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.
Whenever you want to smoke with a pellet smoker, you will have to make a choice: What type of wood pellets should I use? Well, the answer may sound simple – whichever flavor you like the best – but might be pretty difficult if you’re smoking for the first time. Unfortunately, the only way to know which flavor you like most is to try them all at least once and then decide upon which one floats your boat.
Hello John. Thank you for your comment and questions here! In short, you will not get the same smoke profile on a pellet smoker that you do with your BGE or PBC. That said, I do think there are some ways to mitigate this. Yes, I do feel the Smoke Tube and Mojo Cubes add smoke flavor that is detectable. Fred at Mojo Bricks does good work, and I recommend his products without reservation. This said, I have been happy with the smoke level I see in the pellet smokers I’ve used. Starting low does and ramping up later is a technique I’ve used with success when extra smoke is desired. The Rec-Tec grill gets high reviews across the board. I have no hesitation backing them, along with Green Mountain Grills. Both are made in China, but the companies have great customer service support and strong user communities. I believe each has a well-contributed Facebook group or two.
My wife purchased this cooker for me for Christmas three years ago when I was working on the road. I had been a gas man for years and had converted to charcoal with great success and enjoyment. I built a UDS smoker and was really getting into the slow smoking with better temp control. Then my son ratted on me and told my wife that I had been drooling over a Yoder Pellet Grill. She surprised me to say the least as I would have never bought this unit myself. I've had several cars that cost less than this smoker! Wow. In person, this grill is build by people that love their job. The smoke flavor compared to a Weber kettle is more delicate than harsh. Temperatures are very even across the grill with warmer sides within an inch of the body of the grill. Being able to start it in two minutes and get to cooking in ten is very handy. Being able to run downtown without worrying about the temp is awesome. I've had it get a little lower than where I had set it, but not by more than 15 degrees. It has great reliability in any weather. We live in northern Montana and this thing just does what you want it to do. Great for making jerky, slow smoke, grilling, and baking. Wood fired cookies are one of our favorites. I've smoked cheese on it during the dead of winter at -15 degrees. Bacon...wow. If you have never had slow smoked bacon I feel sorry for you. Don't worry about not liking this unit after the purchase. I've thanked my wife more times than I can remember and I've received just as many compliments back from everyone who has sampled the food. Great job Yoder!
Next in our pellet grill review is the Green Mountain Davy Crockett pellet grill. Its small size makes it a portable grill. It weighs 57 pounds and measures 14.5 by 20 by 29.5 inches in dimensions. The Green Mountain pellet grill has 110V or 12V adaptors for 3 power options. It has foldable legs that also function as handles. This pellet grill also features a thermal sensor which monitors the grill temperature called Sense-Mate. One coveted feature on this pellet grill is that is Wi-Fi compatible.
This is best pellet smoker for the money if you are a newbie but want to cook like a pro. It is super easy to use and allows you to set up the whole system and then walk away. It has an electronic autostart ignition, which means you don’t even have to start a fire. Just plug it in, do a little prep work, add some pellets, and it will not be long before you have some delicious food to enjoy with your family or serve to your friends.
Rec Tec has always been known for making advanced Rec Tec wood pellet grills coming in at a higher price. However, some of the popular models come in smaller sizes, like Trailblazer 340 or Bullseye 380. However, compared to their capacities and features, the products in our top ten lists would be better choices. So, among its products, the RecTec Bull 700 is the only one that falls in our Honorable Mentions.

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.
To your question regarding Traeger, I’ve not reviewed their grills of yet. I do know that Traeger as a company is taking steps to up their game some, as quality/reliability of their pellet grills has diminished over the last few years. The new CEO – Jeremy Andrus – they hired comes from the Skull Candy company and brought that headphone company from annual sales from less than $1 million to nearly $300 million. I know also that a few big hitters in the BBQ world are being contacted by Traeger to bring the brand back to its former prominence. You can read more about that here from the site of one of the company’s that now has an ownership interest in Traeger: http://www.trilantic.com/News_Story.aspx?StoryType=1&ID=56.
Because the burn pot is small, there is usually a hot spot directly over it. Some units have an optional perforated section above the burn pot so you can put the meat over direct flame, but the ones I've tested still do not sear properly. And there is no way to set up a 2-zone cooking system with a cool zone. As with most other grills and smokers, the differences between lower and upper racks is not huge, so think of it as one heckuva indirect heat convection smoker with precision temperature control.
This smoker offers a massive 560 cubic inches of grilling area with a large-capacity pellet hopper. Even though it’s the perfect starter grill, it’s still packed with plenty of extras that even the pro chefs will enjoy. If the grilling space isn’t enough, the removable upper racks can be turned into extra cooking space. The smokestack behind the unit can also be converted into a prep area.

Vista Outdoor will pay a total purchase price of $74 million for Camp Chef, comprised of $60 million in cash paid at closing and $14 million in cash to be paid out in equal installments on the first, second and third anniversaries of the closing date, subject to certain conditions described below. However, the effective purchase price is lower, due to value created by certain tax assets resulting from the transaction and the deferred purchase price structure, leading to an effective multiple of approximately 6.4x Camp Chef's expected calendar year 2016 EBITDA. Vista Outdoor financed the purchase price paid at closing using borrowings under its existing revolving credit facility. Vista Outdoor expects the acquisition to be slightly accretive to FY17 earnings per share (EPS), including impacts associated with transaction expenses. A majority of the payment of $14 million of deferred purchase price will be contingent on continued employment of key members of management and certain other conditions. As a result, Vista Outdoor plans to record the payments conditioned on continued employment as a compensation expense in future periods in accordance with GAAP. However, for purposes of presenting certain non-GAAP financial measures, including adjusted EPS, Vista Outdoor expects to treat those deferred payments as deferred purchase price and will therefore adjust the payments out of its financial results in future periods as payments are made. The purchase price will also be subject to a customary working capital adjustment. Additional information, including impact on full-year guidance, related to Camp Chef will be presented during Vista Outdoor's second quarter FY17 earnings call and webcast.


