While there's not a lot to dislike about pellet smokers, it really comes down to your cooking/grilling style.  Some Smoking Geeks prefer pellet smokers to traditional smokers (or even the Green Egg style smokers) testifying that flavor is superior to that of other styles of smokers within the price range – and it's hard to argue with them.   While Traeger is the pioneer, there are other brands that give it a run for its money.
Moving on from the orangish-red looks of the predecessor RT-680, this newer model has a black hood, with stainless steel built. It is 2.5” taller than the RT-680 and has 2 stainless steel bull horn handles on the outside that will have you falling in love with its built. Everything from the towel rings, the controller shelf, the hopper lid to the spill-proof bucket hook is stainless steel and even the smallest of details like the laser cutout of “Rec Tec Grills” on the side will never fail to impress.

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.


Pit Boss Wood Pellet Grills are filled by all regular BBQ wood pellets. The computerized control board lights the grill and permits you to set the cooking temperature from 180° to 500°F. Fan constrained convection cooking takes out the requirement for a rotisserie and makes an adaptable situation for grilling, simmering, smoking, braising and preparing. The Pit Boss 340 has 340 sq. in. total cooking surface with porcelain covered cooking grids. With complete structural quality and strength, the Pit Boss 340 is made to last.
Temperature range is an important factor. What you’ll need will depend on what kind of cooking you want to do. Top pellet grills can hit temperatures between 180 F to 425 F, enough for baking, smoking, roasting, and grilling. On the other hand, ioif you want to sear meat you need something that reaches the 500-550 F range. A functioning thermometer is a must. You’ll need a precise and accurate reading so you’ll know you’re cooking your meat at the right temperature.

The Fast Eddy's by Cookshack PG500 Pellet Smoker is a collaborative design from respected smoker manufacturer Cookshack and competition-barbecue-circuit pro "Fast Eddy" Maurin. The FEC (Fast Eddy's by Cookshack) line has been popular with competitive teams for years. While most FEC models have a utilitarian appearance, the beautifully crafted stainless steel PG500 fits right in with your shiny outdoor kitchen.
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.
Hello Mark! Thanks for commenting here. The Kalamazoo Hybrid Grill looks like a BEAST! If you can swing it, I’d go for it. I truly enjoyed cooking on the Memphis Grill, which is to date the most high end pellet grill I’ve used. It offered a nice blend of professional grade convection with the wood fire taste of the pellets. The Kalamazoo hybrid really does seem to offer one step beyond with the addition of charcoal and wood chunks. I see that Derrick Riches of About.com stands behind the Kalamazoo brand. You’re hard pressed to get a better endorsement of a grilling product than that! Keep me posted at kevin@bbqbeat.com and let me know how your search goes! 🙂

As another one of the most important elements to consider when it comes to a quality grill, we wanted to make sure that the grill was easy to use, turn on, and cook with. With this, we discovered that all brands have the same design system when it comes to using the grill. The best quality grills, which we have shared, come with an electronic auto-start ignition so individuals do not have to deal with starting a fire or having to light a propane grill. Everything is done with a flip of a switch or a press of a button. With that said, this happens to be one of the best design elements of the grill that makes it easy to cook. The next is the controller system, which quickly became a criterion on its own.

The Camp Chef PG24S uses three cleanup and maintenance systems. The Ash Cup Clean Out System collects leftover ash in a cup for easy cleanup. The Grease Management System instantly drains grease into a bucket for easy disposal. Finally, the Pellet Purge System helps you clean out pellets from your auger with ease. Cleaning up has never been so easy.
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.
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.
Even seemingly perfect pellet grillers have trouble getting the cleanup part right even in light of how little ash is produced by pellets. You should search for pellet smokers and grills that efficiently keep the ash from building up on the heat deflector that’s located underneath the grates. The ash should remain on the ash cup and nowhere else. Meanwhile, major cleanup with soap and water is a hassle that requires an apron and gloves.
OK. I’m rambling a bit. To your point regarding Traeger. I think that the models you can buy at big box stores (Costco etc) are OK. I still hear a few complaints about blistering paint etc. But… their Pro Series Models are a different story. The new management at Traeger has come a long way in their efforts to reaffirm the Traeger brand as a legitimate BBQ Pellet Smoker brand that everyone from the backyarder to competition pitmasters can get behind. To that end, they only allow specialty retailers carry the Pro Series models, which are built with a bit more heft and better PID controls, electronics, etc. You can find these at Ace Hardware stores, places like the Whiskey Bent BBQ Supply store we have here in Lakeland, FL (there is now one in Odessa, FL) as well. You can find a Traeger Pro model by going to http://www.traegergrills.com/dealers.
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When starting on a grilling project, it’s important to know at what temperatures should a food be allowed to settle inside a pellet grill before it reaches its desired doneness. Of course, the time it spends on the grill also plays a major role in it, but you have to understand that cooking on a high heat for long time periods can leave the meat charred while on a low heat can turn it into soft and mushy.

