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 on our list of the best pellet grill review the Traeger pellet grill has a 292 square inch cooking surface area. It weigh 70 pounds and measure 21 inch by 23 inch by 21 inch in dimensions. This pellet grill is made out of steel and arrives in a black and bronze body. It has an automatic auger, an electronic auto start and a digital temperature control. The Traeger Pellet grill also feature a Digital Thermostat Control which detects the temperatures inside the grills using an RTD detector, and instructs the auger to fuel the fire and release the pellets according to that. Other than that, they also come with a manual temperature setting of smoke, medium and high.
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.
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.
After about 10-15 hours of cooking, you should remove the burn cup and dump the ash. If the ash builds up it can prevent ignition. Ash also accumulates in the bottom of the unit, but doesn't impact cooking. A vacuum cleaner with a hose makes short work of it. Only a few manufacturers, such as Blaz'n Grill Works and Camp Chef have a slide out combustion cup that makes cleanup much easier, but you still have to get underneath the deflector occasionally and suck out fly ash that has scattered around the lower part of the grill body.
Ordering through All Things BBQ was VERY simple and easy. In fact, my YS640 arrived a few days sooner than expected/quoted. These grills are expensive, but I am a firm believer in "you get what you pay for". There is no doubt the quality of Yoder craftsmanship is exceptional. So far, I have only been able to use my YS640 a coupe of times. However, I'm looking forward to many meals being cooked on it going forward. If you buy one, you will not be disappointed!
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!
Just like you need to have precise control over your unit’s temperature, you also need to make sure that your smoker can reach an adequate temperature. Most pellet smokers can reach temperatures between 180°F and 425°F, which is a decent range that can fulfill most of your smoking, baking, and grilling purposes. However, if you want to sear your meat, you will need a unit that can reach at least 500°F.
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.
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.
Pellet smokers heats up faster than charcoal grills, but slower than gas grills. It reaches satisfying temperatures of up to 500 degrees F ( with more expensive models it’s even up to 600 degrees F ), of course it’s much less than gas grills. But the upside is that pellet smoker can maintain low temperatures even at 160 degrees F for many hours. Some of the models are equipped with a gas powered sear box that heats up even up to 900 degrees F.
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.
The construction and the elements - REC TEC Pellet grill are an investment for years, safe from corroding. Most of competitive grills look pretty on the outside and the manufacturers claim they are made of stainless steel. The truth is, only the outside part of the grill is stainless. The steel on the inside is different, and major parts are made of materials of poorer quality.
Pellets look like rabbit chow. They are about the width of a pencil and as long as a couple of erasers. If they get wet they turn into a pile of sawdust. The beauty of pellets is that they have none of the additives and fillers in charcoal briquets, so they combust almost completely. Almost zero ash. The pellets provide the heat as well as flavor. No need to add wood chips. Surprisingly, they do not produce overly smoky food. If anything, the food is undersmoked to some people because the combustion is so complete.
Words like Grilling, Barbecuing and Smoking are often used interchangeably by us. However, when looking at them from a grill master’s point of view, there are some subtle methodological differences among these three: One is done with the lid up, BBQ is done in a closed circulation with the lid down, and smoking is a slow cooking process in a closed circulation.
Most pellet smokers have a flat drip plate under the cooking grate that diffuses heat and catches grease and gunk. Louisiana uses a curved "Arched Flavor Guard" that mirrors the shape of the lid. The company claims that this design presents a larger surface for meat drippings to sizzle and enhance flavor. The Flavor Guard also has a section over the fire pot that can slide out of the way to expose large, slotted openings, which allow meats to sear over open flame.
Hi Jennifer, the Traeger grill you purchased should serve you well. You can see a picture of one of them installed here. I think this is the grill style you bought. One thing the sites you’ve researched (including my own article above) might not have stressed is that Traeger recently hired a new CEO and is actively working to attain the name, reputation, and reputation for quality that they once had. I’m confident should you have any problems with your unit that they will stand behind it and take care of them for you.
"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."
