Three and a half months ago, my fiancée and I loaded all our worldly belongings into a trailer and drove that stuff to our new house in Montana. As one of my most-loved things, the Egg was in there, carefully packed inside and out to make sure no part of it would break. Worrying about it riding back there was one of the reasons my average speed on that drive was just 47 miles per hour. 
Minor problems (Product): 1. Main grill rack does not fit snugly, leaving the rack to half almost a half an inch in all directions to move. (not so much a problem when cooking but it does move) 2. Wind is a major factor making it difficult for this to get up to heat and stay there. 3. It rarely comes to the temperature I set it for, and usually is about 10-15 degrees below, with trying all of the different possible adjustment settings.

The best thing about pellet smokers is that unless you’re buying the absolute cheapest models, there are no bad choices. In this list for under $500, you’ll find pellet smokers and grills perfectly suited for dropping a few burgers at home use like the Traeger Junior Elite, for throwing in the back of the van and using anywhere like the Green Mountain Davey Crockett, or for cooking whole turkeys when you have ten people round on Thanksgiving, like the Camp Chef Smokepro.
Pellets look like rabbit chow. They are about the width of a pencil and as long as a couple of erasers. If they get wet they turn into a pile of sawdust. The beauty of pellets is that they have none of the additives and fillers in charcoal briquets, so they combust almost completely. Almost zero ash. The pellets provide the heat as well as flavor. No need to add wood chips. Surprisingly, they do not produce overly smoky food. If anything, the food is undersmoked to some people because the combustion is so complete.
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.
Bought a Traeger Timberline 850. A lot of money but it's a great smoker. It has WiFire so you can cook based on their recipes right from your iPhone. The problem is with their recipes that aren't built into their app. Nobody proofreads the things so many of them are useless. Just one example - Santa Maria Tri-Tip: smoke for 4-5 hours. At what temperature? 165 F, 250 F, or 500 F? It makes a bit of a difference ! I suspect they pay people to write, and post recipes so the can say they have thousands of (what are actually useless) recipes.
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Bought the Costco trade show model after about 4 years of debating the purchase... OK, first one broke on day one as "auger" stopped spinning. Returned and received a new unit. 2nd one smoked a turkey for 4.5 hours. After 4 hours temp. dropped to 100 degrees and it was set to 350. When I opened the smoker to check on why this happened, it exploded into a ball of flames! There was fire shooting out from all sides of the grill and smoke and heat coming from the feeder side of the grill... This was SCARY and could have absolutely caused a major fire, and/or injury!!!
Another option is to put a griddle (or GrillGrates) on the pellet smoker when it's cranked to high heat, get it blistering-hot, add just a little oil to prevent sticking, and sear by conduction on the metal. It should take only two to three minutes per side. This is a good technique for reverse-seared meats: You start them indirect, low and slow on the cooking grate, with a little smoke, and then sear the surface with direct contact to the hot metal griddle to create a delicious brown crust. It's not as good as searing directly over hot coals or gas, but it's a good compromise.
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Hey Pete, first thanks for your kind words. Traeger pellet grills fell off a bit quality wise over the past several years. That said, they’ve hired a new CEO – formerly from the Skull Candy Head Phone company – who brought that company’s valuation up considerably. I see them making moves to get back to their roots… aligning themselves with some of the more well known names in BBQ again. From a build quality, they’re making solid pellet grill bodies using fairly heavy steel. The area I’d like to see them improve on is the controllers they use. Right now, GMG is making great strides in claiming some of the entry level pellet smoker market share away from Traeger. This is due to a superior PID controller, advances in built in Wi-Fi monitoring, and outstanding customer service.
Due to the lower oxygen at 9200 FASL, I cannot keep the smoker hot and I cannot get it above 250 Deg. F. I seem to be limited due to the diameter of the smoker…just can’t get enough coals and air to get and maintain temps. Therefore, I want to buy a new smoker, on that will regulate temperature at temperatures of 200 – 450 deg F. Any experience or guidance for a smoker brand and type (wood pellet, charcoal, or electric) at high altitudes? i am looking for a smaller size smoker unit.

