One thing I’ll mention up front is that the Rec Tec Grill is not sold as a Made in America product. The REC TEC Grill is made in China, however, the heart and soul of the grill (the computer) is made here in the USA. The powder coat is also made in the USA and the final assembly along with quality control takes place at the REC TEC Grill facility in Georgia.
Pellet grills have a couple of very distinct advantages and disadvantages. The best can hold a constant temperature more or less indefinitely, provide even smoke at low temps, cook w/o smoke at high temps, make it possible to evenly cook several different meats and do a good job at two zone cooking. The Yoder excels at these. It is built like a tank, easy to use and I love it. One drawback for some pellet grills is the inability to reach high temps and sear. With the GrillGrates I have reached almost 600F and can sear with the best of them. Drawbacks. Well, it is a bit tricky to clean, but I guess I am keeping it cleaner than I did my previous grills!
Cleaning other types of smokers typically includes scooping ash from the burners and removing burnt remains from the racks. Traeger turns this messy process into a very simple one. The smoker burns pellets so efficiently that there is almost no ash left behind. Since there is no direct flame, the cooking grates will not get sticky and caked with excessive amounts of burnt, juicy meat. In order to clean the racks, all you have to do is brush them quickly and then wipe them with a paper towel.
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.
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
To your question regarding Traeger, I’ve not reviewed their grills of yet. I do know that Traeger as a company is taking steps to up their game some, as quality/reliability of their pellet grills has diminished over the last few years. The new CEO – Jeremy Andrus – they hired comes from the Skull Candy company and brought that headphone company from annual sales from less than $1 million to nearly $300 million. I know also that a few big hitters in the BBQ world are being contacted by Traeger to bring the brand back to its former prominence. You can read more about that here from the site of one of the company’s that now has an ownership interest in Traeger: http://www.trilantic.com/News_Story.aspx?StoryType=1&ID=56.
You want to easily switch to different smoky flavors: Changing flavors in your Traeger grill is as easy as changing the pellets that you place in the hopper. Through its website, Traeger offers several different smoky flavors of hardwood pellet offerings, including hickory, mesquite, apple, maple, cherry, and oak. And Traeger’s website provides information on which types of hardwoods provide the best smoky flavor for certain types of foods, which can help you successfully use this grill immediately out of the box.
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.
Between me and my dad we've smoked on many different types of smokers- Lang 60 stick burner, green egg, Weber smokey mountain, Stump's vertical feed. To be perfectly honest, using those you might be able to get slightly better results (perfect bark, smoke ring etc) but at a much higher cost and much much more effort. If you're cooking for family cooking and fun this smoker will produce delicious BBQ just short of competition level but much better than almost any restaurant. If you'd rather turn a knob and drink a beer instead of starting fires for logs or charcoal and still get 90-95% results (I'm a BBQ snob) buy this!
This unit will not let even a single pellet go to waste. No need of worrying whether you’re out of pellets or not. You can carry pellets at a maximum of 20 pounds, with the digital thermostat ensuring the pellets are being used properly. This saves you loads of cash and gives you smoking food simultaneously without wasting time in refilling pellets.
****Update 12/2014: So I finally found something negative to report. Today I was cooking 2 pork butts and a brisket and discovered that this grill does not do well with wind on a brisk day (It was 45 degrees here today). When set at 250 degree, the smoker could barely make it up to 190 degrees. I was able to bypass the problem by throwing a cheap moving blanket over the grill (an $8 fix) but I think it's worth noting.
At the end of the day, the act of heating pellets and generating smoke in any pellet smoker is pretty much the same. Yes, some pellet smokers use thicker metal, have better thermostats, air flow, racks, drip flow, etc. But the ask any professional BBQ cooker who uses a pellet grill, and they’ll tell you that the quality of your smoke really does come down to the pellets themselves. Here’s what one very astute BBQ pro had to say over at the Pellet Smoke Ring:
Even and fast cooking – this is the common feedback of the new and past users of this pellet grill cooker. Although some of them would say that the temperature is inaccurate, they can still manage to adjust everything well by means of its digital temperature controller. Additionally, you may need to add more pellets if you will set the temperature on a high setting.
Good info, but it’s missing something… the cost to use. I’ve been looking for a long time to get into smoking. I have only ever used a propane setup for grilling. My main quesion is the cost to use propane vs charcoal vs pellets. I’m very interested in pellet smoking AND grilling. A couple times a week my wife and I will grill some chicken breasts or steaks. Can you breakout an approximate cost comparison to run the different methods? Appreciate it!
The Tailgater 20 Series Freestanding Grill is one of the best wood pellet grills from Traeger for those who like to cook away from home. It’s small and lightweight enough that you can load it in your car for tailgating before the big game, cooking while camping or grilling at the park. The ash bucket collects all ash created, which makes cleaning up before heading home easier.
