To solve this problem, several companies have come up with alternative ways to expose food to the flame by allowing you to use the small area directly above the fuel pot. It's still not as good as a charcoal or sear burner, but better than the designs that are strictly indirect. Check out the Memphis Elite, Fast Eddy's by Cookshack PG500, and the Yoder YS640 for this feature. Camp Chef also recently introduced its Woodwind pellet smoker, which has a super-hot gas-fueled sear box attached to the right side.
Pellets are made from different woods, each of which imparts a distinctive flavor to the meat. Hickory, oak, maple, alder, apple, cherry, hazelnut, peach, and mesquite are among the flavors available. For more about pellets, read my article, The Science of Wood. There is a pretty good forum for people who have pellet cookers at PelletSmoking.com and of course our Pitmaster Club has a lively discussion on them with many active users.
My traeger has had some good moments but it very unreliable.  I really do not enjoy cooking with it.  I have no confidence in the temp readings and the smoke control.  Every time I open the lid the temp drops like 200 degrees.  I'll smoke at the "smoke" setting but as soon as I turn it to 225 it spikes to like 300-500 degrees. Wtf?  I thought this POS was supposed to be a set it and forget it type smoker.  Very unreliable.  Temp fluctuates so much and if there is even a slight breeze the temps just go up and down up and down.  The pellet feeder is garbage.  It will all the sudden just start smoking like crazy because the pellets have jammed into the burner.  Completely ridiculous smoker.  I use it still but only when I can sit and watch the feeder.  The guys comment below is true about the feeder always just using the middle pellets.  I always have to check it and push the pellets to the center.  Some simple engineering would change this. Never again will I purchase a traeger. There are much better options out there and better price.
In 2010, I sprung for a discounted Rainer with $80 in tip money and a pro deal through the whitewater rafting company I worked for. It was an expensive purchase for me at a time when my monthly food budget was around $60. But hey, along with a Roll-a-Table, two chairs I “borrowed” from the rafting company, and my cooler, I had almost a full kitchen that I could deploy from the back of my truck. And the Rainier quickly proved a wise investment.
Maintenance is an issue. There are moving parts on these grills. Moving parts eventually break. There is an auger with a motor, and a fan with a motor. There are proprietary electronics systems on these babies. Augers clog. Motors burn out. Electronics have bugs or fail. Especially when exposed to rain, snow, hot, and cold. When they fail, will the manufacturer have a replacement part?
Barbecue was not his first career. He earned a BA from Columbia College in Chicago and studied at the Cleveland Institute of Art and the Dana School of Music. He has been involved in every aspect of film, video and music production. He edited the 1991 Academy Award nominated documentary, "The Mark of the Maker" and "Universal Hotel", which is part of a permanent exhibit at the Dachau Memorial Museum.

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:


The biggest cleanup issue is the buildup on the heat deflector under the cooking grates. You'll need good gloves and an apron. On most models, a thorough cleanup means a 30 minute process of taking out the greasy grates and the gooey deflector plate, scraping them and washing them. You should do this when the carbon and grease cover the deflector plate. Stainless parts can go in the diswasher, but I wouldn't do it. That grease is like tar and it could get all over the insides of the dishwasher and hang on for dear life. I use a handheld steamer like the Steamfast SF-320 Portable Steam Cleaner shown here.

Up next to find its place in our pellet grill review is the REC TEC’s mini portable pellet grill. It has a 341 square inch cooking surface with 180 degrees to 550 degrees Fahrenheit temperature limit, with 5 degrees increment. But it can easily reach 600 degrees Fahrenheit in full mode. It has a satisfactory pellet hopper capacity and has folding legs. It is great for travel and movement as it is compact and small in size.


The PK-360, with 360 square inches of cooking space, this rust free, cast aluminum charcoal grill is durable and easy to use. Four-way venting means it's easy to set up for two zone cooking with more control than single vent Kamado grills. It is much easier to set up for 2-zone cooking than any round kamado. Beautifully designed and completely portable. Meathead says it is his preferrred grill.
I did a lot looking around at pellet smokers before buying the ys 640. This thing is amazing! I have been cooking BBQ for about 15 years. I owned a Gator pit entertainer which is made in Houston Texas (stick burning pit) and I currently own a $25,000 Ole Hickory Pit EL-EDX which can cook 700 lbs of BBQ at once. I wanted something smaller to cook for family. The ys 640 turns out PERFECT Q every time! The amount of smoke is just right. Plenty of smoke flavor without over smoking which is very easy to do in my other pit. This is an EXCELLENT product which I strongly recommend.

