love your article and got lots of good info from it….i do have a question tho that i didnt see an answer to…..do pellet grills have to use just pellets?….i have 3 acres full of oak branches that could be shredded. my question is can a pellet grill use home shredded wood chips to burn and cook with or is it mandatory that the fuel be in the pellet state?….would be great if i could find a good use for all these fallen branches….
Hey Todd – what pellet grill do you have? Also, by short cooks, how long are you talking? Have you looked at the burn pot? If it’s overfilled, you may need to vacuum it out, along with the interior of the cooker. Then, put 10 or so pellets into the burn pot and start it up again. See if that helps. There should not be much if any ash in the food chamber area or on the food. At least not in my experience.
I would make that decision based upon desired temperature. Very few of the smokers on your list can surpass the 485 to 500 degree mark. You’ll read a lot of discussion about grill grates helping you get into those higher temperatures and that product does work. I would simply pick a smoker that can get to the desired temperature you want like the Louisiana and the Memphis. Both can exceed 500 degrees and both can hit 600 degrees without problems.

With a temperature probe for the meat inside the chamber, this allows you to keep an eye on the temperature of your meat without opening the grill. Nothing ruins a brisket or roast faster than the griller who constantly fiddles with the meat on the grill. Opening the chamber lets the heat out and that can quickly make for some tough meat. This handy feature takes the guesswork out of how ready your meal is, helping you get the best outcome.


Food not cooking evenly or at desired times: It’s worth checking out the health of the fans in your pellet grill. Usually, if the fan is unable to distribute the heat properly throughout the whole smoker, these problems occur. Fans are relatively inexpensive and very easy to replace. Even if you see the fan working and still getting these problems, it might be that the fan is working intermittently or at slower speeds that it needs to. Have it replaced: it would be the best course of action and won’t be heavy on your wallet.

My propane smoker lived a good life, but after just 18 months it's another rusted out piece of junk that's was unsafe to use. I wanted to replace it with something that would last so I began researching the internet. I was delighted to stumble upon 1) pellet smokers and then 2) the Yoder 640. This is a premium price item that had me wondering if I should spend that much, but I was sold by the online reviews and YouTube video's. ATBBQ had it at my house in less that 5 days and the build quality, ease of use, and the food it helps produces are all second to none. I'm thrilled companies like Yoder can build the best products in the industry right here in America! Its a large investment in cooking, but worth every penny.
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Got the Traeger Pro grill. I was so excited after seeing all of the commercials, unfortunately once I got it together it did not work. No heat on the glow rod no fan nothing. The only thing that worked was the auger and the front panel lights up. Called customer service spent 2 hours on the phone for them to tell me what I already knew they did not work. I told the man on the other end of the line that if it could not work out of the box I did not want it, he stated no returns. Now I am stuck with it. He says, "I will send you the parts needed you can replace them."
With that said, we can guarantee that all of the grills on this list are designed from the best quality materials and design elements to ensure that it not only lasts the test of time, it is safe to use, easy to set up, and also designed to cook the best meals possible. With that said, let’s talk about a pillar that has added to the quality criteria, the material design.
REC-TEC, also known as Rec Tec, has been in business for more than 7 years. Its pellet grill offers up to 702 square inches of the cooking surface real estate, beating out the Pit Boss and its 700 square inches by (only) about 2 inches of extra space. Its grills can also calibrate themselves in 5° increments and its pellet hopper is capable of holding 40 pounds of pellets (no constant refills required).

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.
I think a lot of reviewers here don't have enough experience in pellet grilling to recognize how many features are packed into this unit for the money. I'm not going to talk about the usual advantages of pellet grilling in general in this review (i.e., clean flavor, "set and forget", less ash,). Instead, I'm going to focus on what makes this one uniquely better than the other grills in it's class.
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So, I say go for the best pellet grill you can get within your budget. I reviewed the little GMG Davy Crockett pellet grill recently and was impressed. At just under $400, it’s a good option. That said, I would like to see them put the unit on fold down legs with casters or some other option to make it easier to move around. You’ll see what I mean in the post. Hope this helps.
Overall, I think you would be happy with the smaller smoker / grill. I really like what Green Mountain grills has done with the Davy Crockett model, and that is the unit I have personally. That said,Rec-Tec makes a great product, and some people prefer the cart stand it comes with rather than the fold up legs that Green Mountain grills uses on the Davy Crockett modeling. Either choice would be good for you if you are looking for a smaller unit. I am of course speaking about the mini version of the Rec-Tec. The larger version is excellent as well.
In the Grills Bull we have another large, unwieldy, but fully loaded grilling system. With a price that would make most grillers wince, this Pellet Grill comes complete with all sorts of bells and whistles. Aside from the large, wifi-enabled grill itself, Rec Tec throws in a terrific 6-year warranty as well as over 150 pounds of Pellets, which goes a long way towards justifying the cost. The Bull also has a large, 100% stainless steel cooking space which offers terrific durability long-term.

