When it comes to the material design of a pellet grill, the material is one of the most important aspects to consider for many reasons. First of all, the material has to be able to withstand extremely high temperatures and also be able to cook properly without the heat escaping the grill. With that said, the exterior or the grill has to be able to withstand high temperatures so the color does not peel, rust, or other defects. With that in mind, we discovered that all pellet grills have to be designed from some of the most important materials in the industry, so they can withstand the test of time. Alongside this, pellet grills are built to last so individuals can enjoy them for years to come. When it comes to the exterior craftsmanship of a pellet grill, the most common material is a powerful steel construction. Steel is also known as one of the most powerful and durable materials in the industry today. However, steel does rust if it is exposed to water. Therefore, many quality brands have powder coated the steel so it can be water resistant and does not rust easily.
The Rec Tec Bull is built for serious smoking. The stainless steel chamber doesn't have paint that will chip or peel, and the built-in Wi-Fi technology allows you to monitor your cook from anywhere in the house. And with two meat probes you'll have more flexibility when cooking different types of meals. The 40-lb. hopper and interior LED are features the backyard pros will love.
Pit Boss Wood Pellet Grills are fueled by all natural BBQ wood pellets. The digital control board ignites the grill and allows you to set the cooking temperature from 180° to 500°F. Fan forced convection cooking eliminates the need for a rotisserie and creates a versatile environment for grilling, roasting, smoking, braising, searing and baking. The 820 features a Flame Broiler as standard; this adds the option to grill directly over an open flame when direct heat is needed. The Pit Boss 820 features a large 820 sq. in. total cooking surface: 580 sq. in. main and 240 sq. in. removable upper rack. With complete structural strength and durability, the Pit Boss 820 is made to last.
If you live in an area where wood furnaces are used (not like down here in FL where a few heat strips will do the trick), you may also be familiar with pellet furnaces. In short, pellets compressed from sawdust and wood shavings fill a hopper and are then fed into a burn pot using an electric auger system. The auger, which is basically a long screw, delivers pellets to the burn pot based on the speed dictated by the unit’s thermostat.
On Tabletop Models: I didn’t include them here because though extensive, this post is more of an overview of a few select makers of Pellet Smokers I think do a fine job with both manufacturing and product support. The one exception is that I did include a link to where you can find the Rec-Tec mini. That’s Rec-Tec’s answer to the smaller, tabletop or tailgating models.
Wood pellets are small pieces of hardwood made from compressed sawdust from hardwood. Generally, some wood pellets made for room heating and stoves are produced using some form of binding agent like glue and other additives, which would leave a bad taste and flavor when used for cooking. However, for modern-day grilling, wood pellets are made of pure wooden sawdust and sometimes a little bit of vegetable oil to help it burn. So, nowadays, wood pellets are even better than the real wood chips for grilling.
A few other mentionable features are that it has a highly durable temperature proof textures powder coat finish, it features auto start. The REC TEC Wood Pellet Grill accommodates temperatures from 180 degrees Fahrenheit to 500 degrees Fahrenheit with 5 degrees increment. This amazing temperature control features let you be in control of how much heat you want to cook your food in, without having to worry about it getting dry or burnt. This low increment allows you to cook delicate meats like fishes and seafood as well! It smart grill tech makes sure that the temperature you set is always consistent and constant. It also has an “Extreme” smoke feature from the 180 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit setting that intensifies the smoke in the grill.
While the Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett Pellet Grill is compatible with most iOS and Android devices, I want to stress, check the compatibility of your device with the grill before purchasing because it would suck to buy this grill only to find out that this feature is not compatible. Also, if you do not plan on using the grill on some elevated surface, the legs are not tall so the grill sits close to the ground. Regardless, this is a GREAT smoker: your meat will come out tender and juicy with that authentic BBQ taste we all love! Neither of these cons affects the quality of your BBQ and both can be worked around.
Traeger Junior Elite Pellet Grill is a great model for those who want to start up the smoker, add some meat, and let the work be done for them. It is also extremely versatile, allowing you to grill, smoke, roast, and bake. It is perfect for individual households, college students, and even tailgating. And it’s a great option for first timers as well as those who have experience using pellet smokers.
The biggest cleanup issue is the buildup on the heat deflector under the cooking grates. You'll need good gloves and an apron. On most models, a thorough cleanup means a 30 minute process of taking out the greasy grates and the gooey deflector plate, scraping them and washing them. You should do this when the carbon and grease cover the deflector plate. Stainless parts can go in the diswasher, but I wouldn't do it. That grease is like tar and it could get all over the insides of the dishwasher and hang on for dear life. I use a handheld steamer like the Steamfast SF-320 Portable Steam Cleaner shown here.
