We all know about Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, but Traeger is the true pioneer of pellet smoking. This company introduced the first pellet smokers, and it remains the best-known brand, although competition is growing. There's nothing fancy here. Instead of a touch-pad controller, Traeger employs an older-style digital dial controller. No WiFi or meat probes; just no-frills schmokin' from the industry leader.
My wife purchased this cooker for me for Christmas three years ago when I was working on the road. I had been a gas man for years and had converted to charcoal with great success and enjoyment. I built a UDS smoker and was really getting into the slow smoking with better temp control. Then my son ratted on me and told my wife that I had been drooling over a Yoder Pellet Grill. She surprised me to say the least as I would have never bought this unit myself. I've had several cars that cost less than this smoker! Wow. In person, this grill is build by people that love their job. The smoke flavor compared to a Weber kettle is more delicate than harsh. Temperatures are very even across the grill with warmer sides within an inch of the body of the grill. Being able to start it in two minutes and get to cooking in ten is very handy. Being able to run downtown without worrying about the temp is awesome. I've had it get a little lower than where I had set it, but not by more than 15 degrees. It has great reliability in any weather. We live in northern Montana and this thing just does what you want it to do. Great for making jerky, slow smoke, grilling, and baking. Wood fired cookies are one of our favorites. I've smoked cheese on it during the dead of winter at -15 degrees. Bacon...wow. If you have never had slow smoked bacon I feel sorry for you. Don't worry about not liking this unit after the purchase. I've thanked my wife more times than I can remember and I've received just as many compliments back from everyone who has sampled the food. Great job Yoder!
Central to all pellet cookers is a digital controller similar to the controllers on modern indoor ovens. You select a temp you want, and there is an LED display that tells you the actual temp. Some of the controllers also are programmable so you can cook at a certain temp for a determined time. Some have leave-in meat probes that can dial back the ovento a holding temp when the meat hits its mark.
I've been BBQing and pit smoking for many years. About 4 yrs ago I tried out pellet grilling with an import brand, and had to rebuild and replace parts for 3 yrs until it was no longer worth it! I started looking at the YS640 about a year ago, and finally pulled the trigger on buying one. No gimmicks, No hype, this is the finest backyard pellet grill/smoker and wood fired sear machine on the market. The YS640 would also be right at home on the competition circuit as well. As many other reviews have stated, if your thinking about buying one, just do it. You will not be disappointed. Shes built like a tank and holds temp very consistently. From start to finish the staff at ATBBQ has been outstanding and professional, the unit arrived in only 1-1/2 weeks and was packaged securely on a pallet. Great American made product, and great customer service have made this one of the best purchases we've made in years, Thank you.
Kevin: I have a gas smoker but would like a wood pellet smoker. I’m looking at Traeger Lil Tex (due to price) but I read about Blazn Grill Works, Grand Slam, made in USA, stainless steel grates and a control unit that is very good. Cost about $1195, can’t find dealers so called and talked with the owner. What I read on web site sounds good. He claims on his short video that his auger is the best and doesn’t put torque on the drive due to the design. Any thoughts on this unit? Any advice would be appreciated. Still looking at the Yoder YS640 as price is very similar.
DS, I have a green mountain grill. besides that for any pellet smoker cook your chicken at a high heat otherwise the skin will be rubbery. doesnt have to be a direct flame to get it crispy. I set my GMG to 425 flip it after 8 mins pull it at 170 crispy perfection. if you want more smoke flavor, smoke it at 150 for an hour then crank it up to 425 to finish it. I was upset with my rubbery skin when i first used it as well but i got some good advice from the pros. chicken doesnt need to be cooked low and slow to tenderize it like pork and beef does. it doesnt have the tissues or muscles that need to be broken down like beef and pork
But even with their indirect heat, wood pellets do something gas can’t; they give your meat that natural, smoky flavor you expect from wood. They don’t create as much smoke as wood or charcoal, so the flavor is not as intense, you swap that intensity for convenient cooking. The smoke they do create is clean and easy to control. And the hotter you burn pellets, the cleaner they burn, letting you crank up the heat when you don’t need smoke.
With that said, we can guarantee that all of the grills on this list are designed from the best quality materials and design elements to ensure that it not only lasts the test of time, it is safe to use, easy to set up, and also designed to cook the best meals possible. With that said, let’s talk about a pillar that has added to the quality criteria, the material design.
Kevin, your recommendation rocked. The Pro is one of the best pieces of grilling and smoking iron I have had my hands on in a long time! Better than the Backwoods? Well depends on how much work you want to do! Maybe not, they are first class, but ease of use? I use the Backwoods a couple times a year, the Pro has already done 8 cooks in 5 weeks. Love it.
Still loving it after cooking about 100 meals. Thru rain, snow, and the occasional nice day it is still going. Today I'm about to grill brats. My weber grill sits around rarely needed so it's going to get sold. I discovered with quality pellets it can grill just fine to temps up to 450. The camp chef grill cover keeps the pellets dry in the hopper so I don't even take them out unless you want to change flavors. I did have to seal the hopper handle around the rivets to keep the rain out but other than that it is very tight. See the pic makes smoke like crazy.
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.
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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.
Editor-in-Chief Sean McCoy is a life-long outdoorsman who grew up hunting and fishing central Wisconsin forests and lakes. He joined GearJunkie after a 10-year stint as a newspaperman in the Caribbean, where he learned sailing and wooden-boat repair. Based in GearJunkie's Denver office, McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.