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!
You like the idea of cooking different types of foods on the grill: If you’re someone who wants to grill food other than meat, the Traeger grilling system gives you this option. With the precise temperature control of the Traeger, cooking things like fruit pies can be a successful endeavor, something you wouldn’t dare try with a propane-fired grill.
This is the second one I have received as the first one was a lemon. The first one worked great the first 3 times I used it, but then I started getting "Err" message, as well as an overheat message randomly that would not go away. I returned it to Amazon and promptly received a replacement. I have used this one heavily for 7 days now and have had no problems. I will check back in in a couple weeks with my results. It is very well constructed, holds its temperatures well and cooks pretty evenly. I have smoked/grilled ribs using the 3/2/1 method, made stuffed hamburgers, a whole chicken, and a porterhouse steak so far. For the price you cannot beat it. The searing option where you can open the heat shield/drip tray to expose slots directly over the flame is great for cooking steaks and a nice option that you don't see on other models. The removable side tray is also nice for bringing out your meat and placing your finished product on it. The bottle opener is weird...u have to really put the bottle at an angle to open and you lose part of your beer....but it looks cool...lol. A few tips: Cover the heat shield/drip tray with new tin foil each use or else it is almost impossible to clean it. Make sure the knob is in the off position before plugging it in and wait for the numbers to stop flashing before adjusting the temperature. Always start out in the smoke position until it is smoking and a a flame has started, then turn it to your desired temperature(about 5 min). Vacuum out the firepot and inside of the barrel every other use. Most importantly....use this thing as much as possible in the first 30 days to make sure it is functioning properly so if you do have problems you can return to Amazon. I love Amazon. As soon as I clicked on 'Return' and printed the free return shipping label, they had already ordered me a new one and I had it in 3 days!!! In case you would have to return it, mark your boxes that everything came in and take pictures of how it was packed. Took me over 2 hours to pack this thing back up. Most importantly....use this grill as much as you can in the first 30 days to make sure it is functioning correctly, otherwise you will have to deal with Pitboss ...paying your own return shipping and replacing parts on your own.Also don't forget to register your grill right away on the Pitboss website, in case you have problems after the 30 day Amazon window. Checkout the Pitboss website for their recipes....some of them are quite good...the bacon wrapped asparagus tastes just like Carrabas. Just sprinkle some balsamic vinegar on it after grilling. The Pitboss spices/rubs, while expensive are very good. The sweet heat is good on anything and the mandarin habanero is amazing on wings. I sprinkle and toss after cooking. Good luck !!
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.
Professionals: the pellet smoker has emerged as the best option for beginners. However, that does not mean that a top grilling expert will not benefit from using it. Using a pellet smoker, the professional can turn normal pork into a mouth-watering dish with any kind of flavor. The precise temperature control will help any professional make the dish more accurate. A top pellet smoker can display some delicious magic that will prove unforgettable.
I have a Traeger Texas 34 Grill I purchased in January. It worked well for a short stint (1 or 2 sessions) and now will not get to the desired heating temperature, above 400. I have called Traeger and they have sent me multiple parts (2 new controllers/probes/fans) to replace in it, on my own time. Still not working. Upon calling them they said they could not send me a new grill because I purchased from Amazon. They said I needed to contact them. A $900 investment is essentially useless now. DO NOT BUY THIS PRODUCT.
In smoke mode the controller is no longer controlled by the thermometer, it merely switches the pellet feeding auger on and off. On time is 15 seconds, off time ranges from 45 seconds at P0, to 165 seconds at P15. Temp and smoke are controlled by the duration of off time: the auger always runs at the same speed. More smoke is produced at higher P settings and lower temp settings because longer off times allow the pellets to smolder. At P0 in smoke mode or "High" in cook mode the auger replenishes the pellets at a faster rate, creating more flame, less smoke.
On Tabletop Models: I didn’t include them here because though extensive, this post is more of an overview of a few select makers of Pellet Smokers I think do a fine job with both manufacturing and product support. The one exception is that I did include a link to where you can find the Rec-Tec mini. That’s Rec-Tec’s answer to the smaller, tabletop or tailgating models.
According to Bruce Bjorkman of MAK, his cookers use about 1/2 pound of pellets per hour when set on "Smoke" (about 175°F). At 450°F, the high temp, they burn about 2.3 pounds per hour. This is about the same average as I have experienced on a variety of pellet eaters. The burn rate will vary somewhat depending on the outside air temp, and how much cold meat is loaded in the grill, but cooking load should not have a major impact. Cooking pellets run about $1 per pound depending on the wood flavor, brand, if you get them on sale, and if you have to pay shipping. As a point of comparison, Kingsford briquets list for about $0.75 per pound, but they don't pack the same BTUs because there are fillers. I usually buy 40 pound bags of BBQr's Delight pellets from BigPoppaSmokers.com for $45 and shipping is free to IL. That's $1.13 per pound. That means that if I cook a slab of spareribs for six hours at 225°F I will probably burn about 4 pounds at about $4.50. If I put 8 slabs in there in rib holders, and allocate 1/2 slab per person, my cost for 16 people is about $0.28 each. If I grill a mess of chicken parts at about 325°F for about 1 hour, I will use about 1.5 pounds of pellets for a cost of $1.70.
