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?
Good info, but it’s missing something… the cost to use. I’ve been looking for a long time to get into smoking. I have only ever used a propane setup for grilling. My main quesion is the cost to use propane vs charcoal vs pellets. I’m very interested in pellet smoking AND grilling. A couple times a week my wife and I will grill some chicken breasts or steaks. Can you breakout an approximate cost comparison to run the different methods? Appreciate it!
Rec Tec Wood Pellet Grill boasts a cooking area of over 1000 sq. inches. However, that area is calculated from its optional cooking shelf. Without it, the cooking area is roughly around 700 sq. feet. This removable shelf can allow you to increase your cooking area if you’re trying to cook patties, steaks, chicken pieces and items as such; or they can be removed for granting a greater volume of space for smoking brisket or whole turkeys.
On Tabletop Models: I didn’t include them here because though extensive, this post is more of an overview of a few select makers of Pellet Smokers I think do a fine job with both manufacturing and product support. The one exception is that I did include a link to where you can find the Rec-Tec mini. That’s Rec-Tec’s answer to the smaller, tabletop or tailgating models.
At present, I am sponsored by and continually use pellets produced by CookinPellets.com. There are two versions of pellets – the Perfect Mix (Hickory, Cherry, Hard Maple, and Apple Woods) and 100 Percent Hickory. In each of these versions, CookinPellets uses all wood, no bark, no filler woods like oak or alder and no flavor oils. Just 100% of what is on the bag. I get consistently great flavor using these two varieties of pellet smoker pellets from CookinPellets.com, and I think you’ll enjoy them very much as well.
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.
The popular Traeger Junior Elite is a great smoker for first-time chefs as well as experienced smokers who are short on space. It's versatile and can grill, smoke, bake, roast, braise, and barbecue food. The digital controller is adjustable to +/- 20 degrees and has 300 square inches of grilling space that is large enough for two whole chickens or three racks of ribs.
First impression was this thing isn't built like a mass produced unit, it's more like something you would expect from a master fabricator. The assembly instructions were incredibly detailed, and the way it was packaged made it really easy. It takes a little time to get temp steady for low smoking, but once it's there it seems to be pretty steady. So far absolutely impressed with everything about this cooker, and made in the USA!!!

The construction and the elements - REC TEC  Pellet grill are an investment for years, safe from corroding. Most of competitive  grills look pretty on the outside and the manufacturers claim they are made of stainless steel. The truth is, only the outside part of the grill is stainless. The steel on the inside is different, and major parts are made of materials of poorer quality.


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.


