Nothing says “you are welcome to my home” than some delicious and succulent baby back ribs; some beer can whole chicken cooked your special spice mix, and some wood smoked salmon. There is no better way to wins the appreciation of your favorite people than cooking up some wood grilled steaks and baked potatoes. But there is a catch, there always is.
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.
A good pellet grill can hit high temperatures for that perfect steak and still hold a steady low and slow temperature for great barbecue. All the while adding great smoke flavor from hardwood pellets. These pellet grills cost more but do so much more while being highly efficient, precise in temperature and widely capable. Among these, you will find cookers large enough for a whole hog as well as units with full network interfaces for controlling from a distance. These are the best of the best in Pellet Grills.
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.
First off, in general I was a huge Traeger fan due to my brother-in-law smoking up meat and fish for us for the past 3 years and it was just damn delicious. He also just raved about his Traeger, so finally I took the plunge and purchased a Century 34 model during one their Costco road shows. Customer Service - In general I will give them 4 stars because I am talking with a human, they were seemingly very thorough when I spoke with them and didn't appear to be reading from a knowledge base article when I described the problems. I also grilled them to ensure that the Costco specific model wasn't being manufactured with subpar parts since the price was so much less than retail and seemingly more bells and whistles. More than one representative confirmed that was not the case. This is where it stops being good news.
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.
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.
I purchased a Traeger Lil Tex 22 yesterday. I “grilled” a whole chicken. It overshot the temperature by nearly a hundred degrees which wasn’t a bad way to crisp up the bird but I was afraid it was going to melt itself down so I shut it down. I was up by 5 this morning to smoke a pork butt for pulled pork sandwiches. My wife’s family is coming over for dinner tonight and time being a concern I fired up the “smoker”. It snowed 12 inches last night so the next hour I was shoveling my walks. Imagine my surprise when I checked on the Traeger and it had shut itself off . The meat was colt to the touch. I read through the instructions to make sure I started it up correctly and I did. I removed the meat and restarted the smoker. It smoked for awhile then quit. The temperature never got above 140. I called Traeger technical support twice and each rep gave me a different answer as to why it wasn’t working. After 3.5 hours I gave up on the Traeger for a more conventional method. I purchased the Traeger for the the set and walk away feature. It let me down!! It is 34 degrees outside today so I will wait until it warms up to try again. Should it fail me again I will sell it for scrap! So far I am not impressed. My wood smoker takes time but it is reliable.
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.
I’ve been grilling and smoking for many years and throughout all those years I have burned through many expensive grills. Four years before I purchased the 640 I got on the pellet smoker wagon and started my research. Finally when my daughter was getting married she ask me to cook for the wedding and gave me the perfect excuse to finally get a smoker I wanted. So getting back to the research and after 3 months of comparing I settled on the YS640. I wanted a grill, at my age, to be able to pass down to one of my kids. It was big investment but like I’ve learned in life, you get what you pay for “most” of the time. I have had this grill now, September 2018, will be 4years now. I have no regrets and would do it again. I’ve had some minor corrosion issues and after an email was promptly sent the matching paint to clean it up. I spent the time to do it right and today, a month later, today my grill looks brand new. Honestly nothing like this can be left to take care of itself. Maintenance like anything else is required. But I know this will most likely be my last grill. Thank for a great product and great follow up service. Smoke Shack.....
The Smokepro comes with many of the extras that define the Camp Chef line of products, such as the easy-to-use ash removal system as well and an interior fan. This model comes with easy-to-use controls and an LED temperature readout so you can monitor internal temperature at all times, even if you're cooking at night. The unit also comes with a convenient meat probe for ensuring that perfect finish.
Due to having such features and being the best Lousiana Grills Product, the Louisiana Grills LG Pellet Grill 1100 could not escape our vigilant gaze when we did our research. However, it had some shortcomings, mainly due to its build and price that did not allow it to make it into our pellet smoker review. Regardless, we could compare it with some of our products that it had tied with. But as always, we could only choose the top 10 products for this review and this had to go. Regardless, this still is a great product, worth mentioning.
PID: For the most precise temperature control, some pitmasters feel that a grill with a proportional-integrative-derivative (PID) controller is the way to go. A PID controller uses algorithms to keep the temperature within a couple of degrees of the setting. It doesn’t use fixed cycles to release the pellets. Instead, the controller only adds pellets when it’s necessary to maintain the desired temperature.
