Hey Jay – Yoder makes a great product. Price not being an option, I’d probably go MAK, Memphis Pro (I go back and forth between the two personally!), then the Yoder. I’ve heard good things about the Louisiana pellet grills, just haven’t featured them here so haven’t done a lot of in-depth research. I’m inclined to rate it below the ones I just mentioned – but not by tons. I will say that if American Made is a factor, MAK, Memphis, and Yoder are a go there.
What sets Z Grills apart significantly from the rest of competitive grills is a completely different construction that is more resembling of something like gas grills, which means a door in the front that one can keep grilling accessories behind. Usually most of manufacturers leave the front of the grill open and don’t make use of the space underneath the grill which gives Z Grills huge thumbs up for using this space in a nice and creative way.
It’s also worth double checking the precision of the controls. Less expensive smokers sometimes have cheap control panels that only allow you to set the temperature to a few discrete settings, for example just low and high. This is, generally speaking, awful, and leads to improperly cooked meat and a whole host of other issues. Avoid it if you can.
The first thing we have to understand is the anatomy of a pellet smoker. Check the related section on this page to get the idea. Once we know which part goes where, the bigger battle will be won. Next, we’re going to have to be able to analyze the problem if we are to solve it. What seems to be the issue? Are the pellets not lighting up? Are the pellets getting stuck and not working properly? Weird noises coming out from the hopper? Are foods not cooking well? Let’s take a look at these problems and how to solve them:
It’s built pretty solidly, which is what you want with a portable system as it’s obviously being moved around a lot more. I’d say it’s similar in build quality to the Traeger Junior Elite, which as a top of the line smoker says all that needs to be said. If something does go wrong, there’s a two year warranty. I’d have liked more, but it’s there, and that’s good enough.
In true Yoder fashion the 640 is not a fancy cooker with lots of shiny things, bells and whistles. Don't mistake that for poor craftsmanship, the Yoders are all built to the highest quality standards. They just happen to be more muscle car than sports car. Big, bad ass, built to last American muscle car that will blow the doors off the competition on your back deck or on the comp trail.
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.
Hey Kevin great article. I too am currently looking for a pellet smoker. I’ve narrowed it down between a Yader, Memphis Pro and the Rec Tec. The Green Mountain did not seem very well built. The wheels looked liked the would break on the first roll and the stainless steel door was flimsy and did not have a good seal. I know the Rec Tec has a 6 year warranty. Do you know how long the warranties are on the other two?
So after some research I felt like I had two choices. I could either spend $1800 on a new Traeger Timberline and double down on Traeger (hoping like crazy they fixed the heat issue) or spend literally half the money and get the sure thing. And by the way, if you feel like you absolutely Must have wifi to monitor, just buy a Woodwind and an iGrill 2 (wifi enabled) and you'll still save $800!
Set it and forget it. It does not require you to stay while the food is being cooked as you can set a timer and temperature so you can do other things, like prepare the side dishes or drink beer with friends while the grill is doing its job. Most pellet grills use electronic controls to regulate the grilling according to your preferences. You have a choice to choose the level of smoke aside from choosing your desired temperature.
The first thing to consider before purchasing a pellet smoker is your budget. This will allow you to buy the best pellet smoker for the money. If you are a beginner, you do not need to get an expensive unit in order to produce results. However, if you have some experience and you want to take your smoking to the next level, you may look into a more expensive model with the goal of getting some of the features you want.
A pellet hopper is what you put your pellets in. The grill will automatically help itself from the hopper and use it to maintain the temperature you want it to. More heat requirement will use more pellet, and less heat will use less. What you need to make sure is that you have a good sized pellet hopper so that your grill can keep using from it and you do not have to keep refilling the hopper too often. There are pellet grills out there that are powerful and gentle enough to be cooking for hours, and sometimes overnight, all thanks to its large pellet hoppers that keep replenishing and refueling the fire all throughout.
Rec-Tec has a strong following, and – as with the rest of the pellet grills in this review, will do you right. They’ve recently gone to an all black (no more red) look with their newer models. Though, you can probably still get the red. They have the most pellet holding capacity of any other grills pretty much, so that might be a plus for you. Getting temps back down is pretty fast… 5-10 minutes or so. I’d consider reverse searing, so long as your steaks are 1 and 1/2 inches or more. Thinner cuts won’t work. So, basically – you get the steak up to around 125-35 at around 225-250 F. Wrap it in foil. Then, crank your heat up to the highest setting, remove your steak from the foil, and sear it off on both sides to your desired doneness level. This limits the amount of grey – making for a more uniform pink from the top to the bottom of the steak.
I have used this cooker at least once a week for two years. I recently had a couple of issues with it going out and was thinking it was having a serious issue. Quite frankly as much as I use it it should be worn out by now. Here is what I discovered. Carbon had built up on the tempeture probe and the grill wasn't getting accurate readings. Suspecting the temp probe I checked it with an external one and it was off 50 degrees or more. I am assuming that the readings were off enough that the grill controller just shut it off kind of a fail safe? 30 seconds with steel wool and we are back in business.
I have used Bradley, Masterpiece, Green Egg, New Braunfels, Oklahoma Joe, Weber and now Traeger. So there is some experience in these comments. The “set it and forget” it is a misnomer and should not be used with Traeger (or any smoker/grill.) With Pellet Drive before you buy Read up on Er codes. The worst is when the fire pot fills up with pellets because the fire can’t keep up with the auger push and the whole cook is ruined or delayed. You have to pull everything out and basically start over while your expensive prime brisket is trying to be saved in the oven. Doesn’t matter what the weather is or wind conditions. Doesn’t matter if you stare at it and stir the hopper continuously. It will happen. Customer support at first was well you are at fault (didn’t leave the lid open on fireup for exactly 2 to 4 minutes or didn’t vacuum out the firepot between every cook) which is crazy. Finally, after so many calls over the past 6 months they are trying to make it right. Problem is, DO NOT believe the “set it and forget it.” That does not exist with any good cook. I have replaced the controller the fan and now getting a new probe. Do not waste your money. Unless someone out here in BBQ land can give me a recommendation on a product that won’t do this stay away from Pellet Drive?
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.
“We love pellet grills but didn’t like the designs of the models on the market. They are more like an oven than a grill. MAK Grills are designed to be the best in class. You get outstanding BBQ flavor and safe cooking with real wood, along with an automatic lighting and fuel feed system. Simply turn the grill on and you’re cooking in minutes! Our direct heat FlameZone ® feature is pioneering the industry for “gas grill like” cooking without the hassle of flare-ups and burned food.” — MAK Grills
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.
Temperature: Most of all, you have to pay attention to whether your pellet grill maintains a chosen temperature. People buy a pellet smoker because it makes it possible to smoke meat for long at fixed low temperatures. Very convenient and simple, and a grill that always maintains a selected temperature guarantees that the meat will be perfectly cooked.