Hey David – in my opinion, you’re going to find hot spots in any entry level pellet grill/ pellet smoker. I include GMG, Rec-Tec, Traeger, etc. When you start moving into the higher pellet smokers/grills – Memphis Grill, MAK, etc, you can minimize these to some extent. If you experience higher heat on one side, put the thicker cut of meat (pork butt, point of brisket) near that part.
I remember a time when I was going through some quad-bike reviews; it was all so confusing and I had no clue whom to believe and whom not to. Even when I eventually decided to put my faith in one of them, I kept having second thoughts regarding whether or not they would fail me. If you’re someone like me, let me give you four reasons our reviews won’t fail you:
3-Position Controller - 3 position controllers, also called LMH controllers, have just 3 temperature settings—low, medium, and high—which correlate to roughly 225°F, 325°F, and 425°F. They feed pellets in fixed cycles that are determined by which setting you choose. With just three settings to choose from, though, you have less control over cooking temperatures than more advanced controllers. These controllers are often found on lower priced pellet grills.
The “Smart Smoke” controller goes from 160-450F, with an internal sensor and electric auger maintaining that heat. The hopper holds a good 20lbs of pellet - enough for 10-20 hours of smoking. And it’s built from a sturdy stainless steel that feels solid and looks fantastic, with locking caster wheels keeping it secure while in use. It’s also backed up by a 3-year warranty.
It offers 700 sq. in. of cooking space and a powerful thermostat for a higher price, but makes up for it as soon as you start cooking on it. Also, it has a stunning design with the bull horns, which sets it apart yet again. But if you find yourself not spending as much and could do with a lesser cooking space, then the Camp Chef PG24 is a no-brainer for you.
Nothing says “you are welcome to my home” than some delicious and succulent baby back ribs; some beer can whole chicken cooked your special spice mix, and some wood smoked salmon. There is no better way to wins the appreciation of your favorite people than cooking up some wood grilled steaks and baked potatoes. But there is a catch, there always is.

Turn it on to "Smoke" mode and use the P settings, or cook mode by selecting a temperature. When you select smoke or a temp setting you start the ignition sequence. The fan, igniter and auger motor turn on. The fan stays on until the smoker is turned off. The auger motor continuously delivers pellets to the red hot igniter rod in the firebox for two minutes under normal conditions. Then the igniter rod shuts off and the pellet fire burns with only the assistance of the auger and the fan.
If you’ve ever wanted an 8 in 1 wood pellet grill that you can just “set and forget”, then this grill makes a perfect unit for you. It was the best smoker we’ve used in terms of hassle-free use which is why it had to be one of our top picks. Digitally-controlled, this smoker ignites the unit and uses a Smart Smoke Technology™ to heat it up from 160 to 450 degrees F. This pellet smoker comes with 513 square inch grilling area, plus a 2nd cooking rack! While it doesn’t have any auto/one-touch cleanup system, its auto-shutdown feature makes it worth the value.

Before talking about its features, we need you to close your eyes and ask yourself these questions: Does it grill? Does it smoke? Can it ever replace a gas grill? Does it work like a charcoal grill? Now, open your eyes and listen to the answer: Yes. With GMG Daniel Boone’s motto “Think Everything”, you can be certain that it will provide the all-in-1 solution you seek.
Controlling temperature is the best way to get the desired piece of cooked meat. This smoker grill has a built-in thermostatic control and a digital thermometer, so that means you won’t have to do much guesswork during barbecue. If the sensors sense a fall in temperature, more wood pellets are added to the burner, which allows you to place the meat on grill and relax.
Through the years, pellet smokers have gained popularity. The fact that they give you the convenience of being able to hold a barbecue from the comfort of your home is what makes them ideal. However, not all of them will match up to the needs that you have and this is why I put together this guide with reviews. Following this guide, you should be in a position to make a comprehensive decision on the specific model to buy.
Hey Charlie – I’d leave that grate wide open if you want maximum heat. If the grates are only over the burn pot, then you can do sort of a two zone cook (indirect vs direct heat) by putting a thicker steak, chop, or piece of chicken on the ‘non direct’ side to get up to a temp that’s 15 or 20 degrees lower than your target. Then, finish off over the burn pot area. Just one idea.

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.


