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.
So Kevin here is where you come in. Been wanting to make getting consistent Q on the table regularly and easily. Been looking at pellet poopers for about 5 years now and decided to take the plunge. Had already done enough looking a few years ago Traeger’s issues had scared me off. Several friends had them and raved but always mentioned problems. I decided from my work I don’t want to be buying someone’s, ‘we know the problems and are fixing them’ if you can find something solid for similar cost. Yoder and FEC were pretty much my finalists. So I was doing my final thoughts and found your article.
From the second I ordered the YS640 to the day it arrived the service and dialogue with ATBBQ was first rate. They actually care about the customers service experience! One word of caution for anyone thinking about buying this beast. Make sure you have someone strong to help you unload it off the pallet! My neighbor was amazed at the heft and build quality!
The biggest cleanup issue is the buildup on the heat deflector under the cooking grates. You'll need good gloves and an apron. On most models, a thorough cleanup means a 30 minute process of taking out the greasy grates and the gooey deflector plate, scraping them and washing them. You should do this when the carbon and grease cover the deflector plate. Stainless parts can go in the diswasher, but I wouldn't do it. That grease is like tar and it could get all over the insides of the dishwasher and hang on for dear life. I use a handheld steamer like the Steamfast SF-320 Portable Steam Cleaner shown here.
This is the second one I have received as the first one was a lemon. The first one worked great the first 3 times I used it, but then I started getting "Err" message, as well as an overheat message randomly that would not go away. I returned it to Amazon and promptly received a replacement. I have used this one heavily for 7 days now and have had no problems. I will check back in in a couple weeks with my results. It is very well constructed, holds its temperatures well and cooks pretty evenly. I have smoked/grilled ribs using the 3/2/1 method, made stuffed hamburgers, a whole chicken, and a porterhouse steak so far. For the price you cannot beat it. The searing option where you can open the heat shield/drip tray to expose slots directly over the flame is great for cooking steaks and a nice option that you don't see on other models. The removable side tray is also nice for bringing out your meat and placing your finished product on it. The bottle opener is weird...u have to really put the bottle at an angle to open and you lose part of your beer....but it looks cool...lol. A few tips: Cover the heat shield/drip tray with new tin foil each use or else it is almost impossible to clean it. Make sure the knob is in the off position before plugging it in and wait for the numbers to stop flashing before adjusting the temperature. Always start out in the smoke position until it is smoking and a a flame has started, then turn it to your desired temperature(about 5 min). Vacuum out the firepot and inside of the barrel every other use. Most importantly....use this thing as much as possible in the first 30 days to make sure it is functioning properly so if you do have problems you can return to Amazon. I love Amazon. As soon as I clicked on 'Return' and printed the free return shipping label, they had already ordered me a new one and I had it in 3 days!!! In case you would have to return it, mark your boxes that everything came in and take pictures of how it was packed. Took me over 2 hours to pack this thing back up. Most importantly....use this grill as much as you can in the first 30 days to make sure it is functioning correctly, otherwise you will have to deal with Pitboss ...paying your own return shipping and replacing parts on your own.Also don't forget to register your grill right away on the Pitboss website, in case you have problems after the 30 day Amazon window. Checkout the Pitboss website for their recipes....some of them are quite good...the bacon wrapped asparagus tastes just like Carrabas. Just sprinkle some balsamic vinegar on it after grilling. The Pitboss spices/rubs, while expensive are very good. The sweet heat is good on anything and the mandarin habanero is amazing on wings. I sprinkle and toss after cooking. Good luck !!
I'd like to start off by saying I loved the grill when it worked. I haven't had the experiences of a lot that I've read about on here. This rating is solely based on parts replacement. My unit went down the first of October. They had me replace the hot rod, controller, and the power cord. Alas they decide to send me an entire new hot box. Seems totally fair to me. They did a great job upfront in trying to fix it. Then comes the hot box. They were supposedly sending one out ASAP.
"Camp Chef is excited to join the exceptional family of Vista Outdoor brands," said Ty Measom, Camp Chef President. "The opportunity to be part of this dynamic company will provide for the future growth and success of Camp Chef as a leader in our market. The hard work and dedication of Camp Chef employees, past and present, has made Camp Chef what it is today. We look forward to the opportunities ahead."