The Smokepro comes with many of the extras that define the Camp Chef line of products, such as the easy-to-use ash removal system as well and an interior fan. This model comes with easy-to-use controls and an LED temperature readout so you can monitor internal temperature at all times, even if you're cooking at night. The unit also comes with a convenient meat probe for ensuring that perfect finish.
Now, there are different materials that certain pellet grills are made from. Since steel is such a heavy duty and heavy item, some brands have opted in for more cost-efficient materials, such as a stainless-steel lid to remove some of the weight from the pellet grill. With that said, the interior grill gates are as equally important as the exterior. For example, some grill gates are made from an easy to clean porcelain material while some are designed from stainless steel to be more user-friendly and cost-effective. With that said, let’s discuss another important element to consider when it comes to a pellet grill.
The Texas Elite 34 pellet grill is a fairly basic pellet grill that still gives you lots of versatility: you can grill hot and fast, or smoke low and slow, you can bake, braise, roast, or bbq all sorts of food to juicy perfection! Just like an oven, you set the temperature and the Integrated Digital Elite Controller keeps the temp within +/- 20 degrees F for as long as you need it!
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.
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.
The simplicity with which you can use this product is outstanding. From the time that you put it together to the time you smoke meat to the time you clean it, the entire process is extremely simple. It has a power failure restart and a dump tray that can easily be cleaned out. The cooking surface is so large that it is possible to smoke two turkeys at once.
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?
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I would make that decision based upon desired temperature. Very few of the smokers on your list can surpass the 485 to 500 degree mark. You’ll read a lot of discussion about grill grates helping you get into those higher temperatures and that product does work. I would simply pick a smoker that can get to the desired temperature you want like the Louisiana and the Memphis. Both can exceed 500 degrees and both can hit 600 degrees without problems.


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.

Apart from the replacement parts for a pellet smoker, there are also certain accessories that one can use to increase the range of its usefulness as well as improve its performance. A user can attach a griddle attachment to a pellet grill to use it as a flat top griddle, or use a hopper extender to increase the pellet hopper capacity; there is an attachment for every purpose to suit all of your needs. Let’s take a look at the types of accessories commonly found:

In 2010, I sprung for a discounted Rainer with $80 in tip money and a pro deal through the whitewater rafting company I worked for. It was an expensive purchase for me at a time when my monthly food budget was around $60. But hey, along with a Roll-a-Table, two chairs I “borrowed” from the rafting company, and my cooler, I had almost a full kitchen that I could deploy from the back of my truck. And the Rainier quickly proved a wise investment.
Pellet smokers can be used as a charcoal grill by adding the lit charcoal into the charcoal tray. Some of the best pellet smokers allow users to attach a propane tank to the stove to convert them into a gas grill or a kitchen oven. With a flat-top accessory, it can even be used as a griddle. A pellet smoker is an all-in-one solution for the hardened grill masters.

Food not cooking evenly or at desired times: It’s worth checking out the health of the fans in your pellet grill. Usually, if the fan is unable to distribute the heat properly throughout the whole smoker, these problems occur. Fans are relatively inexpensive and very easy to replace. Even if you see the fan working and still getting these problems, it might be that the fan is working intermittently or at slower speeds that it needs to. Have it replaced: it would be the best course of action and won’t be heavy on your wallet.


