With a temperature probe for the meat inside the chamber, this allows you to keep an eye on the temperature of your meat without opening the grill. Nothing ruins a brisket or roast faster than the griller who constantly fiddles with the meat on the grill. Opening the chamber lets the heat out and that can quickly make for some tough meat. This handy feature takes the guesswork out of how ready your meal is, helping you get the best outcome.
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
Each of the alternatives to the Traeger Pro we’ve reviewed above is an excellent choice for an affordable pellet smoker. We think the Z Grills Master 700D is worth every penny and competes with the Traeger for even less money. We highly recommend you check it out. It has an even larger grill area, a larger hopper, burns just as consistently, and produces some perfectly smoked and grilled meats.
This grill actually came about because of an IndieGoGo campaign. IndieGoGo is a crowdfunding platform wherein interested parties on the Internet can donate money to the maker if they want his invention or service to come about. The Z Grills Wood Pellet BBQ Grill and Smoker got its $500,000 from its donators and now the previously nonexistent Z Grills Company now exists to make their wildly popular grill.
To compound the complexity of this issue the consumer also has to deal with some grill manufacturers recommending the use of only their branded pellets. Then to make matters even worse pellet consumers have to navigate all the different flavors available and whether to use a blended pellet (a blend of multiple kinds of wood such as oak, hickory, and cherry) or a 100% pure pellet (a pellet that uses only the flavor listed on the package). This doesn’t even take into consideration some pellet companies using things such as oils and fillers in their pellets.
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.
To be sure, there are pure “smoker” and pure “grills” but there are some exceptionally well-designed hybrids. I bought a Memphis Elite last year, and it is AWESOME! I made a pulled-pork masterpiece two months ago that was absolutely delicious… 8 hours on low temperature (225) then an hour on open flame (switching from a “smoker” insert to an “open-flame’ insert at 700 was easy) and it was awesome!
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Editor's Note: If you're looking to upgrade your backyard cooking setup this summer, you're probably in need of a little advice. We're longtime admirers of the folks behind AmazingRibs.com, the site dedicated to unraveling the science of barbecue and grilling. Please welcome back Max Good, the only person in the world whose full-time job is testing, rating, and reviewing grills and smokers. The database he maintains includes over 500 grills and smokers, ranging in price from $30 to $50,000. When it comes to barbecue equipment, nobody knows it better.
Hello.. You recommended a couple weeks ago to go with a GMG grill and that is the one I’m going with. I’m just a little torn between the DB and JB. They are only $150 apart but I’m not sure if the bigger size is worth the money when I can spend that on a cover and some pellets. Do you think the bigger size is worth it for a back yard smoker with the occasional party? I know people say bigger is better but I went bigger with my previous barrel smoker and it was much harder to keep an even temp with the bigger size. I would have went smaller given the chance. Thanks for any input!
The first time I grilled something on it -- pulled pork, which takes a long time on the grill -- the fire kept going out on me. My husband called the company, and they said they knew they had that problem. So he told the nice lady on the end of the line that what they needed to do was to add something to the hopper to keep it jiggling just a little so that the pellets continued to go down. "We're working on a solution," she said. "I just told you the solution," my husband, who's a mechanic and loves solving mechanical problems using unusual, but straightforward solutions. His trick? -- get one of those cheap, plastic, clip-on fans and clip it to the hopper, pointing the fan down into the hopper. The fan jiggles it just enough. The air into the hopper "couldn't hurt, either," he told me.
Hi there i want to recommend the CAMP CHEF pellet smokers you get the bang for your buck with these smokers i know a lot of you out there are turning up your noses but these smokers have all the extras at a very good price well under a $1000 customer service second to none you get the pellet clean out in the hopper they have a ash tray under the body you just pull a lever and all your burnt ash is cleaned out digital temp for the food digital temp for the chamber lo smoke and high smoke setting and it goes up to 500 degrees at 25 degree increments mine coast me $359 out the door includes shipping it dose a wonderful job holding the temps with a 10 to 15 degrees swing i bought mine at CAMP SAVER.
