Before buying, please note that pellet smokers need access to electricity to run the digital controller, the auger that transports the pellets to the firebox, and the convection fan that circulates the air in the cooking chamber. These cookers can use a lot of pellets at high temps. At high temps there is little or no smoke, and at low temps smoke is unavoidable. So if you want to cook, say, a chicken breast low and slow to retain juices, but you don't want any smoke flavor, you're outta luck. If you want to torch a thin burger to get a crunchy crust and add a little smokiness, you'll get great smoke flavor, but it is hard to get the crust. But if you want killer ribs, bacon, smoked salmon, etc., pellet burners are hard to beat for convenience and quality.
I say almost idiot proof because I still make stupid mistakes when I'm cooking and I like to blame it on the pellet grill once in a while. The unit is extremely easy to use for a novice such as myself. I just fill the hopper with my favorite wood pellets, set the temperature and add my food. I have owned this unit a little over a year and everything from the first burger I cooked until the smoked pork chops I just had for dinner has turned out really, really well. I find myself wanting to either smoke or direct grill everything. We have cooked pizza, turkey breasts, tri-tips, pork butts, burgers, salmon, cookies, brownies, chicken wings, drum sticks, pork chops, ribs, cornbread, vegetables, meatloaf and many other things. Nobody ever complains. LOL I have used it in all types of weather all year long. Once I learned how to use the damper (didn't take long) the heat stays where I want it and remains relatively stable even on the coldest days. I would buy this unit again and I would recommend it to others.
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The built-in cords on outdoor cooking devices are often not long enough, and although regular household extension cords will work for rotisserie kits, they will not carry enough juice to keep you pellet smoker or electric smoker going. They could become a fire hazard as they heat up trying to deliver power to the unit. To extend the cord you need a large capacity cable as measured in amps. Here's how to figure out what you need:
Extremely high build quality. It's heavy. Solid. Nothing flexes or bends. The temp displayed is very accurate when referenced with a thermometer. My only complaint is that the 2-piece diffuser should either be standard equipment, or an optional upgrade at order time (in exchange with the stock diffuser). The 2-piece diffuser is a MUST HAVE accessory. Cleaning the firepot is a messy pain the A** without the 2-piece diffuser. I didn't think I would need it, But I ended up ordering it about 6 weeks after receiving my YS640. I also highly recommend the direct grilling grates. I was able to get rid of my gas BBQ because the direct grilling feature works so well on the YS640.
This is obviously no revelations that temperature is the first on my list. When it comes to cooking appliances, temperature is always a key factor. However, it is not the sole reason to be on my list. The thing about temperature you need to look for in a good pellet grill is its ability to control, change and maintain it. Any grill can turn screaming hot, but only the best ones provide you with multiple temperature settings, and are able to maintain it constantly to ensure an even cooking surface where it is not too hot on the left and cold on the right. Many pellets come with special, even patented, temperature features.
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 simplicity with which you can use this product is outstanding. From the time that you put it together to the time you smoke meat to the time you clean it, the entire process is extremely simple. It has a power failure restart and a dump tray that can easily be cleaned out. The cooking surface is so large that it is possible to smoke two turkeys at once.
To sear a steak you need direct radiant heat. I don't care if you can heat the air to 1000°F, it is still indirect heat and that does not deliver as much energy as direct radiant heat. It's physics, but not hard to understand. In short, heat is not the same as temperature. It feels hotter at 80°F if the sun is shining on you than if it is 80°F in the shade. I discuss the concept in more detail in my article on thermodynamics of cooking.

