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.
You are worried about flare-ups: When grilling fatty types of meat on a propane grill, you run the risk of having flare-ups, where the flame gets too high and too hot, burning the meat. You have to keep a close eye on the propane grill to guard against them. But with the Traeger grilling system, the even distribution of the heat and the indirect heating system prevent this problem.
Hey Jeff – I think that due to pellet smokers requiring much of the wood pellet for “fuel” leaving a smaller part for the “smoke” means that you want as much of the smoke to stay in the chamber for as long as possible. Just my opinion. I’ve not used charcoal pellets. Those I’ve spoken with who have used them weren’t extremely happy with the results. Regarding the water pan, I feel that pellet smokers don’t typically require water pans. However, you can surely use one and see how your results go.
Just putting a stamp on your info and recommendations. The Pro is definitely a Pro! Consistent, excellent temp control, juicy and great flavor. Smoke ring, some of my ribs are pink all the way through and dripping with juice. Smoke profile, good, not over powering. I have used 45# of hickory so far, 20# of cherry and a few pounds of apple and pecan. Have not tried anything but Lumberjack but that will be the next experiment. I have tried the smoke tube and it is ok. I was worried about getting an ash or bitter taste as the smoke is fairly heavy and a little acrid smelling if you let it burn from bottom to top. So I lay it down and light on my wife’s Weber gas grill side burner and get the whole thing burning good and then blow it out. If it smells acrid your meat will get some of that taste. Starting the tube this way it is still going an hour later.

I would make that decision based upon desired temperature. Very few of the smokers on your list can surpass the 485 to 500 degree mark. You’ll read a lot of discussion about grill grates helping you get into those higher temperatures and that product does work. I would simply pick a smoker that can get to the desired temperature you want like the Louisiana and the Memphis. Both can exceed 500 degrees and both can hit 600 degrees without problems.
As far as size goes, bigger is usually better when it comes to pellet grills. A large hopper means a longer time you can cook without needing to refill your fuel source. A bigger grill size means more room for a variety of meats or side dishes. Look for at least 700 sq inches of cooking space (that can include the upper rack as well – remember, pellet grills work like convection ovens.)

The Texas Trio is a versatile grill that The Texas Trio is a versatile grill that lets you choose between charcoal propane gas grilling or classic style smoking with the included side firebox. This rugged yet attractive grill also features a warming plate and large underneath storage. With 1 394 in. of total cooking area heavy-duty steel construction ...  More + Product Details Close
Rec Tec has always been known for making advanced Rec Tec wood pellet grills coming in at a higher price. However, some of the popular models come in smaller sizes, like Trailblazer 340 or Bullseye 380. However, compared to their capacities and features, the products in our top ten lists would be better choices. So, among its products, the RecTec Bull 700 is the only one that falls in our Honorable Mentions.

The Smart Smoke technology is one of the most convenient and easy to use features on the grill. It contains a dual LED temperature readout that keeps the heat at a constant temperature. This means you have more time for socializing and can sit back and relax. The temperature ranges from 160 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. The grill uses a pellet feeder system that burns slowly to add intense flavor to your food. It also uses an electric auto-start ignition that requires the grill be plugged into a standard 120v outlet.

