Not all people and culture will be able to truly understand our love for barbecue here in the USA. For them, it might just be a cooking activity while for us, it’s a tradition – a ritual to celebrate the summers (and occasionally the winters). As long as this love for grilling stays with us, which will be, we’re going to continue to expect more and more from the grill manufacturers.
What’s more, as Pellet Grills are electric-powered and regulate their own fuel intake, they are a far more foolproof option than other smokers and grills which may require a large amount of maintenance and care during the cooking process. Wood pellets themselves are also incredibly versatile. Aspiring smokers can experiment with a whole array of wood varieties in order to explore the flavors that each lends to meat.
So Kevin here is where you come in. Been wanting to make getting consistent Q on the table regularly and easily. Been looking at pellet poopers for about 5 years now and decided to take the plunge. Had already done enough looking a few years ago Traeger’s issues had scared me off. Several friends had them and raved but always mentioned problems. I decided from my work I don’t want to be buying someone’s, ‘we know the problems and are fixing them’ if you can find something solid for similar cost. Yoder and FEC were pretty much my finalists. So I was doing my final thoughts and found your article.
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.
GrillGrates(TM) amplify heat, prevent flareups, make flipping foods easier, keep small foods from committing suicide, kill hotspots, are easier to clean, flip over to make a fine griddle, and can be easily removed and moved from one grill to another. You can even throw wood chips, pellets, or sawdust between the rails and deliver a quick burst of smoke to whatever is above. Every gas grill needs them.
Accurate, powerful, with a lot of options, good build quality and a nice set of features, all at an excellent price, the Camp Chef PG64 is our best overall pellet smoker. Of course, the RecTec still offers more options, but it’s more expensive, so if you want the absolute most for your money, without breaking the bank, you’re going to want to look closely at this.
Coming over to the cooking area, you will find 2 stainless steel grill grates that give you 702 sq. in. of cooking space with an option of the second shelf that makes it 1054 sq. in. Its tall enough for turkeys and large enough to fit 6 large-sized racks of ribs. So, hosting a bunch of people for a BBQ party, and cooking delicious meat for them, would be as easy as it could get.
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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.
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.
Hey Boyd, it’s really great hearing from you here. I am becoming a much bigger Traeger fan then I was in the past. They have done some excellent work of late on their Grill models. I really think they’re doing a lot of work too improve and restate their original value proposition. Their Pro Series models are excellent, and I believe that the directions the company is taking especially with getting back into the competition world will benefit both it and its customers… Like you… Long into the future.
Thanks for all the great information. This article was very useful on my most recent purchase. Sorry for the long book but tends to be my style of sharing. Hope others get some use out of my lessons learned. Killing (literally, dried out, burned, inedible) a thousand dollars or so of briskets over the last 20+ years should help some save a little pain as they are stepping out.
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.
Hey David – in my opinion, you’re going to find hot spots in any entry level pellet grill/ pellet smoker. I include GMG, Rec-Tec, Traeger, etc. When you start moving into the higher pellet smokers/grills – Memphis Grill, MAK, etc, you can minimize these to some extent. If you experience higher heat on one side, put the thicker cut of meat (pork butt, point of brisket) near that part.
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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!)
Because the burn pot is small, there is usually a hot spot directly over it. Some units have an optional perforated section above the burn pot so you can put the meat over direct flame, but the ones I've tested still do not sear properly. And there is no way to set up a 2-zone cooking system with a cool zone. As with most other grills and smokers, the differences between lower and upper racks is not huge, so think of it as one heckuva indirect heat convection smoker with precision temperature control.
Instead of logs, the pellet smoker is fed with food-grade cylinders of wood pellets that are an inch long and ¼-inch wide and are made of compressed hardwood sawdust. According to the best pellet smoker reviews, pellet grills are easy to use because it’s easier to maintain its temperature because of these sawdust pellets that are subjected to great heat and high pressure, which ignites lignin (natural wood glue).
Most pellet smokers have a flat drip plate under the cooking grate that diffuses heat and catches grease and gunk. Louisiana uses a curved "Arched Flavor Guard" that mirrors the shape of the lid. The company claims that this design presents a larger surface for meat drippings to sizzle and enhance flavor. The Flavor Guard also has a section over the fire pot that can slide out of the way to expose large, slotted openings, which allow meats to sear over open flame.
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.
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.
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Camp Chef is a leading manufacturer of camping stoves, dutch ovens, and other outdoor cooking equipment. If you want quality cookware to take on your next camping trip or barbecue in the park, Camp Chef has the solutions - from camp stoves to cast iron dutch ovens. Camp Chef makes cooking gear for campers, hunting, for traveling by RV, even for your next tailgate party. Camp Chef was built around the idea of finding better ways to cook outdoors - no matter the location, from woods to parking lots to campgrounds - and from that philosophy has come a whole line of outdoor cooking equipment, made to let you go gourmet in the wild!
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.
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 time passed, a thermostat was added to the equation, and the production BBQ smokers fueled by pellets working in “set it and forget it” fashion was in full force. From this point, several manufacturers of pellet grills began to pop up, with a few key names like Yoder Smokers, Mak Grills, Green Mountain Grills, and Fast Eddy’s Cookshack grills being among the most notable.