Barbecue enthusiasm seems to be growing every year, and many backyard cooks, no longer content with burgers and chicken, are venturing into the mysterious—and myth-laden—realm of smoking. I’ve long been an advocate for pellet smokers, and it seems that this equipment is finally coming of age. In fact, 2016 may be the Year of the Pellet Smoker.
Luckily it’s not hard to find high quality grills for less than $500. Three that come to mind are the Pit Boss 71700FB Pellet Grill with Flame Broiler, the Traeger TFB29LZA Junior Elite Wood Pellet Grill and the Camp Chef Smokepro STX Pellet Grill.
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It is different with REC TEC Wood Pellet Grill, here the solid construction is made of high quality materials. On the outside, high temperature powder coat and porcelain enamel finish. While inside, the manufacturers use stainless steel of very good quality for all the major parts. On the official website, we can read that you can find over 40 pounds of 304 stainless steel parts in this grill ( see for yourself ).
The last thing you want inside a pellet smoker is any dampness. If the pellets themselves get wet at all they can turn into a wood concrete, that will make it difficult for the auger within the hopper to dispense them. Pellet smokers usually have some electrical parts inside so it is vital that they do not get wet as they could short and become inoperable. If your pellet grill has not been used for a while, and not kept dry, you might find white furry patches inside when you open it up. The mold inside needs to be dealt with, and the smoker thoroughly cleaned to prevent food contamination. Fire up your smoker to get it as hot as possible, and keep it there for about 20 minutes. Let it cool, and then remove all the internal parts and give them a good clean in hot soapy water. You may have to pressure wash some of the items to get rid of the mold spores. Once the internal parts are dry, replace them in the smoker and start it up again to remove any final mold and residue from the cleaning process. To stop mold building up inside your smoker, always let it run hot at the end of every cook. Also, store it in a dry place with the vents open.
Hey Reid – thanks you for your question. You can use any pellet brand you like in a Traeger grill. I really like what the folks at Cookin’ Pellets bring to the table both in their 100% Hickory and their Perfect Mix blends (fruit wood/hard wood mix). Have been very pleased with them. You can check out their stuff here.
Very subjective, but there are two things I look for, flavor and cooking temperature. I’ve only been smoking meat for two years, so once I finally got my rubs and sauces figured out (approval of friends and family), I then began to go through the different pellet brands. This was important since what good is a pellet, if I couldn’t even make a rub/sauce that was not liked by the masses. I went through about 15 different pellets brands and found the flavor and temperature vary greatly between brands.
One of the best things about the gas smokers is they are among the most economical smokers. This doesn’t mean that you will get an inferior product, but propane is an inexpensive fuel and the tanks are sold separately.
Warm summer nights call out for a get together. The laughter of your loved ones and the smell of your favorite BB-Q in the air. This can be you and here at Grills forever we want to be the one that helps you find that perfect smoker grill that will make your party the best of the summer.Wood pellet smokers are some of the most popular smoker grills on the market. Part of the reason they are in such demand is because there are so many to choose from. With so many out there how do you know which one is right for you?
I’m torn between the RecTec , the Yoder 460 and a friend has a Blaz’en pellet smoker he uses in comps that he loves. I didn’t see that last one in your review so was wondering if you’ve heard anything positive or negative about them and recommendations from you on my scenario.
Max is the man in charge of finding the best products for the AmazingRibs.com Equipment Reviews section. Max loves barbecue so much that he took his barbecue sauce recipes, had them bottled, and now sells Black Swan Premium, All-Natural Sauces around the world.
The argument for the Ortech is that “close enough is good enough” and that the PID is so efficient that you don’t get much smoke. The whole point of having a smoker is to put smoke on meat. If what you want is precision control then put some Liquid Smoke on your ribs and cook them in an oven.
Hey DW – I think it’s a good call either way. Reports from users re: customer service are tops for both Rec-Tec Pellet Grills and GMG Pellet Grills. GMG offers a wifi option that now runs on your home network, and will eventually allow you to monitor via a cloud option, meaning monitoring your grill as you are out shopping etc. The extra large hopper size on the Rec-Tec Pellet Grills could be a bonus for you if you plan on doing some really long cooks. Other than that I really think it comes down to things as simple as how the unit looks. I know that sounds silly, but they are both great grills otherwise. So, what’s your gut tell you?
Generally, the more you pay for a smoker grill, the more reliable and longer-lasting it will be. This is not always true, we have tested some really expensive grills that fell apart the first time we used them, but it is a good rule of thumb for the best smoker grills. Check for good welding, tight seals, non-squeaky joints, snug fits and “feel” (you know what we mean) when you’re looking for a reliable machine.
The Yoder YS640 is 32 inches wide, weighs 313 pounds, and is said to have a cooking range of 150 to 600°F. Yoder is known for heavy-duty competition smokers, and the thick, 10-gauge-steel cooking chamber on this model is durable and great for heat retention. It comes with a sophisticated proprietary digital controller, which Yoder asserts is not based on any off-the-shelf temperature controller of any sort. Yoder states that it designed the board from scratch around a general-purpose micro-controller chip and wrote its own code from the ground up in an attempt to provide superior flexibility, efficiency, and accuracy.
This is a sturdy 210 pounds, and also features those great cooking grids made from cast iron and coated with porcelain. The broiler is a nice touch; you can expose the grill to open flame for a perfect sear. This will also cause it to go through pellets more quickly, naturally.
Hey, thanks so much for letting me know what you guys finally decided on buying! The Memphis is a great all around cooker. I loved the Memphis Pro series model I tried out at home. Dead on accurate and quality all the way. Congrats on your purchase. I know you guys will be happy!
As the burn pot ignites, the pellets burn. Heat then carries through the home via convection (air driven) means, thus allowing air flow and a blend of warm and cool air to maintain steady, even burn temperatures. A heat exchanger separates the smoke fumes from the warm air, thereby warming the room without smoking everyone out.
Other quality brands that I’ll vouch for: Lumberjack, BBQr’s Delight, B&B Pellets. Most folks who take the time to post comments or reviews speak highly of all the brands I’ve mentioned. There are many other brands on the market that are probably good as well, but these are the ones I can say I’ve tried and liked.
Thanks Kevin for the reviews and content. Like many of the folks I too will be purchasing a pellet pooper. I have narrowed my choices to a MAK 2 star and a Memphis Elite. One of the earlier posters indicated on the Memphis that the effective direct grilling space was about 1 square foot. I am assuming that with the smaller footprint of the MAK that the direct “flame zone” is less than that. I’m just wondering how much less.
It has everything you could want, we just felt that Rec Tec’s offering edged it out, and when we take into account price, performance and features, and overall value, it certainly earns a spot on the list, just not at the top. None the less, there’s a lot that this unit completely nails, so let’s get into some more details.
As you can see, for Plowboys Barbecue, as with most other winning teams out there, competition BBQ success is all about mastering a process that you can duplicate. Not having to sweat the fire management side of things is what Todd Johns loves most about his Fast Eddy’s Pellet Smoker.
Three adjustable damper valves give users maximum control over their smoke. A heat control dial gives you more precise control over the exact temperature than a simple thermometer, which leaves you guessing how much fuel to add or extinguish. When your meal is ready, the removable porcelain base tray makes cleanup a breeze.
Rather than design their own digital controllers, they buy them from a company named Ortech. Ortech’s RealTemp TR-100 Digital Controller is shown here and its operation is not intuitive so let’s take a little time to explain it.
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?
I have been seriously tempted by the Copperhead vertical pellet smoker and if I ever find one on sale I will snap it up in a heartbeat. The Copperhead has MASSIVE cooking capacity and its 60 pound pellet hopper is the largest I have ever seen. It is also just a handsome looking smoker.
This entry level pellet smoker is loaded with great features and easy to find for way below list price. It has an older style notched digital controller with a dual LED read out for the included meat thermometer so you can toggle between cooking temperature and internal meat temperature. Pellet smokers are known to produce light smoke flavor. If you want more, Camp Chef’s controller includes two low temperature settings that allow the wood pellets to smolder and produce extra smoke. Although pellets don’t create much ash, it needs to be removed periodically, which is a pain on most other smokers because the greasy grates and drip pan must be lifted out to get at the burn pot. The DLX is one of the few models on the market with an ash removal system that deposits ash in a cup under the smoke box for easy disposal. Pellet smokers are outdoor ovens with smoke. They are great for smoking and roasting, not so much for searing. Some models try, with varying degrees of success, to include hot sear zones. The clever folks at Camp Chef just introduced an optional Sear Box that can reach 900°F and out sear many gas grills. Click here for the full review of the Camp Chef SmokePro DLX Pellet Smoker.
Set it and forget it. It does not require you to stay while the food is being cooked as you can set a timer and temperature so you can do other things, like prepare the side dishes or drink beer with friends while the grill is doing its job. Most pellet grills use electronic controls to regulate the grilling according to your preferences. You have a choice to choose the level of smoke aside from choosing your desired temperature.
In terms of portability, there are smaller and lighter options available but the cooking surface is much smaller and has the out-of-date lo-med-high controller. The Davy Crockett uses Green Mountain’s sophisticated digital thermostatic controller with a dual readout LED display to accommodate the included meat thermometer. It also comes with adaptors to provide power from a wall outlet, car cigarette lighter, or car battery: items that are often optional on other makes.
Hey Adam, between the two, I’d go with Yoder. It may take a little more time to get to temp than the Rec-Tec, but you will appreciate the build quality over the long term that comes with the Yoder brand. Heavier metal construction on the Yoder will serve you well on those longer cooks.
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?
You may have noticed a growing presence of inexpensive smokers at your hardware store. Some cheap smokers can cause disappointment and even outright exasperation. Beware, but don’t be deterred! You can get good smokers that are easy to use and produce excellent results for reasonable prices. You’ve just got to know what to look for. Let us help.
The seventh pellet grill to achieve its place in our pellet grill review is the YOYO wood pellet grill and smoker. It is a 679 square inch griller (1 cooking surface) with 2 level cooking levels surface. This pellet grill weighs 170 pounds. It maintains temperature from 180 degrees to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Another feature of this pellet grill is that, it has a digital thermostat controller and comes with the assembly tool kit included.
Arguably the best value overall, it’s a great middle-point between both of the best pellet grills we’ve featured thus far. It’s not overkill, but it’s got plenty of room and some very useful features.
Another “set it and forget it” pellet grill, the Camp Chef allows you to set the temperature controls for up to a range of 500 degrees F, and leave it to do the regulating. With its efficient auto-dispensing pellet hopper and digital temperature controls, the pellet grill sets, maintains and adjusts the desired temperature for even cooking each time. With consistent and fuss-free temperature control, you’ll sure to have the most perfectly grilled foods.
Owning a pellet smoker can be a revelation on how good meat can really taste. The flavors from a pellet smoker or grill can be out of this world. However, over time, a build-up of crusted and carbonized grease and spills could taint that flavor. The by-products of smoking, such as tar and soot can accumulate and fall into the food you are cooking. What some people may call ‘seasoning’ is really just the detritus of cooking and needs to be cleaned like any other kitchen appliance. Cleaning a pellet smoker make be daunting to some people, but this short article hopes to take away some of the mystique on cleaning and give you some useful tips on how to keep your smoker in tip-top condition. If you set up a simple cleaning regime for your pellet smoker, it will last longer, and keep cooking high-quality food with the best flavor imaginable. It will also make the deep cleaning that much easier. There are three levels of cleaning, after each cook, after say 50 or so hours of cooking, and annual maintenance.
There are various strong points that can be made about this product, such as its durability, porcelain coated cast iron grid, and its digital control burn system. However, every product has its weaknesses. Even though the porcelain coating on the grid is meant to aid in the prevention of food sticking to the grids, the porcelain can actually become a nuisance as it can chip, break, and come off in your food. Another issue that this grill can potentially run into has to do with the temperature gauge.
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.
This smoker offers 975 sq. inches of grilling space meaning you can smoke just about anything you want. The level of versatility this offers is enormous, you can put a serious amount of meat in this thing. This alone makes it worth the $500. The two different models and sizes for this smoker, the 30-inch (730 square inches) & 40-Inch version (975 square inches), differ in price by $110. 975 inches is huge, so it is great there are smaller sizes for a little less money.
For the best value, we’d go with the Masterbuilt M7P 7-in-1 Smoker and Grill. The unit is a really great grill with tons of versatility, high quality construction, and multiple fuel sources. Masterbuilt thought of everything on this unit, and it shows. The whole unit is well constructed, should last you a number of seasons, and is priced at a really good value for what you’re receiving. So if you’re committed to the smoking and grilling process, but want a really quality and versatile unit, you’ve found what you’ve been looking for here.
Gas smokers often run hot and have a limited temperature range, but the Smoke Vault 24″ can be dialed down to 160°F or cranked to 400°F. Go low for smoked nuts and cheese, 225°F for ribs and brisket and 325°F for crispy chicken. The large width is big enough to lay slabs of ribs flat and there’s plenty of room inside for turkeys, roasts and rib racks. It is the only gasser we know of that can be converted to natural gas so no more worrying if the tank will run dry before you’re done with a long low slow cook. Comes with a nickel-plated mesh rack for smoking jerky. Click here to read our complete review of the Camp Chef Smoke Vault 24″.
PID Controller: The most precise temperature control is obtained with grills that have a PID controller. PID stands for “Proportional-Integral-Derivative” which is really just a fancy way of saying that it has a built in feedback loop.
One thing that really makes this grill stand out is its versatility and real wood flavor that saturates anything you’re cooking on the grill. Whether you want to smoke a big slab of ribs or charbroil a steak, with the Pit Boss you win with every meal.
Regarding getting a good draft, this is a common misconception for pellet grills. The burn pot on pellet grills receives oxygen via a fan unit. As such, there’s no need for a draft to get a measured burn in the traditional sense. Most pellet grills lack sufficient insulation / gaskets, etc to prevent smoke from leaking out of the body. So, unless you’re going with the Memphis or something that uses oven style insulation, you don’t really need a chimney at all IMHO.
The MAK Pellet Boss will increase or decrease with the press of a button in 5°F increments and has a probe in the oven that keeps the temp pretty solid. As with any thermostatically controlled oven, even your indoor oven, the thermostat cycles heat on or off as needed. So it you set it for 225°F it cycles on til it hits 225°F, then off until it drops to 220°F, then on to 225°F. There are three meat probes and the Boss can be programmed to change the cooker temp when the meat hits a target. I’ve had one for several years outdoors in the Chicago winters and summers without a cover and no problems.
If the metal is too thick, you will also use a lot of pellets. The walls of a thick-bodied smoker act as a “heat sink”. Heat is taken away from the cooking area and stored in the walls of the cooker. So, it will take a lot of pellets to get the cooking area up to the desired temperature. While thick walls are desirable for some types of cookers, they are not required in pellet smokers.
Multi-position and digital controllers ( LED display ) – a much better solution, but it does have its flaws. First a multi-position controller, then a digital controller that allows to set the temperature at intervals of +/- 25 degrees F. It’s a controller that also has poor responses to weather. A great advantage of a digital controller is that it allowed to implement other innovative solutions. It helped introduce such technologies as alerts, timer or better meat control.
The cleanout for both the pellets and ash is a huge perk to the grill. The patented “Easy Ash Cleanout” does not require the user to take apart the grill. Instead, they simply have to twist and dump the container. The 18lb pellet hopper is similarly an easy cleanout. The stainless steel also makes it easier to clean the grill because of the steel’s properties.
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.