The popular Traeger Junior Elite is a great smoker for first-time chefs as well as experienced smokers who are short on space. It's versatile and can grill, smoke, bake, roast, braise, and barbecue food. The digital controller is adjustable to +/- 20 degrees and has 300 square inches of grilling space that is large enough for two whole chickens or three racks of ribs.
I watched the Traeger infomercial on T.V. Seemed easy enough. Ha! QVC ran a similar infomercial on their channel, seemed really easy. Ha! Like a fool and his money are soon departed, I jumped in and bought one. When it came in the mail, I started to assemble it. What a joke! No instructions came with it to tell me where the nuts and screws went. Called the manufacturer. The lady said they had many complaints with the QVC orders, she would email me a copy of the instructions. Well I finally put it together. Performed the (curing and start up method). Bought a nice pork shoulder and started grilling. It is interesting that both infomercials say set the temp and WALK AWAY!!! What a joke, I sat and watched the grill like a hawk for 3 hours, everything was good. I figured I would go eat lunch, ha! What a mistake. When I came back (20 min.) the grill had turned itself off and had an error on the screen.
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: 

This pellet smoker and its humongous 20 inches by 15 inches or 300 square inches of grilling space are capable of holding 3 rib racks, 18 hotdogs, 4 chickens, or 12 burgers at the same time. This is also one of the most Affordable pellet smokers around. Its thermostat control is LED digital so that you can set it as easily as your microwave. Just press buttons and get the setting you want every time.


REC TEC pellet smokers appeared a few years ago and the makers wanted to make their grills stand out. They wanted a grill that would have the type of temperature control found in an oven. Logically, this meant a pellet grill. But the REC TEC RT 680 isn’t revolutionary – it has a great marketing campaign, strong following and committed support. The makers even provide a 30-day no questions asked return policy and a six-year warranty.
One option is to put a griddle or a frying pan on the grill, high heat, get it blistering hot, add just a little oil to prevent stickling, and sear by conduction on the metal. It should only take two to three minutes per side. This is a good technique for reverse seared meats. You start them indirect, low and slow, with a little smoke, and then Maillard the outside in a hot pan or on a griddle. No, it's not cheating. It's making food better.
Yoder YS 640 is built out of durable materials. Unfortunately, this means that it is heavier than some other units. It weighs 325 lbs, nearly twice as much as the Traeger Texas Elite 34. The main body is built out of 10 gauge metal. It will take more time to reach the highest temperature, however the smoker will hold the heat in far better than some other cookers.
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.

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. 

