Loved the article and read the entire thing. Thank you so much for taking the time to write such an in-depth piece to help the rest of us out. With that said, I now want one of each!! It’s really so difficult to purchase one without being able to compare the taste side by side for each. We also just bought one of the Traeger’s on the last day of a Costco show. We have LOVED the taste, and aren’t looking back, from a pellet perspective that is. However, we’ve already had a couple of issues that concern me from a longevity and a safety perspective. So we’re going to return it, and ‘upgrade’ to something more substantial. I was leaning pretty hard toward Yoder, and then after reading the article, the Memphis really intrigued me (could have something to do with being born there, and raised on southern pulled pork). And then, Fast Eddy came into the picture. Any advise on how to make a decision without being able to conduct taste comparisons, which is really the most important thing. (We’ve been smoking a brisket and pork shoulders every week, with the occasional steak and veggies. So we’d like something that does both smoking and grilling, so both important, with the smoking component being the feature we’ll use a bit more of.)
Thanks Kevin for the reviews and content. Like many of the folks I too will be purchasing a pellet pooper. I have narrowed my choices to a MAK 2 star and a Memphis Elite. One of the earlier posters indicated on the Memphis that the effective direct grilling space was about 1 square foot. I am assuming that with the smaller footprint of the MAK that the direct “flame zone” is less than that. I’m just wondering how much less.
Good info, but it’s missing something… the cost to use. I’ve been looking for a long time to get into smoking. I have only ever used a propane setup for grilling. My main quesion is the cost to use propane vs charcoal vs pellets. I’m very interested in pellet smoking AND grilling. A couple times a week my wife and I will grill some chicken breasts or steaks. Can you breakout an approximate cost comparison to run the different methods? Appreciate it!

“We love pellet grills but didn’t like the designs of the models on the market. They are more like an oven than a grill. MAK Grills are designed to be the best in class. You get outstanding BBQ flavor and safe cooking with real wood, along with an automatic lighting and fuel feed system. Simply turn the grill on and you’re cooking in minutes! Our direct heat FlameZone ® feature is pioneering the industry for “gas grill like” cooking without the hassle of flare-ups and burned food.” — MAK Grills

Because the wood pellets are the grill’s fuel, you should pay careful attention to the pellet hopper, the chamber that holds the pellets. You want a large enough hopper to hold all the pellets you need for a single cooking session. Look for a hopper with at least an 18-pound capacity if you want to slow cook for longer periods without having to refill the hopper.

I have found that using the upper shelf gets more airflow around the meat than the lower shelf. I asked the 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.

Wattage – With the right amount of wattage by your side, you will easily reach the temperature required, and it will stay there provided that you are providing enough pellets for it to make use of. Anything north of 1200W will easily be able to cover all your requirements, but as a rule, it’s ideal to be sheltered than sorry, so it can’t hurt to purchase a unit with a bigger Wattage than you might suspect you’ll require.
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.
An electric smoker and a pellet smoker, according to the reviews, both allow you to set the temperature and walk away. However, the flavor that you’re going to get from a pellet smoker is a lot stronger as compared to an electric one. Pellet smokers allow you a little bit more versatility than an electric smoker, whereas electric smokers are better at maintaining and controlling the temperature inside the cook box.
With that said, depending on the size of the green an individual may need more pellets to fuel the food. However, a bigger sized pellet grill allows the cook to grill for a large number of people. While a compact grill can easily be taken anywhere. With that in mind, one important criterion that we wanted to take into consideration is how easy the item is to set up.
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.
You need some temperature control in your grilling system: Even though most propane and charcoal grills include a temperature gauge, they’re not precise. Because the pellet Traeger grill works more like an oven, cooking at a precise temperature setting is a lot easier to do. It’s not quite as precise as the oven in your kitchen, but the Traeger system’s temperature control is surprisingly accurate most of the time. Some manufacturers of low cost pellet grills only offer low, medium, or high temperature settings.

Pellet grills preheat quickly, so you can start cooking almost immediately, and the pellets are available in a number of woods, for different smoke flavors. The smoke has a subtle wood-fired flavor with less of the acrid flavor that comes from standard wood or charcoal. For the maximum smoke flavor, it’s best to cook at a temperature lower than 250 degrees, while higher temperatures cook faster with less smoke.