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Hey John – great question. My experience is that I use maybe 8 lbs of pellets for a 7 or 8 hour cook at 275 degrees. Pellet grills are relatively fuel efficient. The brand of pellet you choose will play into this. Cost for pellets varies by manufacturer, similar to charcoal. I think you’ll find them very efficient if you’re just firing them up for high heat, shorter grilling sessions.
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.
Who says bigger is always better? Our fourth contender to make it to our pellet grill review is the The Traeger TFB29LZA Junior elite grill. This petite pellet grill has been specifically designed to meet the needs of small households. Its small body makes it ideal for travelling and tailgating. It features a 300 square inch cooking surface. This pellet grill weighs just 60 pounds. You will get an LED digital, multi-position thermostat that comes with a 3 year warranty.
You’re concerned with ongoing costs for fuel and power: The wood pellets used with Traeger grills are more expensive than propane or charcoal. You can expect to spend $1 to $3 per grilling session using wood pellets. Propane is far less expensive to operate in a grill, while charcoal fits somewhere in the middle of the cost range. And beware of cheap pellets from third-party manufacturers that contain softwoods like pine. They burn much faster than hardwoods, so the end cost won’t be that much different because you’ll use more of them. And they can introduce unwanted chemicals and contaminants to your food. You will also have some electrical power costs with these Traeger pellet grills.
So, when their patent expired in 2006, large companies capitalized on that one and Traeger began facing cut-throat competitions. Within two years, a few companies had already begun producing some of the best pellet grills with more advanced designs and features. By 2014, around 27 companies had already penetrated the market and newer brands were coming out almost every month. Now, with so many companies already in the market, some of them are creating strategic alliances with other brands producing different grilling equipment.
If you’re in the market to purchase a new pellet grill, you might be intrigued by all the grills and smokers on sale you see advertised locally and online. Let’s be honest, purchasing a pellet grill can be quite an investment and it may be something you have been saving your money for. That’s why it’s important that you take the time to research and educate yourself about not only the different brands of pellet grills but the price tag that’s attached to them. When you see a pellet smoker “on sale”, what does it really mean? Is the company really saving you money? Are you getting a good value? First, let’s take a look into the two different purchasing options you have when it comes to buying your new pellet grill.
Many of the models require you to clean them up for 30 minutes because you have to take out the gooey deflector plate and the greasy grates in order to scrape them off and wash them until they’re shining. Careful cleaning is required when the grease and carbon are covering the deflector plate. The easy-clean grills typically make the parts more accessible but the amount of cleanup remains the same.
I paid $700.oo for my Traeger. My heating element went out in 2 BBQ seasons. Not good considering the price I paid. It's just me, so it's not like it was in overkill. Bi-weekly meal give or take? Smokes fur shit!! Planned on some good'ol smoked salmon (cause I like to fish for salmon), or some pheasant jerky (cause I have Springers, and I hunt pheasant***) NOT HAPPENING. The only smoke there is...is when you start the damn thing. If you want smoke flavor, you have to add artificial smoke flavor from a bottle. Conventional outside oven heated by wood pellets. If you want BBQ this is not the way to go. If you want smoke this is not the way to go. If you want to leave something inside the oven to cook outside your house....this is the way to go. Wasted $
Pellet grills are every lazy man’s dream appliance. These grills need absolute zero to minimal maintenance. You just need to lightly wipe through it after every use, and maybe thoroughly clean it 2 to 3 times a year! All pellet grills now come with a drip pan that catch the accumulating oils that drops from the food. They are also made with good quality raw materials that enable them to withstand the outdoor atmospheres all year round. If this does not entice your lazy bones, no other appliance will, and that is a fact. Period!
I bought a Yoder YS480 three years ago. I still use my cheaper pellet grill for everyday smokes, but I use the Yoder when I want to get serious. It does a beautiful job on baby back ribs (can do up to 8 racks laying flat on the grate) and I have smoked two complete turkeys at a time. The only time I have had a problem after 2 1/2 years of smoking was caused by a failed temperature probe. I got a new probe, installed it in a few minutes, and was back up and smoking again.
Hey Kim – thank you for this. I’ve had this happen with numerous pellet smokers, including GMGs. What happens most often when it happens is that I’ve been remiss in properly cleaning the grill out after several uses (vacuuming the fire pot out). This causes the ash etc to cover up the heating rod, thus making the temperature lower than expected. The auger keeps feeding the fire pot to compensate and you get what you’ve described.
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.
