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.
Kevin- super helpful article. Thanks! I just moved from a big city small apartment with no grill to a house in the country. Most essential purchase is the grill. I’m really on the fence. I like the idea of a pellet grill, but in reality- I’m mostly cooking burgers, fish, steaks, scallops, and veggies. The brisket and ribs will be more of a special occasion. From an economical perspective, am I better buying a gas grill and just getting one of those smoke tubes to add some flavor? From many of the online comments, it seems like the pellet grills benefit from additional smoke anyway, and though you can get additional grates for searing, seems like a square peg in a round hole. The gas grill is sort of the tried and true, and way more economical. Those $500 entry level pellet grills seem a little scrawny, and the next level up is a cool $grand. I’m really on the fence, and getting pressure to “just buy the darn thing” to consummate the move to the country! However the pellet grills seem like the new shiny object and have my curiosity. Any advice? PS- love the website! Thanks, Cary
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.
Hey Jimmy, thanks for commenting here about your experience. I’m sorry to hear your experience was less than optimal. I have only cooked on the Traeger pro models. I do know that it is good practice to vacuum out the burn pot after cooks of a few hours or more. Not sure this was where your problems were initiated. Did you contact Traeger support? If so, what was their response?
Rec-Tec has a strong following, and – as with the rest of the pellet grills in this review, will do you right. They’ve recently gone to an all black (no more red) look with their newer models. Though, you can probably still get the red. They have the most pellet holding capacity of any other grills pretty much, so that might be a plus for you. Getting temps back down is pretty fast… 5-10 minutes or so. I’d consider reverse searing, so long as your steaks are 1 and 1/2 inches or more. Thinner cuts won’t work. So, basically – you get the steak up to around 125-35 at around 225-250 F. Wrap it in foil. Then, crank your heat up to the highest setting, remove your steak from the foil, and sear it off on both sides to your desired doneness level. This limits the amount of grey – making for a more uniform pink from the top to the bottom of the steak.
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.
But if you like the idea of a wood pellet grill, one of the oldest names in wood pellet grilling is Traeger, which developed some of the first units to use this technique three decades ago. Having that name recognition gives Traeger a leg up versus some of its competitors. And for the most part, Traeger’s grills live up to what consumers expect from this established brand, providing good design and longevity. They don’t typically match up with the higher end models currently on the market in terms of precise cooking temperatures, but Traeger is a nice mid-range product with several price points available.
After about 10-15 hours of cooking, you should remove the burn cup and dump the ash. If the ash builds up it can prevent ignition. Ash also accumulates in the bottom of the unit, but doesn't impact cooking. A vacuum cleaner with a hose makes short work of it. Only a few manufacturers, such as Blaz'n Grill Works and Camp Chef have a slide out combustion cup that makes cleanup much easier, but you still have to get underneath the deflector occasionally and suck out fly ash that has scattered around the lower part of the grill body.
Purchased the YS640 about a month ago. So far I have cooked nine pork butts, three racks pork back ribs, one beef brisket and four thick cut New York steaks on it. I am very pleased with the results of these cooks. I have an upright propane smoker, Weber kettle, propane grill and so far the YS640 has out performed all three of those in ease of use and flavor performance. I can get almost the same flavors with my others, but takes more work and babysitting. Also want to mention that the YS640 is built to last. I noticed the ruggedness and excellent USA craftsmanship immediately upon arrival. Some reviewers think maybe the YS has a steep price, but I think its justified due to its construction and craftsmanship. It would be difficult to make something of this caliber for any less. A couple minor things to note is you will have to play with the damper a bit to learn the heat distribution, but after learning it, its not a problem. Doesn't put quite as strong as a wood flavor on the food as my upright propane smoker, but it puts the right amount and I have no complaint here. I would and have already recommended the YS640 to friends and acquaintances. If you have spent long hours smoking foods and know the correct flavors that they should be, your not going to be disappointed with this cooker!
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.
I store it in the Camp Chef cover. It takes about a minute to pull the cover off, install the gas cylinder and side tables, move it into cooking position on my deck, and light the burners. It doesn't take much longer to clean up. After getting the griddle back up to high temperature for cleaning, the active work of squirting, scraping and wiping down takes just a couple of minutes. After cool down, removing the gas tank and side tables (which fit nicely on top of the griddle for storage) and putting the cover on takes another a minute.
I paid $700.oo for my Traeger. My heating element went out in 2 BBQ seasons. Not good considering the price I paid. It's just me, so it's not like it was in overkill. Bi-weekly meal give or take? Smokes fur shit!! Planned on some good'ol smoked salmon (cause I like to fish for salmon), or some pheasant jerky (cause I have Springers, and I hunt pheasant***) NOT HAPPENING. The only smoke there is...is when you start the damn thing. If you want smoke flavor, you have to add artificial smoke flavor from a bottle. Conventional outside oven heated by wood pellets. If you want BBQ this is not the way to go. If you want smoke this is not the way to go. If you want to leave something inside the oven to cook outside your house....this is the way to go. Wasted $
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.
The old camp chef is heading to a new home. We have been thru thick and thin, rain, or snow, on two ocations high wind blew it off the patio. A few dents bad scratches but it still works like a top. My son is driving in form North Carolina to take it off my hands this weekend it has been replaced by a yoder ys-640. The yoder is bigger and heavier with more btu output if needed. But the camp chef still is easier to clean out and cooks a fine brisket.
Big Horn’s largest available grill, the XL 1093 comes with a large cooking area of 1093 sq inches. With it’s low price tag of around $300 and a high cooking area, this product could have been a great choice for pellet smokers. However, we’d rather not suggest something that’s susceptible to rust and weather conditions to be kept outdoors at all times.
Even after reading the reviews and watching the videos I was still not prepared for seeing the 640 when it arrived. What a machine! A tank? Yes it is, it makes other brands look cheap and disposable by comparison. I was nervous paying a little more for a Yoder wondering if it was worth it, it was worth every penny. Have only used it a few times for ribs and chicken which turned out great. The wife said 'How much?!' when I ordered it, now she says we should have got one years ago.
REC-TEC, also known as Rec Tec, has been in business for more than 7 years. Its pellet grill offers up to 702 square inches of the cooking surface real estate, beating out the Pit Boss and its 700 square inches by (only) about 2 inches of extra space. Its grills can also calibrate themselves in 5° increments and its pellet hopper is capable of holding 40 pounds of pellets (no constant refills required).
Keep your Pellet Grill and Smoker fired up Keep your Pellet Grill and Smoker fired up with Camp Chef’s Premium Hardwood Pellets. Made of 100% natural hardwood these food grade pellets are an excellent way to add that unique smoky flavor. Choose from 4 distinct flavors. Smokehouse Hickory impart a rich and smoky bacon-like flavor to all meats ... More + Product Details Close