Alex Coleman’s family has been farming in the Piedmont region of North Carolina longer than anybody remembers. The area is famous for “Lexington Style” barbeque, which focuses on pork shoulder barbeque served up with a variety of sauces based on ketchup, vinegar, and peppers. But Alex’s daddy taught him so much more than that about grilling and smoking...Read more
I have always been a believer: “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”. I’ve been lucky enough to use my professional experience in the meat industry over the past 20 years to create a business where I love to go to work. Smoking Meat Geeks is all about bringing people together that enjoy food as much as I do. We provide a place for everyone to share thoughts, ideas, and recipes; to be a go-to spot for cooking inspiration. Feel free to leave a comment, say hello, or provide any tips. There is no right or wrong input, as long as you’re engaging, you’re a Meat Geek!
Joe Traeger designed and developed pellet grills back in 1985 and he patented the design one year after. But these didn’t go into full commercial production until 1988. Because of the patented design, Traeger held a monopoly in the pellet grill market for twenty years. But being a small family-run company, they did not diversify and kept supplying their products only to a select network of stores.
First, you have to figure out what your budget looks like. Of the pellet smokers I cover here, theRec Tec Grill Pellet Smoker is the most economical and best overall value — with solid construction and top end electronics controls. At just under $1,000 it’s a great buy that should last you a very long time. If you can move up from there cost wise, I’d go with the Yoder pellet smoker. While the Rec Tec looks like a beast, the YS640 absolutely IS one. Weighing in at 315 lbs and boasting solid control components and features, you won’t ever need another pellet smoker in your life unless you just want another one.
The Pit Boss really is the boss with its 700 square inches of cooking surface. The space alone isn’t what makes the Pit Boss 71700FB one of the best wood pellet smoker available. If you thought the Traeger TFB29LZA Junior Elite Grill had a lot of space at 300 square meters, then get more than double that with Pit Boss (the Rec Tec grill below beats it by only 2 inches).
The control panel is simple, uncomplicated and easy to use, no codes of crazy steps to remember. Turn the switch on, set the temp once it lights and you are ready to go. On the outside the controls may look simple but behind the scenes it is working to constantly monitor feed rates and temperatures to lock into your set temperature as close as possible. The longer you cook the smaller the adjustments , making this one of he most consistent cookers on the market.
I remember a time when I was going through some quad-bike reviews; it was all so confusing and I had no clue whom to believe and whom not to. Even when I eventually decided to put my faith in one of them, I kept having second thoughts regarding whether or not they would fail me. If you’re someone like me, let me give you four reasons our reviews won’t fail you:
Purchased my grill last fall at Costco, overall it works OK, some meats like Lamb Chops are just delicious. However, customer service seems to be deteriorating as the company is having success. My kids recently purchased me an add on to my Pro 34, a cold smoker. Traeger sells this but does not support it. The installation instructions are incomplete, I was sent parts that do not go with the unit, then customer service couldn't figure it out, this went on for weeks. After getting it installed, I asked for some instructions or recipes on how to use it, there are none. The old cover does not fit now, and Traeger does not sell one to go with a unit with a cold smoker, or plan on doing so. After a web search, I found one at Charbroil that kinda fits. Also, I just saw the same model at Orchard Supply, it now comes with more shelves and upgrades which I now have to buy as extras.
Hello Mark! Thanks for commenting here. The Kalamazoo Hybrid Grill looks like a BEAST! If you can swing it, I’d go for it. I truly enjoyed cooking on the Memphis Grill, which is to date the most high end pellet grill I’ve used. It offered a nice blend of professional grade convection with the wood fire taste of the pellets. The Kalamazoo hybrid really does seem to offer one step beyond with the addition of charcoal and wood chunks. I see that Derrick Riches of About.com stands behind the Kalamazoo brand. You’re hard pressed to get a better endorsement of a grilling product than that! Keep me posted at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know how your search goes! 🙂
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 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!
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A pellet grill like the Rec-Tec is a breeze to use; subsequently, you won’t need to manage a migraine when barbecuing or smoking. Most models now accompany an electronic start highlight, which means you don’t need to use gas or charcoal for grilling or smoking (Read here). Furthermore, with this element, you don’t likewise need to manage the temperature changes in the earth on the grounds that the unit will be lighted by its electric igniter whatever happens, and after that, it will begin warming and cooking your nourishment. Furthermore, regardless of you are a piece of a little or a major family unit, there is the correct model with the size perfect for your family’s cooking needs.
