****Update 12/2014: So I finally found something negative to report. Today I was cooking 2 pork butts and a brisket and discovered that this grill does not do well with wind on a brisk day (It was 45 degrees here today). When set at 250 degree, the smoker could barely make it up to 190 degrees. I was able to bypass the problem by throwing a cheap moving blanket over the grill (an $8 fix) but I think it's worth noting.
Now that we have covered the most important criteria to take into consideration when it comes to quality pellet grills, we wanted to share the cost and the value criteria and why we have included this on this list. Now, It is evident that the more costly the grill is, the better quality designed it will be and the better functions it will have. With that said, most grills that are costly have some of the top of the line premiere features available such as high-quality construction that is rust resistant and up to 600sq in. of grilling space.
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!
Or the fact that it lives up to its “Ultimate Tailgating Grill” moniker for all you campers out there. You need to watch your roast closely so you won’t have to finish your pork butt in the oven. It’s not quite a “set it and forget it” kind of smoker grill because you still have to make sure that there’s a steady supply of pellets so that it won’t shut down.
Temperature: Most of all, you have to pay attention to whether your pellet grill maintains a chosen temperature. People buy a pellet smoker because it makes it possible to smoke meat for long at fixed low temperatures. Very convenient and simple, and a grill that always maintains a selected temperature guarantees that the meat will be perfectly cooked.
Minor problems (Product): 1. Main grill rack does not fit snugly, leaving the rack to half almost a half an inch in all directions to move. (not so much a problem when cooking but it does move) 2. Wind is a major factor making it difficult for this to get up to heat and stay there. 3. It rarely comes to the temperature I set it for, and usually is about 10-15 degrees below, with trying all of the different possible adjustment settings.
One comment I see a lot in various forums like Pellet Heads Forum is that you want as much efficiency as you can get. As with lump charcoal, this means burning as clean of a cook as you can with as little ash as possible. Different pellet mixes will produce differences in what you get in this area, and the cooker you’re using will dictate this to some degree as well.
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
The cooking surface is relatively small – the grill surface 12” x 16” (192 square iches) with the hood being 7” tall at the highest point. This is just big enough to cook some larger cuts of meat like tri-tip or brisket. However, small size is not necessarily a downside. While you won’t host a 4th of July cookout with this pellet grill, the small capacity and the compact size of the Davy Crockett pellet smoker makes it a perfect choice for condo dwellers or for picnics.
The Texas Elite 34 pellet grill is a fairly basic pellet grill that still gives you lots of versatility: you can grill hot and fast, or smoke low and slow, you can bake, braise, roast, or bbq all sorts of food to juicy perfection! Just like an oven, you set the temperature and the Integrated Digital Elite Controller keeps the temp within +/- 20 degrees F for as long as you need it!
Three stage controller – there are three options to choose from, smoke ( or low), medium and high. It’s an old and very poor controller. It only has three options to choose from, it’s very poor at maintaining temperature. It doesn’t take weather and other factors into account. The result is that the temperature inside the grill can significantly rise or drop without you knowing. Such solution makes it impossible to set a precise temperature and limits the cooking options.
Camp Chef has already been mentioned several times on this list. It's a venerable company that makes up in quality what it lacks in the name recognition of a Traeger or Weber. Their Deluxe Pellet Grill is built to reach and hold ideal temperatures for smoking. An internal system syncs pellet delivery to temperature instead of simply feeding in fuel when it begins to run out. This ensures a clean, consistent cooking experience. A removable ash can makes clean-up a snap as well.
What’s more, it has an LED display with a Digital Elite Controller for temperature control. Judging by its ratings, unlike the other grills on this list, its temperature and quality controls work just fine. This grill also has an electronic auto-start ignition and easy-to-clean grill gates to boot. Its quality control isn’t perfect though, and some faulty units slipped through the cracks.
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.
A few other mentionable features are that it has a highly durable temperature proof textures powder coat finish, it features auto start. The REC TEC Wood Pellet Grill accommodates temperatures from 180 degrees Fahrenheit to 500 degrees Fahrenheit with 5 degrees increment. This amazing temperature control features let you be in control of how much heat you want to cook your food in, without having to worry about it getting dry or burnt. This low increment allows you to cook delicate meats like fishes and seafood as well! It smart grill tech makes sure that the temperature you set is always consistent and constant. It also has an “Extreme” smoke feature from the 180 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit setting that intensifies the smoke in the grill.
I have owned my YS640 for about 9 months now. Before I bought this I researched smokers/grills for about 2 years because I had very little experience with them & cooking in general. With the help of a few good websites I have produced some great food. There is a ton of room to cook on & the heat stays pretty much where you want it. Only a few issues I have had is that where the stack mounts to the side of the grill it drips. I did have a scratch on mine from the shipper & when I called about it I was sent a can of matching high temp paint very quickly. One thing that I like the most about this smoker is it is heavy. You can tell that this thing was built to last.
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.
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.
Rec Tec Wood Pellet Grill boasts a cooking area of over 1000 sq. inches. However, that area is calculated from its optional cooking shelf. Without it, the cooking area is roughly around 700 sq. feet. This removable shelf can allow you to increase your cooking area if you’re trying to cook patties, steaks, chicken pieces and items as such; or they can be removed for granting a greater volume of space for smoking brisket or whole turkeys.