Pellets are made from different woods, each of which imparts a distinctive flavor to the meat. Hickory, oak, maple, alder, apple, cherry, hazelnut, peach, and mesquite are among the flavors available. For more about pellets, read my article, The Science of Wood. There is a pretty good forum for people who have pellet cookers at PelletSmoking.com and of course our Pitmaster Club has a lively discussion on them with many active users.
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:
Still loving it after cooking about 100 meals. Thru rain, snow, and the occasional nice day it is still going. Today I'm about to grill brats. My weber grill sits around rarely needed so it's going to get sold. I discovered with quality pellets it can grill just fine to temps up to 450. The camp chef grill cover keeps the pellets dry in the hopper so I don't even take them out unless you want to change flavors. I did have to seal the hopper handle around the rivets to keep the rain out but other than that it is very tight. See the pic makes smoke like crazy.
Most of the pellet grills available on the market offer "temperature control" although the problems start when the weather changes. The temperature outside changes, the temperature inside the grill changes, the temperature inside the meat changes. All those factors are very important, as they have a significant impact on maintaining the right temperature inside the grill.
I've been using a pellet grill for a LONG time (Traeger for ~15 years?), so I know an upgrade when I see it. I just picked up a YS640, and it's amazing. I love removing the diffuser, adding the Grill Grates, and doing so nice searing! My first cook was a batch of rid eyes, and they were both beautiful as well as delicious. My "guest list" of people wbo want to come over for food keeps growing... Nice problem to have. Good friends, good food, good times.
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.
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.
You want even grilling: One of the downsides of using a charcoal grill is ensuring that the entire grilling area is evenly heated. Spreading the charcoal evenly and avoiding hot spots is difficult. Traeger’s pellet grilling system overcomes this problem with a fan that evenly distributes the heat throughout the grilling area, much like a wood-fired oven would have.
Apart from the aforementioned problems, you might face some minor issues like the smoker staying hot for hours in the end even after your cooking is over and it’s turned off? It’s better to check out the backdraft preventing cooling fan for your grill. Although this wouldn’t cause any major issues with your grilling experience, it’s a safety feature that is always worth checking out and fixing.
Thank you so much for this very informative post!! My husband and I just bought the Traeger Select Elite Pellet Grill On Cart yesterday as a somewhat impulsive buy on a Costco shopping trip. It was the last day in the road show so I figured we could always return it if we have buyer’s remorse. Having no past experience with pellet smokers/grills, I am doing my due diligence in researching the reputation of this company and comparing to others in the market. The selling point for us with this particular Traeger grill was the ability to convert this to a built in unit by simply taking off the right side shelf. The sales rep at Costco had a picture of one that his parents had built into an attractive brick surround and we liked the option, however, after reading your post and several other sites, I am finding that Traeger may not be the best investment comparatively and with a purchase this expensive, long-term quality is extremely important to us. In staying within the same price range, I am very interested in the Rec-Tec and it’s stainless steel build. My question is, do you know if the Rec-Tec or another pellet grill @ the $1000 price point can be made to look “built-in” and if so, are there any dangers or potential problems with this.
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.
The single biggest advantage though, especially for beginning outdoor chefs, is that when you’re paying this much, damn near everything is automatic. As an example, if we look at our number one choice, the Camp Chef PG64 pellet smoker, literally everything can be controlled by the built in systems, so I could grab a friend who’d never cooked anything more complicated than boxed mac and cheese over, give em a five minute masterclass and be confident that the automatic systems would do most of the heavy lifting when it came to getting everything right.
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.
If you live in an area where wood furnaces are used (not like down here in FL where a few heat strips will do the trick), you may also be familiar with pellet furnaces. In short, pellets compressed from sawdust and wood shavings fill a hopper and are then fed into a burn pot using an electric auger system. The auger, which is basically a long screw, delivers pellets to the burn pot based on the speed dictated by the unit’s thermostat.
A: Now, this next key question is one of the most asked questions and we can see why. For the new individual that wants to know how long pellets will last. There really is no overall actual answer because it all depends on the size of the grill and the heat that the grill is on. With that said, a nine-pound bag of pellets can last as long as 2.5 hours at a heat of about 225. However, the higher the heat the quicker it will cook.