Novices: Do you consider yourself a novice with a smoker grill? If so have no shame, in fact, look at me, I started as a novice too! Realistically, no one becomes a geek in 2 weeks of studying or research. So as a beginner you must look for an easy to use smoker grill. Well, the primary concept of a pellet smoker lies in its easy to use features. Set it and forget represents the motto and the main aspect you crave, right?
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.
I have had a Traeger Junior Elite for 4 years. In that time I have used it < 50 times. I have replaced a fan motor, a fuse, and now I have been trying to get a thermometer replaced. First time, the service guy dropped the ball and never sent it. Second time- the thermometer got sent around to multiple post offices. Third time, never got to me- apparently they sent it to the wrong address. Fourth time- still waiting. It's been 5 weeks now, and I cannot get the part, and have no idea if the part will fix the grill. Everyone in service has been polite, but incompetent as well. I have had 2 flash fires in the grill from the auger pushing too many pellets into the hot pot, the temperature fluctuates wildly. Save yourself the frustration: avoid Traeger at all costs!
Bought a YS-640 in 2012 and have been an avid supporter of Yoder pellet grills. Cooks great and very solid construction. Technical support started out phenomenal but seems to be less competent now. Have replaced the thermocouple every two years, almost to the month (pellet grill gets used 1-2 times per month, at low temp 275 deg F cooks). Really disappointing thermocouple life for a $1500 pellet grill. Still love the way it cooks but I have to keep a spare thermocouple in my tool box so I don't have an issue on my cooks.
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.
I live in Florida (Ocala), and I would like to grill, but I am undecided what to buy. I would not use the grill everyday. I am not a ‘griller’, but I do enjoy grilling simple meats, hamburgers, pork tenderloin and chicken; perhaps smoking a 12 lb. turkey for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I have no knowledge as to grill veggies or fish. I am an ignoramus! I tried, but I couldn’t detect them among the ashes!
The smoker is great. (5 stars) Assembly went well. It's pretty straight forward. Operation is easy as well. Just set and pretty much forget it. This is a large smoker. If you need space, this is the one for you. This is my first pellet smoker so I can't offer any comparison to others. I've used a Brinkman horizontal smoker for the last 20 years that has worked well but it was a pain to keep the smoke and temperature where you want. The constant tinkering was getting tiresome. The ease of use of the Camp Chef makes things so much more enjoyable.
Minor problems (Product): 1. Main grill rack does not fit snugly, leaving the rack to half almost a half an inch in all directions to move. (not so much a problem when cooking but it does move) 2. Wind is a major factor making it difficult for this to get up to heat and stay there. 3. It rarely comes to the temperature I set it for, and usually is about 10-15 degrees below, with trying all of the different possible adjustment settings.
It’s got built in manual controls, but there’s also the option to download an app to your phone so you can control your smoker through your wifi! Honestly, this really impressed me, and I don’t know why other manufacturers aren’t all over this. Apparently there’s a cloud based app coming out soon so you can control your grill anywhere you can get internet, so you could be sitting at your kids football game whilst checking the status of your post-victory feast! The controls are also fully programmable, so you could for example set it to smoke for 5 hours and then cook for 2, finishing just as you pull up onto your drive.
In 2008 there were only two consumer pellet grill manufacturers. Today there are dozens. The market for these relatively expensive devices is small but growing fast. Not all of these small manufacturers will survive. Forget the warranty and ask "When it breaks will the manufacturer still be in business?" They do not have repair shops near you. When it breaks will they be able to diagnose the problem over the phone? They may be able to figure it out, but then you have to buy the replacement parts and do the repair work yourself. Are you up to the task?
Traeger makes this process very easy. All you have to do is add pellets, open the lid, turn the knob to smoke and that’s it. The hopper will automatically feed pellets over a hot rod and ignite the fire. You should have your smoker up and running at 230°F in less than 10 minutes. All you’ll have to do after the Traeger 34 Elite smoker starts up is add meat and make sure you don’t run out of pellets.
Hi Brad! Thanks for your comment. I’d give Grilla Grills a hard look. Their Silverbac model is as solid as they come. The sear box on the Camp Chef is an interesting addition. Given that it’s propane powered, it would be pretty much light, turn and go. So, as you said, low maintenance. Still… with a set of grill grates, you should be able to get a sear at top temps on most pellet grills that would meet your expectations.
Of course, there are always bargain hunters. Some might say “Why pay $2000 for a pellet smoker and then bargain hunt for your pellets?” but if you think about it this way — isn’t it like cooking with varying qualities of charcoal? Sometimes an inexpensive, less efficient pellet blend might be just fine for burgers or chicken breasts. Other times, you may want to step it up with a premium flavored pellet where whole turkeys, prime rib roasts, or a nice brisket can really shine.
What are your thoughts about the Kalamazoo hybrid grills? From what I’ve found online, you have the choice of gas, charcoal and wood for cooking or combinations of all. I have no first hand experience with Kalamazoo but it seems very versatile? At the moment after a month of researching, I’m leaning towards a Mac/Yoder or a Webber spirit & egg or a Memphis….so in other words, I’m no closer to a decision than when I started. I currently have a 9 yr old treager that won’t break, seriously, I’ve only repainted once with rustolium….dang thing won’t break so I can get a new toy. I sear in a skillet in the kitchen. My treager has the smoke/med/high switch and I want more control, I’ve maxed what I can do and it’s a challenge in cold weather and wind but it was a great start when they were made to last, more than got my money’s worth. I cook at all levels from smoking to grilling. I do love pellets and don’t want an egg but enjoy the food as much as the process of preparing it. Ok probably to much info but money aside, will you list your recommendations of what you think is best for me?