I'm a certified BBQ Judge and found the following; The new portable Traeger Ranger seems to be not well thought out. All the cooking directions are for the large units and over cook everything in the smaller unit. All the pellet smoke is wasted, it is drawn out the back vent and very little ever reaches what you're cooking. They have a grease bucket on the back that is supposed to catch the grease but doesn't, Grease coats the inside of the bbq and runs down the sides and out of the grill landing on whatever you have the grill on. I've been using this Traeger Ranger since June 18, 2018.


I've had the Yoder for about 4 years now. Never looked back. It made my old Traeger look like a dime-store trinket. Thick metal. Built like a tank. Hold temps perfectly. I used to monitor grill temp. Realized quickly there was no need. Not even in the wind and cold. Eats less pellets than my old Traeger. Don't get me wrong, the Traeger works great when conditions are perfect, but in Omaha, NE, things are rarely perfect. It's true that compared to an offset you won't realize as strong of smoke flavor. That's good and bad, depending on what you're going for. When you're after dense smoke flavor, a simple smoke tube is all you need to get it to where you need.
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.
A quality pellet grill is built to last and will provide years of reliable performance. Bargain pellet grills not only lack the capabilities of better grills, they’re more likely to break down. No matter your price range, look for a pellet grill that’s built well and offers consistent performance. Fortunately, if price is a major consideration, there are quality pellet grills for under $500, as well as high-end pellet grills for under $1,000.
This is best pellet smoker for the money if you are a newbie but want to cook like a pro. It is super easy to use and allows you to set up the whole system and then walk away. It has an electronic autostart ignition, which means you don’t even have to start a fire. Just plug it in, do a little prep work, add some pellets, and it will not be long before you have some delicious food to enjoy with your family or serve to your friends.
Designed specifically to heat quickly this little outdoor Designed specifically to heat quickly this little outdoor cooker is a powerhouse when it comes to boiling brewing or frying. With its high-pressure burner system this stove is a great addition to anyone’s gear and works perfectly for all types of canning. The small size and portability also makes this ...  More + Product Details Close

The control panel is simple, uncomplicated and easy to use, no codes of crazy steps to remember. Turn the switch on, set the temp once it lights and you are ready to go. On the outside the controls may look simple but behind the scenes it is working to constantly monitor feed rates and temperatures to lock into your set temperature as close as possible. The longer you cook the smaller the adjustments , making this one of he most consistent cookers on the market.
Hey Kevin great article. I too am currently looking for a pellet smoker. I’ve narrowed it down between a Yader, Memphis Pro and the Rec Tec. The Green Mountain did not seem very well built. The wheels looked liked the would break on the first roll and the stainless steel door was flimsy and did not have a good seal. I know the Rec Tec has a 6 year warranty. Do you know how long the warranties are on the other two?
Just started shopping around for a pellet smoker. Am also going to need a new gas grill soon. Stopped in at the local BBQ supply store today and they showed me the Memphis Pro and said it would function well for both smoking and cooking steaks/burgers. Price point on that one is pretty high. Would any of the others reviewed above offer similar functionality? Do you have a recommendation of which will work well for both functions? I live in KS so kind of like the idea of sticking with the local guys from Yoder, but Fast Eddys in OK isn’t too far away either. Thanks.
Hey Ben! Cool re: your Camp Chef! Pellet smokers produce a light smoke as compared to stick burners, gravity fed smokers, Ugly Drum Smokers, etc. Most feel that the smoke provided is enough. If you need more – check out the Amazn Tube Smoker. You can find the Tube Smoker and Cookin’ Pellets via this link. Look for the Pellet Smokers and Pellets links.
Whether you call them pellet grills or pellet smokers (the terms are interchangeable), there's no denying the impact these do-everything cookers are having on BBQ. In the past year alone, interest in pellet grills has grown at an astounding rate, with the number of online searches nearly doubling. Although they've been around for over thirty years, it's only recently that they've earned the title of the Hottest Product in BBQ.
The “Smart Smoke” controller goes from 160-450F, with an internal sensor and electric auger maintaining that heat. The hopper holds a good 20lbs of pellet - enough for 10-20 hours of smoking. And it’s built from a sturdy stainless steel that feels solid and looks fantastic, with locking caster wheels keeping it secure while in use. It’s also backed up by a 3-year warranty.
Consistency is the key to having the best results. If you want to make a tender brisket, your cooking temperature should be close to 250 F during the entire 12-hour cooking period. The control board is responsible for precision. There are three types of controllers – PID multi-position, non-PID one-touch, and 3-position. Check out the different types of controllers for the one that is right for you.
Designed specifically to heat quickly this little outdoor Designed specifically to heat quickly this little outdoor cooker is a powerhouse when it comes to boiling brewing or frying. With its high-pressure burner system this stove is a great addition to anyone’s gear and works perfectly for all types of canning. The small size and portability also makes this ...  More + Product Details Close