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.
This is best pellet smoker for the money if you are a newbie but want to cook like a pro. It is super easy to use and allows you to set up the whole system and then walk away. It has an electronic autostart ignition, which means you don’t even have to start a fire. Just plug it in, do a little prep work, add some pellets, and it will not be long before you have some delicious food to enjoy with your family or serve to your friends.
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.
Hi Joshua – Rec-Tec makes a solid product. I can’t say a bad thing about them. I think you’d be very happy with the Silverbac. Email Shane Draper – Pitmaster for Grilla Grills at pitmaster@grillagrills.com. He’s super quick with responses and can answer all questions re: Grillas. The Traeger pro series is a solid buy as well. You can check them out at Ace Hardware Stores or via stores acting as dealers for the pro model (find these on the Traeger website). I have the smaller Traeger 22 pro model and have been very happy so far. Regarding controllers, my verdict is still out on whether they’re what you need. It’s almost getting to a point where I “want” some temp swing, especially at the lower settings, in order to get a bit more smoke from the cooker. 15 degrees either way on temp is pretty normal. You might find that this is the case, even when controller units “read” steady. Pellet grills all feed pellets into burn pots in cycles. So some swing is inevitable. Hope this helps.
The initial design by Mr. Traeger consisted of a “classic” drum barrel shaped grill design with a chimney on top. Instead of the firebox, the grill contained a pellet hopper. It used a fan to distribute the heat evenly over the pellets. Unlike the modern pellet grills, the original design didn’t include any auto-ignition features and the pellets had to be lit manually.
After owning this grill for six months I can honestly say I don't regret my purchase. I was waiting for low temp weather to really test this grill and i must be honest i was very surprised. I grilled 400 degrees with the outside temp at 38 degrees and the grill came up to temp within 20 minutes. Last night I started a brisket in 31 degree weather cooking at 225. No problem at all, and I haven't use a thermal jacket. We have done every thing from low and slow to baking and just have been amazed at outcome. Got a couple of more tests that i want to do, but six months, it's great. Stop thinking about it, stop worrying about the price, and prepare to make some great wood fire food.
Camp Chef is proud to expand it's tradition of creating the finest cast iron cooking products with the introduction of the 12 Inch... diameter deep Dutch oven. What does that mean? It means that the most popular Dutch oven size can now feed even more people, cook a standing rib roast or bake the largest cobbler you've ever seen. We use the same tried-and-true methods from the other ovens in the classic line. True-seasoned cast iron comes ready to cook right out of the box. Even wall thickness, large carry bail and superior quality control is what separates this oven from all the other out there. If you a black-pot junky or just beginning this is the one that will quickly become a favorite. This Dutch features three legs, a handled lid and bale. The raised lip around the lid is excellent for cooking with charcoal briquettes or wood.Total Weight = 25 lbs.Depth: 5 InchCapacity: 8 QT.OD = 12 3/8 InchModel No: SDO12DUPC Code: 033246209418 read more
Hi Dan, I had a Bradley some years ago and the quality of the smoke is somewhat comparable to that of a pellet unit. As I said in my earlier post, compressed sawdust does not create the wood flavor that permeates the meat— no matter what pellet you use. I recently bought a Lang reverse flow, and on my first cook the difference was spectacular. My nephew went to the trouble of adding a full size wood burning firebox to his pellet stove as an experiment. He piped the smoke from the firebox into the pellet unit while making some ribs and the results were obvious. The next day he was out looking for a new smoker. Wood burners are a lot of work compared to a pellet unit, as you say, so I understand your reluctance. Many like vertical units that burn charcoal with wood chunks. These units are much easier to manage than a stick burner and give good results. All I can say is that the first time you make BBQ in your backyard with a wood unit, you will know you made the right choice. There are many good BBQ forums that discuss these points. Good Queing to you.
Recently bought portable Traeger ptk+ smoker as camp a lot. Food is amazing though grill size better suited for 2-4 ppl and you can’t fit a large roast. However cooked a rack of ribs, several chickens and burgers. Food comes out amazing. You do need electricity hookup camping and it drains too much power to run off cars dc socket. $300 and of you call them to order v online they will throw in free weather cover free shipping and some rub. It does take up some room in car so beware if you have tiny vehicle. Buyer beware racoons love smoked food so remove your trash bag with bones from campsite before retiring, as we found out the hard way

Joe Traeger designed and developed pellet grills back in 1985 and he patented the design one year after. But these didn’t go into full commercial production until 1988. Because of the patented design, Traeger held a monopoly in the pellet grill market for twenty years. But being a small family-run company, they did not diversify and kept supplying their products only to a select network of stores.
Let's just say I really love to cook! Especially BBQ. I've had the YS640 a couple months now and can't say enough great things about it! I've grilled ,smoked and high temp roasted with excellent results! After week's of comparing and watching videos I know I made the right decision. There's just no comparison to the Chinese makes and the over priced stainless steel models. I considered the MAK smokers but at double the price couldn't justify it. For the price and USA build quality there isn't anything that can touch the Yoder!
Hey Drew – thank you for your comment. All told, most pellet grills are going to average about 1.2 to 1.5 lbs per hour. of pellets per hour at 225, and closer to 1.75 lbs. as you get up to 275. It’s tough to gauge, which is why you are probably seeing different figures across the web. Ambient temperature and pellet composition play a role as well as grill temp. Sorry I don’t have better information for you.
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
Another video I thought it’d be cool to show you guys is one that features BBQ Diva as she shares her thoughts about how Fast Eddy’s Pellet smokers work with BBQ Ribs. You’ve likely read the Diva Q DIY BBQ Sauce post we highlighted here. And no doubt you know about Danielle’s work with the now famous BBQ Crawl television series. Without question, she’s one of BBQ’s greatest treasures. Check out what she says here about Fast Eddy’s. The video starts out with Ed Maurin showing you the recipe he used for the World BBQ Championship Perfect Score Ribs in 2000 — using both baby backs and spares. Diva chimes in near the end with her take on how these ribs taste.
I have used Bradley, Masterpiece, Green Egg, New Braunfels, Oklahoma Joe, Weber and now Traeger. So there is some experience in these comments. The “set it and forget” it is a misnomer and should not be used with Traeger (or any smoker/grill.) With Pellet Drive before you buy Read up on Er codes. The worst is when the fire pot fills up with pellets because the fire can’t keep up with the auger push and the whole cook is ruined or delayed. You have to pull everything out and basically start over while your expensive prime brisket is trying to be saved in the oven. Doesn’t matter what the weather is or wind conditions. Doesn’t matter if you stare at it and stir the hopper continuously. It will happen. Customer support at first was well you are at fault (didn’t leave the lid open on fireup for exactly 2 to 4 minutes or didn’t vacuum out the firepot between every cook) which is crazy. Finally, after so many calls over the past 6 months they are trying to make it right. Problem is, DO NOT believe the “set it and forget it.” That does not exist with any good cook. I have replaced the controller the fan and now getting a new probe. Do not waste your money. Unless someone out here in BBQ land can give me a recommendation on a product that won’t do this stay away from Pellet Drive?
I purchased a Traeger 34 inch smoker a month ago and it has never worked correctly. I called customer service several times and the bottom line is that if I want to have it serviced, I have to load it into my car and drive it to Long Beach. There isn't a service dealer in the entire City of Los Angeles! Going to return it to Home Depot. Buy any smoker other than a Traeger.
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.
Because the wood pellets are the grill’s fuel, you should pay careful attention to the pellet hopper, the chamber that holds the pellets. You want a large enough hopper to hold all the pellets you need for a single cooking session. Look for a hopper with at least an 18-pound capacity if you want to slow cook for longer periods without having to refill the hopper.

