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.
Thanks Kevin. I am about to buy both a 5 burner gas grill and a smoker for a new bbq island. Rather than buy both, will one of these higher end pellet grills take the place of a traditional propane grill? I can apply the funds for the gas grill to a higher end pellet if it can really do double duty. It has to be able to cook burgers and dogs and steaks etc. Just like a gas grill though. Thoughts?
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.
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.
Placed against our Top Pick, this Traeger smoker and grill is a worthy competitor. It offers a variety of useful functions that will allow you to smoke, grill, bake, braise, roast and BBQ anything and everything. It’s definitely worth your money, because if you take care of it properly, it’s going to last you a long time. However, since it’s slightly more expensive than the top pick, we just couldn’t set it at the top of our review.
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.
Fans of gadgets – More expensive models come with very interesting features. You can download app for your phone or tablet (iOS and Android). Then you can use Wi-Fi to connect with your pellet grill. It allows you to monitor the temperature inside the grill while away from it. Some of the grills even make it possible to check the internal temperature of the meat.
This is a great smoker for beginners who are willing to take the time to understand how pellet smokers work. You can follow the instructions in the video provided on the manufacturer’s website to see how to put it together. It is also great for people who have been pellet smoking for years. It has a huge cooking surface, which is perfect for entertaining large groups of friends.
Ordering through All Things BBQ was VERY simple and easy. In fact, my YS640 arrived a few days sooner than expected/quoted. These grills are expensive, but I am a firm believer in "you get what you pay for". There is no doubt the quality of Yoder craftsmanship is exceptional. So far, I have only been able to use my YS640 a coupe of times. However, I'm looking forward to many meals being cooked on it going forward. If you buy one, you will not be disappointed!
One other thing to know about the wonder of pellet grills is that they come with pellet hoppers, varying in capacity from brand to brand, that accommodates and use the pellets you put it accordingly and automatically as per the heat setting, eliminating the need to refill the hopper manually so frequently. So throw on some lamb ribs on to those hot grills, and go enjoy some cold beer while the pellet grill does the rest for you!
Traeger sent me replacement; fan motor, auger motor, temp controller, then a whole burner module assembly. None of these parts helped my problem at all. After working with them thru about 10 phone calls, I finally talked to a second level supervisor named Jessie. He agreed my grille wasn't working properly, but would not let me return it. I told him I would accept a replacement 22 inch grille, which I believed would get up to temperature. He agreed, but would not agree to refund the $200 difference in price. I decided to cut my losses and accept this offer. He said he would call and email back with shipping details. That was over 2 months ago and no call. I've since called them 3 times. The phone help doesn't know Jessie and always claim to leave him a message...but still no call. I'm way past the time limit to protest the charge with my credit card, so I guess I'm stuck with this piece of junk. This kind of lack of integrity from a company does not deserve anyone's business.
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.
At the end of the day, the act of heating pellets and generating smoke in any pellet smoker is pretty much the same. Yes, some pellet smokers use thicker metal, have better thermostats, air flow, racks, drip flow, etc. But the ask any professional BBQ cooker who uses a pellet grill, and they’ll tell you that the quality of your smoke really does come down to the pellets themselves. Here’s what one very astute BBQ pro had to say over at the Pellet Smoke Ring:
Ready for the camp or cabin, this reliable, no-frills stove features two 30,000-BTU commercial-grade cast burners. The all-steel range features sturdy grates built to support hefty cast-iron cookware. It's surrounded by a three-sided steel screen to block drafts and grease splatter. The heavy-duty steel legs slide off for transportation and storage. Cooks up to 15 hours on a 20-lb. propane cylinder (not included). Includes hose and regulator.
It offers 700 sq. in. of cooking space and a powerful thermostat for a higher price, but makes up for it as soon as you start cooking on it. Also, it has a stunning design with the bull horns, which sets it apart yet again. But if you find yourself not spending as much and could do with a lesser cooking space, then the Camp Chef PG24 is a no-brainer for you.
Traeger pellet grills pack big hardwood flavor, from sweet cherry, to savory mesquite, into everything you grill, smoke, bake, roast, braise, & BBQ. Traeger's wood pellets are made with 100% pure, natural hardwood giving you authentic flavor and nothing else. Grilling has never been easier—just set it and forget it and let the Traeger work its wood-fired magic.
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.
This is a great pellet smoker! With a few minor tweaks, this thing would be perfect. Ribs, brisket, chicken, pulled pork, sausage, you name it and it comes off of the grates awesome. I've had mine since 2012 and would recommend that you purchase a spare thermocouple in case your's bites the dust in the middle of a smoke (replaced my thermocouple twice since 2012). This thing is built solid with longevity as a guarantee. The customer support at Yoder is unbelievable as well. I have gotten phone calls from them at 8am on Sunday morning when my first thermocouple gave up in 2014. Made in the USA with a commitment on customer support that has been incomparable to anything I've ever purchased! It's a bit pricey compared to the competition but does an amazing job. "The Sauce", with Chef Tom, is a huge help for those just getting their feet wet in pellet smoking. He does an amazing job by keeping it simple and flavorful!