Well built and compact, this smoker and grill still has a 300 square inch cooking space, and is generally big enough to fit a small turkey inside, so it’s ample for six to eight people. It’s really easy to use, with an automated electric start, front mounted thermometer and idiot proof digital controls that make this so simple, an absolute beginner could walk up to it, have a quick play around and start cooking.
Igniter: An igniting rod, heated up to a red hot level, ignites wood pellets as they fall inside the firebox. A cooling fan blows air into the pellet smoker from behind the pellet auger to prevent heat backdraft, while the fan underneath the firebox fans the flame – distributing heat evenly throughout the smoker. This heat is used to smoke and slow cook food in the smoker to give it the best flavors possible.
Z Grills is a lesser known manufacturer and a great low-cost alternative to the more expensive Traeger grills. Their pellet grill is a sturdy, heavyweight model with a roomy 500 square inches of cooking space and an electronic feeding system for fuel pellets. An additional warming rack provides additional space for cooking at lower temperatures. Furthermore, Z Grills also ensures their product with a generous 3 years warranty.
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.
I had my Traeger grill now at least a week. Not really satisfied because every time I use it it does good for about a hour then it starts to cool down very quickly. Have to turn it off and start over and over again. This take all day to do this. I should not have to do this all day. Just a waste of pellets. Done wasted a whole bag of pellets. Called customer service. They tell me do the same thing. I think a grill should not do this. The meat I cook sometimes is not cooked. Have to start over again. All of this I have described take hrs. Have to stay outdoor to babysit. This grill should not have to do this. That tell me the grill is not good.
Because the burn pot is small, there is usually a hot spot directly over it. Some units have an optional perforated section above the burn pot so you can put the meat over direct flame, but the ones I've tested still do not sear properly. And there is no way to set up a 2-zone cooking system with a cool zone. As with most other grills and smokers, the differences between lower and upper racks is not huge, so think of it as one heckuva indirect heat convection smoker with precision temperature control.
The best way to ensure your pellet grill lasts for years to come is to purchase one that's built well and features quality construction. If you're in the store, lift the lid and feel its weight—is it flimsy or made from a heavier gauge steel? Pellet grills aren't like offset smokers, they don't need to be hefty, but they shouldn't feel delicate either. When you close the lid, see how it lays on the grill—are there gaps or is it flush, providing a good seal? Check out the joints, the hardware, and any welding—does the grill feel solid? It should be sturdy and all the joints and seams should fit together snugly, no gaps or spaces for heat to escape.
Now, the best pellet grills come with more advanced features like auto-ignition using igniting rods, Wi-Fi Support, automatic turn on/off, and much more. One of the key safety features added by pellet smokers (designed by Green Mountain Grills), is a cooling fan to cool off the grill after it has been turned off. Even the shape of the body has been changed to have peaked lids so that it can accommodate turkeys and other kinds of roasts. Some come with multiple levels of racks for warming and cooling.
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.
When you think of a pellet smoker, what comes to mind is the rich taste of BBQ, better manipulation and convenience. These are exactly what the best pellet smoker should give you. To find out the best, among the many out there, you should think of various features. A burner that can give you control, comfort, long service, and great flavor in food is something a top rated pellet smoker should have. Let’s take a look at all the factors you should consider when making your purchase.
Accurate Temperature Control: The Davy Crockett has better temperature control that permits us to program a great deal more correct temperatures (one-degree changes possible) using their application (the control board permits us to alter temperatures 5 degrees at any given moment). It uses a PID controller […] controller to expect and fine micromanage the temperature by controlling the wood screw speed and the fan speed.
I don’t know why these cookers are referred to as grills. By definition they are not grills. Grilling involves cooking with direct heat and none of the pellet cookers I’ve seen use direct heat; they all use indirect heat. They are more accurately described as smokers/convection ovens. For me what this means is they’re useless for cooking chicken since I like my chicken cooked with crispy/burned skin. I’ve done some experimenting to get the skin to crisp up but always end up with leather skin. They have their place in outdoor cooking but grilling ain’t it. I just bought a Green Mountain and I’m still debating if I’m going to hang on to it. Shame on me for not doing more thorough research first.
