I have used a pellet smoker for about five years, and looked at, or used, many different brands. I have added auxiliary smoke generators, and tried almost every way possible to create authentic BBQ on a pellet smoker— It can’t be done. When the vendors, or users, refer to subtle smoke they mean virtually no wood flavor. Do yourself a favor and try a simple test: go to a really good BBQ joint, or BBQ competition; try some of their Q and then compare it to pellet meat. There is no comparison. I wanted the pellet unit to produce good Q in the worst way because of the ease. You cannot duplicate the smoke created in a wood, or wood/charcoal firebox with compressed sawdust. It pains me to say it but it is true.
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.
My wife and I were one of the first buyers of the YS640 in 2010. We had owned a couple of gas grills that, of course, eventually rust out. My wife saw the YS640 at the Kansas State Fair and called me and said that I HAD to look at this smoker! At first, the smoker had many problems--inaccurate temps, huge swings in temps, etc. Don and Joe kept working on the problems and installing updates--never charging us for updates or service calls. Finally, in about March of 2011, they installed the update that really was the solution. Since then, the YS640 has been a consistent workhorse that does everything as advertised. Built like a tank. built to last. Don and his staff stuck by his product and by his customers. In this day and age, customer service is uncommon. By the way, I thought the YS480 would have been big enough, but my wife said, "our family isn't getting smaller,".....I'm very glad we got the 640 and the second shelf. I have needed it many times. Thanks Don!
I watched the Traeger infomercial on T.V. Seemed easy enough. Ha! QVC ran a similar infomercial on their channel, seemed really easy. Ha! Like a fool and his money are soon departed, I jumped in and bought one. When it came in the mail, I started to assemble it. What a joke! No instructions came with it to tell me where the nuts and screws went. Called the manufacturer. The lady said they had many complaints with the QVC orders, she would email me a copy of the instructions. Well I finally put it together. Performed the (curing and start up method). Bought a nice pork shoulder and started grilling. It is interesting that both infomercials say set the temp and WALK AWAY!!! What a joke, I sat and watched the grill like a hawk for 3 hours, everything was good. I figured I would go eat lunch, ha! What a mistake. When I came back (20 min.) the grill had turned itself off and had an error on the screen.
Who says bigger is always better? Our fourth contender to make it to our pellet grill review is the The Traeger TFB29LZA Junior elite grill. This petite pellet grill has been specifically designed to meet the needs of small households. Its small body makes it ideal for travelling and tailgating. It features a 300 square inch cooking surface. This pellet grill weighs just 60 pounds. You will get an LED digital, multi-position thermostat that comes with a 3 year warranty.
I recently purchased a a Smoke Hollow pellet grill from Sam’s. Seems like quality is good and it was recommended by a friend. Temperature control has issues. I called for customer service a couple of times and they sent a new thermostat. Still can’t get temperature to to hold at setting. Am I missing something? Told to start and let preheat for 10 minutes and then move to desired temperature. Tried setting new thermostat at 190 and let it go for 15 minutes and it was back at 230 when I checked it. Any suggestions?
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….
I brought my YS640 to Mexico on a friends recommendation, he was right. I takes the complexity of smoking away but this is not the reason why I got it. We live in south of the Sonoran desert and we are over the 100F most of the year, its almost impossible to stay close to your smoker to watch the fire and temperature. Plus, wood is not as easy to get in the desert. Since I got it, I have been selling food on Sundays, I was sold out since day one. Flawless food time after time. I am planning to get the old time offset cooker to smoke in the winter just for fun. There is really no need for it.
Kevin, appreciate your reviews and insights. I am currently looking for my first pellet cooker which will be primarily used for camping, therefore I will likely purchase a portable unit. Your review on the GMG Davy Crocket answered some questions for me. I was initially contemplating the Traeger Junior Elite and GMG Davy Crocket, but after doing some homework I’m now considering the Rec Tec Mini as well. I can purchase the Traeger and GMG now for $350 and the Rec Tec for $500. My dilemma is that I (like many others) take very good care of my gear/equipment, so whatever I purchase, I expect to get a great deal of use out of. With that said, making the wrong decision could be a 7-10 year mistake. There are aspects of each that I like, I guess my question is whether spending another $150 on the Rec Tec, in your opinion, would be worth it to you? I understand if you would rather stay away from specific recommendations, and if that is the case, any other thoughts you have would be appreciated.
