Hey Tom, first, thank you so much for reading the article and expressing your approval of it. It means a lot to me that the information posted on this site is useful for the people. To your question about pellet grills, yes. You must always use BBQ grilling pellets with these cookers. You cannot use raw wood with them. However, should you find yourself with access too hard woods like Hickory or maple, or fruit woods like apple, cherry, or peach – this is something that could be readily used in a charcoal smoker.
I've had the Yoder for about 4 years now. Never looked back. It made my old Traeger look like a dime-store trinket. Thick metal. Built like a tank. Hold temps perfectly. I used to monitor grill temp. Realized quickly there was no need. Not even in the wind and cold. Eats less pellets than my old Traeger. Don't get me wrong, the Traeger works great when conditions are perfect, but in Omaha, NE, things are rarely perfect. It's true that compared to an offset you won't realize as strong of smoke flavor. That's good and bad, depending on what you're going for. When you're after dense smoke flavor, a simple smoke tube is all you need to get it to where you need.
The Fast Eddy by Cookshack is an American designed and manufactured Pellet Grill with a riveted stainless steel body and solid digitally controlled system to maintain the consistent temperature. The name of the game here is sturdy reliability. What it lacks in little extras like wifi controls it makes up for inconsistency. Whether you're smoking, grilling, or searing, the Fast Eddy performs.
Actual Cooking: This flat top is a game changer for cooking. The grill heats up very fast and heats up evenly across all 4 burners. It also has traditional grill grates beneath which makes this a 2 in 1 grill. You can cook a plethora of items ranging from tacos, cheese steaks, quesadillas, eggs, pancakes, hash browns, fried rice, assortment of Chinese dishes (beef and broccoli, Mongolian Beef, Garlic Chicken with Veggies, etc), and basically anything that could be cooked in a typical cast iron pan or skillet. It heats up bread, tortillas, and buns in a matter of seconds. The flat top itself can accommodate a lot of food at once and can cook for up to 50 people per hour at max capacity. The ability to cook multiple items on the flat top at once is especially helpful for cleaning as you won't need to have multiple cooking pans or skillets to clean up afterwards. Anyone that has the ability to use this as their main cook top should do so.
Z GRILLS or Z Grills is a maker of smokers, grillers, and stainless steel prep work tables galore. It entered the world of pellet grills recently and launched an IndieGoGo campaign in order to fund its “affordable wood pellet grill” for $500,000 and currently gives even Traeger’s economical offerings a run for their money with its ability to accept all types of pellets and do all sorts of cooking styles.

The Champion Competition Pro Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker by Louisiana Grills takes outdoor cooking versatility to all new heights. A total cooking area of 3432 sq. in. (8718 sq. cm) and fully integrated multi-chamber smoking cabinets, the Champion Competition Pro is designed to be a show stopper. With direct and indirect flame grilling in the main barrel, hot smoking in the lower smoke cabinet, and cold smoking in the upper smoke cabinet, the Champion Competition Pro is the ultimate grill for the outdoor barbecue enthusiast. This grill revolutionizes grilling in three different ways: the digital control center and lid thermometer allows for precise temperature control of a dynamic range of 60°F-600°F (15°C -177°C) for grilling and smoking, the use of all-natural hardwood pellets allows you to enjoy the amazing wood flavor with the single push of a button, and a programmable meat probe that works together with the digital control center to regulate temperature.