Due to the lower oxygen at 9200 FASL, I cannot keep the smoker hot and I cannot get it above 250 Deg. F. I seem to be limited due to the diameter of the smoker…just can’t get enough coals and air to get and maintain temps. Therefore, I want to buy a new smoker, on that will regulate temperature at temperatures of 200 – 450 deg F. Any experience or guidance for a smoker brand and type (wood pellet, charcoal, or electric) at high altitudes? i am looking for a smaller size smoker unit.
I have ate a few peoples cooking that have won at the Royal, Houston and Memphis in May. They have all had one thing in common, I didn’t put one drop of sauce on them and they had not been sauced on the Q before serving! The restaurant Cackle and Oink is just a ways from where we live and the owner Aaron Vogel is there regularly. I have tasted all his sauces and they are very good, but the 3 times I have been there, his sauces never touch my ribs and brisket! Aaron does say, if you like this you need to try my competition food (which I will at one of the competitions he is in locally). None of the KCBS, Houston or Memphis in may winners Q had even a hint of ash or bitter smoke flavor. They also had a very light smoke profile. They also all say they cook over well burned down wood.
The Ortech has two knobs. The large one, the "Cook Control" has settings for: Off, Smoke, 180, 225, 250, 275, 300, 325, 350, 375, and High. One smoker manufacturer says that the "Smoke" setting is about 160°F and "high" is about 525°F, but both can vary due to ambient temperature, humidity, fuel type and quality of the smoker. Another knob, a teensy weensy knob to the right of the LED screen looks more like a push button. Labeled "SMOKE" and called the "Smoke Control Knob", it is meant to turn, not push, and it controls the pellet feed rate with auger on/off sequences indicated by "P settings". The P settings range from P0 to P15.
Most of the pellet grills available on the market offer "temperature control" although the problems start when the weather changes. The temperature outside changes, the temperature inside the grill changes, the temperature inside the meat changes. All those factors are very important, as they have a significant impact on maintaining the right temperature inside the grill.
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.
Thank you all for a great site and an informative discussion. I am a newbie to smoking and presently have a charcoal grill for when I have more time and a gas grill for a fast meal. Its time to replace my gas grill so I am looking at alternative options. Is a pellet grill overkill, or a timely expedition, if I want to grill a couple steaks or chicken breasts during week nights? I’d also be interested in smoking larger hunks of meat (and ribs!) less often, but am wondering if a pellet grill can cover both? How long does it take a pellet grill to get to temp (e.g. 450°)? With the indirect heat, can you get char marks on your meat? Thanks in advance for the info!
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.
The SG and ZG are not exactly the same though. Just from the pictures I can see that the bases are different. The SG has L-shaped legs and a bottom shelf while the ZG has square legs that are larger than the DLX legs but no bottom shelf. There were also different specs for many features. I took a picture of the ZG spec sheet at the store and compared it to the SG specs on the website and there are slight differences in capacities. For example ZG 3778 cubic inch - SG 4859, grilling area ZG 776- SG 811, hopper volume ZG 18 lbs - SG 22, ...
Kevin- super helpful article. Thanks! I just moved from a big city small apartment with no grill to a house in the country. Most essential purchase is the grill. I’m really on the fence. I like the idea of a pellet grill, but in reality- I’m mostly cooking burgers, fish, steaks, scallops, and veggies. The brisket and ribs will be more of a special occasion. From an economical perspective, am I better buying a gas grill and just getting one of those smoke tubes to add some flavor? From many of the online comments, it seems like the pellet grills benefit from additional smoke anyway, and though you can get additional grates for searing, seems like a square peg in a round hole. The gas grill is sort of the tried and true, and way more economical. Those $500 entry level pellet grills seem a little scrawny, and the next level up is a cool $grand. I’m really on the fence, and getting pressure to “just buy the darn thing” to consummate the move to the country! However the pellet grills seem like the new shiny object and have my curiosity. Any advice? PS- love the website! Thanks, Cary
According to Bruce Bjorkman of MAK, his cookers use about 1/2 pound of pellets per hour when set on "Smoke" (about 175°F). At 450°F, the high temp, they burn about 2.3 pounds per hour. This is about the same average as I have experienced on a variety of pellet eaters. The burn rate will vary somewhat depending on the outside air temp, and how much cold meat is loaded in the grill, but cooking load should not have a major impact. Cooking pellets run about $1 per pound depending on the wood flavor, brand, if you get them on sale, and if you have to pay shipping. As a point of comparison, Kingsford briquets list for about $0.75 per pound, but they don't pack the same BTUs because there are fillers. I usually buy 40 pound bags of BBQr's Delight pellets from BigPoppaSmokers.com for $45 and shipping is free to IL. That's $1.13 per pound. That means that if I cook a slab of spareribs for six hours at 225°F I will probably burn about 4 pounds at about $4.50. If I put 8 slabs in there in rib holders, and allocate 1/2 slab per person, my cost for 16 people is about $0.28 each. If I grill a mess of chicken parts at about 325°F for about 1 hour, I will use about 1.5 pounds of pellets for a cost of $1.70.