Despite often being called “pellet grills,” they still cook via indirect heat, as opposed to flame, and are better seen as a smoker. They’re excellent for smoking briskets, chicken and turkey, salmon and other fish, but maybe not for steaks, as you won’t be able to get the same crispy, browned sear they call for, and that you can get with an open-flame grill.
As the launcher of the pellet smoker trend, it’s only natural that the innovative Traeger Pellet Grill Company would perfect its pellet grill technology and come up with some of the most affordably priced smokers around costing $300 upwards. It’s the Ford Motors of the pellet grilling world and many a pellet griller on the market to date owes the existence of their industry to this one company.
The Yoder YS640 is a more professional pellet smoker which maintains consistent temperature across the cooking grates. This means that you will never have to move your food to avoid overcooking because of the hot spots within the smoker. In addition, cold weather and winds won’t affect the temperature within this smoker as they do with some other pellet smokers.
You have some solid reviews out there. I have been in pursuit of getting exactly what I want for about 25 years now LOL. Started with a Weber Kettle cooked some great meals on it and made that tasted more like eating a chunk of lump coal 🙁 Over the years I have built a couple 55 gal barrel smokers they were challenging to hold the temp, an old Kenmore stove oven into a propane starter wood smoke unit, a monster 24″ pipeline pipe 5′ long and a warming oven, a 40″ stainless grill made from an industrial engine catalyst that I could direct and indirect cook on and a few other small grills. Working in the oil & gas business and having poor welding skills with a good welding machine in the garage made for some great experiences. Most generally have cooked for 2 to 4 people but have fed up to 70 a time or two.
Seeking to produce the pellet cooker that is both a great smoker and a powerful grill. The truth is that burning pellets in a controlled way is not the best method for producing high grilling temperatures. Most pellet grills top out at 500 degrees F while the hottest units can hit 600 degrees F. This pellet cooker is in reality, a combination grill with a large smoking space, and a small but powerful direct grilling area. Reasonably priced with quality construction, this is definitely a pellet grill to look at.
Hi i would like to buy my boyfriend a good quality smoker but can’t seem to find one that’s small for people just starting out with smoking for our small backyard. Does anyone have any suggestions? I don’t want to invest too much to start incase it’s too difficult to use or we find we don’t like it. I’ve read some reviews on little smokers that catch on fire and that worries me since we live in a townhouse. I figured someone on here would know of a well made brand that is on the smaller/less expensive side.
As another one of the most important criteria to consider, we read a lot of the reviews that individuals had to say about the controller system and how simple they are to use. With that said, we can say that all of the grills we have shared have a simple digital controller design that makes the grill simple to use and easy to adjust. Now, the digital controller is the way in which an individual will be able to adjust the temperature of the grill, which can range from an incredibly low temperature to as high as 450 degrees. Now, another really cool aspect of a digital temperature reader is that most brands have an LED display that makes it easy to read the temperature of the grill.
Normally you will get 1- 3 years of warranty for the top pellet smokers from different companies. Traeger will serve you with a 3-year warranty while Camp Chef will give you only 1 year of warranty. Considered this the safe period for your pellet grill, so take advantage. If you own a top quality smoker then you may need not to think of any replacement within 5 years of buying.
I don’t know how many meals I cooked on that thing, but it’s been enough to make me a hero and de facto camp chef among my friends. I seared up a tri tip large enough to feed four hungry kayaking buddies at the Salmon River Festival one year, then covered it with foil and cooked it on indirect heat for one of the best steaks of my life, which we happily consumed in the middle of nowhere. The grill also perfectly charred onions and peppers to deliver a mountain of chicken and beef fajitas to a crowd of ten. I still get compliments on that one.
The Good-One Open Range is a charcoal grill with an offset smoke chamber attached. It is dramatically different from a traditional offset smoker. The grill sits low in front and doubles as a firebox for the smoke chamber which is spliced on above and behind so it can work like a horizontal offset smoker only better. By placing the heat source behind and under the smokebox instead of off to the side, Open Range produces even temperature from left to right, something almost impossible to achieve with a standard barrel shaped offset.