Although pellet smokers already have their own custom-made wood pellets with different flavor and blends, if you choose to moonlight your smoker as a charcoal smoker for some reason (maybe for a different experience or a cooking experiment), you can use it as a regular smoker using wood chips. Under such circumstances, it’s going to be worth learning a bit about the types of wood chips out there.
Hey Jim, first – thank you for commenting on this post! As you probably know from reading the contents, pellet smokers are a great choice for set it and “nearly” forget it BBQ. Of course, you’re not going to get the same smoke profile with “pellet poopers” that you are likely getting with your other smokers. That said, the smokers listed here are all going to hold temp very well – even in lower temperature or windy weather. I do see instances where temps and wind effects pellet grills, but solutions including a fireproof blanket over the top of the smoker seem to mitigate things well enough.
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.
Pellet cookers usually have an auger or another feed mechanism that pushes the pellets into a burn pot typically about the size of a beer can ripped in half. An igniter rod sits in the bottom of the pot and when you turn on the grill it glows like the element on an electric stove. As the pellets ignite, a fan blows to feed them oxygen, and the igniter shuts off. The Traeger L'il Tex, an inexpensive model, draws 300 watts an hour while the igniter rod is on in the first four minutes, then it drops down to 50 watts an hour for the duration of the cook session, less than a standard light bulb.
Technology is a focus of many pellet grill manufacturers today including features such as Bluetooth temperature controls with an option to download an application on your smartphone. While these features are great, they can sometimes get in the way of the actual materials used to create the structure of the grill. At Grilla Grills, we’ve always put the focus on what we, and our customers, believe are the most important components of the grill. That means you’re paying for high-quality components in the places that tend to be most likely to fail on other cheaper grills, and many in the same price range that have more bells and whistles.
The cleanout for both the pellets and ash is a huge perk to the grill. The patented “Easy Ash Cleanout” does not require the user to take apart the grill. Instead, they simply have to twist and dump the container. The 18lb pellet hopper is similarly an easy cleanout. The stainless steel also makes it easier to clean the grill because of the steel’s properties.
Thanks Kevin for the reviews and content. Like many of the folks I too will be purchasing a pellet pooper. I have narrowed my choices to a MAK 2 star and a Memphis Elite. One of the earlier posters indicated on the Memphis that the effective direct grilling space was about 1 square foot. I am assuming that with the smaller footprint of the MAK that the direct “flame zone” is less than that. I’m just wondering how much less.
When it comes to construction, few companies can beat Traeger. Its grills come with construction features like cast-iron grates with a clear and nontoxic coating that prevents food from sticking to the grill and fireboxes made from a similar material. Though Pit Boss grills feature similar elements, many look flimsy, and most will not keep up with your grilling and smoking demands.
Due to having such features and being the best Lousiana Grills Product, the Louisiana Grills LG Pellet Grill 1100 could not escape our vigilant gaze when we did our research. However, it had some shortcomings, mainly due to its build and price that did not allow it to make it into our pellet smoker review. Regardless, we could compare it with some of our products that it had tied with. But as always, we could only choose the top 10 products for this review and this had to go. Regardless, this still is a great product, worth mentioning.
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?
In smoke mode the controller is no longer controlled by the thermometer, it merely switches the pellet feeding auger on and off. On time is 15 seconds, off time ranges from 45 seconds at P0, to 165 seconds at P15. Temp and smoke are controlled by the duration of off time: the auger always runs at the same speed. More smoke is produced at higher P settings and lower temp settings because longer off times allow the pellets to smolder. At P0 in smoke mode or "High" in cook mode the auger replenishes the pellets at a faster rate, creating more flame, less smoke.
Is it customer support? I ordered a grill cover(made by a outside vendor in Kansas as well) for my YS640. It ended up with a small leak. I called Don, and by the end of the week I had a brand new one. Also, I was getting ready for my first cook on my brand new YS640, and I invited the whole family over for baby back ribs. I called Joe, and he talked with me on the phone for 20 minutes explaining how the grill worked, what temp to set the pit at, when to rotate the ribs and even which ribs will need to be rotated. Joe was spot on! Best ribs I have ever had!!!
Tech geeks: A tech geek will also prefer a Pellet smoker grill and some of the latest grills including Green Mountain Grills came up with some exciting tech functionality like Wi-Fi! Just imagine, hanging with friends and monitoring your pork with your smartphone? You can increase and decrease temperature and control pellet feed without even touching the grill. This gives you the ability to cook while you work!
