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Bang for the buck on a new pellet smoker

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    Bang for the buck on a new pellet smoker

    Like many, I am new to pellet world and having trouble making a final decision. Purchase time-frame is Spring 2021 so I've got some time and I'd love to hear the opinions from the club.

    Initially, I was looking in the $2-3k range and had settled on either the Yoder YS640s or the Mak 2-star. I kept flip-flopping but was finally thinking Mak. The reason for that is just the overall positive mentions on the Mak. I literally have never seen a negative comment about them and the company seems first-class all the way. Downside to me is everything is an expensive add-on: $225 for a shelf, $400 for Wifi, $300 for BT, etc. I could easily end up well over $4000 when all is said and done. But when I priced out the Yoder and added in all their extras (ATBBQ Ultimate package, comp cart) it wasn't far off from the Mak with the front shelf and a cover (after you add in shipping for the Yoder). I also was hesistant b/c I couldn't find a lot on the new Yoder ACS system. Most of the negatives about Yoder concerned the older controller they had. The rust issues also concerned me as I live less than a mile from the ocean in the Northeast.

    I was initially excited about the Weber Smokefire but got turned off by all the negative press and reviews when it was first released. But it seems like the latest updates have improved the product to the point where I am considering it again. With my 10% Home Depot discount I can get an EX6 for around $1000, versus about $3600 for the Yoder or Mak (after the add-ons). I am concerned over some of the bad customer service experiences I've seen posted as well as the fact that they are apparently still shipping older production units with the problematic hardware.

    Other units I've examined at various times were the Recteq, Traeger Ironwood, Memphis.

    As for intended use: I cook outside year-round unless it gets well down into the 20s/teens, which isn't often. I make ribs and pulled pork, smoke my own bacon. Love doing brisket but the time commitment means I don't do it often (one of the reasons I'm looking at pellet grills). It's usually just me, my wife and our toddler but I have small groups over several times a year, especially in summer. I might do five or six racks of ribs at one time plus burgers, dogs, that sort of thing. Most I've ever had to feed is about 15-20, more often it's 10-12.

    My question for the group: If I'm primarily getting this for covenient low-and-slow cooks but like the idea of being able to grill and sear on the same unit, is the extra $2500 really worth it? Is it a question of 'really damn good to great' for $1000 vs. 'great to awesome' for $3500 or am I missing some other consideration? Two grand buys a lot of high quality meat. Or a Hasty Bake or M1 (that's 2022 knocking on my door). I know many will say the Mak (or your smoker of choice) is the best hands-down but is it sooooo much better (taste, convenience, features, extras) than the $1000 grills that it justifies paying three times the cost? I have the money to go high if need be, I just want to make sure it is money wisely spent.

    To those who have spent the extra, what is it to you that justified that extra expense vs. a high-quality $1000 unit?

    #2
    Great post. I am in the same boat. I have been looking at pellet grills for a while. I cook outdoors all year long as well. Having a pellet grill to use on week nights when I don't have as much time to start and tend a fire would be great. I get the feeling the more expensive units yield more reliability and longevity. I too had high hopes for the SmokeFire. I think keeping them clean is the key. I will be following along. Lone Star Grilz is coming out with a Pellet Grill with a FireBoard controller. They make nice stuff. Good luck in your search.

    Comment


    • Tuckmonster
      Tuckmonster commented
      Editing a comment
      Wasn't familiar with the Lone Star, I'll have to look it up. I know the new Yoder ACS uses FireBoard for their controller as well, one of the things I liked about it.

      And I love the pic, sure could go for some Lunch right about now!

    #3
    What does Wi-Fi and Bluetooth taste like?

    Comment


    • bbqLuv
      bbqLuv commented
      Editing a comment
      Matt @ Meat Church has a video of an over knight Brisket and into the next day. Changes temp from work. Brisket ready for dinner that evening. All on a Traeger TImberline with WIFI.

