This is well worth the money. I'm a Weber charcoal guy for steaks and chicken and only used my old propane for baked potatoes, corn and asada. Fired this thing up and my asada was fast and easy to make. Philly cheesesteak was fast and simple. Large cooking surface lets you do a lot and it heats fast and evenly. Just make sure if you have kiddos around they keep their hands clear of the flat top! As of yet I haven't cooked on the grill grates so can't say anything about that. Putting this together was simple and took me about 20 minutes. On a side note one of the threaded tubes for a wheel broke loose when I put the wheel on and this was due to a very poor tack weld holding it. I contacted camp chef customer service and took a pic of the defective part and within 2 business days replacement part arrived. Excellent customer service. This thing will get a work out this summer! If your looking for a cover for this it can be a pain and I bought a patio furniture coffee table cover that is close to the grill demisions and it fits perfect.
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.
Rec Tec has always been known for making advanced Rec Tec wood pellet grills coming in at a higher price. However, some of the popular models come in smaller sizes, like Trailblazer 340 or Bullseye 380. However, compared to their capacities and features, the products in our top ten lists would be better choices. So, among its products, the RecTec Bull 700 is the only one that falls in our Honorable Mentions.

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.
love your article and got lots of good info from it….i do have a question tho that i didnt see an answer to…..do pellet grills have to use just pellets?….i have 3 acres full of oak branches that could be shredded. my question is can a pellet grill use home shredded wood chips to burn and cook with or is it mandatory that the fuel be in the pellet state?….would be great if i could find a good use for all these fallen branches….
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!
I recently purchased a a Smoke Hollow pellet grill from Sam’s. Seems like quality is good and it was recommended by a friend. Temperature control has issues. I called for customer service a couple of times and they sent a new thermostat. Still can’t get temperature to to hold at setting. Am I missing something? Told to start and let preheat for 10 minutes and then move to desired temperature. Tried setting new thermostat at 190 and let it go for 15 minutes and it was back at 230 when I checked it. Any suggestions?
The best thing about pellet smokers is that unless you’re buying the absolute cheapest models, there are no bad choices. In this list for under $500, you’ll find pellet smokers and grills perfectly suited for dropping a few burgers at home use like the Traeger Junior Elite, for throwing in the back of the van and using anywhere like the Green Mountain Davey Crockett, or for cooking whole turkeys when you have ten people round on Thanksgiving, like the Camp Chef Smokepro.
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
Barbecuing and grilling meats to the perfect temperature, texture and doneness is a skill that is acquired over years and years of practice. There is a lot that goes into making a good BBQ than just good seasoning and fresh meat, and any pit master will agree. There are just so many aspects you have to learn how to control: the temperature, the smoke, the placement, the ratios and so on. But you are lucky that this is new of yesterdays.
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.
We have shifted to a new house and here we have a very nice backyard. We were thinking of having pellet grill for the backyard for friends and family gatherings for making our holidays memorable. According to your review I think Camp Chef SmokePro DLX Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker | PG24B will be a good option for us. Do you have any other suggestion for us as it will be our first and we don’t have much knowledge about it.
In true Yoder fashion the 640 is not a fancy cooker with lots of shiny things, bells and whistles. Don't mistake that for poor craftsmanship, the Yoders are all built to the highest quality standards. They just happen to be more muscle car than sports car. Big, bad ass, built to last American muscle car that will blow the doors off the competition on your back deck or on the comp trail.
Aside from durability, a well-built pellet grill has another significant advantage: It will perform better. High-quality materials and good construction allow the grill to retain heat better, making it more efficient and providing better pellet consumption, even in cold weather. Furthermore, it's unlikely that a brand offering a cheaply made grill invested much time designing it to maximize airflow or engineering a control board that can hold a tight temperature.
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.
We did return the Traeger to Costco for a full refund. It's not that Traeger has poor customer service; they don't have any customer service. We brought a Bradley Smoker, an upright design, and it has performed much better than the Traeger. The Bradley also takes up much less space and we've placed it on a dolly so it can be rolled around. Overall, a much better solution.
For as long as I can remember, the REC TEC RT-680 has been setting the standards for the best pellet smokers on the market, which is why REC-TEC is America’s fastest growing Pellet Smoker Company. And when they came up with the 2018 version of the REC TEC Pellet Grill, we knew it was going to be the very best pellet grill any barbecue lover could get their hands on.
Even after reading the reviews and watching the videos I was still not prepared for seeing the 640 when it arrived. What a machine! A tank? Yes it is, it makes other brands look cheap and disposable by comparison. I was nervous paying a little more for a Yoder wondering if it was worth it, it was worth every penny. Have only used it a few times for ribs and chicken which turned out great. The wife said 'How much?!' when I ordered it, now she says we should have got one years ago.
Wood pellets are an all natural product. No petroleum products in them, no fillers, chemicals, or binders. They are an excellent source of smoke flavor and compact energy, 8,500 BTU per pound. No hot coals, no flareups. There is also very little ash: 10 pounds of pellets will produce about 1/2 cup of ash. All the rest is converted to energy and combustion gases. I clean out the bottom of the ones I tested after about 10 cooks. At high temps there is very little smoke, at low temps the pellets smolder and produce superb but understated smoke flavors. Click here for more about pellets.
