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
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!!!
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.
Though it is technically a grill, you can carry out so much cooking styles in it. It can be used to sear meats and other food to a perfect golden crusty perfection; it can be used to bake quiches just like you would in a normal indoor oven. This is absolutely a trademark appliance that can also be used to smoke food, it can also be used to slow braise food, making it ideal for cooking up winter stews and casseroles. And very obviously you can grill in this thing. The lid on the pellet grills also aid in fast cooking by trapping smoke and heat and allowing the food to cook and flavor through quickly and more evenly.
Wood pellet grills look like standard barbecue grills but some with a separate firebox for making smoked meats that will also let you smoke vegetables and other ingredients. As Traeger and Pit Boss both get good reviews from customers, it’s important that you look at the top features of this grills and how each company compares in relation to those features.
When you think of a pellet smoker, what comes to mind is the rich taste of BBQ, better manipulation and convenience. These are exactly what the best pellet smoker should give you. To find out the best, among the many out there, you should think of various features. A burner that can give you control, comfort, long service, and great flavor in food is something a top rated pellet smoker should have. Let’s take a look at all the factors you should consider when making your purchase.
Barbecue was not his first career. He earned a BA from Columbia College in Chicago and studied at the Cleveland Institute of Art and the Dana School of Music. He has been involved in every aspect of film, video and music production. He edited the 1991 Academy Award nominated documentary, "The Mark of the Maker" and "Universal Hotel", which is part of a permanent exhibit at the Dachau Memorial Museum.
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.
Just putting a stamp on your info and recommendations. The Pro is definitely a Pro! Consistent, excellent temp control, juicy and great flavor. Smoke ring, some of my ribs are pink all the way through and dripping with juice. Smoke profile, good, not over powering. I have used 45# of hickory so far, 20# of cherry and a few pounds of apple and pecan. Have not tried anything but Lumberjack but that will be the next experiment. I have tried the smoke tube and it is ok. I was worried about getting an ash or bitter taste as the smoke is fairly heavy and a little acrid smelling if you let it burn from bottom to top. So I lay it down and light on my wife’s Weber gas grill side burner and get the whole thing burning good and then blow it out. If it smells acrid your meat will get some of that taste. Starting the tube this way it is still going an hour later.
So which pellet smoker is worth your hard-earned dough? We've put together a list of the ones we think make the cut, organized from lowest to highest price. Sorry for the sticker shock—even a low-priced pellet smoker will cost more than many grills, and our first selection lists at $333. These motorized, digitally controlled devices just plain cost more, but believe you me, they are worth it! And all of these selections have won the AmazingRibs.com Best Value Gold or Silver Medal.
Also own a Big Steel Keg which I love! Didn’t want an egg or a Primo while I was up north WY & CO as I had to many friends complain about cracking when trying to use them in cold weather! Many times at Thanksgiving or Christmas I have cooked on any or all of these devices at -5 to -10. It can be done but with a strong wind it is quite a challenge! My Weber (been thru a couples) and my Keg still have high ratings for great steaks and burgers. But for low and slow you are pushing it to get there and my friends with the ceramic style units say it takes some practice and close attention. What I don’t like about and Egg or my Keg is if you do need to end up feeding the fire on a long cook it is a real serious challenge!
Eric, I’m sorry for the trouble you’ve had with your Traeger. Not sure this will help, but here is how I make sure I don’t have the problem you had. When I start after a long previous cook or any cook at all really, I vacuum out all the dust and vacuum out the burn pot. Then, I put a handful of pellets into the burnt pot, insert the heat deflector, the drip tray, and grate. I find that this keeps things working well. Sometimes, the burn pot will get too full of ash and this can cause the problems that you had. Give it a try. If it works, please let me know.
Each of the alternatives to the Traeger Pro we’ve reviewed above is an excellent choice for an affordable pellet smoker. We think the Z Grills Master 700D is worth every penny and competes with the Traeger for even less money. We highly recommend you check it out. It has an even larger grill area, a larger hopper, burns just as consistently, and produces some perfectly smoked and grilled meats.
Now, there are different materials that certain pellet grills are made from. Since steel is such a heavy duty and heavy item, some brands have opted in for more cost-efficient materials, such as a stainless-steel lid to remove some of the weight from the pellet grill. With that said, the interior grill gates are as equally important as the exterior. For example, some grill gates are made from an easy to clean porcelain material while some are designed from stainless steel to be more user-friendly and cost-effective. With that said, let’s discuss another important element to consider when it comes to a pellet grill.
I spent months checking out Memphis, Fast Eddy, Mak, and Yoder grills. I must say the Yoder is by far the most robust pellet grill of them all. I noticed many reviews with 3 or 4 star ratings for price and I must disagree; fit, finish, build quality, and material robustness of the Yoder was better than the Memphis Pro & Elite...and we all know how expensive the Memphis is.
