I have used this cooker at least once a week for two years. I recently had a couple of issues with it going out and was thinking it was having a serious issue. Quite frankly as much as I use it it should be worn out by now. Here is what I discovered. Carbon had built up on the tempeture probe and the grill wasn't getting accurate readings. Suspecting the temp probe I checked it with an external one and it was off 50 degrees or more. I am assuming that the readings were off enough that the grill controller just shut it off kind of a fail safe? 30 seconds with steel wool and we are back in business.
In true Yoder fashion the 640 is not a fancy cooker with lots of shiny things, bells and whistles. Don't mistake that for poor craftsmanship, the Yoders are all built to the highest quality standards. They just happen to be more muscle car than sports car. Big, bad ass, built to last American muscle car that will blow the doors off the competition on your back deck or on the comp trail.
I've had the Yoder for about 4 years now. Never looked back. It made my old Traeger look like a dime-store trinket. Thick metal. Built like a tank. Hold temps perfectly. I used to monitor grill temp. Realized quickly there was no need. Not even in the wind and cold. Eats less pellets than my old Traeger. Don't get me wrong, the Traeger works great when conditions are perfect, but in Omaha, NE, things are rarely perfect. It's true that compared to an offset you won't realize as strong of smoke flavor. That's good and bad, depending on what you're going for. When you're after dense smoke flavor, a simple smoke tube is all you need to get it to where you need.
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.
After about 10-15 hours of cooking, you should remove the burn cup and dump the ash. If the ash builds up it can prevent ignition. Ash also accumulates in the bottom of the unit, but doesn't impact cooking. A vacuum cleaner with a hose makes short work of it. Only a few manufacturers, such as Blaz'n Grill Works and Camp Chef have a slide out combustion cup that makes cleanup much easier, but you still have to get underneath the deflector occasionally and suck out fly ash that has scattered around the lower part of the grill body.
The first thing to consider before purchasing a pellet smoker is your budget. This will allow you to buy the best pellet smoker for the money. If you are a beginner, you do not need to get an expensive unit in order to produce results. However, if you have some experience and you want to take your smoking to the next level, you may look into a more expensive model with the goal of getting some of the features you want.
Pellet grills have a couple of very distinct advantages and disadvantages. The best can hold a constant temperature more or less indefinitely, provide even smoke at low temps, cook w/o smoke at high temps, make it possible to evenly cook several different meats and do a good job at two zone cooking. The Yoder excels at these. It is built like a tank, easy to use and I love it. One drawback for some pellet grills is the inability to reach high temps and sear. With the GrillGrates I have reached almost 600F and can sear with the best of them. Drawbacks. Well, it is a bit tricky to clean, but I guess I am keeping it cleaner than I did my previous grills!

Multi-position Controller - A step up from 3-position controllers, multi-position controllers feature a knob with temperature settings that go from 180°F to 420°F in 25° increments and may have an LCD display. In addition to more settings, these controllers offer more temperature control. However, they also run on fixed cycles and can only maintain about +/-20°F in ideal conditions—in cold windy weather they are less accurate and reliable. Some versions of these controllers have inputs for meat probes that can monitor food temperatures.


Hello Mark! Thanks for commenting here. The Kalamazoo Hybrid Grill looks like a BEAST! If you can swing it, I’d go for it. I truly enjoyed cooking on the Memphis Grill, which is to date the most high end pellet grill I’ve used. It offered a nice blend of professional grade convection with the wood fire taste of the pellets. The Kalamazoo hybrid really does seem to offer one step beyond with the addition of charcoal and wood chunks. I see that Derrick Riches of About.com stands behind the Kalamazoo brand. You’re hard pressed to get a better endorsement of a grilling product than that! Keep me posted at kevin@bbqbeat.com and let me know how your search goes! 🙂