Not all people and culture will be able to truly understand our love for barbecue here in the USA. For them, it might just be a cooking activity while for us, it’s a tradition – a ritual to celebrate the summers (and occasionally the winters). As long as this love for grilling stays with us, which will be, we’re going to continue to expect more and more from the grill manufacturers.
One final word of caution when it comes to pellet pricing.  If you see a price on pellets that seems too good to be true, there’s probably a reason for it. If the pellets you got an amazing deal on creates twice as much ash, doesn’t burn as well, generates wild temp swings and ends up ruining a $65 brisket were they worth it?  What about if that flame out or temp swing cost you a whole pit full of meat and ruined the family reunion the next day?  We are all for saving money as much as anyone, but perspective is key here.  We are in no way saying that great pellets cannot be had for pennies per pound, but we are definitely saying, that if those pennies saved are not on a proven brand that you can trust then it’s probably not a bet worth taking.
The Davy Crockett Pellet Grill offers open flame technology which uses infrared radiation to cook your food. The peaked lid not only allows for you to cook tall slabs of meat, but it also helps the convection process within the grill, making sure that your meat is thoroughly and evenly cooked. This top notch technology ensures that you get that consistent and authentic tasting BBQ every time you fire up the grill!
It's true that even the entry-level models of pellet smokers are a bit pricey. But I've never met an unhappy pellet smoker owner, even if they paid a few hundred bucks more than the cost of their neighbor's grill. And manufacturers are rising to meet increased consumer demand, with more selections, more features, and more competitive pricing. While many folks struggle trying to get cheap offset and bullet smokers to work, with a pellet smoker, it's easy to make the best smoked ribs, brisket, and pulled pork in the neighborhood.
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.
On Tabletop Models: I didn’t include them here because though extensive, this post is more of an overview of a few select makers of Pellet Smokers I think do a fine job with both manufacturing and product support. The one exception is that I did include a link to where you can find the Rec-Tec mini. That’s Rec-Tec’s answer to the smaller, tabletop or tailgating models.
So Kevin here is where you come in. Been wanting to make getting consistent Q on the table regularly and easily. Been looking at pellet poopers for about 5 years now and decided to take the plunge. Had already done enough looking a few years ago Traeger’s issues had scared me off. Several friends had them and raved but always mentioned problems. I decided from my work I don’t want to be buying someone’s, ‘we know the problems and are fixing them’ if you can find something solid for similar cost. Yoder and FEC were pretty much my finalists. So I was doing my final thoughts and found your article.
From grilled beef, salmons to grilled turkeys I love them all. My passion for grilling delicacy gradually built during the time I was living with my parents. My family members especially my mother was a great fan of grilled dishes to and from the love of food. I started preparing smoked food with my mom. This bonding helped me to know more and more about to smoke, grill delicacies and also with smokers. So, in a word you can tell me a BBQ lover.
Moving on from the orangish-red looks of the predecessor RT-680, this newer model has a black hood, with stainless steel built. It is 2.5” taller than the RT-680 and has 2 stainless steel bull horn handles on the outside that will have you falling in love with its built. Everything from the towel rings, the controller shelf, the hopper lid to the spill-proof bucket hook is stainless steel and even the smallest of details like the laser cutout of “Rec Tec Grills” on the side will never fail to impress.
Generally speaking cheap grills are not made with quality materials. While the outside may look good, often times you will find the guts of the grill are made with lower grade metals. This of course affects functionality and longevity. If the inside of the grill isn’t made using quality materials you will literally burn through it over a certain period time.
GrillGrates(TM) amplify heat, prevent flareups, make flipping foods easier, keep small foods from committing suicide, kill hotspots, are easier to clean, flip over to make a fine griddle, and can be easily removed and moved from one grill to another. You can even throw wood chips, pellets, or sawdust between the rails and deliver a quick burst of smoke to whatever is above. Every gas grill needs them.

If you don't buy this cooker and spend more than $600 on any cheap thin steeled cooker. By year 2 you will realize you paid for quality that lasts. I joke that no one would steal it because it weighs so much. But it's my baby and it's double locked. I promise you in a year you will look at your wife or family and say "That's the best purchase I ever made!" It's impressive, no one makes a better product. If u buy Traeger or any other cooker. In 3 years you will regret not spending the money on a luxury machine. Yoder is the best of the best. Yoder is who the other guys want to be. I would buy it again tomorrow! Don't have regrets. You won't regret this purchasem
Editor-in-Chief Sean McCoy is a life-long outdoorsman who grew up hunting and fishing central Wisconsin forests and lakes. He joined GearJunkie after a 10-year stint as a newspaperman in the Caribbean, where he learned sailing and wooden-boat repair. Based in GearJunkie's Denver office, McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.
Hey Tom, first, thank you so much for reading the article and expressing your approval of it. It means a lot to me that the information posted on this site is useful for the people. To your question about pellet grills, yes. You must always use BBQ grilling pellets with these cookers. You cannot use raw wood with them. However, should you find yourself with access too hard woods like Hickory or maple, or fruit woods like apple, cherry, or peach – this is something that could be readily used in a charcoal smoker.
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).