Make a wealth of delicious recipes while you're camping or tailgating with the help of this versatile 2-Piece Camp Chef Spatula Se...t. The blades are made of sturdy and durable stainless steel and the heavy-duty handles are contoured for ease of use. The pancake flipper in this cooking spatula set has a long surface for large pancakes and a rounded end for easy non-catch flipping. The turner/scraper is beveled for scraping the grill or griddle and cutting while cooking. In addition, each piece features a handy hanging hole that allows you to store without taking much space. This easy to care for set is ideal for use when camping, hunting or barbecuing and grilling in a backyard. read more
The cleanout for both the pellets and ash is a huge perk to the grill. The patented “Easy Ash Cleanout” does not require the user to take apart the grill. Instead, they simply have to twist and dump the container. The 18lb pellet hopper is similarly an easy cleanout. The stainless steel also makes it easier to clean the grill because of the steel’s properties.
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.
The Camp Chef Italia Pizza has all the tools you will need to make you feel like a professional pizza chef. The artisan pizza kit ...includes two pizza peels to move your pizza from the counter to the oven and vice versus. Your pizza will slide right into the pizza oven or stone with ease just like a true artisan. Made of eco-friendly, renewable bamboo. Do not wash in the dishwasher. Dimensions: 11.75 Inch x 19.25 Inch x 0.35 Inch. Weight: 1.3 lbs. read more
Technology is a focus of many pellet grill manufacturers today including features such as Bluetooth temperature controls with an option to download an application on your smartphone. While these features are great, they can sometimes get in the way of the actual materials used to create the structure of the grill. At Grilla Grills, we’ve always put the focus on what we, and our customers, believe are the most important components of the grill. That means you’re paying for high-quality components in the places that tend to be most likely to fail on other cheaper grills, and many in the same price range that have more bells and whistles.
The Camp Chef Griddle FG-26 is well-suited for cooking for larger groups. This Two Burner Griddle is made from heavy gauge polishe...d steel, and it has sides that are slightly inclined, giving the chef more control over the cooking process and surface. This Heavy Gauge Polished Steel Fry Griddle covers two burners, and it comes with handles for convenient carrying. read more
Instead of logs, the pellet smoker is fed with food-grade cylinders of wood pellets that are an inch long and ¼-inch wide and are made of compressed hardwood sawdust. According to the best pellet smoker reviews, pellet grills are easy to use because it’s easier to maintain its temperature because of these sawdust pellets that are subjected to great heat and high pressure, which ignites lignin (natural wood glue).
Like the Z GRILLS Wood Pellet Smoker, the REC TEC Grills Mini Portable Pellet Grill is capable of going up or down by 5° Fahrenheit increments, leading it to heat up from 180° Fahrenheit to 550° Fahrenheit. At full power, it can reach a temperature of 600° Fahrenheit. The mini size is enough to fit in a turkey or maybe three slabs of ribs, so that’s portability without sacrificing quality and capacity too much.
This smoker is one totally awesome product. It is more that just a smoker, it is a true convection oven, we have baked bread in it! As for being able to hold the temp for low and slow, wonderful. The beef that I smoked was delectable. I just this week smoked 10 venison loins at the same time; it took 1 hour for the most tender, delicious venison I have ever tasted!
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.
Temperature range is an important factor. What you’ll need will depend on what kind of cooking you want to do. Top pellet grills can hit temperatures between 180 F to 425 F, enough for baking, smoking, roasting, and grilling. On the other hand, ioif you want to sear meat you need something that reaches the 500-550 F range. A functioning thermometer is a must. You’ll need a precise and accurate reading so you’ll know you’re cooking your meat at the right temperature.
I've had my ys640 for almost a year now. I absolutely love it! I debated for a long time before my purchase. I'm an old school charcoal guy at heart. I used to have a gas grill and a coal pit. I got tired of replacing gas grills every few years and having two grills is cumbersome. I considered an egg but the pellet grill is so convenient. I'm impressed by the build quality of the ys640. It's so heavy. It won't be rusting through any time soon. No regrets. My treager owning buddy is buying a yoder as soon as his treager quits because he has grill envy
Not all people and culture will be able to truly understand our love for barbecue here in the USA. For them, it might just be a cooking activity while for us, it’s a tradition – a ritual to celebrate the summers (and occasionally the winters). As long as this love for grilling stays with us, which will be, we’re going to continue to expect more and more from the grill manufacturers.
To sear a steak you need direct radiant heat. I don't care if you can heat the air to 1000°F, it is still indirect heat and that does not deliver as much energy as direct radiant heat. It's physics, but not hard to understand. In short, heat is not the same as temperature. It feels hotter at 80°F if the sun is shining on you than if it is 80°F in the shade. I discuss the concept in more detail in my article on thermodynamics of cooking.
