Thank you all for a great site and an informative discussion. I am a newbie to smoking and presently have a charcoal grill for when I have more time and a gas grill for a fast meal. Its time to replace my gas grill so I am looking at alternative options. Is a pellet grill overkill, or a timely expedition, if I want to grill a couple steaks or chicken breasts during week nights? I’d also be interested in smoking larger hunks of meat (and ribs!) less often, but am wondering if a pellet grill can cover both? How long does it take a pellet grill to get to temp (e.g. 450°)? With the indirect heat, can you get char marks on your meat? Thanks in advance for the info!
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.
With that said, we can guarantee that all of the grills on this list are designed from the best quality materials and design elements to ensure that it not only lasts the test of time, it is safe to use, easy to set up, and also designed to cook the best meals possible. With that said, let’s talk about a pillar that has added to the quality criteria, the material design.
We all know about Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, but Traeger is the true pioneer of pellet smoking. This company introduced the first pellet smokers, and it remains the best-known brand, although competition is growing. There's nothing fancy here. Instead of a touch-pad controller, Traeger employs an older-style digital dial controller. No WiFi or meat probes; just no-frills schmokin' from the industry leader.
This smoker offers a massive 560 cubic inches of grilling area with a large-capacity pellet hopper. Even though it’s the perfect starter grill, it’s still packed with plenty of extras that even the pro chefs will enjoy. If the grilling space isn’t enough, the removable upper racks can be turned into extra cooking space. The smokestack behind the unit can also be converted into a prep area.
Now we come to the part no one likes and that’s cleaning. This smoker won’t clean itself but it does make the process a lot easier. PG24 by Camp Chef Pellet Grill is created in a way that gives you easier access to the fire pot making cleaning out the ash effortless. It also has trap door that allows you to clean the unit without scouring through grease and ash. Anyone who has ever had to clean a smoker grill knows how time-consuming and enormous the task can be. This trap door is only present in expensive units, but you’ll be glad you paid a little more when cleaning becomes effortless. You could also buy the other version that could come with cover (which is $50 more expensive) to make sure the smoker is in the best condition at all times.
Each grill is porcelain coated, like you’d find on professional grills, for exceptional heat transfer and easy wipe cleaning. This attention to excellence is extended over the whole machine, with everything made out of heavy gauge steel and top quality material. The only real let down is the wheels, which are kind of low quality, but they’re real simple to switch out.
This great build extends itself to its porcelain coated grates allowing it to be used for years with no signs of rust and also allows for an easy clean by the user. You can expect to have excellent results on your food with beautiful grill marks. Temperature control is made easy with its digital elite controller which makes you able to manage temperatures with ease. Its ignition is quick to start meaning there is no stress to be felt when lighting up your device.
The Tailgater 20 Series Freestanding Grill is one of the best wood pellet grills from Traeger for those who like to cook away from home. It’s small and lightweight enough that you can load it in your car for tailgating before the big game, cooking while camping or grilling at the park. The ash bucket collects all ash created, which makes cleaning up before heading home easier.
Sometimes an inexpensive, less efficient pellet blend might be just fine for burgers or chicken breasts. Other times, you may want to step it up with a premium flavored pellet where whole turkeys, prime rib roasts, or a nice brisket can really shine. No matter what you read in any grouping of pellet grill reviews, know this: pellets are not all made equally. You will wind up with one or two “go to” brands over time that you simply prefer – sometimes for their efficiency (leaving little ash), others for their flavor.
Brad Barrett at Grill Grates makes a fantastic product. Reverse searing 2″ steaks and chops (or thicker) works great on pellet smokers as you can get the internal temp up to 10-15 degrees below your desired finish temp, remove them and loosely wrap / cover in foil, crank up the smoker with the grates on to say, 400 degrees, and then sear off your protein getting great grill marks with little to no sticking at all. Huge fan of Grill Grates.
