Even seemingly perfect pellet grillers have trouble getting the cleanup part right even in light of how little ash is produced by pellets. You should search for pellet smokers and grills that efficiently keep the ash from building up on the heat deflector that’s located underneath the grates. The ash should remain on the ash cup and nowhere else. Meanwhile, major cleanup with soap and water is a hassle that requires an apron and gloves.
Z GRILLS or Z Grills is a maker of smokers, grillers, and stainless steel prep work tables galore. It entered the world of pellet grills recently and launched an IndieGoGo campaign in order to fund its “affordable wood pellet grill” for $500,000 and currently gives even Traeger’s economical offerings a run for their money with its ability to accept all types of pellets and do all sorts of cooking styles. 

Second, more people know about them. More manufacturers are realising the advantages of pellet smokers and hopping on board, the market is expanding, and with the advantage of the internet putting all the info at our fingertips, even someone who hasn’t got the first clue about smokers and grills can find out everything they need in just a few minutes.
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:

They had the field to themselves for a few years, but the idea was too good to go un-imitated, and soon competitors began popping up. In the early days, most pellet smoker controllers had only three settings—low, medium, high (LMH)—and there was no temperature probe in the oven to create a feedback loop. So, whether you were smoking a few slabs of ribs on a scorching summer day or six pork butts during a blizzard, the controller only knew pellet-feed on and off times for its standard settings. It had no information on the actual temperature inside the cooking chamber.

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.

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.
This smoker offers a decent 418 square inches of grilling space. This is enough to cook around sixteen burgers or four whole chickens. If the grilling space isn’t enough, Traeger also offers a larger unit that offers the same features at a higher price range. But the medium sized one is enough to cook for large groups of people already. Built to have a high capacity, this smoker allows for multiple cooking at the same time.
For example, it has a decent 570 sq. in. of cooking area, a patented ash cleanout service, endless versatility (wherein you can barbecue, braise, roast, bake, smoke, and grill to your heart’s delight), and an advanced digital control (the same one that allowed the Camp Chef SmokePro to take the top spot). However, the quality control for this unit is a little worse than SmokePro.
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?
The biggest cleanup issue is the buildup on the heat deflector under the cooking grates. You'll need good gloves and an apron. On most models, a thorough cleanup means a 30 minute process of taking out the greasy grates and the gooey deflector plate, scraping them and washing them. You should do this when the carbon and grease cover the deflector plate. Stainless parts can go in the diswasher, but I wouldn't do it. That grease is like tar and it could get all over the insides of the dishwasher and hang on for dear life. I use a handheld steamer like the Steamfast SF-320 Portable Steam Cleaner shown here. 

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.
If you don't buy this cooker and spend more than $600 on any cheap thin steeled cooker. By year 2 you will realize you paid for quality that lasts. I joke that no one would steal it because it weighs so much. But it's my baby and it's double locked. I promise you in a year you will look at your wife or family and say "That's the best purchase I ever made!" It's impressive, no one makes a better product. If u buy Traeger or any other cooker. In 3 years you will regret not spending the money on a luxury machine. Yoder is the best of the best. Yoder is who the other guys want to be. I would buy it again tomorrow! Don't have regrets. You won't regret this purchasem
You prefer a direct heat method of grilling: The Traeger grill uses an indirect heating source, much like an oven, so you won’t be able to sear meat, as many people like to do when grilling a steak. The Traeger system is better for those people seeking more of a smoker type of cooking system, although you can sear your meat by using a frying pan with a little oil initially before you finish cooking it with the Traeger grill. You can use the frying pan on a stove top burner or on the surface of the Traeger grill.
Personal review of the Traeger: The auger fed the pellets after the fire pot went out making a large pile up which caused it to catch fire and burn up my grill. I had to use a fire extinguisher to put out the flames and prevent my house from catching fire. I sent Traeger the description of damages with photos. After much waiting and no response from the management team regarding my Traeger grill we gave up. The service team was very responsive but lacked any authority to make decisions to fix the grill. We worked with the service team for awhile having a different person each time respond and request information and photos that were already provided. Then, we got passed up to the management which is highly ineffective because we never heard from them, even after an email requesting an update. We really did like our Traeger grill and had high hopes that since it was under warranty and caught fire due to a failure we would have the grill repaired. Because of the terrible unresponsive service of Traeger we took our money and purchase a Green Mountain Grill.

