Pellets are made from different woods, each of which imparts a distinctive flavor to the meat. Hickory, oak, maple, alder, apple, cherry, hazelnut, peach, and mesquite are among the flavors available. For more about pellets, read my article, The Science of Wood. There is a pretty good forum for people who have pellet cookers at PelletSmoking.com and of course our Pitmaster Club has a lively discussion on them with many active users.
One of Yoder’s most unique features is the Variable Displacement Damper. This makes it easy to smoke, sear, and grill your food using the YS640. This is a metal plate that moves along the lower smoke box. If you move it all the way left, it concentrates heat directly over the firepot for conductive searing. If you move it back to the right, the heat will spread evenly across the entire some box for even cooking. The unit comes with a side firebox which has a removable cooking grate if you want to grill your food in it.

Editor-in-Chief Sean McCoy is a life-long outdoorsman who grew up hunting and fishing central Wisconsin forests and lakes. He joined GearJunkie after a 10-year stint as a newspaperman in the Caribbean, where he learned sailing and wooden-boat repair. Based in GearJunkie's Denver office, McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.
I cannot comment on the quality or Function of the Grills as I never received mine. I order a Texas Elite 34 at the Minnesota State Fair on Aug. 23rd for $899 with a few extras and was told this was the lowest price ever (Not True). They did not tell me about the pro series which I found later. They said it would be delivered within 7 days. 2 weeks later no grill so I called customer service just asking on when I would get the grill. They could not find my order and did not believe I ordered one... They said I had to email them my receipt as they could do nothing on the phone.
I've had my ys640 for almost a year now. I absolutely love it! I debated for a long time before my purchase. I'm an old school charcoal guy at heart. I used to have a gas grill and a coal pit. I got tired of replacing gas grills every few years and having two grills is cumbersome. I considered an egg but the pellet grill is so convenient. I'm impressed by the build quality of the ys640. It's so heavy. It won't be rusting through any time soon. No regrets. My treager owning buddy is buying a yoder as soon as his treager quits because he has grill envy

The Camp Chef SmokePro’s automatic features definitely set it apart and make it truly a “set it and forget it” kind of unit. It makes use of an electric auto-igniter system that lets you start grilling with just one button. The automatic auger instantly dispenses pellets to maintain the desired temperature and use your pellets the most efficient way.

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.
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.
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 really likes to make his own blends  – using different woods in different proportions depending on what he’s cooking.
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. As the burn pot ignites, the pellets burn. Heat then carries through the home via convection (air driven) means, thus allowing air flow and a blend of warm and cool air to maintain steady, even burn temperatures. A heat exchanger separates the smoke fumes from the warm air, thereby warming the room without smoking everyone out. 

Camp Chef's Woodwind Pellet Smoker is a quality smoker and super searing grill wrapped up in one. As I mentioned above, though pellet smokers are often referred to as pellet grills, most have a limited grilling capability at best. To fill this gap, in 2017, Camp Chef introduced its optional LP gas Sear Box, which can be added to any of its current SmokePro pellet smokers. Woodwind is a package deal that comes standard with the Sear Box and sells for about $50 less than a SmokePro with the optional Sear Box. As a bonus, Camp Chef is one of the few brands on the market with an ash-removal system that deposits ash in a cup under the smoke box for easy disposal.
As far as size goes, bigger is usually better when it comes to pellet grills. A large hopper means a longer time you can cook without needing to refill your fuel source. A bigger grill size means more room for a variety of meats or side dishes. Look for at least 700 sq inches of cooking space (that can include the upper rack as well – remember, pellet grills work like convection ovens.)

GrillGrates(TM) amplify heat, prevent flareups, make flipping foods easier, keep small foods from committing suicide, kill hotspots, are easier to clean, flip over to make a fine griddle, and can be easily removed and moved from one grill to another. You can even throw wood chips, pellets, or sawdust between the rails and deliver a quick burst of smoke to whatever is above. Every gas grill needs them.

Apart from the replacement parts for a pellet smoker, there are also certain accessories that one can use to increase the range of its usefulness as well as improve its performance. A user can attach a griddle attachment to a pellet grill to use it as a flat top griddle, or use a hopper extender to increase the pellet hopper capacity; there is an attachment for every purpose to suit all of your needs. Let’s take a look at the types of accessories commonly found:
At present, pellet grills are mainstream products, with pellet refills filling the market versus having to find timber, sticks, and charcoal to start a fire (since these pellets are made of sawdust, it’s easier for them to cast fire and completely combust into smoke with minimal residue).  Old school pit masters dislike this product mostly because it’s too easy to use, like a microwave versus an oven.
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.
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.
First, you have to figure out what your budget looks like. Of the pellet smokers I cover here, theRec Tec Grill Pellet Smoker is the most economical and best overall value — with solid construction and top end electronics controls. At just under $1,000 it’s a great buy that should last you a very long time. If you can move up from there cost wise, I’d go with the Yoder pellet smoker. While the Rec Tec looks like a beast, the YS640 absolutely IS one. Weighing in at 315 lbs and boasting solid control components and features, you won’t ever need another pellet smoker in your life unless you just want another one. 

