Regardless, it’s worth mentioning the basic types of pellets available on the market to get you started. First there are the hardwood pellets, made from the sawdust from any specific type of hardwood, such as ash, cherry, maple, etc. Then there are different organic hardwood blends: a combination of different types of wood shavings and dust, giving them a customized, special flavoring. For beginners, we’d suggest getting a premium blend, just to be on the safe side (because you can’t go wrong with these). Even then, we’d like to mention a few types of pellets commonly used for different purposes:
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?
Hey John! Thank you so much for your kind words. I try to do a good job here, and am pleased you are enjoying the site. Regarding electric smokers, I have friends who own them and love them. I’ll try to get a post out this summer on them. Folks seem to like Bradley smokers a good bit, so you might want to check them out. You can find a good selection of them on Amazon.com here.
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.
Like with e-cigs and their gimmick of flavorful e-liquids, pellets for pellet grills and smokers also have different flavors added to their pellets, and they include bourbon, maple, apple, cherry, mesquite, alder, pecan, and hickory. You can mix flavors, change flavors, or use different flavors for every day of the week if you do everyday barbecues and grills for your restaurant or something.
Thanks for all the great information. This article was very useful on my most recent purchase. Sorry for the long book but tends to be my style of sharing. Hope others get some use out of my lessons learned. Killing (literally, dried out, burned, inedible) a thousand dollars or so of briskets over the last 20+ years should help some save a little pain as they are stepping out.
Due to the lower oxygen at 9200 FASL, I cannot keep the smoker hot and I cannot get it above 250 Deg. F. I seem to be limited due to the diameter of the smoker…just can’t get enough coals and air to get and maintain temps. Therefore, I want to buy a new smoker, on that will regulate temperature at temperatures of 200 – 450 deg F. Any experience or guidance for a smoker brand and type (wood pellet, charcoal, or electric) at high altitudes? i am looking for a smaller size smoker unit.
How? I just sold my house and left the Traeger with it. Now in Mexico and thinking of buying a Green Mountain. I would like to get a little more smoke flavor than what I was able to with my Traeger (which I loved). So how can you use other hard wood to enhance the smoke flavor? Also comment on how to use the tube smoker in one of these pellet fed grills. With 1 1/2″ rib eye, I would smoke for 45 minutes then crank up the heat to about 350 for 13 minutes and it would provide a perfect rare steak every time.
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.
There’s so much about this grill to love, but one aspect that gets RAVE reviews is the customer service. Rec Tec has pretty much the best customer service in the industry. First off, there’s a 6 year warranty, meaning, they expect their product to perform. But in the unlikely case that you have issues, their customer service is incredibly fast to respond, is available even on the weekends, and believe it or not, the owners even provide their cell phone numbers so they can help you through a problem when you’re stuck. Incredible!
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Many people misunderstand a pellet grill of consuming a large amount of power for its working. But it is not even remotely true. While it is true that a pellet grill will use up a good amount for power initially, but it only uses that to come to temperature and form. Once it is ready and in form, it power consumption drops so dramatically that some pellet grills use almost as little power as a light bulb; an ideal choice for keeping power costs to a minimum.
Eric, I’m sorry for the trouble you’ve had with your Traeger. Not sure this will help, but here is how I make sure I don’t have the problem you had. When I start after a long previous cook or any cook at all really, I vacuum out all the dust and vacuum out the burn pot. Then, I put a handful of pellets into the burnt pot, insert the heat deflector, the drip tray, and grate. I find that this keeps things working well. Sometimes, the burn pot will get too full of ash and this can cause the problems that you had. Give it a try. If it works, please let me know.
If you’re gonna set it and leave it to do the magic, you’re going to have to be careful, too. A major contributor to how long you can leave a smoker is how many wood pellets the pellet hopper holds. Pellet smokers run the gamut in how much fuel they use per hour, with anywhere from half a pound to two pounds of pellets being standard. Always check how much the model you’re looking at holds, and make sure that it’s going to last long enough, especially if you plan on leaving your smoker to cook whilst you do other things, especially if you’re going away from home. It’s simple math, and better that than coming home to a bunch of chargrilled ashes.
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
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.
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.
Right off the bat I could tell this smoker was made in America! While putting it together the holes actually matched up! ATBBQ- beat the 5-6 week lead time and delivered in two weeks out to California. This thing is a beast- the heavy weight I was looking for in a smoker and it has the most consistent temp I have ever had with a pellet grill. I messed up on the first pellet grill that starts with a "T" and should have started out with the Yoder YS640. If you are on the fence or wondering if it's truly worth the cash. All I can say is yes...YES it is. Pull the trigger and order this now- you won't be disappointed. I don't work for Yoder or ATBBQ- I'm just a experienced BBQ'r that could not be happier! Thanks Yoder and ATBBQ,
You need some temperature control in your grilling system: Even though most propane and charcoal grills include a temperature gauge, they’re not precise. Because the pellet Traeger grill works more like an oven, cooking at a precise temperature setting is a lot easier to do. It’s not quite as precise as the oven in your kitchen, but the Traeger system’s temperature control is surprisingly accurate most of the time. Some manufacturers of low cost pellet grills only offer low, medium, or high temperature settings.
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.
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.
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.