This is the most important aspect you should look into when buying a new pellet grill. You always hear people saying that a product will cost more money if it’s built with better quality materials and that is absolutely true when it comes to pellet grills. Let’s start with the basics – the most common material that is used when producing a pellet grill is steel. There are many different types of steel from high-grade stainless steel to lower grades that aren’t as sturdy. Cheap pellet grills will be constructed of a decent grade of steel when creating the outer appearance so that it’s sharp to look at. However, the inner parts of the grill are made out of lower-grade metals. Do you see the problem here? Even though the grill may look aesthetically pleasing from the outside, these nice looks won’t make up for thelow-quality materials that are used inside. This can quickly lead to the inner components of the grill deteriorating and in need of replacements. This ultimately results in you spending additional money to replace these parts once they are no longer functional.
I purchased a Traeger 34 inch smoker a month ago and it has never worked correctly. I called customer service several times and the bottom line is that if I want to have it serviced, I have to load it into my car and drive it to Long Beach. There isn't a service dealer in the entire City of Los Angeles! Going to return it to Home Depot. Buy any smoker other than a Traeger.
Since wood chips are by-products of carpentry and woodwork, they are not only inexpensive but are also helpful for the environment since you’re using up all the parts of a tree. Its death wouldn’t go in vain! If you’re looking to learn more about the types of available wood chips and what kind of flavors they impart with, feel free to check out our post on that topic.
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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.
Yo, Kevin! Hope that you can soon review one of my all-time favorite purchases, the Traeger Li’l Tex Elite Smoker/Grill. After using it for a couple of months, I gave away my two year old gas-grill to my grandson. We’ve done chicken, turkey, pheasant, lamb, all kinds of beef, pork and sausages including some wonderful ribs and brisket. Our Easter Rib Roast turned out terrific as did the chunks of assorted sausages that we did for another family get-together. I was never a big fan of grilling until we got our Traeger. Both Traeger and the web-sites like yours are full of great recipes and ideas.
The Yoder YS640 is 32 inches wide, weighs 313 pounds, and is said to have a cooking range of 150 to 600°F (65 to 315°C). Yoder is known for heavy-duty competition smokers, and the thick, 10-gauge-steel cooking chamber on this model is durable and great for heat retention. It comes with a sophisticated proprietary digital controller, which Yoder asserts is not based on any off-the-shelf temperature controller of any sort. Yoder states that it designed the board from scratch around a general-purpose micro-controller chip and wrote its own code from the ground up in an attempt to provide superior flexibility, efficiency, and accuracy.
After 10 days of not seeing anything in my email I called them. They told me they had no order. After two weeks and more phone calls then a grill finally shows up but without the cover or the pallets which I paid for and was on the order. Three calls into managers and customer service still not resolved. When I threaten to take the grill back to Costco I was told to go ahead and have a nice day. 

Spent thousands on Traeger, they are ok. Wouldn’t have an issue if they were only $500. But the last one I bought, (Timberline 850) cost $2500 Canadian. Almost burnt my house down because it got over 600F and was still climbing. All Traeger does is mail you more Chinese parts to fix your China made grill. By the end of it you will know your Traeger in and out because you WILL have to take it apart to repair! Overpriced for a smoker with many issues. Timberline lower grill has a portion of the grill removed for some kind of design. They added a 1/4 lip to justify this Grand Canyon of a hole in the back of the grill. Well needless to say if you cook wings or something small and toss them around you will for sure lose the wings to this big stupid hole. But they said they pit the little lip to stop the food from falling... Do they not test these products?
Thank you for a very comprehensive review and all the helpful advice. I would like to know your thoughts about having the burn pot in the center area as in the Rec-Tec, or on the side. My only interest is smoking, not grilling, and I prefer even heat throughout the cooking chamber. How much difference does the location of the burn pot make? Thank you very much.
But even with their indirect heat, wood pellets do something gas can’t; they give your meat that natural, smoky flavor you expect from wood. They don’t create as much smoke as wood or charcoal, so the flavor is not as intense, you swap that intensity for convenient cooking. The smoke they do create is clean and easy to control. And the hotter you burn pellets, the cleaner they burn, letting you crank up the heat when you don’t need smoke.

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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.

