A pellet smoker with a primary cooking area of 500 square inches should be sufficient for an average-sized family who wants to have the occasional cookout. If you’re cooking for yourself or a couple, tailgating, or camping, we recommend going for smaller units. It all depends on your needs, keep in mind that bigger doesn’t always mean better. You don’t want to be paying extra money for space you won’t use at all.
Though the Memphis Pro works great as a high heat, sear, and direct flame grill, I chose to do some IBP ribs and a couple all natural pork loins I picked up from the store. I won’t go into too much detail on the pork loin and rib prep here, suffice it to say that I was very impressed with the smoke output I got from this unit, which I filled with a full compliment of Cookshack Fruitwood Pellets.
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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.
After 10 days of not seeing anything in my email I called them. They told me they had no order. After two weeks and more phone calls then a grill finally shows up but without the cover or the pallets which I paid for and was on the order. Three calls into managers and customer service still not resolved. When I threaten to take the grill back to Costco I was told to go ahead and have a nice day.
Purchased my grill last fall at Costco, overall it works OK, some meats like Lamb Chops are just delicious. However, customer service seems to be deteriorating as the company is having success. My kids recently purchased me an add on to my Pro 34, a cold smoker. Traeger sells this but does not support it. The installation instructions are incomplete, I was sent parts that do not go with the unit, then customer service couldn't figure it out, this went on for weeks. After getting it installed, I asked for some instructions or recipes on how to use it, there are none. The old cover does not fit now, and Traeger does not sell one to go with a unit with a cold smoker, or plan on doing so. After a web search, I found one at Charbroil that kinda fits. Also, I just saw the same model at Orchard Supply, it now comes with more shelves and upgrades which I now have to buy as extras.
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.
Editor's Note: If you're looking to upgrade your backyard cooking setup this summer, you're probably in need of a little advice. We're longtime admirers of the folks behind AmazingRibs.com, the site dedicated to unraveling the science of barbecue and grilling. Please welcome back Max Good, the only person in the world whose full-time job is testing, rating, and reviewing grills and smokers. The database he maintains includes over 500 grills and smokers, ranging in price from $30 to $50,000. When it comes to barbecue equipment, nobody knows it better.
You now know more about the perplexing pellet predicament, but where do you actually buy them? Afterall, none of this matters if you cannot get them when you need them. If you are lucky you have a local store that sells one of the brands mentioned above. Definitely take the time to visit the web pages of these manufacturers and see what is available in your area. If you are not one of the fortunate grill owners who live near an Academy Sports, Dicks Sporting Goods, Rural King, etc there is a chance your local Wal-Mart, Lowes or Home Depot may carry a reputable brand.
Hey Pete, first thanks for your kind words. Traeger pellet grills fell off a bit quality wise over the past several years. That said, they’ve hired a new CEO – formerly from the Skull Candy Head Phone company – who brought that company’s valuation up considerably. I see them making moves to get back to their roots… aligning themselves with some of the more well known names in BBQ again. From a build quality, they’re making solid pellet grill bodies using fairly heavy steel. The area I’d like to see them improve on is the controllers they use. Right now, GMG is making great strides in claiming some of the entry level pellet smoker market share away from Traeger. This is due to a superior PID controller, advances in built in Wi-Fi monitoring, and outstanding customer service.
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
The Rec Tec Bull is built for serious smoking. The stainless steel chamber doesn't have paint that will chip or peel, and the built-in Wi-Fi technology allows you to monitor your cook from anywhere in the house. And with two meat probes you'll have more flexibility when cooking different types of meals. The 40-lb. hopper and interior LED are features the backyard pros will love.
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.
Of course, there are always bargain hunters. Some might say “Why pay $2000 for a pellet smoker and then bargain hunt for your pellets?” but if you think about it this way — isn’t it like cooking with varying qualities of charcoal? Sometimes an inexpensive, less efficient pellet blend might be just fine for burgers or chicken breasts. Other times, you may want to step it up with a premium flavored pellet where whole turkeys, prime rib roasts, or a nice brisket can really shine.
For anyone thats thinking about getting this grill and this hung up on the price, you just need to take the plunge. And when you take it home you will realize it's worth every penny. And then after your first use, you will feel that you under payed. My first smoker grill was a green Mountain and there is just NO comparison on the market to the YS640. Grill grates and other add on's are amazing as well. LOOK NO FURTHER IF YOU WANT A GREAT GRILL/SMOKER/OVEN... ECT
Pellet meat smokers combine the features off all the other types of smokers. They have some electronics, such as the dial for setting the temperature, which means that they also require electricity. The flavor of the food will be similar to that of the charcoal smokers while keeping the convenience of an electric smoker – meaning you can set it and then forget it. The only thing you have to do is to make sure the smoker doesn’t run out of wood pellets.
