It may have taken a few years to catch on, but it’s hard to dispute that pellet grills are here to stay. Pellet grills are easily the fastest growing segment in the grilling industry. This has left many new pellet grill owners with a few questions concerning pellets. Chief among them “what constitutes a good pellet?” Second, “where can they find pellets to fuel their prized grill?”
If you live in an area where wood furnaces are used (not like down here in FL where a few heat strips will do the trick), you may also be familiar with pellet furnaces. In short, pellets compressed from sawdust and wood shavings fill a hopper and are then fed into a burn pot using an electric auger system. The auger, which is basically a long screw, delivers pellets to the burn pot based on the speed dictated by the unit’s thermostat.
Hey Jeff – I think that due to pellet smokers requiring much of the wood pellet for “fuel” leaving a smaller part for the “smoke” means that you want as much of the smoke to stay in the chamber for as long as possible. Just my opinion. I’ve not used charcoal pellets. Those I’ve spoken with who have used them weren’t extremely happy with the results. Regarding the water pan, I feel that pellet smokers don’t typically require water pans. However, you can surely use one and see how your results go.
The Texas Elite 34 pellet grill is a fairly basic pellet grill that still gives you lots of versatility: you can grill hot and fast, or smoke low and slow, you can bake, braise, roast, or bbq all sorts of food to juicy perfection! Just like an oven, you set the temperature and the Integrated Digital Elite Controller keeps the temp within +/- 20 degrees F for as long as you need it!
Despite being a little complicated when compared to the other types of grilling equipment (because of the automatic pellet auger and fan), they are pretty easy to repair if you have the right parts. You can find these parts right at a home depot or online. It doesn’t matter if you need to replace the auger or the fan, the ignitor rod or the hopper, for the top brands, you’ll find the replacement parts just as easily. Let’s look at the replaceable parts of a pellet smoker:
Access to electricity has its downfalls. First, if the cord isn’t long enough you will need to make sure you have a proper extension cord. Using the wrong cord is a fire hazard. Do the math (watts / volts = amps) and make sure you have the right extension cord. The smoker is also less mobile, and if it's stored outside it absolutely must have a cover. Electrical components and weather don’t mix.
Whenever you want to smoke with a pellet smoker, you will have to make a choice: What type of wood pellets should I use? Well, the answer may sound simple – whichever flavor you like the best – but might be pretty difficult if you’re smoking for the first time. Unfortunately, the only way to know which flavor you like most is to try them all at least once and then decide upon which one floats your boat.
And of course, it’s definitely a plus when the company that makes your grill includes a multi-year warranty and top notch customer service. Pellet grills are finicky compared to gas or charcoal grills simply because there are so many more parts that require electronics or that have electrical components… which means there is a fair bit more that can actually go wrong or require service at some point.
As you can see in this selection of pellet grill reviews, the act of heating pellets and generating smoke in any pellet smoker is pretty much the same. Yes, some pellet grills use thicker metal, have better thermostats, air flow, racks, drip flow, etc. But the ask any professional BBQ cooker who uses a pellet grill, and they’ll tell you that the quality of your smoke really does come down to the pellets themselves. Here’s what one very astute BBQ pro had to say over at the Pellet Smoke Ring:
The Camp Chef Woodwind Pellet Grill was chosen as our sixth choice because it lacked some features found in our Top 5 picks, especially when it came to cooking flexibility. While it does offer an impressive 6-in-1 cooking experience, it lacks an auto shut-off feature, which makes it less of a “set it an forget it” kind of smoker. The grill is rather heavy, at an overall weight of 146lbs. It’s also more expensive than the rest, even though it offers similar (even less) features. It’s a decent choice if flavor is the only thing you’re looking for.
Thanks Kevin. I am about to buy both a 5 burner gas grill and a smoker for a new bbq island. Rather than buy both, will one of these higher end pellet grills take the place of a traditional propane grill? I can apply the funds for the gas grill to a higher end pellet if it can really do double duty. It has to be able to cook burgers and dogs and steaks etc. Just like a gas grill though. Thoughts?
Heating pellets, meanwhile, can consist of a variety of woods, including softwoods like pine, which contains resin that infuses food with a bitter unappetizing taste. Because it doesn’t really matter what’s in heating pellets, so long as they burn, they can also include bark and leaves and other impurities that can adversely affect food flavor and possibly pose a health risk if ingested. Because less care goes into the production of heating pellets and they're not guaranteed to be 100% pure hardwood, heating pellets are significantly less expensive than BBQ pellets, making them appealing to budget conscious shoppers. However, resist the temptation to save a few bucks and never use heating pellets in a pellet smoker.
Rec Tec Wood Pellet Grill boasts a cooking area of over 1000 sq. inches. However, that area is calculated from its optional cooking shelf. Without it, the cooking area is roughly around 700 sq. feet. This removable shelf can allow you to increase your cooking area if you’re trying to cook patties, steaks, chicken pieces and items as such; or they can be removed for granting a greater volume of space for smoking brisket or whole turkeys.