Once it reaches the ideal temperature, it uses an Internal Temperature Sensor to maintain it throughout the cooking process. Forget about checking on the status of your grilling every few minutes, this unit makes sure your food is cooked thoroughly and evenly — no babysitting needed here! This way, you can enjoy your time with your friends, which is what a BBQ party should be.
This smoker offers a decent 418 square inches of grilling space. This is enough to cook around sixteen burgers or four whole chickens. If the grilling space isn’t enough, Traeger also offers a larger unit that offers the same features at a higher price range. But the medium sized one is enough to cook for large groups of people already. Built to have a high capacity, this smoker allows for multiple cooking at the same time.
Editor's Note: If you're looking to upgrade your backyard cooking setup this summer, you're probably in need of a little advice. We're longtime admirers of the folks behind AmazingRibs.com, the site dedicated to unraveling the science of barbecue and grilling. Please welcome back Max Good, the only person in the world whose full-time job is testing, rating, and reviewing grills and smokers. The database he maintains includes over 500 grills and smokers, ranging in price from $30 to $50,000. When it comes to barbecue equipment, nobody knows it better.
I've been BBQing and pit smoking for many years. About 4 yrs ago I tried out pellet grilling with an import brand, and had to rebuild and replace parts for 3 yrs until it was no longer worth it! I started looking at the YS640 about a year ago, and finally pulled the trigger on buying one. No gimmicks, No hype, this is the finest backyard pellet grill/smoker and wood fired sear machine on the market. The YS640 would also be right at home on the competition circuit as well. As many other reviews have stated, if your thinking about buying one, just do it. You will not be disappointed. Shes built like a tank and holds temp very consistently. From start to finish the staff at ATBBQ has been outstanding and professional, the unit arrived in only 1-1/2 weeks and was packaged securely on a pallet. Great American made product, and great customer service have made this one of the best purchases we've made in years, Thank you.

Just putting a stamp on your info and recommendations. The Pro is definitely a Pro! Consistent, excellent temp control, juicy and great flavor. Smoke ring, some of my ribs are pink all the way through and dripping with juice. Smoke profile, good, not over powering. I have used 45# of hickory so far, 20# of cherry and a few pounds of apple and pecan. Have not tried anything but Lumberjack but that will be the next experiment. I have tried the smoke tube and it is ok. I was worried about getting an ash or bitter taste as the smoke is fairly heavy and a little acrid smelling if you let it burn from bottom to top. So I lay it down and light on my wife’s Weber gas grill side burner and get the whole thing burning good and then blow it out. If it smells acrid your meat will get some of that taste. Starting the tube this way it is still going an hour later.
Once you start paying more than $500, you’re looking at a big boy professional level machine. It’s going to be big enough that you don’t have to worry about having the neighbours over as well as the family. You’re also looking at more expensive sensors and thermostats, so you get a more consistent temperature, which leads to a much better end result, and there’s generally some sort of cleaning assist built in, which makes cleanup and putting it away at night so much easier.
Hey Kevin great article. I too am currently looking for a pellet smoker. I’ve narrowed it down between a Yader, Memphis Pro and the Rec Tec. The Green Mountain did not seem very well built. The wheels looked liked the would break on the first roll and the stainless steel door was flimsy and did not have a good seal. I know the Rec Tec has a 6 year warranty. Do you know how long the warranties are on the other two?
It’s built pretty solidly, which is what you want with a portable system as it’s obviously being moved around a lot more. I’d say it’s similar in build quality to the Traeger Junior Elite, which as a top of the line smoker says all that needs to be said. If something does go wrong, there’s a two year warranty. I’d have liked more, but it’s there, and that’s good enough.
The Camp Chef SmokePro is probably the best pellet grill on this list by rating and by performance. It has a decently large area for cooking at 19.2 inches by 22 inches plus its smoking or warming rack is also 6 inches by 24 inches in size. This is one of the best pellet smoker for home use because of its combination of quality features that are never superfluous and works as advertised.
And of course, it’s definitely a plus when the company that makes your grill includes a multi-year warranty and top notch customer service. Pellet grills are finicky compared to gas or charcoal grills simply because there are so many more parts that require electronics or that have electrical components… which means there is a fair bit more that can actually go wrong or require service at some point.
To solve this problem, several companies have come up with alternative ways to expose food to the flame by allowing you to use the small area directly above the fuel pot. It's still not as good as a charcoal or sear burner, but better than the designs that are strictly indirect. Check out the Memphis Elite, Fast Eddy's by Cookshack PG500, and the Yoder YS640 for this feature. Camp Chef also recently introduced its Woodwind pellet smoker, which has a super-hot gas-fueled sear box attached to the right side.
To your question regarding Traeger, I’ve not reviewed their grills of yet. I do know that Traeger as a company is taking steps to up their game some, as quality/reliability of their pellet grills has diminished over the last few years. The new CEO – Jeremy Andrus – they hired comes from the Skull Candy company and brought that headphone company from annual sales from less than $1 million to nearly $300 million. I know also that a few big hitters in the BBQ world are being contacted by Traeger to bring the brand back to its former prominence. You can read more about that here from the site of one of the company’s that now has an ownership interest in Traeger: http://www.trilantic.com/News_Story.aspx?StoryType=1&ID=56.
Hey Pete, first thanks for your kind words. Traeger pellet grills fell off a bit quality wise over the past several years. That said, they’ve hired a new CEO – formerly from the Skull Candy Head Phone company – who brought that company’s valuation up considerably. I see them making moves to get back to their roots… aligning themselves with some of the more well known names in BBQ again. From a build quality, they’re making solid pellet grill bodies using fairly heavy steel. The area I’d like to see them improve on is the controllers they use. Right now, GMG is making great strides in claiming some of the entry level pellet smoker market share away from Traeger. This is due to a superior PID controller, advances in built in Wi-Fi monitoring, and outstanding customer service.
Although pellet smokers already have their own custom-made wood pellets with different flavor and blends, if you choose to moonlight your smoker as a charcoal smoker for some reason (maybe for a different experience or a cooking experiment), you can use it as a regular smoker using wood chips. Under such circumstances, it’s going to be worth learning a bit about the types of wood chips out there.
So what about the question of blends versus 100% pure species pellets?  Should you avoid blends?  Should you only use 100% pure?   That is a web to unweave and depends greatly on what you are cooking as to the correct answer.  Through our testing we found many blends to work very well.  We liked them so much that we incorporated them into what we offer.  Not all blends are created equal though and the amount of hardwood versus flavor wood varies widely across brands.  We also found that some 100% pure pellets such as cherry and apple had harder times reaching higher grilling temperatures and lacked the harder core flavor punch of hickory or mesquite.  Coming from the world of stick burners many new pellet grill owners assume that going 100% cherry or apple is going to work for them since that is what they have grown accustomed to.  At the end of the day, they end up moving to a pellet with a deeper flavor like hickory or mesquite to get the results they are used to.
Thanks for the quick response and advice. I see a pellet pro hopper assembly is around $250 compared to the Memphis pro at over $2000. I didn’t realize that drafting isn’t important for the sake of temp regulation but what about how the smoke travels from the firebox towards the meat? I also would like to include an element of humidity, is simply putting a pan of water in the cooker or is there a better way?
Having the same problem as the rest of the group. Rec Tec, Yoder, Green Mountain, Pellet Pro, or MAK? All seem to be heavy gauge SS, Pellet Pro seems really good value, MAK and Green Mountain seem to have controllers with more features. Have a friend who bought Rec Tec 3 years ago, he cannot say enough about the good customer service and the grill. If you could only buy one (money not the issue among these 5), which one, and why?
Z GRILLS or Z Grills is a maker of smokers, grillers, and stainless steel prep work tables galore. It entered the world of pellet grills recently and launched an IndieGoGo campaign in order to fund its “affordable wood pellet grill” for $500,000 and currently gives even Traeger’s economical offerings a run for their money with its ability to accept all types of pellets and do all sorts of cooking styles.