The MAK Pellet Boss will increase or decrease with the press of a button in 5°F increments and has a probe in the oven that keeps the temp pretty solid. As with any thermostatically controlled oven, even your indoor oven, the thermostat cycles heat on or off as needed. So it you set it for 225°F it cycles on til it hits 225°F, then off until it drops to 220°F, then on to 225°F. There are three meat probes and the Boss can be programmed to change the cooker temp when the meat hits a target. I've had one for several years outdoors in the Chicago winters and summers without a cover and no problems.
I bought my second Traeger Grill around Thanksgiving (my last one died after 3 months), spent most of the day assembling it only to find it didn't work. Customer service told me to reset the thermostat, I did and it shut down.  I did this routine a few more times with customer service and it kept shutting down, day after day.  Traeger reluctantly sent me a replacement grill and promised it would be Fully assembled (I have little use of my left hand and can't work with small parts)  Well it showed up unassembled in a bunch of little boxes. Customer service told me 4 times that they would call back with a local Traeger dealer to assemble it. Four promises to have someone come out and not even a phone call.
Just finished my first smoke on the YS640, ribs and chicken thighs. This machine is amazing. It couldn't be simpler to use. The chicken was the best I have ever tasted. The ATBBQ team was great, with fast shipping and they threw in some extras. I could not be happier and can't wait for years of great food off the YS640. Don't hesitate to buy this cooker or to order from ATBBQ.

With a massive 700 square inches of primary grilling space, this grill impressed us when compared to other Pit Boss grills we reviewed. Its size is large enough to cook for large groups of people. It features a Flame Broiler that uses slide-plates which allow for direct flame grilling, which means you get an even cast-iron cooking each time. If the 700 square inches isn’t enough, you can make use of the additional upper cooking rack space. The racks are made of porcelain-coated cast iron for optimum grilling as well as easier maintenance.
***Update: 11/2014: It's been a year now and I still adore this little grill. I've got a kamado and 3 different kettles and this is by far the most convenient and easy to use. The smoke rings this guy puts on a brisket are amazing and the flavor is the perfect balance of wood flavor without overpowering the meat. I've researched about 15 different pellet grills and I still can't find a better value than what this grill offers
Just finished my first smoke on the YS640, ribs and chicken thighs. This machine is amazing. It couldn't be simpler to use. The chicken was the best I have ever tasted. The ATBBQ team was great, with fast shipping and they threw in some extras. I could not be happier and can't wait for years of great food off the YS640. Don't hesitate to buy this cooker or to order from ATBBQ.
Ordered Renegade Pro, received it and missing 6 washers to assemble the legs. They are rattling around inside the unit making it unusable. The control knob also sheared off in shipping. Traeger has yet to come up with a solution to fix or replace the unit...disappointed in their customer service. They don't care about customers after they get their money.
The cooking process is made a lot more convenient with this smoker. To start cooking, all you need to do is flip the Traeger on/off switch, and you’re good to go. Then, you can simply set your desired temperature through the digital controls. Enjoy your time and relax while you leave the unit to do everything else. With its efficient temperature control system and automated auger with an induction fan, heat remains constant throughout the cooking process. You’ll have evenly-cooked foods that have that mouth-watering smoky flavor in no time.
As another one of the most important elements to consider when it comes to a quality grill, we wanted to make sure that the grill was easy to use, turn on, and cook with. With this, we discovered that all brands have the same design system when it comes to using the grill. The best quality grills, which we have shared, come with an electronic auto-start ignition so individuals do not have to deal with starting a fire or having to light a propane grill. Everything is done with a flip of a switch or a press of a button. With that said, this happens to be one of the best design elements of the grill that makes it easy to cook. The next is the controller system, which quickly became a criterion on its own.