The Rainier is also hearty as hell. It survived banging around in the bed of my truck for four years. And I didn’t exactly baby it, cramming it into the limited storage space in my truck with paddles, helmets, and all manner of gear. But I never worried that it wouldn’t fire up to cook another meal. Once, one of the stubby rubber legs popped off as I was pulling the Rainier out of my truck. The stove sat crooked for a weekend, but I eventually found the leg and simply screwed it back on.
Now, the best pellet grills come with more advanced features like auto-ignition using igniting rods, Wi-Fi Support, automatic turn on/off, and much more. One of the key safety features added by pellet smokers (designed by Green Mountain Grills), is a cooling fan to cool off the grill after it has been turned off. Even the shape of the body has been changed to have peaked lids so that it can accommodate turkeys and other kinds of roasts. Some come with multiple levels of racks for warming and cooling.
Lauded for its amazingly accurate cook temperatures and times and for affording cookers a real “unfair advantage” at competitions (according to those who lose to them)  – Fast Eddy’s Cookshack Pellet Smokers rank among the very best available on the market today. I love the history of Fast Eddy’s pellet grills. In 1986, Ed Maurin (Fast Eddy) – a retired KCMO Fire Fighter – cooked his first American Royal event. From that point on he was hooked on BBQ and on coming up with the very best way to ensure its production. By 1998 the first of his Fast Eddy’s pellet smokers was released to the market, and he was off to winning competitions and helping those who bought his cookers do so as well.
Another thing about pellet smokers which might impress you is that you can also use this type of smoker to grill your food. So, don’t be confused if you come across the term “pellet grill” in this article because it refers to a pellet smoker. When used as a grill, pellet smoker will start up quickly and cook your food with minimal supervision. Depending on your smoker, you can either use the small area above the fuel pot to grill your food or you can put a griddle on the pellet smoker when it is running on high heat.
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.
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Thanks Kevin for the reviews and content. Like many of the folks I too will be purchasing a pellet pooper. I have narrowed my choices to a MAK 2 star and a Memphis Elite. One of the earlier posters indicated on the Memphis that the effective direct grilling space was about 1 square foot. I am assuming that with the smaller footprint of the MAK that the direct “flame zone” is less than that. I’m just wondering how much less.
In reading through the comments section, it seems the recommendations have shifted over time. As it stands today, which smoker would you go with and why: GMG Jim Bowie, Traeger Pro 34, or the RecTec? I like the cooking space of the Traeger Pro 34, but the other 2 seem to have more bells and whistles. I’ve been smoking about 5yrs, so not a pro but not a beginner. Currently have a 10+ year old Traeger Lil Tex elite hand-me down that is ready to give up the ghost. Would appreciate your thoughts!
With a massive 700 square inches of primary grilling space, this grill impressed us when compared to other Pit Boss grills we reviewed. Its size is large enough to cook for large groups of people. It features a Flame Broiler that uses slide-plates which allow for direct flame grilling, which means you get an even cast-iron cooking each time. If the 700 square inches isn’t enough, you can make use of the additional upper cooking rack space. The racks are made of porcelain-coated cast iron for optimum grilling as well as easier maintenance.

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.