To cook food using a pellet grill, put the pellets into a hopper. When you turn it on, the igniting rod will burn pellets in the fire. The motor-driven auger will then supply the fire pot with pellets from the hopper. The ratio that auger delivers pellets to fire pot depends on the settings you control. If you set it at a high temperature for a longer period of time, the auger will keep on feeding the fire pot with pellets. However, if you are slow-cooking and set a low-temperature one, the feeding and delivery of pellets will also slow down. 

The Camp Chef Camp Table is the perfect companion to any table top stove or dutch oven. The camp table will hold two 14 inch dutch... ovens and provides extra preparation and serving space to keep your food up off the ground. Works great with the Mountain Series stoves from Camp Chef and is a great accessory piece to your free standing stove. Side shelves* (Model LS60P) can be added for even more space. read more
Fans of gadgets – More expensive models come with very interesting features. You can download app for your phone or tablet (iOS and Android). Then you can use Wi-Fi to connect with your pellet grill. It allows you to monitor the temperature inside the grill while away from it. Some of the grills even make it possible to check the internal temperature of the meat.

This is the single main advantage of a pellet smoker. Unlike charcoal, gas or wood fired smokers you don’t need to do anything with fuel except make sure it’s full when you start. This means no more having to go back and check fuel levels, no fluctuating temperatures, no spending ten minutes setting up charcoal and getting it at the right temperature, and no random heat variance giving you oddly cooked food ’cause you set it all up wrong.

The digital controller has a temperature dial (180 F to 400 F), shutdown cycle setting and an on/off switch which is very basic. Compared to the Camp Chef, it misses out on bypass startup button, food probe, feed button, lo smoke/high smoke settings and most importantly access to the fuse. In order to change the fuse in the Traeger, you’ll have to remove both screws on the digital controller and pull out the controller.