Regarding getting a good draft, this is a common misconception for pellet grills. The burn pot on pellet grills receives oxygen via a fan unit. As such, there’s no need for a draft to get a measured burn in the traditional sense. Most pellet grills lack sufficient insulation / gaskets, etc to prevent smoke from leaking out of the body. So, unless you’re going with the Memphis or something that uses oven style insulation, you don’t really need a chimney at all IMHO.
This purchase, the customer service and the lack of understanding from Traeger Pellet Grills, LLC, has been very unfortunate.  I've since stopped payment with AMEX and Traeger is now telling AMEX that they will do nothing until they get the damaged grill back.  Well, I'm in Florida and my brother is in Virginia, and at his age is not capable of handling a Grill that weighs over 100 pounds by himself.  Additionally, he's not a "Grill Repair Man" and does not have the knowledge to tear down a Grill Body including electronics and putting it back together as assembled at Traeger.
Hello Mark! Thanks for commenting here. The Kalamazoo Hybrid Grill looks like a BEAST! If you can swing it, I’d go for it. I truly enjoyed cooking on the Memphis Grill, which is to date the most high end pellet grill I’ve used. It offered a nice blend of professional grade convection with the wood fire taste of the pellets. The Kalamazoo hybrid really does seem to offer one step beyond with the addition of charcoal and wood chunks. I see that Derrick Riches of About.com stands behind the Kalamazoo brand. You’re hard pressed to get a better endorsement of a grilling product than that! Keep me posted at kevin@bbqbeat.com and let me know how your search goes! 🙂

just received my new YS-640 two weeks ago and I absolutely love it. The shipping process and delivery was just as described. The delivery guy unloaded it off the truck, and wheeled the pallet into my garage. Everything was perfect. I am very impressed with the build quality...this thing is a tank. So far have smoked ribs and a brisket, and grilled chicken breasts. The grill heats up much faster than I expected. Temperature holds very steady over the long cooks. I love having the built in probe ports. Still figuring out and tweaking the baffle to control different cooking zones. Only negative thing I say is it can be difficult to manouver in tight quarters because it's so heavy and only the small caster wheels turn. So if you need to move your smoker around a lot, consider the comp cart.

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.
One-Touch Non-PID Controller - Featuring a LCD display and one-touch buttons for setting the cooking temperature in 5° or 10° increments, these controllers allow you to more accurately set a desired cooking temperature. However, like multi-position controllers, they use fixed cycles for delivering pellets and so are limited in accuracy to +/-15–20°F. These controllers may have inputs for meat probes that monitor the internal temperature of food.
So far this smoker is fabulous! There is a learning curve, and this is not a "set it and forget it" smoker. You have to make sure you don't run out of pellets as the smoker will shut down. Tried a pork butt, but I wasn't watching it close enough, so I had to finish it in the oven. Still delicious. Next made some boneless skinless chicken breasts which turned out wonderfully.
If you’re gonna set it and leave it to do the magic, you’re going to have to be careful, too. A major contributor to how long you can leave a smoker is how many wood pellets the pellet hopper holds. Pellet smokers run the gamut in how much fuel they use per hour, with anywhere from half a pound to two pounds of pellets being standard. Always check how much the model you’re looking at holds, and make sure that it’s going to last long enough, especially if you plan on leaving your smoker to cook whilst you do other things, especially if you’re going away from home. It’s simple math, and better that than coming home to a bunch of chargrilled ashes.
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!
Looking for a pellet grill to do all sorts of cooking with. I am between a Rec Tec, Camp Chef Woodwind, Gorilla and Yoder. Steaks, burgers, chicken, ribs, brisket, vegetables, etc. All in one. And want to have the option to sear meat, veggies as well. Ive seen so many different reviews my head is spinning. My budget is $700-$1,000 but willing to go up if necessary. I hear some can sear, some take too long to heat up, some dont hold the temp consistently. I am a low maintenance so ease of use important. Does not have to be portable.
Good info, but it’s missing something… the cost to use. I’ve been looking for a long time to get into smoking. I have only ever used a propane setup for grilling. My main quesion is the cost to use propane vs charcoal vs pellets. I’m very interested in pellet smoking AND grilling. A couple times a week my wife and I will grill some chicken breasts or steaks. Can you breakout an approximate cost comparison to run the different methods? Appreciate it!
With 440 square inches of cooking space, an auger-fed pellet delivery system, and a digital LED thermostat and controller, your cooking will be simple, whether it’s burgers, a whole turkey, or racks of ribs. The side shelf is a convenient place for cooking tools or plates while the bottom shelf can hold spare bags of pellets or jugs of sauces out of the way.
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