My fiancée's family has never really understood me. They see my safe full of guns, the knives I gift her on birthdays, and my preference for the company of dogs over humans, and despite her assurances to the contrary, they see a hick. So, one night while her sister and her husband were visiting from L.A., I cooked them venison backstrap for dinner. They were extremely hesitant, but as good sports, gave it a try and were absolutely delighted. And you know how I made it? I Googled venison backstrap, plus Traeger, and followed the instructions.
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.
Rubbery skin has very little to do with the type of heat (direct vs indirect). Rubbery skin is a result of too low a cooking temperature. Take your smoker/grill or whatever you use and get the temperature in the mid 400’s or even higher and you will get crispy skin. One thing though never let the internal temperature of your bird get over 150 or you’ll have crispy skin and dry crunchy meat too. Take it off the grill and let is rest a full 30 minutes. Best bird you’ll ever eat no matter which grill, smoker, 50 gal barrel, etc you cooked it on.
Manufacturers advertise this piece of equipment as both a smoker and a grill, but it's best to think of it as a superb indirect-heat convection smoker, not a grill. Most models just don't do as good a job of searing a steak as a charcoal grill or even a gas grill with a sear burner can. You'll sear steaks better on a $20 hibachi than on most pellet smokers.
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.
It offers 700 sq. in. of cooking space and a powerful thermostat for a higher price, but makes up for it as soon as you start cooking on it. Also, it has a stunning design with the bull horns, which sets it apart yet again. But if you find yourself not spending as much and could do with a lesser cooking space, then the Camp Chef PG24 is a no-brainer for you.
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.
For a large-sized smoker, the Camp Chef SmokePro SE delivers excellent, smoky-tasting flavor that even beginners can accomplish. This is largely due to its automatic temperature control features and grease management system, allowing you relax while it cooks for you. With minimal cons (only weight and pellet price), this is a definite hit among professionals and newbies. The SmokePro SE is an unquestionable bang for your buck kind of purchase.
Fast, easy assembly. Was ready to smoke my first three racks of babybacks in less than 90 minutes! And the results were spectacular . . . fall off the bone tender. Doesn't quite develop the deep smoky flavor I enjoy, but makes my wife happy because it doesn't. Happy wife, happy life. Only regret is not being able to dial in the temperature to a specific setting. The calibration seems to be off (low) by 20 degrees or so, and Camp Chef has not responded with an answer to my question about whether there is a way to adjust the calibration more precisely. I'm not sure whether running at a higher temp to achieve the setting I want is actually burning more pellet wood than it should. But 30 pounds of hickory pellets lasted more than 20 hours of smoking at 250-300 degrees on the thermostat (smoked three racks of ribs -- 4 hrs, two pork butts -- 6 hours, 90 pounds of turkey (2 x 25 and 1 x 25 + 1 x 15) -- about 13 hours total). A 12-hour smoke of a whole brisket with Rec-Tec Ultimate pellets at about 250 used about 10 pounds.. Am completely amazed at the small amount of ash left behind -- especially compared to the grilling I do over mesquite charcoal..
Traeger sent me replacement; fan motor, auger motor, temp controller, then a whole burner module assembly. None of these parts helped my problem at all. After working with them thru about 10 phone calls, I finally talked to a second level supervisor named Jessie. He agreed my grille wasn't working properly, but would not let me return it. I told him I would accept a replacement 22 inch grille, which I believed would get up to temperature. He agreed, but would not agree to refund the $200 difference in price. I decided to cut my losses and accept this offer. He said he would call and email back with shipping details. That was over 2 months ago and no call. I've since called them 3 times. The phone help doesn't know Jessie and always claim to leave him a message...but still no call. I'm way past the time limit to protest the charge with my credit card, so I guess I'm stuck with this piece of junk. This kind of lack of integrity from a company does not deserve anyone's business.
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?
Camp Chef does offer one key accessory that most other pellet grills don’t have. We’re talking about the SmokePro BBQ Propane Sear Box. Most pellet smokers aren’t that good at searing. However, the Camp Chef made sure to address this issue. The sear box can reach up to 900°F and reverse sear four steaks perfectly. If you’re willing to overlook some inefficiency with the smoker, and searing your meat at high temperatures is important to you, then the Camp Chef SmokePro DLX could be the right smoker for you.
First off, in general I was a huge Traeger fan due to my brother-in-law smoking up meat and fish for us for the past 3 years and it was just damn delicious. He also just raved about his Traeger, so finally I took the plunge and purchased a Century 34 model during one their Costco road shows. Customer Service - In general I will give them 4 stars because I am talking with a human, they were seemingly very thorough when I spoke with them and didn't appear to be reading from a knowledge base article when I described the problems. I also grilled them to ensure that the Costco specific model wasn't being manufactured with subpar parts since the price was so much less than retail and seemingly more bells and whistles. More than one representative confirmed that was not the case. This is where it stops being good news.