Camp Chef has already been mentioned several times on this list. It's a venerable company that makes up in quality what it lacks in the name recognition of a Traeger or Weber. Their Deluxe Pellet Grill is built to reach and hold ideal temperatures for smoking. An internal system syncs pellet delivery to temperature instead of simply feeding in fuel when it begins to run out. This ensures a clean, consistent cooking experience. A removable ash can makes clean-up a snap as well.
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.
My propane smoker lived a good life, but after just 18 months it's another rusted out piece of junk that's was unsafe to use. I wanted to replace it with something that would last so I began researching the internet. I was delighted to stumble upon 1) pellet smokers and then 2) the Yoder 640. This is a premium price item that had me wondering if I should spend that much, but I was sold by the online reviews and YouTube video's. ATBBQ had it at my house in less that 5 days and the build quality, ease of use, and the food it helps produces are all second to none. I'm thrilled companies like Yoder can build the best products in the industry right here in America! Its a large investment in cooking, but worth every penny.

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.

Is it common to have a lot of ash blowing throughout these pellet smokers? I thought it was supposed to be minimal ash and that it’s supposed to stay in the firepot. I noticed after two short cooks I have ash everywhere. The pellets are Perfect Mix from cookingpellets.com, but by “perfect mix” I don’t think they mean to mix ash from their product with your BBQ. Also, didn’t put off a lot of smoke, and really couldn’t taste any smoke at all.


Built from substantial stainless steel, the SmokePro looks bombproof and weighs a hefty 140 lbs – so it’s not portable like the Z Grills or Traeger Junior Elite. It has a stainless-steel probe to directly monitor meat, and a sensor for the grill’s internal temperature. Both read out on the LED display next to the digital controller, which goes from 160F to 500F in 25-degree increments.


Renegade Pro is built to suit all your cooking needs; it can cook, braise, broil, char, sear, bake, smoke, roast, grill, and barbecue your food to that “melt-in-the-mouth” perfection. To bring about this versatility, it offers different temperature settings, such as “Hot and Fast” and “Low and Slow” that can be controlled using its Digital Pro Controller.
Despite often being called “pellet grills,” they still cook via indirect heat, as opposed to flame, and are better seen as a smoker. They’re excellent for smoking briskets, chicken and turkey, salmon and other fish, but maybe not for steaks, as you won’t be able to get the same crispy, browned sear they call for, and that you can get with an open-flame grill.

I also was a certified KCBS judge but never judged at an event. Their judging system was flawed in my opinion because if you truly follow their system it is possible that them best tasting piece of meat might not win. In cutting horses (not a judge but read all the rules as I showed a fair amount back then) you were always supposed to judge the best overall horse to win. I asked about leaving a process to make sure the piece of meat you feel is best to win and was told absolutely not you have to judge presentation points, tender points & etc. and not place based on your opinion of the best piece of meat! Not that KCBS is a bad organization, it’s rules didn’t fit my thought process. Passed their class and got the t-shirt just never agreed, was always a spectator.

Turn it on to "Smoke" mode and use the P settings, or cook mode by selecting a temperature. When you select smoke or a temp setting you start the ignition sequence. The fan, igniter and auger motor turn on. The fan stays on until the smoker is turned off. The auger motor continuously delivers pellets to the red hot igniter rod in the firebox for two minutes under normal conditions. Then the igniter rod shuts off and the pellet fire burns with only the assistance of the auger and the fan.

Actual Cooking: This flat top is a game changer for cooking. The grill heats up very fast and heats up evenly across all 4 burners. It also has traditional grill grates beneath which makes this a 2 in 1 grill. You can cook a plethora of items ranging from tacos, cheese steaks, quesadillas, eggs, pancakes, hash browns, fried rice, assortment of Chinese dishes (beef and broccoli, Mongolian Beef, Garlic Chicken with Veggies, etc), and basically anything that could be cooked in a typical cast iron pan or skillet. It heats up bread, tortillas, and buns in a matter of seconds. The flat top itself can accommodate a lot of food at once and can cook for up to 50 people per hour at max capacity. The ability to cook multiple items on the flat top at once is especially helpful for cleaning as you won't need to have multiple cooking pans or skillets to clean up afterwards. Anyone that has the ability to use this as their main cook top should do so.