The Pit Boss Company manufactures an extra-large pellet grill with 700 square inches of cooking surface. It closest competitor in pellet smoker largeness is the 7-year veteran known as Rec-Tec. It has probably one of the largest cooking surfaces (or the largest at that) in the pellet grill and smoker industry. It approaches grilling with the idea that sometimes bigger really is better, at least in terms of cooking more meats at the same time.
Just started shopping around for a pellet smoker. Am also going to need a new gas grill soon. Stopped in at the local BBQ supply store today and they showed me the Memphis Pro and said it would function well for both smoking and cooking steaks/burgers. Price point on that one is pretty high. Would any of the others reviewed above offer similar functionality? Do you have a recommendation of which will work well for both functions? I live in KS so kind of like the idea of sticking with the local guys from Yoder, but Fast Eddys in OK isn’t too far away either. Thanks.

Is it common to have a lot of ash blowing throughout these pellet smokers? I thought it was supposed to be minimal ash and that it’s supposed to stay in the firepot. I noticed after two short cooks I have ash everywhere. The pellets are Perfect Mix from cookingpellets.com, but by “perfect mix” I don’t think they mean to mix ash from their product with your BBQ. Also, didn’t put off a lot of smoke, and really couldn’t taste any smoke at all.

Hey Drew – thank you for your comment. All told, most pellet grills are going to average about 1.2 to 1.5 lbs per hour. of pellets per hour at 225, and closer to 1.75 lbs. as you get up to 275. It’s tough to gauge, which is why you are probably seeing different figures across the web. Ambient temperature and pellet composition play a role as well as grill temp. Sorry I don’t have better information for you.

You want even grilling: One of the downsides of using a charcoal grill is ensuring that the entire grilling area is evenly heated. Spreading the charcoal evenly and avoiding hot spots is difficult. Traeger’s pellet grilling system overcomes this problem with a fan that evenly distributes the heat throughout the grilling area, much like a wood-fired oven would have.


This is a great pellet smoker! With a few minor tweaks, this thing would be perfect. Ribs, brisket, chicken, pulled pork, sausage, you name it and it comes off of the grates awesome. I've had mine since 2012 and would recommend that you purchase a spare thermocouple in case your's bites the dust in the middle of a smoke (replaced my thermocouple twice since 2012). This thing is built solid with longevity as a guarantee. The customer support at Yoder is unbelievable as well. I have gotten phone calls from them at 8am on Sunday morning when my first thermocouple gave up in 2014. Made in the USA with a commitment on customer support that has been incomparable to anything I've ever purchased! It's a bit pricey compared to the competition but does an amazing job. "The Sauce", with Chef Tom, is a huge help for those just getting their feet wet in pellet smoking. He does an amazing job by keeping it simple and flavorful!

