Pellets look like rabbit chow. They are about the width of a pencil and as long as a couple of erasers. If they get wet they turn into a pile of sawdust. The beauty of pellets is that they have none of the additives and fillers in charcoal briquets, so they combust almost completely. Almost zero ash. The pellets provide the heat as well as flavor. No need to add wood chips. Surprisingly, they do not produce overly smoky food. If anything, the food is undersmoked to some people because the combustion is so complete.
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.
Fans of gadgets – More expensive models come with very interesting features. You can download app for your phone or tablet (iOS and Android). Then you can use Wi-Fi to connect with your pellet grill. It allows you to monitor the temperature inside the grill while away from it. Some of the grills even make it possible to check the internal temperature of the meat.
Of course, we recommend our pellets and have proven them to work fantastically with all of our grills, but we would never be short-sighted enough to say that our owners must only use our pellets. That just seems a bit, well, wrong. From our testing and customer feedback, the following brands all worked very well: B&B, BBQrs Delight, Cooking Pellets.com, Lumberjack and Smoke Ring.
Traeger Smoker – Buyer beware. My Traeger stopped working both times I’ve used it. It just stops after about 2 hours. Traeger’s response is their pillory is they don’t make refunds. The nearest service is 3 hours away and it’s just too far for them. They said the solution to it stopping is for me to partially disassemble it when it stops and vacuum out the burner pot. They said they would talk me through some troubleshooting. They offered to send me replacement parts but said they don’t think it will help. I can’t return it, they can’t determine a fix for it. I’m supposed to just eat the $830 cost for a smoker that doesn’t work.
The grill is plated with beautiful stainless steel that gives the grill a refined and impressive look. The huge cooking area includes 570 square inches of surface area. That’s enough to hold 20 burgers or 4 rib racks! It also contains a second warming rack and bottom shelf that provides the grill stability and extra storage. This version comes with a sear box that can reach temperature of up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit, which caramelizes your food. There’s a cheaper version without a sear box that costs around $200 less if a sear box isn’t a necessity for you. Additionally, the legs are built with extreme thickness giving the grill a grounded base. The caster wheels add portability to the grill so you can find that perfect place in the backyard.
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.
Use of the P settings in smoke mode is easy to understand. But one can also use them as a dual function feature in cook mode. Remember, in cook mode the auger idles when the temperature is correct, but the P settings continue to function in idle mode. Ortech recommends the P2 setting as the default idle rate in cook mode. However, as one gains experience, the P settings can be used to improve the grills performance. For example, when using high temperature settings, select P1 or P0 to reduce auger off time and maintain strong, steady heat. If you have trouble hitting low temperatures on a sweltering day, increase the P setting to increase auger off time. It does not have a significant effect on smoke production. The basic rule remains: Low heat = more smoke, high heat = less smoke.
Download an iOS or Android app and connect using WI-FI. The app enables to do many different things such as remote control of the grill temperature, control of temperature inside the meat or the ability to check the amount of pellets inside the hopper. You can get the temperature higher or lower while away from the grill. You can learn more about how this function works on the manufacturer’s official website.
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.
I had heard about Traeger from a friend who was at a conference where the catering was done on one of the commercial units. He had said the food the it made was mind blowing, and on a late night impulse buy I decided to purchase this from Amazon - as an open box/scratch and dent for about $800.There are some less expensive grills available, I have never owned them so I can't comment on them. i started to get a little buyers remorse with all the negative reviews this grill had received, but decided to give it a fair shot. It arrived quickly not by UPS but from trucking company. Despite being listed as damaged box/open box it was well packaged no damage. Assembly took 30 min by just me, assembly tools were included. Stood it up off the floor and filled the hopper with mesquite and followed break in procedure listed to cook off any manufacturing oil etc. Let it cool retired it once more to make sure it was seasoned let it cool again and was ready to go. I purchased an IGrill wireless thermometer to go with it which I would recommend also. I signed up to the Traeger recipe sight and they send a recipe every few days, and you can browse the website for some inspiration. Since I have owned this I have gone thru about 3 bags of pellets including alder mesquite and hickory. I have grilled Trout ( the smoked trout dip list on the website was amazing) as well as trout fillets, Salmon, Haddock, Ribs, Brisket, Pulled Pork x 3 and 2 prime ribs and 2 loafs of bread Jerkey ( smoking now) butternut squash etc etc . All the food I can only say is mind-blowing - enough so that 4 of my friends have purchased the smaller Traeger's for themselves. It has all been incredibly easy - just season, set the temp put the food on and the temp probes in and forget it- the wireless I grill continually upgrades my phone so I can keep working inside and not have to worry. It has never failed to light, caught on fire, overheated or preformed to anything other perfection for me. I can't speak for all the other negative reviews but I have had nothing but success with this, the Weber propane I own hasn't been touched is just taking up space it can't compare to this thing. Its a big purchase at close to 1k but is incredibly versatile I can't speak about customer service response because I haven't needed them, but if you are concerned I would call the headquarters and see how hard it is to get someone on the phone. The Temp probe is off by a few degrees compared to my Igrill reading but the grill has no trouble maintaining a narrow temp window if you keep the lid closed and don't F%$k with it . Most important it has bought back some passion to cooking, and made me want to try new things which is priceless.
Hey Tom, first, thank you so much for reading the article and expressing your approval of it. It means a lot to me that the information posted on this site is useful for the people. To your question about pellet grills, yes. You must always use BBQ grilling pellets with these cookers. You cannot use raw wood with them. However, should you find yourself with access too hard woods like Hickory or maple, or fruit woods like apple, cherry, or peach – this is something that could be readily used in a charcoal smoker.
Hey David – in my opinion, you’re going to find hot spots in any entry level pellet grill/ pellet smoker. I include GMG, Rec-Tec, Traeger, etc. When you start moving into the higher pellet smokers/grills – Memphis Grill, MAK, etc, you can minimize these to some extent. If you experience higher heat on one side, put the thicker cut of meat (pork butt, point of brisket) near that part.
However, with a pellet smoker, you can ensure that new pellets are being fed into the fire automatically, ensuring that it burns for longer and while it burns, it imparts with its flavors. It doesn’t need to be soaked and fed into a burning pile of coal to work. Above that, sawdust, when separated by the heat and being burned, gets a larger surface area to burn with and thus sends out a bigger burst of flavor per pellet.
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