    • Bkhuna
      Bkhuna commented
      Editing a comment
      Tuckmonster - I concur. Just playing Devil's advocate.

    • Dinebrew
      Dinebrew commented
      Editing a comment
      I think it depends on the rub...

    #4
    I have a camp chef woodwind and the temps are absolutely on point. The manufacturer of it I I'm not a huge fan of. a lot of dings and nicks here and there in the shipping process, the customer service is great and the fact that they'll just keep shipping you things to replace, but I'd rather pay for a quality piece of machinery. there's leaks and all kinds of issues where I really feel if I spent more I would have gotten a better manufactured product.

    but again the temps are absolutely on point. so for the deal it was great.

    Comment


      #5
      I love my MAK, but it's not for everyone. If you have the money, the 2-star will last longer than most even with abuse. But the Yoder and such will last a good long time with proper care and storage as well. As to the MAK accessories, you don't need the front shelf, you just need grates. The wifi is nice, but also unnecessary (I have it). You can create custom programs on the base controller that work just fine and supplement with a $30 wireless thermometer if you want. I alternate between wifi and my thermopro depending on what and when I'm cooking.

      Comment


      • Tuckmonster
        Tuckmonster commented
        Editing a comment
        I'm curious as to why you say the Mak is "not for everyone"? I've heard nothing but good things. Is it just the cost or are there other reasons you say that?

      • ItsAllGoneToTheDogs
        ItsAllGoneToTheDogs commented
        Editing a comment
        Tuckmonster because even though the MAK is one of, if not the best pellet units at providing even temp & solid smoke performance across a varied temp range, some folks just will never be happy with the smoke profile. Also, while it can grill pretty well, it's still not the same grilling experience as other fuels. I personally am ok with my MAK being my primary grill, but I am going to pair it with a flat top grill (hopefully sooner rather than later). There is no A+ at everything pellet grill

      #6
      I agree with all that ItsAllGoneToTheDogs posted. I just got my MAK 2 Star (no WiFi) 2 months ago. Before that I had a Memphis for 10 years and before that a Traeger (made in USA) for about 6 years. All were great units IMO but I will also say you get what you pay for. However there are some fantastic units out there that cost less. Yoder. Grilla. Blazn Grill Works to name a few that get good reviews in The Pit. Good luck with your decision.

      Comment


      • GolfGeezer
        GolfGeezer commented
        Editing a comment
        +1 After years on Camp Chef DLX (forerunner to the Woodwind series), I purchased my MAK 2 Star. Now I NEVER think about or worry about temps, long cooks, fast cooks, overnight cooks, weather, customer support, grease issues, rust, etc. Like Skip says, you get what you pay for. Also, consider the MAK 1 Star - less than $2K all in, but the same capacity as the 2 Star.

      #7
      I really wanted the Yoder 640 but like you, the cost got too high for me by the time I got it set up the way I wanted it. I too cook all year round. I settled on the Recteq RT-700 “Bull”. Reasons included large cooking area, wifi standard, PID controller standard, free shipping, and important for cold weather here in WI, they offer a sewn to fit insulated blanket. I’ve had it for about a year and a half now and could not be happier. There are certainly other brands that would more or less be equal, but that’s where I landed. Good luck! Keep us posted.

      Comment


        #8
        Have you tasted foods cooked on a pellet pooper? Taste is the reason I use charcoal. I'd hate to drop several thousand $$ on a cooker only to find out that I don't care for the flavors it produces.

        If you haven't had "pellet food", maybe look on craigslist or facebook marketplace and buy used. Then give it a try to see if the flavor suits you. Either way, you should be able to get your $$ back selling the test unit when it's time to buy your dream machine...