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If you don't buy this cooker and spend more than $600 on any cheap thin steeled cooker. By year 2 you will realize you paid for quality that lasts. I joke that no one would steal it because it weighs so much. But it's my baby and it's double locked. I promise you in a year you will look at your wife or family and say "That's the best purchase I ever made!" It's impressive, no one makes a better product. If u buy Traeger or any other cooker. In 3 years you will regret not spending the money on a luxury machine. Yoder is the best of the best. Yoder is who the other guys want to be. I would buy it again tomorrow! Don't have regrets. You won't regret this purchasem
Big Horn’s largest available grill, the XL 1093 comes with a large cooking area of 1093 sq inches. With it’s low price tag of around $300 and a high cooking area, this product could have been a great choice for pellet smokers. However, we’d rather not suggest something that’s susceptible to rust and weather conditions to be kept outdoors at all times.
Instead of logs, the pellet smoker is fed with food-grade cylinders of wood pellets that are an inch long and ¼-inch wide and are made of compressed hardwood sawdust. According to the best pellet smoker reviews, pellet grills are easy to use because it’s easier to maintain its temperature because of these sawdust pellets that are subjected to great heat and high pressure, which ignites lignin (natural wood glue).
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.
Extremely high build quality. It's heavy. Solid. Nothing flexes or bends. The temp displayed is very accurate when referenced with a thermometer. My only complaint is that the 2-piece diffuser should either be standard equipment, or an optional upgrade at order time (in exchange with the stock diffuser). The 2-piece diffuser is a MUST HAVE accessory. Cleaning the firepot is a messy pain the A** without the 2-piece diffuser. I didn't think I would need it, But I ended up ordering it about 6 weeks after receiving my YS640. I also highly recommend the direct grilling grates. I was able to get rid of my gas BBQ because the direct grilling feature works so well on the YS640.
The ceramic stone promotes even heat distribution and the domed ceiling design mimics the same heating pattern as a wood fired bri...ck oven. Preheats in just 15 minutes, exceeding 600°F if needed. The products are covered by the following warranty. Warranty covers all components of the stoves, fire pits, ovens and smokers to be free from defect in materials and workmanship for one year from the day of purchase (excluding finish). All accessories are covered for a full 90 days to be free of defect in materials and workmanship. read more
One of Yoder’s most unique features is the Variable Displacement Damper. This makes it easy to smoke, sear, and grill your food using the YS640. This is a metal plate that moves along the lower smoke box. If you move it all the way left, it concentrates heat directly over the firepot for conductive searing. If you move it back to the right, the heat will spread evenly across the entire some box for even cooking. The unit comes with a side firebox which has a removable cooking grate if you want to grill your food in it.
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!
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. As the burn pot ignites, the pellets burn. Heat then carries through the home via convection (air driven) means, thus allowing air flow and a blend of warm and cool air to maintain steady, even burn temperatures. A heat exchanger separates the smoke fumes from the warm air, thereby warming the room without smoking everyone out.
At present, pellet grills are mainstream products, with pellet refills filling the market versus having to find timber, sticks, and charcoal to start a fire (since these pellets are made of sawdust, it’s easier for them to cast fire and completely combust into smoke with minimal residue). Old school pit masters dislike this product mostly because it’s too easy to use, like a microwave versus an oven.
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.
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.
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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.
To be sure, there are pure “smoker” and pure “grills” but there are some exceptionally well-designed hybrids. I bought a Memphis Elite last year, and it is AWESOME! I made a pulled-pork masterpiece two months ago that was absolutely delicious… 8 hours on low temperature (225) then an hour on open flame (switching from a “smoker” insert to an “open-flame’ insert at 700 was easy) and it was awesome!
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.
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.
Retail pricing for the Traeger Grills Pro Series pellet smokers come in at $799 for the 22 in. and $999 for the 34 in. At this time, they’re available only through approved Traeger retail locations. If you’re in the Central Florida area, Whiskey Bent BBQ Supply in Lakeland, FL is a Platinum Traeger Dealer. Otherwise, you can find a list of approved Traeger dealers via their network locator page.
Bake, braise, grill, smoke, and sear – all of these cooking techniques can be fully experienced by just using one unit of backyard cooker! Yes, you can definitely do different kinds of cooking to your pork, beef, fish, pizza, or pie by just using the Camp Chef Smokepro STX Pellet Grill without burning charcoals and woods to start the cooking process.