We ended up going with the Memphis Pro. We were fortunate enough to be able to see all of the manufacturers and models I was most interested in, at Sam’s NW BBQ. (Yoder, MAK, Fast Eddy, GMG’s, a few others, and then, the one we ended up with, Memphis.) Sam took a good amount of time, providing us fantastic information about each model. We ended up with the Memphis Pro for the following reasons: 1) The construction, mainly the double-walled construction; 2) the preciseness of temperature, and being able to hold the temperature (due to reason #1); 3) the extreme ease of changing from smoking to grilling without a lot of effort or reconfiguration; 4) the double hoppers; 5) and another BIGGIE, the fact that grilled or baked foods taste like that, and not like smoked cookies, bread, pizza, etc.
I would make that decision based upon desired temperature. Very few of the smokers on your list can surpass the 485 to 500 degree mark. You’ll read a lot of discussion about grill grates helping you get into those higher temperatures and that product does work. I would simply pick a smoker that can get to the desired temperature you want like the Louisiana and the Memphis. Both can exceed 500 degrees and both can hit 600 degrees without problems.
***Update: 11/2014: It's been a year now and I still adore this little grill. I've got a kamado and 3 different kettles and this is by far the most convenient and easy to use. The smoke rings this guy puts on a brisket are amazing and the flavor is the perfect balance of wood flavor without overpowering the meat. I've researched about 15 different pellet grills and I still can't find a better value than what this grill offers
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.
If cost isn't an issue, check out the Elite Wood Fire. This 200+ pound behemoth from Memphis Grills costs more than some used cars, but it's fully loaded. Wifi-enabled, an extraordinary temperature range, and a cooking space large enough to be used by a small restaurant - the Elite has it all. The pellet hopper is built to match capacity, with enough fuel space to smoke for up to 62 hours straight.
To your question regarding Traeger, I’ve not reviewed their grills of yet. I do know that Traeger as a company is taking steps to up their game some, as quality/reliability of their pellet grills has diminished over the last few years. The new CEO – Jeremy Andrus – they hired comes from the Skull Candy company and brought that headphone company from annual sales from less than $1 million to nearly $300 million. I know also that a few big hitters in the BBQ world are being contacted by Traeger to bring the brand back to its former prominence. You can read more about that here from the site of one of the company’s that now has an ownership interest in Traeger: http://www.trilantic.com/News_Story.aspx?StoryType=1&ID=56.
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.
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.
Looking for a pellet grill to do all sorts of cooking with. I am between a Rec Tec, Camp Chef Woodwind, Gorilla and Yoder. Steaks, burgers, chicken, ribs, brisket, vegetables, etc. All in one. And want to have the option to sear meat, veggies as well. Ive seen so many different reviews my head is spinning. My budget is $700-$1,000 but willing to go up if necessary. I hear some can sear, some take too long to heat up, some dont hold the temp consistently. I am a low maintenance so ease of use important. Does not have to be portable.
Bought Junior Elite 20 pellet grill at Costco special sales event. Took it home and it simply wouldn't get up to temperature to ignite the pellets. Auger made extremely loud noises and then simply refused to operate. Packed it back up and returned to Costco with no problem. They had no inventory so I called Traeger. Woman on phone was very pleasant and helpful. Asked if I could get Traeger to simply replace the grill at the same price I purchased it for. Her supervisor said no and if I wanted it for that price I would have to drive to another state and purchase it at one of their event presentations. Made no sense to me why they would sell it to someone else for the "event" price but not to me who had already done. Poor customer support and silly supervisor. I will look elsewhere.
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.
If you have faced or currently face the problem with common things like pellet feed jamming or wear and tear of your smoker, then replacing the exact component will solve your problem. Thus, without changing your whole smoker you can continue with some $40 – $50 changes. It might seem complicated for you if you face a problem with your digital control system. Adding the element of professional knowledge will help tremendously. Solving problem with $150 is much better than spending $500, right?
