Temperature range is an important factor. What you’ll need will depend on what kind of cooking you want to do. Top pellet grills can hit temperatures between 180 F to 425 F, enough for baking, smoking, roasting, and grilling. On the other hand, ioif you want to sear meat you need something that reaches the 500-550 F range. A functioning thermometer is a must. You’ll need a precise and accurate reading so you’ll know you’re cooking your meat at the right temperature.
Hey Eric! Man, thank you for the kind words. While I don’t post every day, I do try to make what I share with you guys as informative as possible. To that end, your words mean a lot. Now, the pellet release option is a great feature to have on any pellet smoker. In cases where you don’t have one, I suggest using a small shop vac you use just for pellet removal. Works great. But the quick release chute option saves a ton of time and effort for sure. Not what I’d call a deal breaker if a pellet smoker you like doesn’t have one. However, I’d like to see it become standard on pellet smokers for sure!
In fact, 80 to 85% of pellet smokers in the USA are Traegers. The consensus is that they are reasonably well built, though some buyers complain that quality has dropped since manufacturing moved to China. But of course we hear more complaints—as well as more praise—about Traegers, since eight out of 10 pellet smoker owners have one. Traeger can be found in many national chains, like Cabela's and Costco. It's not unusual to find special deals on this popular product line, so keep your eyes open.
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.
If you’re looking for a cheaper charcoal smoking experience, go for a charcoal or a bullet smoker. If you’re looking for everyday cooking, you’d be better off with a griddle or a gas smoker. But if you really want to get the best of all of them, dedicate your life to grilling of all sorts and if you are not afraid to spend a little more, then pellet smokers are definitely for you.
With the traeger, rec-tec or cam chef smokers all seem to burn 1-2lbs per hour. But for a long 18hr brisket it seems like I will have to continue to use pellets the whole time to keep the heat in range over over 200 which will mean I am using almost a 20-40lb bag depending on the time year per smoke. This is even more expensive than the bradley seems even with the wasted briquette. IS this correct or is there something I am missing?
WiFi capability - It shouldn't be surprising that as our lives become ever more connected, so are our grills. Because they already have an electronic control board, pellet grills are a natural fit for WiFi. With a connected pellet grill, you can remotely monitor and control your cooking and meat temperatures from a phone, tablet, or computer...no matter where you are. It's the ultimate set-it and forget-it feature. Currently, there are a few pellet grills with WiFi capability, but many more are on the way. Every Memphis Grills model, as well as the Traeger Timberline, have cloud-based WiFi that's easy to connect, reliable, and offer a host of features on free downloadable app.
This is definitely our top pick for a Traeger grill, due to its level of versatility. It can grill, bake, smoke, braise, roast, and barbecue. It is consistent in its cooking, making it ideal for use with large gatherings. Moreover, it is easy to auto-start and has a digital control. In addition, cleaning it is not that hard, as it has non-stick grill grates.
The Ortech has two knobs. The large one, the "Cook Control" has settings for: Off, Smoke, 180, 225, 250, 275, 300, 325, 350, 375, and High. One smoker manufacturer says that the "Smoke" setting is about 160°F and "high" is about 525°F, but both can vary due to ambient temperature, humidity, fuel type and quality of the smoker. Another knob, a teensy weensy knob to the right of the LED screen looks more like a push button. Labeled "SMOKE" and called the "Smoke Control Knob", it is meant to turn, not push, and it controls the pellet feed rate with auger on/off sequences indicated by "P settings". The P settings range from P0 to P15.
When reviewing pellet smokers, we’ve gone through over 1000 different user reviews to get an accurate understanding of how useful the products have been to them. With that primary data in hand, we did an extensive online research on 65 products from 17 different brands popular brands. In fact, we even looked into three less known brands as well, but they failed to stand out. We left no stone unturned.
In smoke mode the controller is no longer controlled by the thermometer, it merely switches the pellet feeding auger on and off. On time is 15 seconds, off time ranges from 45 seconds at P0, to 165 seconds at P15. Temp and smoke are controlled by the duration of off time: the auger always runs at the same speed. More smoke is produced at higher P settings and lower temp settings because longer off times allow the pellets to smolder. At P0 in smoke mode or "High" in cook mode the auger replenishes the pellets at a faster rate, creating more flame, less smoke.
To compound the complexity of this issue the consumer also has to deal with some grill manufacturers recommending the use of only their branded pellets. Then to make matters even worse pellet consumers have to navigate all the different flavors available and whether to use a blended pellet (a blend of multiple kinds of wood such as oak, hickory, and cherry) or a 100% pure pellet (a pellet that uses only the flavor listed on the package). This doesn’t even take into consideration some pellet companies using things such as oils and fillers in their pellets.
Compared to the Traeger Pro and the other smokers we’ve reviewed, there’s not much not to like about this bad boy. It’s significantly cheaper, packs ample cooking space, and a good, consistent temperature controller. At 173 lbs, it is quite heavy, and not at all portable like the Davy Crocket, and we’d love to see it come with more precise temperature control, and maybe even WiFi in the future. But for the price, it’s a beast of smoker that is almost as good as the Traeger.
I was able to put this to use for the first time this past weekend. It was awesome! Worked exactly as expected. Very easy to cook on and clean. I see us breaking this out on every camping trip. Just a bit of warning though...our first meal on the griddle side was scrambled eggs (which cooked up super fast) and we forgot to make sure the stove itself was level and the eggs almost slid over the not so tall edge. Once the stove legs were leveled, everything was perfect.