The Camp Chef SmokePro’s automatic features definitely set it apart and make it truly a “set it and forget it” kind of unit. It makes use of an electric auto-igniter system that lets you start grilling with just one button. The automatic auger instantly dispenses pellets to maintain the desired temperature and use your pellets the most efficient way.
Take your outdoor cooking to the next level with the Camp Chef Pellet Grill and Smoker. Designed with the home griller in mind, built-in features simplify the process of smoking. The included digital temperature readout takes the guesswork out of the cooking process. An advanced digital temperature chip gives a more steady smoke and temperature, eliminating large temperature swings and giving a more consistent cooking temperature. Our patented Ash Can Cleanout System makes clean up the easiest out there. The Pellet Grill and Smoker features range from innovative digital smoker controls to dual temperature sensors. Discover the real secret of award winning BBQ cooks, low and slow smoking.
I am a pellet grill newby and a recent convert from the backyard charcoal grill to the Yoder YS640. After a ton of research on pellet grills, I jumped in the deep end with this grill and have won raving Family fans after four grilling adventures. I have never cook ribs...tried three racks using a special rub and several ours on the Yoder...and my wife who isn't fond of ribs was eating the left overs the next day! This grill is easy to use and creates fantastic tasting food. My only regret is that I didn't purchase the grill a lot sooner.
What about temperature control and a digital controller? It is much poorer in this regard than the competitive Camp Chef which is why I decided to give the second place to Z Grills as an alternative to Camp Chef PG24. Therefore the digital controller allows to set the temperature within the range of 180-450 degrees F. A pretty low maximum temperature but it shouldn’t be a problem to enthusiasts of long slow cooking, which usually takes place at lower temperatures.
Traeger invented the original wood-fired grill over 25 years ago in Mt. Angel, Oregon, and continues to lead the industry as the worlds #1 selling wood-fired grill, perfected by decades of mastering the craft of wood-fired cooking. Fueled by 100% pure hardwood pellets and controlled with a digital controller, means from low and slow to hot and fast grilling, you'll fire up deliciously consistent results every single time. The Texas Elite 34 packs a huge punch with 646 sq. in. of grilling area, new wider legs for added stability, and an upgraded Digital Elite Controller. It combines powerful, wood-fired convection performance with simple operation. So invite the neighbors and taste the wood-fired difference.
The popular Traeger Junior Elite is a great smoker for first-time chefs as well as experienced smokers who are short on space. It's versatile and can grill, smoke, bake, roast, braise, and barbecue food. The digital controller is adjustable to +/- 20 degrees and has 300 square inches of grilling space that is large enough for two whole chickens or three racks of ribs.
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Many of the models require you to clean them up for 30 minutes because you have to take out the gooey deflector plate and the greasy grates in order to scrape them off and wash them until they’re shining. Careful cleaning is required when the grease and carbon are covering the deflector plate. The easy-clean grills typically make the parts more accessible but the amount of cleanup remains the same.
Ease of Use: At first, the unit appears somewhat mind boggling to use however when you get over it the first occasion when it turns out to be very simple. For one thing, there is a get-together video instructional exercise from the maker’s site for a less demanding get-together. Else, anybody that has used a BBQ before wouldn’t have any type of trouble with the unit.
As I mentioned at the start of this post, there are a few pellet smokers that lead the pack in terms of name recognition. The ones featured here are those that come most highly recommended by friends of mine on the professional BBQ circuits with KCBS and FBA. As such, if you don’t see one of your favorites listed here and would like to offer up a review — please contact me via any of the social media links at the top of this blog’s sidebar, and we’ll see about getting a post up.
The Sense-Mate feature is another one of the best additions to this smoker: it is a thermal sensor system that monitors and reads the internal temperature of the grill within 5ºF of the actual temperature! Once you set your desired temperature using its digital controls, the Sense-Mate technology reads and monitors the temperature, while displaying it on the LCD display. Sense-Mate makes sure that heat is kept at a constant temperature, so whether you are cooking at 150ºF or 550ºF, you can rest assured that your meats will be evenly cooked.
Eric, I’m sorry for the trouble you’ve had with your Traeger. Not sure this will help, but here is how I make sure I don’t have the problem you had. When I start after a long previous cook or any cook at all really, I vacuum out all the dust and vacuum out the burn pot. Then, I put a handful of pellets into the burnt pot, insert the heat deflector, the drip tray, and grate. I find that this keeps things working well. Sometimes, the burn pot will get too full of ash and this can cause the problems that you had. Give it a try. If it works, please let me know.
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!
I did a lot looking around at pellet smokers before buying the ys 640. This thing is amazing! I have been cooking BBQ for about 15 years. I owned a Gator pit entertainer which is made in Houston Texas (stick burning pit) and I currently own a $25,000 Ole Hickory Pit EL-EDX which can cook 700 lbs of BBQ at once. I wanted something smaller to cook for family. The ys 640 turns out PERFECT Q every time! The amount of smoke is just right. Plenty of smoke flavor without over smoking which is very easy to do in my other pit. This is an EXCELLENT product which I strongly recommend.
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.
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Pellet Hopper – One of the reasons we all buy a pellet smoker for is the long cooking time. It’s an automated grill, but it needs to be provided with the right amount of pellets in the hopper. Those grills are used for long, often all night long meat smoking. That’s why it’s important for the pellet container to be very big. Here you get a 40 pound hopper capacity. You can be sure you won’t run out of fuel during longer cooking.