First things first, this is not post against the Traeger grill/smoker. I love the foods I have experienced from it. This is strictly about the customer service FROM TRAEGER (not amazon) I have received from them. I purchased a grill for my parents right before Xmas. I was happy to get this for them, but upon putting it together we noticed a huge dent in hopper and the under crate all dented in. Box was in perfect condition(Pics below)
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?
Hey Kevin great article. I too am currently looking for a pellet smoker. I’ve narrowed it down between a Yader, Memphis Pro and the Rec Tec. The Green Mountain did not seem very well built. The wheels looked liked the would break on the first roll and the stainless steel door was flimsy and did not have a good seal. I know the Rec Tec has a 6 year warranty. Do you know how long the warranties are on the other two?
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.
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.
A pellet grill like the Rec-Tec is a breeze to use; subsequently, you won’t need to manage a migraine when barbecuing or smoking. Most models now accompany an electronic start highlight, which means you don’t need to use gas or charcoal for grilling or smoking (Read here). Furthermore, with this element, you don’t likewise need to manage the temperature changes in the earth on the grounds that the unit will be lighted by its electric igniter whatever happens, and after that, it will begin warming and cooking your nourishment. Furthermore, regardless of you are a piece of a little or a major family unit, there is the correct model with the size perfect for your family’s cooking needs.
A pellet grill like the Rec-Tec is a breeze to use; subsequently, you won’t need to manage a migraine when barbecuing or smoking. Most models now accompany an electronic start highlight, which means you don’t need to use gas or charcoal for grilling or smoking (Read here). Furthermore, with this element, you don’t likewise need to manage the temperature changes in the earth on the grounds that the unit will be lighted by its electric igniter whatever happens, and after that, it will begin warming and cooking your nourishment. Furthermore, regardless of you are a piece of a little or a major family unit, there is the correct model with the size perfect for your family’s cooking needs.
Now, the best pellet grills come with more advanced features like auto-ignition using igniting rods, Wi-Fi Support, automatic turn on/off, and much more. One of the key safety features added by pellet smokers (designed by Green Mountain Grills), is a cooling fan to cool off the grill after it has been turned off. Even the shape of the body has been changed to have peaked lids so that it can accommodate turkeys and other kinds of roasts. Some come with multiple levels of racks for warming and cooling.

It offers 700 sq. in. of cooking space and a powerful thermostat for a higher price, but makes up for it as soon as you start cooking on it. Also, it has a stunning design with the bull horns, which sets it apart yet again. But if you find yourself not spending as much and could do with a lesser cooking space, then the Camp Chef PG24 is a no-brainer for you.
As the launcher of the pellet smoker trend, it’s only natural that the innovative Traeger Pellet Grill Company would perfect its pellet grill technology and come up with some of the most affordably priced smokers around costing $300 upwards. It’s the Ford Motors of the pellet grilling world and many a pellet griller on the market to date owes the existence of their industry to this one company.

If you’re one of the serious barbecue enthusiasts, you would not want to leave any stone unturned to get your hands on the best of the best pellet smoker the market has to offer, in that case, you need the REC TEC Wood Pellet Smoker. The REC TEC has a large surface which takes care of all sizes of cuts, the thermostat maintains the temperature and ranges all the way from 180 F to 500 F. It has been leading the market for so long that the company now provides warranty for 6 years.
Hey DS – You’re dead on correct re: Grilling vs. Smoking. Most to nearly all Pellet Smokers are used as “smokers” in the truest sense. Louisiana Pellet Smokers boast a direct fire feature for grilling, as do Yoder smokers. However, I’m with you in that a grill is a grill and a smoker is a smoker. GMGs are very popular down here on the FBA circuit. However, most folks do find that they don’t produce the amount of smoke preferred for competition meats (which, in truth is a complaint about many pellet smokers). This is why stick burners and “some” gravity feds get a boost in rep among competition cook teams. That said, I do see folks happily using pellet smokers, and some win with them. One “trick” I see used now and again to boost the smoke output on a pellet smoker is to use one of those smoke tubes… like the A-maze-n Tube Smoker. Thanks for your comment, and for stopping by to read this blog post! – Kevin
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