Number two when cooking with charcoal (yes plain Kingsford is good stuff if you do it right, a lot of the cheaper brick and cheaper lump can put some weird twangs in your food) brick or lump can produce quality high temp steaks or slow & low bbq! To add some nice flavor add some wood, but do your homework! I think Clark ‘Smokey’ Hale has one of the best books ever for the grill and Q master, “The Great American Manual on Grilling and BBQ or something like that. Last I saw you can grab a used one on Amazon for a few cents and some shipping. The most prolific thing I read in there that so many miss, is burn your wood and your charcoal to where it is literally a coal of gray ash covered glowing ember. Do that and you will find a new flavor in your cooking! Problem is so many places think heavy smoke is great, as they are trying to imitate cold smoke flavors! They are not the same! All this talk I see here about, “I want heavy smoke flavor.” I can tell you if you burn your wood and your charcoal (and I feel even lump needs to be well on it’s way to gray ash covered or you get bitter smoke even though many say not necessary) to a red ember with gray ash covering 80 to 90% minimum preferably completely covered your flavor profile will change. Many supposedly good bbq restaurants I have been in serve something with a bitter or ash flavor, which I find much less enjoyable.

Thanks for all the great information. This article was very useful on my most recent purchase. Sorry for the long book but tends to be my style of sharing. Hope others get some use out of my lessons learned. Killing (literally, dried out, burned, inedible) a thousand dollars or so of briskets over the last 20+ years should help some save a little pain as they are stepping out.


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.
This grill is mounted on a bracket with a sawhorse design with wheels that provide it mobility in all terrains. It has a steel construction with a powder-coated finish, giving it a great look and a sturdy body. It has a hopper capacity of 18 pounds but it’s enough to continuously cook and smoke food in its 380 sq. inches of cooking area. Its porcelain-coated grill grates give you a no-rust and non-stick cooking experience that you won’t forget.

The smart-smoke technology in this grill uses an automatic electric feed system that is able to maintain a constant temperature from 180 to 450 degrees and has a hopper that can hold up to 20 pounds of pellets for extended cooking time. The digital control also handles igniting the pellets while fan-forced convection results in even cooking all around, much like rotisserie-cooked foods.

I had an American made Traeger for 6 years and after it rusted out I was looking something built for the long haul. The YS 640 is it. Built like a tank it will hold up for years and the extra steel helps retain the heat. Temperature control is spot on and recoverey after opening the lid is amazing. I thoroughly researched all my options and I could not be happier. I cooked steaks the other night in 40 degree weather and had no issues whatsoever. The grille grates are a must and leave beautiful lines. Before you buy anything else, investigate what the other cookers are made of. There really is no comparison.
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.
Now comes the best part about pellet smokers: they can conveniently do all these three. Coming with a large cooking space and a lid, the top rated pellet smokers would allow you to keep them open or closed, depending on what results you are looking for. With a dedicated space for putting your charcoal, you can use it as a charcoal grill, smoker or a barbecue. Or you can use it like a kitchen oven using the direct fire from the firepot. Finally, it does what it was made for – pellet smoking. Using small hardwood pellets running over the firepot in a corner, this smoker uses a fan to distribute the heat and smoke throughout the grilling area. This indirect heat ensures that the food is slow-cooked and smoked over long periods of time.
A: This may be considered the million-dollar question for many reasons. When it comes to a pellet grill, individuals have to clean it out a bit different than a regular grill because there are unique elements to clean. Many individuals recommend cleaning a grill after every use depending on the size. However, for larger grills, it is recommended to clean it after four or five bags of wood pellets. Now, what you do is vacuum out the ashtray. Some brands do have an automatic ashtray cleaner. If not, then you have to vacuum it out with a vacuum. Other aspects to clean include removing the grease drain pan, removing the porcelain grills, the heat baffle, and properly washing with warm water and a bit of soap. Most brands will have cleaning instructions in the guidelines.
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.
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.

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:
Today I grilled up a T-Bone steak. And I used the Grill Grates. I upped the temps to 600 degrees. The T-Bone came out FABLULOUS!!! Actually, it cooked faster than I expected, and the sear marks were way better than I expected. I have been using Weber Gas Grill for many years and way satisfied with the results, but the Yoder smoker kicks ass...BRAVO YODER!!

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.

Due to the lower oxygen at 9200 FASL, I cannot keep the smoker hot and I cannot get it above 250 Deg. F. I seem to be limited due to the diameter of the smoker…just can’t get enough coals and air to get and maintain temps. Therefore, I want to buy a new smoker, on that will regulate temperature at temperatures of 200 – 450 deg F. Any experience or guidance for a smoker brand and type (wood pellet, charcoal, or electric) at high altitudes? i am looking for a smaller size smoker unit.


