To sear a steak you need direct radiant heat. I don't care if you can heat the air to 1000°F, it is still indirect heat and that does not deliver as much energy as direct radiant heat. It's physics, but not hard to understand. In short, heat is not the same as temperature. It feels hotter at 80°F if the sun is shining on you than if it is 80°F in the shade. I discuss the concept in more detail in my article on thermodynamics of cooking.
McLaughlin and others in the outdoor cookware industry point to pellet grills as a hot, up-and-coming item that used to be considered a specialty item but now is starting to penetrate the mass market. Fueled by pellet grill sales, Camp Chef says it hopes to climb its way up the ranks of retailers selling to outdoor enthusiasts. In 2016, merchants in the hardware/home improvement and housewares/home furnishings categories that offer outdoor living items sold $229.9 million on the web, up a healthy 15.2% from $199.5 million the prior year.
At the end of the day, the act of heating pellets and generating smoke in any pellet smoker is pretty much the same. Yes, some pellet smokers use thicker metal, have better thermostats, air flow, racks, drip flow, etc. But the ask any professional BBQ cooker who uses a pellet grill, and they’ll tell you that the quality of your smoke really does come down to the pellets themselves. Here’s what one very astute BBQ pro had to say over at the Pellet Smoke Ring:
3-Position Controller - 3 position controllers, also called LMH controllers, have just 3 temperature settings—low, medium, and high—which correlate to roughly 225°F, 325°F, and 425°F. They feed pellets in fixed cycles that are determined by which setting you choose. With just three settings to choose from, though, you have less control over cooking temperatures than more advanced controllers. These controllers are often found on lower priced pellet grills.
I've been using a pellet grill for a LONG time (Traeger for ~15 years?), so I know an upgrade when I see it. I just picked up a YS640, and it's amazing. I love removing the diffuser, adding the Grill Grates, and doing so nice searing! My first cook was a batch of rid eyes, and they were both beautiful as well as delicious. My "guest list" of people wbo want to come over for food keeps growing... Nice problem to have. Good friends, good food, good times.
I recently purchased a a Smoke Hollow pellet grill from Sam’s. Seems like quality is good and it was recommended by a friend. Temperature control has issues. I called for customer service a couple of times and they sent a new thermostat. Still can’t get temperature to to hold at setting. Am I missing something? Told to start and let preheat for 10 minutes and then move to desired temperature. Tried setting new thermostat at 190 and let it go for 15 minutes and it was back at 230 when I checked it. Any suggestions?
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.
Hey Boyd, it’s really great hearing from you here. I am becoming a much bigger Traeger fan then I was in the past. They have done some excellent work of late on their Grill models. I really think they’re doing a lot of work too improve and restate their original value proposition. Their Pro Series models are excellent, and I believe that the directions the company is taking especially with getting back into the competition world will benefit both it and its customers… Like you… Long into the future.
Another video I thought it’d be cool to show you guys is one that features BBQ Diva as she shares her thoughts about how Fast Eddy’s Pellet smokers work with BBQ Ribs. You’ve likely read the Diva Q DIY BBQ Sauce post we highlighted here. And no doubt you know about Danielle’s work with the now famous BBQ Crawl television series. Without question, she’s one of BBQ’s greatest treasures. Check out what she says here about Fast Eddy’s. The video starts out with Ed Maurin showing you the recipe he used for the World BBQ Championship Perfect Score Ribs in 2000 – using both baby backs and spares. Diva chimes in near the end with her take on how these ribs taste.
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!
Wood pellets are an all natural product. No petroleum products in them, no fillers, chemicals, or binders. They are an excellent source of smoke flavor and compact energy, 8,500 BTU per pound. No hot coals, no flareups. There is also very little ash: 10 pounds of pellets will produce about 1/2 cup of ash. All the rest is converted to energy and combustion gases. I clean out the bottom of the ones I tested after about 10 cooks. At high temps there is very little smoke, at low temps the pellets smolder and produce superb but understated smoke flavors. Click here for more about pellets.