This website has a lot of negative reviews... I mixed some salt and pepper, rubbed onto some ribs, and put on the Traeger. After about 5 hours sitting in my a/c living room, looking out the window, at perfectly managed temp, the ribs were done, perfect, juicy, with a beautiful wood smoky flavor that I've never gotten on charcoal or even in restaurants with professional pitmasters and all. I did phone Traeger when I was putting the grill together and doing the 1st burn in, there were humans there (!) and they were knowledgeable and helpful on the 1st time.
On the better models, a temperature probe in the oven area tells the controller what the temperature is and if it is below the target it tells the controller to feed more pellets and air. The best manufacturers, like MAK and Memphis, have designed their own versatile custom controllers that are easy to use and can hold a temperature within 5°F, tighter than many indoor ovens.
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 !!
Hey Jennifer, I think a pellet grill/smoker would make a great addition to your cooking arsenal. You can get a pellet smoker up to 450 degrees in about 10 or 15 minutes. The following article gives you a good idea of what you might do to reverse sear a nice thick steak using a pellet smoker. note, that this method employs the use of GrillGrates, which you can find easily on Amazon. Here’s the article:http://blog.greenmountaingrills.com/rib-eye-reverse-seared/
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.
The MAK 1 Star General boasts our favorite digital controller: It's highly programmable and easily accessed via the internet from anywhere in the world. Made entirely in the USA, the 1 Star General is solid-feeling, with a heavy-duty powder coat. The hood is a rolltop, meaning that, unlike a lot of its competitors, the 1 Star doesn't need much rear clearance, and there's plenty of room inside. An optional upper grill grate adds 190 square inches of cook surface. Our only criticism: Not only is it built like a tank, it kinda looks like one, too.

Another “set it and forget it” pellet grill, the Camp Chef allows you to set the temperature controls for up to a range of 500 degrees F, and leave it to do the regulating. With its efficient auto-dispensing pellet hopper and digital temperature controls, the pellet grill sets, maintains and adjusts the desired temperature for even cooking each time. With consistent and fuss-free temperature control, you’ll sure to have the most perfectly grilled foods.


If you’re in the market to buy a grill, yet you’ve only grilled with propane or charcoal in the past, wood pellet grills may have piqued your curiosity. These grills use a very different cooking method than the direct flame of propane, resulting in more even heating and more precise temperature control. A wood pellet grill is more like a smoker than an open flame grill, as it’s difficult to sear meat with a wood pellet grill. Purchasing and using a wood pellet grill is going to be more expensive than propane and charcoal grills.
Kevin, your recommendation rocked. The Pro is one of the best pieces of grilling and smoking iron I have had my hands on in a long time! Better than the Backwoods? Well depends on how much work you want to do! Maybe not, they are first class, but ease of use? I use the Backwoods a couple times a year, the Pro has already done 8 cooks in 5 weeks. Love it.
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.)
Another option is to put a griddle (or GrillGrates) on the pellet smoker when it's cranked to high heat, get it blistering-hot, add just a little oil to prevent sticking, and sear by conduction on the metal. It should take only two to three minutes per side. This is a good technique for reverse-seared meats: You start them indirect, low and slow on the cooking grate, with a little smoke, and then sear the surface with direct contact to the hot metal griddle to create a delicious brown crust. It's not as good as searing directly over hot coals or gas, but it's a good compromise.
Wattage – With the right amount of wattage by your side, you will easily reach the temperature required, and it will stay there provided that you are providing enough pellets for it to make use of. Anything north of 1200W will easily be able to cover all your requirements, but as a rule, it’s ideal to be sheltered than sorry, so it can’t hurt to purchase a unit with a bigger Wattage than you might suspect you’ll require.
Multi-position and digital controllers ( LED display ) - a much better solution, but it does have its flaws. First a multi-position controller, then a digital controller that allows to set the temperature at intervals of +/- 25 degrees F. It’s a controller that also has poor responses to weather. A great advantage of a digital controller is that it allowed to implement other innovative solutions. It helped introduce such technologies as alerts, timer or better meat control.
Hey Ben – thank you for your comment. From a retail user standpoint, I think you’d be happy with either a Yoder or FEC. I really like the PG 500 for the purpose that you’re looking at. Best of both worlds it seems the more I’m looking at it. You can see how they approach grilling steaks in this video. You can incorporate the use of GrillGrates in either pellet grill. Both companies make their units in the USA. Both have great reputations. I’m just partial to Cookshack’s pellet smokers over Yoder as I know more folks who use them.
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.

