So that brings me to the one thing I have learned in all this that I basically read when I was getting started. One of the biggest keys is “Temperature Control”! If you want consistent food make sure you get that under control. It is the key to solid consistent food! Once you get your food consistent you can experiment with a lot of other things. But if you can’t get that down, you will always be looking for another magic bullet. The number one magic is temperature!
Wood pellets that are tailored for pellet stoves or fireplaces usually contain tree barks and binding agents such as glue. When used in pellet smokers, these wood chips can expel some harmful chemical substances infused with the food. But since the dawn of Traeger pellet smokers, different manufacturers have been producing food-grade wood pellets to be used in pellet smokers.
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.
PID Controllers - The most sophisticated type of pellet grill controller, PID controllers use complex algorithms to achieve and maintain the desired temperature within a few degrees. They, too, feature LCD display and one-touch buttons for setting the temperature in 5° increments. However, unlike controllers that use fixed cycles, a PID controller continuously measures the grill’s temperature then adjusts its cycle, adding pellets when necessary to hold the correct cooking temperature throughout the cook. Because they’re more sophisticated, PID controllers can accommodate programmable meat probes that have the ability to automatically lower the grill’s temperature when food is done.
After owning this grill for six months I can honestly say I don't regret my purchase. I was waiting for low temp weather to really test this grill and i must be honest i was very surprised. I grilled 400 degrees with the outside temp at 38 degrees and the grill came up to temp within 20 minutes. Last night I started a brisket in 31 degree weather cooking at 225. No problem at all, and I haven't use a thermal jacket. We have done every thing from low and slow to baking and just have been amazed at outcome. Got a couple of more tests that i want to do, but six months, it's great. Stop thinking about it, stop worrying about the price, and prepare to make some great wood fire food.
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.
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 Camp Chef transaction aligns with Vista Outdoor's strategy to deliver long-term value through acquiring complementary, market-leading brands that will benefit from Vista Outdoor's balance sheet, distribution network, and sales and marketing expertise," said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mark DeYoung. "Led by an entrepreneurial management team, Camp Chef has a nimble and responsive product development process. Camp Chef continues to grow its market share in the outdoor cooking category, and the brand serves many of our current consumers who are engaged in a wide variety of outdoor pursuits. Acquiring Camp Chef strengthens our leadership position in outdoor recreation, allows us to enter the growing camping and outdoor cooking market, and the brand's effective multi-product, multi-channel strategy increases our presence across both brick-and-mortar and ecommerce distribution platforms."
On Tabletop Models: I didn’t include them here because though extensive, this post is more of an overview of a few select makers of Pellet Smokers I think do a fine job with both manufacturing and product support. The one exception is that I did include a link to where you can find the Rec-Tec mini. That’s Rec-Tec’s answer to the smaller, tabletop or tailgating models.
Personal review of the Traeger: The auger fed the pellets after the fire pot went out making a large pile up which caused it to catch fire and burn up my grill. I had to use a fire extinguisher to put out the flames and prevent my house from catching fire. I sent Traeger the description of damages with photos. After much waiting and no response from the management team regarding my Traeger grill we gave up. The service team was very responsive but lacked any authority to make decisions to fix the grill. We worked with the service team for awhile having a different person each time respond and request information and photos that were already provided. Then, we got passed up to the management which is highly ineffective because we never heard from them, even after an email requesting an update. We really did like our Traeger grill and had high hopes that since it was under warranty and caught fire due to a failure we would have the grill repaired. Because of the terrible unresponsive service of Traeger we took our money and purchase a Green Mountain Grill.
Very often pellet grill manufacturer instruct you to use their pellets, with some going so far as to state that failure to do so will void the warranty. Why? Well, there’s the obvious reason that they want you buy their pellets. However, it really has more to do with ensuring that the grill runs properly, and that starts with using quality pellets. The easiest way for pellet grill makers to guarantee you’re using good pellets is to have you use theirs, which they know meet the desired quality standards. They can’t make that guarantee about another brand of pellets.
Hey Pete, first thanks for your kind words. Traeger pellet grills fell off a bit quality wise over the past several years. That said, they’ve hired a new CEO – formerly from the Skull Candy Head Phone company – who brought that company’s valuation up considerably. I see them making moves to get back to their roots… aligning themselves with some of the more well known names in BBQ again. From a build quality, they’re making solid pellet grill bodies using fairly heavy steel. The area I’d like to see them improve on is the controllers they use. Right now, GMG is making great strides in claiming some of the entry level pellet smoker market share away from Traeger. This is due to a superior PID controller, advances in built in Wi-Fi monitoring, and outstanding customer service.
Product is decent but customer service really didn't help me out when they sent me a wrong accessory part that was ordered by their customer service department. Explained that the representative misunderstood my request for an inside shelf but I was sent outer shelf which I have already . Tried to be fair and asked them to pay for the return shipping so I could return it back. They said we will gladly return your $ . Well till this day after numerous calls and false promises for the credit return .. there still is no refund. They seem to care but actually they did nothing. It's been 3 months of calling. Sorry to say we are Done with this company. If they can't settle a small concern and have A + service then don't bother! Good thing they are not the only smoker on the market. Shop around folks.
Hey Jimmy, thanks for commenting here about your experience. I’m sorry to hear your experience was less than optimal. I have only cooked on the Traeger pro models. I do know that it is good practice to vacuum out the burn pot after cooks of a few hours or more. Not sure this was where your problems were initiated. Did you contact Traeger support? If so, what was their response?
Having the same problem as the rest of the group. Rec Tec, Yoder, Green Mountain, Pellet Pro, or MAK? All seem to be heavy gauge SS, Pellet Pro seems really good value, MAK and Green Mountain seem to have controllers with more features. Have a friend who bought Rec Tec 3 years ago, he cannot say enough about the good customer service and the grill. If you could only buy one (money not the issue among these 5), which one, and why?
This is a nice article for people new to pellet grill/smokers. Like jennifer, we have a vermont cast ing cast iron gas grill that has ‘rotted out’ internally. Calls to vermont cast ings has resulted in ‘we no longer support, make or sell parts for grills made before 2008’ and other run arounds. As a result we are looking for other options. We like the cast iron grills and grill heat but are considering other options, (Webber, Pellet, gas).
***Update: 11/2014: It's been a year now and I still adore this little grill. I've got a kamado and 3 different kettles and this is by far the most convenient and easy to use. The smoke rings this guy puts on a brisket are amazing and the flavor is the perfect balance of wood flavor without overpowering the meat. I've researched about 15 different pellet grills and I still can't find a better value than what this grill offers
The computer controlled system maintains the smoker temperature with a high degree of precision so you don’t have to deal with fluctuations. With the optional (definitely a must) temperature probe you can put your meat in the smoker, set the desired target temperature and the FEC will take it from there. Once the target temperature is reached the smoker temperature will drop into a holding position until you are ready to remove your barbecue.
Today I grilled up a T-Bone steak. And I used the Grill Grates. I upped the temps to 600 degrees. The T-Bone came out FABLULOUS!!! Actually, it cooked faster than I expected, and the sear marks were way better than I expected. I have been using Weber Gas Grill for many years and way satisfied with the results, but the Yoder smoker kicks ass...BRAVO YODER!!
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!