Pellet grills have electronic temperature controls that (should) keep the heat consistent. Top quality pellet grills can maintain temperatures within 5 degrees or less for hours at a time, with the auger releasing pellets as needed into the fire box to do so. A consistent temperature means less guess work and fantastic food! (If you read words like “heat zones” or “baffle”, that means that you’ll need to be playing with the heat to keep it consistent… so steer clear of those!)
Actual Cooking: This flat top is a game changer for cooking. The grill heats up very fast and heats up evenly across all 4 burners. It also has traditional grill grates beneath which makes this a 2 in 1 grill. You can cook a plethora of items ranging from tacos, cheese steaks, quesadillas, eggs, pancakes, hash browns, fried rice, assortment of Chinese dishes (beef and broccoli, Mongolian Beef, Garlic Chicken with Veggies, etc), and basically anything that could be cooked in a typical cast iron pan or skillet. It heats up bread, tortillas, and buns in a matter of seconds. The flat top itself can accommodate a lot of food at once and can cook for up to 50 people per hour at max capacity. The ability to cook multiple items on the flat top at once is especially helpful for cleaning as you won't need to have multiple cooking pans or skillets to clean up afterwards. Anyone that has the ability to use this as their main cook top should do so.
Larger, more expensive smokers run anywhere up to 900 square inches, which will basically let you feed your whole street. It’s also a whole lot more convenient when you’re planning on cooking multiple things to be able to throw every single sausage, joint of meat and rack of ribs on at once, flip ’em around and move things to the edge when they’re done.
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.
Tech geeks: A tech geek will also prefer a Pellet smoker grill and some of the latest grills including Green Mountain Grills came up with some exciting tech functionality like Wi-Fi! Just imagine, hanging with friends and monitoring your pork with your smartphone? You can increase and decrease temperature and control pellet feed without even touching the grill. This gives you the ability to cook while you work!
A quality pellet grill is built to last and will provide years of reliable performance. Bargain pellet grills not only lack the capabilities of better grills, they’re more likely to break down. No matter your price range, look for a pellet grill that’s built well and offers consistent performance. Fortunately, if price is a major consideration, there are quality pellet grills for under $500, as well as high-end pellet grills for under $1,000.
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.
Thanks for all the great information. This article was very useful on my most recent purchase. Sorry for the long book but tends to be my style of sharing. Hope others get some use out of my lessons learned. Killing (literally, dried out, burned, inedible) a thousand dollars or so of briskets over the last 20+ years should help some save a little pain as they are stepping out.
Cleaning and Maintenance: Any individual who’s taken a stab at cleaning a pellet grill before sees exactly that it is so hard to get all the ash out after use. This unit gives you a less demanding access to the burn pot. It also includes a trap door which permits you to clean the unit without digging through the ashes and oil. Cleaning the unit is by and large significantly less demanding when compared with the normal charcoal grills.
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.
Coming over to the cooking area, you will find 2 stainless steel grill grates that give you 702 sq. in. of cooking space with an option of the second shelf that makes it 1054 sq. in. Its tall enough for turkeys and large enough to fit 6 large-sized racks of ribs. So, hosting a bunch of people for a BBQ party, and cooking delicious meat for them, would be as easy as it could get.
The PK-360, with 360 square inches of cooking space, this rust free, cast aluminum charcoal grill is durable and easy to use. Four-way venting means it's easy to set up for two zone cooking with more control than single vent Kamado grills. It is much easier to set up for 2-zone cooking than any round kamado. Beautifully designed and completely portable. Meathead says it is his preferrred grill.
Built from substantial stainless steel, the SmokePro looks bombproof and weighs a hefty 140 lbs – so it’s not portable like the Z Grills or Traeger Junior Elite. It has a stainless-steel probe to directly monitor meat, and a sensor for the grill’s internal temperature. Both read out on the LED display next to the digital controller, which goes from 160F to 500F in 25-degree increments.
The Yoder YS640 is 32 inches wide, weighs 313 pounds, and is said to have a cooking range of 150 to 600°F (65 to 315°C). Yoder is known for heavy-duty competition smokers, and the thick, 10-gauge-steel cooking chamber on this model is durable and great for heat retention. It comes with a sophisticated proprietary digital controller, which Yoder asserts is not based on any off-the-shelf temperature controller of any sort. Yoder states that it designed the board from scratch around a general-purpose micro-controller chip and wrote its own code from the ground up in an attempt to provide superior flexibility, efficiency, and accuracy.
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.
Looking for a pellet grill to do all sorts of cooking with. I am between a Rec Tec, Camp Chef Woodwind, Gorilla and Yoder. Steaks, burgers, chicken, ribs, brisket, vegetables, etc. All in one. And want to have the option to sear meat, veggies as well. Ive seen so many different reviews my head is spinning. My budget is $700-$1,000 but willing to go up if necessary. I hear some can sear, some take too long to heat up, some dont hold the temp consistently. I am a low maintenance so ease of use important. Does not have to be portable.
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.
Barbecue was not his first career. He earned a BA from Columbia College in Chicago and studied at the Cleveland Institute of Art and the Dana School of Music. He has been involved in every aspect of film, video and music production. He edited the 1991 Academy Award nominated documentary, "The Mark of the Maker" and "Universal Hotel", which is part of a permanent exhibit at the Dachau Memorial Museum.
Maintenance is an issue. There are moving parts on these grills. Moving parts eventually break. There is an auger with a motor, and a fan with a motor. There are proprietary electronics systems on these babies. Augers clog. Motors burn out. Electronics have bugs or fail. Especially when exposed to rain, snow, hot, and cold. When they fail, will the manufacturer have a replacement part?
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.
Thanks for the great information and the research you did. I am a retail store owner in Boise, Idaho area and we sell a pellet grill smoker in our store. I would like to encourage to look at the Sawtooth Pellet Grill. It is made local here and is American Made. It is an excellent grill for the price with an awesome company backing it. You can find their website at sawtoothpelletgrills.com. Again thanks for the information and if you do another publication regarding pellet grills, I would love to see what your opinion of the Sawtooth would be 🙂