Kevin- super helpful article. Thanks! I just moved from a big city small apartment with no grill to a house in the country. Most essential purchase is the grill. I’m really on the fence. I like the idea of a pellet grill, but in reality- I’m mostly cooking burgers, fish, steaks, scallops, and veggies. The brisket and ribs will be more of a special occasion. From an economical perspective, am I better buying a gas grill and just getting one of those smoke tubes to add some flavor? From many of the online comments, it seems like the pellet grills benefit from additional smoke anyway, and though you can get additional grates for searing, seems like a square peg in a round hole. The gas grill is sort of the tried and true, and way more economical. Those $500 entry level pellet grills seem a little scrawny, and the next level up is a cool $grand. I’m really on the fence, and getting pressure to “just buy the darn thing” to consummate the move to the country! However the pellet grills seem like the new shiny object and have my curiosity. Any advice? PS- love the website! Thanks, Cary
Traeger invented the original wood-fired grill over 30 Traeger invented the original wood-fired grill over 30 years ago in Mt. Angel Oregon and continues to lead the industry as the worlds #1 selling wood-fired grill perfected by decades of mastering the craft of wood-fired cooking. Fueled by 100% pure hardwood pellets and controlled with a digital controller means ...  More + Product Details Close
This is a nice article for people new to pellet grill/smokers. Like jennifer, we have a vermont cast ing cast iron gas grill that has ‘rotted out’ internally. Calls to vermont cast ings has resulted in ‘we no longer support, make or sell parts for grills made before 2008’ and other run arounds. As a result we are looking for other options. We like the cast iron grills and grill heat but are considering other options, (Webber, Pellet, gas).
I've been wanting a Yoder for the last year and a half. Finally pulled the trigger on a 640 a couple months ago. Absolutely fantastic. I've been a Weber guy forever and this is my first smoker. This defiantly took my food over the top. My 640 has been incredibly accurate with keeping the heat on the grate to the setting I punch in. Just finished my first brisket and it was fantastic. The only way to go!
Kevin, your recommendation rocked. The Pro is one of the best pieces of grilling and smoking iron I have had my hands on in a long time! Better than the Backwoods? Well depends on how much work you want to do! Maybe not, they are first class, but ease of use? I use the Backwoods a couple times a year, the Pro has already done 8 cooks in 5 weeks. Love it.