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.
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.
The best thing about pellet smokers is that unless you’re buying the absolute cheapest models, there are no bad choices. In this list for under $500, you’ll find pellet smokers and grills perfectly suited for dropping a few burgers at home use like the Traeger Junior Elite, for throwing in the back of the van and using anywhere like the Green Mountain Davey Crockett, or for cooking whole turkeys when you have ten people round on Thanksgiving, like the Camp Chef Smokepro.
The 4 Life Outdoor Kitchen: built-in BBQ Grill The 4 Life Outdoor Kitchen: built-in BBQ Grill Cabinet is skillfully made from 304 stainless steel and is delivered to your home fully assembled. The weather resistant doors are protected with a white UV-resistant powder coating offering long-term resistance to corrosion and rust. These cabinets are built strong with precision ...  More + Product Details Close
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.
As far as size goes, bigger is usually better when it comes to pellet grills. A large hopper means a longer time you can cook without needing to refill your fuel source. A bigger grill size means more room for a variety of meats or side dishes. Look for at least 700 sq inches of cooking space (that can include the upper rack as well – remember, pellet grills work like convection ovens.)
Another thing about pellet smokers which might impress you is that you can also use this type of smoker to grill your food. So, don’t be confused if you come across the term “pellet grill” in this article because it refers to a pellet smoker. When used as a grill, pellet smoker will start up quickly and cook your food with minimal supervision. Depending on your smoker, you can either use the small area above the fuel pot to grill your food or you can put a griddle on the pellet smoker when it is running on high heat.
Do you enjoy hassle and stress-free living? If you want to enjoy the juicy smoked BBQ ribs with your friends and family without feeling disturbed, then the automatic smoker is the top choice for you. The automatic smoker, a pellet smoker, makes for an ideal choice. Do you know why it has it has earned the reputation of the best among all the easy to use smokers? You will find the automatic features incredibly easy to use and this convenient product’s simplicity stands out.
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?
Even seemingly perfect pellet grillers have trouble getting the cleanup part right even in light of how little ash is produced by pellets. You should search for pellet smokers and grills that efficiently keep the ash from building up on the heat deflector that’s located underneath the grates. The ash should remain on the ash cup and nowhere else. Meanwhile, major cleanup with soap and water is a hassle that requires an apron and gloves.
After an hour on tech support, taking the thing apart, they acknowledged the auger motor was bad and they would send me one. This would be FANTASTIC if I had owned the grill for a year or so and the company was standing by their product... but to insist on sending me a part to a BRAND NEW GRILL and having me replace it...Unacceptable. When I asked for a new replacement hopper system (I get it ... things break... and I'm willing to meet them halfway) they said no... just the motor. I would have kept it had they allowed me to swap out the entire hopper system but I shouldn't have to do surgery on a brand new piece of equipment. Please don't buy this poorly made (China) piece of trash.

