Decided that moving these beasts was a little challenging so I bought a Backwoods Party 10 years ago and loved it. But basically have about worn it out. And as I got older I don’t enjoy getting up at 2 AM and then having to get up every couple of hours, after the 45 minutes of getting it ready at 2 AM, to check it and feed it. I also bought a smaller lightly used Open Range, The Good One. Used their recommended method the first time I cooked with it and hated the Q off of it so bad most of it was wasted, wife hated it too and the son ate most of it. It was extremely ash/strong smoke flavored!
In fact, 80 to 85% of pellet smokers in the USA are Traegers. The consensus is that they are reasonably well built, though some buyers complain that quality has dropped since manufacturing moved to China. But of course we hear more complaints—as well as more praise—about Traegers, since eight out of 10 pellet smoker owners have one. Traeger can be found in many national chains, like Cabela's and Costco. It's not unusual to find special deals on this popular product line, so keep your eyes open.
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
Compared with charcoal and other wood-fired grills, pellet smokers are simpler and cleaner and easier, giving more control than traditional smokers. Wood pellets are dense, burn hot and smooth, and can be easily fed into the flame with an automatic auger, allowing for consistent temperature with minimal effort. Many modern smokers let you practically set it and forget it, thanks to their digital controllers. Pellet grills are also efficiently cheap, often using as little as 1lb of pellets an hour.
Hey Rob! First, I really appreciate you reaching out. That’s what The BBQ Beat is for! To your question, I own a Davy Crockett Tailgate Model pellet smoker and really like it. Full disclosure, it was given to me by the company to test and Jason Baker of GMG said I could just keep it. But, I get a good number of products to review sent to me and a whole lot of them don’t make it onto the blog. I’d rather “omit” than “detract” – keep things positive sharing the stuff out there that I can get behind.
The Fast Eddy by Cookshack is an American designed and manufactured Pellet Grill with a riveted stainless steel body and solid digitally controlled system to maintain the consistent temperature. The name of the game here is sturdy reliability. What it lacks in little extras like wifi controls it makes up for inconsistency. Whether you're smoking, grilling, or searing, the Fast Eddy performs.
You need some temperature control in your grilling system: Even though most propane and charcoal grills include a temperature gauge, they’re not precise. Because the pellet Traeger grill works more like an oven, cooking at a precise temperature setting is a lot easier to do. It’s not quite as precise as the oven in your kitchen, but the Traeger system’s temperature control is surprisingly accurate most of the time. Some manufacturers of low cost pellet grills only offer low, medium, or high temperature settings.
And of course, it’s definitely a plus when the company that makes your grill includes a multi-year warranty and top notch customer service. Pellet grills are finicky compared to gas or charcoal grills simply because there are so many more parts that require electronics or that have electrical components… which means there is a fair bit more that can actually go wrong or require service at some point.
Hey Dan – I think you’d really up your versatility with a good pellet smoker. Smoke profiles seem to depend largely on the quality of pellets used and then also on the burn consistency of the fire pot. What I mean here is that many pellet smoker users tell me that they prefer models that cycle over faster with frequent temp checks rather than those with longer wait times between temp checks. Cycling faster means that pellets burn more consistently and do not rest to a “charred” state and they “reactivate” This latter problem sometimes results in less than optimal flavor. Yoder smokers cycle very fast and are preferred by many due to this and their thicker metal construction.
Kevin, your recommendation rocked. The Pro is one of the best pieces of grilling and smoking iron I have had my hands on in a long time! Better than the Backwoods? Well depends on how much work you want to do! Maybe not, they are first class, but ease of use? I use the Backwoods a couple times a year, the Pro has already done 8 cooks in 5 weeks. Love it.
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.
Hello Mark! Thanks for commenting here. The Kalamazoo Hybrid Grill looks like a BEAST! If you can swing it, I’d go for it. I truly enjoyed cooking on the Memphis Grill, which is to date the most high end pellet grill I’ve used. It offered a nice blend of professional grade convection with the wood fire taste of the pellets. The Kalamazoo hybrid really does seem to offer one step beyond with the addition of charcoal and wood chunks. I see that Derrick Riches of About.com stands behind the Kalamazoo brand. You’re hard pressed to get a better endorsement of a grilling product than that! Keep me posted at email@example.com and let me know how your search goes! 🙂
This review is just a repeat of many already submitted. Got my Traeger Elite 34 this summer at a trade show. It would not get up to temperature, wouldn't go about 360deg with food inside. Empty it would hit 390 max. Most of the 'infamous' Traeger recipes call for 400+. If you raise the lid, the temp falls to the low 300's and takes 15 minutes to recover. I called Traeger and they claimed their grills 'never do this'. After reading dozens of reviews since, the truth is that they seem to 'usually do this'. The big grilles just do not have enough BTUs to heat up properly.
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.
