Barbecue was not his first career. He earned a BA from Columbia College in Chicago and studied at the Cleveland Institute of Art and the Dana School of Music. He has been involved in every aspect of film, video and music production. He edited the 1991 Academy Award nominated documentary, "The Mark of the Maker" and "Universal Hotel", which is part of a permanent exhibit at the Dachau Memorial Museum.

Hey Jim, first – thank you for commenting on this post! As you probably know from reading the contents, pellet smokers are a great choice for set it and “nearly” forget it BBQ. Of course, you’re not going to get the same smoke profile with “pellet poopers” that you are likely getting with your other smokers. That said, the smokers listed here are all going to hold temp very well – even in lower temperature or windy weather. I do see instances where temps and wind effects pellet grills, but solutions including a fireproof blanket over the top of the smoker seem to mitigate things well enough.
When buying an item as important as a grill, it is evident that an individual should look for the best quality for what they desire as well as learn properly what are the best in the industry. With that in mind, pellet grills are even more unique than a regular grill because of the design and the way the grill functions. With that said, the quality of a pellet grill is the first criteria we took into consideration because there is a slew of different elements that have to ensure the grill is made of the best possible quality design. With that in mind, one important aspect of quality design that we took into consideration is how all of the functions are built. Meaning, we wanted to make sure that no area was designed and manufactured in a cheap way. Other than that, one method in which we figured out the best quality grills is how the grill cooked and how the items tasted. However, since we cannot buy every single grill and spend weeks cooking steaks and vegetables, as nice as that sounds, we relied a lot on individual reviews and what people had to say about that particular grill.
Wood pellets are an all natural product. No petroleum products in them, no fillers, chemicals, or binders. They are an excellent source of smoke flavor and compact energy, 8,500 BTU per pound. No hot coals, no flareups. There is also very little ash: 10 pounds of pellets will produce about 1/2 cup of ash. All the rest is converted to energy and combustion gases. I clean out the bottom of the ones I tested after about 10 cooks. At high temps there is very little smoke, at low temps the pellets smolder and produce superb but understated smoke flavors. Click here for more about pellets.

Between me and my dad we've smoked on many different types of smokers- Lang 60 stick burner, green egg, Weber smokey mountain, Stump's vertical feed. To be perfectly honest, using those you might be able to get slightly better results (perfect bark, smoke ring etc) but at a much higher cost and much much more effort. If you're cooking for family cooking and fun this smoker will produce delicious BBQ just short of competition level but much better than almost any restaurant. If you'd rather turn a knob and drink a beer instead of starting fires for logs or charcoal and still get 90-95% results (I'm a BBQ snob) buy this!


When it comes to buying a new pellet grill, do yourself a favor and conduct some serious research on the grills you are looking to purchase before jumping into it. Just because a pellet grill looks sharp on the outside and has a cheap price tag to go along with it, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have spent less money over the course of three or four years compared to buying a well-built pellet grill with a good warranty.

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/
One of the higher end pellet smokers you might want to check out, and one I’ve had the opportunity to try out myself, is the Memphis Grills Pro model. Running in the $3,000 range, this pellet grill is not for the faint of heart price wise. However, I can attest to the fact that it is one of the most robust, versatile, and pleasurable pellet grills I’ve used.

With that said, we can guarantee that all of the grills on this list are designed from the best quality materials and design elements to ensure that it not only lasts the test of time, it is safe to use, easy to set up, and also designed to cook the best meals possible. With that said, let’s talk about a pillar that has added to the quality criteria, the material design.
This review is just a repeat of many already submitted.  Got my Traeger Elite 34 this summer at a trade show.  It would not get up to temperature, wouldn't go about 360deg with food inside.  Empty it would hit 390 max.  Most of the 'infamous' Traeger recipes call for 400+.  If you raise the lid, the temp falls to the low 300's and takes 15 minutes to recover.  I called Traeger and they claimed their grills 'never do this'.  After reading dozens of reviews since, the truth is that they seem to 'usually do this'.  The big grilles just do not have enough BTUs to heat up properly.