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.
Of course, there are always bargain hunters. Some might say “Why pay $2000 for a pellet smoker and then bargain hunt for your pellets?” but if you think about it this way — isn’t it like cooking with varying qualities of charcoal? Sometimes an inexpensive, less efficient pellet blend might be just fine for burgers or chicken breasts. Other times, you may want to step it up with a premium flavored pellet where whole turkeys, prime rib roasts, or a nice brisket can really shine.
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.
They had the field to themselves for a few years, but the idea was too good to go un-imitated, and soon competitors began popping up. In the early days, most pellet smoker controllers had only three settings—low, medium, high (LMH)—and there was no temperature probe in the oven to create a feedback loop. So, whether you were smoking a few slabs of ribs on a scorching summer day or six pork butts during a blizzard, the controller only knew pellet-feed on and off times for its standard settings. It had no information on the actual temperature inside the cooking chamber.
I’ve seen a lot of pellet smokers over the years, and it’s easy to say that out of every one, the RecTec is without a doubt a beast. It combines exceptional cooking performance with fantastic build quality and a thoughtfulness of design that you just don’t see in other smokers. Or a lot of other products. Not only that, but it’s one of the easiest smokers I’ve ever used, with professional quality cooking literally at the push of a button
Up next to find its place in our pellet grill review is the REC TEC’s mini portable pellet grill. It has a 341 square inch cooking surface with 180 degrees to 550 degrees Fahrenheit temperature limit, with 5 degrees increment. But it can easily reach 600 degrees Fahrenheit in full mode. It has a satisfactory pellet hopper capacity and has folding legs. It is great for travel and movement as it is compact and small in size.
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.
If you live in an area where wood furnaces are used (not like down here in FL where a few heat strips will do the trick), you may also be familiar with pellet furnaces. In short, pellets compressed from sawdust and wood shavings fill a hopper and are then fed into a burn pot using an electric auger system. The auger, which is basically a long screw, delivers pellets to the burn pot based on the speed dictated by the unit’s thermostat. As the burn pot ignites, the pellets burn. Heat then carries through the home via convection (air driven) means, thus allowing air flow and a blend of warm and cool air to maintain steady, even burn temperatures. A heat exchanger separates the smoke fumes from the warm air, thereby warming the room without smoking everyone out.
Words like Grilling, Barbecuing and Smoking are often used interchangeably by us. However, when looking at them from a grill master’s point of view, there are some subtle methodological differences among these three: One is done with the lid up, BBQ is done in a closed circulation with the lid down, and smoking is a slow cooking process in a closed circulation.
In 2008 there were only two consumer pellet grill manufacturers. Today there are dozens. The market for these relatively expensive devices is small but growing fast. Not all of these small manufacturers will survive. Forget the warranty and ask "When it breaks will the manufacturer still be in business?" They do not have repair shops near you. When it breaks will they be able to diagnose the problem over the phone? They may be able to figure it out, but then you have to buy the replacement parts and do the repair work yourself. Are you up to the task?
Bake, braise, grill, smoke, and sear – all of these cooking techniques can be fully experienced by just using one unit of backyard cooker! Yes, you can definitely do different kinds of cooking to your pork, beef, fish, pizza, or pie by just using the Camp Chef Smokepro STX Pellet Grill without burning charcoals and woods to start the cooking process.