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.
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.
I purchased a Traeger Elite Grill from the website. I use the grill one time and it worked fine. A couple of weeks later we fired up the grill to cook some steaks. Approximately 10 minutes into cooking the auger stopped working. We had to finish our meal cooking it on the stove. I looked at the troubleshooting guide and the steps needed to be taken. To determine what was wrong you basically needed to dismantle the electric box and auger housing. I am not an electrician Nor a mechanic and feel this is excessive for a consumer to have to do.
Thank you so much for the kind words! I think you would be very happy with a smaller pellet grill / smoker. The wording changes depending on how you are using the device. For instance, if you are cooking at low temperatures you will get a stronger smoke profile then if you burn a pellet smoker / grill at its higher temperature range. One thing you could do for steaks is cook them at the higher range thus being able to get a sear much like you would on a direct heated Grill service, for instance on your Weber. Another option would be to cook the steak in the reverse see your method, by bringing it up to temperature at a lower smoker setting and adding some smoke flavoring that way, then removing it and bringing the smoker up to its higher settings so you can finish off the steak with some of the effect you would achieve on direct flame. I normally do this by bringing the steaks up to about 15 degrees below where I want them to finish. Then, I finish them off at the higher temperature to where they are about 5 degrees below my target. This usually means a few minutes on each side but I use a Thermapen to be sure.
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.
But as said, there are a few things we don’t like; it’s relatively small, doesn’t have a lot cooking space, and the design feels cramped. At the same time, it’s still relatively heavy at 140 lbs. For the same price, you could choose the Z-Grills Master 700D, which packs almost 25% more surface area on the rack. That doesn’t seem like much but is a significant amount of room. Or you could just spring for the Traeger Pro 22. There have also been reports of poor quality control, and that the temperature control is very inconsistent, often swinging up and down nearly 30 or 40 degrees.
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.
Using accurate digital thermometers to monitor cooking and internal meat temperatures is essential to being all that you can be in the backyard. Unlike the caveman-era heat estimators built into the lids of most grills and smokers, modern pellet smoker LED displays will give you the real story of what's happening in your smoker. Of course, if your smoker doesn't come with a dual-display system that monitors both cooking and meat temps, you'll still need an accurate digital meat thermometer.
It is almost as we have forgotten how to live life the way it should be lived. We no longer have the time to sit back on a summer’s day, and appreciate the show that nature has put up for us. Now-a-days we are so committed to our work, responsibilities and duties towards the external that we often forget that we have our very first priority neglected: happiness. We are so engaged in our daily 9 to 5 routines that we have actually began to take it as a way of living while it slowly drains and strains us away over time.
Even and fast cooking – this is the common feedback of the new and past users of this pellet grill cooker. Although some of them would say that the temperature is inaccurate, they can still manage to adjust everything well by means of its digital temperature controller. Additionally, you may need to add more pellets if you will set the temperature on a high setting.
The old camp chef is heading to a new home. We have been thru thick and thin, rain, or snow, on two ocations high wind blew it off the patio. A few dents bad scratches but it still works like a top. My son is driving in form North Carolina to take it off my hands this weekend it has been replaced by a yoder ys-640. The yoder is bigger and heavier with more btu output if needed. But the camp chef still is easier to clean out and cooks a fine brisket.
My wife purchased this cooker for me for Christmas three years ago when I was working on the road. I had been a gas man for years and had converted to charcoal with great success and enjoyment. I built a UDS smoker and was really getting into the slow smoking with better temp control. Then my son ratted on me and told my wife that I had been drooling over a Yoder Pellet Grill. She surprised me to say the least as I would have never bought this unit myself. I've had several cars that cost less than this smoker! Wow. In person, this grill is build by people that love their job. The smoke flavor compared to a Weber kettle is more delicate than harsh. Temperatures are very even across the grill with warmer sides within an inch of the body of the grill. Being able to start it in two minutes and get to cooking in ten is very handy. Being able to run downtown without worrying about the temp is awesome. I've had it get a little lower than where I had set it, but not by more than 15 degrees. It has great reliability in any weather. We live in northern Montana and this thing just does what you want it to do. Great for making jerky, slow smoke, grilling, and baking. Wood fired cookies are one of our favorites. I've smoked cheese on it during the dead of winter at -15 degrees. Bacon...wow. If you have never had slow smoked bacon I feel sorry for you. Don't worry about not liking this unit after the purchase. I've thanked my wife more times than I can remember and I've received just as many compliments back from everyone who has sampled the food. Great job Yoder!
The computer controlled system maintains the smoker temperature with a high degree of precision so you don’t have to deal with fluctuations. With the optional (definitely a must) temperature probe you can put your meat in the smoker, set the desired target temperature and the FEC will take it from there. Once the target temperature is reached the smoker temperature will drop into a holding position until you are ready to remove your barbecue.