With modern advances in the outdoor cooking appliances due to their high demands, you too can cook up a great BBQ spread now with the help of a pellet grill! Gone are the days of overcooked and burned steaks. With the pellet grill on your backyard, you can BBQ to standards that even pit masters will approve. So today I will be giving you a 101 class on pellets grills, also including a list that will provide you with some great pellet grill review so that you can make the right decision when deciding to purchase one for you and your specific needs.
Eric, I’m sorry for the trouble you’ve had with your Traeger. Not sure this will help, but here is how I make sure I don’t have the problem you had. When I start after a long previous cook or any cook at all really, I vacuum out all the dust and vacuum out the burn pot. Then, I put a handful of pellets into the burnt pot, insert the heat deflector, the drip tray, and grate. I find that this keeps things working well. Sometimes, the burn pot will get too full of ash and this can cause the problems that you had. Give it a try. If it works, please let me know.
Multi-position and digital controllers ( LED display ) - a much better solution, but it does have its flaws. First a multi-position controller, then a digital controller that allows to set the temperature at intervals of +/- 25 degrees F. It’s a controller that also has poor responses to weather. A great advantage of a digital controller is that it allowed to implement other innovative solutions. It helped introduce such technologies as alerts, timer or better meat control.
If you’re gonna set it and leave it to do the magic, you’re going to have to be careful, too. A major contributor to how long you can leave a smoker is how many wood pellets the pellet hopper holds. Pellet smokers run the gamut in how much fuel they use per hour, with anywhere from half a pound to two pounds of pellets being standard. Always check how much the model you’re looking at holds, and make sure that it’s going to last long enough, especially if you plan on leaving your smoker to cook whilst you do other things, especially if you’re going away from home. It’s simple math, and better that than coming home to a bunch of chargrilled ashes.
At Grills Forever, we work hard to bring you the best product reviews possible through an extensive online research process. We go through countless online reviews and browse through different brands, both known and unknown. We then go through their features and the value they can provide to the users. We shortlist the top products to do physical testing and then come up with a review. We do this on a regular basis to keep our list up-to-date.
-Warranty-(Forgive my soapbox here, folks.) I'd give it 5 stars if Camp Chef would give it a real warranty. One year is pathetic and WAY below the industry standard. Camp Chef, I know you are reading this because you guys are too excited about your great new product to not pay attention to feedback like this. Nut up and stand behind your awesome product. Why would anybody buy a product from an industry newcomer with no track record when you yourself are only willing to stand behind it for 1 lousy year?... Especially when the "industry leader" will guarantee their product for 3 years?!?! You are communicating that you have 1/3rd the amount of trust in your product that Traeger does. That's terrible! You should exceed what they are offering just to make the point in the industry! At a minimum, you should at least match their warranty just so it doesn't become a stumbling block to potential customers. Look, you basically took the lil tex and said "ok boys, so how can we make this better?!?" You did that! You totally knocked it out the park! Why cheap out with the warranty?!? As a customer, it makes me nervous that you know something I don't.
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.
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.
Bought the Costco trade show model after about 4 years of debating the purchase... OK, first one broke on day one as "auger" stopped spinning. Returned and received a new unit. 2nd one smoked a turkey for 4.5 hours. After 4 hours temp. dropped to 100 degrees and it was set to 350. When I opened the smoker to check on why this happened, it exploded into a ball of flames! There was fire shooting out from all sides of the grill and smoke and heat coming from the feeder side of the grill... This was SCARY and could have absolutely caused a major fire, and/or injury!!!
As time passed, a thermostat was added to the equation, and the production BBQ smokers fueled by pellets working in “set it and forget it” fashion was in full force. From this point, several manufacturers of pellet grills began to pop up, with a few key names like Yoder Smokers, Mak Grills, Green Mountain Grills, and Fast Eddy’s Cookshack grills being among the most notable.
This is obviously no revelations that temperature is the first on my list. When it comes to cooking appliances, temperature is always a key factor. However, it is not the sole reason to be on my list. The thing about temperature you need to look for in a good pellet grill is its ability to control, change and maintain it. Any grill can turn screaming hot, but only the best ones provide you with multiple temperature settings, and are able to maintain it constantly to ensure an even cooking surface where it is not too hot on the left and cold on the right. Many pellets come with special, even patented, temperature features.
The major issue is the size. It’s the smallest smoker at this price range, and barely bigger than the Junior Elite. Considering the price difference in the two, it’s hard to justify the extra expense, and when you compare it to the other smokers at this level, the Lil Tex seems more than a little lackluster. There’s less cleaning options, less automation, less cooking space. Just less of everything.
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.
