In 2010, I sprung for a discounted Rainer with $80 in tip money and a pro deal through the whitewater rafting company I worked for. It was an expensive purchase for me at a time when my monthly food budget was around $60. But hey, along with a Roll-a-Table, two chairs I “borrowed” from the rafting company, and my cooler, I had almost a full kitchen that I could deploy from the back of my truck. And the Rainier quickly proved a wise investment.

With a large cooking space and the most advanced cooking techniques, this is easily one of our favorite products among our top ten. While it lacks some of the features that the other grills and smokers in this review have (such as an ash and grease cleanup systems), it does deliver fine-dining quality foods, which is the ultimate goal of every grilling enthusiast. For its price, it offers some of the best features you can find in high-end products.


Pellets are available from a number of sources because they are popular for use in home heaters, so if you are worried that you will be buying a gizmo that might be worthless someday if the pellet supply runs out, it is unlikely. As more and more pellet grills appear, and word of their excellence spreads, sources for pellets will become numerous. I've even heard of a few Home Depot's carrying them. The bad news is that I have tried several brands and I always return to BBQr's Delight. They seem to have the least sawdust, so they are less likely to clog the auger, and they have a higher percentage of the flavor wood on the label.
One of Yoder’s most unique features is the Variable Displacement Damper. This makes it easy to smoke, sear, and grill your food using the YS640. This is a metal plate that moves along the lower smoke box. If you move it all the way left, it concentrates heat directly over the firepot for conductive searing. If you move it back to the right, the heat will spread evenly across the entire some box for even cooking. The unit comes with a side firebox which has a removable cooking grate if you want to grill your food in it.

I'm using a ThermoWorks "Smoke" thermometer to send smoker temp info while I'm busy doing other things. So much easier to set it and not having to worry about it compared to grilling over charcoal (although I still like to do that for high temp California "BBQ"). Just come back when it's close to being done to give a quick visual check compared to the probe temperature. May consider adding the sear box in the future.
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!

Hey Charlie – I’d leave that grate wide open if you want maximum heat. If the grates are only over the burn pot, then you can do sort of a two zone cook (indirect vs direct heat) by putting a thicker steak, chop, or piece of chicken on the ‘non direct’ side to get up to a temp that’s 15 or 20 degrees lower than your target. Then, finish off over the burn pot area. Just one idea.


I remember a time when I was going through some quad-bike reviews; it was all so confusing and I had no clue whom to believe and whom not to. Even when I eventually decided to put my faith in one of them, I kept having second thoughts regarding whether or not they would fail me. If you’re someone like me, let me give you four reasons our reviews won’t fail you:
just received my new YS-640 two weeks ago and I absolutely love it. The shipping process and delivery was just as described. The delivery guy unloaded it off the truck, and wheeled the pallet into my garage. Everything was perfect. I am very impressed with the build quality...this thing is a tank. So far have smoked ribs and a brisket, and grilled chicken breasts. The grill heats up much faster than I expected. Temperature holds very steady over the long cooks. I love having the built in probe ports. Still figuring out and tweaking the baffle to control different cooking zones. Only negative thing I say is it can be difficult to manouver in tight quarters because it's so heavy and only the small caster wheels turn. So if you need to move your smoker around a lot, consider the comp cart.
Despite being a little complicated when compared to the other types of grilling equipment (because of the automatic pellet auger and fan), they are pretty easy to repair if you have the right parts. You can find these parts right at a home depot or online. It doesn’t matter if you need to replace the auger or the fan, the ignitor rod or the hopper, for the top brands, you’ll find the replacement parts just as easily. Let’s look at the replaceable parts of a pellet smoker:

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!
Apart from the replacement parts for a pellet smoker, there are also certain accessories that one can use to increase the range of its usefulness as well as improve its performance. A user can attach a griddle attachment to a pellet grill to use it as a flat top griddle, or use a hopper extender to increase the pellet hopper capacity; there is an attachment for every purpose to suit all of your needs. Let’s take a look at the types of accessories commonly found:
It comes with some unique features, such as its proprietary “Sense-mate” technology that uses a thermal sensor to monitor the ambient temperature. If used in a cold weather, this grill fires up the turbo mode so you won’t have to wait for it to heat up before you start using it. It comes with “fan-only” mode to blow off the ash and automatically clean the grill once it has been shut off.
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Since wood chips are by-products of carpentry and woodwork, they are not only inexpensive but are also helpful for the environment since you’re using up all the parts of a tree. Its death wouldn’t go in vain! If you’re looking to learn more about the types of available wood chips and what kind of flavors they impart with, feel free to check out our post on that topic.

To compound the complexity of this issue the consumer also has to deal with some grill manufacturers recommending the use of only their branded pellets.  Then to make matters even worse pellet consumers have to navigate all the different flavors available and whether to use a blended pellet (a blend of multiple kinds of wood such as oak, hickory, and cherry) or a 100% pure pellet (a pellet that uses only the flavor listed on the package).   This doesn’t even take into consideration some pellet companies using things such as oils and fillers in their pellets.


The first thing you notice about yoders its the quality! They are testosterone, precision, heavy duty machines. Yoders cut the learning curve from novice to celebrated cook in less than a year, because they allow you to focus on the cooking instead of tending the fire which can take you lots of time. The only issue I have with mine is that the fan vibrates inside making a wierd noise, so I have to open the cooker and re-atach or re-instal the velcro strap that keeps the fan from vibrating. If this works, I will return to edit my review to 5x3 stars. However, the support team sent me everything I need to conduct the process my self; no complains here.
For me, grilling is a way to communicate to the people in my life that I love them and to easily involve others in my passions and hobbies. So, to be able to guarantee perfection in every meal isn’t just about eating well, it’s about reliably being able to put my best foot forward with these people who matter. And the remarkable thing about the Traeger is that you can expect to be able to do the same from the very first time you use it.
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