I bought this directly from Traeger. Beware that this model is now discontinued. They replaced it with the Traeger Renegade Pro without notice. The new model has an updated saw horse design and a new digital controller with probes. It does not come with the handy spice rack however. To each their own but I'd check with Traeger prior to purchase. That said, I paid more from them so if this is discounted, grab it. I love mine!
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.
I was so excited to get this grill for the weekend. It was easy to assemble and get going. It has a great place for me to keep my bbq tools and a front rack to set stuff down so I am able to easily put things on and off the grill. We made steak and lobster tails and they could not have turned out better and it came with a cookbook to know exactly how to do it!
"Camp Chef is excited to join the exceptional family of Vista Outdoor brands," said Ty Measom, Camp Chef President. "The opportunity to be part of this dynamic company will provide for the future growth and success of Camp Chef as a leader in our market. The hard work and dedication of Camp Chef employees, past and present, has made Camp Chef what it is today. We look forward to the opportunities ahead."
Consistency is the key to having the best results. If you want to make a tender brisket, your cooking temperature should be close to 250 F during the entire 12-hour cooking period. The control board is responsible for precision. There are three types of controllers – PID multi-position, non-PID one-touch, and 3-position. Check out the different types of controllers for the one that is right for you.
3-Position Controller - 3 position controllers, also called LMH controllers, have just 3 temperature settings—low, medium, and high—which correlate to roughly 225°F, 325°F, and 425°F. They feed pellets in fixed cycles that are determined by which setting you choose. With just three settings to choose from, though, you have less control over cooking temperatures than more advanced controllers. These controllers are often found on lower priced pellet grills.
To cook food using a pellet grill, put the pellets into a hopper. When you turn it on, the igniting rod will burn pellets in the fire. The motor-driven auger will then supply the fire pot with pellets from the hopper. The ratio that auger delivers pellets to fire pot depends on the settings you control. If you set it at a high temperature for a longer period of time, the auger will keep on feeding the fire pot with pellets. However, if you are slow-cooking and set a low-temperature one, the feeding and delivery of pellets will also slow down.
Pellet grills come in various sizes from the portable types for tailgating to the extra-large units for commercial use. If you are someone who wants to be able to take your smoker on the go, be it camping, partying or any other event you’ll want something that’s easy to lift and has wheels to facilitate movement. If you have lots of parties and gatherings at home, then you might want something bigger. Its all up to what your needs are.
Speaking of competition cooks, you’ll find that many competition BBQ pitmasters who use Pellet grills as their primary means of cooking are among the more well rested come Saturday. The next step we’ll cover in this selection of Pellet Grill Reviews is getting your pellet grill / smoker up and running. Again, what you may not see in may Pellet Grill Reviews is repeated mention that you’re not going to get that “deep smoke” flavor profile using a pellet smoker. Though, this can be achieved by using something like the Amazen Pellet Tube Smoker 12″.
I called Traeger to discuss their 10k Commercial smoker. The fellow who answered was polite but not helpful. He said, "You need to call our commercial division. They can answer any question you might have," and gave me the number. This is literally how the conversation went when phone was answered. Me: "Hello I was hoping to talk to someone there about your 10k commercial smoker." Him: "What state you live in?" Me: "Texas." Him: "We don't ship direct to Texas anymore, you will need to call one of our dealers." CLICK. So I am thankful I found out now as there is no way in hell I will spend 10k with Traegar.
By far, the two most popular pellet flavors are hickory and apple. Both are classic BBQ woods, and between the two you can cook just about anything. Hickory produces a moderate smoke that’s strong enough to stand up to the bold flavor of beef, but isn’t so strong that it overpowers pork or poultry. Apple, on the other hand, produces a sweet and mild smoke that complements lighter foods like seafood and vegetables, but also has enough backbone to be used with poultry and pork. Although hickory and apple are the most popular flavors, you can also pair other combinations of moderate and mild woods (such as pecan or oak with cherry or peach) to sufficiently cover all your BBQ bases.
In 2010, I sprung for a discounted Rainer with $80 in tip money and a pro deal through the whitewater rafting company I worked for. It was an expensive purchase for me at a time when my monthly food budget was around $60. But hey, along with a Roll-a-Table, two chairs I “borrowed” from the rafting company, and my cooler, I had almost a full kitchen that I could deploy from the back of my truck. And the Rainier quickly proved a wise investment.
As far as size goes, bigger is usually better when it comes to pellet grills. A large hopper means a longer time you can cook without needing to refill your fuel source. A bigger grill size means more room for a variety of meats or side dishes. Look for at least 700 sq inches of cooking space (that can include the upper rack as well – remember, pellet grills work like convection ovens.)