Yeah it seems like no one is providing any input on it…I was interested in having them review it and do a direct comparison to some of these other grills. I made the mistake of getting a Myron Mixon pitmaster Q3 at sears. It turned out to be a waste of money and the slight humidity I had caused the pellets to burst and seize up the Auger. Anyway I had narrowed my search down to a rec tech or silverback but none of the reviewers seems to be giving it any attention.
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.
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.
My experience with the seller has not been as pleasant. The Amazon product page indicates these are sold by Outdoor Cooking. Outdoor Cooking is listed on the Camp Chef website as an online sales partner. My order was not fulfilled by Outdoor Cooking, it was fulfilled by "deguns" (2.5 stars). I received my grill via UPS. The box was in rough shape, but still intact. The grill itself had some minor damge. I sent a message to the seller thru Amazon. Their response was basically, contact Camp Chef, if you have any issues we can contact them also. Not really the kind of response I was expecting.
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.
As the launcher of the pellet smoker trend, it’s only natural that the innovative Traeger Pellet Grill Company would perfect its pellet grill technology and come up with some of the most affordably priced smokers around costing $300 upwards. It’s the Ford Motors of the pellet grilling world and many a pellet griller on the market to date owes the existence of their industry to this one company.
Traeger makes this process very easy. All you have to do is add pellets, open the lid, turn the knob to smoke and that’s it. The hopper will automatically feed pellets over a hot rod and ignite the fire. You should have your smoker up and running at 230°F in less than 10 minutes. All you’ll have to do after the Traeger 34 Elite smoker starts up is add meat and make sure you don’t run out of pellets.
Because I like to learn from my mistakes I decided to go with the Camp Chef Woodwind grill with Searbox and I couldn't be more pleased! I now have a single grill that will truly smoke, grill, bake, and sear! In fact, my wife and I meal prep on it! We can use the Searbox to quickly grill our chicken (4-5 minutes) while smoking pork tenderloin! Culinary multi-tasking! Gotta love that!
Hey DS – You’re dead on correct re: Grilling vs. Smoking. Most to nearly all Pellet Smokers are used as “smokers” in the truest sense. Louisiana Pellet Smokers boast a direct fire feature for grilling, as do Yoder smokers. However, I’m with you in that a grill is a grill and a smoker is a smoker. GMGs are very popular down here on the FBA circuit. However, most folks do find that they don’t produce the amount of smoke preferred for competition meats (which, in truth is a complaint about many pellet smokers). This is why stick burners and “some” gravity feds get a boost in rep among competition cook teams. That said, I do see folks happily using pellet smokers, and some win with them. One “trick” I see used now and again to boost the smoke output on a pellet smoker is to use one of those smoke tubes… like the A-maze-n Tube Smoker. Thanks for your comment, and for stopping by to read this blog post! – Kevin
I've had my ys640 for almost a year now. I absolutely love it! I debated for a long time before my purchase. I'm an old school charcoal guy at heart. I used to have a gas grill and a coal pit. I got tired of replacing gas grills every few years and having two grills is cumbersome. I considered an egg but the pellet grill is so convenient. I'm impressed by the build quality of the ys640. It's so heavy. It won't be rusting through any time soon. No regrets. My treager owning buddy is buying a yoder as soon as his treager quits because he has grill envy
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.
This cooker is still the best value for the dollar for pellet grills I have been looking again for a larger rig, but haven't found one better. If you are looking for an entry level pellet grill this is the one you want. Don't be discouraged by the reviews that talk about leaking smoke or not sealing well because it does leak smoke everywhere. Look at the pic I attached to my review you can see it for yourself it does, but isn't it silly to buy a smoker that doesn't smoke. If you ever go to a BBQ competition you will see most of their smokers leak smoke also.
The Redwood Portable Fire Pit is an upgrade from the original Gas Fire Ring. A taller, more sturdy base stand, safety ring/carry h...andle, matchless ignition, and a laundry list of other features, the Redwood is the next step in portable propane fire pits. Camp Chef Gas Fire Pits are allowed for use in most fire ban restrictions, check with the local Ranger Station before use. read more
My brother said his Traeger blanket saved pellets in cold weather, so after talking to him I decided to order one. Used it for the first time today. The blanket went on easily & fit the grill perfectly. The temps this a.m. was below 0 when the meat started smoking. So far so good! The grill hasn't extinguished itself, a problem we always had when cooking in the cold, the temp of the grill is cooking like it does in the summer, & the meat is smoking beautifully. If you Traeger in cold winters this accessory is a must have!
The Pit Boss really is the boss with its 700 square inches of cooking surface. The space alone isn’t what makes the Pit Boss 71700FB one of the best wood pellet smoker available. If you thought the Traeger TFB29LZA Junior Elite Grill had a lot of space at 300 square meters, then get more than double that with Pit Boss (the Rec Tec grill below beats it by only 2 inches).
