatility with a good pellet smoker. Smoke profiles seem to depend largely on the quality of pellets used and then also on the burn consistency of the fire pot. What I mean here is that many pellet smoker users tell me that they prefer models that cycle over faster with frequent temp checks rather than those with longer wait times between temp checks. Cycling faster means that pellets burn more consistently and do not rest to a “charred” state and they “reactivate” This latter problem sometimes results in less than optimal flavor. Yoder smokers cycle very fast and are preferred by many due to this and their thicker metal construction.
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).
My wife and I just purchased a Yoder YS640. After looking at a lot of other smokers we finally settled on this one. It weighs in at over 300 pounds and is built like a tank. You can see and feel the difference between this unit and others. We brought it home, put it together and did the initial burn in for 1 hour. We then made some ribs for dinner. The temp was set and only had 10 degrees fluctuation up or down. The meat was very moist and had just the right amount of smoke flavor. We are very glad we made this purchase.
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!

-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.
I think a lot of reviewers here don't have enough experience in pellet grilling to recognize how many features are packed into this unit for the money. I'm not going to talk about the usual advantages of pellet grilling in general in this review (i.e., clean flavor, "set and forget", less ash,). Instead, I'm going to focus on what makes this one uniquely better than the other grills in it's class.
The original Traeger Grill was invented 30 years ago and was every bit as impressive then as it is now. Although it developed a cult following, the early Traeger never grew beyond a niche product. In the past two years, however, Traeger has stepped up its game, redesigning and upgrading its grills while doing everything it can to build a buzz around its amazing do-everything cookers.
Hey Boyd, it’s really great hearing from you here. I am becoming a much bigger Traeger fan then I was in the past. They have done some excellent work of late on their Grill models. I really think they’re doing a lot of work too improve and restate their original value proposition. Their Pro Series models are excellent, and I believe that the directions the company is taking especially with getting back into the competition world will benefit both it and its customers… Like you… Long into the future.
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.
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.
The major issue is the size. It’s the smallest smoker at this price range, and barely bigger than the Junior Elite. Considering the price difference in the two, it’s hard to justify the extra expense, and when you compare it to the other smokers at this level, the Lil Tex seems more than a little lackluster. There’s less cleaning options, less automation, less cooking space. Just less of everything.

I use to have a charcoal/wood fired smoker and it was a nightmare maintaining temperature especially on a long brisket cook. Instantly I've fallen in love my YS640 coupled with a fireboard. You literally set the temp load it up and walk away with no stress or worries about maintain temperature. It provides great smoke flavor too. Yes it is an expensive purchase but that is because this thing is built like a tank and will last for decades.
Second, more people know about them. More manufacturers are realising the advantages of pellet smokers and hopping on board, the market is expanding, and with the advantage of the internet putting all the info at our fingertips, even someone who hasn’t got the first clue about smokers and grills can find out everything they need in just a few minutes.
If you’re gonna set it and leave it to do the magic, you’re going to have to be careful, too. A major contributor to how long you can leave a smoker is how many wood pellets the pellet hopper holds. Pellet smokers run the gamut in how much fuel they use per hour, with anywhere from half a pound to two pounds of pellets being standard. Always check how much the model you’re looking at holds, and make sure that it’s going to last long enough, especially if you plan on leaving your smoker to cook whilst you do other things, especially if you’re going away from home. It’s simple math, and better that than coming home to a bunch of chargrilled ashes.

Pellet grills have a couple of very distinct advantages and disadvantages. The best can hold a constant temperature more or less indefinitely, provide even smoke at low temps, cook w/o smoke at high temps, make it possible to evenly cook several different meats and do a good job at two zone cooking. The Yoder excels at these. It is built like a tank, easy to use and I love it. One drawback for some pellet grills is the inability to reach high temps and sear. With the GrillGrates I have reached almost 600F and can sear with the best of them. Drawbacks. Well, it is a bit tricky to clean, but I guess I am keeping it cleaner than I did my previous grills!
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.
In 1982 Traeger Heating in Oregon began experimenting with a furnace that would burn wood pellets made from compressed sawdust, a byproduct of the area lumber mills, and before long introduced a home heating system that they sold mostly locally. Since furnaces sold mostly in cold months, before long they began experimenting with a grill that would burn pellets, too. Eventually they created a device with an auger to feed the pellets and a blower to help them burn.

The digital controller has a temperature dial (180 F to 400 F), shutdown cycle setting and an on/off switch which is very basic. Compared to the Camp Chef, it misses out on bypass startup button, food probe, feed button, lo smoke/high smoke settings and most importantly access to the fuse. In order to change the fuse in the Traeger, you’ll have to remove both screws on the digital controller and pull out the controller.
For example, it has a decent 570 sq. in. of cooking area, a patented ash cleanout service, endless versatility (wherein you can barbecue, braise, roast, bake, smoke, and grill to your heart’s delight), and an advanced digital control (the same one that allowed the Camp Chef SmokePro to take the top spot). However, the quality control for this unit is a little worse than SmokePro.
I love the taste of smoked food. I have now tried, ribs, turkey, chicken, and steak on my traeger grill and would have given them one star if not that smoked meat taste great. Everytime i use the grill, something that isn't supposed to happen, happens. I have to go out and check the pellet hopper every half hour to make sure it doesn't just use the pellets in the middle, so I have yo mix them around. Even when I do that, I can have the grill set for 225 and it goes up to 400-500 degrees or catches fire. Then when I restart it, it sometimes cools down to below 150° and shuts down in the middle of my smoke. I'm very dissappointed because the grill was not cheap, the pellets aren't cheap, and the food I am.ruining isn't cheap. I know traeger isn't going to do anything about it because I have called and they gave me "reasons" all of these things happen, and they already got their money from me but I am hoping I can deter as many people as possible from overspending on a defective grill. I really do wish it was a good product because I don't have the money to buy another.
You now know more about the perplexing pellet predicament, but where do you actually buy them?  Afterall, none of this matters if you cannot get them when you need them.  If you are lucky you have a local store that sells one of the brands mentioned above.  Definitely take the time to visit the web pages of these manufacturers and see what is available in your area.  If you are not one of the fortunate grill owners who live near an Academy Sports, Dicks Sporting Goods, Rural King, etc there is a chance your local Wal-Mart, Lowes or Home Depot may carry a reputable brand.
Nothing says “you are welcome to my home” than some delicious and succulent baby back ribs; some beer can whole chicken cooked your special spice mix, and some wood smoked salmon. There is no better way to wins the appreciation of your favorite people than cooking up some wood grilled steaks and baked potatoes. But there is a catch, there always is.

