I have always been a believer: “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”. I’ve been lucky enough to use my professional experience in the meat industry over the past 20 years to create a business where I love to go to work. Smoking Meat Geeks is all about bringing people together that enjoy food as much as I do. We provide a place for everyone to share thoughts, ideas, and recipes; to be a go-to spot for cooking inspiration. Feel free to leave a comment, say hello, or provide any tips. There is no right or wrong input, as long as you’re engaging, you’re a Meat Geek!
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.
Camp Chef has already been mentioned several times on this list. It's a venerable company that makes up in quality what it lacks in the name recognition of a Traeger or Weber. Their Deluxe Pellet Grill is built to reach and hold ideal temperatures for smoking. An internal system syncs pellet delivery to temperature instead of simply feeding in fuel when it begins to run out. This ensures a clean, consistent cooking experience. A removable ash can makes clean-up a snap as well.
I purchased a Traeger Select Elite from Costco for both my personal residence as well as for my vacation home. I am now on the third grill at my residence. Traeger will tell you that they expect to offer Awesome customer service. I have replaced the auger assembly, the controller and now the fan. I can't get the grill up to temperature. Awesome customer service says it should be no problem. Just replace the _______ (fill in the blank). I don't think these people have ever seen a grill let alone use one. Costco (love their return policy) is about to get another one back. Am I too harsh to expect the product to perform as they say it will? I would think when you pay as much as Traeger thinks their grills are worth, that they should work out of the box. Well, quality control under the new management has gone to hell. Then they expect you to "try" all the fixes that might work on your own. This is self service, not customer service.
Great reviews. I have been lately looking into pellet poopers. I currently own a large Big Green Egg and a Pit Barrel Grill. My Egg has limited space. On the PBC (Pit Barrel Cooker) I can cook a ton of food as it uses hanging meat method. But it has zero temperature control on it. A set lower vent and that’s it. You have to adjust the lid to get the temps up. I have adjustable rings for my Egg that allows for increased capacity. Eggs are great smokers, grills and ovens. I do have a FireBoss temp controller for the Egg which will allow a set it and forget operations. Wifi controls also. With that being said, I am looking for increased capacity in my cooks. I was seriously considering a XL Primo Oval or a XL BGE. Then I found these pellet poopers. After reading this blog and other reviews I found some limitations. One the lack of smoke flavor. Now with my Egg I add chunks of wood into the lump for smoke flavor. Same with the PBC. The PBC has different smoke flavor as the fats and juices from the meat drip on the hot coals which ignite (according to PBC’s website) and produce a smokey flavor in the meat. I’ve read two ways to increase the smoke flavor in Pellet Poopers. One is to start at a lower temp for a few hours, then crank it up to cooking temps. Two is the smoke tubes or Mojo Bricks. My question is do these techniques work? One review on the smoking tube said that they really didn’t make that much of a difference. Another issue was for grilling and the lack of direct heat. Grill Grates would eliminate this concern correct? My understanding of Grill Grates is that they provide a way to direct grill in an indirect environment. That’s a limitation with both of my cookers. The Egg can Indirect or Direct grill. Not both. Yes I can remove the indirect piece and set up the Egg for direct grilling, but you risk burnt fingers even with welders mitts on. Wouldn’t the Grill Grates on a Pellet Pooper solve this problem? Allowing you to slow cook that steak to say 10 degrees shy of your temp range then sear it on the grill grate for the a couple of minutes on each side to get it to your desired temp range? Or go the other way, sear first for a few minutes per side then indirect cook it to the desired temp?
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.
All the talk about made in China...... well it could have likely been made anywhere and inside the hopper it says "Tested". Well the LED display does not work correctly, i.e. not all the letters have all the LEDs light up to correctly state the temperature. The frame had a crimp in it on the front and when I closed the lid, it cam down crooked. It was not put on square with the grill. The warranty says that defective parts will be replaced, but the defective part has to be returned, pre-paid by me. That is B.S. This adds to my cost of the grill. Unless they pay for the return of parts, then it will just be fully returned to Amazon.
Rec Tec has always been known for making advanced Rec Tec wood pellet grills coming in at a higher price. However, some of the popular models come in smaller sizes, like Trailblazer 340 or Bullseye 380. However, compared to their capacities and features, the products in our top ten lists would be better choices. So, among its products, the RecTec Bull 700 is the only one that falls in our Honorable Mentions.