It is almost as we have forgotten how to live life the way it should be lived. We no longer have the time to sit back on a summer’s day, and appreciate the show that nature has put up for us. Now-a-days we are so committed to our work, responsibilities and duties towards the external that we often forget that we have our very first priority neglected: happiness. We are so engaged in our daily 9 to 5 routines that we have actually began to take it as a way of living while it slowly drains and strains us away over time.
Besides being able to smoke, roast, sear and bake your food, the Pit Boss 71700FB allows you to do one more thing – directly grill your meat. The unit comes with a flame broiler, a simple slide-plate, which gives you complete control of grilling on direct flame. This is one of the few models that will let you both smoke and grill, and it comes at a great low price.
A pellet grill often comes with many facilities that are usually not available on any other grilling appliances. One of them is its temperature control and settings. This is a huge advantage for inexperienced cooks who do not have the understanding and years of experience of pit masters who know how to cook different foods on different temperatures. This also means that you do not have to fiddle and fidget around with the heat every 2 minutes after slapping on the steak on to the grills.
The Camp Chef Lumberjack Over the Fire Grill is a simple solution for cooking while on a camping trip. Simply place the Camp Chef ...Grill over the campfire coals and get to cooking. The durable plated steel body will stand up to the occasional knocks and bumps that happen outdoors. Foldable legs ensure that this camping grill will pack up quickly and transport easily. The large cooking surface of this Over the Fire Camping Grill is large enough to accommodate almost any camping cooking equipment you might want to use. The steel mesh top on this grill is well-suited for grilling a variety of foods, including steak and vegetables. Whether you are sitting down for a meal after a long day on the trail or you have been out on the lake, the Camp Chef Lumberjack Over The Fire Grill is an smart choice for your campfire grilling needs. read more
Spent thousands on Traeger, they are ok. Wouldn’t have an issue if they were only $500. But the last one I bought, (Timberline 850) cost $2500 Canadian. Almost burnt my house down because it got over 600F and was still climbing. All Traeger does is mail you more Chinese parts to fix your China made grill. By the end of it you will know your Traeger in and out because you WILL have to take it apart to repair! Overpriced for a smoker with many issues. Timberline lower grill has a portion of the grill removed for some kind of design. They added a 1/4 lip to justify this Grand Canyon of a hole in the back of the grill. Well needless to say if you cook wings or something small and toss them around you will for sure lose the wings to this big stupid hole. But they said they pit the little lip to stop the food from falling... Do they not test these products?
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.
The initial design by Mr. Traeger consisted of a “classic” drum barrel shaped grill design with a chimney on top. Instead of the firebox, the grill contained a pellet hopper. It used a fan to distribute the heat evenly over the pellets. Unlike the modern pellet grills, the original design didn’t include any auto-ignition features and the pellets had to be lit manually.
Thank you so much for the kind words! I think you would be very happy with a smaller pellet grill / smoker. The wording changes depending on how you are using the device. For instance, if you are cooking at low temperatures you will get a stronger smoke profile then if you burn a pellet smoker / grill at its higher temperature range. One thing you could do for steaks is cook them at the higher range thus being able to get a sear much like you would on a direct heated Grill service, for instance on your Weber. Another option would be to cook the steak in the reverse see your method, by bringing it up to temperature at a lower smoker setting and adding some smoke flavoring that way, then removing it and bringing the smoker up to its higher settings so you can finish off the steak with some of the effect you would achieve on direct flame. I normally do this by bringing the steaks up to about 15 degrees below where I want them to finish. Then, I finish them off at the higher temperature to where they are about 5 degrees below my target. This usually means a few minutes on each side but I use a Thermapen to be sure.
First one, had an auger problem... told that this never happens. Returned to Costco, now on 2nd Unit. FIRE HAZARD, fire pot overloaded after temp dropped from 375 to 100 on a four-hour turkey. When I opened the lid to see what was going on it EXPLODED into a fireball and then had flames shooting out from all sides of the grill. There was even smoke and heat felt from the firebox side of the grill and it looked as though the overloaded firepot was burning into the auger line as well. DANGEROUS PRODUCT!!!