Ease of Use: At first, the unit appears somewhat mind boggling to use however when you get over it the first occasion when it turns out to be very simple. For one thing, there is a get-together video instructional exercise from the maker’s site for a less demanding get-together. Else, anybody that has used a BBQ before wouldn’t have any type of trouble with the unit.
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.
Regardless, it’s worth mentioning the basic types of pellets available on the market to get you started. First there are the hardwood pellets, made from the sawdust from any specific type of hardwood, such as ash, cherry, maple, etc. Then there are different organic hardwood blends: a combination of different types of wood shavings and dust, giving them a customized, special flavoring. For beginners, we’d suggest getting a premium blend, just to be on the safe side (because you can’t go wrong with these). Even then, we’d like to mention a few types of pellets commonly used for different purposes:
But if you like the idea of a wood pellet grill, one of the oldest names in wood pellet grilling is Traeger, which developed some of the first units to use this technique three decades ago. Having that name recognition gives Traeger a leg up versus some of its competitors. And for the most part, Traeger’s grills live up to what consumers expect from this established brand, providing good design and longevity. They don’t typically match up with the higher end models currently on the market in terms of precise cooking temperatures, but Traeger is a nice mid-range product with several price points available.
Wood pellets that are tailored for pellet stoves or fireplaces usually contain tree barks and binding agents such as glue. When used in pellet smokers, these wood chips can expel some harmful chemical substances infused with the food. But since the dawn of Traeger pellet smokers, different manufacturers have been producing food-grade wood pellets to be used in pellet smokers.
If you’re in the market to buy a grill, yet you’ve only grilled with propane or charcoal in the past, wood pellet grills may have piqued your curiosity. These grills use a very different cooking method than the direct flame of propane, resulting in more even heating and more precise temperature control. A wood pellet grill is more like a smoker than an open flame grill, as it’s difficult to sear meat with a wood pellet grill. Purchasing and using a wood pellet grill is going to be more expensive than propane and charcoal grills.
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.
One of the most common problems people encounter with pellet grills is abnormal temperature fluctuations—the controller is set to 250°F, but the grill is dropping to 200°F then climbing to 325°F. Usually people assume that it's a mechanical issue and either the controller or RTD probe need to be replaced. However, very often the problem is far simpler and the solution far easier.
It doesn't matter if you're talking about pellet grills, pop songs, or pizza, everyone always wants to know which is the best. While that might seem like a fairly straight forward question, there is no simple one-word answer. Is the best pellet grill the most popular one made by the best-known brand? Is it the most expensive one with the most advanced features and high-end bells and whistles? Is it the one that offers the best combination of price and performance? Really, the answer depends on you, your means, and your needs. Or, put another way, maybe the question shouldn't be what's the best pellet grill? but what's the best pellet grill for you?
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.
So that brings me to the one thing I have learned in all this that I basically read when I was getting started. One of the biggest keys is “Temperature Control”! If you want consistent food make sure you get that under control. It is the key to solid consistent food! Once you get your food consistent you can experiment with a lot of other things. But if you can’t get that down, you will always be looking for another magic bullet. The number one magic is temperature!
What makes it stand out from the crowd is that it’s the only pellet grill on the market (so far) that has an ash cleanout system… no more hauling out your vacuum to the patio to suck out the ashes when it’s time to clean out your grill! You just need a small cup… and with a simple turn of a small lever, the ashes drop out! You’ll LOVE this feature!
Access to electricity has its downfalls. First, if the cord isn’t long enough you will need to make sure you have a proper extension cord. Using the wrong cord is a fire hazard. Do the math (watts / volts = amps) and make sure you have the right extension cord. The smoker is also less mobile, and if it's stored outside it absolutely must have a cover. Electrical components and weather don’t mix.
Hey Tom! First, thank you so much for commenting on this article. I hope it’s proved useful to you and helping you make your pellet smoker buying decision. I took a look at the smokers you mentioned in your comment, and they appear to be similar in build to those made by Yoder. I can verify that Yoder does exceptionally good work with both the build quality and the heavy gauge steel Construction of their smokers. I don’t know much about the manufacturing practices of the smokers you mentioned. I do like the fact that their controller automatically dropped down to a warming temperature after your food reaches the programmed temperature setting. That’s a feature that I’ve only seen in higher-priced pellet grills like the Memphis Pro Series that I talk about in this article. However, more grills are starting to utilize this in the programming aspect of their controllers. In any case it’s a great feature. To be honest with you I’m not sure that the auger mechanics are going to be all that different between smokers. I’m sure there are differences, but I don’t feel that they are dramatic enough to offer a distinct selling Advantage for the manufacturer. If you haven’t looked at them yet, you might consider taking a look at the Traeger Pro Series pellet grills. You can’t find it on Amazon, but you can find them at different retailers listed on the main Traeger site. A friend of mine has one major competitions using the pro series models.