Words like Grilling, Barbecuing and Smoking are often used interchangeably by us. However, when looking at them from a grill master’s point of view, there are some subtle methodological differences among these three: One is done with the lid up, BBQ is done in a closed circulation with the lid down, and smoking is a slow cooking process in a closed circulation.
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 rest of the product we reviewed offered 6-in-1 features, but this one surprised us with its 8-in-1 cooking versatility. If an efficient smoker that can do multiple things is what you’re after, then there’s no need to look further. This could just be your top choice! The pit Boss Pellet Grill with Flame Broiler cooks almost all kinds of food with 100% genuine wood pellets. Talk about quality and quantity!
You want to easily switch to different smoky flavors: Changing flavors in your Traeger grill is as easy as changing the pellets that you place in the hopper. Through its website, Traeger offers several different smoky flavors of hardwood pellet offerings, including hickory, mesquite, apple, maple, cherry, and oak. And Traeger’s website provides information on which types of hardwoods provide the best smoky flavor for certain types of foods, which can help you successfully use this grill immediately out of the box.
Hey Jeff – I think that due to pellet smokers requiring much of the wood pellet for “fuel” leaving a smaller part for the “smoke” means that you want as much of the smoke to stay in the chamber for as long as possible. Just my opinion. I’ve not used charcoal pellets. Those I’ve spoken with who have used them weren’t extremely happy with the results. Regarding the water pan, I feel that pellet smokers don’t typically require water pans. However, you can surely use one and see how your results go.
So which pellet smoker is worth your hard-earned dough? We've put together a list of the ones we think make the cut, organized from lowest to highest price. Sorry for the sticker shock—even a low-priced pellet smoker will cost more than many grills, and our first selection lists at $333. These motorized, digitally controlled devices just plain cost more, but believe you me, they are worth it! And all of these selections have won the AmazingRibs.com Best Value Gold or Silver Medal.
Consumer-level Traeger grills are considered a mid-range type of pellet grill, so they’re good for those wanting to try pellet grills for the first time. Traeger models like the Lil’ Tex Elite 22 or the Tailgater cost several hundred dollars and can grill about 12 to 16 burgers at a time. Larger Traeger grills will generally carry low four-figure prices, such as the Pro Series 34 or the Select Pro, which can hold 32 to 40 burgers between the upper and lower grilling racks.

When you purchase this smoker, the cost is a bit more then some and less then others. Yet, I believe a great deal! One get's what they pay for. I believe this grill is a bargain at the price you pay. From the way it is shipped to me, I was throuoghly impressed with the attention to detail in packing and my receiving the smoker in perfect condition. It is a tank and the people I dealt with at All Things Barbeque, were first rate. If you have any questions, they would answer them. I plan on using the smoker in the next few days and can hardly wait. If the smoker works anything like the staff does at ATBBQ, it will be a grand slam! Kudos to everyone there and thank you for everything!


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
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.
So Kevin here is where you come in. Been wanting to make getting consistent Q on the table regularly and easily. Been looking at pellet poopers for about 5 years now and decided to take the plunge. Had already done enough looking a few years ago Traeger’s issues had scared me off. Several friends had them and raved but always mentioned problems. I decided from my work I don’t want to be buying someone’s, ‘we know the problems and are fixing them’ if you can find something solid for similar cost. Yoder and FEC were pretty much my finalists. So I was doing my final thoughts and found your article.

PID: For the most precise temperature control, some pitmasters feel that a grill with a proportional-integrative-derivative (PID) controller is the way to go. A PID controller uses algorithms to keep the temperature within a couple of degrees of the setting. It doesn’t use fixed cycles to release the pellets. Instead, the controller only adds pellets when it’s necessary to maintain the desired temperature.
Thank you so much for the kind words! I think you would be very happy with a smaller pellet grill / smoker. The wording changes depending on how you are using the device. For instance, if you are cooking at low temperatures you will get a stronger smoke profile then if you burn a pellet smoker / grill at its higher temperature range. One thing you could do for steaks is cook them at the higher range thus being able to get a sear much like you would on a direct heated Grill service, for instance on your Weber. Another option would be to cook the steak in the reverse see your method, by bringing it up to temperature at a lower smoker setting and adding some smoke flavoring that way, then removing it and bringing the smoker up to its higher settings so you can finish off the steak with some of the effect you would achieve on direct flame. I normally do this by bringing the steaks up to about 15 degrees below where I want them to finish. Then, I finish them off at the higher temperature to where they are about 5 degrees below my target. This usually means a few minutes on each side but I use a Thermapen to be sure.
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.
The argument against bark is that it can cause an inconsistent burn and produce excessive ash. Again, consider a log on a fire. Because they have different compositions, the bark and hardwood burn at different rates and produce different amounts of heat. Furthermore, bark doesn’t burn cleanly, it creates more ash than the hardwood. When that ash builds up, it interferes with your grill’s ability to accurately read the temperature, causing large swings. If too much of that ash builds up in the fire pot, it can cut off the oxygen and snuff out the fire.