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.
As you can see in this selection of pellet grill reviews, the act of heating pellets and generating smoke in any pellet smoker is pretty much the same. Yes, some pellet grills 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:
The Sense-Mate feature is another one of the best additions to this smoker: it is a thermal sensor system that monitors and reads the internal temperature of the grill within 5ºF of the actual temperature! Once you set your desired temperature using its digital controls, the Sense-Mate technology reads and monitors the temperature, while displaying it on the LCD display. Sense-Mate makes sure that heat is kept at a constant temperature, so whether you are cooking at 150ºF or 550ºF, you can rest assured that your meats will be evenly cooked.
Are you sick and tired of bad BBQ? Well, so are your friends, neighbors, and family members. With the Woodwind woodfire pellet grill, mediocre grilling can be a thing of the past. Put the bland chicken and burnt steak behind you, and become the grill master you were born to be. With digital temperature control, the Woodwind does all the work for you. All you have to do is turn it on, set the temperature, and let it work while you play. Which means no more babysitting! The Woodwind doesn’t just make grilling easier—it also makes it more delicious. The Woodwind is fueled by premium hardwood pellets to generate heat and smoke, infusing your food with a savory wood fire taste that’ll make your taste buds sing. With grill temperature settings from 160° F to 500° F and the included Sear Box that reaches up to 900° F, you can achieve perfect results, whether you’re grilling, smoking, baking, roasting, braising, barbecuing, or even searing. And when you’re finished cooking, cleanup is a breeze with our patented Ash Cleanout system. Discover the heavenly taste of a woodfire pellet grill with the Woodwind. Buy now to begin your journey to grill mastery.
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.
Now, what that means is that if you have a lower hopper capacity, your pellet smoker will run for a smaller period of time. It also depends on the cooking temperature you have selected for your cooking purposes. However, at higher temperatures, they will provide less smoke; thus would be more suitable for grilling and barbecuing, but not so much for smoking.
Bigger heavier hotter: own a world class BBQ Bigger heavier hotter: own a world class BBQ in your own backyard. The LG900 presents the same game-changing features as the LG700 integrated with a larger cooking surface. Perfect for larger families and social gatherings the LG900 bears an easy to clean 913 sq. in. cast iron cooking grid. Elevate ... More + Product Details Close
Normally you will get 1- 3 years of warranty for the top pellet smokers from different companies. Traeger will serve you with a 3-year warranty while Camp Chef will give you only 1 year of warranty. Considered this the safe period for your pellet grill, so take advantage. If you own a top quality smoker then you may need not to think of any replacement within 5 years of buying.
Thanks Kevin. I am about to buy both a 5 burner gas grill and a smoker for a new bbq island. Rather than buy both, will one of these higher end pellet grills take the place of a traditional propane grill? I can apply the funds for the gas grill to a higher end pellet if it can really do double duty. It has to be able to cook burgers and dogs and steaks etc. Just like a gas grill though. Thoughts?
Each of the alternatives to the Traeger Pro we’ve reviewed above is an excellent choice for an affordable pellet smoker. We think the Z Grills Master 700D is worth every penny and competes with the Traeger for even less money. We highly recommend you check it out. It has an even larger grill area, a larger hopper, burns just as consistently, and produces some perfectly smoked and grilled meats.
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.
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.
Regarding getting a good draft, this is a common misconception for pellet grills. The burn pot on pellet grills receives oxygen via a fan unit. As such, there’s no need for a draft to get a measured burn in the traditional sense. Most pellet grills lack sufficient insulation / gaskets, etc to prevent smoke from leaking out of the body. So, unless you’re going with the Memphis or something that uses oven style insulation, you don’t really need a chimney at all IMHO.
Secondly, make sure you pay attention to the controls and temperature settings. As well as a thermostat, higher quality smokers come with meat thermometers built in. As you cook, the internal temperature of your meat is going to rise, and unless you’ve got a meat thermometer, there’s no way of knowing exactly how hot it’s got. If you don’t know why this is bad, when you let food sit too hot for too long, you run the risk of drying it out. You’ll undo all of your good work, plus it just tastes bad.