This unit will not let even a single pellet go to waste. No need of worrying whether you’re out of pellets or not. You can carry pellets at a maximum of 20 pounds, with the digital thermostat ensuring the pellets are being used properly. This saves you loads of cash and gives you smoking food simultaneously without wasting time in refilling pellets.
***Update: 11/2014: It's been a year now and I still adore this little grill. I've got a kamado and 3 different kettles and this is by far the most convenient and easy to use. The smoke rings this guy puts on a brisket are amazing and the flavor is the perfect balance of wood flavor without overpowering the meat. I've researched about 15 different pellet grills and I still can't find a better value than what this grill offers
The MAK 1 Star General boasts our favorite digital controller: It's highly programmable and easily accessed via the internet from anywhere in the world. Made entirely in the USA, the 1 Star General is solid-feeling, with a heavy-duty powder coat. The hood is a rolltop, meaning that, unlike a lot of its competitors, the 1 Star doesn't need much rear clearance, and there's plenty of room inside. An optional upper grill grate adds 190 square inches of cook surface. Our only criticism: Not only is it built like a tank, it kinda looks like one, too.
When starting on a grilling project, it’s important to know at what temperatures should a food be allowed to settle inside a pellet grill before it reaches its desired doneness. Of course, the time it spends on the grill also plays a major role in it, but you have to understand that cooking on a high heat for long time periods can leave the meat charred while on a low heat can turn it into soft and mushy.

To cook food using a pellet grill, put the pellets into a hopper. When you turn it on, the igniting rod will burn pellets in the fire. The motor-driven auger will then supply the fire pot with pellets from the hopper. The ratio that auger delivers pellets to fire pot depends on the settings you control. If you set it at a high temperature for a longer period of time, the auger will keep on feeding the fire pot with pellets. However, if you are slow-cooking and set a low-temperature one, the feeding and delivery of pellets will also slow down.

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!


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.
Before buying, please note that pellet smokers need access to electricity to run the digital controller, the auger that transports the pellets to the firebox, and the convection fan that circulates the air in the cooking chamber. These cookers can use a lot of pellets at high temps. At high temps there is little or no smoke, and at low temps smoke is unavoidable. So if you want to cook, say, a chicken breast low and slow to retain juices, but you don't want any smoke flavor, you're outta luck. If you want to torch a thin burger to get a crunchy crust and add a little smokiness, you'll get great smoke flavor, but it is hard to get the crust. But if you want killer ribs, bacon, smoked salmon, etc., pellet burners are hard to beat for convenience and quality.

Is it common to have a lot of ash blowing throughout these pellet smokers? I thought it was supposed to be minimal ash and that it’s supposed to stay in the firepot. I noticed after two short cooks I have ash everywhere. The pellets are Perfect Mix from cookingpellets.com, but by “perfect mix” I don’t think they mean to mix ash from their product with your BBQ. Also, didn’t put off a lot of smoke, and really couldn’t taste any smoke at all.


Pellet grills have electronic temperature controls that (should) keep the heat consistent. Top quality pellet grills can maintain temperatures within 5 degrees or less for hours at a time, with the auger releasing pellets as needed into the fire box to do so. A consistent temperature means less guess work and fantastic food! (If you read words like “heat zones” or “baffle”, that means that you’ll need to be playing with the heat to keep it consistent… so steer clear of those!)
I talk with a lot of teams out there, and I know for certain that some of them have turned to my buddy Fred Grosse’s MojoBricks to boost their smoke profile when using pellet grills. In fact, of the teams who win with Pellet Smokers – I’d wager at least a quarter of them to maybe half have used MojoBricks to round out their final product. I really like Fred as well – which makes it a pleasure to include his products in this grouping of pellet grill reviews.

The Camp Chef SmokePro’s automatic features definitely set it apart and make it truly a “set it and forget it” kind of unit. It makes use of an electric auto-igniter system that lets you start grilling with just one button. The automatic auger instantly dispenses pellets to maintain the desired temperature and use your pellets the most efficient way.
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