Renegade Pro is built to suit all your cooking needs; it can cook, braise, broil, char, sear, bake, smoke, roast, grill, and barbecue your food to that “melt-in-the-mouth” perfection. To bring about this versatility, it offers different temperature settings, such as “Hot and Fast” and “Low and Slow” that can be controlled using its Digital Pro Controller.
The biggest cleanup issue is the buildup on the heat deflector under the cooking grates. You'll need good gloves and an apron. On most models, a thorough cleanup means a 30 minute process of taking out the greasy grates and the gooey deflector plate, scraping them and washing them. You should do this when the carbon and grease cover the deflector plate. Stainless parts can go in the diswasher, but I wouldn't do it. That grease is like tar and it could get all over the insides of the dishwasher and hang on for dear life. I use a handheld steamer like the Steamfast SF-320 Portable Steam Cleaner shown here.
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!
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.
The Memphis Pro Wood Fire Pellet Grill is one of the best pellet grills on the market. It combines high-quality construction and engineering with versatile cooking capabilities that will let you "grill" almost anything. Able to reach temperatures out to 650 degrees F. this pellet grill can sear a steak while also being able to hold temperatures down to 180 degrees F. so it can smoke, low and slow, any kind of BBQ. Add to this the convection fans and temperature control precision this wood pellet grill can rival the best indoor ovens. This truly is a grill that can do it all and give you an authentic wood flavor.
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?
The wood pellet grill features a dual rack design with a 513 square inch main cooking surface and 187 square inch warming rack. With a 20-pound hopper capacity, the grill has plenty of space for wood pellets to keep grilling during long event and parties when you have many mouths to feed. An automatic pellet feeder makes it easy to maintain the desired temperature, so you can focus on just the grilling itself.
Loved the article and read the entire thing. Thank you so much for taking the time to write such an in-depth piece to help the rest of us out. With that said, I now want one of each!! It’s really so difficult to purchase one without being able to compare the taste side by side for each. We also just bought one of the Traeger’s on the last day of a Costco show. We have LOVED the taste, and aren’t looking back, from a pellet perspective that is. However, we’ve already had a couple of issues that concern me from a longevity and a safety perspective. So we’re going to return it, and ‘upgrade’ to something more substantial. I was leaning pretty hard toward Yoder, and then after reading the article, the Memphis really intrigued me (could have something to do with being born there, and raised on southern pulled pork). And then, Fast Eddy came into the picture. Any advise on how to make a decision without being able to conduct taste comparisons, which is really the most important thing. (We’ve been smoking a brisket and pork shoulders every week, with the occasional steak and veggies. So we’d like something that does both smoking and grilling, so both important, with the smoking component being the feature we’ll use a bit more of.)
After about 10-15 hours of cooking, you should remove the burn cup and dump the ash. If the ash builds up it can prevent ignition. Ash also accumulates in the bottom of the unit, but doesn't impact cooking. A vacuum cleaner with a hose makes short work of it. Only a few manufacturers, such as Blaz'n Grill Works and Camp Chef have a slide out combustion cup that makes cleanup much easier, but you still have to get underneath the deflector occasionally and suck out fly ash that has scattered around the lower part of the grill body.
So what about the question of blends versus 100% pure species pellets? Should you avoid blends? Should you only use 100% pure? That is a web to unweave and depends greatly on what you are cooking as to the correct answer. Through our testing we found many blends to work very well. We liked them so much that we incorporated them into what we offer. Not all blends are created equal though and the amount of hardwood versus flavor wood varies widely across brands. We also found that some 100% pure pellets such as cherry and apple had harder times reaching higher grilling temperatures and lacked the harder core flavor punch of hickory or mesquite. Coming from the world of stick burners many new pellet grill owners assume that going 100% cherry or apple is going to work for them since that is what they have grown accustomed to. At the end of the day, they end up moving to a pellet with a deeper flavor like hickory or mesquite to get the results they are used to.
Maintenance is an issue. There are moving parts on these grills. Moving parts eventually break. There is an auger with a motor, and a fan with a motor. There are proprietary electronics systems on these babies. Augers clog. Motors burn out. Electronics have bugs or fail. Especially when exposed to rain, snow, hot, and cold. When they fail, will the manufacturer have a replacement part?
This is obviously no revelations that temperature is the first on my list. When it comes to cooking appliances, temperature is always a key factor. However, it is not the sole reason to be on my list. The thing about temperature you need to look for in a good pellet grill is its ability to control, change and maintain it. Any grill can turn screaming hot, but only the best ones provide you with multiple temperature settings, and are able to maintain it constantly to ensure an even cooking surface where it is not too hot on the left and cold on the right. Many pellets come with special, even patented, temperature features.
