At the end of the day, the act of heating pellets and generating smoke in any pellet smoker is pretty much the same. Yes, some pellet smokers 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:
My budget range is $1200-$1500. The same as the cost of the XL Primo or BGE. I’ve looked at the Rec-Tec. They look like a great deal. I did notice that they were made in china. Also read they assemble them in Ga. I have concerns with the durability of the lower priced ones. I looked at the Fast Eddie PS 500 also. Now that one is cool. Those are the two I have looked at. The Yoders are getting above what I want to spend.
Despite being a little complicated when compared to the other types of grilling equipment (because of the automatic pellet auger and fan), they are pretty easy to repair if you have the right parts. You can find these parts right at a home depot or online. It doesn’t matter if you need to replace the auger or the fan, the ignitor rod or the hopper, for the top brands, you’ll find the replacement parts just as easily. Let’s look at the replaceable parts of a pellet smoker:
To sear a steak you need direct radiant heat. I don't care if you can heat the air to 1000°F, it is still indirect heat and that does not deliver as much energy as direct radiant heat. It's physics, but not hard to understand. In short, heat is not the same as temperature. It feels hotter at 80°F if the sun is shining on you than if it is 80°F in the shade. I discuss the concept in more detail in my article on thermodynamics of cooking.

In smoke mode the controller is no longer controlled by the thermometer, it merely switches the pellet feeding auger on and off. On time is 15 seconds, off time ranges from 45 seconds at P0, to 165 seconds at P15. Temp and smoke are controlled by the duration of off time: the auger always runs at the same speed. More smoke is produced at higher P settings and lower temp settings because longer off times allow the pellets to smolder. At P0 in smoke mode or "High" in cook mode the auger replenishes the pellets at a faster rate, creating more flame, less smoke.


REC TEC Grills was born in Augusta, Georgia in 2009 by lifelong friends Ray Carnes and Ron Cundy. The pair made it their commitment to build high quality grills and sell them at reasonable prices. But that was only the beginning of their story. The rest of the promise was to treat everyone like family and provide them with world-class customer service. With those two fundamentals in place, the REC TEC Family was born and the REC TEC Lifestyle started to flourish. Your feedback as members of the REC TEC Family and your living the REC TEC Lifestyle has helped this family grow and become that special bond that binds us all together. Thank you to all of our current and future REC TEC Family members. It just would not be the same without you all.
How much food are you going to smoke? This is important because some of the top pellet smokers are relatively large. And if you’re not looking at smoking a lot of meat, you might purchase a unit that’s too big. Conversely, if you buy a unit that’s too small, you are going to be frustrated because you’re going to make some delicious meat just not as much as you need.

Bought Junior Elite 20 pellet grill at Costco special sales event. Took it home and it simply wouldn't get up to temperature to ignite the pellets. Auger made extremely loud noises and then simply refused to operate. Packed it back up and returned to Costco with no problem. They had no inventory so I called Traeger. Woman on phone was very pleasant and helpful. Asked if I could get Traeger to simply replace the grill at the same price I purchased it for. Her supervisor said no and if I wanted it for that price I would have to drive to another state and purchase it at one of their event presentations. Made no sense to me why they would sell it to someone else for the "event" price but not to me who had already done. Poor customer support and silly supervisor. I will look elsewhere.


The Camp Chef PG24S lets you set the smoker to your desired settings so you can leave it to relax while it does the rest for you. With an advanced digital temperature chip, it steadily monitors the temperature, achieving a constant cooking temperature at all times. Dual LED temperature displays allow you to easily check the temperature of the food kept inside your smoker without losing any heat. With an auto-dispensing pellet hopper that can hold around 18 pounds, your pellets are used efficiently. The grill can work in temperatures that range from 160F to 400F.
Once you start paying more than $500, you’re looking at a big boy professional level machine. It’s going to be big enough that you don’t have to worry about having the neighbours over as well as the family. You’re also looking at more expensive sensors and thermostats, so you get a more consistent temperature, which leads to a much better end result, and there’s generally some sort of cleaning assist built in, which makes cleanup and putting it away at night so much easier.