This is a nice article for people new to pellet grill/smokers. Like jennifer, we have a vermont cast ing cast iron gas grill that has ‘rotted out’ internally. Calls to vermont cast ings has resulted in ‘we no longer support, make or sell parts for grills made before 2008’ and other run arounds. As a result we are looking for other options. We like the cast iron grills and grill heat but are considering other options, (Webber, Pellet, gas).
Loved the article and read the entire thing. Thank you so much for taking the time to write such an in-depth piece to help the rest of us out. With that said, I now want one of each!! It’s really so difficult to purchase one without being able to compare the taste side by side for each. We also just bought one of the Traeger’s on the last day of a Costco show. We have LOVED the taste, and aren’t looking back, from a pellet perspective that is. However, we’ve already had a couple of issues that concern me from a longevity and a safety perspective. So we’re going to return it, and ‘upgrade’ to something more substantial. I was leaning pretty hard toward Yoder, and then after reading the article, the Memphis really intrigued me (could have something to do with being born there, and raised on southern pulled pork). And then, Fast Eddy came into the picture. Any advise on how to make a decision without being able to conduct taste comparisons, which is really the most important thing. (We’ve been smoking a brisket and pork shoulders every week, with the occasional steak and veggies. So we’d like something that does both smoking and grilling, so both important, with the smoking component being the feature we’ll use a bit more of.)
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.
What makes this smoker unique, though, is the sear box. It runs on propane, and it gets VERY hot, VERY fast. You can easily sear meats on it, and many use the "reverse sear" method, which means to sear meats AFTER smoking them. Additionally, the sear box can be used as a small propane grill; we use it all the time for things like hot dogs and sausages.
You want even grilling: One of the downsides of using a charcoal grill is ensuring that the entire grilling area is evenly heated. Spreading the charcoal evenly and avoiding hot spots is difficult. Traeger’s pellet grilling system overcomes this problem with a fan that evenly distributes the heat throughout the grilling area, much like a wood-fired oven would have.
It also has the standardized dial-in digital control with LED readout (not to the point that it has WiFi like the Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett Pellet Grill, but still quite convenient). However, it’s rated low on this list because of poor quality control. Too many customers ended up with bad Pit Bosses that have inconsistent temperature control (going all the way to 615° Fahrenheit).
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.
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.
If you’re one of the serious barbecue enthusiasts, you would not want to leave any stone unturned to get your hands on the best of the best pellet smoker the market has to offer, in that case, you need the REC TEC Wood Pellet Smoker. The REC TEC has a large surface which takes care of all sizes of cuts, the thermostat maintains the temperature and ranges all the way from 180 F to 500 F. It has been leading the market for so long that the company now provides warranty for 6 years.
In 2010, I sprung for a discounted Rainer with $80 in tip money and a pro deal through the whitewater rafting company I worked for. It was an expensive purchase for me at a time when my monthly food budget was around $60. But hey, along with a Roll-a-Table, two chairs I “borrowed” from the rafting company, and my cooler, I had almost a full kitchen that I could deploy from the back of my truck. And the Rainier quickly proved a wise investment.
I don’t know how many meals I cooked on that thing, but it’s been enough to make me a hero and de facto camp chef among my friends. I seared up a tri tip large enough to feed four hungry kayaking buddies at the Salmon River Festival one year, then covered it with foil and cooked it on indirect heat for one of the best steaks of my life, which we happily consumed in the middle of nowhere. The grill also perfectly charred onions and peppers to deliver a mountain of chicken and beef fajitas to a crowd of ten. I still get compliments on that one. 
Hey Tom, first, thank you so much for reading the article and expressing your approval of it. It means a lot to me that the information posted on this site is useful for the people. To your question about pellet grills, yes. You must always use BBQ grilling pellets with these cookers. You cannot use raw wood with them. However, should you find yourself with access too hard woods like Hickory or maple, or fruit woods like apple, cherry, or peach – this is something that could be readily used in a charcoal smoker.
I've been wanting a Yoder for the last year and a half. Finally pulled the trigger on a 640 a couple months ago. Absolutely fantastic. I've been a Weber guy forever and this is my first smoker. This defiantly took my food over the top. My 640 has been incredibly accurate with keeping the heat on the grate to the setting I punch in. Just finished my first brisket and it was fantastic. The only way to go!
With a large cooking space and the most advanced cooking techniques, this is easily one of our favorite products among our top ten. While it lacks some of the features that the other grills and smokers in this review have (such as an ash and grease cleanup systems), it does deliver fine-dining quality foods, which is the ultimate goal of every grilling enthusiast. For its price, it offers some of the best features you can find in high-end products.
We ended up going with the Memphis Pro. We were fortunate enough to be able to see all of the manufacturers and models I was most interested in, at Sam’s NW BBQ. (Yoder, MAK, Fast Eddy, GMG’s, a few others, and then, the one we ended up with, Memphis.) Sam took a good amount of time, providing us fantastic information about each model. We ended up with the Memphis Pro for the following reasons: 1) The construction, mainly the double-walled construction; 2) the preciseness of temperature, and being able to hold the temperature (due to reason #1); 3) the extreme ease of changing from smoking to grilling without a lot of effort or reconfiguration; 4) the double hoppers; 5) and another BIGGIE, the fact that grilled or baked foods taste like that, and not like smoked cookies, bread, pizza, etc.
So that brings me to the one thing I have learned in all this that I basically read when I was getting started. One of the biggest keys is “Temperature Control”! If you want consistent food make sure you get that under control. It is the key to solid consistent food! Once you get your food consistent you can experiment with a lot of other things. But if you can’t get that down, you will always be looking for another magic bullet. The number one magic is temperature!
Other elements of the grill are the legs, which come in varies designs and construction materials. The automatic ignition starter to start the fire as well as the digital controller where individuals can achieve up to six different cooking methods ranging from grilling to baking and smoking. With that said, one of the most important aspects that we highly recommend individuals to consider is a green with a grease bucket or an ash cleanout design that vents out all of the ash sediment from the grill.
Hey Vernon – Yoder warranty is is 1-year on the igniter, 3-years on the control system and 10-years on the cooking body. Products manufactured by Memphis Wood Fire Grills carry a seven (7) year Limited Warranty from the date of purchase by the original owner against defects in material and workmanship. Electronic and electrical components carry a three (3) year replacement warranty when subjected to normal residential use. Limited Warranty does not apply to burn pot, meat probe, grill cover gaskets or damage caused by corrosion. The meat probe is under Warranty for 30 days from the date of purchase. (Both warranty blurbs were pulled from the respective company websites) Yoder: http://www.yodersmokers.com/pellet-frequently-asked-questions.html Memphis Grills: https://memphisgrills.com/warranty/
Traeger makes this process very easy. All you have to do is add pellets, open the lid, turn the knob to smoke and that’s it. The hopper will automatically feed pellets over a hot rod and ignite the fire. You should have your smoker up and running at 230°F in less than 10 minutes. All you’ll have to do after the Traeger 34 Elite smoker starts up is add meat and make sure you don’t run out of pellets.