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 a great smoker for beginners who are willing to take the time to understand how pellet smokers work. You can follow the instructions in the video provided on the manufacturer’s website to see how to put it together. It is also great for people who have been pellet smoking for years. It has a huge cooking surface, which is perfect for entertaining large groups of friends.
Thanks Kevin for the reviews and content. Like many of the folks I too will be purchasing a pellet pooper. I have narrowed my choices to a MAK 2 star and a Memphis Elite. One of the earlier posters indicated on the Memphis that the effective direct grilling space was about 1 square foot. I am assuming that with the smaller footprint of the MAK that the direct “flame zone” is less than that. I’m just wondering how much less.

I had heard about Traeger from a friend who was at a conference where the catering was done on one of the commercial units. He had said the food the it made was mind blowing, and on a late night impulse buy I decided to purchase this from Amazon - as an open box/scratch and dent for about $800.There are some less expensive grills available, I have never owned them so I can't comment on them. i started to get a little buyers remorse with all the negative reviews this grill had received, but decided to give it a fair shot. It arrived quickly not by UPS but from trucking company. Despite being listed as damaged box/open box it was well packaged no damage. Assembly took 30 min by just me, assembly tools were included. Stood it up off the floor and filled the hopper with mesquite and followed break in procedure listed to cook off any manufacturing oil etc. Let it cool retired it once more to make sure it was seasoned let it cool again and was ready to go. I purchased an IGrill wireless thermometer to go with it which I would recommend also. I signed up to the Traeger recipe sight and they send a recipe every few days, and you can browse the website for some inspiration. Since I have owned this I have gone thru about 3 bags of pellets including alder mesquite and hickory. I have grilled Trout ( the smoked trout dip list on the website was amazing) as well as trout fillets, Salmon, Haddock, Ribs, Brisket, Pulled Pork x 3 and 2 prime ribs and 2 loafs of bread Jerkey ( smoking now) butternut squash etc etc . All the food I can only say is mind-blowing - enough so that 4 of my friends have purchased the smaller Traeger's for themselves. It has all been incredibly easy - just season, set the temp put the food on and the temp probes in and forget it- the wireless I grill continually upgrades my phone so I can keep working inside and not have to worry. It has never failed to light, caught on fire, overheated or preformed to anything other perfection for me. I can't speak for all the other negative reviews but I have had nothing but success with this, the Weber propane I own hasn't been touched is just taking up space it can't compare to this thing. Its a big purchase at close to 1k but is incredibly versatile I can't speak about customer service response because I haven't needed them, but if you are concerned I would call the headquarters and see how hard it is to get someone on the phone. The Temp probe is off by a few degrees compared to my Igrill reading but the grill has no trouble maintaining a narrow temp window if you keep the lid closed and don't F%$k with it . Most important it has bought back some passion to cooking, and made me want to try new things which is priceless.
As you could probably guess from the name of these smokers, they run by burning wooden pellets. Typically, a pellet smoker comes with a hopper on the side where the pellets are added. When you turn on the smoker, pellets will move from a hopper to a burn pot where they will be burned and the smoke will be diffused by a fan. A thermostat measures the temperature of the grill and determines how many pellets to burn while keeping a consistent temperature.
With their portable model, Traeger has their own version of the classic 'tailgater'. Still fairly hefty at a little over 60 pounds, this grill is still far and away the most lightweight model Traeger offers. The legs fold up for ease of storage and transportation. As with all other Traeger products, temperature controls allow grillers to use the Tailgater as either a conventional grill or a smoker.

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The MAK Pellet Boss will increase or decrease with the press of a button in 5°F increments and has a probe in the oven that keeps the temp pretty solid. As with any thermostatically controlled oven, even your indoor oven, the thermostat cycles heat on or off as needed. So it you set it for 225°F it cycles on til it hits 225°F, then off until it drops to 220°F, then on to 225°F. There are three meat probes and the Boss can be programmed to change the cooker temp when the meat hits a target. I've had one for several years outdoors in the Chicago winters and summers without a cover and no problems.
Yoder's Variable Displacement Damper is another unique feature: Essentially, it's a metal plate that may be moved from left to right along the lower smoke box. Positioned all the way left, it concentrates heat directly over the fire pot for conductive searing with optional aluminum GrillGrates. Move it back to the right for even heat across the entire smoke box. Yoders are sold primarily through independent retailers.
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