Add-ons: Manufacturers often offer a variety of add-ons. Check what features come standard, and what are add-ons at extra cost. Some add-ons are offered by companies independent of the manufacturer. If a feature is important to you, but is not a standard feature of your particular cooker, make sure it is available as an add-on before you buy the cooker.
Hey Oscar, based on what I think and my discussion with my buddy Shane Draper of Draper’s BBQ, you’ll probably only need to run 14 hours for a brisket cook – given the convection nature of your pellet grill. You’ll probably go about 1 lb per hour or a little less – depending on the weather and other variables you mentioned. Again, pellet cooking is a little bit give and take where you’re getting ease and a more set it and forget it cook experience in exchange for some additional fuel use.
As the last criteria that we took into consideration, we have shared this a couple of times but we really wanted to focus on variety. We not only wanted to share some of the best tops of the line brands in the industry but we also wanted to share brands that may be unknown but offer excellent craftsmanship and material design. For instance, some of the grills we have shared are perfectly designed for everyday use, while some are designed for large events and parties.
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.
Have you reviewed at all the Grilla Silverbac? If so, does it not make your list because it isn’t as good a quality as those you have picked? I mean, when I look online for reviews of those who have bought them I haven’t found anyone disappointed with theirs, but perhaps they haven’t been out as long to have a track record? I’m so confused at this point as to which to buy with PID or no PID (some say smoke does better without one), thickness of metal, etc.
Another option is to put a griddle (or GrillGrates) on the pellet smoker when it's cranked to high heat, get it blistering-hot, add just a little oil to prevent sticking, and sear by conduction on the metal. It should take only two to three minutes per side. This is a good technique for reverse-seared meats: You start them indirect, low and slow on the cooking grate, with a little smoke, and then sear the surface with direct contact to the hot metal griddle to create a delicious brown crust. It's not as good as searing directly over hot coals or gas, but it's a good compromise.
My wife and I just purchased a Yoder YS640. After looking at a lot of other smokers we finally settled on this one. It weighs in at over 300 pounds and is built like a tank. You can see and feel the difference between this unit and others. We brought it home, put it together and did the initial burn in for 1 hour. We then made some ribs for dinner. The temp was set and only had 10 degrees fluctuation up or down. The meat was very moist and had just the right amount of smoke flavor. We are very glad we made this purchase.
As you can see in this selection of pellet grill reviews, the act of heating pellets and generating smoke in any pellet smoker is pretty much the same. Yes, some pellet grills 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:
It makes party hosting, as well as small crowd-feeding a breeze! Pellet grills are easy to use because they often come with easy temperature controls (along with other variable facilities depending from grill to grill), making it ideal for beginners who do not have prior grilling and cook-out experiences. A pellet grill is the answer to every cook enthusiasts who love to cook, but lack the knowledge and experience of skilled pit masters.
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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.
Many of the models require you to clean them up for 30 minutes because you have to take out the gooey deflector plate and the greasy grates in order to scrape them off and wash them until they’re shining. Careful cleaning is required when the grease and carbon are covering the deflector plate. The easy-clean grills typically make the parts more accessible but the amount of cleanup remains the same.
PID: For the most precise temperature control, some pitmasters feel that a grill with a proportional-integrative-derivative (PID) controller is the way to go. A PID controller uses algorithms to keep the temperature within a couple of degrees of the setting. It doesn’t use fixed cycles to release the pellets. Instead, the controller only adds pellets when it’s necessary to maintain the desired temperature.
A few other mentionable features are that it has a highly durable temperature proof textures powder coat finish, it features auto start. The REC TEC Wood Pellet Grill accommodates temperatures from 180 degrees Fahrenheit to 500 degrees Fahrenheit with 5 degrees increment. This amazing temperature control features let you be in control of how much heat you want to cook your food in, without having to worry about it getting dry or burnt. This low increment allows you to cook delicate meats like fishes and seafood as well! It smart grill tech makes sure that the temperature you set is always consistent and constant. It also has an “Extreme” smoke feature from the 180 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit setting that intensifies the smoke in the grill.
I'm using a ThermoWorks "Smoke" thermometer to send smoker temp info while I'm busy doing other things. So much easier to set it and not having to worry about it compared to grilling over charcoal (although I still like to do that for high temp California "BBQ"). Just come back when it's close to being done to give a quick visual check compared to the probe temperature. May consider adding the sear box in the future.
First one, had an auger problem... told that this never happens. Returned to Costco, now on 2nd Unit. FIRE HAZARD, fire pot overloaded after temp dropped from 375 to 100 on a four-hour turkey. When I opened the lid to see what was going on it EXPLODED into a fireball and then had flames shooting out from all sides of the grill. There was even smoke and heat felt from the firebox side of the grill and it looked as though the overloaded firepot was burning into the auger line as well. DANGEROUS PRODUCT!!!
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).