You prefer a direct heat method of grilling: The Traeger grill uses an indirect heating source, much like an oven, so you won’t be able to sear meat, as many people like to do when grilling a steak. The Traeger system is better for those people seeking more of a smoker type of cooking system, although you can sear your meat by using a frying pan with a little oil initially before you finish cooking it with the Traeger grill. You can use the frying pan on a stove top burner or on the surface of the Traeger grill.


I spent a lot of time researching smokers before committing to the 640. I wanted something that can basically be left alone, produce good results and be durable. The 640 meets and exceeds those goals. It is built like a tank, and weighs about as much. I needed two people to help me assemble and move it. Assembly was straiightforward and took about 90 minutes. I have about 4 cooks on it and cannot be happier with the results.

This is a great smoker for beginners who are willing to take the time to understand how pellet smokers work. You can follow the instructions in the video provided on the manufacturer’s website to see how to put it together. It is also great for people who have been pellet smoking for years. It has a huge cooking surface, which is perfect for entertaining large groups of friends.
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Pellet grills come in various sizes from the portable types for tailgating to the extra-large units for commercial use. If you are someone who wants to be able to take your smoker on the go, be it camping, partying or any other event you’ll want something that’s easy to lift and has wheels to facilitate movement. If you have lots of parties and gatherings at home, then you might want something bigger. Its all up to what your needs are.
Your choice of the pellet can also dictate how much cleanup you’ll have to deal with (even though generally 10 pounds of pellets can produce at most half a cup of ash, but this varies from pellet variant to pellet variant). Just be warned that when the temperature is high, there’s not much smoke happening, so you need to smoke out your meats at lower temperatures to get that smoky flavor.
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So how do you know which are good pellets and which aren’t? It’s not easy. There are plenty of problematic pellets on the market that have glowing online reviews but which we know cause issues. Quality pellets usually cost in the neighborhood of $17 to $22 for a twenty-pound bag. If you see a price on pellets that seems too good to be true, there’s probably a reason for it.
I purchased a Traeger Elite Grill from the website. I use the grill one time and it worked fine. A couple of weeks later we fired up the grill to cook some steaks. Approximately 10 minutes into cooking the auger stopped working. We had to finish our meal cooking it on the stove. I looked at the troubleshooting guide and the steps needed to be taken. To determine what was wrong you basically needed to dismantle the electric box and auger housing. I am not an electrician Nor a mechanic and feel this is excessive for a consumer to have to do.

Cleaning and Maintenance: Keeping the grill clean is critical if you need to get the most out of the unit. Old debris can influence the viability of the unit thus normal cleaning is vital. In addition, while moving it around, take alert not to thump it since it accompanies little legs which can without much of a stretch tip over the unit when thumped.

An electric smoker and a pellet smoker, according to the reviews, both allow you to set the temperature and walk away. However, the flavor that you’re going to get from a pellet smoker is a lot stronger as compared to an electric one. Pellet smokers allow you a little bit more versatility than an electric smoker, whereas electric smokers are better at maintaining and controlling the temperature inside the cook box.
I bought a Yoder YS480 three years ago. I still use my cheaper pellet grill for everyday smokes, but I use the Yoder when I want to get serious. It does a beautiful job on baby back ribs (can do up to 8 racks laying flat on the grate) and I have smoked two complete turkeys at a time. The only time I have had a problem after 2 1/2 years of smoking was caused by a failed temperature probe. I got a new probe, installed it in a few minutes, and was back up and smoking again.

The MAK Pellet Boss will increase or decrease with the press of a button in 5°F increments and has a probe in the oven that keeps the temp pretty solid. As with any thermostatically controlled oven, even your indoor oven, the thermostat cycles heat on or off as needed. So it you set it for 225°F it cycles on til it hits 225°F, then off until it drops to 220°F, then on to 225°F. There are three meat probes and the Boss can be programmed to change the cooker temp when the meat hits a target. I've had one for several years outdoors in the Chicago winters and summers without a cover and no problems.

