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.
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.
There are no food probes with this controller as there are on the MAK Pellet Boss, and the controller is mounted to the surface with two screws and no gasket so I fear rain could get into the electronics, but after more than a year of sitting out without the cover in rain and snow, the controller on the IPT I tested is still working fine. Ortech recommends covering your smoker.
Brought it home and set it on my prep table with the controller in a cubby hole with all intentions of building a cart for it later. So I have made a killer rib eye on it and tried to burn it down with a couple rib eyes cooking at 600 F. Gotta figure out a little better method of catching drippings as they will catch on fire and you have a runaway! But you can make a great rib eye. Ribs, every set has turned out awesome, everything from low and slow to a high temp cook process on them. Probably made 8 racks of great ribs. Wasn’t impressed with the hamburgers on it but will try again later. Made a pretty good brisket but used Rudy’s rub as I like their store sandwiches and I don’t have the method down. Next one will be back to salt and a touch of pepper. Chicken thighs (thighs are the perfect chicken part for Q, their rather uniform thickness makes getting them all consistent and cooked even a slam dunk) with a light coat of mustard and Tony Chachere’s lightly sprinkled is to die for. Simply squeeze them when they should be close and if the juice is clear, no pink or red they are perfect. If you cook the juice out, well they make decent tasting blotter paper 🙁 Pretty much killed a spatchcocked turkey for Thanksgiving, good thing the wife made an over baked one too. It did make great gumbo though as does the blotter paper chicken if you ruin any thighs or the whatever chicken. Also have a pile of hot links I put on at 180 for 2 to 3 hours. They are great for reheat with sauerkraut and roasted pabs or in the gumbo. Hot links should be a staple, ha ha! Gotta try my great pulled pork on it and we do Prudhomme pizza sauce on a Brown Eyed Baker crust and this Pro should rock it!
Hey Brad, you’ve got 3 great grills there. Rec Tec has the edge on Pellet quantity. I like the build quality and support on the Grilla a bit better, especially with the extra insulation and updated comp wheel set up. Figure 10 min or so to get to top temps. Just remember to drop to around 300 F temp setting before going into the shut down cycle on any pellet grill if you’re cranking it up to the highest setting.
To your question regarding Traeger, I’ve not reviewed their grills of yet. I do know that Traeger as a company is taking steps to up their game some, as quality/reliability of their pellet grills has diminished over the last few years. The new CEO – Jeremy Andrus – they hired comes from the Skull Candy company and brought that headphone company from annual sales from less than $1 million to nearly $300 million. I know also that a few big hitters in the BBQ world are being contacted by Traeger to bring the brand back to its former prominence. You can read more about that here from the site of one of the company’s that now has an ownership interest in Traeger: http://www.trilantic.com/News_Story.aspx?StoryType=1&ID=56.
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 say almost idiot proof because I still make stupid mistakes when I'm cooking and I like to blame it on the pellet grill once in a while. The unit is extremely easy to use for a novice such as myself. I just fill the hopper with my favorite wood pellets, set the temperature and add my food. I have owned this unit a little over a year and everything from the first burger I cooked until the smoked pork chops I just had for dinner has turned out really, really well. I find myself wanting to either smoke or direct grill everything. We have cooked pizza, turkey breasts, tri-tips, pork butts, burgers, salmon, cookies, brownies, chicken wings, drum sticks, pork chops, ribs, cornbread, vegetables, meatloaf and many other things. Nobody ever complains. LOL I have used it in all types of weather all year long. Once I learned how to use the damper (didn't take long) the heat stays where I want it and remains relatively stable even on the coldest days. I would buy this unit again and I would recommend it to others.
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.
Hey Kevin great article. I too am currently looking for a pellet smoker. I’ve narrowed it down between a Yader, Memphis Pro and the Rec Tec. The Green Mountain did not seem very well built. The wheels looked liked the would break on the first roll and the stainless steel door was flimsy and did not have a good seal. I know the Rec Tec has a 6 year warranty. Do you know how long the warranties are on the other two?
In true Yoder fashion the 640 is not a fancy cooker with lots of shiny things, bells and whistles. Don't mistake that for poor craftsmanship, the Yoders are all built to the highest quality standards. They just happen to be more muscle car than sports car. Big, bad ass, built to last American muscle car that will blow the doors off the competition on your back deck or on the comp trail.
You prefer a direct heat method of grilling: The Traeger grill uses an indirect heating source, much like an oven, so you won’t be able to sear meat, as many people like to do when grilling a steak. The Traeger system is better for those people seeking more of a smoker type of cooking system, although you can sear your meat by using a frying pan with a little oil initially before you finish cooking it with the Traeger grill. You can use the frying pan on a stove top burner or on the surface of the Traeger grill.
Hey Shannon – they all have their merits. Budget dictates a lot. If you’re in the $1000 or under range, Green Mountain and Rec Tec are great choices. Both have developed near cult followings, with GMG a little ahead of the curve on that front having been around a bit longer. I love the Yoders as far as moving up on the price range is concerned. Will last you forever and they offer a solid product with great support. MAK grills are just beautifully made. There’s no other way to put it. The “General” models are superbly crafted. Love that MAK offers built in cold smoking as a capability. Am I helping here or just making things worse? Hahaha.
Speaking of competition cooks, you’ll find that many competition BBQ pitmasters who use Pellet grills as their primary means of cooking are among the more well rested come Saturday. The next step we’ll cover in this selection of Pellet Grill Reviews is getting your pellet grill / smoker up and running. Again, what you may not see in may Pellet Grill Reviews is repeated mention that you’re not going to get that “deep smoke” flavor profile using a pellet smoker. Though, this can be achieved by using something like the Amazen Pellet Tube Smoker 12″.