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.


Kevin, appreciate your reviews and insights. I am currently looking for my first pellet cooker which will be primarily used for camping, therefore I will likely purchase a portable unit. Your review on the GMG Davy Crocket answered some questions for me. I was initially contemplating the Traeger Junior Elite and GMG Davy Crocket, but after doing some homework I’m now considering the Rec Tec Mini as well. I can purchase the Traeger and GMG now for $350 and the Rec Tec for $500. My dilemma is that I (like many others) take very good care of my gear/equipment, so whatever I purchase, I expect to get a great deal of use out of. With that said, making the wrong decision could be a 7-10 year mistake. There are aspects of each that I like, I guess my question is whether spending another $150 on the Rec Tec, in your opinion, would be worth it to you? I understand if you would rather stay away from specific recommendations, and if that is the case, any other thoughts you have would be appreciated.

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Kevin: I have a gas smoker but would like a wood pellet smoker. I’m looking at Traeger Lil Tex (due to price) but I read about Blazn Grill Works, Grand Slam, made in USA, stainless steel grates and a control unit that is very good. Cost about $1195, can’t find dealers so called and talked with the owner. What I read on web site sounds good. He claims on his short video that his auger is the best and doesn’t put torque on the drive due to the design. Any thoughts on this unit? Any advice would be appreciated. Still looking at the Yoder YS640 as price is very similar.
This is the second one I have received as the first one was a lemon. The first one worked great the first 3 times I used it, but then I started getting "Err" message, as well as an overheat message randomly that would not go away. I returned it to Amazon and promptly received a replacement. I have used this one heavily for 7 days now and have had no problems. I will check back in in a couple weeks with my results. It is very well constructed, holds its temperatures well and cooks pretty evenly. I have smoked/grilled ribs using the 3/2/1 method, made stuffed hamburgers, a whole chicken, and a porterhouse steak so far. For the price you cannot beat it. The searing option where you can open the heat shield/drip tray to expose slots directly over the flame is great for cooking steaks and a nice option that you don't see on other models. The removable side tray is also nice for bringing out your meat and placing your finished product on it. The bottle opener is weird...u have to really put the bottle at an angle to open and you lose part of your beer....but it looks cool...lol. A few tips: Cover the heat shield/drip tray with new tin foil each use or else it is almost impossible to clean it. Make sure the knob is in the off position before plugging it in and wait for the numbers to stop flashing before adjusting the temperature. Always start out in the smoke position until it is smoking and a a flame has started, then turn it to your desired temperature(about 5 min). Vacuum out the firepot and inside of the barrel every other use. Most importantly....use this thing as much as possible in the first 30 days to make sure it is functioning properly so if you do have problems you can return to Amazon. I love Amazon. As soon as I clicked on 'Return' and printed the free return shipping label, they had already ordered me a new one and I had it in 3 days!!! In case you would have to return it, mark your boxes that everything came in and take pictures of how it was packed. Took me over 2 hours to pack this thing back up. Most importantly....use this grill as much as you can in the first 30 days to make sure it is functioning correctly, otherwise you will have to deal with Pitboss ...paying your own return shipping and replacing parts on your own.Also don't forget to register your grill right away on the Pitboss website, in case you have problems after the 30 day Amazon window. Checkout the Pitboss website for their recipes....some of them are quite good...the bacon wrapped asparagus tastes just like Carrabas. Just sprinkle some balsamic vinegar on it after grilling. The Pitboss spices/rubs, while expensive are very good. The sweet heat is good on anything and the mandarin habanero is amazing on wings. I sprinkle and toss after cooking. Good luck !!