Purchased my grill last fall at Costco, overall it works OK, some meats like Lamb Chops are just delicious. However, customer service seems to be deteriorating as the company is having success. My kids recently purchased me an add on to my Pro 34, a cold smoker. Traeger sells this but does not support it. The installation instructions are incomplete, I was sent parts that do not go with the unit, then customer service couldn't figure it out, this went on for weeks. After getting it installed, I asked for some instructions or recipes on how to use it, there are none. The old cover does not fit now, and Traeger does not sell one to go with a unit with a cold smoker, or plan on doing so. After a web search, I found one at Charbroil that kinda fits. Also, I just saw the same model at Orchard Supply, it now comes with more shelves and upgrades which I now have to buy as extras.
PID Controller–PID Controllers (Proportional Integral Derivative) are devices that most of the grill manufactures don’t fully utilize yet. They can be found as a separate device attached to the grills if you’re handy enough, but all the manufacturers aren’t fully considering them yet. Using a PID controller, you can accurately maintain the temperature while cooking and ensure that the food is cooked automatically to perfection without much supervision.

I also was a certified KCBS judge but never judged at an event. Their judging system was flawed in my opinion because if you truly follow their system it is possible that them best tasting piece of meat might not win. In cutting horses (not a judge but read all the rules as I showed a fair amount back then) you were always supposed to judge the best overall horse to win. I asked about leaving a process to make sure the piece of meat you feel is best to win and was told absolutely not you have to judge presentation points, tender points & etc. and not place based on your opinion of the best piece of meat! Not that KCBS is a bad organization, it’s rules didn’t fit my thought process. Passed their class and got the t-shirt just never agreed, was always a spectator.
The Sense-Mate feature is another one of the best additions to this smoker: it is a thermal sensor system that monitors and reads the internal temperature of the grill within 5ºF of the actual temperature! Once you set your desired temperature using its digital controls, the Sense-Mate technology reads and monitors the temperature, while displaying it on the LCD display. Sense-Mate makes sure that heat is kept at a constant temperature, so whether you are cooking at 150ºF or 550ºF, you can rest assured that your meats will be evenly cooked.
3-Position Controller - 3 position controllers, also called LMH controllers, have just 3 temperature settings—low, medium, and high—which correlate to roughly 225°F, 325°F, and 425°F. They feed pellets in fixed cycles that are determined by which setting you choose. With just three settings to choose from, though, you have less control over cooking temperatures than more advanced controllers. These controllers are often found on lower priced pellet grills.
Certain statements in this press release, including statements regarding the expected future financial performance of Camp Chef and the impact of that performance on Vista Outdoor, constitute forward-looking statements as defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. The words 'believe', 'expect', 'anticipate', 'intend', 'aim', 'should' and similar expressions are intended to identify such forward-looking statements. All such forward-looking statements involve estimates and assumptions and are subject to a number of risks and uncertainties, many of which are beyond Vista Outdoor's control, which could cause actual results to differ materially from the expectations described in the forward-looking statements. Among those risks and uncertainties are: assumptions regarding demand for Camp Chef's products; the risk that the anticipated benefits and cost savings from the transaction may not be fully realized or may take longer than expected to realize; the ability of Vista Outdoor to retain and hire key personnel and maintain relationships with customers, suppliers and other business partners of Camp Chef; costs or difficulties related to the integration of the business following completion of the transaction; and changes in the business, industry or economic conditions or competitive environment. Vista Outdoor undertakes no obligation to update any forward-looking statements. For further information on factors that could impact Vista Outdoor, and the statements contained herein, please refer to Vista Outdoor's most recent Annual Report on Form 10-K and any subsequent quarterly reports on Form 10-Q and current reports on Form 8-K filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
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.
Hey Rob! First, I really appreciate you reaching out. That’s what The BBQ Beat is for! To your question, I own a Davy Crockett Tailgate Model pellet smoker and really like it. Full disclosure, it was given to me by the company to test and Jason Baker of GMG said I could just keep it. But, I get a good number of products to review sent to me and a whole lot of them don’t make it onto the blog. I’d rather “omit” than “detract” – keep things positive sharing the stuff out there that I can get behind.
Bought a Traeger Timberline 850. A lot of money but it's a great smoker. It has WiFire so you can cook based on their recipes right from your iPhone. The problem is with their recipes that aren't built into their app. Nobody proofreads the things so many of them are useless. Just one example - Santa Maria Tri-Tip: smoke for 4-5 hours. At what temperature? 165 F, 250 F, or 500 F? It makes a bit of a difference ! I suspect they pay people to write, and post recipes so the can say they have thousands of (what are actually useless) recipes.
“We love pellet grills but didn’t like the designs of the models on the market. They are more like an oven than a grill. MAK Grills are designed to be the best in class. You get outstanding BBQ flavor and safe cooking with real wood, along with an automatic lighting and fuel feed system. Simply turn the grill on and you’re cooking in minutes! Our direct heat FlameZone ® feature is pioneering the industry for “gas grill like” cooking without the hassle of flare-ups and burned food.” — MAK Grills