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Not only do cheap grills not hold up as well, but there are additional benefits to better steel and construction, too. Construction quality matters in wood pellet grills, no matter the price. Take the video below where we compare Grilla Grill’s double wall insulation to Camp Chef, which is not a cheap grill by any stretch. This video shows how well the Grilla Grills pellet grill is able to retain heat, keep the cool out, and use less fuel than many other wood pellet grills. Now imagine how much difference this would make compared to a bargain basement pellet grill from a big box store!

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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.
With that said, we also wanted to take into consideration the smaller grills of the family. For instance, we wanted to share pellet grills that were intended for portable use or individuals that want a small smoker that is of the best quality. As far as cost and value are concerned, we can say that all of the grills on this list are top of the line and have expert quality features that make them ideal for the individual that wants their ideal pellet grill.
Over time, as other companies started entering the scene, the designs saw some massive improvements. Later, the firepots were brought closer to the hopper, reducing the distance the pellets had to travel to reach it. This move reduced the probability of a pellet jam. Later, more features began to be added to these grills to further improve the reliability, safety, and convenience.

I’m not sure of the dates on the above replies, its now Oct.2017, and I’ve had enough of the Bradley dig. smoker. I live on Long Island NY and the Bradley has trouble getting up to and holding temp. I’ve added a PID to it but have decided to take it up a level. I’ve done a bunch of research and I’m leaning toward the Yoder 640 with Comp. cart. unless you take me out of it. What would you be spending your money on today? I did buy a book though your site, I hope that helps.
“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
Sometimes, the ideal pellet is something that costs a little over $1 for quality but you can still save money by buying them in bulk (like in 40 pound bags). Half a pound of pellets per hour is consumed on the smoke setting that’s about 175° Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, you can burn 2.3 pounds of pellet within an hour by setting the temperature at 450° Fahrenheit (this is an average on many of the pellet smokers mentioned above).
With the summer right around the corner, it’s about that time of the year that consumers are thinking about hosting outdoor picnics and having their friends and family in the backyard. Now, to make this year special, many people are flocking towards purchasing pellet grills. In efforts to assure our readers that each grill on today’s list is the absolute best, we performed an update on this buying guide. Included in this update, readers will get to learn about the criteria that we used to evaluate each grill and a list of answers to some commonly asked questions. Before the summer arrives, check out this update!
This grill produces fall off the bone ribs. I've also cooked a brisket to perfection. My only issue is that I have to clean it after every use. If it isn't cleaned properly (I remove all of the grates and use a shop vac to suction all ashes and unburned pellets) the pellets will back up and when they finally push through, you will have a huge flare up that will potentially burn whatever you are cooking as well as take the paint off the grill itself. Also, I find it works better if you set the dial to OFF and then back to whatever temperature you want. Other than those few quirks, I love this grill. I did find a larger Pit Boss after I bought this one, but it was about $150 more.

Pit Boss wood pellet grills make it easy to prepare and serve the finest in wood-fired gourmet goodness. Using 100% all natural cooking-grade wood barbecue pellets for fuel, no gas, propane or charcoal is needed! turn a simple dial to start the grill, and you can sear a steak, bake pizza or cookies, smoke jerky, ribs or brisket, all with natural flavored wood pellets. With a dynamic range of cooking temperature from 180 degree to 500 DegreeF, you have complete control with the turn of a dial. The digital control board, along with the oven-like meat probe, result in precise cooking control. Fan forced convection cooking seals in meat juices and eliminates the need for a rotisserie. The 340 is the smallest in our pit boss wood pellet grange. But it doesn't hold back. It still offers all the great benefits of a pit boss wood pellet grill, just in a smaller package. This is perfect for a small family that wants that 100% natural wood pellet flavor.
Now, the best pellet grills come with more advanced features like auto-ignition using igniting rods, Wi-Fi Support, automatic turn on/off, and much more. One of the key safety features added by pellet smokers (designed by Green Mountain Grills), is a cooling fan to cool off the grill after it has been turned off. Even the shape of the body has been changed to have peaked lids so that it can accommodate turkeys and other kinds of roasts. Some come with multiple levels of racks for warming and cooling.
Whenever you want to smoke with a pellet smoker, you will have to make a choice: What type of wood pellets should I use? Well, the answer may sound simple – whichever flavor you like the best – but might be pretty difficult if you’re smoking for the first time. Unfortunately, the only way to know which flavor you like most is to try them all at least once and then decide upon which one floats your boat.
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