This grill produces fall off the bone ribs. I've also cooked a brisket to perfection. My only issue is that I have to clean it after every use. If it isn't cleaned properly (I remove all of the grates and use a shop vac to suction all ashes and unburned pellets) the pellets will back up and when they finally push through, you will have a huge flare up that will potentially burn whatever you are cooking as well as take the paint off the grill itself. Also, I find it works better if you set the dial to OFF and then back to whatever temperature you want. Other than those few quirks, I love this grill. I did find a larger Pit Boss after I bought this one, but it was about $150 more.
The MAK Pellet Boss will increase or decrease with the press of a button in 5°F increments and has a probe in the oven that keeps the temp pretty solid. As with any thermostatically controlled oven, even your indoor oven, the thermostat cycles heat on or off as needed. So it you set it for 225°F it cycles on til it hits 225°F, then off until it drops to 220°F, then on to 225°F. There are three meat probes and the Boss can be programmed to change the cooker temp when the meat hits a target. I've had one for several years outdoors in the Chicago winters and summers without a cover and no problems.
Number two when cooking with charcoal (yes plain Kingsford is good stuff if you do it right, a lot of the cheaper brick and cheaper lump can put some weird twangs in your food) brick or lump can produce quality high temp steaks or slow & low bbq! To add some nice flavor add some wood, but do your homework! I think Clark ‘Smokey’ Hale has one of the best books ever for the grill and Q master, “The Great American Manual on Grilling and BBQ or something like that. Last I saw you can grab a used one on Amazon for a few cents and some shipping. The most prolific thing I read in there that so many miss, is burn your wood and your charcoal to where it is literally a coal of gray ash covered glowing ember. Do that and you will find a new flavor in your cooking! Problem is so many places think heavy smoke is great, as they are trying to imitate cold smoke flavors! They are not the same! All this talk I see here about, “I want heavy smoke flavor.” I can tell you if you burn your wood and your charcoal (and I feel even lump needs to be well on it’s way to gray ash covered or you get bitter smoke even though many say not necessary) to a red ember with gray ash covering 80 to 90% minimum preferably completely covered your flavor profile will change. Many supposedly good bbq restaurants I have been in serve something with a bitter or ash flavor, which I find much less enjoyable.
The entire system was designed in order to make smoking fun and easy. Cleanup is easy, getting everything going is easy, and food turns out great every time. The main cooking area 292 in.², which means you can cook a lot at one time. Since it uses convection technology, the smoky hot air can circulate around the food in order to cook everything evenly.
Am considering adding a pellet grill to my fleet, have champagne taste on a beer budget. Have a smoke hollow smoker (lp) that works awesome, a cheap charbroil gril, and a holland I picked up used. Tried the holland because I got tired of flareups but it is slow, a coffee can over the stacks until it warms up helps but you don’t want to walk away from it that way. I like the idea of something you don’t have to baby sit. Any reviews on the traeger grills? I like the looks of the traeger jr, has nice features, portable and enough room for most of the things I want. Also are these grills affected by wind and do they work in cold weather? I live in ND and like to use them in the winter as long as the temp is above 10 degrees or so.
With a large cooking space and the most advanced cooking techniques, this is easily one of our favorite products among our top ten. While it lacks some of the features that the other grills and smokers in this review have (such as an ash and grease cleanup systems), it does deliver fine-dining quality foods, which is the ultimate goal of every grilling enthusiast. For its price, it offers some of the best features you can find in high-end products.
The greatest thing about pellet smokers is that you don’t have to do much to get perfectly smoked dishes. Simply set the digital controller to the desired temperature and the smoker will do the rest. These smokers are pretty much set-and-forget, which means that you’ll be able to spend more time with your guests and still serve them food that has wonderful smoked flavor. It’s this convenience that’s led to the recent rise in pellet grills and other electric smokers.
In reading through the comments section, it seems the recommendations have shifted over time. As it stands today, which smoker would you go with and why: GMG Jim Bowie, Traeger Pro 34, or the RecTec? I like the cooking space of the Traeger Pro 34, but the other 2 seem to have more bells and whistles. I’ve been smoking about 5yrs, so not a pro but not a beginner. Currently have a 10+ year old Traeger Lil Tex elite hand-me down that is ready to give up the ghost. Would appreciate your thoughts!
If you have an older smoker and need a lot of physical maintenance like changing the hopper and the digital control, then changing those two parts may not help. These two changes may cost you $200 – $250 and with a rusty hopper, you will continuously lose the smoke you produce. This is not safe for your health, so in this situation, you should definitely opt to get a new pellet smoker grill.
Eric, I’m sorry for the trouble you’ve had with your Traeger. Not sure this will help, but here is how I make sure I don’t have the problem you had. When I start after a long previous cook or any cook at all really, I vacuum out all the dust and vacuum out the burn pot. Then, I put a handful of pellets into the burnt pot, insert the heat deflector, the drip tray, and grate. I find that this keeps things working well. Sometimes, the burn pot will get too full of ash and this can cause the problems that you had. Give it a try. If it works, please let me know.
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.