Yoder Smokers has overcome this challenge with their YS Series of pellet grills outfitted with their direct grilling package. When fit with this package, the grate temperature on the left side soars past the 700-degree mark and produces those coveted steakhouse quality grill marks, fast cooking times, intense caramelization, color and texture common to cooking over an open fire or gas fired grill.
In my experience, running Traeger pellets, the grill has functionally three temperature settings; 1) Off. This is self explanatory. Looks very pretty on a picnic table in the campground or on your patio table. 2) Hot and Smoky. Wide temperature swings, over-fueling, massive smoke followed by high temps. The controller gets into a "correction induced oscillation" of ever wider swings in temp potentially resulting in either Ler or Her shut downs. 3) Very, Very Hot. This is the high setting where it will run 500+ temps and gets the deflector/drip pan very hot even with the lid open. Burner sounds awesome in Open Lid Mode. Very Macho.
This grill is mounted on a bracket with a sawhorse design with wheels that provide it mobility in all terrains. It has a steel construction with a powder-coated finish, giving it a great look and a sturdy body. It has a hopper capacity of 18 pounds but it’s enough to continuously cook and smoke food in its 380 sq. inches of cooking area. Its porcelain-coated grill grates give you a no-rust and non-stick cooking experience that you won’t forget.
4. Temperatures were constantly all over the place. For example, on 70-80 degree days I learned to set my controller at 180 if I wanted to cook at 225-230. It was not uncommon to see temperature swings of +/- 30 degrees. Some Traeger users will tell you "yeah but did you play with the p-settings?" Why? Why would I want to have to constantly adjust a setting to make it hold a temp within +/- 5 degrees. Let's be honest. Most people want to set it and forget it. I fall into that category. This particular problem was so frustrating I went and bought an igrill 2 to monitor the internal smoker temp. As a note to this, I also bought 3 different brand controllers to try and remedy this problem with no success. Beyond frustrating!!
I have used mine Traeger 15 times and it hasn't worked once. I will not hold the temp within 15 degrees as they state. I can set mine to 225 and will go between 180-370. It also consistently shutting itself off with the same error. I have spoken to cust service 12 times and they are worthless. I have had new controller sent and other various parts. I have been on the phone with them for hours. I always have to take my meat off and finish it on my Weber. They refuse to send me a new one. They still demand to go back through the same damn steps as the last 12 times to debug it. Never again. If you see my post on Craigslist, don't buy it, it's a lemon that Traeger will not support.
This is a fantastic grill for the money that’s dependable for outdoor cooking and smoking (hence its name, “Camp Chef”). It’s not quite 9.9/10 that is the Camp Chef SmokePro DLX Pellet Grill got, but it has more than enough features and benefits to spare to honor the Camp Chef brand (even though at first glance the PG24 and the SmokePro are practically the same units with color differences).
Before buying, please note that pellet smokers need access to electricity to run the digital controller, the auger that transports the pellets to the firebox, and the convection fan that circulates the air in the cooking chamber. These cookers can use a lot of pellets at high temps. At high temps there is little or no smoke, and at low temps smoke is unavoidable. So if you want to cook, say, a chicken breast low and slow to retain juices, but you don't want any smoke flavor, you're outta luck. If you want to torch a thin burger to get a crunchy crust and add a little smokiness, you'll get great smoke flavor, but it is hard to get the crust. But if you want killer ribs, bacon, smoked salmon, etc., pellet burners are hard to beat for convenience and quality.
The smoker is great. (5 stars) Assembly went well. It's pretty straight forward. Operation is easy as well. Just set and pretty much forget it. This is a large smoker. If you need space, this is the one for you. This is my first pellet smoker so I can't offer any comparison to others. I've used a Brinkman horizontal smoker for the last 20 years that has worked well but it was a pain to keep the smoke and temperature where you want. The constant tinkering was getting tiresome. The ease of use of the Camp Chef makes things so much more enjoyable.
The Camp Chef PG24S lets you set the smoker to your desired settings so you can leave it to relax while it does the rest for you. With an advanced digital temperature chip, it steadily monitors the temperature, achieving a constant cooking temperature at all times. Dual LED temperature displays allow you to easily check the temperature of the food kept inside your smoker without losing any heat. With an auto-dispensing pellet hopper that can hold around 18 pounds, your pellets are used efficiently. The grill can work in temperatures that range from 160F to 400F.
The lid is a big complaint from some owners. It is thin and easily warped or bent. It can’t be shut very tightly all the time, causing the smoke and the heat to escape. Not only will this affect the flavor of your food, but will also cause a higher pellet consumption. The cost of wood pellets adds up over time, it is not worth burning through bags of them just so you could pay less for a smoker. Despite this flaw, the Camp Chef SmokePro DLX can still grill and smoke your food efficiently.
At the end of the day, the act of heating pellets and generating smoke in any pellet smoker is pretty much the same. Yes, some pellet smokers use thicker metal, have better thermostats, air flow, racks, drip flow, etc. But the ask any professional BBQ cooker who uses a pellet grill, and they’ll tell you that the quality of your smoke really does come down to the pellets themselves. Here’s what one very astute BBQ pro had to say over at the Pellet Smoke Ring:
Pellet Hopper – One of the reasons we all buy a pellet smoker for is the long cooking time. It’s an automated grill, but it needs to be provided with the right amount of pellets in the hopper. Those grills are used for long, often all night long meat smoking. That’s why it’s important for the pellet container to be very big. Here you get a 40 pound hopper capacity. You can be sure you won’t run out of fuel during longer cooking.
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.
You prefer a direct heat method of grilling: The Traeger grill uses an indirect heating source, much like an oven, so you won’t be able to sear meat, as many people like to do when grilling a steak. The Traeger system is better for those people seeking more of a smoker type of cooking system, although you can sear your meat by using a frying pan with a little oil initially before you finish cooking it with the Traeger grill. You can use the frying pan on a stove top burner or on the surface of the Traeger grill.