I have yet to have any problems with my smoker, other that what I caused for myself. Please follow the instructions on covering the heat diffuser plate with aluminium foil. When fat from the meats that you are cooking (mine was chicken) it will cook right there, and is difficult to get off. When you follow instructions, this cooker is a dream come true.
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?
Yes, no one likes to read the instruction manual. But there are many advantages of learning the specifics of your grill and reading the manual is key. Generally, you should not use water to clean your pellet smoker, so keep your hose pipe far away. These smokers have digital controllers, a motorized auger, a fan and an igniter rod for the fire pot. These parts will get destroyed if they come into contact with water. You should gently dry scrub the dirt off these parts, making sure not to disassemble any parts. Cleaning the thermostat will also prove to be essential; otherwise, it may read internal temperatures inaccurately.
For as long as I can remember, the REC TEC RT-680 has been setting the standards for the best pellet smokers on the market, which is why REC-TEC is America’s fastest growing Pellet Smoker Company. And when they came up with the 2018 version of the REC TEC Pellet Grill, we knew it was going to be the very best pellet grill any barbecue lover could get their hands on.

On the better models, a temperature probe in the oven area tells the controller what the temperature is and if it is below the target it tells the controller to feed more pellets and air. The best manufacturers, like MAK and Memphis, have designed their own versatile custom controllers that are easy to use and can hold a temperature within 5°F, tighter than many indoor ovens.
It comes with some unique features, such as its proprietary “Sense-mate” technology that uses a thermal sensor to monitor the ambient temperature. If used in a cold weather, this grill fires up the turbo mode so you won’t have to wait for it to heat up before you start using it. It comes with “fan-only” mode to blow off the ash and automatically clean the grill once it has been shut off.
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.
The major issue is the size. It’s the smallest smoker at this price range, and barely bigger than the Junior Elite. Considering the price difference in the two, it’s hard to justify the extra expense, and when you compare it to the other smokers at this level, the Lil Tex seems more than a little lackluster. There’s less cleaning options, less automation, less cooking space. Just less of everything.

I have a pro series Traeger. Both casters broke with minimal use. Bought new casters from Traeger. Neither one fits correctly and were very difficult to install. Casters came without instructions, so I had to guess. I went to u tube and found that people had to build a whole new leg assembly just to fit on new wheels that were not made for this smoker. I do not want to spend four hours of metal work to simply replace the casters that Traeger should have gotten right in the first place. Can of worms! Take that Traeger!

Final Verdict: If you have the capability to cook on this full-time, then I recommend doing so. You will save your kitchen and house from excess grease and smell. It can cook most items relatively fast and easy once you get accustomed to cooking on a flat top. The only thing it can't do is cook sauces or bake items. I even recommend it to folks who don't eat typical greasy foods. This requires very little oil and can use all sorts of cooking oil. All of my food dishes have been cooked well and I constantly have people asking about this flat top. Clean up is a breeze and will save you from needing to clean skillets and pans. This is an essential cookware that every household should have.

Z Grills is a lesser known manufacturer and a great low-cost alternative to the more expensive Traeger grills. Their pellet grill is a sturdy, heavyweight model with a roomy 500 square inches of cooking space and an electronic feeding system for fuel pellets. An additional warming rack provides additional space for cooking at lower temperatures. Furthermore, Z Grills also ensures their product with a generous 3 years warranty.
Bought Junior Elite 20 pellet grill at Costco special sales event. Took it home and it simply wouldn't get up to temperature to ignite the pellets. Auger made extremely loud noises and then simply refused to operate. Packed it back up and returned to Costco with no problem. They had no inventory so I called Traeger. Woman on phone was very pleasant and helpful. Asked if I could get Traeger to simply replace the grill at the same price I purchased it for. Her supervisor said no and if I wanted it for that price I would have to drive to another state and purchase it at one of their event presentations. Made no sense to me why they would sell it to someone else for the "event" price but not to me who had already done. Poor customer support and silly supervisor. I will look elsewhere.
Pellet grills have electronic temperature controls that (should) keep the heat consistent. Top quality pellet grills can maintain temperatures within 5 degrees or less for hours at a time, with the auger releasing pellets as needed into the fire box to do so. A consistent temperature means less guess work and fantastic food! (If you read words like “heat zones” or “baffle”, that means that you’ll need to be playing with the heat to keep it consistent… so steer clear of those!)
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In smoke mode the controller is no longer controlled by the thermometer, it merely switches the pellet feeding auger on and off. On time is 15 seconds, off time ranges from 45 seconds at P0, to 165 seconds at P15. Temp and smoke are controlled by the duration of off time: the auger always runs at the same speed. More smoke is produced at higher P settings and lower temp settings because longer off times allow the pellets to smolder. At P0 in smoke mode or "High" in cook mode the auger replenishes the pellets at a faster rate, creating more flame, less smoke.
Louisiana Grills was one of the first companies to muscle in on Traeger's one-brand show. The smallish CS 450 is one of its more popular models. In 2014, Louisiana upgraded all of its pellet smokers to include digital touch-pad controllers with integrated meat probes. Set it and forget it; the thermostat will maintain cooking temperature just like your indoor kitchen oven does. As a safety feature, the meat probe can be set for your desired target temp. When the internal meat temp rises to within 10°F of the target, the controller automatically drops the smoker down to 170°F (77°C) to avoid overcooking.
With that said, we also wanted to take into consideration the smaller grills of the family. For instance, we wanted to share pellet grills that were intended for portable use or individuals that want a small smoker that is of the best quality. As far as cost and value are concerned, we can say that all of the grills on this list are top of the line and have expert quality features that make them ideal for the individual that wants their ideal pellet grill.
How much food are you going to smoke? This is important because some of the top pellet smokers are relatively large. And if you’re not looking at smoking a lot of meat, you might purchase a unit that’s too big. Conversely, if you buy a unit that’s too small, you are going to be frustrated because you’re going to make some delicious meat just not as much as you need.
I have always been a believer: “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”. I’ve been lucky enough to use my professional experience in the meat industry over the past 20 years to create a business where I love to go to work. Smoking Meat Geeks is all about bringing people together that enjoy food as much as I do. We provide a place for everyone to share thoughts, ideas, and recipes; to be a go-to spot for cooking inspiration. Feel free to leave a comment, say hello, or provide any tips. There is no right or wrong input, as long as you’re engaging, you’re a Meat Geek!
The argument against bark is that it can cause an inconsistent burn and produce excessive ash. Again, consider a log on a fire. Because they have different compositions, the bark and hardwood burn at different rates and produce different amounts of heat. Furthermore, bark doesn’t burn cleanly, it creates more ash than the hardwood. When that ash builds up, it interferes with your grill’s ability to accurately read the temperature, causing large swings. If too much of that ash builds up in the fire pot, it can cut off the oxygen and snuff out the fire.
“We love pellet grills but didn’t like the designs of the models on the market. They are more like an oven than a grill. MAK Grills are designed to be the best in class. You get outstanding BBQ flavor and safe cooking with real wood, along with an automatic lighting and fuel feed system. Simply turn the grill on and you’re cooking in minutes! Our direct heat FlameZone ® feature is pioneering the industry for “gas grill like” cooking without the hassle of flare-ups and burned food.” — MAK Grills
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