Access to electricity has its downfalls. First, if the cord isn’t long enough you will need to make sure you have a proper extension cord. Using the wrong cord is a fire hazard. Do the math (watts / volts = amps) and make sure you have the right extension cord. The smoker is also less mobile, and if it's stored outside it absolutely must have a cover. Electrical components and weather don’t mix.
Even if you’ve got a meat thermometer at home, it’s not a bad idea to pick up a smoker with one built in. This is because the built in thermometers send their readings straight to the smokers computer and it automatically adjusts how it’s cooking based not just on how hot it is inside, but how this affects what you’re cooking. Now, unless you’re Gordon Ramsey you probably can’t tell what’s going on inside that turkey you’re cooking, so this is obviously a major plus.
First one, had an auger problem... told that this never happens. Returned to Costco, now on 2nd Unit. FIRE HAZARD, fire pot overloaded after temp dropped from 375 to 100 on a four-hour turkey. When I opened the lid to see what was going on it EXPLODED into a fireball and then had flames shooting out from all sides of the grill. There was even smoke and heat felt from the firebox side of the grill and it looked as though the overloaded firepot was burning into the auger line as well. DANGEROUS PRODUCT!!!
The best thing about pellet smokers is that unless you’re buying the absolute cheapest models, there are no bad choices. In this list for under $500, you’ll find pellet smokers and grills perfectly suited for dropping a few burgers at home use like the Traeger Junior Elite, for throwing in the back of the van and using anywhere like the Green Mountain Davey Crockett, or for cooking whole turkeys when you have ten people round on Thanksgiving, like the Camp Chef Smokepro.
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.
One other thing to know about the wonder of pellet grills is that they come with pellet hoppers, varying in capacity from brand to brand, that accommodates and use the pellets you put it accordingly and automatically as per the heat setting, eliminating the need to refill the hopper manually so frequently. So throw on some lamb ribs on to those hot grills, and go enjoy some cold beer while the pellet grill does the rest for you!
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.
Having the same problem as the rest of the group. Rec Tec, Yoder, Green Mountain, Pellet Pro, or MAK? All seem to be heavy gauge SS, Pellet Pro seems really good value, MAK and Green Mountain seem to have controllers with more features. Have a friend who bought Rec Tec 3 years ago, he cannot say enough about the good customer service and the grill. If you could only buy one (money not the issue among these 5), which one, and why?
We all know about Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, but Traeger is the true pioneer of pellet smoking. This company introduced the first pellet smokers, and it remains the best-known brand, although competition is growing. There's nothing fancy here. Instead of a touch-pad controller, Traeger employs an older-style digital dial controller. No WiFi or meat probes; just no-frills schmokin' from the industry leader.
My fiancée's family has never really understood me. They see my safe full of guns, the knives I gift her on birthdays, and my preference for the company of dogs over humans, and despite her assurances to the contrary, they see a hick. So, one night while her sister and her husband were visiting from L.A., I cooked them venison backstrap for dinner. They were extremely hesitant, but as good sports, gave it a try and were absolutely delighted. And you know how I made it? I Googled venison backstrap, plus Traeger, and followed the instructions.
Another video I thought it’d be cool to show you guys is one that features BBQ Diva as she shares her thoughts about how Fast Eddy’s Pellet smokers work with BBQ Ribs. You’ve likely read the Diva Q DIY BBQ Sauce post we highlighted here. And no doubt you know about Danielle’s work with the now famous BBQ Crawl television series. Without question, she’s one of BBQ’s greatest treasures. Check out what she says here about Fast Eddy’s. The video starts out with Ed Maurin showing you the recipe he used for the World BBQ Championship Perfect Score Ribs in 2000 – using both baby backs and spares. Diva chimes in near the end with her take on how these ribs taste.
Thanks for the great information and the research you did. I am a retail store owner in Boise, Idaho area and we sell a pellet grill smoker in our store. I would like to encourage to look at the Sawtooth Pellet Grill. It is made local here and is American Made. It is an excellent grill for the price with an awesome company backing it. You can find their website at sawtoothpelletgrills.com. Again thanks for the information and if you do another publication regarding pellet grills, I would love to see what your opinion of the Sawtooth would be 🙂
Another pellet smoker from industry leaders Traeger. The Lil Tex Elite is an upscaled Junior Elite, and whilst it’s still a good quality smoker and grill with a powerful burner and excellent heat output, plus all of Traeger’s usual electronic gizmos. There’s just not enough of a difference between this and the Junior Elite, especially not when you consider the increased price tag, which is disappointing.
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.