The MAK 1 Star General boasts our favorite digital controller: It's highly programmable and easily accessed via the internet from anywhere in the world. Made entirely in the USA, the 1 Star General is solid-feeling, with a heavy-duty powder coat. The hood is a rolltop, meaning that, unlike a lot of its competitors, the 1 Star doesn't need much rear clearance, and there's plenty of room inside. An optional upper grill grate adds 190 square inches of cook surface. Our only criticism: Not only is it built like a tank, it kinda looks like one, too.
They had the field to themselves for a few years, but the idea was too good to go unimitated, and with the digital age came the electronic controller that allowed Traegers and others to create a system that had a thermostat in the cooking chamber that would tell the fan and auger when to do their thing. Today there are more than a dozen manufacturers making increasingly sophisticated machines.
Hey Charlie – I’d leave that grate wide open if you want maximum heat. If the grates are only over the burn pot, then you can do sort of a two zone cook (indirect vs direct heat) by putting a thicker steak, chop, or piece of chicken on the ‘non direct’ side to get up to a temp that’s 15 or 20 degrees lower than your target. Then, finish off over the burn pot area. Just one idea.
After owning this grill for six months I can honestly say I don't regret my purchase. I was waiting for low temp weather to really test this grill and i must be honest i was very surprised. I grilled 400 degrees with the outside temp at 38 degrees and the grill came up to temp within 20 minutes. Last night I started a brisket in 31 degree weather cooking at 225. No problem at all, and I haven't use a thermal jacket. We have done every thing from low and slow to baking and just have been amazed at outcome. Got a couple of more tests that i want to do, but six months, it's great. Stop thinking about it, stop worrying about the price, and prepare to make some great wood fire food.
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.
A: As another key question that many individuals are asking for, users want to know if the grill is water resistant. Now, the inside of the grill in no scenario should be exposed to water. However, the exterior of the grill, once covered can be exposed to water. However, it is always best to ensure that the grill is powder coated and is able to withstand a bit of moisture, so it does not rust. If this is the case, then an individual will need a grill cover, which brings us to the next question.
Also own a Big Steel Keg which I love! Didn’t want an egg or a Primo while I was up north WY & CO as I had to many friends complain about cracking when trying to use them in cold weather! Many times at Thanksgiving or Christmas I have cooked on any or all of these devices at -5 to -10. It can be done but with a strong wind it is quite a challenge! My Weber (been thru a couples) and my Keg still have high ratings for great steaks and burgers. But for low and slow you are pushing it to get there and my friends with the ceramic style units say it takes some practice and close attention. What I don’t like about and Egg or my Keg is if you do need to end up feeding the fire on a long cook it is a real serious challenge!
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
Have you reviewed at all the Grilla Silverbac? If so, does it not make your list because it isn’t as good a quality as those you have picked? I mean, when I look online for reviews of those who have bought them I haven’t found anyone disappointed with theirs, but perhaps they haven’t been out as long to have a track record? I’m so confused at this point as to which to buy with PID or no PID (some say smoke does better without one), thickness of metal, etc.
Personal review of the Traeger: The auger fed the pellets after the fire pot went out making a large pile up which caused it to catch fire and burn up my grill. I had to use a fire extinguisher to put out the flames and prevent my house from catching fire. I sent Traeger the description of damages with photos. After much waiting and no response from the management team regarding my Traeger grill we gave up. The service team was very responsive but lacked any authority to make decisions to fix the grill. We worked with the service team for awhile having a different person each time respond and request information and photos that were already provided. Then, we got passed up to the management which is highly ineffective because we never heard from them, even after an email requesting an update. We really did like our Traeger grill and had high hopes that since it was under warranty and caught fire due to a failure we would have the grill repaired. Because of the terrible unresponsive service of Traeger we took our money and purchase a Green Mountain Grill.
Another pellet smoker from industry leaders Traeger. The Lil Tex Elite is an upscaled Junior Elite, and whilst it’s still a good quality smoker and grill with a powerful burner and excellent heat output, plus all of Traeger’s usual electronic gizmos. There’s just not enough of a difference between this and the Junior Elite, especially not when you consider the increased price tag, which is disappointing.
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.
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.
Bigger isn't necessarily better, especially if you're just paying for space you never use. The best pellet grill is the one that suits your needs. For an average size family, a pellet grill with a primary cooking area of 450-500 square inches should be sufficient. Singles and couples can go smaller, while larger families and those who like to entertain should consider larger pellet grills.