Kevin, appreciate your reviews and insights. I am currently looking for my first pellet cooker which will be primarily used for camping, therefore I will likely purchase a portable unit. Your review on the GMG Davy Crocket answered some questions for me. I was initially contemplating the Traeger Junior Elite and GMG Davy Crocket, but after doing some homework I’m now considering the Rec Tec Mini as well. I can purchase the Traeger and GMG now for $350 and the Rec Tec for $500. My dilemma is that I (like many others) take very good care of my gear/equipment, so whatever I purchase, I expect to get a great deal of use out of. With that said, making the wrong decision could be a 7-10 year mistake. There are aspects of each that I like, I guess my question is whether spending another $150 on the Rec Tec, in your opinion, would be worth it to you? I understand if you would rather stay away from specific recommendations, and if that is the case, any other thoughts you have would be appreciated.
-Warranty-(Forgive my soapbox here, folks.) I'd give it 5 stars if Camp Chef would give it a real warranty. One year is pathetic and WAY below the industry standard. Camp Chef, I know you are reading this because you guys are too excited about your great new product to not pay attention to feedback like this. Nut up and stand behind your awesome product. Why would anybody buy a product from an industry newcomer with no track record when you yourself are only willing to stand behind it for 1 lousy year?... Especially when the "industry leader" will guarantee their product for 3 years?!?! You are communicating that you have 1/3rd the amount of trust in your product that Traeger does. That's terrible! You should exceed what they are offering just to make the point in the industry! At a minimum, you should at least match their warranty just so it doesn't become a stumbling block to potential customers. Look, you basically took the lil tex and said "ok boys, so how can we make this better?!?" You did that! You totally knocked it out the park! Why cheap out with the warranty?!? As a customer, it makes me nervous that you know something I don't.
Bullet Smokers: They come in the shape of a bullet and works in a similar fashion as kettle grills. However, the main advantage it has over kettle grills is that you don’t need a charcoal chimney starter to light it up. Plus, the shape will allow the users to cook at a lower temperature and smoke for a little longer than they can on a kettle grill.
PG24 by Camp Chef has a weight of 124 lb with a pellet hopper that has 20-pound capacity. That’s so large, you won’t need to worry of getting more before your meal is done. This approach allows you to have the ultimate cooking experience. When the temperature drops, one wood pellet is released. This convenience can’t be found in other grill types, like gas or charcoal.
My wife and I were one of the first buyers of the YS640 in 2010. We had owned a couple of gas grills that, of course, eventually rust out. My wife saw the YS640 at the Kansas State Fair and called me and said that I HAD to look at this smoker! At first, the smoker had many problems--inaccurate temps, huge swings in temps, etc. Don and Joe kept working on the problems and installing updates--never charging us for updates or service calls. Finally, in about March of 2011, they installed the update that really was the solution. Since then, the YS640 has been a consistent workhorse that does everything as advertised. Built like a tank. built to last. Don and his staff stuck by his product and by his customers. In this day and age, customer service is uncommon. By the way, I thought the YS480 would have been big enough, but my wife said, "our family isn't getting smaller,".....I'm very glad we got the 640 and the second shelf. I have needed it many times. Thanks Don!
The first name to kick start our list of the best pellet grill review is the Camp Chef PG24 Pellet grill. It measures 45 inches by 21 inches by 51 inches, in dimensions. This pellet grill weighs 127 pounds and capacitates a 550 cubic inch cooking surface. It has a removable upper rack, and it comes with a stainless steel food probe. Camp Chef PG24 Pellet grill comes with an LED digital temperature control system, and has a patented down cleaning system. It can provide temperatures from 160 degrees to 500 degree Fahrenheit, and has an internal sensor.
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.
Not all people and culture will be able to truly understand our love for barbecue here in the USA. For them, it might just be a cooking activity while for us, it’s a tradition – a ritual to celebrate the summers (and occasionally the winters). As long as this love for grilling stays with us, which will be, we’re going to continue to expect more and more from the grill manufacturers.
With their portable model, Traeger has their own version of the classic 'tailgater'. Still fairly hefty at a little over 60 pounds, this grill is still far and away the most lightweight model Traeger offers. The legs fold up for ease of storage and transportation. As with all other Traeger products, temperature controls allow grillers to use the Tailgater as either a conventional grill or a smoker.