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.

I did a lot looking around at pellet smokers before buying the ys 640. This thing is amazing! I have been cooking BBQ for about 15 years. I owned a Gator pit entertainer which is made in Houston Texas (stick burning pit) and I currently own a $25,000 Ole Hickory Pit EL-EDX which can cook 700 lbs of BBQ at once. I wanted something smaller to cook for family. The ys 640 turns out PERFECT Q every time! The amount of smoke is just right. Plenty of smoke flavor without over smoking which is very easy to do in my other pit. This is an EXCELLENT product which I strongly recommend.
But as said, there are a few things we don’t like; it’s relatively small, doesn’t have a lot cooking space, and the design feels cramped. At the same time, it’s still relatively heavy at 140 lbs. For the same price, you could choose the Z-Grills Master 700D, which packs almost 25% more surface area on the rack. That doesn’t seem like much but is a significant amount of room.  Or you could just spring for the Traeger Pro 22. There have also been reports of poor quality control, and that the temperature control is very inconsistent, often swinging up and down nearly 30 or 40 degrees.
Hey DW – I think it’s a good call either way. Reports from users re: customer service are tops for both Rec-Tec Pellet Grills and GMG Pellet Grills. GMG offers a wifi option that now runs on your home network, and will eventually allow you to monitor via a cloud option, meaning monitoring your grill as you are out shopping etc. The extra large hopper size on the Rec-Tec Pellet Grills could be a bonus for you if you plan on doing some really long cooks. Other than that I really think it comes down to things as simple as how the unit looks. I know that sounds silly, but they are both great grills otherwise. So, what’s your gut tell you?
The small burn pot is covered with a large deflector plate that absorbs the heat and spreads it out below the cooking surface making them essentially wood-fired convection ovens. Flare-ups are a thing of the past. You need to keep the plate clean because it is right below the food and if you leave sauce and grease on there, it can smolder and leave soot on your food. Carbon buildup will also diminish its heat transmission.
This heavy-duty top-notch grill and smoker has a total cooking area of 429 square inches, which is large enough for cooking around twenty burgers at once. If that’s not enough, it comes with a secondary rack of 144 square inches that you can use for smoking or warming. With a height of 32.5 inches, you can cook a variety of meats and foods to your heart’s desire.

I filed my complaint with American Express. AMEX was absolutely AWESOME......!!! I gave AMEX copies of everything I sent Trager and it's CEO who never answered me. AMEX gave them 30 days to respond and they did not. So the grill was FREE.!!!!!!, and I could care less. Tells you a lot about their CEO and their method of doing business. CEO is Multi-Milllonare living in Salt Lake City and is just playing the numbers!!!!! Hot shot from a HeadPhone company, Skull Candy, who usually gets away with ignoring customers. Clearly don't care about customer satisfaction. Buy another makers grill. Save yourself a lot of headaches. Louisiana Grills are much better quality.
Yoder pellet smokers maintain a very strong reputation for quality and precision. Based out of Hutchinson, KS, the company prides itself on producing a 100 percent Made in America product that is one of the sturdiest and most reliable brands of smokers available. Check out this Yoder Smokers promo video to get an idea of how they are branding themselves.
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