With the summer right around the corner, it’s about that time of the year that consumers are thinking about hosting outdoor picnics and having their friends and family in the backyard. Now, to make this year special, many people are flocking towards purchasing pellet grills. In efforts to assure our readers that each grill on today’s list is the absolute best, we performed an update on this buying guide. Included in this update, readers will get to learn about the criteria that we used to evaluate each grill and a list of answers to some commonly asked questions. Before the summer arrives, check out this update!
Consistency is the key to having the best results. If you want to make a tender brisket, your cooking temperature should be close to 250 F during the entire 12-hour cooking period. The control board is responsible for precision. There are three types of controllers – PID multi-position, non-PID one-touch, and 3-position. Check out the different types of controllers for the one that is right for you.
3-DFT12 Size: 12" Features: -You can now take the guesswork out of outdoor grilling and concentrate more on the beauty of the grea...t outdoors. -Allow yourself to effortlessly monitor and regulate the temperature of your grill with the Camp Chef Thermometer. Product Type: -Thermometer. Finish: -Silver. Tool Head Material: -Other. Number of Items Included: -1. Dimensions: Overall Product Weight: -1 Pounds. Size 6" - Overall Height - Top to Bottom: -6 Inches. Size 6" - Overall Width - Side to Side: -2 Inches. Size 6" - Overall Depth - Front to Back: -2 Inches. Size 12" - Overall Height - Top to Bottom: -12 Inches. Size 12" - Overall Width - Side to Side: -2 Inches. Size 12" - Overall Depth - Front to Back: -2 Inches.Package Quantity : 1 read more
I use to have a charcoal/wood fired smoker and it was a nightmare maintaining temperature especially on a long brisket cook. Instantly I've fallen in love my YS640 coupled with a fireboard. You literally set the temp load it up and walk away with no stress or worries about maintain temperature. It provides great smoke flavor too. Yes it is an expensive purchase but that is because this thing is built like a tank and will last for decades.
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.....
Because most Traeger grills make use of an Ortech digital temperature controller that’s precise within about 15 degrees of your setting, they may not be precise enough for the type of cooking you want to perform. If so, some pellet grill manufacturers, such as MAK, Yader, and Memphis, can give you temperature control within about 5 degrees of the setting. These types of grills use multiple temperature probes inside the cooking area to guarantee the temperature remains consistent. And some of these high-end brands can reach a higher cooking temperature (such as 600 or 700 degrees Fahrenheit) versus the Traeger family of grills (usually around 450 or 500 degrees). Additionally, MAK, Memphis, and Yader grills are made in the United States, while some parts of Traeger grills are made in China.
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.
Hey Kevin great article. I too am currently looking for a pellet smoker. I’ve narrowed it down between a Yader, Memphis Pro and the Rec Tec. The Green Mountain did not seem very well built. The wheels looked liked the would break on the first roll and the stainless steel door was flimsy and did not have a good seal. I know the Rec Tec has a 6 year warranty. Do you know how long the warranties are on the other two?
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.
The Silverbac wood pellet grill has a heavy-duty 12-gauge steel body and 14-gauge stainless steel lid, which makes for better heat retention and durability. This type of beefy construction is what you'd expect to find in a grills at this price point. The digital control panel is accurate every 5 degrees and the large 20-lb. hopper can hold enough pellets for your longest smokes. With nearly 700 inches of cooking area in the Grilla, you'll be the most popular house on the block.
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Something you may not have read in other Pellet smoker reviews is that there are two key concerns: flavor and fuel consumption. As previously stated, pellet smokers are not known for producing a strong smoke flavor, no matter what pellets you use. Though, some brands can be more pronounced than others. Hardwood pellets provide longer overall burn times per pound than fruit wood pellets. 1oo percent fruit wood pellets will also be more expensive on average. So, if you want to do a pellet smoker cook using 100 percent cherry wood pellets, you’re going to use more fuel than you would with a cherry/hardwood blend, and it’s going to cost you more as well on average.
I recently purchased a a Smoke Hollow pellet grill from Sam’s. Seems like quality is good and it was recommended by a friend. Temperature control has issues. I called for customer service a couple of times and they sent a new thermostat. Still can’t get temperature to to hold at setting. Am I missing something? Told to start and let preheat for 10 minutes and then move to desired temperature. Tried setting new thermostat at 190 and let it go for 15 minutes and it was back at 230 when I checked it. Any suggestions?
I spent a lot of time researching smokers before committing to the 640. I wanted something that can basically be left alone, produce good results and be durable. The 640 meets and exceeds those goals. It is built like a tank, and weighs about as much. I needed two people to help me assemble and move it. Assembly was straiightforward and took about 90 minutes. I have about 4 cooks on it and cannot be happier with the results.
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.
Convection is achieved using a number of techniques. Air is fan forced into the grill and channeled throughout by our arched flame broiler. Our exhaust design allows air to circulate evenly along the length of the grill and to the top shelf. This combination allows us to achieve uniform heat throughout the unit whether your smoking at 170°F or cooking all the way up to 600° Fahrenheit.
