Kevin- super helpful article. Thanks! I just moved from a big city small apartment with no grill to a house in the country. Most essential purchase is the grill. I’m really on the fence. I like the idea of a pellet grill, but in reality- I’m mostly cooking burgers, fish, steaks, scallops, and veggies. The brisket and ribs will be more of a special occasion. From an economical perspective, am I better buying a gas grill and just getting one of those smoke tubes to add some flavor? From many of the online comments, it seems like the pellet grills benefit from additional smoke anyway, and though you can get additional grates for searing, seems like a square peg in a round hole. The gas grill is sort of the tried and true, and way more economical. Those $500 entry level pellet grills seem a little scrawny, and the next level up is a cool $grand. I’m really on the fence, and getting pressure to “just buy the darn thing” to consummate the move to the country! However the pellet grills seem like the new shiny object and have my curiosity. Any advice? PS- love the website! Thanks, Cary
You want even grilling: One of the downsides of using a charcoal grill is ensuring that the entire grilling area is evenly heated. Spreading the charcoal evenly and avoiding hot spots is difficult. Traeger’s pellet grilling system overcomes this problem with a fan that evenly distributes the heat throughout the grilling area, much like a wood-fired oven would have.
Second, It would be just my wife and me BBQing so I’m looking small. I’m considering the REC TEC Mini Portable Wood Pellet Grill (RT-300) after reading your reviews. Having only ever BBQed with hard wood coals on a Webber, is there going to be a taste fall-off going to the pellet grill as far as charring and/or smoke? I’d hate to spend that kind of money and get bland steaks. Really, steak is all we ever cook outside, though that would probably change with a nice grill.
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.
You prefer a direct heat method of grilling: The Traeger grill uses an indirect heating source, much like an oven, so you won’t be able to sear meat, as many people like to do when grilling a steak. The Traeger system is better for those people seeking more of a smoker type of cooking system, although you can sear your meat by using a frying pan with a little oil initially before you finish cooking it with the Traeger grill. You can use the frying pan on a stove top burner or on the surface of the Traeger grill.
Barbecue was not his first career. He earned a BA from Columbia College in Chicago and studied at the Cleveland Institute of Art and the Dana School of Music. He has been involved in every aspect of film, video and music production. He edited the 1991 Academy Award nominated documentary, "The Mark of the Maker" and "Universal Hotel", which is part of a permanent exhibit at the Dachau Memorial Museum.
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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!
love your article and got lots of good info from it….i do have a question tho that i didnt see an answer to…..do pellet grills have to use just pellets?….i have 3 acres full of oak branches that could be shredded. my question is can a pellet grill use home shredded wood chips to burn and cook with or is it mandatory that the fuel be in the pellet state?….would be great if i could find a good use for all these fallen branches….
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.
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?
Set & Forget - Pellet Smokers are the best solution for people who want to smoke meat for many hours without stress. The set & forget style is a domain of this type of grills. Just set the desired temperature and your smoker will maintain it for the following hours. That way you can leave your meat for even more than a dozen hours at a fixed low temperature without worries.
One comment I see a lot in various forums like PelletHeads.com 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.
Hi Dillon, thank you for commenting here. As to your question, I think you’d be happy with either a Weber Smokey Mountain cooker 18 inch, or a Daniel Boone Green Mountain Grill pellet smoker. Each are on the smaller side of BBQ Smokers and BBQ Pellet Grills, with just enough extra space to make food for a small family get together as needed. My brother lives in Colorado Springs and had trouble getting his Weber Smokey Mountain cooker to get hot enough and/or regulate temps. He built a wind screen for it at first which helped a ton. Then, he constructed a kind of smokehouse for it to sit in. Works great and functions as desired. You can see more on the Weber Smokey Mountain cookers here. For GMGs, you can find Colorado dealers by visiting this link: http://greenmountaingrills.com/find-a-dealer/.