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.
The Camp Chef Collapsible Garbage Can is a handy container for removing leaves, cleaning up after parties or for use on camping tr...ips. This camping garbage can contains spring-loaded setup for fast and easy use. Two plastic toggles keep it collapsed for transportation and storage. Made from Polyethylene construction with metal coil support, this collapsible garbage can is rugged. The 35 Gallon Garbage Can provides for cleaning up a large area without having to stop to dump in between. Featuring dual carry handles and a built-in zippered lid, this garbage can is convenient for tailgating, backyard barbecues and more. read more
The simplicity with which you can use this product is outstanding. From the time that you put it together to the time you smoke meat to the time you clean it, the entire process is extremely simple. It has a power failure restart and a dump tray that can easily be cleaned out. The cooking surface is so large that it is possible to smoke two turkeys at once.
Hey Mike, thanks for touching base. It’s always a pleasure to connect with you, man! If you have the space, I’d go with the JB. You can always cook under your pellet smoker’s capacity, but you can never cook more than it will hold! As such, you can always find use for the extra room in the JB. It’s like the umbrella and the rain scenario – bring one and you’ll never need it. Go out without one, and it’ll pour on you! Holding temp and managing the cook is the same for each of these GMGs. You’ll have smooth going with both, I’m sure. If you are cooking in very cold temps, you might want to consider the thermal blanket GMG puts out. Helps a bit re: getting to / maintaining temp. Some folks use it all the time as they feel it keeps more smoke in the chamber. As you know, nearly all pellet smokers produce a bit less smoke than your barrel smoker will. Hope this helps, bro! Thanks for your comments!
Technology is a focus of many pellet grill manufacturers today including features such as Bluetooth temperature controls with an option to download an application on your smartphone. While these features are great, they can sometimes get in the way of the actual materials used to create the structure of the grill. At Grilla Grills, we’ve always put the focus on what we, and our customers, believe are the most important components of the grill. That means you’re paying for high-quality components in the places that tend to be most likely to fail on other cheaper grills, and many in the same price range that have more bells and whistles.
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.