As the last criteria that we took into consideration, we have shared this a couple of times but we really wanted to focus on variety. We not only wanted to share some of the best tops of the line brands in the industry but we also wanted to share brands that may be unknown but offer excellent craftsmanship and material design. For instance, some of the grills we have shared are perfectly designed for everyday use, while some are designed for large events and parties.
Although pellet smokers already have their own custom-made wood pellets with different flavor and blends, if you choose to moonlight your smoker as a charcoal smoker for some reason (maybe for a different experience or a cooking experiment), you can use it as a regular smoker using wood chips. Under such circumstances, it’s going to be worth learning a bit about the types of wood chips out there.
Editor's Note: If you're looking to upgrade your backyard cooking setup this summer, you're probably in need of a little advice. We're longtime admirers of the folks behind AmazingRibs.com, the site dedicated to unraveling the science of barbecue and grilling. Please welcome back Max Good, the only person in the world whose full-time job is testing, rating, and reviewing grills and smokers. The database he maintains includes over 500 grills and smokers, ranging in price from $30 to $50,000. When it comes to barbecue equipment, nobody knows it better.
Kevin, appreciate your reviews and insights. I am currently looking for my first pellet cooker which will be primarily used for camping, therefore I will likely purchase a portable unit. Your review on the GMG Davy Crocket answered some questions for me. I was initially contemplating the Traeger Junior Elite and GMG Davy Crocket, but after doing some homework I’m now considering the Rec Tec Mini as well. I can purchase the Traeger and GMG now for $350 and the Rec Tec for $500. My dilemma is that I (like many others) take very good care of my gear/equipment, so whatever I purchase, I expect to get a great deal of use out of. With that said, making the wrong decision could be a 7-10 year mistake. There are aspects of each that I like, I guess my question is whether spending another $150 on the Rec Tec, in your opinion, would be worth it to you? I understand if you would rather stay away from specific recommendations, and if that is the case, any other thoughts you have would be appreciated.
Everyone has their price range, but don’t confuse cheap for affordable. As with other types of grills, there are plenty of inexpensive pellet grills that seem attractive at first glance, especially if you're looking to save a little money. However, while a cheap pellet grill might save you a little money up front, it's going to cost you more in the long run. Parts will rust, components will break down, and you will likely find yourself replacing some or all of that affordable grill within five years. Ultimately, you're better off investing a little more money up front and get a quality grill that will keep years to come.
The flame broiler uses a digitally controlled burn system. Its Digital Control Center lets you set the temperature ranging from 170F to 600F with ease. The desired temperature is set and maintained through an electric auto-start and fan-forced air mechanism. These, in addition, give that flavorful smoky taste to all of your foods. The auger automatically feeds pellets into the smoker, so you can pretty much let it take care of everything.
I say almost idiot proof because I still make stupid mistakes when I'm cooking and I like to blame it on the pellet grill once in a while. The unit is extremely easy to use for a novice such as myself. I just fill the hopper with my favorite wood pellets, set the temperature and add my food. I have owned this unit a little over a year and everything from the first burger I cooked until the smoked pork chops I just had for dinner has turned out really, really well. I find myself wanting to either smoke or direct grill everything. We have cooked pizza, turkey breasts, tri-tips, pork butts, burgers, salmon, cookies, brownies, chicken wings, drum sticks, pork chops, ribs, cornbread, vegetables, meatloaf and many other things. Nobody ever complains. LOL I have used it in all types of weather all year long. Once I learned how to use the damper (didn't take long) the heat stays where I want it and remains relatively stable even on the coldest days. I would buy this unit again and I would recommend it to others.
I purchased my unit new this last weekend, and had the privilege of working with the owner directly. Extremely polite and informative gentleman who is straightforward and wants you to buy what you think is best. He was not pushy at all and doesn't need to be. The product sells itself. I have a friend who has a Traeger and I have grilled/smoked with him on several occasions. There is a reason this grill weighs significantly more than the Traeger. If you are truly going to invest this amount of money in a grill, please make sure you are completely happy with your investment by purchasing this Yoder grill.
Once you start paying more than $500, you’re looking at a big boy professional level machine. It’s going to be big enough that you don’t have to worry about having the neighbours over as well as the family. You’re also looking at more expensive sensors and thermostats, so you get a more consistent temperature, which leads to a much better end result, and there’s generally some sort of cleaning assist built in, which makes cleanup and putting it away at night so much easier.
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.