These food grade wood pellets contain only the best and the pure compressed sawdust from hardwood and are sometimes added with natural vegetable oils, perfectly safe and healthy for your food. However, the carbon in the soot and ashes that fly off the firebox can get embedded into the body of the food, which can get inside your body. The good news is problems such as these can be easily avoided if you can keep your smoker clean.


I'd like to start off by saying I loved the grill when it worked. I haven't had the experiences of a lot that I've read about on here. This rating is solely based on parts replacement. My unit went down the first of October. They had me replace the hot rod, controller, and the power cord. Alas they decide to send me an entire new hot box. Seems totally fair to me. They did a great job upfront in trying to fix it. Then comes the hot box. They were supposedly sending one out ASAP.
While the Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett Pellet Grill is compatible with most iOS and Android devices, I want to stress, check the compatibility of your device with the grill before purchasing because it would suck to buy this grill only to find out that this feature is not compatible. Also, if you do not plan on using the grill on some elevated surface, the legs are not tall so the grill sits close to the ground. Regardless, this is a GREAT smoker: your meat will come out tender and juicy with that authentic BBQ taste we all love! Neither of these cons affects the quality of your BBQ and both can be worked around.
Well built and compact, this smoker and grill still has a 300 square inch cooking space, and is generally big enough to fit a small turkey inside, so it’s ample for six to eight people. It’s really easy to use, with an automated electric start, front mounted thermometer and idiot proof digital controls that make this so simple, an absolute beginner could walk up to it, have a quick play around and start cooking.
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.)
The Camp Chef Collapsible Garbage Can is a handy container for removing leaves, cleaning up after parties or for use on camping tr...ips. This camping garbage can contains spring-loaded setup for fast and easy use. Two plastic toggles keep it collapsed for transportation and storage. Made from Polyethylene construction with metal coil support, this collapsible garbage can is rugged. The 35 Gallon Garbage Can provides for cleaning up a large area without having to stop to dump in between. Featuring dual carry handles and a built-in zippered lid, this garbage can is convenient for tailgating, backyard barbecues and more. read more
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.
Customer Service: I spoke with customer service department about 10 times during this process, and every time I emailed or called I received a different person in response to my same issue. This did not feel good as I never got past the ground level in service even asking for upper management. After the initial response to the dented barrel I received a month back order request for a replacement. After this no offer was made to remedy the situation meaning no refund, or any extras were given as a sorry. I had to contact 3 more times (with three different people) asking for upper management before they agreed on making up for the situation. I ended up receiving for "free" a folding front tray. A month and week later I received my replacement barrel only with no lid, and then a week and half later received the lid.
The major issue is the size. It’s the smallest smoker at this price range, and barely bigger than the Junior Elite. Considering the price difference in the two, it’s hard to justify the extra expense, and when you compare it to the other smokers at this level, the Lil Tex seems more than a little lackluster. There’s less cleaning options, less automation, less cooking space. Just less of everything.
One huge advantage with pellet smokers is that because of how they work, they’re all generally of a higher standard than a lot of other types of smoker. But just because you’re less likely to grab a bad model doesn’t mean that you don’t want the best, right? There’s still things to think about that make sure you get the absolute best fit for you and your family.

Camp Chef Stryker 4-Piece Cook Set, Silver:Heat Ring technology increases efficiency by 30 percent, reducing fuel consumptionWorks... with any Mountain Series stoveFolding handles for easy packingLightweight, hard anodized aluminumTwo-Liter pot with lid7.5" frying panFour-piece cookware set includes mesh carry bagA pot support adapter, sold separately, is necessary if using a Stryker stoveThese products are covered by the following warranty. Warranty covers all components of the stoves, fire pits, ovens and smokers to be free from defect in materials and workmanship for one year from the day of purchase (excluding finish). All accessories are covered for a full 90 days to be free of defect in materials and workmanship. read more
Versus other hardwood pellet grills, Traeger represents a good value whether for a gift or for general use, although if you’re looking for a fully Made in America grill, you’ll want to consider other options. If you decide to go with Traeger, be certain you’ve thought about how much grilling area for food you’ll need and pick an adequate model, as the various Traeger grill price points depend heavily on available grilling area.
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