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.
This is a great smoker for beginners who are willing to take the time to understand how pellet smokers work. You can follow the instructions in the video provided on the manufacturer’s website to see how to put it together. It is also great for people who have been pellet smoking for years. It has a huge cooking surface, which is perfect for entertaining large groups of friends.
The moment we found this as one of our most desired articles, we had to conduct extensive research on what a pellet grill is. With that said, if you are new to the pellet grill industry and want to know what it is, here we go! Pellet grills are often considered, ‘pellet smokers’, due to the construction quality and design. The reason is that pellet grills combine different cooking elements such as charcoal, gas grills, and a conventional kitchen oven. Now, they are fueled by wood pellets, hence the name. With that said, pellet grills can smoke, cook, and grill all in one simple mechanism and design. With an electronic control panel, an individual can control the wood pellets that fuel the fire to regulate airflow and maintain the proper cooking temperature. Did you get that? We hope so because it is time we share with you the criteria to evaluate the best pellet grills.
One comment I see a lot in various forums like Pellet Heads Forum is that you want as much efficiency as you can get. As with lump charcoal, this means burning as clean of a cook as you can with as little ash as possible. Different pellet mixes will produce differences in what you get in this area, and the cooker you’re using will dictate this to some degree as well.
We were surprised to see that the pellet grill was WiFi-compatible. Usually, grills come with basic remotes, but this one comes with a digital WiFi controller. It allows you to control and monitor your cooking through an app on your iOS or Android phone. We found this convenient, since we didn’t have to get up to check on our grill every few minutes. This is probably why it’s one of the top pellet grills in the market.
Like with e-cigs and their gimmick of flavorful e-liquids, pellets for pellet grills and smokers also have different flavors added to their pellets, and they include bourbon, maple, apple, cherry, mesquite, alder, pecan, and hickory. You can mix flavors, change flavors, or use different flavors for every day of the week if you do everyday barbecues and grills for your restaurant or something.
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.
With a massive 700 square inches of primary grilling space, this grill impressed us when compared to other Pit Boss grills we reviewed. Its size is large enough to cook for large groups of people. It features a Flame Broiler that uses slide-plates which allow for direct flame grilling, which means you get an even cast-iron cooking each time. If the 700 square inches isn’t enough, you can make use of the additional upper cooking rack space. The racks are made of porcelain-coated cast iron for optimum grilling as well as easier maintenance.
Larger, more expensive smokers run anywhere up to 900 square inches, which will basically let you feed your whole street. It’s also a whole lot more convenient when you’re planning on cooking multiple things to be able to throw every single sausage, joint of meat and rack of ribs on at once, flip ’em around and move things to the edge when they’re done.
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.
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Lauded for its amazingly accurate cook temperatures and times and for affording cookers a real “unfair advantage” at competitions (according to those who lose to them) – Fast Eddy’s Cookshack Pellet Smokers rank among the very best available on the market today. I love the history of Fast Eddy’s pellet grills. In 1986, Ed Maurin (Fast Eddy) – a retired KCMO Fire Fighter – cooked his first American Royal event. From that point on he was hooked on BBQ and on coming up with the very best way to ensure its production. By 1998 the first of his Fast Eddy’s pellet smokers was released to the market, and he was off to winning competitions and helping those who bought his cookers do so as well.
I’ve been grilling and smoking for many years and throughout all those years I have burned through many expensive grills. Four years before I purchased the 640 I got on the pellet smoker wagon and started my research. Finally when my daughter was getting married she ask me to cook for the wedding and gave me the perfect excuse to finally get a smoker I wanted. So getting back to the research and after 3 months of comparing I settled on the YS640. I wanted a grill, at my age, to be able to pass down to one of my kids. It was big investment but like I’ve learned in life, you get what you pay for “most” of the time. I have had this grill now, September 2018, will be 4years now. I have no regrets and would do it again. I’ve had some minor corrosion issues and after an email was promptly sent the matching paint to clean it up. I spent the time to do it right and today, a month later, today my grill looks brand new. Honestly nothing like this can be left to take care of itself. Maintenance like anything else is required. But I know this will most likely be my last grill. Thank for a great product and great follow up service. Smoke Shack.....