This little smoker is just right for people who want small capacity and/or need a compact device for their condo patios; and despite its small size (or, perhaps, because of it) it's also one of the best pellet smokers for the money. Many of our readers who already have other outdoor cookers like to add Davy Crockett to their lineup, especially if they have everything but a pellet smoker.
“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
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.
This is best pellet smoker for the money if you are a newbie but want to cook like a pro. It is super easy to use and allows you to set up the whole system and then walk away. It has an electronic autostart ignition, which means you don’t even have to start a fire. Just plug it in, do a little prep work, add some pellets, and it will not be long before you have some delicious food to enjoy with your family or serve to your friends.
For a large-sized smoker, the Camp Chef SmokePro SE delivers excellent, smoky-tasting flavor that even beginners can accomplish. This is largely due to its automatic temperature control features and grease management system, allowing you relax while it cooks for you. With minimal cons (only weight and pellet price), this is a definite hit among professionals and newbies. The SmokePro SE is an unquestionable bang for your buck kind of purchase.
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).
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.
2. The grill does not come back to the set temperature after the lid is opened and closed to place the meat. I start it, close the lid, set the temp (startup procedure has changed to this according to Traeger service tech) and after 15 or 20 minutes it is not at the set temp yet...in fact it is declining. Well I need to cook on it and cannot wait forever so I open the lid quickly, throw the meat on, and close the lid quickly.
I purchased a Traeger Lil Tex 22 yesterday. I “grilled” a whole chicken. It overshot the temperature by nearly a hundred degrees which wasn’t a bad way to crisp up the bird but I was afraid it was going to melt itself down so I shut it down. I was up by 5 this morning to smoke a pork butt for pulled pork sandwiches. My wife’s family is coming over for dinner tonight and time being a concern I fired up the “smoker”. It snowed 12 inches last night so the next hour I was shoveling my walks. Imagine my surprise when I checked on the Traeger and it had shut itself off . The meat was colt to the touch. I read through the instructions to make sure I started it up correctly and I did. I removed the meat and restarted the smoker. It smoked for awhile then quit. The temperature never got above 140. I called Traeger technical support twice and each rep gave me a different answer as to why it wasn’t working. After 3.5 hours I gave up on the Traeger for a more conventional method. I purchased the Traeger for the the set and walk away feature. It let me down!! It is 34 degrees outside today so I will wait until it warms up to try again. Should it fail me again I will sell it for scrap! So far I am not impressed. My wood smoker takes time but it is reliable.
The best thing about pellet smokers is that unless you’re buying the absolute cheapest models, there are no bad choices. In this list for under $500, you’ll find pellet smokers and grills perfectly suited for dropping a few burgers at home use like the Traeger Junior Elite, for throwing in the back of the van and using anywhere like the Green Mountain Davey Crockett, or for cooking whole turkeys when you have ten people round on Thanksgiving, like the Camp Chef Smokepro.
If you live in an area where wood furnaces are used (not like down here in FL where a few heat strips will do the trick), you may also be familiar with pellet furnaces. In short, pellets compressed from sawdust and wood shavings fill a hopper and are then fed into a burn pot using an electric auger system. The auger, which is basically a long screw, delivers pellets to the burn pot based on the speed dictated by the unit’s thermostat.
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.
As I mentioned at the start of this post, there are a few pellet smokers that lead the pack in terms of name recognition. The ones featured here are those that come most highly recommended by friends of mine on the professional BBQ circuits with KCBS and FBA. As such, if you don’t see one of your favorites listed here and would like to offer up a review — please contact me via any of the social media links at the top of this blog’s sidebar, and we’ll see about getting a post up.
Loved the idea of a "pellet smoker" - less stress, delicious meat. Bought mine at Costco 1 year ago and have used it many times with mixed results, not exactly stress less. Last time using it the pellet hopper caught on fire, turns out the auger chamber is packed full of pellets and won't move. Attempted to open chamber to clear and with this model it is extremely difficult (with unit sold thru Costco - newer ones look easier...) so I called customer service hotline. Called different 4 times and talked with a different live person each time and was promised a call back to schedule an in house repair. Never received one call back so I tried to email and again never received a return email. I have no choice but to return smoker to Costco.
The cooking surface is relatively small – the grill surface 12” x 16” (192 square iches) with the hood being 7” tall at the highest point. This is just big enough to cook some larger cuts of meat like tri-tip or brisket. However, small size is not necessarily a downside. While you won’t host a 4th of July cookout with this pellet grill, the small capacity and the compact size of the Davy Crockett pellet smoker makes it a perfect choice for condo dwellers or for picnics.