“We love pellet grills but didn’t like the designs of the models on the market. They are more like an oven than a grill. MAK Grills are designed to be the best in class. You get outstanding BBQ flavor and safe cooking with real wood, along with an automatic lighting and fuel feed system. Simply turn the grill on and you’re cooking in minutes! Our direct heat FlameZone ® feature is pioneering the industry for “gas grill like” cooking without the hassle of flare-ups and burned food.” — MAK Grills
Many of the models require you to clean them up for 30 minutes because you have to take out the gooey deflector plate and the greasy grates in order to scrape them off and wash them until they’re shining. Careful cleaning is required when the grease and carbon are covering the deflector plate. The easy-clean grills typically make the parts more accessible but the amount of cleanup remains the same.
Included meat probes and whether they’re programmable - Not every grill that can accommodate a meat probe comes with the probe. Some require you to buy it separately Also, not all meat probes and the control boards they connect to are created equal. Some are just for monitoring temperatures. Others are programmable—you can actually program the pellet grill to lower the heat when your food reaches its finishing temperature.
I don’t know how many meals I cooked on that thing, but it’s been enough to make me a hero and de facto camp chef among my friends. I seared up a tri tip large enough to feed four hungry kayaking buddies at the Salmon River Festival one year, then covered it with foil and cooked it on indirect heat for one of the best steaks of my life, which we happily consumed in the middle of nowhere. The grill also perfectly charred onions and peppers to deliver a mountain of chicken and beef fajitas to a crowd of ten. I still get compliments on that one.
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?
The Smart Smoke technology is one of the most convenient and easy to use features on the grill. It contains a dual LED temperature readout that keeps the heat at a constant temperature. This means you have more time for socializing and can sit back and relax. The temperature ranges from 160 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. The grill uses a pellet feeder system that burns slowly to add intense flavor to your food. It also uses an electric auto-start ignition that requires the grill be plugged into a standard 120v outlet.
The popular Traeger Junior Elite is a great smoker for first-time chefs as well as experienced smokers who are short on space. It's versatile and can grill, smoke, bake, roast, braise, and barbecue food. The digital controller is adjustable to +/- 20 degrees and has 300 square inches of grilling space that is large enough for two whole chickens or three racks of ribs.
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.
They had the field to themselves for a few years, but the idea was too good to go un-imitated, and soon competitors began popping up. In the early days, most pellet smoker controllers had only three settings—low, medium, high (LMH)—and there was no temperature probe in the oven to create a feedback loop. So, whether you were smoking a few slabs of ribs on a scorching summer day or six pork butts during a blizzard, the controller only knew pellet-feed on and off times for its standard settings. It had no information on the actual temperature inside the cooking chamber.
One thing we humans tend to forget amidst hustle bustle of our fast paced and commercial lives is that we should earn to live, not live to earn. So I think it is high time you ditch your shoe-box of an office behind for a day and live. Spend a day with your family at the park, or maybe catch up with your childhood friend over a beer or two and start doing barbecue. You cannot even begin to imagine how much spending some quality time with your loved ones can help you and them, revive and replenish the monotonousness. And there isn’t a better way to mingle than over a small get-together with some amazing food and great company cooked on your pellet grill.
As a new and nervous cook or just a busy one, it is always a struggle to get the results you want without having to tend to a grill or stovetop all day long. Luckily, Pellet Grills offer a convenient solution. These foolproof devices allow you to truly set it and forget it. Whether you crave perfectly grilled spare ribs or smoked pork butt, Pellet Grills allow you an unprecedented degree of control over the temperature and cooking style you want. What’s more, Pellet Grills are a terrific way to infuse your food with the real flavor of wood smoke, whether it be hickory, mesquite or maple. Unlike gas grills, the flavor is right there in the fuel with wood-pellet grills.
In addition, due to the wood pellets used in the Traeger grill, it is easy to cook different food products even pies, something that is impossible with charcoal or propane fired grills like the big green egg grill and the camp chef grill, respectively. Moreover, it is hard to get consistent results with the big green egg grill, as some food might come out good while others will just burn. It is a great challenge to use the big green egg grill.