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.
The best thing about pellet smokers is that unless you’re buying the absolute cheapest models, there are no bad choices. In this list for under $500, you’ll find pellet smokers and grills perfectly suited for dropping a few burgers at home use like the Traeger Junior Elite, for throwing in the back of the van and using anywhere like the Green Mountain Davey Crockett, or for cooking whole turkeys when you have ten people round on Thanksgiving, like the Camp Chef Smokepro.
If you’ve used a pellet grill in the past, you’ll be familiar with its combination of wood smoke flavor and easy, digital temperature control. What the Timberline 850 adds are higher temperatures—up to 500 degrees—the ability to lower the main grill rack closer to the fire for better searing, double-walled construction that better insulates the grill from outside temperatures, and wireless connectivity that allows you to monitor grill and probe temperatures from your smartphone. Those might sound like small changes, but together they make for a sleeker grill with an appreciable increase in capability and convenience. Being able to watch the internal temperature of a piece of meat remotely is particularly useful and has helped ensure that not a single thing I’ve cooked on the Timberline has been overdone. 
Bake, braise, grill, smoke, and sear – all of these cooking techniques can be fully experienced by just using one unit of backyard cooker! Yes, you can definitely do different kinds of cooking to your pork, beef, fish, pizza, or pie by just using the Camp Chef Smokepro STX Pellet Grill without burning charcoals and woods to start the cooking process.
Now we come to the part no one likes and that’s cleaning. This smoker won’t clean itself but it does make the process a lot easier. PG24 by Camp Chef Pellet Grill is created in a way that gives you easier access to the fire pot making cleaning out the ash effortless. It also has trap door that allows you to clean the unit without scouring through grease and ash. Anyone who has ever had to clean a smoker grill knows how time-consuming and enormous the task can be. This trap door is only present in expensive units, but you’ll be glad you paid a little more when cleaning becomes effortless. You could also buy the other version that could come with cover (which is $50 more expensive) to make sure the smoker is in the best condition at all times.
With that said, we also wanted to take into consideration the smaller grills of the family. For instance, we wanted to share pellet grills that were intended for portable use or individuals that want a small smoker that is of the best quality. As far as cost and value are concerned, we can say that all of the grills on this list are top of the line and have expert quality features that make them ideal for the individual that wants their ideal pellet grill.
From grilled beef, salmons to grilled turkeys I love them all. My passion for grilling delicacy gradually built during the time I was living with my parents. My family members especially my mother was a great fan of grilled dishes to and from the love of food. I started preparing smoked food with my mom. This bonding helped me to know more and more about to smoke, grill delicacies and also with smokers. So, in a word you can tell me a BBQ lover.
Purchased the YS640 about a month ago. So far I have cooked nine pork butts, three racks pork back ribs, one beef brisket and four thick cut New York steaks on it. I am very pleased with the results of these cooks. I have an upright propane smoker, Weber kettle, propane grill and so far the YS640 has out performed all three of those in ease of use and flavor performance. I can get almost the same flavors with my others, but takes more work and babysitting. Also want to mention that the YS640 is built to last. I noticed the ruggedness and excellent USA craftsmanship immediately upon arrival. Some reviewers think maybe the YS has a steep price, but I think its justified due to its construction and craftsmanship. It would be difficult to make something of this caliber for any less. A couple minor things to note is you will have to play with the damper a bit to learn the heat distribution, but after learning it, its not a problem. Doesn't put quite as strong as a wood flavor on the food as my upright propane smoker, but it puts the right amount and I have no complaint here. I would and have already recommended the YS640 to friends and acquaintances. If you have spent long hours smoking foods and know the correct flavors that they should be, your not going to be disappointed with this cooker!
Bought my Texas Elite 34 Traeger pellet grill last summer at Oshkosh Fly-in. Received it and assembled it with no issues. Began using it and discovered it will not make temperatures above 375 deg F. Most of the Traeger recipes need 400+ deg, so this wouldn't work. Called Traeger. They started sending me replacement parts, first the combustion air fan, then the auger motor, then a digital temp controller. None of these new parts had any effect on the problem. I have probably called Traeger 10 times, finally getting a hold of a second level supervisor named Jessie. He decided to send me a whole burner module; pellet hopper, auger tube, burner bowl, fan, controller... everything in one assembly. I installed it and no improvement. I did a time vs temp test for them at their request. They finally agreed it wasn't working properly.

Editor's Note: If you're looking to upgrade your backyard cooking setup this summer, you're probably in need of a little advice. We're longtime admirers of the folks behind AmazingRibs.com, the site dedicated to unraveling the science of barbecue and grilling. Please welcome back Max Good, the only person in the world whose full-time job is testing, rating, and reviewing grills and smokers. The database he maintains includes over 500 grills and smokers, ranging in price from $30 to $50,000. When it comes to barbecue equipment, nobody knows it better.
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.
Retail pricing for the Traeger Grills Pro Series pellet smokers come in at $799 for the 22 in. and $999 for the 34 in. At this time, they’re available only through approved Traeger retail locations. If you’re in the Central Florida area, Whiskey Bent BBQ Supply in Lakeland, FL is a Platinum Traeger Dealer. Otherwise, you can find a list of approved Traeger dealers via their network locator page.
Does anyone know how to set up a pellet grill? Since pellet grills are a bit less common than a regular conventional gas grill, we had to conduct a bit of research and realized that pellet grills are as easy to set up, they just have more components. The components of the grill include a lid, which is designed to cover the contents of the grill as well as keep the heat in. Other than that, the ‘hopper’ is known as the area of the grill where an individual places the wood pellets and the grill drips the pellets onto the fire to keep the heat going.
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