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.....
What about temperature control and a digital controller? It is much poorer in this regard than the competitive Camp Chef which is why I decided to give the second place to Z Grills as an alternative to Camp Chef PG24. Therefore the digital controller allows to set the temperature within the range of 180-450 degrees F. A pretty low maximum temperature but it shouldn’t be a problem to enthusiasts of long slow cooking, which usually takes place at lower temperatures.
Typically, most portable grills would give up certain features just to maintain their portability, but this wood pellet grill from Traeger actually had more than what other top grills have to offer. Out of all of our features, it managed to tick 85% off the review. Its digital controls, versatile cooking features, and decent cooking space (perfect for outdoor adventures) all make it our best portable pick.
One of the fun features this grill offers is that it’s WIFI enabled (controlled or monitored through an iOS or Android app). Sense-Mate, a thermal sense that constantly monitors the grill temperature, keeps you up to date on the status of your grill and your food! The digital controlling really lets you micro-manage your cooking, as you can adjust it a degree at a time. You can also program a series of temperatures and then sit back and enjoy your day while your food cooks! (Yes, you can also control it manually as well.)
The Camp Chef Lumberjack Over the Fire Grill is a simple solution for cooking while on a camping trip. Simply place the Camp Chef ...Grill over the campfire coals and get to cooking. The durable plated steel body will stand up to the occasional knocks and bumps that happen outdoors. Foldable legs ensure that this camping grill will pack up quickly and transport easily. The large cooking surface of this Over the Fire Camping Grill is large enough to accommodate almost any camping cooking equipment you might want to use. The steel mesh top on this grill is well-suited for grilling a variety of foods, including steak and vegetables. Whether you are sitting down for a meal after a long day on the trail or you have been out on the lake, the Camp Chef Lumberjack Over The Fire Grill is an smart choice for your campfire grilling needs. read more
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.
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.
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.
Compared to the features, Daniel Boone’s price is quite reasonable. But with brands like Camp Chef and Traeger in the market, it has been difficult for GMG to take more than one spot in our top 10 list. Regardless, this is the best product GMG has to offer, having a balance between price, cooking space and features, bringing it to our honorable mentions list.
A portable offering from Green Mountain Grills, the Davy Crocket is the most affordable pellet grill on our list, and the only one with WiFi capability. It’s compact, weighs only 57 pounds, and has folding legs so you can pack it up and bring it camping, tailgating, or to the beach. That’s something you can’t do with the Traeger Pro 22, and something we’re really excited about.
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.
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:
Z GRILLS or Z Grills is a maker of smokers, grillers, and stainless steel prep work tables galore. It entered the world of pellet grills recently and launched an IndieGoGo campaign in order to fund its “affordable wood pellet grill” for $500,000 and currently gives even Traeger’s economical offerings a run for their money with its ability to accept all types of pellets and do all sorts of cooking styles.
With a large cooking space and the most advanced cooking techniques, this is easily one of our favorite products among our top ten. While it lacks some of the features that the other grills and smokers in this review have (such as an ash and grease cleanup systems), it does deliver fine-dining quality foods, which is the ultimate goal of every grilling enthusiast. For its price, it offers some of the best features you can find in high-end products.
The small burn pot is covered with a large deflector plate that absorbs the heat and spreads it out below the cooking surface making them essentially wood-fired convection ovens. Flare-ups are a thing of the past. You need to keep the plate clean because it is right below the food and if you leave sauce and grease on there, it can smolder and leave soot on your food. Carbon buildup will also diminish its heat transmission.
Consumer-level Traeger grills are considered a mid-range type of pellet grill, so they’re good for those wanting to try pellet grills for the first time. Traeger models like the Lil’ Tex Elite 22 or the Tailgater cost several hundred dollars and can grill about 12 to 16 burgers at a time. Larger Traeger grills will generally carry low four-figure prices, such as the Pro Series 34 or the Select Pro, which can hold 32 to 40 burgers between the upper and lower grilling racks.
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.
The MoJack has huge barrel with lots of cooking space. With the 24 inch model, you are going to have 418 in.² to cook on. You will easily be able to read and monitor the temperature with the LED digital temperature control. This model has a bottom storage rack, which makes a great place for you to put extra pellets or tools that you will use for cooking.
Pellet smokers can be used as a charcoal grill by adding the lit charcoal into the charcoal tray. Some of the best pellet smokers allow users to attach a propane tank to the stove to convert them into a gas grill or a kitchen oven. With a flat-top accessory, it can even be used as a griddle. A pellet smoker is an all-in-one solution for the hardened grill masters.
Yoder's Variable Displacement Damper is another unique feature: Essentially, it's a metal plate that may be moved from left to right along the lower smoke box. Positioned all the way left, it concentrates heat directly over the fire pot for conductive searing with optional aluminum GrillGrates. Move it back to the right for even heat across the entire smoke box. Yoders are sold primarily through independent retailers.