Hey Corry – GMG and Traeger have shown that they support their brands very well of late. In many cases, they both provide parts support even when warranty limits run out. If you’re considering a Traeger, I’d urge you to go with their Pro Series 22 or 34. Sounds like that’s what you’re probably looking at where they are concerned if you’re looking at a dealer.

Secondly, make sure you pay attention to the controls and temperature settings. As well as a thermostat, higher quality smokers come with meat thermometers built in. As you cook, the internal temperature of your meat is going to rise, and unless you’ve got a meat thermometer, there’s no way of knowing exactly how hot it’s got. If you don’t know why this is bad, when you let food sit too hot for too long, you run the risk of drying it out. You’ll undo all of your good work, plus it just tastes bad.


PG24 by Camp Chef Pellet Grill also brings along a digital controller which you could use to set your desired temperature and at one point the heat in the chamber will be automatically adjusted. It allows meat to be smoked for hours at a temperature of 150 degrees F. You could increase temperature to 500 degrees F for searing and grilling. With convection, the cold and hot areas of the grill can be replaced with even heat.
This is the single main advantage of a pellet smoker. Unlike charcoal, gas or wood fired smokers you don’t need to do anything with fuel except make sure it’s full when you start. This means no more having to go back and check fuel levels, no fluctuating temperatures, no spending ten minutes setting up charcoal and getting it at the right temperature, and no random heat variance giving you oddly cooked food ’cause you set it all up wrong.
The Yoder YS640 is 32 inches wide, weighs 313 pounds, and is said to have a cooking range of 150 to 600°F (65 to 315°C). Yoder is known for heavy-duty competition smokers, and the thick, 10-gauge-steel cooking chamber on this model is durable and great for heat retention. It comes with a sophisticated proprietary digital controller, which Yoder asserts is not based on any off-the-shelf temperature controller of any sort. Yoder states that it designed the board from scratch around a general-purpose micro-controller chip and wrote its own code from the ground up in an attempt to provide superior flexibility, efficiency, and accuracy.
Cooking Area – Search for one with a substantial cooking region. Keep in mind that pellet barbecues arrive in an extensive variety of sizes. In this manner, pick a unit that can meet your size necessities in light of its cooking territory. You don’t need to purchase an additional extensive unit in case you’re utilizing the grill for your home. Check for the physical measurements of the item and figure out which one can fit your space and stay aware of your cooking style and lifestyle.

What about temperature control and a digital controller? It is much poorer in this regard than the competitive Camp Chef which is why I decided to give the second place to Z Grills as an alternative to Camp Chef PG24. Therefore the digital controller allows to set the temperature within the range of 180-450 degrees F. A pretty low maximum temperature but it shouldn’t be a problem to enthusiasts of long slow cooking, which usually takes place at lower temperatures.
Consumer-level Traeger grills are considered a mid-range type of pellet grill, so they’re good for those wanting to try pellet grills for the first time. Traeger models like the Lil’ Tex Elite 22 or the Tailgater cost several hundred dollars and can grill about 12 to 16 burgers at a time. Larger Traeger grills will generally carry low four-figure prices, such as the Pro Series 34 or the Select Pro, which can hold 32 to 40 burgers between the upper and lower grilling racks.
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.
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.
The single biggest advantage though, especially for beginning outdoor chefs, is that when you’re paying this much, damn near everything is automatic. As an example, if we look at our number one choice, the Camp Chef PG64 pellet smoker, literally everything can be controlled by the built in systems, so I could grab a friend who’d never cooked anything more complicated than boxed mac and cheese over, give em a five minute masterclass and be confident that the automatic systems would do most of the heavy lifting when it came to getting everything right.
Do not confuse a pellet grill for gas grills. Like the name suggests, a pellet grill obviously uses pellets for cooking its food. But do not doubt its competence with any other gas or convection appliances. It cooks just as well, if not better. And the secret to this are in its pellets. While pellets vary from brand to brand, the best ones have more wood and less binders like sawdust etc.
Brought it home and set it on my prep table with the controller in a cubby hole with all intentions of building a cart for it later. So I have made a killer rib eye on it and tried to burn it down with a couple rib eyes cooking at 600 F. Gotta figure out a little better method of catching drippings as they will catch on fire and you have a runaway! But you can make a great rib eye. Ribs, every set has turned out awesome, everything from low and slow to a high temp cook process on them. Probably made 8 racks of great ribs. Wasn’t impressed with the hamburgers on it but will try again later. Made a pretty good brisket but used Rudy’s rub as I like their store sandwiches and I don’t have the method down. Next one will be back to salt and a touch of pepper. Chicken thighs (thighs are the perfect chicken part for Q, their rather uniform thickness makes getting them all consistent and cooked even a slam dunk) with a light coat of mustard and Tony Chachere’s lightly sprinkled is to die for. Simply squeeze them when they should be close and if the juice is clear, no pink or red they are perfect. If you cook the juice out, well they make decent tasting blotter paper 🙁 Pretty much killed a spatchcocked turkey for Thanksgiving, good thing the wife made an over baked one too. It did make great gumbo though as does the blotter paper chicken if you ruin any thighs or the whatever chicken. Also have a pile of hot links I put on at 180 for 2 to 3 hours. They are great for reheat with sauerkraut and roasted pabs or in the gumbo. Hot links should be a staple, ha ha! Gotta try my great pulled pork on it and we do Prudhomme pizza sauce on a Brown Eyed Baker crust and this Pro should rock it! 