Hello Mark! Thanks for commenting here. The Kalamazoo Hybrid Grill looks like a BEAST! If you can swing it, I’d go for it. I truly enjoyed cooking on the Memphis Grill, which is to date the most high end pellet grill I’ve used. It offered a nice blend of professional grade convection with the wood fire taste of the pellets. The Kalamazoo hybrid really does seem to offer one step beyond with the addition of charcoal and wood chunks. I see that Derrick Riches of About.com stands behind the Kalamazoo brand. You’re hard pressed to get a better endorsement of a grilling product than that! Keep me posted at kevin@bbqbeat.com and let me know how your search goes! 🙂
Ninth spot to make it to our compilation of the pellet grill review is the Louisiana pellet grill. It has 2 cooking levels and a total 1061 square inch cooking surface. The Louisiana pellet grill has got porcelain cast iron main grids and porcelain steel removable upper cooking grid. It also has a digital controller centre. This grill weighs around 173 pounds and is made with high quality material that is going to last you a life!
Because most Traeger grills make use of an Ortech digital temperature controller that’s precise within about 15 degrees of your setting, they may not be precise enough for the type of cooking you want to perform. If so, some pellet grill manufacturers, such as MAK, Yader, and Memphis, can give you temperature control within about 5 degrees of the setting. These types of grills use multiple temperature probes inside the cooking area to guarantee the temperature remains consistent. And some of these high-end brands can reach a higher cooking temperature (such as 600 or 700 degrees Fahrenheit) versus the Traeger family of grills (usually around 450 or 500 degrees). Additionally, MAK, Memphis, and Yader grills are made in the United States, while some parts of Traeger grills are made in China.
When you think of a portable smoker and grill, you think about basic features. But with the Tailgater by Traeger Grills, you get more than what most portable grills have to offer. At 300 sq. in., this portable grill is enough to cook decent and succulent dishes for small groups. It can even reach to a maximum 450 degrees F, so you’re never limited when it comes to the type of meat you want to grill or smoke. We loved its EZ fold legs, which make it easier to throw into the car trunk, ready for the next adventure.
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….
I purchased a Traeger Select Elite from Costco for both my personal residence as well as for my vacation home. I am now on the third grill at my residence. Traeger will tell you that they expect to offer Awesome customer service. I have replaced the auger assembly, the controller and now the fan. I can't get the grill up to temperature. Awesome customer service says it should be no problem. Just replace the _______ (fill in the blank). I don't think these people have ever seen a grill let alone use one. Costco (love their return policy) is about to get another one back. Am I too harsh to expect the product to perform as they say it will? I would think when you pay as much as Traeger thinks their grills are worth, that they should work out of the box. Well, quality control under the new management has gone to hell. Then they expect you to "try" all the fixes that might work on your own. This is self service, not customer service.
It doesn’t matter what it is that you’re buying, you want to get the best bang for your buck and not pay more than you have to. We all have this same mentality when it comes to making a purchase. This is why when we see price tags that indicate something is “on sale’, we immediately think we are getting a good deal. But is that really the case? The answer is no. When it comes to buying your new pellet grill “on sale” from a distributor or retailer, it means that they are essentially reducing the markup that you have to pay. Aside from the rare instances where a retailer is selling a product as a loss leader where they are intentionally losing money on a product to get you into the store and buy other more profitable products, you will still be paying more money in the end than what the manufacturer would price the grill at if they were to sell it to you directly.
Any retail store that you visit, regardless of the product you are intending to purchase, has a supply chain that these products go through before reaching their final destination. There are certain costs associated with getting the product from the manufacturer to you that get tacked onto the price tag of the product. These additional costs can include aspects such as transport fees, warehouse handling, packaging, and display. Therefore, the price tag you see when the product reaches you isn’t just covering a small margin on top of the absolute base price of the product. It has been marked up to cover the additional costs listed above in order to reach you.

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.

