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.
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.
Hey Dan – I think you’d really up your versatility with a good pellet smoker. Smoke profiles seem to depend largely on the quality of pellets used and then also on the burn consistency of the fire pot. What I mean here is that many pellet smoker users tell me that they prefer models that cycle over faster with frequent temp checks rather than those with longer wait times between temp checks. Cycling faster means that pellets burn more consistently and do not rest to a “charred” state and they “reactivate” This latter problem sometimes results in less than optimal flavor. Yoder smokers cycle very fast and are preferred by many due to this and their thicker metal construction.
Hey Brad, you’ve got 3 great grills there. Rec Tec has the edge on Pellet quantity. I like the build quality and support on the Grilla a bit better, especially with the extra insulation and updated comp wheel set up. Figure 10 min or so to get to top temps. Just remember to drop to around 300 F temp setting before going into the shut down cycle on any pellet grill if you’re cranking it up to the highest setting.
As another criterion that we took into consideration, we felt that the pellet grill size was important to include in our selection process. One of the main reasons is because we wanted to share a wide variety of pellet grills that were designed for multiple uses. With that said, other reasons include the size and weight of the grill as well as the price. Meaning, the bigger the grill the more pricey it can become and the more it will weight depending on the material design. However, we also wanted to share compact varieties such as the Green Mountain Grill which is perfect for tailgates and small outdoor events or camping.
So what about the question of blends versus 100% pure species pellets? Should you avoid blends? Should you only use 100% pure? That is a web to unweave and depends greatly on what you are cooking as to the correct answer. Through our testing we found many blends to work very well. We liked them so much that we incorporated them into what we offer. Not all blends are created equal though and the amount of hardwood versus flavor wood varies widely across brands. We also found that some 100% pure pellets such as cherry and apple had harder times reaching higher grilling temperatures and lacked the harder core flavor punch of hickory or mesquite. Coming from the world of stick burners many new pellet grill owners assume that going 100% cherry or apple is going to work for them since that is what they have grown accustomed to. At the end of the day, they end up moving to a pellet with a deeper flavor like hickory or mesquite to get the results they are used to.
Of course, we recommend our pellets and have proven them to work fantastically with all of our grills, but we would never be short-sighted enough to say that our owners must only use our pellets. That just seems a bit, well, wrong. From our testing and customer feedback, the following brands all worked very well: B&B, BBQrs Delight, Cooking Pellets.com, Lumberjack and Smoke Ring.
We purchased our wood pellet grill (Model TFB57CLB) from Costco in August 2017. It came with one bag of the gourmet blend pellets. We used the Traeger cookbook to try a few different recipes in the fall. Most of these involve a period of smoking followed by a period of grilling. The grill seemed to work fine at first. We used it a couple of times on warmer days in the winter and it had some trouble getting up to the desired heat level. We started using it regularly again in April 2018. I was careful to clean it and check the pellets etc. The smoking feature seemed to work alright, but when I would turn the heat up for grilling, the grill would usually struggle to get much over 225. I would resort to turning it up to 375 or more just to get it to 225 and then often it would sink back down to 180 or 160. I went to the troubleshooting guide on the manufacturer's website and checked all the components, which seemed to be working fine.
OK. I’m rambling a bit. To your point regarding Traeger. I think that the models you can buy at big box stores (Costco etc) are OK. I still hear a few complaints about blistering paint etc. But… their Pro Series Models are a different story. The new management at Traeger has come a long way in their efforts to reaffirm the Traeger brand as a legitimate BBQ Pellet Smoker brand that everyone from the backyarder to competition pitmasters can get behind. To that end, they only allow specialty retailers carry the Pro Series models, which are built with a bit more heft and better PID controls, electronics, etc. You can find these at Ace Hardware stores, places like the Whiskey Bent BBQ Supply store we have here in Lakeland, FL (there is now one in Odessa, FL) as well. You can find a Traeger Pro model by going to http://www.traegergrills.com/dealers.
There’s so much about this grill to love, but one aspect that gets RAVE reviews is the customer service. Rec Tec has pretty much the best customer service in the industry. First off, there’s a 6 year warranty, meaning, they expect their product to perform. But in the unlikely case that you have issues, their customer service is incredibly fast to respond, is available even on the weekends, and believe it or not, the owners even provide their cell phone numbers so they can help you through a problem when you’re stuck. Incredible!
We have already mentioned this product in our review once and we’re talking about it again. Whenever you are thinking of Green Mountain Grills, Daniel Boone should always be your first choice; it’s simply the best among the GMG products. Due to having other products at much lower prices with the same features, we could not include Daniel Boone in this review. We have, however, included the Davy Crockett in our review as our Budget Pick.
Speaking of competition cooks, you’ll find that many competition BBQ pitmasters who use Pellet grills as their primary means of cooking are among the more well rested come Saturday. The next step we’ll cover in this selection of Pellet Grill Reviews is getting your pellet grill / smoker up and running. Again, what you may not see in may Pellet Grill Reviews is repeated mention that you’re not going to get that “deep smoke” flavor profile using a pellet smoker. Though, this can be achieved by using something like the Amazen Pellet Tube Smoker 12″.