This smoker is one totally awesome product. It is more that just a smoker, it is a true convection oven, we have baked bread in it! As for being able to hold the temp for low and slow, wonderful. The beef that I smoked was delectable. I just this week smoked 10 venison loins at the same time; it took 1 hour for the most tender, delicious venison I have ever tasted!


I called Traeger to discuss their 10k Commercial smoker. The fellow who answered was polite but not helpful. He said, "You need to call our commercial division. They can answer any question you might have," and gave me the number. This is literally how the conversation went when phone was answered. Me: "Hello I was hoping to talk to someone there about your 10k commercial smoker." Him: "What state you live in?" Me: "Texas." Him: "We don't ship direct to Texas anymore, you will need to call one of our dealers." CLICK. So I am thankful I found out now as there is no way in hell I will spend 10k with Traegar.
My wife and I were one of the first buyers of the YS640 in 2010. We had owned a couple of gas grills that, of course, eventually rust out. My wife saw the YS640 at the Kansas State Fair and called me and said that I HAD to look at this smoker! At first, the smoker had many problems--inaccurate temps, huge swings in temps, etc. Don and Joe kept working on the problems and installing updates--never charging us for updates or service calls. Finally, in about March of 2011, they installed the update that really was the solution. Since then, the YS640 has been a consistent workhorse that does everything as advertised. Built like a tank. built to last. Don and his staff stuck by his product and by his customers. In this day and age, customer service is uncommon. By the way, I thought the YS480 would have been big enough, but my wife said, "our family isn't getting smaller,".....I'm very glad we got the 640 and the second shelf. I have needed it many times. Thanks Don!
This unit will not let even a single pellet go to waste. No need of worrying whether you’re out of pellets or not. You can carry pellets at a maximum of 20 pounds, with the digital thermostat ensuring the pellets are being used properly. This saves you loads of cash and gives you smoking food simultaneously without wasting time in refilling pellets.

I spent a lot of time researching smokers before committing to the 640. I wanted something that can basically be left alone, produce good results and be durable. The 640 meets and exceeds those goals. It is built like a tank, and weighs about as much. I needed two people to help me assemble and move it. Assembly was straiightforward and took about 90 minutes. I have about 4 cooks on it and cannot be happier with the results.


Kevin- I’m in the process of researching to get my husband a grill for Christmas. I’m torn between the 820 you mentioned above and the Traeger Pro Series. As far as I can tell they are basically the same except that you get a larger cooking area on the pit boss for the same price you pay for a small cook space in a traeger. I would like to spend around $600 on the grill but would possibly go up to $800 and want 500 sq in cook space or greater. Which do you prefer? Pit Boss, Traeger or another brand?


Featuring a cast-aluminum rust resistant burner this stove Featuring a cast-aluminum rust resistant burner this stove is a versatile all around cooker. Perfect for any of your cooking needs from boiling and frying to Dutch oven cooking. Its compact size and portability make this stove a great side companion to add cooking space to your outdoor kitchen. Great ...  More + Product Details Close

I would make that decision based upon desired temperature. Very few of the smokers on your list can surpass the 485 to 500 degree mark. You’ll read a lot of discussion about grill grates helping you get into those higher temperatures and that product does work. I would simply pick a smoker that can get to the desired temperature you want like the Louisiana and the Memphis. Both can exceed 500 degrees and both can hit 600 degrees without problems.

At Grills Forever, we work hard to bring you the best product reviews possible through an extensive online research process. We go through countless online reviews and browse through different brands, both known and unknown. We then go through their features and the value they can provide to the users. We shortlist the top products to do physical testing and then come up with a review. We do this on a regular basis to keep our list up-to-date.
I've been wanting a Yoder for the last year and a half. Finally pulled the trigger on a 640 a couple months ago. Absolutely fantastic. I've been a Weber guy forever and this is my first smoker. This defiantly took my food over the top. My 640 has been incredibly accurate with keeping the heat on the grate to the setting I punch in. Just finished my first brisket and it was fantastic. The only way to go!

