Editor's Note: If you're looking to upgrade your backyard cooking setup this summer, you're probably in need of a little advice. We're longtime admirers of the folks behind AmazingRibs.com, the site dedicated to unraveling the science of barbecue and grilling. Please welcome back Max Good, the only person in the world whose full-time job is testing, rating, and reviewing grills and smokers. The database he maintains includes over 500 grills and smokers, ranging in price from $30 to $50,000. When it comes to barbecue equipment, nobody knows it better.
Since wood chips are by-products of carpentry and woodwork, they are not only inexpensive but are also helpful for the environment since you’re using up all the parts of a tree. Its death wouldn’t go in vain! If you’re looking to learn more about the types of available wood chips and what kind of flavors they impart with, feel free to check out our post on that topic.
There are other options, KBQ for one, but I want it to look like a grill. Not a refrigerator, although I’m sure they make great Q I have narrowed my search to Pellet poopers or the Primo or Egg. The Pellet poopers will have more capacity than even the XL Primo/Egg. But are they one trick ponies? Smoking and baking. WIth limited smoke profile. I wish I could taste the Que off of one to know for sure. I got rid of my gasser because of the limited flavor it produced. Rec-Tec’s tag line is Do you cook with wood. But does it produce enough smoke flavor for most people? How do your neighbors respond to your Que? Do they like the smoke profile of the Que? Sorry for all the questions. Just trying to figure out what the next smoker will be at Mi Casa.
Moving on from the orangish-red looks of the predecessor RT-680, this newer model has a black hood, with stainless steel built. It is 2.5” taller than the RT-680 and has 2 stainless steel bull horn handles on the outside that will have you falling in love with its built. Everything from the towel rings, the controller shelf, the hopper lid to the spill-proof bucket hook is stainless steel and even the smallest of details like the laser cutout of “Rec Tec Grills” on the side will never fail to impress.
Once you start paying more than $500, you’re looking at a big boy professional level machine. It’s going to be big enough that you don’t have to worry about having the neighbours over as well as the family. You’re also looking at more expensive sensors and thermostats, so you get a more consistent temperature, which leads to a much better end result, and there’s generally some sort of cleaning assist built in, which makes cleanup and putting it away at night so much easier.
Hey Rob! First, I really appreciate you reaching out. That’s what The BBQ Beat is for! To your question, I own a Davy Crockett Tailgate Model pellet smoker and really like it. Full disclosure, it was given to me by the company to test and Jason Baker of GMG said I could just keep it. But, I get a good number of products to review sent to me and a whole lot of them don’t make it onto the blog. I’d rather “omit” than “detract” – keep things positive sharing the stuff out there that I can get behind.
You are worried about flare-ups: When grilling fatty types of meat on a propane grill, you run the risk of having flare-ups, where the flame gets too high and too hot, burning the meat. You have to keep a close eye on the propane grill to guard against them. But with the Traeger grilling system, the even distribution of the heat and the indirect heating system prevent this problem.
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.
Pellet grills come in many different sizes that accommodate food as per those sizes. However, even the smaller kinds are able to cook up a meal for a large family of 4 to 5 at a time! The larger ones are obviously able to accommodate large portions of meat and other food in it. In fact, some large pellet grills are used to cook up a whole baby lamb or large fishes at a time! This is one appliance that has been proven ideal for feeding a lot of heads at a time without the stress and the hard work of course, making it great for small to medium parties and get-together.
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.)
Most grills feature a primary cooking area (the main grate) and a secondary cooking area (additional racks). In a pellet grill, there’s less difference between the two grilling areas because it mainly cooks by indirect heat, so the temperature is the same throughout the grill. It’s best to pay attention to a pellet grill’s total cooking area because it is the sum of the primary and secondary cooking areas.
PID Controller–PID Controllers (Proportional Integral Derivative) are devices that most of the grill manufactures don’t fully utilize yet. They can be found as a separate device attached to the grills if you’re handy enough, but all the manufacturers aren’t fully considering them yet. Using a PID controller, you can accurately maintain the temperature while cooking and ensure that the food is cooked automatically to perfection without much supervision.
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:
Although pellet grill smokers are more expensive than your regular electric smokers, they come with great convenience as they do not demand your undivided attention. Now although there are a lot of reviews online available about pellet grills in general, none of them provided in-depth information about different models of Traeger Grills. So we decided to take on the challenge!
When a product is listed as Pre-Order, such product is not yet in stock but is available for advanced purchase on our site, prior to the manufacturer's public release date. Pre-Order items are shipped once in stock and the public release date arrives. You will be notified of a product's updated status by email. The expected shipment time is listed on the Product Detail page.
I have used mine Traeger 15 times and it hasn't worked once. I will not hold the temp within 15 degrees as they state. I can set mine to 225 and will go between 180-370. It also consistently shutting itself off with the same error. I have spoken to cust service 12 times and they are worthless. I have had new controller sent and other various parts. I have been on the phone with them for hours. I always have to take my meat off and finish it on my Weber. They refuse to send me a new one. They still demand to go back through the same damn steps as the last 12 times to debug it. Never again. If you see my post on Craigslist, don't buy it, it's a lemon that Traeger will not support.
