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.
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.
Having the same problem as the rest of the group. Rec Tec, Yoder, Green Mountain, Pellet Pro, or MAK? All seem to be heavy gauge SS, Pellet Pro seems really good value, MAK and Green Mountain seem to have controllers with more features. Have a friend who bought Rec Tec 3 years ago, he cannot say enough about the good customer service and the grill. If you could only buy one (money not the issue among these 5), which one, and why?
Thanks for the quick response and advice. I see a pellet pro hopper assembly is around $250 compared to the Memphis pro at over $2000. I didn’t realize that drafting isn’t important for the sake of temp regulation but what about how the smoke travels from the firebox towards the meat? I also would like to include an element of humidity, is simply putting a pan of water in the cooker or is there a better way?
From the models and brands that I have reviewed here, I highly recommend the REC TEC 680 Wood Pellet Grill as the best pellet smoker. This comes with a grill technology, which gives you more convenience, whether you are a novice or an experienced grill master. If you have found this article to be helpful, please share it with your friends and family and help them make the right decision.
REC-TEC, also known as Rec Tec, has been in business for more than 7 years. Its pellet grill offers up to 702 square inches of the cooking surface real estate, beating out the Pit Boss and its 700 square inches by (only) about 2 inches of extra space. Its grills can also calibrate themselves in 5° increments and its pellet hopper is capable of holding 40 pounds of pellets (no constant refills required).
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.
This podcast is great for anyone that has ever had an interest in BBQ, grilling, smoking, etc. The guests that are brought on to this pod along with the dialogue that Kevin has with them makes this a great podcast that would be enjoyable for anyone to listen to regardless if they liked BBQ or not. There is a great wealth of knowledge to be found in these pods, and each time I listen to the BBQ Beat I feel genuine excitement to go outside and try something new with my grill or smoker. Aside from all of this, the audio is great and the topics are interesting which makes the experience engaging for not only the guest on the pod, but also you the listener. Suscribe and listen often. I promise you won't be disappointed.
The original Traeger Grill was invented 30 years ago and was every bit as impressive then as it is now. Although it developed a cult following, the early Traeger never grew beyond a niche product. In the past two years, however, Traeger has stepped up its game, redesigning and upgrading its grills while doing everything it can to build a buzz around its amazing do-everything cookers.
Words like Grilling, Barbecuing and Smoking are often used interchangeably by us. However, when looking at them from a grill master’s point of view, there are some subtle methodological differences among these three: One is done with the lid up, BBQ is done in a closed circulation with the lid down, and smoking is a slow cooking process in a closed circulation.
The SG and ZG are not exactly the same though. Just from the pictures I can see that the bases are different. The SG has L-shaped legs and a bottom shelf while the ZG has square legs that are larger than the DLX legs but no bottom shelf. There were also different specs for many features. I took a picture of the ZG spec sheet at the store and compared it to the SG specs on the website and there are slight differences in capacities. For example ZG 3778 cubic inch - SG 4859, grilling area ZG 776- SG 811, hopper volume ZG 18 lbs - SG 22, ...
Placed against our Top Pick, this Traeger smoker and grill is a worthy competitor. It offers a variety of useful functions that will allow you to smoke, grill, bake, braise, roast and BBQ anything and everything. It’s definitely worth your money, because if you take care of it properly, it’s going to last you a long time. However, since it’s slightly more expensive than the top pick, we just couldn’t set it at the top of our review.
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.
I've been using a pellet grill for a LONG time (Traeger for ~15 years?), so I know an upgrade when I see it. I just picked up a YS640, and it's amazing. I love removing the diffuser, adding the Grill Grates, and doing so nice searing! My first cook was a batch of rid eyes, and they were both beautiful as well as delicious. My "guest list" of people wbo want to come over for food keeps growing... Nice problem to have. Good friends, good food, good times.
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.
Thanks for the great information and the research you did. I am a retail store owner in Boise, Idaho area and we sell a pellet grill smoker in our store. I would like to encourage to look at the Sawtooth Pellet Grill. It is made local here and is American Made. It is an excellent grill for the price with an awesome company backing it. You can find their website at sawtoothpelletgrills.com. Again thanks for the information and if you do another publication regarding pellet grills, I would love to see what your opinion of the Sawtooth would be 🙂
Regarding your question about a decrease in smoke flavor when using the pellet grill / smoker, I do believe you will experience a little bit of a drop off. This said, many people find the flavor from pellet grills / movers to be adequate. If you require a stronger smoke profile, you can always use one of the tube smokers that sits inside of the cooking chamber.
A portable offering from Green Mountain Grills, the Davy Crocket is the most affordable pellet grill on our list, and the only one with WiFi capability. It’s compact, weighs only 57 pounds, and has folding legs so you can pack it up and bring it camping, tailgating, or to the beach. That’s something you can’t do with the Traeger Pro 22, and something we’re really excited about.
Joe Traeger designed and developed pellet grills back in 1985 and he patented the design one year after. But these didn’t go into full commercial production until 1988. Because of the patented design, Traeger held a monopoly in the pellet grill market for twenty years. But being a small family-run company, they did not diversify and kept supplying their products only to a select network of stores.
I think a lot of reviewers here don't have enough experience in pellet grilling to recognize how many features are packed into this unit for the money. I'm not going to talk about the usual advantages of pellet grilling in general in this review (i.e., clean flavor, "set and forget", less ash,). Instead, I'm going to focus on what makes this one uniquely better than the other grills in it's class.