Igniter: An igniting rod, heated up to a red hot level, ignites wood pellets as they fall inside the firebox. A cooling fan blows air into the pellet smoker from behind the pellet auger to prevent heat backdraft, while the fan underneath the firebox fans the flame – distributing heat evenly throughout the smoker. This heat is used to smoke and slow cook food in the smoker to give it the best flavors possible.
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.
Customer Service: I spoke with customer service department about 10 times during this process, and every time I emailed or called I received a different person in response to my same issue. This did not feel good as I never got past the ground level in service even asking for upper management. After the initial response to the dented barrel I received a month back order request for a replacement. After this no offer was made to remedy the situation meaning no refund, or any extras were given as a sorry. I had to contact 3 more times (with three different people) asking for upper management before they agreed on making up for the situation. I ended up receiving for "free" a folding front tray. A month and week later I received my replacement barrel only with no lid, and then a week and half later received the lid.
This smoker is one totally awesome product. It is more that just a smoker, it is a true convection oven, we have baked bread in it! As for being able to hold the temp for low and slow, wonderful. The beef that I smoked was delectable. I just this week smoked 10 venison loins at the same time; it took 1 hour for the most tender, delicious venison I have ever tasted!
I did a lot of research, and ended up buying the Camp Chef DLX24. It was at a price that fit my budget, (under $500) and had a lot of features the others didnt. The pellet trap door for quick dumping of the pellet hopper into a bucket, and the ash cleanout under the drum was a clincher. Being able to pull a lever and dump the ashes into an easily removable cup is a great feature that all grills should include.It has a digital temperature controller, and dual probes (one inside the smoker for grill temp, one for the meat) and overall good quality construction. The second shelf inside is standard (you pay extra for that on other grills). If your budget allows, would suggest purchasing the propane powered sear box ($199) which attaches to the side of the grill and allows for reverse searing meat..
While the Traeger Lil-Tex does offer similar features as our top pick, such as a digital LED temperature control system and an auto-dispensing auger, there was one missing feature which we thought was necessary. This product has a smaller grilling area and lacks a removable upper rack, which gives you less grilling and prep space. I should mention that the unit does come in a bigger 700 square inch version for $200 more, as well as a smaller version that costs less. If this smoker is too big or too small for you, there are always other options available. Compared to our top pick, it’s also more expensive despite offering similar specs. Aside from that, this is a very efficient and reliable smoker – might even have been the best if our top pick wasn’t available on the market.
Aside from durability, a well-built pellet grill has another significant advantage: It will perform better. High-quality materials and good construction allow the grill to retain heat better, making it more efficient and providing better pellet consumption, even in cold weather. Furthermore, it's unlikely that a brand offering a cheaply made grill invested much time designing it to maximize airflow or engineering a control board that can hold a tight temperature.

Purchased my grill last fall at Costco, overall it works OK, some meats like Lamb Chops are just delicious. However, customer service seems to be deteriorating as the company is having success. My kids recently purchased me an add on to my Pro 34, a cold smoker. Traeger sells this but does not support it. The installation instructions are incomplete, I was sent parts that do not go with the unit, then customer service couldn't figure it out, this went on for weeks. After getting it installed, I asked for some instructions or recipes on how to use it, there are none. The old cover does not fit now, and Traeger does not sell one to go with a unit with a cold smoker, or plan on doing so. After a web search, I found one at Charbroil that kinda fits. Also, I just saw the same model at Orchard Supply, it now comes with more shelves and upgrades which I now have to buy as extras.


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.
Lauded for its amazingly accurate cook temperatures and times and for affording cookers a real “unfair advantage” at competitions (according to those who lose to them) — Fast Eddy’s Cookshack Pellet Smokers rank among the very best available on the market today. I love the history of Fast Eddy’s pellet smokers. In 1986, Ed Maurin (Fast Eddy) — a retired KCMO Fire Fighter — cooked his first American Royal event. From that point on he was hooked on BBQ and on coming up with the very best way to ensure its production. By 1998 the first of his Fast Eddy’s pellet smokers was released to the market, and he was off to winning competitions and helping those who bought his cookers do so as well.
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