I say almost idiot proof because I still make stupid mistakes when I'm cooking and I like to blame it on the pellet grill once in a while. The unit is extremely easy to use for a novice such as myself. I just fill the hopper with my favorite wood pellets, set the temperature and add my food. I have owned this unit a little over a year and everything from the first burger I cooked until the smoked pork chops I just had for dinner has turned out really, really well. I find myself wanting to either smoke or direct grill everything. We have cooked pizza, turkey breasts, tri-tips, pork butts, burgers, salmon, cookies, brownies, chicken wings, drum sticks, pork chops, ribs, cornbread, vegetables, meatloaf and many other things. Nobody ever complains. LOL I have used it in all types of weather all year long. Once I learned how to use the damper (didn't take long) the heat stays where I want it and remains relatively stable even on the coldest days. I would buy this unit again and I would recommend it to others.
I use to have a charcoal/wood fired smoker and it was a nightmare maintaining temperature especially on a long brisket cook. Instantly I've fallen in love my YS640 coupled with a fireboard. You literally set the temp load it up and walk away with no stress or worries about maintain temperature. It provides great smoke flavor too. Yes it is an expensive purchase but that is because this thing is built like a tank and will last for decades.
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.

This pellet grill has a 440 square inch cooking surface and weighs 73 pounds. It measures 36 by 18 by 39 inches in dimensions and is made out of durable steel and heavy duty 16 gauge steel construction. It has a dial-in control with an LED read-out. Its temperature reaches from 180 degrees to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. It also comes with a meat probe. This Pit Boss is a worthy name to be in our pellet grill review’ list.


Bought my Texas Elite 34 Traeger pellet grill last summer at Oshkosh Fly-in. Received it and assembled it with no issues. Began using it and discovered it will not make temperatures above 375 deg F. Most of the Traeger recipes need 400+ deg, so this wouldn't work. Called Traeger. They started sending me replacement parts, first the combustion air fan, then the auger motor, then a digital temp controller. None of these new parts had any effect on the problem. I have probably called Traeger 10 times, finally getting a hold of a second level supervisor named Jessie. He decided to send me a whole burner module; pellet hopper, auger tube, burner bowl, fan, controller... everything in one assembly. I installed it and no improvement. I did a time vs temp test for them at their request. They finally agreed it wasn't working properly.

Hi Dan, I had a Bradley some years ago and the quality of the smoke is somewhat comparable to that of a pellet unit. As I said in my earlier post, compressed sawdust does not create the wood flavor that permeates the meat— no matter what pellet you use. I recently bought a Lang reverse flow, and on my first cook the difference was spectacular. My nephew went to the trouble of adding a full size wood burning firebox to his pellet stove as an experiment. He piped the smoke from the firebox into the pellet unit while making some ribs and the results were obvious. The next day he was out looking for a new smoker. Wood burners are a lot of work compared to a pellet unit, as you say, so I understand your reluctance. Many like vertical units that burn charcoal with wood chunks. These units are much easier to manage than a stick burner and give good results. All I can say is that the first time you make BBQ in your backyard with a wood unit, you will know you made the right choice. There are many good BBQ forums that discuss these points. Good Queing to you.


When buying an item as important as a grill, it is evident that an individual should look for the best quality for what they desire as well as learn properly what are the best in the industry. With that in mind, pellet grills are even more unique than a regular grill because of the design and the way the grill functions. With that said, the quality of a pellet grill is the first criteria we took into consideration because there is a slew of different elements that have to ensure the grill is made of the best possible quality design. With that in mind, one important aspect of quality design that we took into consideration is how all of the functions are built. Meaning, we wanted to make sure that no area was designed and manufactured in a cheap way. Other than that, one method in which we figured out the best quality grills is how the grill cooked and how the items tasted. However, since we cannot buy every single grill and spend weeks cooking steaks and vegetables, as nice as that sounds, we relied a lot on individual reviews and what people had to say about that particular grill.
If the metal is too thick, you will also use a lot of pellets. The walls of a thick-bodied smoker act as a “heat sink”. Heat is taken away from the cooking area and stored in the walls of the cooker. So, it will take a lot of pellets to get the cooking area up to the desired temperature. While thick walls are desirable for some types of cookers, they are not required in pellet smokers.
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.
Hey Jeff – I think that due to pellet smokers requiring much of the wood pellet for “fuel” leaving a smaller part for the “smoke” means that you want as much of the smoke to stay in the chamber for as long as possible. Just my opinion. I’ve not used charcoal pellets. Those I’ve spoken with who have used them weren’t extremely happy with the results. Regarding the water pan, I feel that pellet smokers don’t typically require water pans. However, you can surely use one and see how your results go.

Even and fast cooking – this is the common feedback of the new and past users of this pellet grill cooker. Although some of them would say that the temperature is inaccurate, they can still manage to adjust everything well by means of its digital temperature controller. Additionally, you may need to add more pellets if you will set the temperature on a high setting.
You are worried about flare-ups: When grilling fatty types of meat on a propane grill, you run the risk of having flare-ups, where the flame gets too high and too hot, burning the meat. You have to keep a close eye on the propane grill to guard against them. But with the Traeger grilling system, the even distribution of the heat and the indirect heating system prevent this problem.
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!
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.
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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