Use of the P settings in smoke mode is easy to understand. But one can also use them as a dual function feature in cook mode. Remember, in cook mode the auger idles when the temperature is correct, but the P settings continue to function in idle mode. Ortech recommends the P2 setting as the default idle rate in cook mode. However, as one gains experience, the P settings can be used to improve the grills performance. For example, when using high temperature settings, select P1 or P0 to reduce auger off time and maintain strong, steady heat. If you have trouble hitting low temperatures on a sweltering day, increase the P setting to increase auger off time. It does not have a significant effect on smoke production. The basic rule remains: Low heat = more smoke, high heat = less smoke.
Craft amazing wood-fired creations with the Traeger Lil' Tex Elite 22 pellet grill. From grilled steak, to smoked ribs, and even a freshly baked apple pie, the set it and forget it ease of use allows any home chef to cook it all. Swap the gas and charcoal barbecue for 100% pure hardwood pellet flavor and grill, smoke, bbq, bake, roast, or braise a masterpeice.
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.
The Camp Chef SmokePro’s automatic features definitely set it apart and make it truly a “set it and forget it” kind of unit. It makes use of an electric auto-igniter system that lets you start grilling with just one button. The automatic auger instantly dispenses pellets to maintain the desired temperature and use your pellets the most efficient way.
Consumer-level Traeger grills are considered a mid-range type of pellet grill, so they’re good for those wanting to try pellet grills for the first time. Traeger models like the Lil’ Tex Elite 22 or the Tailgater cost several hundred dollars and can grill about 12 to 16 burgers at a time. Larger Traeger grills will generally carry low four-figure prices, such as the Pro Series 34 or the Select Pro, which can hold 32 to 40 burgers between the upper and lower grilling racks.
I talk with a lot of teams out there, and I know for certain that some of them have turned to my buddy Fred Grosse’s MojoBricks to boost their smoke profile when using pellet grills. In fact, of the teams who win with Pellet Smokers – I’d wager at least a quarter of them to maybe half have used MojoBricks to round out their final product. I really like Fred as well – which makes it a pleasure to include his products in this grouping of pellet grill reviews.
Even seemingly perfect pellet grillers have trouble getting the cleanup part right even in light of how little ash is produced by pellets. You should search for pellet smokers and grills that efficiently keep the ash from building up on the heat deflector that’s located underneath the grates. The ash should remain on the ash cup and nowhere else. Meanwhile, major cleanup with soap and water is a hassle that requires an apron and gloves.
According to Bruce Bjorkman of MAK, his cookers use about 1/2 pound of pellets per hour when set on "Smoke" (about 175°F). At 450°F, the high temp, they burn about 2.3 pounds per hour. This is about the same average as I have experienced on a variety of pellet eaters. The burn rate will vary somewhat depending on the outside air temp, and how much cold meat is loaded in the grill, but cooking load should not have a major impact. Cooking pellets run about $1 per pound depending on the wood flavor, brand, if you get them on sale, and if you have to pay shipping. As a point of comparison, Kingsford briquets list for about $0.75 per pound, but they don't pack the same BTUs because there are fillers. I usually buy 40 pound bags of BBQr's Delight pellets from BigPoppaSmokers.com for $45 and shipping is free to IL. That's $1.13 per pound. That means that if I cook a slab of spareribs for six hours at 225°F I will probably burn about 4 pounds at about $4.50. If I put 8 slabs in there in rib holders, and allocate 1/2 slab per person, my cost for 16 people is about $0.28 each. If I grill a mess of chicken parts at about 325°F for about 1 hour, I will use about 1.5 pounds of pellets for a cost of $1.70.
One option is to put a griddle or a frying pan on the grill, high heat, get it blistering hot, add just a little oil to prevent stickling, and sear by conduction on the metal. It should only take two to three minutes per side. This is a good technique for reverse seared meats. You start them indirect, low and slow, with a little smoke, and then Maillard the outside in a hot pan or on a griddle. No, it's not cheating. It's making food better.