        Comment


        • ItsAllGoneToTheDogs
          ItsAllGoneToTheDogs commented
          Editing a comment
          that's a very fair point. Though there is a growing list of products that you can modify a pellet smoker with these days to boost the smoke level if that's your thing. Whether it's simple stuff like a supplemental smoke tube, a smoke daddy you drill into your grill, or the newer insert where you put real wood or lump and let the firepot in your unit smolder it. I personally haven't needed those, just use stronger profile woods when I want stronger smoke. Not enough for some still though

        • lostclusters
          lostclusters commented
          Editing a comment
          I have read about a technique where you start a long cook on a charcoal fire and then move it to a pellet cooker for the remainder of the cook. That way you get the best of both worlds.

          I have tried many of the other ways to get more smoke on a pellet cooker, none seem to work well enough for me. I believe the technique of starting on a charcoal cooker will probably be my answer.

        • rickgregory
          rickgregory commented
          Editing a comment
          " there is a growing list of products that you can modify a pellet smoker with these days to boost the smoke level if that's your thing. "

          Imagine spending $2-4000 on a unit only to have to add a $40 tube to get the flavor you want, though.

        #9
        My wife and I move from southern California to North Carolina in 2 weeks.
        Once there, I'm buying once and I ain't lookin back - Memphis Grills Elite Freestanding!

        You're on a fun journey - good luck with whatever you decide.

        Comment


        • Jfrosty27
          Jfrosty27 commented
          Editing a comment
          Wow. I just looked that one up on the Memphis Grills site. That’s an expensive grill! $5,399 plus options is wayyyy out of my budget. Well good for you though. Enjoy it!

        • ItsAllGoneToTheDogs
          ItsAllGoneToTheDogs commented
          Editing a comment
          I would do a little extra research on the Memphis units, alot of newer owners are saying the quality and customer service went down and the price went up even though they moved production to China. Also memphis units are (unless something has changed in design or programming) known for grilling ability over smoking ability, so if your primary intended use is smoking, there are probably better units out there.

        • Raven Rock
          Raven Rock commented
          Editing a comment
          Good to know - thanks for the heads-up

        #10
        I studied all available options for me at the time and for "Best bang for the buck" I went with the original RecTec 680 and don't regret the decision at all. I have used it for years with no problems. I installed the wifi controller when it became available and the controller and app work well, as did the original controller. I appreciate the powder coating and stainless steel changes on the newer models as that's where mine shows the most wear. I know there are more expensive models that I wouldn't mind owning but I would not hesitate to buy a RecTeq again.

        Comment


          #11
          I'll start by saying I have 2 Traegers and a Kamado.

          If you want heavy smoke flavor, the pellet grill likely isn't your best choice. That being said, I use my Traeger more than my Kamado simply because it is quicker and easier and adds a nice touch of flavor. I cook on my Traegers all year round (Occasionally down to the Teens in the PNW)

          RecTec, Mak, and Yoder are definitely higher quality cookers than Traeger. But, I bought both of mine used ($300 for a nice 34 series, and $100 for a 22 Series that needed a paint job). Both are about 10 years old and still work great. Maybe surf Craigslist and see if you can get a pellet grill for cheap, just to try one out before you drop $1k - $4k on a new grill.

          One pro to a Traeger is that everywhere seems to carry parts for them, and they are super easy to work on. That is just my experience if you have problems.

          I would like to upgrade to a Yoder, but I haven't been able to justify it yet. I heard that they hold their temps extremely well.

          Comment


            #12
            Don't have a pellet grill but in bang for buck... no, you don't get a grill that's 2-4x better when you buy a Mak, Yoder etc. Like most things, it seems to, yes, be a better product but not several fold better in terms of what it will let you do on a cook. Your food won't be 2, 3, 4x better.

            But if you want the premium steels, the hand built and fitted construction etc, that's what it costs. There seems to be a peace of mind and a pride of ownership among owners here and for some, that's really important. For others, a unit that lasts 10 years and puts out great food is fine. As always, YMMV

            Comment


            • Tuckmonster
              Tuckmonster commented
              Editing a comment
              Thanks, those are great points. The quality of the build and finish is important to me but it's also in context of the cost. I spent $2k on a gas grill and felt it wasn't worth the cost. Flimsy thin metal on the cabinet, poor fit on the side panels, etc. It's a propane grill, it cooks just fine for what it is but every time I see the gap between the front door panels or the aggravating grease pan placement my blood boils. If I'd paid $300 for it I wouldn't care.