The Camp Chef Camp Table is the perfect companion to any table top stove or dutch oven. The camp table will hold two 14 inch dutch... ovens and provides extra preparation and serving space to keep your food up off the ground. Works great with the Mountain Series stoves from Camp Chef and is a great accessory piece to your free standing stove. Side shelves* (Model LS60P) can be added for even more space. read more
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Third, we’re experienced: We have burnt our foods and fingers; and while we were at it, we learned from our mistakes. In doing so, we’ve managed to become the best and mastered the art to perfection. So, we went through the same learning curves that you did or might do. So, we’re aware of the things that matter and we’re going to impart that knowledge with you, so that you don’t make the same mistakes as us.
I watched the Traeger infomercial on T.V. Seemed easy enough. Ha! QVC ran a similar infomercial on their channel, seemed really easy. Ha! Like a fool and his money are soon departed, I jumped in and bought one. When it came in the mail, I started to assemble it. What a joke! No instructions came with it to tell me where the nuts and screws went. Called the manufacturer. The lady said they had many complaints with the QVC orders, she would email me a copy of the instructions. Well I finally put it together. Performed the (curing and start up method). Bought a nice pork shoulder and started grilling. It is interesting that both infomercials say set the temp and WALK AWAY!!! What a joke, I sat and watched the grill like a hawk for 3 hours, everything was good. I figured I would go eat lunch, ha! What a mistake. When I came back (20 min.) the grill had turned itself off and had an error on the screen.
For as long as I can remember, the REC TEC RT-680 has been setting the standards for the best pellet smokers on the market, which is why REC-TEC is America’s fastest growing Pellet Smoker Company. And when they came up with the 2018 version of the REC TEC Pellet Grill, we knew it was going to be the very best pellet grill any barbecue lover could get their hands on.
Today, all serious players in the pellet smoker market have switched to digital thermostatic controllers that dictate pellet-feed commands based on a temperature sensor inside the cooking box. Just like with the oven in your kitchen, you set the desired cooking temperature, and the heating system kicks on and off to maintain that set point. An LED display shows your set temp, and most models allow you to toggle between set temp and actual temp readings from the internal thermostat. Actual temperatures will fluctuate a bit as the controller switches on and off to hover around your set temp, but many sophisticated touch-pad controllers can maintain tighter tolerances than your indoor oven. Some pellet controllers also have integrated probes that let you monitor the internal temperature of whatever you're smoking. Wireless remote control and monitoring from your smartphone or tablet are also increasingly common. (You can learn more about pellet smokers on AmazingRibs.com.)
As you could probably guess from the name of these smokers, they run by burning wooden pellets. Typically, a pellet smoker comes with a hopper on the side where the pellets are added. When you turn on the smoker, pellets will move from a hopper to a burn pot where they will be burned and the smoke will be diffused by a fan. A thermostat measures the temperature of the grill and determines how many pellets to burn while keeping a consistent temperature.
With that said, we also wanted to take into consideration the smaller grills of the family. For instance, we wanted to share pellet grills that were intended for portable use or individuals that want a small smoker that is of the best quality. As far as cost and value are concerned, we can say that all of the grills on this list are top of the line and have expert quality features that make them ideal for the individual that wants their ideal pellet grill.
****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.
Green Mountain pellet smokers offer innovation and good quality as well as relatively low price points. The Daniel Boone model is the midsized version. It boasts an advanced digital touch-pad dual-probe controller and stainless steel grates and drip pan, and, with 13.5 inches of headroom, Daniel Boone can accommodate large turkeys and roasts. Although the WiFi option adds a hundred bucks to the bill, few pellet smokers anywhere near GMG's price range offer WiFi control. Download the GMG app to your smartphone or tablet for a point-to-point connection, enabling you to remotely turn Daniel Boone on and off; monitor and control the internal meat temp, cooking temp, and timer; and even store the time- and temperature-based profiles of your favorite recipes. For example, you can set your Daniel Boone to "Tri-Tip Beef Roast" and have it start out cooking at 225°F (105°C) until the internal meat temp hits 110°F (43°C), then crank to 500°F (260°C) for browning until the meat registers 135° (57°C), then drop the temp to 150°F (65°C) to keep it warm.
Central to all pellet cookers is a digital controller similar to the controllers on modern indoor ovens. You select a temp you want, and there is an LED display that tells you the actual temp. Some of the controllers also are programmable so you can cook at a certain temp for a determined time. Some have leave-in meat probes that can dial back the ovento a holding temp when the meat hits its mark.
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.
The computer controlled system maintains the smoker temperature with a high degree of precision so you don’t have to deal with fluctuations. With the optional (definitely a must) temperature probe you can put your meat in the smoker, set the desired target temperature and the FEC will take it from there. Once the target temperature is reached the smoker temperature will drop into a holding position until you are ready to remove your barbecue.
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.