We have reviewed the best pellet smokers on the market today after doing our extensive comparative research. However, there were some hidden gems that could not make it to our top 10 product list because of one reason or another e.g. due to their high prices, unavailabilities in some regions, and other factors. Also, some just failed to get in our top 10 list only because it was a top 10 list and not a top 20 list. Regardless of the reasons, here are a few honorable mentions that failed to make it to this top 10 best pellet smoker review, but are still worthy in their own rights:
Although I marked price high. I would buy it again, tomorrow. I was a novice. I had never smoked anything when I bought this. It is amazing and if you asked my friends and family I should have opened a bar & grill. It's grills better than any gas grill u can buy. The YS640 only gets better with time you get good at using it. It's the best cooker on earth. If your considering paying over $800 for a cooker. Spend the money... you will not regret it. My cousins have Traegers.. and they smeared by them. One weekend at my cabin one has ordered his the other don't have the money yet. I have used it a minimum of 2 days a week and have already got my money out of it by not ruining meat. The guys at Yoder have a monopoly. No one makes a cooker that could stand up to it. THANK YOU YODER. YOU HAVE MADE SOME GREAT HOLIDAY MEMORIES FOR ME AND MY FAMILY. Remember if your on the borderline don't know if it's worth a little more. By the 12th month of owning it. You will look at your wife or girlfriend and say "I'm so glad I spent a little extra and got that. It's beautiful.
This maker of top-quality wood and pellet grillers is the company spearheading the digital revolution in the pellet smoker industry like its digital controller that manages pellet flow to control internal temperature and WiFi that connects your phone to the grill, allowing you to use it to control your grill for good measure. It’s the more gimmicky of the different pellet grill makers.
Moving on from the orangish-red looks of the predecessor RT-680, this newer model has a black hood, with stainless steel built. It is 2.5” taller than the RT-680 and has 2 stainless steel bull horn handles on the outside that will have you falling in love with its built. Everything from the towel rings, the controller shelf, the hopper lid to the spill-proof bucket hook is stainless steel and even the smallest of details like the laser cutout of “Rec Tec Grills” on the side will never fail to impress.
Background: I've had this flat top for a month now and do 99% of my cooking on it. I have it set up next to my kitchen balcony which allows me to cook outside in most weather conditions and allows me to keep my kitchen clean for the most part due to a natural gas hook-up that I have outside. I purchased the Natural Gas Kit Hose (NGKIT) and converted the flat top to only intake natural gas. Please note that once you make the conversion then you cannot convert it back to propane unless you get new orifices. I had to drill all 4 orifices with a #45 drill bit to ensure that sufficient gas will be funneled through to the flat top. This process took a couple hours and will take more if you don't have the proper tools.
GrillGrates(TM) amplify heat, prevent flareups, make flipping foods easier, keep small foods from committing suicide, kill hotspots, are easier to clean, flip over to make a fine griddle, and can be easily removed and moved from one grill to another. You can even throw wood chips, pellets, or sawdust between the rails and deliver a quick burst of smoke to whatever is above. Every gas grill needs them.
Is it customer support? I ordered a grill cover(made by a outside vendor in Kansas as well) for my YS640. It ended up with a small leak. I called Don, and by the end of the week I had a brand new one. Also, I was getting ready for my first cook on my brand new YS640, and I invited the whole family over for baby back ribs. I called Joe, and he talked with me on the phone for 20 minutes explaining how the grill worked, what temp to set the pit at, when to rotate the ribs and even which ribs will need to be rotated. Joe was spot on! Best ribs I have ever had!!!
Kevin- super helpful article. Thanks! I just moved from a big city small apartment with no grill to a house in the country. Most essential purchase is the grill. I’m really on the fence. I like the idea of a pellet grill, but in reality- I’m mostly cooking burgers, fish, steaks, scallops, and veggies. The brisket and ribs will be more of a special occasion. From an economical perspective, am I better buying a gas grill and just getting one of those smoke tubes to add some flavor? From many of the online comments, it seems like the pellet grills benefit from additional smoke anyway, and though you can get additional grates for searing, seems like a square peg in a round hole. The gas grill is sort of the tried and true, and way more economical. Those $500 entry level pellet grills seem a little scrawny, and the next level up is a cool $grand. I’m really on the fence, and getting pressure to “just buy the darn thing” to consummate the move to the country! However the pellet grills seem like the new shiny object and have my curiosity. Any advice? PS- love the website! Thanks, Cary
Pellet grills come in many different sizes that accommodate food as per those sizes. However, even the smaller kinds are able to cook up a meal for a large family of 4 to 5 at a time! The larger ones are obviously able to accommodate large portions of meat and other food in it. In fact, some large pellet grills are used to cook up a whole baby lamb or large fishes at a time! This is one appliance that has been proven ideal for feeding a lot of heads at a time without the stress and the hard work of course, making it great for small to medium parties and get-together.
At present, I am sponsored by and continually use pellets produced by CookinPellets.com. There are two versions of pellets – the Perfect Mix (Hickory, Cherry, Hard Maple, and Apple Woods) and 100 Percent Hickory. In each of these versions, CookinPellets uses all wood, no bark, no filler woods like oak or alder and no flavor oils. Just 100% of what is on the bag. I get consistently great flavor using these two varieties of pellet smoker pellets from CookinPellets.com, and I think you’ll enjoy them very much as well.