So how do you know which are good pellets and which aren’t? It’s not easy. There are plenty of problematic pellets on the market that have glowing online reviews but which we know cause issues. Quality pellets usually cost in the neighborhood of $17 to $22 for a twenty-pound bag. If you see a price on pellets that seems too good to be true, there’s probably a reason for it.
The unique TRU-infrared technology cooks meat in an even way and helps to retain moisture. The great thing is there are no flare-ups. There’s a roasting basket for ribs, poultry, and other meat. The roasting basket can hold up to 25 pounds. The cooking area were grilling can be done has 180 in.². You can adjust the temperature, which ranges from 9000 to 18,000 BTUs, in the smoker box in order to add flavor.
Hey Todd – what pellet grill do you have? Also, by short cooks, how long are you talking? Have you looked at the burn pot? If it’s overfilled, you may need to vacuum it out, along with the interior of the cooker. Then, put 10 or so pellets into the burn pot and start it up again. See if that helps. There should not be much if any ash in the food chamber area or on the food. At least not in my experience.
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….
Alex Coleman’s family has been farming in the Piedmont region of North Carolina longer than anybody remembers. The area is famous for “Lexington Style” barbeque, which focuses on pork shoulder barbeque served up with a variety of sauces based on ketchup, vinegar, and peppers. But Alex’s daddy taught him so much more than that about grilling and smoking...Read more
The popular Traeger Junior Elite is a great smoker for first-time chefs as well as experienced smokers who are short on space. It's versatile and can grill, smoke, bake, roast, braise, and barbecue food. The digital controller is adjustable to +/- 20 degrees and has 300 square inches of grilling space that is large enough for two whole chickens or three racks of ribs.
Multi-position Controller - A step up from 3-position controllers, multi-position controllers feature a knob with temperature settings that go from 180°F to 420°F in 25° increments and may have an LCD display. In addition to more settings, these controllers offer more temperature control. However, they also run on fixed cycles and can only maintain about +/-20°F in ideal conditions—in cold windy weather they are less accurate and reliable. Some versions of these controllers have inputs for meat probes that can monitor food temperatures.
I have the Expedition 2x stove I purchased from Costco a few years ago and upgraded it with these side shelves. These are really nice and very useful. Easy to install (only took about 10 minutes) and they fold right on top of the stove so the whole works still fits into the carry bag. They are sturdy, but NOT meant to support heavy items like a cast iron pan or griddle! A little common sense here will go a long way. Happy cooking!
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.
In fact, 80 to 85% of pellet smokers in the USA are Traegers. The consensus is that they are reasonably well built, though some buyers complain that quality has dropped since manufacturing moved to China. But of course we hear more complaints—as well as more praise—about Traegers, since eight out of 10 pellet smoker owners have one. Traeger can be found in many national chains, like Cabela's and Costco. It's not unusual to find special deals on this popular product line, so keep your eyes open.
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.
This heavy-duty top-notch grill and smoker has a total cooking area of 429 square inches, which is large enough for cooking around twenty burgers at once. If that’s not enough, it comes with a secondary rack of 144 square inches that you can use for smoking or warming. With a height of 32.5 inches, you can cook a variety of meats and foods to your heart’s desire.
Hey John – great question. My experience is that I use maybe 8 lbs of pellets for a 7 or 8 hour cook at 275 degrees. Pellet grills are relatively fuel efficient. The brand of pellet you choose will play into this. Cost for pellets varies by manufacturer, similar to charcoal. I think you’ll find them very efficient if you’re just firing them up for high heat, shorter grilling sessions.
Editor-in-Chief Sean McCoy is a life-long outdoorsman who grew up hunting and fishing central Wisconsin forests and lakes. He joined GearJunkie after a 10-year stint as a newspaperman in the Caribbean, where he learned sailing and wooden-boat repair. Based in GearJunkie's Denver office, McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.
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.
I would make that decision based upon desired temperature. Very few of the smokers on your list can surpass the 485 to 500 degree mark. You’ll read a lot of discussion about grill grates helping you get into those higher temperatures and that product does work. I would simply pick a smoker that can get to the desired temperature you want like the Louisiana and the Memphis. Both can exceed 500 degrees and both can hit 600 degrees without problems.
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.