Thank you all for a great site and an informative discussion. I am a newbie to smoking and presently have a charcoal grill for when I have more time and a gas grill for a fast meal. Its time to replace my gas grill so I am looking at alternative options. Is a pellet grill overkill, or a timely expedition, if I want to grill a couple steaks or chicken breasts during week nights? I’d also be interested in smoking larger hunks of meat (and ribs!) less often, but am wondering if a pellet grill can cover both? How long does it take a pellet grill to get to temp (e.g. 450°)? With the indirect heat, can you get char marks on your meat? Thanks in advance for the info!
-Warranty-(Forgive my soapbox here, folks.) I'd give it 5 stars if Camp Chef would give it a real warranty. One year is pathetic and WAY below the industry standard. Camp Chef, I know you are reading this because you guys are too excited about your great new product to not pay attention to feedback like this. Nut up and stand behind your awesome product. Why would anybody buy a product from an industry newcomer with no track record when you yourself are only willing to stand behind it for 1 lousy year?... Especially when the "industry leader" will guarantee their product for 3 years?!?! You are communicating that you have 1/3rd the amount of trust in your product that Traeger does. That's terrible! You should exceed what they are offering just to make the point in the industry! At a minimum, you should at least match their warranty just so it doesn't become a stumbling block to potential customers. Look, you basically took the lil tex and said "ok boys, so how can we make this better?!?" You did that! You totally knocked it out the park! Why cheap out with the warranty?!? As a customer, it makes me nervous that you know something I don't.
Travelers: Hey travelers, we haven’t forgotten about making your life easier. Have you ever tried smoked rabbit while jungle camping? If so, then you know the thrill and enjoyment in it, but you probably wouldn’t go through the hassle of taking a smoker in the jungle. Wait a minute mate, I recommend the top pellet smoker grills for a successful camping adventure with friends or family. I cannot count how many times we have done seen the advantages of this. It makes for an awesome experience every time. We recommend pellet smokers because of the lightweight and easy to shift aspects. It can fit easily in your car, which makes it the travelers dream.
The first thing we have to understand is the anatomy of a pellet smoker. Check the related section on this page to get the idea. Once we know which part goes where, the bigger battle will be won. Next, we’re going to have to be able to analyze the problem if we are to solve it. What seems to be the issue? Are the pellets not lighting up? Are the pellets getting stuck and not working properly? Weird noises coming out from the hopper? Are foods not cooking well? Let’s take a look at these problems and how to solve them:
The cooking surface is relatively small – the grill surface 12” x 16” (192 square iches) with the hood being 7” tall at the highest point. This is just big enough to cook some larger cuts of meat like tri-tip or brisket. However, small size is not necessarily a downside. While you won’t host a 4th of July cookout with this pellet grill, the small capacity and the compact size of the Davy Crockett pellet smoker makes it a perfect choice for condo dwellers or for picnics.
Because most Traeger grills make use of an Ortech digital temperature controller that’s precise within about 15 degrees of your setting, they may not be precise enough for the type of cooking you want to perform. If so, some pellet grill manufacturers, such as MAK, Yader, and Memphis, can give you temperature control within about 5 degrees of the setting. These types of grills use multiple temperature probes inside the cooking area to guarantee the temperature remains consistent. And some of these high-end brands can reach a higher cooking temperature (such as 600 or 700 degrees Fahrenheit) versus the Traeger family of grills (usually around 450 or 500 degrees). Additionally, MAK, Memphis, and Yader grills are made in the United States, while some parts of Traeger grills are made in China.
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.
If you’re looking for very portable smoker on a budget, we recommend the Davy Crockett by Green Mountain Grills. However, if you’re looking for a small backyard smoker that you can use at the occasional picnic, tailgate, or cul-de-sac party, we recommend the Traeger Tailgater. We think the slight increase in cost is justified by the bigger grill space, which comes in handy if you’re using your smoker frequently or to cook for more than two people.
One of the fun features this grill offers is that it’s WIFI enabled (controlled or monitored through an iOS or Android app). Sense-Mate, a thermal sense that constantly monitors the grill temperature, keeps you up to date on the status of your grill and your food! The digital controlling really lets you micro-manage your cooking, as you can adjust it a degree at a time. You can also program a series of temperatures and then sit back and enjoy your day while your food cooks! (Yes, you can also control it manually as well.)
Thank you for a very comprehensive review and all the helpful advice. I would like to know your thoughts about having the burn pot in the center area as in the Rec-Tec, or on the side. My only interest is smoking, not grilling, and I prefer even heat throughout the cooking chamber. How much difference does the location of the burn pot make? Thank you very much.
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I have always been a believer: “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”. I’ve been lucky enough to use my professional experience in the meat industry over the past 20 years to create a business where I love to go to work. Smoking Meat Geeks is all about bringing people together that enjoy food as much as I do. We provide a place for everyone to share thoughts, ideas, and recipes; to be a go-to spot for cooking inspiration. Feel free to leave a comment, say hello, or provide any tips. There is no right or wrong input, as long as you’re engaging, you’re a Meat Geek!
