Most pellet smokers are wood-burning ovens: great for ribs, turkey, brisket, and pork shoulders, but not so great for grilling steaks and burgers. The FEC PG series was one of the first lines of pellet burners to offer a sear station, a cast iron cooking grate right over the fire pot where the wood pellets burn. It isn't the best setup for searing, but it's better than most other pellet searing schemes. The real beauty of the Fast Eddy's design is that it produces meat with a deep mahogany finish, much like a competition-grade offset smoker. It also has two upper-level heat zones, for a total of four distinct temperature zones.
Camp Chef is the company that perfected the pellet grill formula that Traeger made up, hence its introduction of an effective pellet auger that dispenses pellets only when needed and a large capacity hopper that reduces the need for pellet refills (that people find really annoying). It’s economical in terms of fuel rationing even though the griller itself is quite expensive.
When you think of a portable smoker and grill, you think about basic features. But with the Tailgater by Traeger Grills, you get more than what most portable grills have to offer. At 300 sq. in., this portable grill is enough to cook decent and succulent dishes for small groups. It can even reach to a maximum 450 degrees F, so you’re never limited when it comes to the type of meat you want to grill or smoke. We loved its EZ fold legs, which make it easier to throw into the car trunk, ready for the next adventure.
Second, you’ll have to figure out what BBQ pellets you want to use. There are many different brands, blends, and mixes to choose from, and you’ll likely want to do some side by side testing to see what you like best on what meats. My very good friend and BBQ buddy Shane Draper really likes to make his own blends – using different woods in different proportions depending on what he’s cooking.
With their portable model, Traeger has their own version of the classic 'tailgater'. Still fairly hefty at a little over 60 pounds, this grill is still far and away the most lightweight model Traeger offers. The legs fold up for ease of storage and transportation. As with all other Traeger products, temperature controls allow grillers to use the Tailgater as either a conventional grill or a smoker.
The best thing about pellet smokers is that unless you’re buying the absolute cheapest models, there are no bad choices. In this list for under $500, you’ll find pellet smokers and grills perfectly suited for dropping a few burgers at home use like the Traeger Junior Elite, for throwing in the back of the van and using anywhere like the Green Mountain Davey Crockett, or for cooking whole turkeys when you have ten people round on Thanksgiving, like the Camp Chef Smokepro.
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.
My wife and I just purchased a Yoder YS640. After looking at a lot of other smokers we finally settled on this one. It weighs in at over 300 pounds and is built like a tank. You can see and feel the difference between this unit and others. We brought it home, put it together and did the initial burn in for 1 hour. We then made some ribs for dinner. The temp was set and only had 10 degrees fluctuation up or down. The meat was very moist and had just the right amount of smoke flavor. We are very glad we made this purchase.
The Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett smoker lets you get more than what you paid for. At a surprisingly low price, you get to have tons of great features that are sure to elevate your BBQ experience. For its price, we were quite surprised to see that it satisfied most of the features on our review. We tested over fifty products, and even the expensive ones were no match for this product. In terms of value per dollar, this product deserves the top spot.
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.
Food not cooking evenly or at desired times: It’s worth checking out the health of the fans in your pellet grill. Usually, if the fan is unable to distribute the heat properly throughout the whole smoker, these problems occur. Fans are relatively inexpensive and very easy to replace. Even if you see the fan working and still getting these problems, it might be that the fan is working intermittently or at slower speeds that it needs to. Have it replaced: it would be the best course of action and won’t be heavy on your wallet.
The Fast Eddy by Cookshack is an American designed and manufactured Pellet Grill with a riveted stainless steel body and solid digitally controlled system to maintain the consistent temperature. The name of the game here is sturdy reliability. What it lacks in little extras like wifi controls it makes up for inconsistency. Whether you're smoking, grilling, or searing, the Fast Eddy performs.
Whether you call them pellet grills or pellet smokers (the terms are interchangeable), there's no denying the impact these do-everything cookers are having on BBQ. In the past year alone, interest in pellet grills has grown at an astounding rate, with the number of online searches nearly doubling. Although they've been around for over thirty years, it's only recently that they've earned the title of the Hottest Product in BBQ.
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.
If you get it that BBQ is more than burning hotdogs on a propane grill, you could likely benefit from The BBQ Beat podcasts. Kevin interviews the best Pitmasters in the country. They share their knowledge, stories, and experiences. There is something to be learned in each podcast. So if you're serious about your bbq, check out these podcasts. They are time well spent.
Hey Todd – what pellet grill do you have? Also, by short cooks, how long are you talking? Have you looked at the burn pot? If it’s overfilled, you may need to vacuum it out, along with the interior of the cooker. Then, put 10 or so pellets into the burn pot and start it up again. See if that helps. There should not be much if any ash in the food chamber area or on the food. At least not in my experience.
Generally speaking cheap grills are not made with quality materials. While the outside may look good, often times you will find the guts of the grill are made with lower grade metals. This of course affects functionality and longevity. If the inside of the grill isn’t made using quality materials you will literally burn through it over a certain period time.
It has a cooking area of 800 sq. inches and a hopper capacity of 20lbs. While that just would be fine for regular smoking, this product needs some supervision and pellet refilling for longer smoking sessions. It does not have a Wi-Fi enabled control system, though it does come with a digital control system to provide you some ease of control while cooking with this product.
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.
Because the burn pot is small, there is usually a hot spot directly over it. Some units have an optional perforated section above the burn pot so you can put the meat over direct flame, but the ones I've tested still do not sear properly. And there is no way to set up a 2-zone cooking system with a cool zone. As with most other grills and smokers, the differences between lower and upper racks is not huge, so think of it as one heckuva indirect heat convection smoker with precision temperature control.
Hey Tom! First, thank you so much for commenting on this article. I hope it’s proved useful to you and helping you make your pellet smoker buying decision. I took a look at the smokers you mentioned in your comment, and they appear to be similar in build to those made by Yoder. I can verify that Yoder does exceptionally good work with both the build quality and the heavy gauge steel Construction of their smokers. I don’t know much about the manufacturing practices of the smokers you mentioned. I do like the fact that their controller automatically dropped down to a warming temperature after your food reaches the programmed temperature setting. That’s a feature that I’ve only seen in higher-priced pellet grills like the Memphis Pro Series that I talk about in this article. However, more grills are starting to utilize this in the programming aspect of their controllers. In any case it’s a great feature. To be honest with you I’m not sure that the auger mechanics are going to be all that different between smokers. I’m sure there are differences, but I don’t feel that they are dramatic enough to offer a distinct selling Advantage for the manufacturer. If you haven’t looked at them yet, you might consider taking a look at the Traeger Pro Series pellet grills. You can’t find it on Amazon, but you can find them at different retailers listed on the main Traeger site. A friend of mine has one major competitions using the pro series models.
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.