Today I grilled up a T-Bone steak. And I used the Grill Grates. I upped the temps to 600 degrees. The T-Bone came out FABLULOUS!!! Actually, it cooked faster than I expected, and the sear marks were way better than I expected. I have been using Weber Gas Grill for many years and way satisfied with the results, but the Yoder smoker kicks ass...BRAVO YODER!!
You want your smoker to retain heat and to maintain a constant temperature. If you purchase something that’s inexpensive, yet made with a thin metal, you’re going to regret it because you’re going to be constantly fighting with the temperature. You could purchase the best smoker pellets, but if you don’t have a high quality smoker, it is all for not.
****Update 12/2014: So I finally found something negative to report. Today I was cooking 2 pork butts and a brisket and discovered that this grill does not do well with wind on a brisk day (It was 45 degrees here today). When set at 250 degree, the smoker could barely make it up to 190 degrees. I was able to bypass the problem by throwing a cheap moving blanket over the grill (an $8 fix) but I think it's worth noting.
Third, we’re experienced: We have burnt our foods and fingers; and while we were at it, we learned from our mistakes. In doing so, we’ve managed to become the best and mastered the art to perfection. So, we went through the same learning curves that you did or might do. So, we’re aware of the things that matter and we’re going to impart that knowledge with you, so that you don’t make the same mistakes as us.
Consumer-level Traeger grills are considered a mid-range type of pellet grill, so they’re good for those wanting to try pellet grills for the first time. Traeger models like the Lil’ Tex Elite 22 or the Tailgater cost several hundred dollars and can grill about 12 to 16 burgers at a time. Larger Traeger grills will generally carry low four-figure prices, such as the Pro Series 34 or the Select Pro, which can hold 32 to 40 burgers between the upper and lower grilling racks.
Complete with a variety of spectacular features, the Z Grills Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker redefines the whole concept of smoking. At a reasonable price, this smoker gives you more than what you paid for. It offers top technology-rich features that ensure consistent smoking for that great smoky flavor. Plus, many customers – including ourselves – have attested to its durability. This smoker will serve you without failure for a very long time.
When people talk about pellet flavors, they're referring to the type of wood used to make the pellets. Smoker pellets come in an array of wood flavors, from the usual BBQ suspects like mesquite, hickory, apple, and cherry to less celebrated woods like peach, pecan, , and sugar maple. Each variety has its own unique taste—from the mild sweetness produced by cherry to the nutty hints imparted by pecan—and can be paired with specific foods to highlight and complement their natural flavors. You can also create complex layers of flavor by mixing and matching different woods.
Pellet grills are every lazy man’s dream appliance. These grills need absolute zero to minimal maintenance. You just need to lightly wipe through it after every use, and maybe thoroughly clean it 2 to 3 times a year! All pellet grills now come with a drip pan that catch the accumulating oils that drops from the food. They are also made with good quality raw materials that enable them to withstand the outdoor atmospheres all year round. If this does not entice your lazy bones, no other appliance will, and that is a fact. Period!
I've had my ys640 for almost a year now. I absolutely love it! I debated for a long time before my purchase. I'm an old school charcoal guy at heart. I used to have a gas grill and a coal pit. I got tired of replacing gas grills every few years and having two grills is cumbersome. I considered an egg but the pellet grill is so convenient. I'm impressed by the build quality of the ys640. It's so heavy. It won't be rusting through any time soon. No regrets. My treager owning buddy is buying a yoder as soon as his treager quits because he has grill envy
Rubbery skin has very little to do with the type of heat (direct vs indirect). Rubbery skin is a result of too low a cooking temperature. Take your smoker/grill or whatever you use and get the temperature in the mid 400’s or even higher and you will get crispy skin. One thing though never let the internal temperature of your bird get over 150 or you’ll have crispy skin and dry crunchy meat too. Take it off the grill and let is rest a full 30 minutes. Best bird you’ll ever eat no matter which grill, smoker, 50 gal barrel, etc you cooked it on.