Moving on from the orangish-red looks of the predecessor RT-680, this newer model has a black hood, with stainless steel built. It is 2.5” taller than the RT-680 and has 2 stainless steel bull horn handles on the outside that will have you falling in love with its built. Everything from the towel rings, the controller shelf, the hopper lid to the spill-proof bucket hook is stainless steel and even the smallest of details like the laser cutout of “Rec Tec Grills” on the side will never fail to impress.
Controlling temperature is the best way to get the desired piece of cooked meat. This smoker grill has a built-in thermostatic control and a digital thermometer, so that means you won’t have to do much guesswork during barbecue. If the sensors sense a fall in temperature, more wood pellets are added to the burner, which allows you to place the meat on grill and relax.
This smoker comes with two cooking settings: hot and fast, and low and slow. Its Digital Elite Controller makes setting the temperature a breeze — all you have to do is turn the dial to your desired temperature, and you can leave it for the rest of the cooking process. This smoker can reach the temperature of up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. The digital display on top of the grill lets you monitor the heat conveniently.
The entire system was designed in order to make smoking fun and easy. Cleanup is easy, getting everything going is easy, and food turns out great every time. The main cooking area 292 in.², which means you can cook a lot at one time. Since it uses convection technology, the smoky hot air can circulate around the food in order to cook everything evenly.
A good pellet grill can hit high temperatures for that perfect steak and still hold a steady low and slow temperature for great barbecue. All the while adding great smoke flavor from hardwood pellets. These pellet grills cost more but do so much more while being highly efficient, precise in temperature and widely capable. Among these, you will find cookers large enough for a whole hog as well as units with full network interfaces for controlling from a distance. These are the best of the best in Pellet Grills.
With that said, depending on the size of the green an individual may need more pellets to fuel the food. However, a bigger sized pellet grill allows the cook to grill for a large number of people. While a compact grill can easily be taken anywhere. With that in mind, one important criterion that we wanted to take into consideration is how easy the item is to set up.
Rec-Tec has a strong following, and – as with the rest of the pellet grills in this review, will do you right. They’ve recently gone to an all black (no more red) look with their newer models. Though, you can probably still get the red. They have the most pellet holding capacity of any other grills pretty much, so that might be a plus for you. Getting temps back down is pretty fast… 5-10 minutes or so. I’d consider reverse searing, so long as your steaks are 1 and 1/2 inches or more. Thinner cuts won’t work. So, basically – you get the steak up to around 125-35 at around 225-250 F. Wrap it in foil. Then, crank your heat up to the highest setting, remove your steak from the foil, and sear it off on both sides to your desired doneness level. This limits the amount of grey – making for a more uniform pink from the top to the bottom of the steak.
Consumer-level Traeger grills are considered a mid-range type of pellet grill, so they’re good for those wanting to try pellet grills for the first time. Traeger models like the Lil’ Tex Elite 22 or the Tailgater cost several hundred dollars and can grill about 12 to 16 burgers at a time. Larger Traeger grills will generally carry low four-figure prices, such as the Pro Series 34 or the Select Pro, which can hold 32 to 40 burgers between the upper and lower grilling racks.
Something you may not have read in other Pellet smoker reviews is that there are two key concerns: flavor and fuel consumption. As previously stated, pellet smokers are not known for producing a strong smoke flavor, no matter what pellets you use. Though, some brands can be more pronounced than others. Hardwood pellets provide longer overall burn times per pound than fruit wood pellets. 1oo percent fruit wood pellets will also be more expensive on average. So, if you want to do a pellet smoker cook using 100 percent cherry wood pellets, you’re going to use more fuel than you would with a cherry/hardwood blend, and it’s going to cost you more as well on average.
Third name to make it to my list of the best pellet grill review is The REC TEC Wood Pellet grill. It has a trademark Smart grill Technology, which maintains precise temperature. This amazing pellet grill has a whopping 702 square inch cooking area, and a 40 pound capacity pellet hopper. It is made out of high quality stainless steel. It comes with a drip pan.