When you’re buying a pellet smoker vs a wood smoker, what you’re buying is convenience and simplicity of use. Whilst electric smokers are arguably more convenient than pellet based smokers because they start quicker, only need a power point and a handful of wood chips, pellet smokers are still incredibly easy to use and far more convenient than wood smokers.
Good info, but it’s missing something… the cost to use. I’ve been looking for a long time to get into smoking. I have only ever used a propane setup for grilling. My main quesion is the cost to use propane vs charcoal vs pellets. I’m very interested in pellet smoking AND grilling. A couple times a week my wife and I will grill some chicken breasts or steaks. Can you breakout an approximate cost comparison to run the different methods? Appreciate it!
I bought my second Traeger Grill around Thanksgiving (my last one died after 3 months), spent most of the day assembling it only to find it didn't work. Customer service told me to reset the thermostat, I did and it shut down.  I did this routine a few more times with customer service and it kept shutting down, day after day.  Traeger reluctantly sent me a replacement grill and promised it would be Fully assembled (I have little use of my left hand and can't work with small parts)  Well it showed up unassembled in a bunch of little boxes. Customer service told me 4 times that they would call back with a local Traeger dealer to assemble it. Four promises to have someone come out and not even a phone call.
For me, grilling is a way to communicate to the people in my life that I love them and to easily involve others in my passions and hobbies. So, to be able to guarantee perfection in every meal isn’t just about eating well, it’s about reliably being able to put my best foot forward with these people who matter. And the remarkable thing about the Traeger is that you can expect to be able to do the same from the very first time you use it.
Three stage controller – there are three options to choose from, smoke ( or low), medium and high. It’s an old and very poor controller. It only has three options to choose from, it’s very poor at maintaining temperature. It doesn’t take weather and other factors into account. The result is that the temperature inside the grill can significantly rise or drop without you knowing. Such solution makes it impossible to set a precise temperature and limits the cooking options.

But as said, there are a few things we don’t like; it’s relatively small, doesn’t have a lot cooking space, and the design feels cramped. At the same time, it’s still relatively heavy at 140 lbs. For the same price, you could choose the Z-Grills Master 700D, which packs almost 25% more surface area on the rack. That doesn’t seem like much but is a significant amount of room.  Or you could just spring for the Traeger Pro 22. There have also been reports of poor quality control, and that the temperature control is very inconsistent, often swinging up and down nearly 30 or 40 degrees.


The Woodwind is a Pellet Grill for the connoisseur. Along with a high price tag come all sorts of fancy extras, from a specially constructed 'sear box' to a lever-operated cleaning system for removing wood ash. It's roomy too, with over 500 square inches of cooking space so whether you're cooking for one or smoking several racks of ribs at the same time, the Woodwind will get the job done.
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….
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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.

Hey DW – I think it’s a good call either way. Reports from users re: customer service are tops for both Rec-Tec Pellet Grills and GMG Pellet Grills. GMG offers a wifi option that now runs on your home network, and will eventually allow you to monitor via a cloud option, meaning monitoring your grill as you are out shopping etc. The extra large hopper size on the Rec-Tec Pellet Grills could be a bonus for you if you plan on doing some really long cooks. Other than that I really think it comes down to things as simple as how the unit looks. I know that sounds silly, but they are both great grills otherwise. So, what’s your gut tell you?