Though the Memphis Pro works great as a high heat, sear, and direct flame grill, I chose to do some IBP ribs and a couple all natural pork loins I picked up from the store. I won’t go into too much detail on the pork loin and rib prep here, suffice it to say that I was very impressed with the smoke output I got from this unit, which I filled with a full compliment of CookinPellets Perfect Mix Pellets.
We purchased our wood pellet grill (Model TFB57CLB) from Costco in August 2017. It came with one bag of the gourmet blend pellets. We used the Traeger cookbook to try a few different recipes in the fall. Most of these involve a period of smoking followed by a period of grilling. The grill seemed to work fine at first. We used it a couple of times on warmer days in the winter and it had some trouble getting up to the desired heat level. We started using it regularly again in April 2018. I was careful to clean it and check the pellets etc. The smoking feature seemed to work alright, but when I would turn the heat up for grilling, the grill would usually struggle to get much over 225. I would resort to turning it up to 375 or more just to get it to 225 and then often it would sink back down to 180 or 160. I went to the troubleshooting guide on the manufacturer's website and checked all the components, which seemed to be working fine.
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!
This Bayou Classic outdoor patio stove offers a This Bayou Classic outdoor patio stove offers a wide range of cooking options operating from a bare simmer to a full blast flame. This outdoor grilling alternative is portable enough to take around with you camping tailgating hanging out in the backyard and road tripping in your RV. Despite its ...  More + Product Details Close
Barbecuing and grilling meats to the perfect temperature, texture and doneness is a skill that is acquired over years and years of practice. There is a lot that goes into making a good BBQ than just good seasoning and fresh meat, and any pit master will agree. There are just so many aspects you have to learn how to control: the temperature, the smoke, the placement, the ratios and so on. But you are lucky that this is new of yesterdays.
Bigger heavier hotter: the innovative LG Series is Bigger heavier hotter: the innovative LG Series is comprised to offer the most versatile cooking system available. Fueled by your selection of wood pellet blends the LG700 consists of a two-tiered 707 sq. in. cooking surface that is perfect for a family of four. The LG burn system will complement ...  More + Product Details Close
Traeger pellet grills pack big hardwood flavor, from sweet cherry, to savory mesquite, into everything you grill, smoke, bake, roast, braise, & BBQ. Traeger's wood pellets are made with 100% pure, natural hardwood giving you authentic flavor and nothing else. Grilling has never been easier—just set it and forget it and let the Traeger work its wood-fired magic.
Looking for a pellet grill to do all sorts of cooking with. I am between a Rec Tec, Camp Chef Woodwind, Gorilla and Yoder. Steaks, burgers, chicken, ribs, brisket, vegetables, etc. All in one. And want to have the option to sear meat, veggies as well. Ive seen so many different reviews my head is spinning. My budget is $700-$1,000 but willing to go up if necessary. I hear some can sear, some take too long to heat up, some dont hold the temp consistently. I am a low maintenance so ease of use important. Does not have to be portable.
The SG and ZG are not exactly the same though. Just from the pictures I can see that the bases are different. The SG has L-shaped legs and a bottom shelf while the ZG has square legs that are larger than the DLX legs but no bottom shelf. There were also different specs for many features. I took a picture of the ZG spec sheet at the store and compared it to the SG specs on the website and there are slight differences in capacities. For example ZG 3778 cubic inch - SG 4859, grilling area ZG 776- SG 811, hopper volume ZG 18 lbs - SG 22, ...
Turn it on to "Smoke" mode and use the P settings, or cook mode by selecting a temperature. When you select smoke or a temp setting you start the ignition sequence. The fan, igniter and auger motor turn on. The fan stays on until the smoker is turned off. The auger motor continuously delivers pellets to the red hot igniter rod in the firebox for two minutes under normal conditions. Then the igniter rod shuts off and the pellet fire burns with only the assistance of the auger and the fan.
A pellet smoker with a primary cooking area of 500 square inches should be sufficient for an average-sized family who wants to have the occasional cookout. If you’re cooking for yourself or a couple, tailgating, or camping, we recommend going for smaller units. It all depends on your needs, keep in mind that bigger doesn’t always mean better. You don’t want to be paying extra money for space you won’t use at all.
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