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.
WOW, that’s all I got. What an amazing piece of cooking equipment. I’ve owned mine now for a little over a year, and to be honest, each time I use it, I learn something new about it. I’ve cooked on Traeger’s and owned several Bradley smokers. But nothing compares to the versatility of the Yoder. This thing is well made (its heavy) and it cooks flawlessly. The worst thing about it is the need to empty the ashes, and it’s not that big of a deal. I will say, invest the money and buy the heat diffuser with the access door. It makes removing the ashes so much easier. Ask yourself this question, how many different flavors of propane can you use on your grill. Because with all of the different wood options for this, it’s almost limitless. Make the investment, you won’t be sorry
Now, what that means is that if you have a lower hopper capacity, your pellet smoker will run for a smaller period of time. It also depends on the cooking temperature you have selected for your cooking purposes. However, at higher temperatures, they will provide less smoke; thus would be more suitable for grilling and barbecuing, but not so much for smoking.
Hey Charlie – I’d leave that grate wide open if you want maximum heat. If the grates are only over the burn pot, then you can do sort of a two zone cook (indirect vs direct heat) by putting a thicker steak, chop, or piece of chicken on the ‘non direct’ side to get up to a temp that’s 15 or 20 degrees lower than your target. Then, finish off over the burn pot area. Just one idea.
Similarly, online retailers like Amazon add to the cost of your products as well. When you order from Amazon the manufacturer has to pay a hefty fee to Amazon, even if the manufacturer of your grill ships it to you directly from their factory. So, while the grill may ship to you directly, Amazon usually takes around 15% of the total price, meaning that the manufacturer has to factor that cost into their margin as well.
Despite being a little complicated when compared to the other types of grilling equipment (because of the automatic pellet auger and fan), they are pretty easy to repair if you have the right parts. You can find these parts right at a home depot or online. It doesn’t matter if you need to replace the auger or the fan, the ignitor rod or the hopper, for the top brands, you’ll find the replacement parts just as easily. Let’s look at the replaceable parts of a pellet smoker:
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.
The Pit Boss Company manufactures an extra-large pellet grill with 700 square inches of cooking surface. It closest competitor in pellet smoker largeness is the 7-year veteran known as Rec-Tec. It has probably one of the largest cooking surfaces (or the largest at that) in the pellet grill and smoker industry. It approaches grilling with the idea that sometimes bigger really is better, at least in terms of cooking more meats at the same time.
While the Traeger Lil-Tex does offer similar features as our top pick, such as a digital LED temperature control system and an auto-dispensing auger, there was one missing feature which we thought was necessary. This product has a smaller grilling area and lacks a removable upper rack, which gives you less grilling and prep space. I should mention that the unit does come in a bigger 700 square inch version for $200 more, as well as a smaller version that costs less. If this smoker is too big or too small for you, there are always other options available. Compared to our top pick, it’s also more expensive despite offering similar specs. Aside from that, this is a very efficient and reliable smoker – might even have been the best if our top pick wasn’t available on the market.
A pellet grill often comes with many facilities that are usually not available on any other grilling appliances. One of them is its temperature control and settings. This is a huge advantage for inexperienced cooks who do not have the understanding and years of experience of pit masters who know how to cook different foods on different temperatures. This also means that you do not have to fiddle and fidget around with the heat every 2 minutes after slapping on the steak on to the grills.
Food not cooking evenly or at desired times: It’s worth checking out the health of the fans in your pellet grill. Usually, if the fan is unable to distribute the heat properly throughout the whole smoker, these problems occur. Fans are relatively inexpensive and very easy to replace. Even if you see the fan working and still getting these problems, it might be that the fan is working intermittently or at slower speeds that it needs to. Have it replaced: it would be the best course of action and won’t be heavy on your wallet.
Local availability of pellets is only one problem though. How are you, the consumer, supposed to know which is a good pellet brand versus a bad? If you do a Google search for “where to buy pellets” you are likely only to see a lot of advertisements all proclaiming their product to be the best. This situation is very akin to what consumers in the charcoal industry deal with as well.
My traeger has had some good moments but it very unreliable. I really do not enjoy cooking with it. I have no confidence in the temp readings and the smoke control. Every time I open the lid the temp drops like 200 degrees. I'll smoke at the "smoke" setting but as soon as I turn it to 225 it spikes to like 300-500 degrees. Wtf? I thought this POS was supposed to be a set it and forget it type smoker. Very unreliable. Temp fluctuates so much and if there is even a slight breeze the temps just go up and down up and down. The pellet feeder is garbage. It will all the sudden just start smoking like crazy because the pellets have jammed into the burner. Completely ridiculous smoker. I use it still but only when I can sit and watch the feeder. The guys comment below is true about the feeder always just using the middle pellets. I always have to check it and push the pellets to the center. Some simple engineering would change this. Never again will I purchase a traeger. There are much better options out there and better price.
I ordered a thermostat for my Junior Elite grill because service said that was most likely the problem with my 4-year-old Traeger grill. I was promptly charged on my credit card. The order did not get to me and 2 weeks later, I emailed them. They said they would send out another thermometer. That thermometer has been making the rounds in 1/2 dozen post offices:
A pellet hopper is what you put your pellets in. The grill will automatically help itself from the hopper and use it to maintain the temperature you want it to. More heat requirement will use more pellet, and less heat will use less. What you need to make sure is that you have a good sized pellet hopper so that your grill can keep using from it and you do not have to keep refilling the hopper too often. There are pellet grills out there that are powerful and gentle enough to be cooking for hours, and sometimes overnight, all thanks to its large pellet hoppers that keep replenishing and refueling the fire all throughout.
I have owned a Memphis Elite (built-in) for 16 months now. It is a very high quality product, and couldn’t be easier to use. The direct flame area is arguably a little small (effectively a bit smaller than 1 sq ft), but it does a great job. The temperature control is phenomenal, and includes a meat probe control that can put the grill into “hold” mode once the meat reaches the target internal temperature. A very happy owner here!
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.
I talk with a lot of teams out there, and I know for certain that some of them have turned to my buddy Fred Grosse’s MojoBricks to boost their smoke profile when using pellet grills. In fact, of the teams who win with Pellet Smokers – I’d wager at least a quarter of them to maybe half have used MojoBricks to round out their final product. I really like Fred as well – which makes it a pleasure to include his products in this grouping of pellet grill reviews.