I do have a question for you that i didn’t already find answered… How important do you feel a pellet release option is for a pellet fed BBQ? I have only found 3 models that have it; Traeger, Cabela’s Pellet Grill, and Camp Chef. It seems to me that this would almost be a must to make things easier to clean up when done smoking. What are your thoughts on the pellet release, and then your thoughts on these 3 pellet grills.
While the Traeger Lil-Tex does offer similar features as our top pick, such as a digital LED temperature control system and an auto-dispensing auger, there was one missing feature which we thought was necessary. This product has a smaller grilling area and lacks a removable upper rack, which gives you less grilling and prep space. I should mention that the unit does come in a bigger 700 square inch version for $200 more, as well as a smaller version that costs less. If this smoker is too big or too small for you, there are always other options available. Compared to our top pick, it’s also more expensive despite offering similar specs. Aside from that, this is a very efficient and reliable smoker – might even have been the best if our top pick wasn’t available on the market.
Z Grills is a lesser known manufacturer and a great low-cost alternative to the more expensive Traeger grills. Their pellet grill is a sturdy, heavyweight model with a roomy 500 square inches of cooking space and an electronic feeding system for fuel pellets. An additional warming rack provides additional space for cooking at lower temperatures. Furthermore, Z Grills also ensures their product with a generous 3 years warranty.
There is a bit of a learning curve when cooking with pellet grills. This unit can smoke, grill or bake similar to an oven. The Traeger smokes at 180*, but can cook up to 450*. It is indirect heat, so you can grill a ribeye without flare ups. My unit holds temps within 5+/- of the setting. Yes, you do have to clean it like a fireplace, it doesn't run on gas. The build quality is amazing, especially for a PRC manufacture. If you are interested in a pellet grill, buy a pellet cookbook. Something that gives smoke and cook times for an easier introduction into pellet cooking. The only knock against the unit is that for $800 it should have came with the "optional" folding shelf...
You need some temperature control in your grilling system: Even though most propane and charcoal grills include a temperature gauge, they’re not precise. Because the pellet Traeger grill works more like an oven, cooking at a precise temperature setting is a lot easier to do. It’s not quite as precise as the oven in your kitchen, but the Traeger system’s temperature control is surprisingly accurate most of the time. Some manufacturers of low cost pellet grills only offer low, medium, or high temperature settings.
However, with a pellet smoker, you can ensure that new pellets are being fed into the fire automatically, ensuring that it burns for longer and while it burns, it imparts with its flavors. It doesn’t need to be soaked and fed into a burning pile of coal to work. Above that, sawdust, when separated by the heat and being burned, gets a larger surface area to burn with and thus sends out a bigger burst of flavor per pellet.
This unit will not let even a single pellet go to waste. No need of worrying whether you’re out of pellets or not. You can carry pellets at a maximum of 20 pounds, with the digital thermostat ensuring the pellets are being used properly. This saves you loads of cash and gives you smoking food simultaneously without wasting time in refilling pellets.
To sear a steak you need direct radiant heat. I don't care if you can heat the air to 1000°F, it is still indirect heat and that does not deliver as much energy as direct radiant heat. It's physics, but not hard to understand. In short, heat is not the same as temperature. It feels hotter at 80°F if the sun is shining on you than if it is 80°F in the shade. I discuss the concept in more detail in my article on thermodynamics of cooking.
It’s built pretty solidly, which is what you want with a portable system as it’s obviously being moved around a lot more. I’d say it’s similar in build quality to the Traeger Junior Elite, which as a top of the line smoker says all that needs to be said. If something does go wrong, there’s a two year warranty. I’d have liked more, but it’s there, and that’s good enough.
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.
Thanks Kevin for the reviews and content. Like many of the folks I too will be purchasing a pellet pooper. I have narrowed my choices to a MAK 2 star and a Memphis Elite. One of the earlier posters indicated on the Memphis that the effective direct grilling space was about 1 square foot. I am assuming that with the smaller footprint of the MAK that the direct “flame zone” is less than that. I’m just wondering how much less.
I have been cooking Southern BBQ for 40 years, my Dad did the same. I have bought ever kind of grill on the market, built many of my own because none of the store bought grills cook very well and don't last because of cheap construction. Had been researching Pellet grills for some time and decided on the YS640. Received the grill yesterday and very impressed on everything from boxing to construction of the grill. Just fired it up to burn it in. Temp stays @350. This grill is well made, USA made ! Which is important to me. Cant wait to cook on it, know it will do the job. Thanks..All Things BBQ.....
