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.
It’s capable of many of the same feats as its sibling grill and other top-rated competing grills, but its piece de resistance is its Smart Grill Technology that allows you to control the temperature as easily as conventional ovens. Just don’t let it sit in direct sunlight and muck up its temp. The bottom line with this “smart” grill is that it has more pros than cons.
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.)
The old camp chef is heading to a new home. We have been thru thick and thin, rain, or snow, on two ocations high wind blew it off the patio. A few dents bad scratches but it still works like a top. My son is driving in form North Carolina to take it off my hands this weekend it has been replaced by a yoder ys-640. The yoder is bigger and heavier with more btu output if needed. But the camp chef still is easier to clean out and cooks a fine brisket.
To solve this problem, several companies have come up with alternative ways to expose food to the flame by allowing you to use the small area directly above the fuel pot. It's still not as good as a charcoal or sear burner, but better than the designs that are strictly indirect. Check out the Memphis Elite, Fast Eddy's by Cookshack PG500, and the Yoder YS640 for this feature. Camp Chef also recently introduced its Woodwind pellet smoker, which has a super-hot gas-fueled sear box attached to the right side.
If you have faced or currently face the problem with common things like pellet feed jamming or wear and tear of your smoker, then replacing the exact component will solve your problem. Thus, without changing your whole smoker you can continue with some $40 – $50 changes. It might seem complicated for you if you face a problem with your digital control system. Adding the element of professional knowledge will help tremendously. Solving problem with $150 is much better than spending $500, right?
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.
Is it food quality? All of my foods are the best I have ever grilled. The ribs are nearly falling off of the bone, yet still moist! In the past, if I tried to get them to that point, they would have been very dry. All of my meats have been moist with a lightly smoked flavor. My breads perfectly crusted on the outside, moist inside with a perfect crust!
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.