Before buying, please note that pellet smokers need access to electricity to run the digital controller, the auger that transports the pellets to the firebox, and the convection fan that circulates the air in the cooking chamber. These cookers can use a lot of pellets at high temps. At high temps there is little or no smoke, and at low temps smoke is unavoidable. So if you want to cook, say, a chicken breast low and slow to retain juices, but you don't want any smoke flavor, you're outta luck. If you want to torch a thin burger to get a crunchy crust and add a little smokiness, you'll get great smoke flavor, but it is hard to get the crust. But if you want killer ribs, bacon, smoked salmon, etc., pellet burners are hard to beat for convenience and quality.
Something you may not have read in other Pellet smoker reviews is that there are two key concerns: flavor and fuel consumption. As previously stated, pellet smokers are not known for producing a strong smoke flavor, no matter what pellets you use. Though, some brands can be more pronounced than others. Hardwood pellets provide longer overall burn times per pound than fruit wood pellets. 1oo percent fruit wood pellets will also be more expensive on average. So, if you want to do a pellet smoker cook using 100 percent cherry wood pellets, you’re going to use more fuel than you would with a cherry/hardwood blend, and it’s going to cost you more as well on average.
You have some solid reviews out there. I have been in pursuit of getting exactly what I want for about 25 years now LOL. Started with a Weber Kettle cooked some great meals on it and made that tasted more like eating a chunk of lump coal 🙁 Over the years I have built a couple 55 gal barrel smokers they were challenging to hold the temp, an old Kenmore stove oven into a propane starter wood smoke unit, a monster 24″ pipeline pipe 5′ long and a warming oven, a 40″ stainless grill made from an industrial engine catalyst that I could direct and indirect cook on and a few other small grills. Working in the oil & gas business and having poor welding skills with a good welding machine in the garage made for some great experiences. Most generally have cooked for 2 to 4 people but have fed up to 70 a time or two.
First off, in general I was a huge Traeger fan due to my brother-in-law smoking up meat and fish for us for the past 3 years and it was just damn delicious. He also just raved about his Traeger, so finally I took the plunge and purchased a Century 34 model during one their Costco road shows. Customer Service - In general I will give them 4 stars because I am talking with a human, they were seemingly very thorough when I spoke with them and didn't appear to be reading from a knowledge base article when I described the problems. I also grilled them to ensure that the Costco specific model wasn't being manufactured with subpar parts since the price was so much less than retail and seemingly more bells and whistles. More than one representative confirmed that was not the case. This is where it stops being good news.
Three and a half months ago, my fiancée and I loaded all our worldly belongings into a trailer and drove that stuff to our new house in Montana. As one of my most-loved things, the Egg was in there, carefully packed inside and out to make sure no part of it would break. Worrying about it riding back there was one of the reasons my average speed on that drive was just 47 miles per hour. 

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.


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.
I have owned my YS640 for about 9 months now. Before I bought this I researched smokers/grills for about 2 years because I had very little experience with them & cooking in general. With the help of a few good websites I have produced some great food. There is a ton of room to cook on & the heat stays pretty much where you want it. Only a few issues I have had is that where the stack mounts to the side of the grill it drips. I did have a scratch on mine from the shipper & when I called about it I was sent a can of matching high temp paint very quickly. One thing that I like the most about this smoker is it is heavy. You can tell that this thing was built to last.

Hey Kim – thank you for this. I’ve had this happen with numerous pellet smokers, including GMGs. What happens most often when it happens is that I’ve been remiss in properly cleaning the grill out after several uses (vacuuming the fire pot out). This causes the ash etc to cover up the heating rod, thus making the temperature lower than expected. The auger keeps feeding the fire pot to compensate and you get what you’ve described.

As we started to learn more about pellet grills we realized that we had to take different aspects into consideration when it comes to the quality of the grill. With that said, we are eager to share with our readers the criteria that we used to come up with this top ten list. With this, we can say that all of the grills we share are made of the best quality materials and craftsmanship to be able and withstand the test of time and provide a delicious meal. Other than that, we share this criterion so individuals can find the best pellet grill that suits there needs.
I bought my second Traeger Grill around Thanksgiving (my last one died after 3 months), spent most of the day assembling it only to find it didn't work. Customer service told me to reset the thermostat, I did and it shut down.  I did this routine a few more times with customer service and it kept shutting down, day after day.  Traeger reluctantly sent me a replacement grill and promised it would be Fully assembled (I have little use of my left hand and can't work with small parts)  Well it showed up unassembled in a bunch of little boxes. Customer service told me 4 times that they would call back with a local Traeger dealer to assemble it. Four promises to have someone come out and not even a phone call.

First impression was this thing isn't built like a mass produced unit, it's more like something you would expect from a master fabricator. The assembly instructions were incredibly detailed, and the way it was packaged made it really easy. It takes a little time to get temp steady for low smoking, but once it's there it seems to be pretty steady. So far absolutely impressed with everything about this cooker, and made in the USA!!!

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