Bought a Traeger Timberline 850. A lot of money but it's a great smoker. It has WiFire so you can cook based on their recipes right from your iPhone. The problem is with their recipes that aren't built into their app. Nobody proofreads the things so many of them are useless. Just one example - Santa Maria Tri-Tip: smoke for 4-5 hours. At what temperature? 165 F, 250 F, or 500 F? It makes a bit of a difference ! I suspect they pay people to write, and post recipes so the can say they have thousands of (what are actually useless) recipes.
When I first noticed the BBL, with its attached cover, I thought that this would be something I'd eventually want. When it came up on sale, I ordered one after reading the Amazon description of what it would work on. I should have checked the Camp Chef website. This unit is designed for the stoves with the 14 inch capacity front to back--as in the two-burner models. The Amazon propaganda stated that it would fit both two burner and three burner stoves. My intent was to use it on one burner of my 3 burner Pro-90 model, and use the remaining burners with a Camp Chef griddle that I already had. I gave this 4 stars because it is useable, but you have to place the unit crossways over one of the burners. This leaves you with deciding whether to face the lid toward ... full review
Food not cooking evenly or at desired times: It’s worth checking out the health of the fans in your pellet grill. Usually, if the fan is unable to distribute the heat properly throughout the whole smoker, these problems occur. Fans are relatively inexpensive and very easy to replace. Even if you see the fan working and still getting these problems, it might be that the fan is working intermittently or at slower speeds that it needs to. Have it replaced: it would be the best course of action and won’t be heavy on your wallet.
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.
In 2008 there were only two consumer pellet grill manufacturers. Today there are dozens. The market for these relatively expensive devices is small but growing fast. Not all of these small manufacturers will survive. Forget the warranty and ask "When it breaks will the manufacturer still be in business?" They do not have repair shops near you. When it breaks will they be able to diagnose the problem over the phone? They may be able to figure it out, but then you have to buy the replacement parts and do the repair work yourself. Are you up to the task?
Now, there are different materials that certain pellet grills are made from. Since steel is such a heavy duty and heavy item, some brands have opted in for more cost-efficient materials, such as a stainless-steel lid to remove some of the weight from the pellet grill. With that said, the interior grill gates are as equally important as the exterior. For example, some grill gates are made from an easy to clean porcelain material while some are designed from stainless steel to be more user-friendly and cost-effective. With that said, let’s discuss another important element to consider when it comes to a pellet grill.
With a large cooking space and the most advanced cooking techniques, this is easily one of our favorite products among our top ten. While it lacks some of the features that the other grills and smokers in this review have (such as an ash and grease cleanup systems), it does deliver fine-dining quality foods, which is the ultimate goal of every grilling enthusiast. For its price, it offers some of the best features you can find in high-end products.
One of the most outstanding features of this smoker is its digital thermostat controller. It is also small enough to be used for family gatherings but large enough to be used for tailgating parties. With it’s 292 in.² of cooking space, you can cook a lot at one time. The entire cooking surface is 15 x 20″. It is made from steel and has a porcelain coated grilling grate.

Like the Z GRILLS Wood Pellet Smoker, the REC TEC Grills Mini Portable Pellet Grill is capable of going up or down by 5° Fahrenheit increments, leading it to heat up from 180° Fahrenheit to 550° Fahrenheit. At full power, it can reach a temperature of 600° Fahrenheit. The mini size is enough to fit in a turkey or maybe three slabs of ribs, so that’s portability without sacrificing quality and capacity too much.
It also has the standardized dial-in digital control with LED readout (not to the point that it has WiFi like the Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett Pellet Grill, but still quite convenient). However, it’s rated low on this list because of poor quality control. Too many customers ended up with bad Pit Bosses that have inconsistent temperature control (going all the way to 615° Fahrenheit).
So far this smoker is fabulous! There is a learning curve, and this is not a "set it and forget it" smoker. You have to make sure you don't run out of pellets as the smoker will shut down. Tried a pork butt, but I wasn't watching it close enough, so I had to finish it in the oven. Still delicious. Next made some boneless skinless chicken breasts which turned out wonderfully.
Due to the lower oxygen at 9200 FASL, I cannot keep the smoker hot and I cannot get it above 250 Deg. F. I seem to be limited due to the diameter of the smoker…just can’t get enough coals and air to get and maintain temps. Therefore, I want to buy a new smoker, on that will regulate temperature at temperatures of 200 – 450 deg F. Any experience or guidance for a smoker brand and type (wood pellet, charcoal, or electric) at high altitudes? i am looking for a smaller size smoker unit.
When starting on a grilling project, it’s important to know at what temperatures should a food be allowed to settle inside a pellet grill before it reaches its desired doneness. Of course, the time it spends on the grill also plays a major role in it, but you have to understand that cooking on a high heat for long time periods can leave the meat charred while on a low heat can turn it into soft and mushy.
Second, you’ll have to figure out what BBQ pellets you want to use. There are many different brands, blends, and mixes to choose from, and you’ll likely want to do some side by side testing to see what you like best on what meats. My very good friend and BBQ buddy Shane Draper really likes to make his own blends  – using different woods in different proportions depending on what he’s cooking.
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