****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.
To start using the grill, pour wood pellets into a hopper (pellets are usually are made from compressed sawdust). Press the start button to ignite the pellets, which are fed into the fire box with an auger, where a controlled number of pellets are lit and burned (depending on the temperature setting selected). The auger adjusts the number of pellets entering the fire box to maintain the desired temperature.
Controlling temperature is the best way to get the desired piece of cooked meat. This smoker grill has a built-in thermostatic control and a digital thermometer, so that means you won’t have to do much guesswork during barbecue. If the sensors sense a fall in temperature, more wood pellets are added to the burner, which allows you to place the meat on grill and relax.
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.
love your article and got lots of good info from it….i do have a question tho that i didnt see an answer to…..do pellet grills have to use just pellets?….i have 3 acres full of oak branches that could be shredded. my question is can a pellet grill use home shredded wood chips to burn and cook with or is it mandatory that the fuel be in the pellet state?….would be great if i could find a good use for all these fallen branches….
Hey Chris, IMHO the Blazing Pellet Smoker looks like a solid unit. There’s a good review of it here. I think between the units I might give them a run. Yoder makes quality stuff, and if made in the USA is important to you, they fit as do the Blazings. All this said, if you’re basically using the pellet smoker like a Cambro, you could opt to save a little money and go with the Rec-Tec. Good customer service and solid following.
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.
Make dinner for the family with the Camp Chef 12-Quart Grand Canyon Cast Iron Dutch Oven. This unequaled cookware is designed with... a beautiful scene of the Grand Canyon featured on the outside to commemorate 100 years of the national park. The Camp Chef cookware is not only attractive; it is useful as well. The deep-dish lid doubles as a skillet or serving trivet, and the pot comes preseasoned so it is ready to use. The Camp Chef Dutch oven includes a lift tool so you can carry the pot from the stove to the table with ease, and a thermometer channel allows you to check the temperature without lifting the lid, so the heat stays inside. This cookware is just what you need for camping trips to cook for the whole family. It is large enough to feed everyone, and it is sturdy for cooking over alternative heat sources. The unique lid that doubles as a skillet helps save room when you pack up for a weekend camping. read more
The ceramic stone promotes even heat distribution and the domed ceiling design mimics the same heating pattern as a wood fired bri...ck oven. Preheats in just 15 minutes, exceeding 600°F if needed. The products are covered by the following warranty. Warranty covers all components of the stoves, fire pits, ovens and smokers to be free from defect in materials and workmanship for one year from the day of purchase (excluding finish). All accessories are covered for a full 90 days to be free of defect in materials and workmanship. read more
Pellet grills come in many different sizes that accommodate food as per those sizes. However, even the smaller kinds are able to cook up a meal for a large family of 4 to 5 at a time! The larger ones are obviously able to accommodate large portions of meat and other food in it. In fact, some large pellet grills are used to cook up a whole baby lamb or large fishes at a time! This is one appliance that has been proven ideal for feeding a lot of heads at a time without the stress and the hard work of course, making it great for small to medium parties and get-together.
Typically, most portable grills would give up certain features just to maintain their portability, but this wood pellet grill from Traeger actually had more than what other top grills have to offer. Out of all of our features, it managed to tick 85% off the review. Its digital controls, versatile cooking features, and decent cooking space (perfect for outdoor adventures) all make it our best portable pick.
The Camp Chef SmokePro is probably the best pellet grill on this list by rating and by performance. It has a decently large area for cooking at 19.2 inches by 22 inches plus its smoking or warming rack is also 6 inches by 24 inches in size. This is one of the best pellet smoker for home use because of its combination of quality features that are never superfluous and works as advertised.
I've been wanting a Yoder for the last year and a half. Finally pulled the trigger on a 640 a couple months ago. Absolutely fantastic. I've been a Weber guy forever and this is my first smoker. This defiantly took my food over the top. My 640 has been incredibly accurate with keeping the heat on the grate to the setting I punch in. Just finished my first brisket and it was fantastic. The only way to go!
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!!
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Is it customer support? I ordered a grill cover(made by a outside vendor in Kansas as well) for my YS640. It ended up with a small leak. I called Don, and by the end of the week I had a brand new one. Also, I was getting ready for my first cook on my brand new YS640, and I invited the whole family over for baby back ribs. I called Joe, and he talked with me on the phone for 20 minutes explaining how the grill worked, what temp to set the pit at, when to rotate the ribs and even which ribs will need to be rotated. Joe was spot on! Best ribs I have ever had!!!