Pellet Hopper – One of the reasons we all buy a pellet smoker for is the long cooking time. It’s an automated grill, but it needs to be provided with the right amount of pellets in the hopper. Those grills are used for long, often all night long meat smoking. That’s why it’s important for the pellet container to be very big. Here you get a 40 pound hopper capacity. You can be sure you won’t run out of fuel during longer cooking.
You want longevity in a pellet grill: As the Traeger brand name has been around for a few decades, you can have some peace of mind that you’re purchasing a grill that should have replacement parts available for the foreseeable future. And Traeger grills tend to have good longevity ratings, working in top condition for several years, as long as you follow the manufacturer’s maintenance recommendations.
Competition: If you are buying a smoker for participating in any competition, then pellet smokers are your best choice. Gas or electric smoker grills are not allowed in any competition as they are using automation. Though you are getting temperature control and electronic start in pellet smoker it is accepted in competition. This pellet smoker review will point out the ones best for a competition.
Hi – my husband and I are really interested in a pellet smoker. We came across some when we were at a fair and are trying to find more information about the Traeger brand because the price seems affordable compared to all the others you mentioned. You started out talking about the Traeger but never gave any feedback on it? Little help please:) Thanks!
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.
Their behavior is sometimes counterintuitive. The hotter they get, the less smoke they produce, and at their top settings, they don't produce much smoke at all. This is good for when you are baking cakes or pies or doing dishes that don't need smoke. But down under 250°F, they produce plenty of mild, elegant smoke. And even though the fuel is wood, it is hard to oversmoke with a pellet smoker. Burning wood on a charcoal grill produces much more intense smoke flavor.
Temperature: Most of all, you have to pay attention to whether your pellet grill maintains a chosen temperature. People buy a pellet smoker because it makes it possible to smoke meat for long at fixed low temperatures. Very convenient and simple, and a grill that always maintains a selected temperature guarantees that the meat will be perfectly cooked.
You’re concerned with ongoing costs for fuel and power: The wood pellets used with Traeger grills are more expensive than propane or charcoal. You can expect to spend $1 to $3 per grilling session using wood pellets. Propane is far less expensive to operate in a grill, while charcoal fits somewhere in the middle of the cost range. And beware of cheap pellets from third-party manufacturers that contain softwoods like pine. They burn much faster than hardwoods, so the end cost won’t be that much different because you’ll use more of them. And they can introduce unwanted chemicals and contaminants to your food. You will also have some electrical power costs with these Traeger pellet grills.
With a massive 700 square inches of primary grilling space, this grill impressed us when compared to other Pit Boss grills we reviewed. Its size is large enough to cook for large groups of people. It features a Flame Broiler that uses slide-plates which allow for direct flame grilling, which means you get an even cast-iron cooking each time. If the 700 square inches isn’t enough, you can make use of the additional upper cooking rack space. The racks are made of porcelain-coated cast iron for optimum grilling as well as easier maintenance.
This pellet smoker and its humongous 20 inches by 15 inches or 300 square inches of grilling space are capable of holding 3 rib racks, 18 hotdogs, 4 chickens, or 12 burgers at the same time. This is also one of the most Affordable pellet smokers around. Its thermostat control is LED digital so that you can set it as easily as your microwave. Just press buttons and get the setting you want every time.
As a conclusion, it’s a very good pellet smoker & grill. Main advantage is the sear box that runs on propane, allowing to reach temperatures of up to 900 degrees F. Definitely a very useful feature during cooking. Another interesting feature is Smart Smoke Technology, which allows to create much more smoke while maintaining the desired temperature.
It’s also worth double checking the precision of the controls. Less expensive smokers sometimes have cheap control panels that only allow you to set the temperature to a few discrete settings, for example just low and high. This is, generally speaking, awful, and leads to improperly cooked meat and a whole host of other issues. Avoid it if you can.
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From the models and brands that I have reviewed here, I highly recommend the REC TEC 680 Wood Pellet Grill as the best pellet smoker. This comes with a grill technology, which gives you more convenience, whether you are a novice or an experienced grill master. If you have found this article to be helpful, please share it with your friends and family and help them make the right decision.
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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!!!