Just started shopping around for a pellet smoker. Am also going to need a new gas grill soon. Stopped in at the local BBQ supply store today and they showed me the Memphis Pro and said it would function well for both smoking and cooking steaks/burgers. Price point on that one is pretty high. Would any of the others reviewed above offer similar functionality? Do you have a recommendation of which will work well for both functions? I live in KS so kind of like the idea of sticking with the local guys from Yoder, but Fast Eddys in OK isn’t too far away either. Thanks.
Regardless, it’s worth mentioning the basic types of pellets available on the market to get you started. First there are the hardwood pellets, made from the sawdust from any specific type of hardwood, such as ash, cherry, maple, etc. Then there are different organic hardwood blends: a combination of different types of wood shavings and dust, giving them a customized, special flavoring. For beginners, we’d suggest getting a premium blend, just to be on the safe side (because you can’t go wrong with these). Even then, we’d like to mention a few types of pellets commonly used for different purposes:
Yeah it seems like no one is providing any input on it…I was interested in having them review it and do a direct comparison to some of these other grills. I made the mistake of getting a Myron Mixon pitmaster Q3 at sears. It turned out to be a waste of money and the slight humidity I had caused the pellets to burst and seize up the Auger. Anyway I had narrowed my search down to a rec tech or silverback but none of the reviewers seems to be giving it any attention.

Hey Oscar, based on what I think and my discussion with my buddy Shane Draper of Draper’s BBQ, you’ll probably only need to run 14 hours for a brisket cook – given the convection nature of your pellet grill. You’ll probably go about 1 lb per hour or a little less – depending on the weather and other variables you mentioned. Again, pellet cooking is a little bit give and take where you’re getting ease and a more set it and forget it cook experience in exchange for some additional fuel use.


Larger, more expensive smokers run anywhere up to 900 square inches, which will basically let you feed your whole street. It’s also a whole lot more convenient when you’re planning on cooking multiple things to be able to throw every single sausage, joint of meat and rack of ribs on at once, flip ’em around and move things to the edge when they’re done.
Spent thousands on Traeger, they are ok. Wouldn’t have an issue if they were only $500. But the last one I bought, (Timberline 850) cost $2500 Canadian. Almost burnt my house down because it got over 600F and was still climbing. All Traeger does is mail you more Chinese parts to fix your China made grill. By the end of it you will know your Traeger in and out because you WILL have to take it apart to repair! Overpriced for a smoker with many issues. Timberline lower grill has a portion of the grill removed for some kind of design. They added a 1/4 lip to justify this Grand Canyon of a hole in the back of the grill. Well needless to say if you cook wings or something small and toss them around you will for sure lose the wings to this big stupid hole. But they said they pit the little lip to stop the food from falling... Do they not test these products?
REC TEC Grills was born in Augusta, Georgia in 2009 by lifelong friends Ray Carnes and Ron Cundy. The pair made it their commitment to build high quality grills and sell them at reasonable prices. But that was only the beginning of their story. The rest of the promise was to treat everyone like family and provide them with world-class customer service. With those two fundamentals in place, the REC TEC Family was born and the REC TEC Lifestyle started to flourish. Your feedback as members of the REC TEC Family and your living the REC TEC Lifestyle has helped this family grow and become that special bond that binds us all together. Thank you to all of our current and future REC TEC Family members. It just would not be the same without you all.
Worst purchase of a product that I have ever made. After same issues the first and second cookings, I will use my good ole Brinkmann smoker from here on out. Shuts off with errors and after setting it on 250 will climb to over 400-450 degrees. They say you can set it and forget it, but I'm afraid that my home would burn down if I was not here watching over this junk. When you call customer service same old story. Take everything out, clean firepot put it all back together, then fire it back off. Take your screen out of pellet box and rake them. If you want to smoke meat you don't want to do this every 20 minutes or so. I gave over 600.00 dollars for this and have no more than 50.00 in my Brinkmann. Please read all problems with these before wasting your money!!!
I got my YS640 for a combination Father's Day/ Birthday gift and regardless of whether it's grilling or smoking beef, pork or chicken the results have been outstanding. I can hardly wait to break out the turkeys for the Holiday meals. The direct grilling grates leave a steak with beautiful grill marks and the use of the fruit wood pellets along with quality steaks have made for some incomparable meals. As for quality of the smoker itself, I have sons-in-law that are already jockeying for position to try to be the next to have the YS640 after my demise - - - and we're figuring that won't be for at least 20-30 years!
With the traeger, rec-tec or cam chef smokers all seem to burn 1-2lbs per hour. But for a long 18hr brisket it seems like I will have to continue to use pellets the whole time to keep the heat in range over over 200 which will mean I am using almost a 20-40lb bag depending on the time year per smoke. This is even more expensive than the bradley seems even with the wasted briquette. IS this correct or is there something I am missing?
I paid $700.oo for my Traeger. My heating element went out in 2 BBQ seasons. Not good considering the price I paid. It's just me, so it's not like it was in overkill. Bi-weekly meal give or take? Smokes fur shit!! Planned on some good'ol smoked salmon (cause I like to fish for salmon), or some pheasant jerky (cause I have Springers, and I hunt pheasant***) NOT HAPPENING. The only smoke there is...is when you start the damn thing. If you want smoke flavor, you have to add artificial smoke flavor from a bottle. Conventional outside oven heated by wood pellets. If you want BBQ this is not the way to go. If you want smoke this is not the way to go. If you want to leave something inside the oven to cook outside your house....this is the way to go. Wasted $
Bake, braise, grill, smoke, and sear – all of these cooking techniques can be fully experienced by just using one unit of backyard cooker! Yes, you can definitely do different kinds of cooking to your pork, beef, fish, pizza, or pie by just using the Camp Chef Smokepro STX Pellet Grill without burning charcoals and woods to start the cooking process.