Hi i would like to buy my boyfriend a good quality smoker but can’t seem to find one that’s small for people just starting out with smoking for our small backyard. Does anyone have any suggestions? I don’t want to invest too much to start incase it’s too difficult to use or we find we don’t like it. I’ve read some reviews on little smokers that catch on fire and that worries me since we live in a townhouse. I figured someone on here would know of a well made brand that is on the smaller/less expensive side.
Am considering adding a pellet grill to my fleet, have champagne taste on a beer budget. Have a smoke hollow smoker (lp) that works awesome, a cheap charbroil gril, and a holland I picked up used. Tried the holland because I got tired of flareups but it is slow, a coffee can over the stacks until it warms up helps but you don’t want to walk away from it that way. I like the idea of something you don’t have to baby sit. Any reviews on the traeger grills? I like the looks of the traeger jr, has nice features, portable and enough room for most of the things I want. Also are these grills affected by wind and do they work in cold weather? I live in ND and like to use them in the winter as long as the temp is above 10 degrees or so.
Traeger pellet grills pack big hardwood flavor, from sweet cherry, to savory mesquite, into everything you grill, smoke, bake, roast, braise, & BBQ. Traeger's wood pellets are made with 100% pure, natural hardwood giving you authentic flavor and nothing else. Grilling has never been easier—just set it and forget it and let the Traeger work its wood-fired magic.
After looking at a lot of pellets smoker grill reviews, it is easy to see that this is a pretty decent model. It is just so functional. So if you are looking to purchase something that is more than a pellet smoker, this is the product for you. Make sure to follow the instructions carefully when assembling it and be sure to gauge cooking time since this is a fast one.
Hey Vernon – Yoder warranty is is 1-year on the igniter, 3-years on the control system and 10-years on the cooking body. Products manufactured by Memphis Wood Fire Grills carry a seven (7) year Limited Warranty from the date of purchase by the original owner against defects in material and workmanship. Electronic and electrical components carry a three (3) year replacement warranty when subjected to normal residential use. Limited Warranty does not apply to burn pot, meat probe, grill cover gaskets or damage caused by corrosion. The meat probe is under Warranty for 30 days from the date of purchase. (Both warranty blurbs were pulled from the respective company websites) Yoder: http://www.yodersmokers.com/pellet-frequently-asked-questions.html Memphis Grills: https://memphisgrills.com/warranty/
So back to the Internet for one last attempt on making a decision on the smoker that is of great quality and can also fill my need grilling needs as well. I am almost sold on the Rec Tec, but I’m curious about the Grilla Grill Silverbac. It’s a little smaller than RT and metal is a gauge off from the RT. It doesn’t run off a PID system but a digital controller and is priced at $699. I do like the underneath storage of the Grilla and the second tier cooking grates.
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?
OK. I’m rambling a bit. To your point regarding Traeger. I think that the models you can buy at big box stores (Costco etc) are OK. I still hear a few complaints about blistering paint etc. But… their Pro Series Models are a different story. The new management at Traeger has come a long way in their efforts to reaffirm the Traeger brand as a legitimate BBQ Pellet Smoker brand that everyone from the backyarder to competition pitmasters can get behind. To that end, they only allow specialty retailers carry the Pro Series models, which are built with a bit more heft and better PID controls, electronics, etc. You can find these at Ace Hardware stores, places like the Whiskey Bent BBQ Supply store we have here in Lakeland, FL (there is now one in Odessa, FL) as well. You can find a Traeger Pro model by going to http://www.traegergrills.com/dealers.
When it comes to temperature range, Pit Boss 71700FB has a minimum temperature of 180°F and a maximum temperature of 500°F. This Pit Boss pellet smoker can be used for grilling, roasting, smoking, baking, searing, and braising. In addition, the Flame Broiler allows you to grill your food directly over an open flame. And with a hopper that can fit up to 12 pounds of wood pellets, you’ll be smoking all day without having to refill.
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.