Thank you so much for this very informative post!! My husband and I just bought the Traeger Select Elite Pellet Grill On Cart yesterday as a somewhat impulsive buy on a Costco shopping trip. It was the last day in the road show so I figured we could always return it if we have buyer’s remorse. Having no past experience with pellet smokers/grills, I am doing my due diligence in researching the reputation of this company and comparing to others in the market. The selling point for us with this particular Traeger grill was the ability to convert this to a built in unit by simply taking off the right side shelf. The sales rep at Costco had a picture of one that his parents had built into an attractive brick surround and we liked the option, however, after reading your post and several other sites, I am finding that Traeger may not be the best investment comparatively and with a purchase this expensive, long-term quality is extremely important to us. In staying within the same price range, I am very interested in the Rec-Tec and it’s stainless steel build. My question is, do you know if the Rec-Tec or another pellet grill @ the $1000 price point can be made to look “built-in” and if so, are there any dangers or potential problems with this.
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.
The Yoder YS640 is 32 inches wide, weighs 313 pounds, and is said to have a cooking range of 150 to 600°F (65 to 315°C). Yoder is known for heavy-duty competition smokers, and the thick, 10-gauge-steel cooking chamber on this model is durable and great for heat retention. It comes with a sophisticated proprietary digital controller, which Yoder asserts is not based on any off-the-shelf temperature controller of any sort. Yoder states that it designed the board from scratch around a general-purpose micro-controller chip and wrote its own code from the ground up in an attempt to provide superior flexibility, efficiency, and accuracy.
If you are looking for the perfect spacious grill for home cooking, then this Traeger grill is yours for the taking. This is the most sold and famous model of Traeger grill in the market currently. It uses different kinds of hardwood pellets to smoke, grill, braise, bake, roast and barbecue different flavored dishes. Besides, it has a compact design that saves on storage space. It is built to last with sturdy steel construction with a powder coat finish. Additionally, it has a non-stick surface that makes it easier to clean and maintain the grill grates. Moreover, it is 418 square inches, enough for 16 burgers, 5 racks of ribs and 4 whole chickens.
Green Mountain pellet smokers offer innovation and good quality as well as relatively low price points. The Daniel Boone model is the midsized version. It boasts an advanced digital touch-pad dual-probe controller and stainless steel grates and drip pan, and, with 13.5 inches of headroom, Daniel Boone can accommodate large turkeys and roasts. Although the WiFi option adds a hundred bucks to the bill, few pellet smokers anywhere near GMG's price range offer WiFi control. Download the GMG app to your smartphone or tablet for a point-to-point connection, enabling you to remotely turn Daniel Boone on and off; monitor and control the internal meat temp, cooking temp, and timer; and even store the time- and temperature-based profiles of your favorite recipes. For example, you can set your Daniel Boone to "Tri-Tip Beef Roast" and have it start out cooking at 225°F (105°C) until the internal meat temp hits 110°F (43°C), then crank to 500°F (260°C) for browning until the meat registers 135° (57°C), then drop the temp to 150°F (65°C) to keep it warm.
It comes with some unique features, such as its proprietary “Sense-mate” technology that uses a thermal sensor to monitor the ambient temperature. If used in a cold weather, this grill fires up the turbo mode so you won’t have to wait for it to heat up before you start using it. It comes with “fan-only” mode to blow off the ash and automatically clean the grill once it has been shut off.