The MAK Pellet Boss will increase or decrease with the press of a button in 5°F increments and has a probe in the oven that keeps the temp pretty solid. As with any thermostatically controlled oven, even your indoor oven, the thermostat cycles heat on or off as needed. So it you set it for 225°F it cycles on til it hits 225°F, then off until it drops to 220°F, then on to 225°F. There are three meat probes and the Boss can be programmed to change the cooker temp when the meat hits a target. I've had one for several years outdoors in the Chicago winters and summers without a cover and no problems.
BBQ fan – If you’re a more demanding person, grill a lot of different meat using different methods. Then pellet grill will work great for you. Especially when it comes to smoking meat for many hours, all you have to do is set the temperature and do whatever you please in the meantime. You can leave it for the entire day with no worries and after a specified time expect very good results, as a pellet smoker is very good at maintaining desired temperature. To put it shortly, a pellet grill will make it easier for you to prepare a top quality meat at home.
While the Traeger Lil-Tex does offer similar features as our top pick, such as a digital LED temperature control system and an auto-dispensing auger, there was one missing feature which we thought was necessary. This product has a smaller grilling area and lacks a removable upper rack, which gives you less grilling and prep space. I should mention that the unit does come in a bigger 700 square inch version for $200 more, as well as a smaller version that costs less. If this smoker is too big or too small for you, there are always other options available. Compared to our top pick, it’s also more expensive despite offering similar specs. Aside from that, this is a very efficient and reliable smoker – might even have been the best if our top pick wasn’t available on the market.
As far as backyard cookers go, Pellet Grills are the newest products on the market. With their roots in the 1970’s, these versatile outdoor grills combine the capabilities of a traditional grill, with the wood-fired flavor of a smoker, and even the convenience of a modern oven. The “Pellet” in the name refers to the specific variety of fuel used. These are specially made cylinders constructed of compressed sawdust. The grill is powered by electricity and doles out specific amounts of pellets to maximize fuel efficiency. The primary benefit of these types of grills is their versatility. Wood pellets can be burned at all different temperatures and volumes, making it possible to sear, smoke, or slow cook a whole array of meats in an infinite variety of styles.
Hey Bill! I think you’d be very happy with a Yoder pellet smoker. From a product and manufacturing standpoint, they’re great pellet smokers. If you’re looking at spending $1,700 and can perhaps go a little higher, you can then consider either a MAK grill or a Memphis Grill Pro Series. These are fantastic pieces of equipment. They are insulated at the point where the lid touches the body at closing, and provide superior convection cooking. Anytime you feel you want some extra smoke, you can always throw in an Amazn Pellet Tube or use a Mojo Cube. These will amp up your smoke profile in a manner you can predict and keep under control. I would NOT recommend adding anything foreign to your burn pot ever. Just keep things from the main pellet smoker function working as per the manufacturer’s design.
To cook food using a pellet grill, put the pellets into a hopper. When you turn it on, the igniting rod will burn pellets in the fire. The motor-driven auger will then supply the fire pot with pellets from the hopper. The ratio that auger delivers pellets to fire pot depends on the settings you control. If you set it at a high temperature for a longer period of time, the auger will keep on feeding the fire pot with pellets. However, if you are slow-cooking and set a low-temperature one, the feeding and delivery of pellets will also slow down.
***Update: 11/2014: It's been a year now and I still adore this little grill. I've got a kamado and 3 different kettles and this is by far the most convenient and easy to use. The smoke rings this guy puts on a brisket are amazing and the flavor is the perfect balance of wood flavor without overpowering the meat. I've researched about 15 different pellet grills and I still can't find a better value than what this grill offers
We purchased our wood pellet grill (Model TFB57CLB) from Costco in August 2017. It came with one bag of the gourmet blend pellets. We used the Traeger cookbook to try a few different recipes in the fall. Most of these involve a period of smoking followed by a period of grilling. The grill seemed to work fine at first. We used it a couple of times on warmer days in the winter and it had some trouble getting up to the desired heat level. We started using it regularly again in April 2018. I was careful to clean it and check the pellets etc. The smoking feature seemed to work alright, but when I would turn the heat up for grilling, the grill would usually struggle to get much over 225. I would resort to turning it up to 375 or more just to get it to 225 and then often it would sink back down to 180 or 160. I went to the troubleshooting guide on the manufacturer's website and checked all the components, which seemed to be working fine.
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To solve this problem, several companies have come up with alternative ways to expose food to the flame by allowing you to use the small area directly above the fuel pot. It's still not as good as a charcoal or sear burner, but better than the designs that are strictly indirect. Check out the Memphis Elite, Fast Eddy's by Cookshack PG500, and the Yoder YS640 for this feature. Camp Chef also recently introduced its Woodwind pellet smoker, which has a super-hot gas-fueled sear box attached to the right side.