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.
Ok, so where do I start..... Last September or so, I bought my Traeger at the local Costco during one of the Traeger road shows. I heard wonderful things about them. Did the research, they are pricey, but decided to take the plunge and plop down the $750.00 for a new grill and a couple of bags of pellets. Assembly was way harder than the Traeger rep told me it would be. It took me about 4 hours start to finish to get it assembled. Once assembled, I did all the break in "burning" and we made our first meal, a whole chicken. I have to admit, it truly was yummy! Then over the next couple of months we made 4 or five other meals with it and we we actually very happy with the results. Then came the holidays...... We made one of the Ham recipes from a Traeger cookbook. About half way through the process I looked outside to see my grill totally engulfed in flames. I shut the grill down and fortunately salvages most of the ham for Christmas dinner. The grill itself was about 60% destroyed. I called Treager the next day just to find out what happened. The customer service guy way REALLY nice. He said, "Don't worry. We stand behind our product 100%." Wow was I impressed! He told me he would email me instructions on how to make a claim. He even told me he would send me a new thermometer ( my Christmas present one was destroyed by the fire). He did everything as promised! Now, jump ahead to my actually trying to get my Traeger replaced. Per the email, I called Traeger customer service expecting the same service I received right after Christmas. NOPE! I spoke with Frank (Carson) I believe. He did everything from accuse me of shutting my grill off and turning it back on incorrectly (impossible since I was in the house) to not cleaning my grill. Neither of which were correct. He basically made me feel like my grill was unsafe! His attitude was HORRIBLE! He was rude and condescending. A nightmare to work with! I did not get my grill issues resolved until I spoke with his boss Andrew. Way more than I felt was necessary. Fast forward to today. Finally got my new Traeger running again. Had an issue with the smoker temperature. So I called the toll free Traeger customer service line. Low and behold, who answers my call at Traeger customer service? Frank! He is still nasty and ended the conversation with "Hopefully you do not burn your grill up again!" Nice guy! Dude, being a smart aleck didn't exactly earn you any points. You should be ashamed of your self! Bottom line: Love my Traeger. But customer service person Frank is HORRIBLE to work with! Everyone else there is so nice. Why on earth do they keep someone who is supposed to be helping customers, when he has such a horrible and nasty disposition. I will keep my Traeger but hope I NEVER have to speak with Frank again. One star for him!
So what about the question of blends versus 100% pure species pellets? Should you avoid blends? Should you only use 100% pure? That is a web to unweave and depends greatly on what you are cooking as to the correct answer. Through our testing we found many blends to work very well. We liked them so much that we incorporated them into what we offer. Not all blends are created equal though and the amount of hardwood versus flavor wood varies widely across brands. We also found that some 100% pure pellets such as cherry and apple had harder times reaching higher grilling temperatures and lacked the harder core flavor punch of hickory or mesquite. Coming from the world of stick burners many new pellet grill owners assume that going 100% cherry or apple is going to work for them since that is what they have grown accustomed to. At the end of the day, they end up moving to a pellet with a deeper flavor like hickory or mesquite to get the results they are used to.
First, it’s really easy to use, with an electric auto ignition and shutdown system, plus LED controls that make setup idiot proof. Once it’s up and burning, the built in temperature sensor and meat probe make knowing what’s going on inside simple, especially considering that the thermometer is one of the most accurate I’ve seen, with only around 10 degrees variance. It’s got multiple settings if you’re using it as a meat smoker, as well, so you can control your flavor.
In 1982 Traeger Heating in Oregon began experimenting with a furnace that would burn wood pellets made from compressed sawdust, a byproduct of the area lumber mills, and before long introduced a home heating system that they sold mostly locally. Since furnaces sold mostly in cold months, before long they began experimenting with a grill that would burn pellets, too. Eventually they created a device with an auger to feed the pellets and a blower to help them burn.
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.
You want even grilling: One of the downsides of using a charcoal grill is ensuring that the entire grilling area is evenly heated. Spreading the charcoal evenly and avoiding hot spots is difficult. Traeger’s pellet grilling system overcomes this problem with a fan that evenly distributes the heat throughout the grilling area, much like a wood-fired oven would have.
The Pit Boss Company manufactures an extra-large pellet grill with 700 square inches of cooking surface. It closest competitor in pellet smoker largeness is the 7-year veteran known as Rec-Tec. It has probably one of the largest cooking surfaces (or the largest at that) in the pellet grill and smoker industry. It approaches grilling with the idea that sometimes bigger really is better, at least in terms of cooking more meats at the same time.
I have used a pellet smoker for about five years, and looked at, or used, many different brands. I have added auxiliary smoke generators, and tried almost every way possible to create authentic BBQ on a pellet smoker— It can’t be done. When the vendors, or users, refer to subtle smoke they mean virtually no wood flavor. Do yourself a favor and try a simple test: go to a really good BBQ joint, or BBQ competition; try some of their Q and then compare it to pellet meat. There is no comparison. I wanted the pellet unit to produce good Q in the worst way because of the ease. You cannot duplicate the smoke created in a wood, or wood/charcoal firebox with compressed sawdust. It pains me to say it but it is true.
Although these are marketed as grills, they do much more, including baking or roasting. Because they heat by convection, you might not get the grill marks that a gas or charcoal grill will give you, but you also won’t have the flame-up problems. While many pellet grills offer high cooking temperatures, the maximum depends on ambient temperature and wind. Many users wrap their grills in special insulating covers to help maintain heat, reduce fuel use, and reach the higher temperatures they desire.