Thank you for a very comprehensive review and all the helpful advice. I would like to know your thoughts about having the burn pot in the center area as in the Rec-Tec, or on the side. My only interest is smoking, not grilling, and I prefer even heat throughout the cooking chamber. How much difference does the location of the burn pot make? Thank you very much.
Hey Shannon – they all have their merits. Budget dictates a lot. If you’re in the $1000 or under range, Green Mountain and Rec Tec are great choices. Both have developed near cult followings, with GMG a little ahead of the curve on that front having been around a bit longer. I love the Yoders as far as moving up on the price range is concerned. Will last you forever and they offer a solid product with great support. MAK grills are just beautifully made. There’s no other way to put it. The “General” models are superbly crafted. Love that MAK offers built in cold smoking as a capability. Am I helping here or just making things worse? Hahaha.
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Hello John. Thank you for your comment and questions here! In short, you will not get the same smoke profile on a pellet smoker that you do with your BGE or PBC. That said, I do think there are some ways to mitigate this. Yes, I do feel the Smoke Tube and Mojo Cubes add smoke flavor that is detectable. Fred at Mojo Bricks does good work, and I recommend his products without reservation. This said, I have been happy with the smoke level I see in the pellet smokers I’ve used. Starting low does and ramping up later is a technique I’ve used with success when extra smoke is desired. The Rec-Tec grill gets high reviews across the board. I have no hesitation backing them, along with Green Mountain Grills. Both are made in China, but the companies have great customer service support and strong user communities. I believe each has a well-contributed Facebook group or two.
The computer controlled system maintains the smoker temperature with a high degree of precision so you don’t have to deal with fluctuations. With the optional (definitely a must) temperature probe you can put your meat in the smoker, set the desired target temperature and the FEC will take it from there. Once the target temperature is reached the smoker temperature will drop into a holding position until you are ready to remove your barbecue.
As you can see in this selection of pellet grill reviews, the act of heating pellets and generating smoke in any pellet smoker is pretty much the same. Yes, some pellet grills use thicker metal, have better thermostats, air flow, racks, drip flow, etc. But the ask any professional BBQ cooker who uses a pellet grill, and they’ll tell you that the quality of your smoke really does come down to the pellets themselves. Here’s what one very astute BBQ pro had to say over at the Pellet Smoke Ring:
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.
In 2008 there were only two consumer pellet grill manufacturers. Today there are dozens. The market for these relatively expensive devices is small but growing fast. Not all of these small manufacturers will survive. Forget the warranty and ask "When it breaks will the manufacturer still be in business?" They do not have repair shops near you. When it breaks will they be able to diagnose the problem over the phone? They may be able to figure it out, but then you have to buy the replacement parts and do the repair work yourself. Are you up to the task?
When was the last time you actually got to sit back with your family and friends and chat away over the recent events? While it is understandable that work is important, that is it crucial to put the bread on your table and that you do it to make the lives of your loved ones more comfortable and fulfilling, but it is in no way to live. There is nothing sadder than have to work on presentations on the weekends while you kids wait behind your desk to finish up and take them to their soccer practice. Nothing is worse when you cannot make time to visit your old folks and best buddy because you have to run to the banks and attend the same old meetings.
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.
Grill will not maintain temperature with temperature set at 275 the grill temperature will range from 200 to 320 and this continues throughout the entire time it takes to cook the food. Customer service is giving me the runaround and no resolution has been made. I have been on the phone two times and they say that the pellets are not dropping into the screw. I have done everything they have asked me to do and still have same issue.
Ever since my visit(s) to All Things BBQ in Wichita, my heart has belonged to the Yoder Smokers. I had researched many comparable size smokers, and guess what - they really are not comparable. The smoker started first time, quickly, and heated up well. I did ribs as my first foray and they were as perfect as my meager talents could get them. The fact that this smoker weighs in at almost 360 pounds speaks volumes as to how well built and how heavy gauge the metal is( something severely lacking in most other smokers). I had the extra shelf put in and the cooking space is easily double what I had seen in other smokers about the same dimensions. Hats off to All Things BBQ for the high quality Yoder smokers they so proudly distribute!!