Thank you so much for this very informative post!! My husband and I just bought the Traeger Select Elite Pellet Grill On Cart yesterday as a somewhat impulsive buy on a Costco shopping trip. It was the last day in the road show so I figured we could always return it if we have buyer’s remorse. Having no past experience with pellet smokers/grills, I am doing my due diligence in researching the reputation of this company and comparing to others in the market. The selling point for us with this particular Traeger grill was the ability to convert this to a built in unit by simply taking off the right side shelf. The sales rep at Costco had a picture of one that his parents had built into an attractive brick surround and we liked the option, however, after reading your post and several other sites, I am finding that Traeger may not be the best investment comparatively and with a purchase this expensive, long-term quality is extremely important to us. In staying within the same price range, I am very interested in the Rec-Tec and it’s stainless steel build. My question is, do you know if the Rec-Tec or another pellet grill @ the $1000 price point can be made to look “built-in” and if so, are there any dangers or potential problems with this.
Hey Dan – I think you’d really up your versatility with a good pellet smoker. Smoke profiles seem to depend largely on the quality of pellets used and then also on the burn consistency of the fire pot. What I mean here is that many pellet smoker users tell me that they prefer models that cycle over faster with frequent temp checks rather than those with longer wait times between temp checks. Cycling faster means that pellets burn more consistently and do not rest to a “charred” state and they “reactivate” This latter problem sometimes results in less than optimal flavor. Yoder smokers cycle very fast and are preferred by many due to this and their thicker metal construction.
“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
"The Camp Chef transaction aligns with Vista Outdoor's strategy to deliver long-term value through acquiring complementary, market-leading brands that will benefit from Vista Outdoor's balance sheet, distribution network, and sales and marketing expertise," said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mark DeYoung. "Led by an entrepreneurial management team, Camp Chef has a nimble and responsive product development process. Camp Chef continues to grow its market share in the outdoor cooking category, and the brand serves many of our current consumers who are engaged in a wide variety of outdoor pursuits. Acquiring Camp Chef strengthens our leadership position in outdoor recreation, allows us to enter the growing camping and outdoor cooking market, and the brand's effective multi-product, multi-channel strategy increases our presence across both brick-and-mortar and ecommerce distribution platforms."
GrillGrates(TM) amplify heat, prevent flareups, make flipping foods easier, keep small foods from committing suicide, kill hotspots, are easier to clean, flip over to make a fine griddle, and can be easily removed and moved from one grill to another. You can even throw wood chips, pellets, or sawdust between the rails and deliver a quick burst of smoke to whatever is above. Every gas grill needs them.
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.
Hey Ben – thank you for your comment. From a retail user standpoint, I think you’d be happy with either a Yoder or FEC. I really like the PG 500 for the purpose that you’re looking at. Best of both worlds it seems the more I’m looking at it. You can see how they approach grilling steaks in this video. You can incorporate the use of GrillGrates in either pellet grill. Both companies make their units in the USA. Both have great reputations. I’m just partial to Cookshack’s pellet smokers over Yoder as I know more folks who use them.

Now comes the best part about pellet smokers: they can conveniently do all these three. Coming with a large cooking space and a lid, the top rated pellet smokers would allow you to keep them open or closed, depending on what results you are looking for. With a dedicated space for putting your charcoal, you can use it as a charcoal grill, smoker or a barbecue. Or you can use it like a kitchen oven using the direct fire from the firepot. Finally, it does what it was made for – pellet smoking. Using small hardwood pellets running over the firepot in a corner, this smoker uses a fan to distribute the heat and smoke throughout the grilling area. This indirect heat ensures that the food is slow-cooked and smoked over long periods of time.
Up next to find its place in our pellet grill review is the REC TEC’s mini portable pellet grill. It has a 341 square inch cooking surface with 180 degrees to 550 degrees Fahrenheit temperature limit, with 5 degrees increment. But it can easily reach 600 degrees Fahrenheit in full mode. It has a satisfactory pellet hopper capacity and has folding legs. It is great for travel and movement as it is compact and small in size.
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