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.
This post was EXACTLY what i was looking for! Have been longing for the ability to make the gooey delicate saucy brisket that we get out here at the chain Armadillo Willies, which i realize is not aiming for the stars… At Orchard Supply House last weekend saw a Traeger or two, and was thinking placing a smaller version $499 range (although $439 on the Traeger website) next to my gas Weber Spirit.
Whenever you want to smoke with a pellet smoker, you will have to make a choice: What type of wood pellets should I use? Well, the answer may sound simple – whichever flavor you like the best – but might be pretty difficult if you’re smoking for the first time. Unfortunately, the only way to know which flavor you like most is to try them all at least once and then decide upon which one floats your boat.
Like the Z GRILLS Wood Pellet Smoker, the REC TEC Grills Mini Portable Pellet Grill is capable of going up or down by 5° Fahrenheit increments, leading it to heat up from 180° Fahrenheit to 550° Fahrenheit. At full power, it can reach a temperature of 600° Fahrenheit. The mini size is enough to fit in a turkey or maybe three slabs of ribs, so that’s portability without sacrificing quality and capacity too much.

Most people recommend the Green Mountain Grills smoker for its affordability, despite its plethora of features including Open Flame Technology, which ensures that meats are thoroughly cooked. But what impressed us the most was its Sense-Mate feature. For a budget pick, we were surprised to see that it had some of the most advanced technologies that even the most high-end products use. There’s no denying that you’ll get more than what it’s priced at!
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.
Whether it's smoking a rack of ribs or grilling a wood-fired pizza, to even baking a homemade apple pie, do it all with Traeger's 6-in-1 versatility. No matter what you grill, smoke, bake, roast, braise, or BBQ, it all gets flavored with amazing Traeger wood-fired taste. Don't settle for a grill that can only grill or smoke when you can do it all with a Traeger.
Second, more people know about them. More manufacturers are realising the advantages of pellet smokers and hopping on board, the market is expanding, and with the advantage of the internet putting all the info at our fingertips, even someone who hasn’t got the first clue about smokers and grills can find out everything they need in just a few minutes.
Louisiana Grills was one of the first companies to muscle in on Traeger's one-brand show. The smallish CS 450 is one of its more popular models. In 2014, Louisiana upgraded all of its pellet smokers to include digital touch-pad controllers with integrated meat probes. Set it and forget it; the thermostat will maintain cooking temperature just like your indoor kitchen oven does. As a safety feature, the meat probe can be set for your desired target temp. When the internal meat temp rises to within 10°F of the target, the controller automatically drops the smoker down to 170°F (77°C) to avoid overcooking.
Ordering through All Things BBQ was VERY simple and easy. In fact, my YS640 arrived a few days sooner than expected/quoted. These grills are expensive, but I am a firm believer in "you get what you pay for". There is no doubt the quality of Yoder craftsmanship is exceptional. So far, I have only been able to use my YS640 a coupe of times. However, I'm looking forward to many meals being cooked on it going forward. If you buy one, you will not be disappointed!

This is a great pellet smoker! With a few minor tweaks, this thing would be perfect. Ribs, brisket, chicken, pulled pork, sausage, you name it and it comes off of the grates awesome. I've had mine since 2012 and would recommend that you purchase a spare thermocouple in case your's bites the dust in the middle of a smoke (replaced my thermocouple twice since 2012). This thing is built solid with longevity as a guarantee. The customer support at Yoder is unbelievable as well. I have gotten phone calls from them at 8am on Sunday morning when my first thermocouple gave up in 2014. Made in the USA with a commitment on customer support that has been incomparable to anything I've ever purchased! It's a bit pricey compared to the competition but does an amazing job. "The Sauce", with Chef Tom, is a huge help for those just getting their feet wet in pellet smoking. He does an amazing job by keeping it simple and flavorful!
Their behavior is sometimes counterintuitive. The hotter they get, the less smoke they produce, and at their top settings, they don't produce much smoke at all. This is good for when you are baking cakes or pies or doing dishes that don't need smoke. But down under 250°F, they produce plenty of mild, elegant smoke. And even though the fuel is wood, it is hard to oversmoke with a pellet smoker. Burning wood on a charcoal grill produces much more intense smoke flavor.
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.
These food grade wood pellets contain only the best and the pure compressed sawdust from hardwood and are sometimes added with natural vegetable oils, perfectly safe and healthy for your food. However, the carbon in the soot and ashes that fly off the firebox can get embedded into the body of the food, which can get inside your body. The good news is problems such as these can be easily avoided if you can keep your smoker clean.
BBQ pellets are 100% natural hardwood, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the pellets are 100% of the type of wood listed on the bag. When you buy cherry wood chips or chunks, that wood is 100% cherry wood. However, when you buy cherry wood pellets, they’re usually a blend of cherry and another wood, such as oak or alder. While that may sound deceptive, there are good reasons for this practice.

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.
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