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?
Thank you so much for the kind words! I think you would be very happy with a smaller pellet grill / smoker. The wording changes depending on how you are using the device. For instance, if you are cooking at low temperatures you will get a stronger smoke profile then if you burn a pellet smoker / grill at its higher temperature range. One thing you could do for steaks is cook them at the higher range thus being able to get a sear much like you would on a direct heated Grill service, for instance on your Weber. Another option would be to cook the steak in the reverse see your method, by bringing it up to temperature at a lower smoker setting and adding some smoke flavoring that way, then removing it and bringing the smoker up to its higher settings so you can finish off the steak with some of the effect you would achieve on direct flame. I normally do this by bringing the steaks up to about 15 degrees below where I want them to finish. Then, I finish them off at the higher temperature to where they are about 5 degrees below my target. This usually means a few minutes on each side but I use a Thermapen to be sure.
My traeger has had some good moments but it very unreliable.  I really do not enjoy cooking with it.  I have no confidence in the temp readings and the smoke control.  Every time I open the lid the temp drops like 200 degrees.  I'll smoke at the "smoke" setting but as soon as I turn it to 225 it spikes to like 300-500 degrees. Wtf?  I thought this POS was supposed to be a set it and forget it type smoker.  Very unreliable.  Temp fluctuates so much and if there is even a slight breeze the temps just go up and down up and down.  The pellet feeder is garbage.  It will all the sudden just start smoking like crazy because the pellets have jammed into the burner.  Completely ridiculous smoker.  I use it still but only when I can sit and watch the feeder.  The guys comment below is true about the feeder always just using the middle pellets.  I always have to check it and push the pellets to the center.  Some simple engineering would change this. Never again will I purchase a traeger. There are much better options out there and better price.

It’s built pretty solidly, which is what you want with a portable system as it’s obviously being moved around a lot more. I’d say it’s similar in build quality to the Traeger Junior Elite, which as a top of the line smoker says all that needs to be said. If something does go wrong, there’s a two year warranty. I’d have liked more, but it’s there, and that’s good enough.


I’ve seen a lot of pellet smokers over the years, and it’s easy to say that out of every one, the RecTec is without a doubt a beast. It combines exceptional cooking performance with fantastic build quality and a thoughtfulness of design that you just don’t see in other smokers. Or a lot of other products. Not only that, but it’s one of the easiest smokers I’ve ever used, with professional quality cooking literally at the push of a button
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I bought my second Traeger Grill around Thanksgiving (my last one died after 3 months), spent most of the day assembling it only to find it didn't work. Customer service told me to reset the thermostat, I did and it shut down.  I did this routine a few more times with customer service and it kept shutting down, day after day.  Traeger reluctantly sent me a replacement grill and promised it would be Fully assembled (I have little use of my left hand and can't work with small parts)  Well it showed up unassembled in a bunch of little boxes. Customer service told me 4 times that they would call back with a local Traeger dealer to assemble it. Four promises to have someone come out and not even a phone call.
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.
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One of the most common problems people encounter with pellet grills is abnormal temperature fluctuations—the controller is set to 250°F, but the grill is dropping to 200°F then climbing to 325°F. Usually people assume that it's a mechanical issue and either the controller or RTD probe need to be replaced. However, very often the problem is far simpler and the solution far easier.


For beginner outdoors chefs and guys buying their first smoker, that’s an invaluable bit of knowledge. Knowing that no matter what you do, as long as you follow the standard set up, you’re going to produce professional quality meat with ease, which is why smokers like the ones below are the best choice for anyone looking at buying their first pellet smoker.
Thank you for a very comprehensive review and all the helpful advice. I would like to know your thoughts about having the burn pot in the center area as in the Rec-Tec, or on the side. My only interest is smoking, not grilling, and I prefer even heat throughout the cooking chamber. How much difference does the location of the burn pot make? Thank you very much.
I have used Bradley, Masterpiece, Green Egg, New Braunfels, Oklahoma Joe, Weber and now Traeger. So there is some experience in these comments. The “set it and forget” it is a misnomer and should not be used with Traeger (or any smoker/grill.) With Pellet Drive before you buy Read up on Er codes. The worst is when the fire pot fills up with pellets because the fire can’t keep up with the auger push and the whole cook is ruined or delayed. You have to pull everything out and basically start over while your expensive prime brisket is trying to be saved in the oven. Doesn’t matter what the weather is or wind conditions. Doesn’t matter if you stare at it and stir the hopper continuously. It will happen. Customer support at first was well you are at fault (didn’t leave the lid open on fireup for exactly 2 to 4 minutes or didn’t vacuum out the firepot between every cook) which is crazy. Finally, after so many calls over the past 6 months they are trying to make it right. Problem is, DO NOT believe the “set it and forget it.” That does not exist with any good cook. I have replaced the controller the fan and now getting a new probe. Do not waste your money. Unless someone out here in BBQ land can give me a recommendation on a product that won’t do this stay away from Pellet Drive?
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