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.
I have used a pellet smoker for about five years, and looked at, or used, many different brands. I have added auxiliary smoke generators, and tried almost every way possible to create authentic BBQ on a pellet smoker— It can’t be done. When the vendors, or users, refer to subtle smoke they mean virtually no wood flavor. Do yourself a favor and try a simple test: go to a really good BBQ joint, or BBQ competition; try some of their Q and then compare it to pellet meat. There is no comparison. I wanted the pellet unit to produce good Q in the worst way because of the ease. You cannot duplicate the smoke created in a wood, or wood/charcoal firebox with compressed sawdust. It pains me to say it but it is true.
The flame broiler uses a digitally controlled burn system. Its Digital Control Center lets you set the temperature ranging from 170F to 600F with ease. The desired temperature is set and maintained through an electric auto-start and fan-forced air mechanism. These, in addition, give that flavorful smoky taste to all of your foods. The auger automatically feeds pellets into the smoker, so you can pretty much let it take care of everything.

Manufacturers advertise this piece of equipment as both a smoker and a grill, but it's best to think of it as a superb indirect-heat convection smoker, not a grill. Most models just don't do as good a job of searing a steak as a charcoal grill or even a gas grill with a sear burner can. You'll sear steaks better on a $20 hibachi than on most pellet smokers.
Compared to the Traeger Pro and the other smokers we’ve reviewed, there’s not much not to like about this bad boy. It’s significantly cheaper, packs ample cooking space, and a good, consistent temperature controller. At 173 lbs, it is quite heavy, and not at all portable like the Davy Crocket, and we’d love to see it come with more precise temperature control, and maybe even WiFi in the future. But for the price, it’s a beast of smoker that is almost as good as the Traeger.
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Do not confuse a pellet grill for gas grills. Like the name suggests, a pellet grill obviously uses pellets for cooking its food. But do not doubt its competence with any other gas or convection appliances. It cooks just as well, if not better. And the secret to this are in its pellets. While pellets vary from brand to brand, the best ones have more wood and less binders like sawdust etc.
Is it customer support? I ordered a grill cover(made by a outside vendor in Kansas as well) for my YS640. It ended up with a small leak. I called Don, and by the end of the week I had a brand new one. Also, I was getting ready for my first cook on my brand new YS640, and I invited the whole family over for baby back ribs. I called Joe, and he talked with me on the phone for 20 minutes explaining how the grill worked, what temp to set the pit at, when to rotate the ribs and even which ribs will need to be rotated. Joe was spot on! Best ribs I have ever had!!!
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?
The single biggest advantage though, especially for beginning outdoor chefs, is that when you’re paying this much, damn near everything is automatic. As an example, if we look at our number one choice, the Camp Chef PG64 pellet smoker, literally everything can be controlled by the built in systems, so I could grab a friend who’d never cooked anything more complicated than boxed mac and cheese over, give em a five minute masterclass and be confident that the automatic systems would do most of the heavy lifting when it came to getting everything right.
3-Position Controller - 3 position controllers, also called LMH controllers, have just 3 temperature settings—low, medium, and high—which correlate to roughly 225°F, 325°F, and 425°F. They feed pellets in fixed cycles that are determined by which setting you choose. With just three settings to choose from, though, you have less control over cooking temperatures than more advanced controllers. These controllers are often found on lower priced pellet grills.
I spent months checking out Memphis, Fast Eddy, Mak, and Yoder grills. I must say the Yoder is by far the most robust pellet grill of them all. I noticed many reviews with 3 or 4 star ratings for price and I must disagree; fit, finish, build quality, and material robustness of the Yoder was better than the Memphis Pro & Elite...and we all know how expensive the Memphis is.
Pellets not Lighting: It’s a simple issue. There is a problem either with the connection of your lighting rod or a damaged system. Repairing the wiring, if that’s where the problem is, might be a little complicated for most. So, for the average griller, the best and the easiest option is to replace the lighting mechanism altogether. When you buy the replacement part, it will come with a detailed instruction manual that anyone can follow.
The moment we found this as one of our most desired articles, we had to conduct extensive research on what a pellet grill is. With that said, if you are new to the pellet grill industry and want to know what it is, here we go! Pellet grills are often considered, ‘pellet smokers’, due to the construction quality and design. The reason is that pellet grills combine different cooking elements such as charcoal, gas grills, and a conventional kitchen oven. Now, they are fueled by wood pellets, hence the name. With that said, pellet grills can smoke, cook, and grill all in one simple mechanism and design. With an electronic control panel, an individual can control the wood pellets that fuel the fire to regulate airflow and maintain the proper cooking temperature. Did you get that? We hope so because it is time we share with you the criteria to evaluate the best pellet grills.
Cleaning/Maintenance: The grease catcher on this flat top is pretty decent. It is located on the bottom left hand side and all the oil/grease gets caught without anything dripping elsewhere. I usually wipe the grease catcher's orifice down with a paper towel to ensure it does not get clogged up over time. Other flat-top grills have either grease catchers that drip onto the leg of the grill or have them in the back of the flat top which is a little inconvenient getting to. As for cleaning after every use, I use a stainless steel scrapper/chopper to wipe the grill clean after I am done cooking. I scrape everything down into the grease catcher. For saucy foods or foods that might stick to the flat top, I use water when the grill is still hot to scrape it off and send it to the grease catcher. Afterwards, I put a little bit of oil onto the flat top and spread it all over using paper towels to maintain the seasoning before putting the cover on. Total clean-up time and re-seasoning takes roughly 3 minutes.
All this said, I believe the girls you are looking at already will both provide you with long lasting grilling and smoking satisfaction. Honestly, when you get to a point where are your in the price range that you are in, it’s really hard to choose a bad option with pellet grills. The biggest Advantage you have over the ones you’re looking at and the Yoder models is that they are heavy built giving you excellent heat retention over your Cooks.
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.