I had heard about Traeger from a friend who was at a conference where the catering was done on one of the commercial units. He had said the food the it made was mind blowing, and on a late night impulse buy I decided to purchase this from Amazon - as an open box/scratch and dent for about $800.There are some less expensive grills available, I have never owned them so I can't comment on them. i started to get a little buyers remorse with all the negative reviews this grill had received, but decided to give it a fair shot. It arrived quickly not by UPS but from trucking company. Despite being listed as damaged box/open box it was well packaged no damage. Assembly took 30 min by just me, assembly tools were included. Stood it up off the floor and filled the hopper with mesquite and followed break in procedure listed to cook off any manufacturing oil etc. Let it cool retired it once more to make sure it was seasoned let it cool again and was ready to go. I purchased an IGrill wireless thermometer to go with it which I would recommend also. I signed up to the Traeger recipe sight and they send a recipe every few days, and you can browse the website for some inspiration. Since I have owned this I have gone thru about 3 bags of pellets including alder mesquite and hickory. I have grilled Trout ( the smoked trout dip list on the website was amazing) as well as trout fillets, Salmon, Haddock, Ribs, Brisket, Pulled Pork x 3 and 2 prime ribs and 2 loafs of bread Jerkey ( smoking now) butternut squash etc etc . All the food I can only say is mind-blowing - enough so that 4 of my friends have purchased the smaller Traeger's for themselves. It has all been incredibly easy - just season, set the temp put the food on and the temp probes in and forget it- the wireless I grill continually upgrades my phone so I can keep working inside and not have to worry. It has never failed to light, caught on fire, overheated or preformed to anything other perfection for me. I can't speak for all the other negative reviews but I have had nothing but success with this, the Weber propane I own hasn't been touched is just taking up space it can't compare to this thing. Its a big purchase at close to 1k but is incredibly versatile I can't speak about customer service response because I haven't needed them, but if you are concerned I would call the headquarters and see how hard it is to get someone on the phone. The Temp probe is off by a few degrees compared to my Igrill reading but the grill has no trouble maintaining a narrow temp window if you keep the lid closed and don't F%$k with it . Most important it has bought back some passion to cooking, and made me want to try new things which is priceless.
I have found that using the upper shelf gets more airflow around the meat than the lower shelf. I asked the AmazingRibs.com science advisor Prof. Greg Blonder about the problem (he has a MAK 1 Star). He explained that smoke sticks to cool surfaces and wet surfaces, and the surface of meat warms and dries out after a few hours. When he wants more smoke flavor he uses a strong smoke wood like hickory or mesquite, he starts with cold meat, and then he keeps the meat moist by painting or misting it with apple juice or a mop like Lexington Dip or East Carolina Mop or Texas Mop Sauce. A awter pan can help because the water condenses on the cool meat and attracts smoke. Read his detailed research on the subject in my article on the Science of Wood and my article on Basting.
GrillGrates(TM) amplify heat, prevent flareups, make flipping foods easier, keep small foods from committing suicide, kill hotspots, are easier to clean, flip over to make a fine griddle, and can be easily removed and moved from one grill to another. You can even throw wood chips, pellets, or sawdust between the rails and deliver a quick burst of smoke to whatever is above. Every gas grill needs them.
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.
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!
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!
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.
Although these are marketed as grills, they do much more, including baking or roasting. Because they heat by convection, you might not get the grill marks that a gas or charcoal grill will give you, but you also won’t have the flame-up problems. While many pellet grills offer high cooking temperatures, the maximum depends on ambient temperature and wind. Many users wrap their grills in special insulating covers to help maintain heat, reduce fuel use, and reach the higher temperatures they desire.