Hey Charlie – I’d leave that grate wide open if you want maximum heat. If the grates are only over the burn pot, then you can do sort of a two zone cook (indirect vs direct heat) by putting a thicker steak, chop, or piece of chicken on the ‘non direct’ side to get up to a temp that’s 15 or 20 degrees lower than your target. Then, finish off over the burn pot area. Just one idea.
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Pellet grill uses various types of flavored wood pellets to flavor the food by infusing smoke into it. Pellets of numerous flavors are available on the market:  hickory, strawberry, oak and olive are just to name a few. Many pellet grill companies also manufacture wood pellets alongside the pellet grills that go hand in hand with their respective grills. So know your options, and be sure to spend a few extra bucks into buying a good quality wood pellet for your pellet grill as this is what will set apart your smoked exotic BBQ from the mainstream flavors out there.
Hey Pete, first thanks for your kind words. Traeger pellet grills fell off a bit quality wise over the past several years. That said, they’ve hired a new CEO – formerly from the Skull Candy Head Phone company – who brought that company’s valuation up considerably. I see them making moves to get back to their roots… aligning themselves with some of the more well known names in BBQ again. From a build quality, they’re making solid pellet grill bodies using fairly heavy steel. The area I’d like to see them improve on is the controllers they use. Right now, GMG is making great strides in claiming some of the entry level pellet smoker market share away from Traeger. This is due to a superior PID controller, advances in built in Wi-Fi monitoring, and outstanding customer service.
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.

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.
Over time, as other companies started entering the scene, the designs saw some massive improvements. Later, the firepots were brought closer to the hopper, reducing the distance the pellets had to travel to reach it. This move reduced the probability of a pellet jam. Later, more features began to be added to these grills to further improve the reliability, safety, and convenience.
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According to Bruce Bjorkman of MAK, his cookers use about 1/2 pound of pellets per hour when set on "Smoke" (about 175°F). At 450°F, the high temp, they burn about 2.3 pounds per hour. This is about the same average as I have experienced on a variety of pellet eaters. The burn rate will vary somewhat depending on the outside air temp, and how much cold meat is loaded in the grill, but cooking load should not have a major impact. Cooking pellets run about $1 per pound depending on the wood flavor, brand, if you get them on sale, and if you have to pay shipping. As a point of comparison, Kingsford briquets list for about $0.75 per pound, but they don't pack the same BTUs because there are fillers. I usually buy 40 pound bags of BBQr's Delight pellets from BigPoppaSmokers.com for $45 and shipping is free to IL. That's $1.13 per pound. That means that if I cook a slab of spareribs for six hours at 225°F I will probably burn about 4 pounds at about $4.50. If I put 8 slabs in there in rib holders, and allocate 1/2 slab per person, my cost for 16 people is about $0.28 each. If I grill a mess of chicken parts at about 325°F for about 1 hour, I will use about 1.5 pounds of pellets for a cost of $1.70.
The Ortech has two knobs. The large one, the "Cook Control" has settings for: Off, Smoke, 180, 225, 250, 275, 300, 325, 350, 375, and High. One smoker manufacturer says that the "Smoke" setting is about 160°F and "high" is about 525°F, but both can vary due to ambient temperature, humidity, fuel type and quality of the smoker. Another knob, a teensy weensy knob to the right of the LED screen looks more like a push button. Labeled "SMOKE" and called the "Smoke Control Knob", it is meant to turn, not push, and it controls the pellet feed rate with auger on/off sequences indicated by "P settings". The P settings range from P0 to P15.
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.
Grill will not maintain temperature with temperature set at 275 the grill temperature will range from 200 to 320 and this continues throughout the entire time it takes to cook the food. Customer service is giving me the runaround and no resolution has been made. I have been on the phone two times and they say that the pellets are not dropping into the screw. I have done everything they have asked me to do and still have same issue.
The computer controlled system maintains the smoker temperature with a high degree of precision so you don’t have to deal with fluctuations. With the optional (definitely a must) temperature probe you can put your meat in the smoker, set the desired target temperature and the FEC will take it from there. Once the target temperature is reached the smoker temperature will drop into a holding position until you are ready to remove your barbecue.

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This smoker has cooking area measuring 560 sq. inches, large enough to allow you to smoke food for your friends and family. This is also enough to give you the best grilling experience, as we’ve found after reviewing the top products from Camp Chef. It also has a useful rack where you can keep your smoked food hot while your waiting for your whole meal to come together or that one couple who always arrive late for the party.

The entire system was designed in order to make smoking fun and easy. Cleanup is easy, getting everything going is easy, and food turns out great every time. The main cooking area 292 in.², which means you can cook a lot at one time. Since it uses convection technology, the smoky hot air can circulate around the food in order to cook everything evenly.

With the Yoder YS 640 you won’t have to worry about scooping the ashes anymore. This pellet smoker burns the pellets so efficiently that there will be almost nothing left to clean. All you will have to do is empty the ash tray every now and then and wipe down the grates. You can spray the grates with PAM prior to use which makes clean up even easier.