The major issue is the size. It’s the smallest smoker at this price range, and barely bigger than the Junior Elite. Considering the price difference in the two, it’s hard to justify the extra expense, and when you compare it to the other smokers at this level, the Lil Tex seems more than a little lackluster. There’s less cleaning options, less automation, less cooking space. Just less of everything.
Up next to find its place in our pellet grill review is the REC TEC’s mini portable pellet grill. It has a 341 square inch cooking surface with 180 degrees to 550 degrees Fahrenheit temperature limit, with 5 degrees increment. But it can easily reach 600 degrees Fahrenheit in full mode. It has a satisfactory pellet hopper capacity and has folding legs. It is great for travel and movement as it is compact and small in size.
Although mesquite is often thought of as the quintessential BBQ wood, don’t stock up on it until you’ve tried it. While many who are new to pellet smokers and BBQ immediately choose mesquite pellets, be forewarned: it has a strong assertive flavor than can overpower food. When buying pellets for the first time, its wise to choose flavors that are versatile enough to be used on many different foods.
An attractive option for many people are stainless steel pellet grills, which are rust-resistant, more durable, and easier to maintain. While pellet grills made from commercial-grade 304 stainless steel are the most desirable, they come at a higher. However, there are also some pellet grills made from 430 stainless steel, which is more affordable and still incredibly durable.
Just putting a stamp on your info and recommendations. The Pro is definitely a Pro! Consistent, excellent temp control, juicy and great flavor. Smoke ring, some of my ribs are pink all the way through and dripping with juice. Smoke profile, good, not over powering. I have used 45# of hickory so far, 20# of cherry and a few pounds of apple and pecan. Have not tried anything but Lumberjack but that will be the next experiment. I have tried the smoke tube and it is ok. I was worried about getting an ash or bitter taste as the smoke is fairly heavy and a little acrid smelling if you let it burn from bottom to top. So I lay it down and light on my wife’s Weber gas grill side burner and get the whole thing burning good and then blow it out. If it smells acrid your meat will get some of that taste. Starting the tube this way it is still going an hour later.
With over 375 reviews, this product had an impressive review rate. On its first 22 days, it got its first 10 positive reviews. Ten days after, it got its 2nd set of 10 positive reviews, and its 3rd set of 10 positive reviews after seventeen days. Online reviews have shown that, just like us, customers have been satisfied with the overall performance of this smoker from Traeger.
"The Camp Chef transaction aligns with Vista Outdoor's strategy to deliver long-term value through acquiring complementary, market-leading brands that will benefit from Vista Outdoor's balance sheet, distribution network, and sales and marketing expertise," said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mark DeYoung. "Led by an entrepreneurial management team, Camp Chef has a nimble and responsive product development process. Camp Chef continues to grow its market share in the outdoor cooking category, and the brand serves many of our current consumers who are engaged in a wide variety of outdoor pursuits. Acquiring Camp Chef strengthens our leadership position in outdoor recreation, allows us to enter the growing camping and outdoor cooking market, and the brand's effective multi-product, multi-channel strategy increases our presence across both brick-and-mortar and ecommerce distribution platforms."
Kevin- super helpful article. Thanks! I just moved from a big city small apartment with no grill to a house in the country. Most essential purchase is the grill. I’m really on the fence. I like the idea of a pellet grill, but in reality- I’m mostly cooking burgers, fish, steaks, scallops, and veggies. The brisket and ribs will be more of a special occasion. From an economical perspective, am I better buying a gas grill and just getting one of those smoke tubes to add some flavor? From many of the online comments, it seems like the pellet grills benefit from additional smoke anyway, and though you can get additional grates for searing, seems like a square peg in a round hole. The gas grill is sort of the tried and true, and way more economical. Those $500 entry level pellet grills seem a little scrawny, and the next level up is a cool $grand. I’m really on the fence, and getting pressure to “just buy the darn thing” to consummate the move to the country! However the pellet grills seem like the new shiny object and have my curiosity. Any advice? PS- love the website! Thanks, Cary
Manufacturers advertise this piece of equipment as both a smoker and a grill, but it's best to think of it as a superb indirect-heat convection smoker, not a grill. Most models just don't do as good a job of searing a steak as a charcoal grill or even a gas grill with a sear burner can. You'll sear steaks better on a $20 hibachi than on most pellet smokers.
Most pellet smokers are wood-burning ovens: great for ribs, turkey, brisket, and pork shoulders, but not so great for grilling steaks and burgers. The FEC PG series was one of the first lines of pellet burners to offer a sear station, a cast iron cooking grate right over the fire pot where the wood pellets burn. It isn't the best setup for searing, but it's better than most other pellet searing schemes. The real beauty of the Fast Eddy's design is that it produces meat with a deep mahogany finish, much like a competition-grade offset smoker. It also has two upper-level heat zones, for a total of four distinct temperature zones.
Pellet grills come in many different sizes with a variety of features. To take the top spot among pellet grills, the Camp Chef SmokePro DLX Grill offers the best combination of grilling space, heat control, and easy-to-achieve flavors that will create tasty meats time and time again. The grill makes cooking with pellets quick, easy, and enjoyable no matter how much skill you have on the grate.