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.
Thank you for a very comprehensive review and all the helpful advice. I would like to know your thoughts about having the burn pot in the center area as in the Rec-Tec, or on the side. My only interest is smoking, not grilling, and I prefer even heat throughout the cooking chamber. How much difference does the location of the burn pot make? Thank you very much.
I love the taste of smoked food. I have now tried, ribs, turkey, chicken, and steak on my traeger grill and would have given them one star if not that smoked meat taste great. Everytime i use the grill, something that isn't supposed to happen, happens. I have to go out and check the pellet hopper every half hour to make sure it doesn't just use the pellets in the middle, so I have yo mix them around. Even when I do that, I can have the grill set for 225 and it goes up to 400-500 degrees or catches fire. Then when I restart it, it sometimes cools down to below 150° and shuts down in the middle of my smoke. I'm very dissappointed because the grill was not cheap, the pellets aren't cheap, and the food I am.ruining isn't cheap. I know traeger isn't going to do anything about it because I have called and they gave me "reasons" all of these things happen, and they already got their money from me but I am hoping I can deter as many people as possible from overspending on a defective grill. I really do wish it was a good product because I don't have the money to buy another.
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 $
Whenever pellet grill owners complain about temperature swings or losing their fire mid-cook, the first question we ask is “What pellets are you using?” Many times it’s a cheap, low-quality brand that produces excessive ash, which can interfere with the sensors that help regulate cooking temperatures. In that case, fix is simple: use better pellets that burn cleanly and regularly clean any residual ash from the grill. Often that’s all it takes, and the next time we hear from the customer it’s to order more pellets.
The PK-360, with 360 square inches of cooking space, this rust free, cast aluminum charcoal grill is durable and easy to use. Four-way venting means it's easy to set up for two zone cooking with more control than single vent Kamado grills. It is much easier to set up for 2-zone cooking than any round kamado. Beautifully designed and completely portable. Meathead says it is his preferrred grill.
Generally speaking cheap grills are not made with quality materials. While the outside may look good, often times you will find the guts of the grill are made with lower grade metals. This of course affects functionality and longevity. If the inside of the grill isn’t made using quality materials you will literally burn through it over a certain period time.
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.
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I had heard about Traeger from a friend who was at a conference where the catering was done on one of the commercial units. He had said the food the it made was mind blowing, and on a late night impulse buy I decided to purchase this from Amazon - as an open box/scratch and dent for about $800.There are some less expensive grills available, I have never owned them so I can't comment on them. i started to get a little buyers remorse with all the negative reviews this grill had received, but decided to give it a fair shot. It arrived quickly not by UPS but from trucking company. Despite being listed as damaged box/open box it was well packaged no damage. Assembly took 30 min by just me, assembly tools were included. Stood it up off the floor and filled the hopper with mesquite and followed break in procedure listed to cook off any manufacturing oil etc. Let it cool retired it once more to make sure it was seasoned let it cool again and was ready to go. I purchased an IGrill wireless thermometer to go with it which I would recommend also. I signed up to the Traeger recipe sight and they send a recipe every few days, and you can browse the website for some inspiration. Since I have owned this I have gone thru about 3 bags of pellets including alder mesquite and hickory. I have grilled Trout ( the smoked trout dip list on the website was amazing) as well as trout fillets, Salmon, Haddock, Ribs, Brisket, Pulled Pork x 3 and 2 prime ribs and 2 loafs of bread Jerkey ( smoking now) butternut squash etc etc . All the food I can only say is mind-blowing - enough so that 4 of my friends have purchased the smaller Traeger's for themselves. It has all been incredibly easy - just season, set the temp put the food on and the temp probes in and forget it- the wireless I grill continually upgrades my phone so I can keep working inside and not have to worry. It has never failed to light, caught on fire, overheated or preformed to anything other perfection for me. I can't speak for all the other negative reviews but I have had nothing but success with this, the Weber propane I own hasn't been touched is just taking up space it can't compare to this thing. Its a big purchase at close to 1k but is incredibly versatile I can't speak about customer service response because I haven't needed them, but if you are concerned I would call the headquarters and see how hard it is to get someone on the phone. The Temp probe is off by a few degrees compared to my Igrill reading but the grill has no trouble maintaining a narrow temp window if you keep the lid closed and don't F%$k with it . Most important it has bought back some passion to cooking, and made me want to try new things which is priceless.
