Because the burn pot is small, there is usually a hot spot directly over it. Some units have an optional perforated section above the burn pot so you can put the meat over direct flame, but the ones I've tested still do not sear properly. And there is no way to set up a 2-zone cooking system with a cool zone. As with most other grills and smokers, the differences between lower and upper racks is not huge, so think of it as one heckuva indirect heat convection smoker with precision temperature control.
Loved the idea of a "pellet smoker" - less stress, delicious meat. Bought mine at Costco 1 year ago and have used it many times with mixed results, not exactly stress less. Last time using it the pellet hopper caught on fire, turns out the auger chamber is packed full of pellets and won't move. Attempted to open chamber to clear and with this model it is extremely difficult (with unit sold thru Costco - newer ones look easier...) so I called customer service hotline. Called different 4 times and talked with a different live person each time and was promised a call back to schedule an in house repair. Never received one call back so I tried to email and again never received a return email. I have no choice but to return smoker to Costco.
Some products feature the wood-pellet fuel system as a bonus, but the Camp Chef SmokePro SG makes its wood-fired function the star of the show. Using 100% real hardwood pellets, recreating 5-star-cuisine level dishes on a large scale is now made convenient. Though it still has limited reviews, it wouldn’t be a surprise if this smoker quickly becomes a best-selling choice. It’s the kind of smoker that you need if you want hassle-free and fast cooking.
I bought this grill in May 2018. Had to return it to Ace 9 days later because it wouldn’t keep temp or would go out and fill up with pellets. I had to have the GM of Ace fight for me to get a new grill from Traeger. Once I did the new one seemed to work for about a month. Since then this one does the same thing as far as heat and pellets. I thought this thing was supposed to be a set and forget grill. If I don’t watch the heat it will be 200+ degrees over the set heat or sometimes be at ambient temperature and I have to pull me meat, grill and grease tray out so I can empty the heat pot of all the Unburned pellets. This thing is nothing but trouble. Does it cook great meat? Yes! When it works and you babysit it the whole time. On top of that customer service is about as useless as ** on a boar! They will try and tell you it’s something you’ve done wrong. I will be buying another brand smoker and giving this one to someone who like to deal with troubles.
I've been using a pellet grill for a LONG time (Traeger for ~15 years?), so I know an upgrade when I see it. I just picked up a YS640, and it's amazing. I love removing the diffuser, adding the Grill Grates, and doing so nice searing! My first cook was a batch of rid eyes, and they were both beautiful as well as delicious. My "guest list" of people wbo want to come over for food keeps growing... Nice problem to have. Good friends, good food, good times.
I purchased a Traeger Lil Tex 22 yesterday. I “grilled” a whole chicken. It overshot the temperature by nearly a hundred degrees which wasn’t a bad way to crisp up the bird but I was afraid it was going to melt itself down so I shut it down. I was up by 5 this morning to smoke a pork butt for pulled pork sandwiches. My wife’s family is coming over for dinner tonight and time being a concern I fired up the “smoker”. It snowed 12 inches last night so the next hour I was shoveling my walks. Imagine my surprise when I checked on the Traeger and it had shut itself off . The meat was colt to the touch. I read through the instructions to make sure I started it up correctly and I did. I removed the meat and restarted the smoker. It smoked for awhile then quit. The temperature never got above 140. I called Traeger technical support twice and each rep gave me a different answer as to why it wasn’t working. After 3.5 hours I gave up on the Traeger for a more conventional method. I purchased the Traeger for the the set and walk away feature. It let me down!! It is 34 degrees outside today so I will wait until it warms up to try again. Should it fail me again I will sell it for scrap! So far I am not impressed. My wood smoker takes time but it is reliable.
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Our first visitor at the the house was my future mother-in-law. She’s a vegetarian, so I cooked vegetable-based meals during her visit. I’m a meat guy, so beyond side dishes, I don’t really have a repertoire of veggie dinners. I'd see what the local co-op had in stock that day, then Google the ingredient, plus the word Traeger, to find a recipe. And voila: perfect grilled portobello mushrooms and stuffed peppers.
Thankfully the popularity of pellet grills spurred many new pellet fuel manufacturing companies to enter the industry. There are also some very big names in the grilling world that have seen the light and are now producing pellets as well. This has helped the availability of pellets for sure, but we are still not to a point where pellets are commonplace in stores in all areas.
As you can see from the image of a Traeger Pellet Grill above, pellets move from a hopper (left) via an auger to a burn pot (far right). The rate at which the pellets are fed into the hopper is dictated by your Pellet grill’s thermostat. Extra fuel in the form of oxygen is blown over the burn pot to increase the burn rate and help regulate a nice, steady, and efficient burn. The lower your temp, the more smoke is created.
Now we come to the part no one likes and that’s cleaning. This smoker won’t clean itself but it does make the process a lot easier. PG24 by Camp Chef Pellet Grill is created in a way that gives you easier access to the fire pot making cleaning out the ash effortless. It also has trap door that allows you to clean the unit without scouring through grease and ash. Anyone who has ever had to clean a smoker grill knows how time-consuming and enormous the task can be. This trap door is only present in expensive units, but you’ll be glad you paid a little more when cleaning becomes effortless. You could also buy the other version that could come with cover (which is $50 more expensive) to make sure the smoker is in the best condition at all times.
Kevin- I’m in the process of researching to get my husband a grill for Christmas. I’m torn between the 820 you mentioned above and the Traeger Pro Series. As far as I can tell they are basically the same except that you get a larger cooking area on the pit boss for the same price you pay for a small cook space in a traeger. I would like to spend around $600 on the grill but would possibly go up to $800 and want 500 sq in cook space or greater. Which do you prefer? Pit Boss, Traeger or another brand?
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.
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.
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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.