Traeger's, unlike other models, have a temperature probe, these sensors tell it if the temperature is too low and automatically feeds more pellets to the fire. You can set up the temperature in 5-degree increments. Other brands and cheaper versions only offer three settings low, medium and high. There is no sensor to monitor the temperature. If you are purchasing a pellet grill it is because you can set it and forget it. If you plan to hoover then it makes more sense to use a standard smoker or to transform your grill into a smoker.
Bullet Smokers: They come in the shape of a bullet and works in a similar fashion as kettle grills. However, the main advantage it has over kettle grills is that you don’t need a charcoal chimney starter to light it up. Plus, the shape will allow the users to cook at a lower temperature and smoke for a little longer than they can on a kettle grill.
In true Yoder fashion the 640 is not a fancy cooker with lots of shiny things, bells and whistles. Don't mistake that for poor craftsmanship, the Yoders are all built to the highest quality standards. They just happen to be more muscle car than sports car. Big, bad ass, built to last American muscle car that will blow the doors off the competition on your back deck or on the comp trail.
Traeger Smoker – Buyer beware. My Traeger stopped working both times I’ve used it. It just stops after about 2 hours. Traeger’s response is their pillory is they don’t make refunds. The nearest service is 3 hours away and it’s just too far for them. They said the solution to it stopping is for me to partially disassemble it when it stops and vacuum out the burner pot. They said they would talk me through some troubleshooting. They offered to send me replacement parts but said they don’t think it will help. I can’t return it, they can’t determine a fix for it. I’m supposed to just eat the $830 cost for a smoker that doesn’t work.
Every outdoor cooking enthusiast wants an affordable pellet smoker that has all of the key features that even a high-end unit would have. In most cases, this is just a dream and a result of false advertising, because most impressive smokers typically cost a hefty sum of money. The Z Grills Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker claims to be a reasonably-priced smoker that offers top-of-the-line features, and many users have agreed with those claims. With this pellet smoker review of the Z Grills Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker, we’ll find out if it really does what it claims to do.
What sets Z Grills apart significantly from the rest of competitive grills is a completely different construction that is more resembling of something like gas grills, which means a door in the front that one can keep grilling accessories behind. Usually most of manufacturers leave the front of the grill open and don’t make use of the space underneath the grill which gives Z Grills huge thumbs up for using this space in a nice and creative way.
Thankfully the popularity of pellet grills spurred many new pellet fuel manufacturing companies to enter the industry. There are also some very big names in the grilling world that have seen the light and are now producing pellets as well. This has helped the availability of pellets for sure, but we are still not to a point where pellets are commonplace in stores in all areas.
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.
This Camp Chef 5-Piece Chef Cooking Utensil Set offers you the basic cooking utensils in one reliable set. The items in this kit a...re made from stainless steel so they are super durable. The stainless steel utensil set includes a spatula, a Santoku knife, tongs and a flat-nosed spoon. Cooking in the outdoors is easier when you have this set available. Conveniently, it comes with a 90-day limited warranty. read more
If cost isn't an issue, check out the Elite Wood Fire. This 200+ pound behemoth from Memphis Grills costs more than some used cars, but it's fully loaded. Wifi-enabled, an extraordinary temperature range, and a cooking space large enough to be used by a small restaurant - the Elite has it all. The pellet hopper is built to match capacity, with enough fuel space to smoke for up to 62 hours straight.
Is it food quality? All of my foods are the best I have ever grilled. The ribs are nearly falling off of the bone, yet still moist! In the past, if I tried to get them to that point, they would have been very dry. All of my meats have been moist with a lightly smoked flavor. My breads perfectly crusted on the outside, moist inside with a perfect crust!
On Tabletop Models: I didn’t include them here because though extensive, this post is more of an overview of a few select makers of Pellet Smokers I think do a fine job with both manufacturing and product support. The one exception is that I did include a link to where you can find the Rec-Tec mini. That’s Rec-Tec’s answer to the smaller, tabletop or tailgating models.
I spent months checking out Memphis, Fast Eddy, Mak, and Yoder grills. I must say the Yoder is by far the most robust pellet grill of them all. I noticed many reviews with 3 or 4 star ratings for price and I must disagree; fit, finish, build quality, and material robustness of the Yoder was better than the Memphis Pro & Elite...and we all know how expensive the Memphis is.
Speaking of competition cooks, you’ll find that many competition BBQ pitmasters who use Pellet grills as their primary means of cooking are among the more well rested come Saturday. The next step we’ll cover in this selection of Pellet Grill Reviews is getting your pellet grill / smoker up and running. Again, what you may not see in may Pellet Grill Reviews is repeated mention that you’re not going to get that “deep smoke” flavor profile using a pellet smoker. Though, this can be achieved by using something like the Amazen Pellet Tube Smoker 12″.
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.
Hey David, Is there a particular reason why the Grilla grills interest you? I tend to find they’re great smokers, just expensive for what they are. If you’re working with limited space (say smoking on a condo balcony) then the Grilla models vertical footprint can make all the difference between having a smoker or not. But for the price, and for a standard model smoker, the Traeger models tend to be better all around.
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.