Hey Ben – thank you for your comment. From a retail user standpoint, I think you’d be happy with either a Yoder or FEC. I really like the PG 500 for the purpose that you’re looking at. Best of both worlds it seems the more I’m looking at it. You can see how they approach grilling steaks in this video. You can incorporate the use of GrillGrates in either pellet grill. Both companies make their units in the USA. Both have great reputations. I’m just partial to Cookshack’s pellet smokers over Yoder as I know more folks who use them.
I have owned my YS640 for about 9 months now. Before I bought this I researched smokers/grills for about 2 years because I had very little experience with them & cooking in general. With the help of a few good websites I have produced some great food. There is a ton of room to cook on & the heat stays pretty much where you want it. Only a few issues I have had is that where the stack mounts to the side of the grill it drips. I did have a scratch on mine from the shipper & when I called about it I was sent a can of matching high temp paint very quickly. One thing that I like the most about this smoker is it is heavy. You can tell that this thing was built to last.
The PK-360, with 360 square inches of cooking space, this rust free, cast aluminum charcoal grill is durable and easy to use. Four-way venting means it's easy to set up for two zone cooking with more control than single vent Kamado grills. It is much easier to set up for 2-zone cooking than any round kamado. Beautifully designed and completely portable. Meathead says it is his preferrred grill.
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.
Ordering through All Things BBQ was VERY simple and easy. In fact, my YS640 arrived a few days sooner than expected/quoted. These grills are expensive, but I am a firm believer in "you get what you pay for". There is no doubt the quality of Yoder craftsmanship is exceptional. So far, I have only been able to use my YS640 a coupe of times. However, I'm looking forward to many meals being cooked on it going forward. If you buy one, you will not be disappointed!
I bought the Pit Boss 440 Deluxe & cooked a pork butt. Set it on Smoke (P4) all was well for 2 hours then temperature ran away to over 615 degrees. Ruined that piece of meat. Called customer service & they talked at me instead of listening to me. Tried another pork butt set on 225 degrees temp once again ran away after an hour. Wrote an email to customer service with a response that they were sorry I was having trouble. Tried again today with the same result so sent another email with pictures of settings & indicated temperatures. Guess I'll have to finish this pork butt in the oven & go buy a Treagar Pellet Grill. If Pit Boss corrects this I'll update this review!
Kevin, appreciate your reviews and insights. I am currently looking for my first pellet cooker which will be primarily used for camping, therefore I will likely purchase a portable unit. Your review on the GMG Davy Crocket answered some questions for me. I was initially contemplating the Traeger Junior Elite and GMG Davy Crocket, but after doing some homework I’m now considering the Rec Tec Mini as well. I can purchase the Traeger and GMG now for $350 and the Rec Tec for $500. My dilemma is that I (like many others) take very good care of my gear/equipment, so whatever I purchase, I expect to get a great deal of use out of. With that said, making the wrong decision could be a 7-10 year mistake. There are aspects of each that I like, I guess my question is whether spending another $150 on the Rec Tec, in your opinion, would be worth it to you? I understand if you would rather stay away from specific recommendations, and if that is the case, any other thoughts you have would be appreciated.
In my experience, running Traeger pellets, the grill has functionally three temperature settings;  1) Off. This is self explanatory. Looks very pretty on a picnic table in the campground or on your patio table.  2) Hot and Smoky. Wide temperature swings, over-fueling, massive smoke followed by high temps. The controller gets into a "correction induced oscillation" of ever wider swings in temp potentially resulting in either Ler or Her shut downs.  3) Very, Very Hot. This is the high setting where it will run 500+ temps and gets the deflector/drip pan very hot even with the lid open. Burner sounds awesome in Open Lid Mode. Very Macho.
With the summer right around the corner, it’s about that time of the year that consumers are thinking about hosting outdoor picnics and having their friends and family in the backyard. Now, to make this year special, many people are flocking towards purchasing pellet grills. In efforts to assure our readers that each grill on today’s list is the absolute best, we performed an update on this buying guide. Included in this update, readers will get to learn about the criteria that we used to evaluate each grill and a list of answers to some commonly asked questions. Before the summer arrives, check out this update!

Food not cooking evenly or at desired times: It’s worth checking out the health of the fans in your pellet grill. Usually, if the fan is unable to distribute the heat properly throughout the whole smoker, these problems occur. Fans are relatively inexpensive and very easy to replace. Even if you see the fan working and still getting these problems, it might be that the fan is working intermittently or at slower speeds that it needs to. Have it replaced: it would be the best course of action and won’t be heavy on your wallet.
I have the larger Traeger smoker and have really liked it but not from the start. I had issues with the heating unit but the Traeger help people managed to get my “mechanical blondness” through this and all is well. The assistance center people at Traeger weres super supportive so I’m a loyal fan today. One thing I suggested to Traeger, and all who have a Traeger smoker, is to make the grill surface in two parts so it fits into a dishwasher. I cut my grill in half allowing it to fit in my dishwasher. Easy peasy to clean now!
One comment I see a lot in various forums like Pellet Heads Forum is that you want as much efficiency as you can get. As with lump charcoal, this means burning as clean of a cook as you can with as little ash as possible. Different pellet mixes will produce differences in what you get in this area, and the cooker you’re using will dictate this to some degree as well.
So if you want more of a smoke profile, cook at longer and lower temps in your pellet pit. I have found that is the best way to get a more distinct smoke profile in your food. Cook at 180–190 for the first several hours. That probably has the biggest impact. Next, make sure you are using a good, quality hardwood pellet. I can tell you that you will notice a very large difference in the flavor profile between say a Traeger pellet vs. say one of Candy’s [BBQers Delight pellets]. — Read more on PelletSmoking.com
Thanks for the quick response and advice. I see a pellet pro hopper assembly is around $250 compared to the Memphis pro at over $2000. I didn’t realize that drafting isn’t important for the sake of temp regulation but what about how the smoke travels from the firebox towards the meat? I also would like to include an element of humidity, is simply putting a pan of water in the cooker or is there a better way?
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!
Yoder's Variable Displacement Damper is another unique feature: Essentially, it's a metal plate that may be moved from left to right along the lower smoke box. Positioned all the way left, it concentrates heat directly over the fire pot for conductive searing with optional aluminum GrillGrates. Move it back to the right for even heat across the entire smoke box. Yoders are sold primarily through independent retailers.
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