I have had a Traeger Junior Elite for 4 years. In that time I have used it < 50 times. I have replaced a fan motor, a fuse, and now I have been trying to get a thermometer replaced. First time, the service guy dropped the ball and never sent it. Second time- the thermometer got sent around to multiple post offices. Third time, never got to me- apparently they sent it to the wrong address. Fourth time- still waiting. It's been 5 weeks now, and I cannot get the part, and have no idea if the part will fix the grill. Everyone in service has been polite, but incompetent as well. I have had 2 flash fires in the grill from the auger pushing too many pellets into the hot pot, the temperature fluctuates wildly. Save yourself the frustration: avoid Traeger at all costs!
You prefer a direct heat method of grilling: The Traeger grill uses an indirect heating source, much like an oven, so you won’t be able to sear meat, as many people like to do when grilling a steak. The Traeger system is better for those people seeking more of a smoker type of cooking system, although you can sear your meat by using a frying pan with a little oil initially before you finish cooking it with the Traeger grill. You can use the frying pan on a stove top burner or on the surface of the Traeger grill.
In reading through the comments section, it seems the recommendations have shifted over time. As it stands today, which smoker would you go with and why: GMG Jim Bowie, Traeger Pro 34, or the RecTec? I like the cooking space of the Traeger Pro 34, but the other 2 seem to have more bells and whistles. I’ve been smoking about 5yrs, so not a pro but not a beginner. Currently have a 10+ year old Traeger Lil Tex elite hand-me down that is ready to give up the ghost. Would appreciate your thoughts!
The first thing you notice about yoders its the quality! They are testosterone, precision, heavy duty machines. Yoders cut the learning curve from novice to celebrated cook in less than a year, because they allow you to focus on the cooking instead of tending the fire which can take you lots of time. The only issue I have with mine is that the fan vibrates inside making a wierd noise, so I have to open the cooker and re-atach or re-instal the velcro strap that keeps the fan from vibrating. If this works, I will return to edit my review to 5x3 stars. However, the support team sent me everything I need to conduct the process my self; no complains here.
After about 10-15 hours of cooking, you should remove the burn cup and dump the ash. If the ash builds up it can prevent ignition. Ash also accumulates in the bottom of the unit, but doesn't impact cooking. A vacuum cleaner with a hose makes short work of it. Only a few manufacturers, such as Blaz'n Grill Works and Camp Chef have a slide out combustion cup that makes cleanup much easier, but you still have to get underneath the deflector occasionally and suck out fly ash that has scattered around the lower part of the grill body.
Using accurate digital thermometers to monitor cooking and internal meat temperatures is essential to being all that you can be in the backyard. Unlike the caveman-era heat estimators built into the lids of most grills and smokers, modern pellet smoker LED displays will give you the real story of what's happening in your smoker. Of course, if your smoker doesn't come with a dual-display system that monitors both cooking and meat temps, you'll still need an accurate digital meat thermometer.
Hey David, Is there a particular reason why the Grilla grills interest you? I tend to find they’re great smokers, just expensive for what they are. If you’re working with limited space (say smoking on a condo balcony) then the Grilla models vertical footprint can make all the difference between having a smoker or not. But for the price, and for a standard model smoker, the Traeger models tend to be better all around.
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.
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.
If you have an older smoker and need a lot of physical maintenance like changing the hopper and the digital control, then changing those two parts may not help. These two changes may cost you $200 – $250 and with a rusty hopper, you will continuously lose the smoke you produce. This is not safe for your health, so in this situation, you should definitely opt to get a new pellet smoker grill.
You then simply select your desired temperature via the digital controls and relax, safe in the knowledge that the temperature will stay steady and there won't be any dreaded hot or cold spots. This consistence is achieved through the efficient temperature control system and automated auger. This ensures a deep smokey flavor is embedded in your meat every time.
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Camp chef grill is usually compact and ideal for outdoor adventures like camping but some models of the Traeger grill are hard to camp with. The Traeger grill is usually large and ideal for home cooking or large parties and weekend gatherings. However, you can still find small compact designs of its model. It depends on your demand. Nonetheless, even the smallest model of the Traeger grill can pack a lot of food. As for the big green egg grill, it has a unique shape, like an egg, but comes in different sizes for your needs. Therefore, you can buy one that suits your needs.
Words like Grilling, Barbecuing and Smoking are often used interchangeably by us. However, when looking at them from a grill master’s point of view, there are some subtle methodological differences among these three: One is done with the lid up, BBQ is done in a closed circulation with the lid down, and smoking is a slow cooking process in a closed circulation.
Now, for the good stuff: do not hesitate to spend an extra or even two bucks for a feature that you will use and appreciate. Consider your pellet grill as an investment, something you are going to buy, and be using and enjoying for years and years to come. Features like meat probes to check the internal temperature of foods are excellent for taking the guess work away from cooking meat to a particular doneness. You will never end up with an overcooked and rubbery, or undercooked and raw steak ever again! Features like smartly designed grills that consume and spread heat evenly are also great for cooking food to perfection without having to move it from side to side to find the right temperature spot.
With 341 square inches of cooking space and a digital control board that sets the temperature from 180 to 500 degrees, you’ll be cooking whole meals in this grill, even though it’s the smallest model that Pit Boss makes. It will hold up to a dozen burgers for parties, or a chicken and vegetables for the family dinner. When cooking is done, the porcelain coated grill grates are easy to clean.