To compound the complexity of this issue the consumer also has to deal with some grill manufacturers recommending the use of only their branded pellets.  Then to make matters even worse pellet consumers have to navigate all the different flavors available and whether to use a blended pellet (a blend of multiple kinds of wood such as oak, hickory, and cherry) or a 100% pure pellet (a pellet that uses only the flavor listed on the package).   This doesn’t even take into consideration some pellet companies using things such as oils and fillers in their pellets.
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.
Bigger heavier hotter: the innovative LG Series is Bigger heavier hotter: the innovative LG Series is comprised to offer the most versatile cooking system available. Fueled by your selection of wood pellet blends the LG700 consists of a two-tiered 707 sq. in. cooking surface that is perfect for a family of four. The LG burn system will complement ...  More + Product Details Close
The cooking surface is relatively small – the grill surface 12” x 16” (192 square iches) with the hood being 7” tall at the highest point. This is just big enough to cook some larger cuts of meat like tri-tip or brisket. However, small size is not necessarily a downside. While you won’t host a 4th of July cookout with this pellet grill, the small capacity and the compact size of the Davy Crockett pellet smoker makes it a perfect choice for condo dwellers or for picnics.
Bigger heavier hotter: the innovative LG Series is Bigger heavier hotter: the innovative LG Series is comprised to offer the most versatile cooking system available. Fueled by your selection of wood pellet blends the LG700 consists of a two-tiered 707 sq. in. cooking surface that is perfect for a family of four. The LG burn system will complement ...  More + Product Details Close
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.
Not only do cheap grills not hold up as well, but there are additional benefits to better steel and construction, too. Construction quality matters in wood pellet grills, no matter the price. Take the video below where we compare Grilla Grill’s double wall insulation to Camp Chef, which is not a cheap grill by any stretch. This video shows how well the Grilla Grills pellet grill is able to retain heat, keep the cool out, and use less fuel than many other wood pellet grills. Now imagine how much difference this would make compared to a bargain basement pellet grill from a big box store!
I’ve seen a lot of pellet smokers over the years, and it’s easy to say that out of every one, the RecTec is without a doubt a beast. It combines exceptional cooking performance with fantastic build quality and a thoughtfulness of design that you just don’t see in other smokers. Or a lot of other products. Not only that, but it’s one of the easiest smokers I’ve ever used, with professional quality cooking literally at the push of a button
Kevin- I’m in the process of researching to get my husband a grill for Christmas. I’m torn between the 820 you mentioned above and the Traeger Pro Series. As far as I can tell they are basically the same except that you get a larger cooking area on the pit boss for the same price you pay for a small cook space in a traeger. I would like to spend around $600 on the grill but would possibly go up to $800 and want 500 sq in cook space or greater. Which do you prefer? Pit Boss, Traeger or another brand?
While there's not a lot to dislike about pellet smokers, it really comes down to your cooking/grilling style.  Some Smoking Geeks prefer pellet smokers to traditional smokers (or even the Green Egg style smokers) testifying that flavor is superior to that of other styles of smokers within the price range – and it's hard to argue with them.   While Traeger is the pioneer, there are other brands that give it a run for its money.
On Tabletop Models: I didn’t include them here because though extensive, this post is more of an overview of a few select makers of Pellet Smokers I think do a fine job with both manufacturing and product support. The one exception is that I did include a link to where you can find the Rec-Tec mini. That’s Rec-Tec’s answer to the smaller, tabletop or tailgating models.
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.
All this said, I believe the girls you are looking at already will both provide you with long lasting grilling and smoking satisfaction. Honestly, when you get to a point where are your in the price range that you are in, it’s really hard to choose a bad option with pellet grills. The biggest Advantage you have over the ones you’re looking at and the Yoder models is that they are heavy built giving you excellent heat retention over your Cooks.
My wife and I were one of the first buyers of the YS640 in 2010. We had owned a couple of gas grills that, of course, eventually rust out. My wife saw the YS640 at the Kansas State Fair and called me and said that I HAD to look at this smoker! At first, the smoker had many problems--inaccurate temps, huge swings in temps, etc. Don and Joe kept working on the problems and installing updates--never charging us for updates or service calls. Finally, in about March of 2011, they installed the update that really was the solution. Since then, the YS640 has been a consistent workhorse that does everything as advertised. Built like a tank. built to last. Don and his staff stuck by his product and by his customers. In this day and age, customer service is uncommon. By the way, I thought the YS480 would have been big enough, but my wife said, "our family isn't getting smaller,".....I'm very glad we got the 640 and the second shelf. I have needed it many times. Thanks Don!
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What’s more, as Pellet Grills are electric-powered and regulate their own fuel intake, they are a far more foolproof option than other smokers and grills which may require a large amount of maintenance and care during the cooking process. Wood pellets themselves are also incredibly versatile. Aspiring smokers can experiment with a whole array of wood varieties in order to explore the flavors that each lends to meat.
Wattage – With the right amount of wattage by your side, you will easily reach the temperature required, and it will stay there provided that you are providing enough pellets for it to make use of. Anything north of 1200W will easily be able to cover all your requirements, but as a rule, it’s ideal to be sheltered than sorry, so it can’t hurt to purchase a unit with a bigger Wattage than you might suspect you’ll require.

Each of the alternatives to the Traeger Pro we’ve reviewed above is an excellent choice for an affordable pellet smoker. We think the Z Grills Master 700D is worth every penny and competes with the Traeger for even less money. We highly recommend you check it out. It has an even larger grill area, a larger hopper, burns just as consistently, and produces some perfectly smoked and grilled meats.

Wood pellets are small pieces of hardwood made from compressed sawdust from hardwood. Generally, some wood pellets made for room heating and stoves are produced using some form of binding agent like glue and other additives, which would leave a bad taste and flavor when used for cooking. However, for modern-day grilling, wood pellets are made of pure wooden sawdust and sometimes a little bit of vegetable oil to help it burn. So, nowadays, wood pellets are even better than the real wood chips for grilling.
A pellet smoker with a primary cooking area of 500 square inches should be sufficient for an average-sized family who wants to have the occasional cookout. If you’re cooking for yourself or a couple, tailgating, or camping, we recommend going for smaller units. It all depends on your needs, keep in mind that bigger doesn’t always mean better. You don’t want to be paying extra money for space you won’t use at all.
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