Today, all serious players in the pellet smoker market have switched to digital thermostatic controllers that dictate pellet-feed commands based on a temperature sensor inside the cooking box. Just like with the oven in your kitchen, you set the desired cooking temperature, and the heating system kicks on and off to maintain that set point. An LED display shows your set temp, and most models allow you to toggle between set temp and actual temp readings from the internal thermostat. Actual temperatures will fluctuate a bit as the controller switches on and off to hover around your set temp, but many sophisticated touch-pad controllers can maintain tighter tolerances than your indoor oven. Some pellet controllers also have integrated probes that let you monitor the internal temperature of whatever you're smoking. Wireless remote control and monitoring from your smartphone or tablet are also increasingly common. (You can learn more about pellet smokers on AmazingRibs.com.)
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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.

Your choice of the pellet can also dictate how much cleanup you’ll have to deal with (even though generally 10 pounds of pellets can produce at most half a cup of ash, but this varies from pellet variant to pellet variant). Just be warned that when the temperature is high, there’s not much smoke happening, so you need to smoke out your meats at lower temperatures to get that smoky flavor.


Wood pellet grill is a two-in-one mixture of a smoker and a grill. It doesn’t provide direct flame for your steaks or meat as a grill would which eliminates flare-ups. Since there’s no direct flame, searing meat isn’t an option and there’s a better choice if this is your desire. However, if you desire a great smoky flavor with an easy cooking process then a pellet smoker is an excellent choice.
You want a set-it-and-forget-it option: Traeger grills work best when they’re allowed to cook and smoke the food over long periods of time. As long as the system has fresh wood pellets in the hopper to feed the fire box, it will be able to maintain a steady temperature. So you can set up the grill and then leave it for half an hour, a couple of hours, or even longer, something that’s difficult to do with other grilling systems.
One option is to put a griddle or a frying pan on the grill, high heat, get it blistering hot, add just a little oil to prevent stickling, and sear by conduction on the metal. It should only take two to three minutes per side. This is a good technique for reverse seared meats. You start them indirect, low and slow, with a little smoke, and then Maillard the outside in a hot pan or on a griddle. No, it's not cheating. It's making food better.
At the peak level of outdoor cooking, the Champion Competition Pro is a rugged grill and smoker with extensive features that come standard. Clean-up is a breeze with the heavy-duty, porcelain-coated cast-iron cooking grids. Known for superior heat retention, cast-iron makes searing easy. Other features include the stay-cool handle, side shelf with tool hooks and bottle opener, bottom cabinet for storage, robust locking caster wheels for easy movement, and a heavy-duty 14-gauge powder-coated steel finish. Sear or smoke, bake or roast: discover the taste of real wood-fired flavor with the Champion Competition Pro. Comes complete with a weatherproof grill cover.
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
Ever since my visit(s) to All Things BBQ in Wichita, my heart has belonged to the Yoder Smokers. I had researched many comparable size smokers, and guess what - they really are not comparable. The smoker started first time, quickly, and heated up well. I did ribs as my first foray and they were as perfect as my meager talents could get them. The fact that this smoker weighs in at almost 360 pounds speaks volumes as to how well built and how heavy gauge the metal is( something severely lacking in most other smokers). I had the extra shelf put in and the cooking space is easily double what I had seen in other smokers about the same dimensions. Hats off to All Things BBQ for the high quality Yoder smokers they so proudly distribute!!
I believe the little Green Mountain Davy Crockett is the best portable pellet smoker currently on the market. Surprisingly, many of the portables out there still have an antiquated LMH controller, while Davy Crockett employs Green Mountain's advanced digital touch-pad controller, with an integrated meat thermometer that lets you check internal meat temp with the flick of a switch. Furthermore, it includes adapters to run the electronics from your car battery or cigarette lighter. And Green Mountain is aggressively—ahem, hello, price cut—promoting its WiFi capabilities, which enable you to monitor Davy Crockett from your smartphone or laptop.
