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.

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.