In addition, due to the wood pellets used in the Traeger grill, it is easy to cook different food products even pies, something that is impossible with charcoal or propane fired grills like the big green egg grill and the camp chef grill, respectively. Moreover, it is hard to get consistent results with the big green egg grill, as some food might come out good while others will just burn. It is a great challenge to use the big green egg grill.
Buying factory direct means that you are purchasing a product directly from the manufacturer, which eliminates the need for a middleman. There’s no need for the product to go through any kind of supply chain and acquire additional costs in order to reach you. The price tag that’s displayed on factory direct products doesn’t contain any markup to compensate for additional costs. Buying factory direct gives you the best chance at receiving the lowest price possible for the product you’re purchasing.
There are several types of grills and these are charcoal, gas, wood, electric smokers, open fire grill, and pellet grill. Each of them offers different benefits. In terms of comparison, pellet grill is still superior because it is the combination of all such grills. You can use it to smoke that way charcoal grill does. You enjoy the wood flavor of wood grill using pellets, and it is also electrically and electronically-operated.
I have used a pellet smoker for about five years, and looked at, or used, many different brands. I have added auxiliary smoke generators, and tried almost every way possible to create authentic BBQ on a pellet smoker— It can’t be done. When the vendors, or users, refer to subtle smoke they mean virtually no wood flavor. Do yourself a favor and try a simple test: go to a really good BBQ joint, or BBQ competition; try some of their Q and then compare it to pellet meat. There is no comparison. I wanted the pellet unit to produce good Q in the worst way because of the ease. You cannot duplicate the smoke created in a wood, or wood/charcoal firebox with compressed sawdust. It pains me to say it but it is true.
Hey John! Thank you so much for your kind words. I try to do a good job here, and am pleased you are enjoying the site. Regarding electric smokers, I have friends who own them and love them. I’ll try to get a post out this summer on them. Folks seem to like Bradley smokers a good bit, so you might want to check them out. You can find a good selection of them on Amazon.com here.
Z Grills is a lesser known manufacturer and a great low-cost alternative to the more expensive Traeger grills. Their pellet grill is a sturdy, heavyweight model with a roomy 500 square inches of cooking space and an electronic feeding system for fuel pellets. An additional warming rack provides additional space for cooking at lower temperatures. Furthermore, Z Grills also ensures their product with a generous 3 years warranty.
To your question regarding Traeger, I’ve not reviewed their grills of yet. I do know that Traeger as a company is taking steps to up their game some, as quality/reliability of their pellet grills has diminished over the last few years. The new CEO – Jeremy Andrus – they hired comes from the Skull Candy company and brought that headphone company from annual sales from less than $1 million to nearly $300 million. I know also that a few big hitters in the BBQ world are being contacted by Traeger to bring the brand back to its former prominence. You can read more about that here from the site of one of the company’s that now has an ownership interest in Traeger: http://www.trilantic.com/News_Story.aspx?StoryType=1&ID=56.
Some cheaper models, such as the Brinkmann, have a controller with only three settings, Low, Medium, High (LMH), and there is no temperature probe in the oven to create a feedback loop. We do not recommend these units. You actually have less control over temp than you do on a gas or charcoal smoker. The whole reason to buy a pellet grill is because it is set-it-forget-it and it hits a temp and holds it regardless of the ambient air temp outside, winter or summer. On these LMH controllers, the temp fluctuates widely and it cannot correct itself for the weather. They just aren't as smart as a digital device. Whether you're smoking a few slabs of ribs on a scorching summer day, or six pork butts during a blizzard, the three position controller only knows auger on and off times for Low, Medium, and High. It has no information on the temperature inside the cook chamber.
There are no food probes with this controller as there are on the MAK Pellet Boss, and the controller is mounted to the surface with two screws and no gasket so I fear rain could get into the electronics, but after more than a year of sitting out without the cover in rain and snow, the controller on the IPT I tested is still working fine. Ortech recommends covering your smoker.
I called Treager the next day just to find out what happened. The customer service guy way REALLY nice. He said, "Don't worry. We stand behind our product 100%." Wow was I impressed! He told me he would email me instructions on how to make a claim. He even told me he would send me a new thermometer ( my Christmas present one was destroyed by the fire). He did everything as promised!
As you can see from the image of a Traeger Pellet Grill above, pellets move from a hopper (left) via an auger to a burn pot (far right). The rate at which the pellets are fed into the hopper is dictated by your Pellet grill’s thermostat. Extra fuel in the form of oxygen is blown over the burn pot to increase the burn rate and help regulate a nice, steady, and efficient burn. The lower your temp, the more smoke is created.