What’s more, as Pellet Grills are electric-powered and regulate their own fuel intake, they are a far more foolproof option than other smokers and grills which may require a large amount of maintenance and care during the cooking process. Wood pellets themselves are also incredibly versatile. Aspiring smokers can experiment with a whole array of wood varieties in order to explore the flavors that each lends to meat.
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Hey John – great question. My experience is that I use maybe 8 lbs of pellets for a 7 or 8 hour cook at 275 degrees. Pellet grills are relatively fuel efficient. The brand of pellet you choose will play into this. Cost for pellets varies by manufacturer, similar to charcoal. I think you’ll find them very efficient if you’re just firing them up for high heat, shorter grilling sessions.
I have used mine Traeger 15 times and it hasn't worked once. I will not hold the temp within 15 degrees as they state. I can set mine to 225 and will go between 180-370. It also consistently shutting itself off with the same error. I have spoken to cust service 12 times and they are worthless. I have had new controller sent and other various parts. I have been on the phone with them for hours. I always have to take my meat off and finish it on my Weber. They refuse to send me a new one. They still demand to go back through the same damn steps as the last 12 times to debug it. Never again. If you see my post on Craigslist, don't buy it, it's a lemon that Traeger will not support.
The best way to ensure your pellet grill lasts for years to come is to purchase one that's built well and features quality construction. If you're in the store, lift the lid and feel its weight—is it flimsy or made from a heavier gauge steel? Pellet grills aren't like offset smokers, they don't need to be hefty, but they shouldn't feel delicate either. When you close the lid, see how it lays on the grill—are there gaps or is it flush, providing a good seal? Check out the joints, the hardware, and any welding—does the grill feel solid? It should be sturdy and all the joints and seams should fit together snugly, no gaps or spaces for heat to escape.
At the peak level of outdoor cooking, the Champion Competition Pro is a rugged grill and smoker with extensive features that come standard. Clean-up is a breeze with the heavy-duty, porcelain-coated cast-iron cooking grids. Known for superior heat retention, cast-iron makes searing easy. Other features include the stay-cool handle, side shelf with tool hooks and bottle opener, bottom cabinet for storage, robust locking caster wheels for easy movement, and a heavy-duty 14-gauge powder-coated steel finish. Sear or smoke, bake or roast: discover the taste of real wood-fired flavor with the Champion Competition Pro. Comes complete with a weatherproof grill cover.
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.
After owning this grill for six months I can honestly say I don't regret my purchase. I was waiting for low temp weather to really test this grill and i must be honest i was very surprised. I grilled 400 degrees with the outside temp at 38 degrees and the grill came up to temp within 20 minutes. Last night I started a brisket in 31 degree weather cooking at 225. No problem at all, and I haven't use a thermal jacket. We have done every thing from low and slow to baking and just have been amazed at outcome. Got a couple of more tests that i want to do, but six months, it's great. Stop thinking about it, stop worrying about the price, and prepare to make some great wood fire food.
Meanwhile, it also has a 15-pound pellet capacity comparable to Camp Chef SmokePro (not as large but big enough to eliminate continuous wood pellet refills) and folding legs for better portability. However, certain users who’ve already bought their own REC TEC Grills Mini Portable Pellet Grill have complaints about it, like inconsistent heat distribution of the grill and poor quality control (certain grills break down easily).
Because the wood pellets are the grill’s fuel, you should pay careful attention to the pellet hopper, the chamber that holds the pellets. You want a large enough hopper to hold all the pellets you need for a single cooking session. Look for a hopper with at least an 18-pound capacity if you want to slow cook for longer periods without having to refill the hopper.
The Pit Boss really is the boss with its 700 square inches of cooking surface. The space alone isn’t what makes the Pit Boss 71700FB one of the best wood pellet smoker available. If you thought the Traeger TFB29LZA Junior Elite Grill had a lot of space at 300 square meters, then get more than double that with Pit Boss (the Rec Tec grill below beats it by only 2 inches).
We ended up going with the Memphis Pro. We were fortunate enough to be able to see all of the manufacturers and models I was most interested in, at Sam’s NW BBQ. (Yoder, MAK, Fast Eddy, GMG’s, a few others, and then, the one we ended up with, Memphis.) Sam took a good amount of time, providing us fantastic information about each model. We ended up with the Memphis Pro for the following reasons: 1) The construction, mainly the double-walled construction; 2) the preciseness of temperature, and being able to hold the temperature (due to reason #1); 3) the extreme ease of changing from smoking to grilling without a lot of effort or reconfiguration; 4) the double hoppers; 5) and another BIGGIE, the fact that grilled or baked foods taste like that, and not like smoked cookies, bread, pizza, etc.
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.
In fact, 80 to 85% of pellet smokers in the USA are Traegers. The consensus is that they are reasonably well built, though some buyers complain that quality has dropped since manufacturing moved to China. But of course we hear more complaints—as well as more praise—about Traegers, since eight out of 10 pellet smoker owners have one. Traeger can be found in many national chains, like Cabela's and Costco. It's not unusual to find special deals on this popular product line, so keep your eyes open.
For example, it has a decent 570 sq. in. of cooking area, a patented ash cleanout service, endless versatility (wherein you can barbecue, braise, roast, bake, smoke, and grill to your heart’s delight), and an advanced digital control (the same one that allowed the Camp Chef SmokePro to take the top spot). However, the quality control for this unit is a little worse than SmokePro.
Through the years, pellet smokers have gained popularity. The fact that they give you the convenience of being able to hold a barbecue from the comfort of your home is what makes them ideal. However, not all of them will match up to the needs that you have and this is why I put together this guide with reviews. Following this guide, you should be in a position to make a comprehensive decision on the specific model to buy.
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.