Thanks for the great information and the research you did. I am a retail store owner in Boise, Idaho area and we sell a pellet grill smoker in our store. I would like to encourage to look at the Sawtooth Pellet Grill. It is made local here and is American Made. It is an excellent grill for the price with an awesome company backing it. You can find their website at sawtoothpelletgrills.com. Again thanks for the information and if you do another publication regarding pellet grills, I would love to see what your opinion of the Sawtooth would be 🙂
Pit Boss have made this heavy duty beast as a semi-professional pellet based smoker, and it shows. It’s absolutely massive, with a colossal amount of cooking space and a lot of tech that makes using it a serious pleasure. It’s actually probably too big for most households, but if you need the most cooking space possible, this is the biggest on our list.
Cooking a lot of food is easy when using Camp Chef’s Flat Top Grill. The large surface area will enhance your cooking experience giving you plenty of room to work so cooking is done efficiently. Included is an interchangeable flat top griddle making it easy to cook pancakes, bacon and eggs, sausage, and hash browns - all at once. Then switch to grilled burgers, kabobs, and chicken for the next meal. Four individual burners provide heat in specific areas creating heat zones that will help you manage hot foods. Built in matchless ignition knobs control the heat and flame. Fold-down side shelves and roller wheels are added for convenience.

This podcast is great for anyone that has ever had an interest in BBQ, grilling, smoking, etc. The guests that are brought on to this pod along with the dialogue that Kevin has with them makes this a great podcast that would be enjoyable for anyone to listen to regardless if they liked BBQ or not. There is a great wealth of knowledge to be found in these pods, and each time I listen to the BBQ Beat I feel genuine excitement to go outside and try something new with my grill or smoker. Aside from all of this, the audio is great and the topics are interesting which makes the experience engaging for not only the guest on the pod, but also you the listener. Suscribe and listen often. I promise you won't be disappointed.


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.
Other elements of the grill are the legs, which come in varies designs and construction materials. The automatic ignition starter to start the fire as well as the digital controller where individuals can achieve up to six different cooking methods ranging from grilling to baking and smoking. With that said, one of the most important aspects that we highly recommend individuals to consider is a green with a grease bucket or an ash cleanout design that vents out all of the ash sediment from the grill.
The smart-smoke technology in this grill uses an automatic electric feed system that is able to maintain a constant temperature from 180 to 450 degrees and has a hopper that can hold up to 20 pounds of pellets for extended cooking time. The digital control also handles igniting the pellets while fan-forced convection results in even cooking all around, much like rotisserie-cooked foods.

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.
Bought Junior Elite 20 pellet grill at Costco special sales event. Took it home and it simply wouldn't get up to temperature to ignite the pellets. Auger made extremely loud noises and then simply refused to operate. Packed it back up and returned to Costco with no problem. They had no inventory so I called Traeger. Woman on phone was very pleasant and helpful. Asked if I could get Traeger to simply replace the grill at the same price I purchased it for. Her supervisor said no and if I wanted it for that price I would have to drive to another state and purchase it at one of their event presentations. Made no sense to me why they would sell it to someone else for the "event" price but not to me who had already done. Poor customer support and silly supervisor. I will look elsewhere.

I use to have a charcoal/wood fired smoker and it was a nightmare maintaining temperature especially on a long brisket cook. Instantly I've fallen in love my YS640 coupled with a fireboard. You literally set the temp load it up and walk away with no stress or worries about maintain temperature. It provides great smoke flavor too. Yes it is an expensive purchase but that is because this thing is built like a tank and will last for decades.
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.
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