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.
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.
I had an American made Traeger for 6 years and after it rusted out I was looking something built for the long haul. The YS 640 is it. Built like a tank it will hold up for years and the extra steel helps retain the heat. Temperature control is spot on and recoverey after opening the lid is amazing. I thoroughly researched all my options and I could not be happier. I cooked steaks the other night in 40 degree weather and had no issues whatsoever. The grille grates are a must and leave beautiful lines. Before you buy anything else, investigate what the other cookers are made of. There really is no comparison.
Yoder's Variable Displacement Damper is another unique feature: Essentially, it's a metal plate that may be moved from left to right along the lower smoke box. Positioned all the way left, it concentrates heat directly over the fire pot for conductive searing with optional aluminum GrillGrates. Move it back to the right for even heat across the entire smoke box. Yoders are sold primarily through independent retailers.
Louisiana Grills was one of the first companies to muscle in on Traeger's one-brand show. The smallish CS 450 is one of its more popular models. In 2014, Louisiana upgraded all of its pellet smokers to include digital touch-pad controllers with integrated meat probes. Set it and forget it; the thermostat will maintain cooking temperature just like your indoor kitchen oven does. As a safety feature, the meat probe can be set for your desired target temp. When the internal meat temp rises to within 10°F of the target, the controller automatically drops the smoker down to 170°F (77°C) to avoid overcooking.
Central to all pellet cookers is a digital controller similar to the controllers on modern indoor ovens. You select a temp you want, and there is an LED display that tells you the actual temp. Some of the controllers also are programmable so you can cook at a certain temp for a determined time. Some have leave-in meat probes that can dial back the ovento a holding temp when the meat hits its mark.
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.
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?
Product is decent but customer service really didn't help me out when they sent me a wrong accessory part that was ordered by their customer service department. Explained that the representative misunderstood my request for an inside shelf but I was sent outer shelf which I have already . Tried to be fair and asked them to pay for the return shipping so I could return it back. They said we will gladly return your $ . Well till this day after numerous calls and false promises for the credit return .. there still is no refund. They seem to care but actually they did nothing. It's been 3 months of calling. Sorry to say we are Done with this company. If they can't settle a small concern and have A + service then don't bother! Good thing they are not the only smoker on the market. Shop around folks.
For beginner outdoors chefs and guys buying their first smoker, that’s an invaluable bit of knowledge. Knowing that no matter what you do, as long as you follow the standard set up, you’re going to produce professional quality meat with ease, which is why smokers like the ones below are the best choice for anyone looking at buying their first pellet smoker.
I remember a time when I was going through some quad-bike reviews; it was all so confusing and I had no clue whom to believe and whom not to. Even when I eventually decided to put my faith in one of them, I kept having second thoughts regarding whether or not they would fail me. If you’re someone like me, let me give you four reasons our reviews won’t fail you:
If you get it that BBQ is more than burning hotdogs on a propane grill, you could likely benefit from The BBQ Beat podcasts. Kevin interviews the best Pitmasters in the country. They share their knowledge, stories, and experiences. There is something to be learned in each podcast. So if you're serious about your bbq, check out these podcasts. They are time well spent.
Bigger heavier hotter: own a world class BBQ Bigger heavier hotter: own a world class BBQ in your own backyard. The LG900 presents the same game-changing features as the LG700 integrated with a larger cooking surface. Perfect for larger families and social gatherings the LG900 bears an easy to clean 913 sq. in. cast iron cooking grid. Elevate ... More + Product Details Close
Pick an item that is anything but difficult to clean and store. Stay away from massive units on the off chance that you don’t need your grill to stick around in the kitchen when not being used. You may likewise need to pick one that your space can suit. And afterward, search for a model that can be effortlessly cleaned and that accompanies a deplete framework and an oil/dribble plate/gatherer.
I think you get the picture. In any case, you can see how pellet smoking really does have its own culture to it. I really hope you’ve found value in this selection of Pellet Grill reviews. If so, please consider sharing it with your BBQ friends! And for sure comment below and let me know about your favorite pellet grills, pellet blends, and methods!