Cleaning and Maintenance: Any individual who’s taken a stab at cleaning a pellet grill before sees exactly that it is so hard to get all the ash out after use. This unit gives you a less demanding access to the burn pot. It also includes a trap door which permits you to clean the unit without digging through the ashes and oil. Cleaning the unit is by and large significantly less demanding when compared with the normal charcoal grills.
Pellet grills have electronic temperature controls that (should) keep the heat consistent. Top quality pellet grills can maintain temperatures within 5 degrees or less for hours at a time, with the auger releasing pellets as needed into the fire box to do so. A consistent temperature means less guess work and fantastic food! (If you read words like “heat zones” or “baffle”, that means that you’ll need to be playing with the heat to keep it consistent… so steer clear of those!)
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.
I have used a pellet smoker for about five years, and looked at, or used, many different brands. I have added auxiliary smoke generators, and tried almost every way possible to create authentic BBQ on a pellet smoker— It can’t be done. When the vendors, or users, refer to subtle smoke they mean virtually no wood flavor. Do yourself a favor and try a simple test: go to a really good BBQ joint, or BBQ competition; try some of their Q and then compare it to pellet meat. There is no comparison. I wanted the pellet unit to produce good Q in the worst way because of the ease. You cannot duplicate the smoke created in a wood, or wood/charcoal firebox with compressed sawdust. It pains me to say it but it is true.
I have used this cooker at least once a week for two years. I recently had a couple of issues with it going out and was thinking it was having a serious issue. Quite frankly as much as I use it it should be worn out by now. Here is what I discovered. Carbon had built up on the tempeture probe and the grill wasn't getting accurate readings. Suspecting the temp probe I checked it with an external one and it was off 50 degrees or more. I am assuming that the readings were off enough that the grill controller just shut it off kind of a fail safe? 30 seconds with steel wool and we are back in business.
The monster of the Traeger Pellet Grill line, the XL boasts 850 square inches of cooking space, which is big enough for a small whole hog or 16 racks of ribs. At around $2,000USD, this is Traeger's largest and most expensive pellet grill. The pellet hopper holds more than 42 pounds of pellets in front of the cooker, under what serves as a work space. This is big enough for catering or competing, but ultimately it is still a Traeger which means a little less than ideal quality.
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.
Thank you so much for the kind words! I think you would be very happy with a smaller pellet grill / smoker. The wording changes depending on how you are using the device. For instance, if you are cooking at low temperatures you will get a stronger smoke profile then if you burn a pellet smoker / grill at its higher temperature range. One thing you could do for steaks is cook them at the higher range thus being able to get a sear much like you would on a direct heated Grill service, for instance on your Weber. Another option would be to cook the steak in the reverse see your method, by bringing it up to temperature at a lower smoker setting and adding some smoke flavoring that way, then removing it and bringing the smoker up to its higher settings so you can finish off the steak with some of the effect you would achieve on direct flame. I normally do this by bringing the steaks up to about 15 degrees below where I want them to finish. Then, I finish them off at the higher temperature to where they are about 5 degrees below my target. This usually means a few minutes on each side but I use a Thermapen to be sure.
Just like you need to have precise control over your unit’s temperature, you also need to make sure that your smoker can reach an adequate temperature. Most pellet smokers can reach temperatures between 180°F and 425°F, which is a decent range that can fulfill most of your smoking, baking, and grilling purposes. However, if you want to sear your meat, you will need a unit that can reach at least 500°F.
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.
Yoder's Variable Displacement Damper is another unique feature: Essentially, it's a metal plate that may be moved from left to right along the lower smoke box. Positioned all the way left, it concentrates heat directly over the fire pot for conductive searing with optional aluminum GrillGrates. Move it back to the right for even heat across the entire smoke box. Yoders are sold primarily through independent retailers.