Placed against our Top Pick, this Traeger smoker and grill is a worthy competitor. It offers a variety of useful functions that will allow you to smoke, grill, bake, braise, roast and BBQ anything and everything. It’s definitely worth your money, because if you take care of it properly, it’s going to last you a long time. However, since it’s slightly more expensive than the top pick, we just couldn’t set it at the top of our review.
The popular Traeger Junior Elite is a great smoker for first-time chefs as well as experienced smokers who are short on space. It's versatile and can grill, smoke, bake, roast, braise, and barbecue food. The digital controller is adjustable to +/- 20 degrees and has 300 square inches of grilling space that is large enough for two whole chickens or three racks of ribs.
Meanwhile, it also has a 15-pound pellet capacity comparable to Camp Chef SmokePro (not as large but big enough to eliminate continuous wood pellet refills) and folding legs for better portability. However, certain users who’ve already bought their own REC TEC Grills Mini Portable Pellet Grill have complaints about it, like inconsistent heat distribution of the grill and poor quality control (certain grills break down easily).
The hook rack works great and is a must. The Towel holder works ok but does not work well if there a some wind blowing by. Wants to unroll the towel just enough to make it a possible fire hazard by the gind unwinding the towel rool enought that it can flip up over the wind gaurd and get in the flames. I have to remove it from the camp stove if there is any wind to avoid this problem.
Typically, most portable grills would give up certain features just to maintain their portability, but this wood pellet grill from Traeger actually had more than what other top grills have to offer. Out of all of our features, it managed to tick 85% off the review. Its digital controls, versatile cooking features, and decent cooking space (perfect for outdoor adventures) all make it our best portable pick.
Once it reaches the ideal temperature, it uses an Internal Temperature Sensor to maintain it throughout the cooking process. Forget about checking on the status of your grilling every few minutes, this unit makes sure your food is cooked thoroughly and evenly — no babysitting needed here! This way, you can enjoy your time with your friends, which is what a BBQ party should be.
Pellet smokers can be used as a charcoal grill by adding the lit charcoal into the charcoal tray. Some of the best pellet smokers allow users to attach a propane tank to the stove to convert them into a gas grill or a kitchen oven. With a flat-top accessory, it can even be used as a griddle. A pellet smoker is an all-in-one solution for the hardened grill masters.
With that said, depending on the size of the green an individual may need more pellets to fuel the food. However, a bigger sized pellet grill allows the cook to grill for a large number of people. While a compact grill can easily be taken anywhere. With that in mind, one important criterion that we wanted to take into consideration is how easy the item is to set up.
Though it is technically a grill, you can carry out so much cooking styles in it. It can be used to sear meats and other food to a perfect golden crusty perfection; it can be used to bake quiches just like you would in a normal indoor oven. This is absolutely a trademark appliance that can also be used to smoke food, it can also be used to slow braise food, making it ideal for cooking up winter stews and casseroles. And very obviously you can grill in this thing. The lid on the pellet grills also aid in fast cooking by trapping smoke and heat and allowing the food to cook and flavor through quickly and more evenly.
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.
The SG and ZG are not exactly the same though. Just from the pictures I can see that the bases are different. The SG has L-shaped legs and a bottom shelf while the ZG has square legs that are larger than the DLX legs but no bottom shelf. There were also different specs for many features. I took a picture of the ZG spec sheet at the store and compared it to the SG specs on the website and there are slight differences in capacities. For example ZG 3778 cubic inch - SG 4859, grilling area ZG 776- SG 811, hopper volume ZG 18 lbs - SG 22, ...
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.
The grill is plated with beautiful stainless steel that gives the grill a refined and impressive look. The huge cooking area includes 570 square inches of surface area. That’s enough to hold 20 burgers or 4 rib racks! It also contains a second warming rack and bottom shelf that provides the grill stability and extra storage. This version comes with a sear box that can reach temperature of up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit, which caramelizes your food. There’s a cheaper version without a sear box that costs around $200 less if a sear box isn’t a necessity for you. Additionally, the legs are built with extreme thickness giving the grill a grounded base. The caster wheels add portability to the grill so you can find that perfect place in the backyard.
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.