This is the second one I have received as the first one was a lemon. The first one worked great the first 3 times I used it, but then I started getting "Err" message, as well as an overheat message randomly that would not go away. I returned it to Amazon and promptly received a replacement. I have used this one heavily for 7 days now and have had no problems. I will check back in in a couple weeks with my results. It is very well constructed, holds its temperatures well and cooks pretty evenly. I have smoked/grilled ribs using the 3/2/1 method, made stuffed hamburgers, a whole chicken, and a porterhouse steak so far. For the price you cannot beat it. The searing option where you can open the heat shield/drip tray to expose slots directly over the flame is great for cooking steaks and a nice option that you don't see on other models. The removable side tray is also nice for bringing out your meat and placing your finished product on it. The bottle opener is weird...u have to really put the bottle at an angle to open and you lose part of your beer....but it looks cool...lol. A few tips: Cover the heat shield/drip tray with new tin foil each use or else it is almost impossible to clean it. Make sure the knob is in the off position before plugging it in and wait for the numbers to stop flashing before adjusting the temperature. Always start out in the smoke position until it is smoking and a a flame has started, then turn it to your desired temperature(about 5 min). Vacuum out the firepot and inside of the barrel every other use. Most importantly....use this thing as much as possible in the first 30 days to make sure it is functioning properly so if you do have problems you can return to Amazon. I love Amazon. As soon as I clicked on 'Return' and printed the free return shipping label, they had already ordered me a new one and I had it in 3 days!!! In case you would have to return it, mark your boxes that everything came in and take pictures of how it was packed. Took me over 2 hours to pack this thing back up. Most importantly....use this grill as much as you can in the first 30 days to make sure it is functioning correctly, otherwise you will have to deal with Pitboss ...paying your own return shipping and replacing parts on your own.Also don't forget to register your grill right away on the Pitboss website, in case you have problems after the 30 day Amazon window. Checkout the Pitboss website for their recipes....some of them are quite good...the bacon wrapped asparagus tastes just like Carrabas. Just sprinkle some balsamic vinegar on it after grilling. The Pitboss spices/rubs, while expensive are very good. The sweet heat is good on anything and the mandarin habanero is amazing on wings. I sprinkle and toss after cooking. Good luck !!
Yoder Smokers has overcome this challenge with their YS Series of pellet grills outfitted with their direct grilling package. When fit with this package, the grate temperature on the left side soars past the 700-degree mark and produces those coveted steakhouse quality grill marks, fast cooking times, intense caramelization, color and texture common to cooking over an open fire or gas fired grill.
But, along with some shelves we don’t need, a headboard that won’t fit our new bed, and a gigantic chest freezer I haven’t yet filled, the Egg has languished in the back corner of the garage since then. That’s because a brand new Traeger Timberline 850 was sitting here waiting for us when we arrived and it’s performed so well and become such an essential part of my cooking that now I can’t imagine using anything else.
First, you have to figure out what your budget looks like. Of the pellet smokers I cover here, theRec Tec Grill Pellet Smoker is the most economical and best overall value — with solid construction and top end electronics controls. At just under $1,000 it’s a great buy that should last you a very long time. If you can move up from there cost wise, I’d go with the Yoder pellet smoker. While the Rec Tec looks like a beast, the YS640 absolutely IS one. Weighing in at 315 lbs and boasting solid control components and features, you won’t ever need another pellet smoker in your life unless you just want another one.
Professionals: the pellet smoker has emerged as the best option for beginners. However, that does not mean that a top grilling expert will not benefit from using it. Using a pellet smoker, the professional can turn normal pork into a mouth-watering dish with any kind of flavor. The precise temperature control will help any professional make the dish more accurate. A top pellet smoker can display some delicious magic that will prove unforgettable.
At Grills Forever, we work hard to bring you the best product reviews possible through an extensive online research process. We go through countless online reviews and browse through different brands, both known and unknown. We then go through their features and the value they can provide to the users. We shortlist the top products to do physical testing and then come up with a review. We do this on a regular basis to keep our list up-to-date.
Have you reviewed at all the Grilla Silverbac? If so, does it not make your list because it isn’t as good a quality as those you have picked? I mean, when I look online for reviews of those who have bought them I haven’t found anyone disappointed with theirs, but perhaps they haven’t been out as long to have a track record? I’m so confused at this point as to which to buy with PID or no PID (some say smoke does better without one), thickness of metal, etc.
Thanks for all the great information. This article was very useful on my most recent purchase. Sorry for the long book but tends to be my style of sharing. Hope others get some use out of my lessons learned. Killing (literally, dried out, burned, inedible) a thousand dollars or so of briskets over the last 20+ years should help some save a little pain as they are stepping out.
Is it customer support? I ordered a grill cover(made by a outside vendor in Kansas as well) for my YS640. It ended up with a small leak. I called Don, and by the end of the week I had a brand new one. Also, I was getting ready for my first cook on my brand new YS640, and I invited the whole family over for baby back ribs. I called Joe, and he talked with me on the phone for 20 minutes explaining how the grill worked, what temp to set the pit at, when to rotate the ribs and even which ribs will need to be rotated. Joe was spot on! Best ribs I have ever had!!!