What are your thoughts about the Kalamazoo hybrid grills? From what I’ve found online, you have the choice of gas, charcoal and wood for cooking or combinations of all. I have no first hand experience with Kalamazoo but it seems very versatile? At the moment after a month of researching, I’m leaning towards a Mac/Yoder or a Webber spirit & egg or a Memphis….so in other words, I’m no closer to a decision than when I started. I currently have a 9 yr old treager that won’t break, seriously, I’ve only repainted once with rustolium….dang thing won’t break so I can get a new toy. I sear in a skillet in the kitchen. My treager has the smoke/med/high switch and I want more control, I’ve maxed what I can do and it’s a challenge in cold weather and wind but it was a great start when they were made to last, more than got my money’s worth. I cook at all levels from smoking to grilling. I do love pellets and don’t want an egg but enjoy the food as much as the process of preparing it. Ok probably to much info but money aside, will you list your recommendations of what you think is best for me?
What’s more, it has an LED display with a Digital Elite Controller for temperature control. Judging by its ratings, unlike the other grills on this list, its temperature and quality controls work just fine. This grill also has an electronic auto-start ignition and easy-to-clean grill gates to boot. Its quality control isn’t perfect though, and some faulty units slipped through the cracks.

Pellets look like rabbit chow. They are about the width of a pencil and as long as a couple of erasers. If they get wet they turn into a pile of sawdust. The beauty of pellets is that they have none of the additives and fillers in charcoal briquets, so they combust almost completely. Almost zero ash. The pellets provide the heat as well as flavor. No need to add wood chips. Surprisingly, they do not produce overly smoky food. If anything, the food is undersmoked to some people because the combustion is so complete.


So if you want more of a smoke profile, cook at longer and lower temps in your pellet pit. I have found that is the best way to get a more distinct smoke profile in your food. Cook at 180–190 for the first several hours. That probably has the biggest impact. Next, make sure you are using a good, quality hardwood pellet. I can tell you that you will notice a very large difference in the flavor profile between say a Traeger pellet vs. say one of Candy’s [BBQers Delight pellets]. — Read more on PelletSmoking.com

Something you may not have read in other Pellet grill reviews is that there are two key concerns: flavor and fuel consumption. As previously stated, pellet smokers are not known for producing a strong smoke flavor, no matter what pellets you use. Though, some brands can be more pronounced than others. Hardwood pellets provide longer overall burn times per pound than fruit wood pellets. 1oo percent fruit wood pellets will also be more expensive on average.

The initial design by Mr. Traeger consisted of a “classic” drum barrel shaped grill design with a chimney on top. Instead of the firebox, the grill contained a pellet hopper. It used a fan to distribute the heat evenly over the pellets. Unlike the modern pellet grills, the original design didn’t include any auto-ignition features and the pellets had to be lit manually.
Because most Traeger grills make use of an Ortech digital temperature controller that’s precise within about 15 degrees of your setting, they may not be precise enough for the type of cooking you want to perform. If so, some pellet grill manufacturers, such as MAK, Yader, and Memphis, can give you temperature control within about 5 degrees of the setting. These types of grills use multiple temperature probes inside the cooking area to guarantee the temperature remains consistent. And some of these high-end brands can reach a higher cooking temperature (such as 600 or 700 degrees Fahrenheit) versus the Traeger family of grills (usually around 450 or 500 degrees). Additionally, MAK, Memphis, and Yader grills are made in the United States, while some parts of Traeger grills are made in China.
×