This is the right choice for anyone that likes smokey flavors and cooking slow at home. It is my first experience with a pellet grill and I have read and studied them for a while. I was looking for a outdoor cooking solution that would give me the ability to cook like the pros without the super sized trailer. Finally deciding to go with the Camp Chef I haven't been disappointed. The temperature control is flawless so you can dial down the cooking process. I smoked chicken the other day and the red smoke ring was a 1/2" deep. It works like a convection oven so there are no cool or hot zones, it just keeps the heat even and consistent. I have noticed even if smoke isn't pouring out the wood flavors are present.
So, there they are: my pellet grill review of 2016-2017.These information are surely going to help you from going nuts when trying to purchase your own pellet grill. These pellet grill review will give you a clear straight forward understanding of the best and most conventional features in pellet grills in the market today. Now that you are all set thanks to the pellet grill review, go grab yours, call some friends over and have a great weekend!
You want your smoker to retain heat and to maintain a constant temperature. If you purchase something that’s inexpensive, yet made with a thin metal, you’re going to regret it because you’re going to be constantly fighting with the temperature. You could purchase the best smoker pellets, but if you don’t have a high quality smoker, it is all for not.
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.
This is the most important aspect you should look into when buying a new pellet grill. You always hear people saying that a product will cost more money if it’s built with better quality materials and that is absolutely true when it comes to pellet grills. Let’s start with the basics – the most common material that is used when producing a pellet grill is steel. There are many different types of steel from high-grade stainless steel to lower grades that aren’t as sturdy. Cheap pellet grills will be constructed of a decent grade of steel when creating the outer appearance so that it’s sharp to look at. However, the inner parts of the grill are made out of lower-grade metals. Do you see the problem here? Even though the grill may look aesthetically pleasing from the outside, these nice looks won’t make up for thelow-quality materials that are used inside. This can quickly lead to the inner components of the grill deteriorating and in need of replacements. This ultimately results in you spending additional money to replace these parts once they are no longer functional.
Hey Tom! First, thank you so much for commenting on this article. I hope it’s proved useful to you and helping you make your pellet smoker buying decision. I took a look at the smokers you mentioned in your comment, and they appear to be similar in build to those made by Yoder. I can verify that Yoder does exceptionally good work with both the build quality and the heavy gauge steel Construction of their smokers. I don’t know much about the manufacturing practices of the smokers you mentioned. I do like the fact that their controller automatically dropped down to a warming temperature after your food reaches the programmed temperature setting. That’s a feature that I’ve only seen in higher-priced pellet grills like the Memphis Pro Series that I talk about in this article. However, more grills are starting to utilize this in the programming aspect of their controllers. In any case it’s a great feature. To be honest with you I’m not sure that the auger mechanics are going to be all that different between smokers. I’m sure there are differences, but I don’t feel that they are dramatic enough to offer a distinct selling Advantage for the manufacturer. If you haven’t looked at them yet, you might consider taking a look at the Traeger Pro Series pellet grills. You can’t find it on Amazon, but you can find them at different retailers listed on the main Traeger site. A friend of mine has one major competitions using the pro series models.
When it comes to construction, few companies can beat Traeger. Its grills come with construction features like cast-iron grates with a clear and nontoxic coating that prevents food from sticking to the grill and fireboxes made from a similar material. Though Pit Boss grills feature similar elements, many look flimsy, and most will not keep up with your grilling and smoking demands.
Because the burn pot is small, there is usually a hot spot directly over it. Some units have an optional perforated section above the burn pot so you can put the meat over direct flame, but the ones I've tested still do not sear properly. And there is no way to set up a 2-zone cooking system with a cool zone. As with most other grills and smokers, the differences between lower and upper racks is not huge, so think of it as one heckuva indirect heat convection smoker with precision temperature control.
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.
Their behavior is sometimes counterintuitive. The hotter they get, the less smoke they produce, and at their top settings, they don't produce much smoke at all. This is good for when you are baking cakes or pies or doing dishes that don't need smoke. But down under 250°F, they produce plenty of mild, elegant smoke. And even though the fuel is wood, it is hard to oversmoke with a pellet smoker. Burning wood on a charcoal grill produces much more intense smoke flavor.
This is the right choice for anyone that likes smokey flavors and cooking slow at home. It is my first experience with a pellet grill and I have read and studied them for a while. I was looking for a outdoor cooking solution that would give me the ability to cook like the pros without the super sized trailer. Finally deciding to go with the Camp Chef I haven't been disappointed. The temperature control is flawless so you can dial down the cooking process. I smoked chicken the other day and the red smoke ring was a 1/2" deep. It works like a convection oven so there are no cool or hot zones, it just keeps the heat even and consistent. I have noticed even if smoke isn't pouring out the wood flavors are present.
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.
Remember, you are paying for every little feature, attachments and details on any product. So do not end up paying you inheritance for a feature that you are probably never going to use. Instead, invest on a pellet grill that caters to your needs and has features that will actually enhance your experience when using it. So do not, I repeat: do not, fall for fancy marketing features that sound too drastic.
Having the same problem as the rest of the group. Rec Tec, Yoder, Green Mountain, Pellet Pro, or MAK? All seem to be heavy gauge SS, Pellet Pro seems really good value, MAK and Green Mountain seem to have controllers with more features. Have a friend who bought Rec Tec 3 years ago, he cannot say enough about the good customer service and the grill. If you could only buy one (money not the issue among these 5), which one, and why?
The biggest cleanup issue is the buildup on the heat deflector under the cooking grates. You'll need good gloves and an apron. On most models, a thorough cleanup means a 30 minute process of taking out the greasy grates and the gooey deflector plate, scraping them and washing them. You should do this when the carbon and grease cover the deflector plate. Stainless parts can go in the diswasher, but I wouldn't do it. That grease is like tar and it could get all over the insides of the dishwasher and hang on for dear life. I use a handheld steamer like the Steamfast SF-320 Portable Steam Cleaner shown here.
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