In my experience, running Traeger pellets, the grill has functionally three temperature settings; 1) Off. This is self explanatory. Looks very pretty on a picnic table in the campground or on your patio table. 2) Hot and Smoky. Wide temperature swings, over-fueling, massive smoke followed by high temps. The controller gets into a "correction induced oscillation" of ever wider swings in temp potentially resulting in either Ler or Her shut downs. 3) Very, Very Hot. This is the high setting where it will run 500+ temps and gets the deflector/drip pan very hot even with the lid open. Burner sounds awesome in Open Lid Mode. Very Macho.
OK. I’m rambling a bit. To your point regarding Traeger. I think that the models you can buy at big box stores (Costco etc) are OK. I still hear a few complaints about blistering paint etc. But… their Pro Series Models are a different story. The new management at Traeger has come a long way in their efforts to reaffirm the Traeger brand as a legitimate BBQ Pellet Smoker brand that everyone from the backyarder to competition pitmasters can get behind. To that end, they only allow specialty retailers carry the Pro Series models, which are built with a bit more heft and better PID controls, electronics, etc. You can find these at Ace Hardware stores, places like the Whiskey Bent BBQ Supply store we have here in Lakeland, FL (there is now one in Odessa, FL) as well. You can find a Traeger Pro model by going to http://www.traegergrills.com/dealers.
Every outdoor cooking enthusiast wants an affordable pellet smoker that has all of the key features that even a high-end unit would have. In most cases, this is just a dream and a result of false advertising, because most impressive smokers typically cost a hefty sum of money. The Z Grills Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker claims to be a reasonably-priced smoker that offers top-of-the-line features, and many users have agreed with those claims. With this pellet smoker review of the Z Grills Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker, we’ll find out if it really does what it claims to do.
One thing I’ll mention up front is that the Rec Tec Grill is not sold as a Made in America product. The REC TEC Grill is made in China, however, the heart and soul of the grill (the computer) is made here in the USA. The powder coat is also made in the USA and the final assembly along with quality control takes place at the REC TEC Grill facility in Georgia.
The Elite's digital control panel is a sophisticated touch-pad PID controller that holds set temps with more accuracy than most kitchen ovens. It's simple to operate and offers an integrated meat probe and some useful programming options. For example, you can set it to cook your brisket up to 200°F (93°C) and then drop to a lower cooking temp to keep it warm without overcooking.
Cleaning and Maintenance: Keeping the grill clean is critical if you need to get the most out of the unit. Old debris can influence the viability of the unit thus normal cleaning is vital. In addition, while moving it around, take alert not to thump it since it accompanies little legs which can without much of a stretch tip over the unit when thumped.
With 341 square inches of cooking space and a digital control board that sets the temperature from 180 to 500 degrees, you’ll be cooking whole meals in this grill, even though it’s the smallest model that Pit Boss makes. It will hold up to a dozen burgers for parties, or a chicken and vegetables for the family dinner. When cooking is done, the porcelain coated grill grates are easy to clean.
Some cheaper models, such as the Brinkmann, have a controller with only three settings, Low, Medium, High (LMH), and there is no temperature probe in the oven to create a feedback loop. We do not recommend these units. You actually have less control over temp than you do on a gas or charcoal smoker. The whole reason to buy a pellet grill is because it is set-it-forget-it and it hits a temp and holds it regardless of the ambient air temp outside, winter or summer. On these LMH controllers, the temp fluctuates widely and it cannot correct itself for the weather. They just aren't as smart as a digital device. Whether you're smoking a few slabs of ribs on a scorching summer day, or six pork butts during a blizzard, the three position controller only knows auger on and off times for Low, Medium, and High. It has no information on the temperature inside the cook chamber.
Bought the Costco trade show model after about 4 years of debating the purchase... OK, first one broke on day one as "auger" stopped spinning. Returned and received a new unit. 2nd one smoked a turkey for 4.5 hours. After 4 hours temp. dropped to 100 degrees and it was set to 350. When I opened the smoker to check on why this happened, it exploded into a ball of flames! There was fire shooting out from all sides of the grill and smoke and heat coming from the feeder side of the grill... This was SCARY and could have absolutely caused a major fire, and/or injury!!!
Second, you’ll have to figure out what BBQ pellets you want to use. There are many different brands, blends, and mixes to choose from, and you’ll likely want to do some side by side testing to see what you like best on what meats. My very good friend and BBQ buddy Shane Draper (ofDraper’s BBQ Rubs and Sauces) really likes to make his own blends — using different woods in different proportions depending on what he’s cooking.
UPDATE 8/27 - This grill is still performing flawlessly. No error messages, maintains temperatures. I have made homeade pizzas and strombolis on a pizza stone and it actually makes them better than in the oven. Its like a restaurant wood fired pizza. I made a pork butt, beef brisket, bacon wrapped scallops....it just simply cooks everything well. Love my Pit Boss !!
Z Grills is a lesser known manufacturer and a great low-cost alternative to the more expensive Traeger grills. Their pellet grill is a sturdy, heavyweight model with a roomy 500 square inches of cooking space and an electronic feeding system for fuel pellets. An additional warming rack provides additional space for cooking at lower temperatures. Furthermore, Z Grills also ensures their product with a generous 3 years warranty.
Instead of logs, the pellet smoker is fed with food-grade cylinders of wood pellets that are an inch long and ¼-inch wide and are made of compressed hardwood sawdust. According to the best pellet smoker reviews, pellet grills are easy to use because it’s easier to maintain its temperature because of these sawdust pellets that are subjected to great heat and high pressure, which ignites lignin (natural wood glue).