It comes with some unique features, such as its proprietary “Sense-mate” technology that uses a thermal sensor to monitor the ambient temperature. If used in a cold weather, this grill fires up the turbo mode so you won’t have to wait for it to heat up before you start using it. It comes with “fan-only” mode to blow off the ash and automatically clean the grill once it has been shut off.
The biggest cleanup issue is the buildup on the heat deflector under the cooking grates. You'll need good gloves and an apron. On most models, a thorough cleanup means a 30 minute process of taking out the greasy grates and the gooey deflector plate, scraping them and washing them. You should do this when the carbon and grease cover the deflector plate. Stainless parts can go in the diswasher, but I wouldn't do it. That grease is like tar and it could get all over the insides of the dishwasher and hang on for dear life. I use a handheld steamer like the Steamfast SF-320 Portable Steam Cleaner shown here.
Hi Brad! Thanks for your comment. I’d give Grilla Grills a hard look. Their Silverbac model is as solid as they come. The sear box on the Camp Chef is an interesting addition. Given that it’s propane powered, it would be pretty much light, turn and go. So, as you said, low maintenance. Still… with a set of grill grates, you should be able to get a sear at top temps on most pellet grills that would meet your expectations.
DS, I have a green mountain grill. besides that for any pellet smoker cook your chicken at a high heat otherwise the skin will be rubbery. doesnt have to be a direct flame to get it crispy. I set my GMG to 425 flip it after 8 mins pull it at 170 crispy perfection. if you want more smoke flavor, smoke it at 150 for an hour then crank it up to 425 to finish it. I was upset with my rubbery skin when i first used it as well but i got some good advice from the pros. chicken doesnt need to be cooked low and slow to tenderize it like pork and beef does. it doesnt have the tissues or muscles that need to be broken down like beef and pork
I have found that using the upper shelf gets more airflow around the meat than the lower shelf. I asked the AmazingRibs.com science advisor Prof. Greg Blonder about the problem (he has a MAK 1 Star). He explained that smoke sticks to cool surfaces and wet surfaces, and the surface of meat warms and dries out after a few hours. When he wants more smoke flavor he uses a strong smoke wood like hickory or mesquite, he starts with cold meat, and then he keeps the meat moist by painting or misting it with apple juice or a mop like Lexington Dip or East Carolina Mop or Texas Mop Sauce. A awter pan can help because the water condenses on the cool meat and attracts smoke. Read his detailed research on the subject in my article on the Science of Wood and my article on Basting.
First impression was this thing isn't built like a mass produced unit, it's more like something you would expect from a master fabricator. The assembly instructions were incredibly detailed, and the way it was packaged made it really easy. It takes a little time to get temp steady for low smoking, but once it's there it seems to be pretty steady. So far absolutely impressed with everything about this cooker, and made in the USA!!!
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.
Now that we have covered the most important criteria to take into consideration when it comes to quality pellet grills, we wanted to share the cost and the value criteria and why we have included this on this list. Now, It is evident that the more costly the grill is, the better quality designed it will be and the better functions it will have. With that said, most grills that are costly have some of the top of the line premiere features available such as high-quality construction that is rust resistant and up to 600sq in. of grilling space.
So, when their patent expired in 2006, large companies capitalized on that one and Traeger began facing cut-throat competitions. Within two years, a few companies had already begun producing some of the best pellet grills with more advanced designs and features. By 2014, around 27 companies had already penetrated the market and newer brands were coming out almost every month. Now, with so many companies already in the market, some of them are creating strategic alliances with other brands producing different grilling equipment.
As you can see in this selection of pellet grill reviews, the act of heating pellets and generating smoke in any pellet smoker is pretty much the same. Yes, some pellet grills 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: