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Glitchy's MAK 2 Star First (cooking) Impressions

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    Glitchy's MAK 2 Star First (cooking) Impressions

    Since the new Grillfriend honeymoon was soured by a bag of bad pellets, I'm going to reboot this a little bit and focus in on what I've seen now that I've finally gotten some cooking done on the MAK.

    I don’t have quite as many cooks as I’d like at this point due to the weather we’ve had for the past 2-3 weeks giving us a lot of 20-40 MPH winds, but I’ve gotten about a dozen cooks in total and probably over 50 hours of runtime between testing and cooking burning around 60-80 lbs of pellets.

    So far I’ve cooked, burgers a couple times, split chicken breasts, steaks a couple times with FlameZone, steaks reverse seared using cast iron, lightly smoked some cheese, a rack of baby backs along with 3 small beef short ribs. a pork butt, turkey breast filets, a trisket, and even a couple frozen pizzas.

    Cooking impressions: The end results are as good as any other pellet grill I’ve owned. There is plenty of smoke. Smoke is still noticeable at higher temp cooks where most traditional pellet smokers fall off. The pizzas still had a very noticeable smoke kiss to them cooked at 425-450 entire time. Once I got the grill seasoned a bit, the temps have seemed to even out across the grate. I haven’t played with the roaming probe much yet as the grill has always locked in within 5-10 degrees of my set point. I’ll probably play with that more when I load it up for a bigger cook and see what it does having the RTD on a middle shelf.

    Performance: After the SmokeFire and Woodwind, the MAK is a scrooge for pellet consumption. Doing the same cooks with the SmokeFire, I think I would have gone through 1.5-2X the pellets. The Woodwind probably would have used 1.25-1.5X as much. Temp recovery after opening the grill definitely appears to be quicker than everything else except maybe the Memphis (which was thick double walled). Both times I did burgers, I cooked 6 at once and rearranged them all while flipping multiple times. My Traegers and CampChefs would have taken 7-10 minutes or sometimes even longer just to get back to set temp. I didn’t time it, but the MAK seemed to be back at set temp within 2-4 minutes and back over 400 within the first minute or so. At 450 with FlameZone covers off, I can cook med well-well burgers in around 20 mins. The SmokeFire and Memphis could do this as well, but all of the other traditional styled pellet grills took 30-45 minutes for burgers.

    WiFi: I still have not had one single issue with the WiFi. Initially setting up your network with just the arrow keys takes a little time (I’ll both second and pass on the recommendation I was given to set up a guest network with shorter SSID and a shorter but still reasonably safe password to make this easier). Once WiFi has been setup, the only button I’ve really used on the Pellet Boss controller is the power button to first turn on the grill. Basically, turn it on, wait a couple minutes, open up the MAK mobile page and set the grill to to the temp you want. I shutdown from the app too. While not quite as fluid as a dedicated mobile app, I like being able to access from my phone, iPad, Mac, wherever I’m at. I can hop between devices and have seen no ill effects from doing so. With several of my other WiFi pellet smokers, I tried installing the apps for other grills on my iPad and if I switched between phone and iPad mid cook, I hit several quirky things. All the other pellet grills ended up phone access only to prevent these quirky issues.

    Things I love so far:
    • Heavy roll top lid. Every time I open this thing I smile. However, more importantly, this is one of the first cookers I’ve had that I don’t have any fear of this lid blowing closed on my hand or head while I’m cleaning or cooking.
    • Doesn’t need the shop vac for regular cleanings. The MAK keeps grease completely out of the fire pot area, so on suggestion from @Golf Geezer I found an old paint brush to clean with. Most of the time, I just lift the little hatch and brush all the ash into the grease pan.
    • This probably seems silly, but the cover. With no smoke stack or grease bucket hanging on the side and no really awkward shapes, I can cover and uncover the grill in like 15 seconds and not worry about knocking a grease bucket off or ripping the cover.
    • Vertical capacity. I really like the additional shelf slots they added. I threw a drip pan under the pork butt I cooked, because it was just so easy. If I picked up a 3/4 rack, I think I could could maybe cook 12 racks of ribs in it all flat. I also love that you can put any rack anywhere (except a full rack in the top slot). The main grid is split, but the full rack fits there too, so often I just run a full rack for the main grid unless I think I might want to remove FlameZone covers mid cook and a 1/2 rack in one or 2 of the upper slots.
    • FlameZone. The MAK will not sear like the SmokeFire. However, this FlameZone opens up a lot of possibilities. It definitely gets you more cooking energy and smoke across the main grid than a solid drip pan. The first burgers I did this way I was really impressed. The second I fought flare ups as I think they were much fattier (I don’t know exactly what they were, the wife bought preformed patties at the store). I still need some time with this to figure out it’s best uses and what foods work the best to not flare up too much. Thinking about trying wings soon.
    • Pellet hopper lid - This thing is the best shelf ever. It’s sturdier and as big as any shelf I’ve had on a grill. The warming box lid is just as sturdy, but you have to be mindful that it gets pretty hot if you are cooking at higher temps, so I’ve tried to avoid using it as a shelf when cooking so I don’t forget and set one of my plastic trays on it and melt it.
    Things I’m still figuring out:
    • A quick efficient cleaning process. I do miss where the Camp Chef excels at cleaning (or rarely needing cleaning). The MAK is not hard to clean, but it would be nice if MAK had an external pellet dump so you didn’t need to remove the drip tray and flame zone after every long cook or 2-3 shorter cooks to dump the fire pot. I’m definitely still in the learn your cooker phase here to find the best cleaning tools and more efficient process.
    • I’m also still looking for the best way to get a really strong sear. The FlameZone has its merits and works pretty well for a lot of things, but is lacking for real steak searing power. I have a MAK griddle on the way to test out, but I’m thinking I will probably supplement with some sort of portable gasser for reverse searing steaks smoked on the MAK and searing sous vide steaks when I don’t feel like firing up charcoal. I haven’t ordered a MAK searing grate as I pretty confident I could pull out my GrillGrates and get very similar results. If I want to rely on conductive energy to sear, I’m just going to go with the griddle or a cast iron. The end result of what I’ve seen are pretty much what I expected here. I’ll definitely get plenty of use out of the FlameZone for grilling things other than steaks where I don’t desire as intense of a sear.
    • FlameZone drip pan. After experimenting with steaks described above, I decided to order the blank FlameZone cover to use when I’m not ‘grilling’. I’m hoping to be able to cover it with foil for easier clean-up and even if I end up not foiling, it should scrape down a lot easier and quicker than the FlameZone pan that has all those dimples and narrow flat spaces between them. I don’t see a lot of desire to change mid cook with how I see using the grill going forward. If I like the MAK griddle for steaks, I’m thinking it will still work well with the blank cover for reverse searing.
    Overall:

    In my opinion, the MAK 2 Star definitely appears to be one of the best pellet smokers on the market. Even though I don't have all the pellet grills I’ve used over the past decade here to test them side by side, my recollections tell me that the MAK smoke profile is definitely towards the very top. At smoking temps I’m not sure if MAK would be number 1, 2, or 3 out of what I’ve seen for smoke output, or if picking those would even be discernible in a blind test. It holds temps pretty tight, but allows just enough fluctuation to keep good smoke rolling, something around +/-5-8 degrees is what I’m seeing most cooks.

    As a ‘grill’, it’s definitely a top performer in the pellet market. I will say the Weber SmokeFire is definitely a step above every other pellet grill I’ve had a chance to use when it comes to true searing and high temp grilling. However, the MAK is definitely at the top of the remainder of the pellet world in what it can do. The difference between the MAK and a lot of the rest is the ‘grilling’ area seems to have better coverage than just a tiny little spot over the burn pot and temps recover a lot more quickly than most other pellet grills. If you open the lid frequently and for longer periods, you’re still going to have a less pleasurable experience than if you figure out good timing and leave the lid closed most of the time. With the MAK searing grate or a GrillGrate searing station (you should never use full coverage GrillGrates in a pellet grill) and a fair amount of practice, I think there is a sizable crowd of people that could easily find results satisfying enough to have a MAK as their only grill. Those looking for a ripping steakhouse sear, will probably want at least a little tabletop gasser or portable charcoal grill to supplement searing. Comparing the MAK directly to the only other pellet grill I’ve seen personally in this ‘2nd’ tier of pellet grillers, the Memphis could create a more pronounced sear, but had a super limited space. The Memphis could fairly adequately sear 1 decent sized or maybe 2 small steaks at a time without any additional aids like GrillGrates. However, for me personally, I’ll take the consistency of the MAK with a little less intense energy over a much broader space than the super confined working area. A burning charcoal chimney with a grate over it far superior to what I experienced with the Memphis offering.

    Last edited by glitchy; March 29, 2021, 03:27 PM.

    #2
    A few pics of the above mentioned cooks. The filet mignon was the steak reverse seared in cast iron on the MAK. Several of the photos were previously shown in SUWYC while compiling this data.
    Attached Files
    Last edited by glitchy; March 29, 2021, 03:26 PM.

    Comment


      #3
      FWIW I got rid of my grill grates. They are just too much of a pain to clean and slide around in the MAK. They worked great with it though for producing a solid proper sear.

      For anything other than steak I'm happy with the stock grates, but a CI pan works perfectly fine for doing reverse sear. I'll put the pan in during the smoke portion, crank the temp up to grill and put the steaks in the warming box at about 110-115 for medium rare. Go inside to get the table sorted, come out, plop the steaks in the CI pan and flip flip flip until proper internal temp.

      Glad you're finally getting some quality time with your MAK. BTW in my experience wind when it's below 60 out seems to affect the MAK more than sub freezing temps. My fluctuation on temp is usually 5 below set point year round.

      Comment


      • glitchy
        glitchy commented
        Editing a comment
        Yeah, I was pretty happy with the cast iron reverse sear just like you described. Enough that I thought the griddle was worth a shot to see how close to CI it performs as it should be easier clean up, give me a little more room, and I can think of a lot of other fun uses for it since I don't have a stand alone griddle. Hard to say where I end up as the regular steak process, going to be hard to beat the WSCG grill with a front sear. Outside of steaks, the poor WSCG is likely going to be lonely.

      #4
      glitchy have you messed with the programming function yet? I was surprised how simple it is on the standard controller, it's only slightly easier on the wifi. But I used it last night for instance, last minute pulled pork. Smoke, 1hr > 245, until IT 198 > smoke (to give me time to wake up... woke up right when it hit 198 and took it to 204 at work in the oven). I generally only use it for overnight cooks, but wondering if you had thoughts on the usefulness of it having had pellet grills with apps.

      Comment


      • glitchy
        glitchy commented
        Editing a comment
        I have only used it once based on time. It was easy to setup. I’m still working with MAK on issues with my probes getting inaccurate readings. We shelved that concern while making sure the other issues were indeed the pellets. When we get the probes figured out I’ll probably try some more programs. I can definitely see a chuckie recipe to run on smoke an hour, jump to 275, then drop temp to 225 and cook another hour after they hit 205-207. I cook them manually this way all the time.

      #5
      Once again another great overview....and the journey begins. Thanks for sharing.

      Comment


      • glitchy
        glitchy commented
        Editing a comment
        You’re too kind.

      #6
      I went ahead and read the whole review. The MAK 2 will do. I think I will give it a longer look.

      Comment


      • glitchy
        glitchy commented
        Editing a comment
        If you do get to the point to seriously look at MAK but find the 2 Star too pricey, I don’t see any reason why the 1 Star would not perform exactly the same. You really just give up a warming box and some vertical space.

      • ItsAllGoneToTheDogs
        ItsAllGoneToTheDogs commented
        Editing a comment
        being in OR you can get a discount (I think it's just the shipping fee removed from the price, but maybe more) by driving down to MAK and buying it in person

      • bbqLuv
        bbqLuv commented
        Editing a comment
        TX U glitchy

      #7
      Thanks for the detailed write-up. Most of all, I'm glad it's finally giving you a chance to give it a proper workout.

      Comment


        #8
        Glad to see you finally get to really exercise the MAK. Nice write-up as usual!

        I call mine "The Beast" - rock solid, well made, dependable, well supported by great people. The one cooking aspect I do not use the MAK for is searing or high heat cooking. It is just too easy to fire up the gasser's IR burner to sear, so smoking a tri-tip and then searing, or the other way around, is pretty much my preferred method.

        I do agree that I wish MAK had a more convenient way to empty the firepot. Having to remove the main grates, then the top of the Flamezone, then the small deflector plate is easy, but for a lazy a** like me, would bee nice to just slide a door open, reach in, slide the FP out and dump it. Just sayin'...

        Comment


        • glitchy
          glitchy commented
          Editing a comment
          The first few times I emptied it, I was taking the entire flame zone out, so I was cleaning it every time. I finally realized the fire pot could still be emptied with the FlameZone base in place making it a little easier at least. It’s not a big deal, but definitely a perk on some other grills.

          As far as the sear, it’s what I expected before buying but had to test it. Basically, I’m just trying to figure out the easiest solution when I can’t or don’t want to light charcoal.

        #9
        Great write up. Very useful for a future 2 Star owner. Thanks and keep the lessons learned a comin'!

        Comment


          #10
          Nice update. The guy that I bought my M1 from is selling his 2 star that he has only cooked on four times. His has the full upper shelf, the cover, and I think he said a flat flame zone. I'm still not convinced that a pellet grill is for me. He still wants $2,650 for it. He paid a little over $3,500 with the upgrades.

          Comment


          • 70monte
            70monte commented
            Editing a comment
            I have had meat smoked on a couple of different pellet grills and the food did not have the same level of smoke that I get with my charcoal cookers so I wasn't overly impressed. Not saying the food off of the MAK would be the same. Even though I have bought two grills off of him, I don't know if he would let me cook on it before hand. He is a pretty busy guy. The lifetime warranty would be nice but I also gave that up on the M1 that I bought from him so I guess I could live without it.

          • glitchy
            glitchy commented
            Editing a comment
            Pellet grills are first about convenience, if you don’t mind the effort with the M1 or others, than you might not love it. From what I’ve seen the MAK produces towards the top of the pellet spectrum, but that caps about a WSCG with 3-4 decent chunks of smokin wood if that makes sense. Until recently, I never had the time for that much fire management, so I fell in love with the convenience.

          • 70monte
            70monte commented
            Editing a comment
            Sometimes the convenience would be nice but I'm retired so I have plenty of time to use the other cookers I have so if I don't feel like making the effort, it's just me being lazy. I guess I don't like having to rely on electricity or possible mechanical issues when I'm doing a long cook so I have not talked myself into a pellet cooker yet. Maybe some day.

          #11
          How goes the new MAK buddy?

          I have been meaning to ask if you have ever used Cookin Pellets? Any thoughts?

          Comment


          • glitchy
            glitchy commented
            Editing a comment
            CookinPellets are great, they’re my favorite. They do 100% hickory and they usually have less dust in their bags and burn cleaner than other pellets as they don’t use bark in their pellets. The MAK is working great and cooks well. Just ordered a sear grate and front shelf during the accessory sale.

          #12
          glitchy You mentioned ordering the Blank FlameZone Pan and I'm trying to understand it. I assume the main advantage is easier cleanup. Does it function identically to the standard FlameZone Pan or does the blank distribute or handle heat differently than the one with dimples? You mentioned the standard pan is better for grilling so it must offer a more direct heat? If cleanup is the only difference, why have the dimpled option at all?

          I have a high quality LYNX Stainless Steel Griddle I've used with my LYNX Propane grill. Different than the aluminum hard anodized finish offered by MAK. I wonder how it would compare to the MAK Griddle and a cast Iron pan?

          Thanks.

          Comment


            #13
            Originally posted by Midway View Post
            glitchy You mentioned ordering the Blank FlameZone Pan and I'm trying to understand it. I assume the main advantage is easier cleanup. Does it function identically to the standard FlameZone Pan or does the blank distribute or handle heat differently than the one with dimples? You mentioned the standard pan is better for grilling so it must offer a more direct heat? If cleanup is the only difference, why have the dimpled option at all?

            I have a high quality LYNX Stainless Steel Griddle I've used with my LYNX Propane grill. Different than the aluminum hard anodized finish offered by MAK. I wonder how it would compare to the MAK Griddle and a cast Iron pan?

            Thanks.
            Midway The blank pan is all about indirect and easier cleanup. You just need to visit their site and look at the pics. The ‘dimples’ are holes that let heat up across the whole grilling surface. With the covers on the standard grill zone pan, I really didn’t notice much performance difference between it and the blank pan.

            ‘Grilling’ on the MAK is subjective, a lot of people think it works great. I’m still somewhat undecided yet. It’s good for many things, it’s just not going to sear like your LYNX. I’m waiting on a MAK sear grate yet to see what I think with that. I’ve been happy with burgers and sausages using the flame zone with the standard grates, just not steaks.

            To me, a griddle is a griddle and about the same as a cast iron pan. The differences I see are heat retention and grease drainage. Lack of any grease draining is the drawback of the MAK griddle. Heat retention is pretty good, not as good as cast iron, but seems OK. It’s worked very well when I use it, but 4 smash burgers is about all you can really comfortably do in the 1/2 griddle at least with the tools I have.

            Comment


              #14
              Originally posted by glitchy View Post

              Midway The blank pan is all about indirect and easier cleanup. You just need to visit their site and look at the pics. The ‘dimples’ are holes that let heat up across the whole grilling surface. With the covers on the standard grill zone pan, I really didn’t notice much performance difference between it and the blank pan.

              ‘Grilling’ on the MAK is subjective, a lot of people think it works great. I’m still somewhat undecided yet. It’s good for many things, it’s just not going to sear like your LYNX. I’m waiting on a MAK sear grate yet to see what I think with that. I’ve been happy with burgers and sausages using the flame zone with the standard grates, just not steaks.

              To me, a griddle is a griddle and about the same as a cast iron pan. The differences I see are heat retention and grease drainage. Lack of any grease draining is the drawback of the MAK griddle. Heat retention is pretty good, not as good as cast iron, but seems OK. It’s worked very well when I use it, but 4 smash burgers is about all you can really comfortably do in the 1/2 griddle at least with the tools I have.
              Looking at pictures I see the standard dimpled FlameZone pan and a pair of additional pieces to cover the dimples with in order to get a more indirect heat. I can see where the blank pan would be easier to clean even when the dimples are covered. I'm also thinking if you put foil down over the standard cover with dimple covers on, not sure what they are called, that could simplify cleaning. I'm all about making things as easy to clean as possible and still deciding which accessories to add to an order I hope to place by Monday. For now I'm set on the all SS two star with front shelf and cover. Next under consideration are the grill grates. Thanks.

              Comment


              • glitchy
                glitchy commented
                Editing a comment
                I don’t think there’s much left to buy with SS 2 star, you get all the grates you can use. Unless you want sear grate or griddle. I guess that depends on if you’re looking to possibly replace the Lynx.

              • ItsAllGoneToTheDogs
                ItsAllGoneToTheDogs commented
                Editing a comment
                if you buy on Big Poppa Smokers, don't buy the cover or any accessories (assuming you buy the SS and the front shelf there), once it ships you will have points which should be substantial and pay for the cover and part of another accessory.

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