Big Horn’s largest available grill, the XL 1093 comes with a large cooking area of 1093 sq inches. With it’s low price tag of around $300 and a high cooking area, this product could have been a great choice for pellet smokers. However, we’d rather not suggest something that’s susceptible to rust and weather conditions to be kept outdoors at all times.
Accurate, powerful, with a lot of options, good build quality and a nice set of features, all at an excellent price, the Camp Chef PG64 is our best overall pellet smoker. Of course, the RecTec still offers more options, but it’s more expensive, so if you want the absolute most for your money, without breaking the bank, you’re going to want to look closely at this.
I have ate a few peoples cooking that have won at the Royal, Houston and Memphis in May. They have all had one thing in common, I didn’t put one drop of sauce on them and they had not been sauced on the Q before serving! The restaurant Cackle and Oink is just a ways from where we live and the owner Aaron Vogel is there regularly. I have tasted all his sauces and they are very good, but the 3 times I have been there, his sauces never touch my ribs and brisket! Aaron does say, if you like this you need to try my competition food (which I will at one of the competitions he is in locally). None of the KCBS, Houston or Memphis in may winners Q had even a hint of ash or bitter smoke flavor. They also had a very light smoke profile. They also all say they cook over well burned down wood.
This heavy-duty top-notch grill and smoker has a total cooking area of 429 square inches, which is large enough for cooking around twenty burgers at once. If that’s not enough, it comes with a secondary rack of 144 square inches that you can use for smoking or warming. With a height of 32.5 inches, you can cook a variety of meats and foods to your heart’s desire.
Compared to the Traeger Pro and the other smokers we’ve reviewed, there’s not much not to like about this bad boy. It’s significantly cheaper, packs ample cooking space, and a good, consistent temperature controller. At 173 lbs, it is quite heavy, and not at all portable like the Davy Crocket, and we’d love to see it come with more precise temperature control, and maybe even WiFi in the future. But for the price, it’s a beast of smoker that is almost as good as the Traeger.
They had the field to themselves for a few years, but the idea was too good to go unimitated, and with the digital age came the electronic controller that allowed Traegers and others to create a system that had a thermostat in the cooking chamber that would tell the fan and auger when to do their thing. Today there are more than a dozen manufacturers making increasingly sophisticated machines.
Wood pellets are small pieces of hardwood made from compressed sawdust from hardwood. Generally, some wood pellets made for room heating and stoves are produced using some form of binding agent like glue and other additives, which would leave a bad taste and flavor when used for cooking. However, for modern-day grilling, wood pellets are made of pure wooden sawdust and sometimes a little bit of vegetable oil to help it burn. So, nowadays, wood pellets are even better than the real wood chips for grilling.
Hi Dillon, thank you for commenting here. As to your question, I think you’d be happy with either a Weber Smokey Mountain cooker 18 inch, or a Daniel Boone Green Mountain Grill pellet smoker. Each are on the smaller side of BBQ Smokers and BBQ Pellet Grills, with just enough extra space to make food for a small family get together as needed. My brother lives in Colorado Springs and had trouble getting his Weber Smokey Mountain cooker to get hot enough and/or regulate temps. He built a wind screen for it at first which helped a ton. Then, he constructed a kind of smokehouse for it to sit in. Works great and functions as desired. You can see more on the Weber Smokey Mountain cookers here. For GMGs, you can find Colorado dealers by visiting this link: http://greenmountaingrills.com/find-a-dealer/.
Sometimes an inexpensive, less efficient pellet blend might be just fine for burgers or chicken breasts. Other times, you may want to step it up with a premium flavored pellet where whole turkeys, prime rib roasts, or a nice brisket can really shine. No matter what you read in any grouping of pellet grill reviews, know this: pellets are not all made equally. You will wind up with one or two “go to” brands over time that you simply prefer – sometimes for their efficiency (leaving little ash), others for their flavor.
This is a fantastic grill for the money that’s dependable for outdoor cooking and smoking (hence its name, “Camp Chef”). It’s not quite 9.9/10 that is the Camp Chef SmokePro DLX Pellet Grill got, but it has more than enough features and benefits to spare to honor the Camp Chef brand (even though at first glance the PG24 and the SmokePro are practically the same units with color differences).
Traeger's, unlike other models, have a temperature probe, these sensors tell it if the temperature is too low and automatically feeds more pellets to the fire. You can set up the temperature in 5-degree increments. Other brands and cheaper versions only offer three settings low, medium and high. There is no sensor to monitor the temperature. If you are purchasing a pellet grill it is because you can set it and forget it. If you plan to hoover then it makes more sense to use a standard smoker or to transform your grill into a smoker.
So after some research I felt like I had two choices. I could either spend $1800 on a new Traeger Timberline and double down on Traeger (hoping like crazy they fixed the heat issue) or spend literally half the money and get the sure thing. And by the way, if you feel like you absolutely Must have wifi to monitor, just buy a Woodwind and an iGrill 2 (wifi enabled) and you'll still save $800!