Many of the models require you to clean them up for 30 minutes because you have to take out the gooey deflector plate and the greasy grates in order to scrape them off and wash them until they’re shining. Careful cleaning is required when the grease and carbon are covering the deflector plate. The easy-clean grills typically make the parts more accessible but the amount of cleanup remains the same.
I believe the little Green Mountain Davy Crockett is the best portable pellet smoker currently on the market. Surprisingly, many of the portables out there still have an antiquated LMH controller, while Davy Crockett employs Green Mountain's advanced digital touch-pad controller, with an integrated meat thermometer that lets you check internal meat temp with the flick of a switch. Furthermore, it includes adapters to run the electronics from your car battery or cigarette lighter. And Green Mountain is aggressively—ahem, hello, price cut—promoting its WiFi capabilities, which enable you to monitor Davy Crockett from your smartphone or laptop.

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’ve been grilling and smoking for many years and throughout all those years I have burned through many expensive grills. Four years before I purchased the 640 I got on the pellet smoker wagon and started my research. Finally when my daughter was getting married she ask me to cook for the wedding and gave me the perfect excuse to finally get a smoker I wanted. So getting back to the research and after 3 months of comparing I settled on the YS640. I wanted a grill, at my age, to be able to pass down to one of my kids. It was big investment but like I’ve learned in life, you get what you pay for “most” of the time. I have had this grill now, September 2018, will be 4years now. I have no regrets and would do it again. I’ve had some minor corrosion issues and after an email was promptly sent the matching paint to clean it up. I spent the time to do it right and today, a month later, today my grill looks brand new. Honestly nothing like this can be left to take care of itself. Maintenance like anything else is required. But I know this will most likely be my last grill. Thank for a great product and great follow up service. Smoke Shack.....

Does anyone know how to set up a pellet grill? Since pellet grills are a bit less common than a regular conventional gas grill, we had to conduct a bit of research and realized that pellet grills are as easy to set up, they just have more components. The components of the grill include a lid, which is designed to cover the contents of the grill as well as keep the heat in. Other than that, the ‘hopper’ is known as the area of the grill where an individual places the wood pellets and the grill drips the pellets onto the fire to keep the heat going.

Is it common to have a lot of ash blowing throughout these pellet smokers? I thought it was supposed to be minimal ash and that it’s supposed to stay in the firepot. I noticed after two short cooks I have ash everywhere. The pellets are Perfect Mix from cookingpellets.com, but by “perfect mix” I don’t think they mean to mix ash from their product with your BBQ. Also, didn’t put off a lot of smoke, and really couldn’t taste any smoke at all.
Hey DS – You’re dead on correct re: Grilling vs. Smoking. Most to nearly all Pellet Smokers are used as “smokers” in the truest sense. Louisiana Pellet Smokers boast a direct fire feature for grilling, as do Yoder smokers. However, I’m with you in that a grill is a grill and a smoker is a smoker. GMGs are very popular down here on the FBA circuit. However, most folks do find that they don’t produce the amount of smoke preferred for competition meats (which, in truth is a complaint about many pellet smokers). This is why stick burners and “some” gravity feds get a boost in rep among competition cook teams. That said, I do see folks happily using pellet smokers, and some win with them. One “trick” I see used now and again to boost the smoke output on a pellet smoker is to use one of those smoke tubes… like the A-maze-n Tube Smoker. Thanks for your comment, and for stopping by to read this blog post! – Kevin
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