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.
What’s more, as Pellet Grills are electric-powered and regulate their own fuel intake, they are a far more foolproof option than other smokers and grills which may require a large amount of maintenance and care during the cooking process. Wood pellets themselves are also incredibly versatile. Aspiring smokers can experiment with a whole array of wood varieties in order to explore the flavors that each lends to meat.
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.
Using accurate digital thermometers to monitor cooking and internal meat temperatures is essential to being all that you can be in the backyard. Unlike the caveman-era heat estimators built into the lids of most grills and smokers, modern pellet smoker LED displays will give you the real story of what's happening in your smoker. Of course, if your smoker doesn't come with a dual-display system that monitors both cooking and meat temps, you'll still need an accurate digital meat thermometer.
You’re concerned with ongoing costs for fuel and power: The wood pellets used with Traeger grills are more expensive than propane or charcoal. You can expect to spend $1 to $3 per grilling session using wood pellets. Propane is far less expensive to operate in a grill, while charcoal fits somewhere in the middle of the cost range. And beware of cheap pellets from third-party manufacturers that contain softwoods like pine. They burn much faster than hardwoods, so the end cost won’t be that much different because you’ll use more of them. And they can introduce unwanted chemicals and contaminants to your food. You will also have some electrical power costs with these Traeger pellet grills.
Your choice of the pellet can also dictate how much cleanup you’ll have to deal with (even though generally 10 pounds of pellets can produce at most half a cup of ash, but this varies from pellet variant to pellet variant). Just be warned that when the temperature is high, there’s not much smoke happening, so you need to smoke out your meats at lower temperatures to get that smoky flavor.
While using and running a pellet grill is child’s play, catching the right offer on pellet grills can be a hassle for consumers who have little to know clue about it can prove a costly bargain. Knowing your facts prior to buying one is always a good a smart idea. My pellet grill review will do the best it can to educate you on the things you need to look out for when purchasing your perfect grill. Here are a few heads-up:
A: As another key question that many individuals are asking for, users want to know if the grill is water resistant. Now, the inside of the grill in no scenario should be exposed to water. However, the exterior of the grill, once covered can be exposed to water. However, it is always best to ensure that the grill is powder coated and is able to withstand a bit of moisture, so it does not rust. If this is the case, then an individual will need a grill cover, which brings us to the next question.
I have a Traeger Texas 34 Grill I purchased in January. It worked well for a short stint (1 or 2 sessions) and now will not get to the desired heating temperature, above 400. I have called Traeger and they have sent me multiple parts (2 new controllers/probes/fans) to replace in it, on my own time. Still not working. Upon calling them they said they could not send me a new grill because I purchased from Amazon. They said I needed to contact them. A $900 investment is essentially useless now. DO NOT BUY THIS PRODUCT.

Capacity Just like with other grills, cooking capacity is an important consideration. Will you only be using the grill for family dinners, or will you be hosting backyard parties where you’ll need to feed a crowd? While pellet grills cook food quickly, you don’t want to make your guests wait in line while you’re putting the second wave of burgers on the grill.

On the better models, a temperature probe in the oven area tells the controller what the temperature is and if it is below the target it tells the controller to feed more pellets and air. The best manufacturers, like MAK and Memphis, have designed their own versatile custom controllers that are easy to use and can hold a temperature within 5°F, tighter than many indoor ovens.

The Camp Chef PG24S uses three cleanup and maintenance systems. The Ash Cup Clean Out System collects leftover ash in a cup for easy cleanup. The Grease Management System instantly drains grease into a bucket for easy disposal. Finally, the Pellet Purge System helps you clean out pellets from your auger with ease. Cleaning up has never been so easy.


Pit Boss Wood Pellet Grills are fueled by all natural BBQ wood pellets. The digital control board ignites the grill and allows you to set the cooking temperature from 180° to 500°F. Fan forced convection cooking eliminates the need for a rotisserie and creates a versatile environment for grilling, roasting, smoking, braising, searing and baking. The 820 features a Flame Broiler as standard; this adds the option to grill directly over an open flame when direct heat is needed. The Pit Boss 820 features a large 820 sq. in. total cooking surface: 580 sq. in. main and 240 sq. in. removable upper rack. With complete structural strength and durability, the Pit Boss 820 is made to last.


One comment I see a lot in various forums like PelletHeads.com is that you want as much efficiency as you can get. As with lump charcoal, this means burning as clean of a cook as you can with as little ash as possible. Different pellet mixes will produce differences in what you get in this area, and the cooker you’re using will dictate this to some degree as well.
Use of the P settings in smoke mode is easy to understand. But one can also use them as a dual function feature in cook mode. Remember, in cook mode the auger idles when the temperature is correct, but the P settings continue to function in idle mode. Ortech recommends the P2 setting as the default idle rate in cook mode. However, as one gains experience, the P settings can be used to improve the grills performance. For example, when using high temperature settings, select P1 or P0 to reduce auger off time and maintain strong, steady heat. If you have trouble hitting low temperatures on a sweltering day, increase the P setting to increase auger off time. It does not have a significant effect on smoke production. The basic rule remains: Low heat = more smoke, high heat = less smoke.
Capacity Just like with other grills, cooking capacity is an important consideration. Will you only be using the grill for family dinners, or will you be hosting backyard parties where you’ll need to feed a crowd? While pellet grills cook food quickly, you don’t want to make your guests wait in line while you’re putting the second wave of burgers on the grill.

Temperature: Most of all, you have to pay attention to whether your pellet grill maintains a chosen temperature. People buy a pellet smoker because it makes it possible to smoke meat for long at fixed low temperatures. Very convenient and simple, and a grill that always maintains a selected temperature guarantees that the meat will be perfectly cooked.
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