The MAK 1 Star General boasts our favorite digital controller: It's highly programmable and easily accessed via the internet from anywhere in the world. Made entirely in the USA, the 1 Star General is solid-feeling, with a heavy-duty powder coat. The hood is a rolltop, meaning that, unlike a lot of its competitors, the 1 Star doesn't need much rear clearance, and there's plenty of room inside. An optional upper grill grate adds 190 square inches of cook surface. Our only criticism: Not only is it built like a tank, it kinda looks like one, too.
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
Second, more people know about them. More manufacturers are realising the advantages of pellet smokers and hopping on board, the market is expanding, and with the advantage of the internet putting all the info at our fingertips, even someone who hasn’t got the first clue about smokers and grills can find out everything they need in just a few minutes.
"The Camp Chef transaction aligns with Vista Outdoor's strategy to deliver long-term value through acquiring complementary, market-leading brands that will benefit from Vista Outdoor's balance sheet, distribution network, and sales and marketing expertise," said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mark DeYoung. "Led by an entrepreneurial management team, Camp Chef has a nimble and responsive product development process. Camp Chef continues to grow its market share in the outdoor cooking category, and the brand serves many of our current consumers who are engaged in a wide variety of outdoor pursuits. Acquiring Camp Chef strengthens our leadership position in outdoor recreation, allows us to enter the growing camping and outdoor cooking market, and the brand's effective multi-product, multi-channel strategy increases our presence across both brick-and-mortar and ecommerce distribution platforms."
PG24 by Camp Chef Pellet Grill also brings along a digital controller which you could use to set your desired temperature and at one point the heat in the chamber will be automatically adjusted. It allows meat to be smoked for hours at a temperature of 150 degrees F. You could increase temperature to 500 degrees F for searing and grilling. With convection, the cold and hot areas of the grill can be replaced with even heat.
Is it food quality? All of my foods are the best I have ever grilled. The ribs are nearly falling off of the bone, yet still moist! In the past, if I tried to get them to that point, they would have been very dry. All of my meats have been moist with a lightly smoked flavor. My breads perfectly crusted on the outside, moist inside with a perfect crust!
The Pit Boss Deluxe Wood Pellet Grill comes loaded with many features. Use the flame broiler slide plate to easily switch from smoking to searing your food with open flame. An electric igniter allows for easy, mess free, barbecue lighting. The grill also includes: a heavy-duty feed system capable of handling any brand of hardwood pellets, clean-out feature to easily change out pellet flavors, a removable upper cooking rack, lid thermometer, side shelf complete with tool hooks and towel rack, convenient bottle opener, bottom cabinet for storage. With heavy-duty steel construction, Pit Boss grills are built to last.
Have you reviewed at all the Grilla Silverbac? If so, does it not make your list because it isn’t as good a quality as those you have picked? I mean, when I look online for reviews of those who have bought them I haven’t found anyone disappointed with theirs, but perhaps they haven’t been out as long to have a track record? I’m so confused at this point as to which to buy with PID or no PID (some say smoke does better without one), thickness of metal, etc.
Is it customization? I called before I order my YS640 and told them I wanted my grill grates made out of expanded stainless steel, and a few other small things done to ""personalize"" my grill so it was just the way I wanted it. ""No problem. The added materials will cost extra, and shipment will a week so we can fabricate your grates."" Try getting that with a Chinese import!
An attractive option for many people are stainless steel pellet grills, which are rust-resistant, more durable, and easier to maintain. While pellet grills made from commercial-grade 304 stainless steel are the most desirable, they come at a higher. However, there are also some pellet grills made from 430 stainless steel, which is more affordable and still incredibly durable.
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.
Secondly, make sure you pay attention to the controls and temperature settings. As well as a thermostat, higher quality smokers come with meat thermometers built in. As you cook, the internal temperature of your meat is going to rise, and unless you’ve got a meat thermometer, there’s no way of knowing exactly how hot it’s got. If you don’t know why this is bad, when you let food sit too hot for too long, you run the risk of drying it out. You’ll undo all of your good work, plus it just tastes bad.