            • rickgregory
              rickgregory commented
              Editing a comment
              From what people say you DO get build quality from the MAK, Yoder, etc.

            #13
            Thanks everyone for the great info and advice. I really appreciate it. Honestly, as much as I really like the Mak based on everything I've read, I just keep wondering if the food will taste so much better then what I could get off a lower cost smoker, enough to justify the price difference. Has anyone been able to compare the food from a Mak vs a Traeger, Recteq, Yoder, Weber, etc? I'm assuming the food will taste great off any of the units I'm considering so it's really the extras that will make the difference: build quality, ability to hold even temps, ease of use, controller features, quality and usefulness of any app, etc. That's what I'm really trying to get at. Assuming the food is going to be great regardless of which smoker I go with, what extras justify the added cost in your opinions? What are the features that matter most to you and are there any features you thought would be great but you find you don't really use or care about after having your smoker for awhile?

            Comment


            • ItsAllGoneToTheDogs
              ItsAllGoneToTheDogs commented
              Editing a comment
              I can compare directly to a camp chef, traeger (newer model), masterbuilt, and pitboss... the owners of those and I all perceive a stronger/better(?) smoke flavor off the MAK. They all like their grills but said they would hands down prefer me to do the cooking for work events... now that could just be a ploy to get me to do all the work Is the difference massive? I don't think it's $1K different, but the MAK will outlast all those with less TLC

            • Sweaty Paul
              Sweaty Paul commented
              Editing a comment
              I have a Yoder YS-640 which replaced a Green Mountain Grill. I liked the GMG, however, I love the Yoder. Smoke flavor much more pronounced with the Yoder. Will say the Yoder just works. I like that a lot.

            #14
            Check out the Grilla Silverbac. I have enjoyed mine and their customer service is top notch. My RTD probe went bad on Saturday, Labor Day weekend, I sent an email to customer service I had a new one by Thursday.

            Comment


              #15
              I have had a a YS640 (no fireboard) for 2 1/2 years and I still really like it. It sat outside mostly covered for the first 2 years and have only had very minor rust on the hopper lid door. No issues with it's performance or part failures. It puts out very good tasting food and holds temp with out a problem. I have not owned any other brand so can't compare although a good friend owns a Traeger and says my meat tastes better. But this could be because he does not pay much attention to the quality of meat he buys and I do. What ever you get keeping, the firepot clean makes a big difference.
              That being said I kept hearing about the superior taste of wood/charcoal over and over. I looked into a stick burner and being a lazy person with some physical limitations decided buying and storing of wood was to much for me. I ended up purchasing a Lone Star Grillz Insulated Cabinet smoker and have not regretted it at all. Uses charcoal and wood chunks and has the smoke flavor I like. As mentioned above pellet cookers do put out a lighter smoke profile, you can use a tube to augment this some.
              It is not a set and forget as the Yoder but with a FireBoard and Pit Viper fan setup it is very close.
              As mentioned above by Old Glory Lone Star Grillz will be coming out with a pellet cooker hopefully soon and given the quality of their cookers it will be worth looking at. I do believe that you get what you pay for and that low cost may be adequate but.....
              Last edited by ofelles; September 15, 2020, 01:16 PM.

              Comment


              • ofelles
                ofelles commented
                Editing a comment
                Sweaty Paul I did the first 6 cooks using the ball valve and top damper for control so I could learn and just in case I had a power failure during a cook. I was not as easy as a pellet as I stated above. I found that founding the instruction Chris sent with the cooker worked, even if I didn't think they would. I did have some large swings (40 degrees) from my play with the instructions.
                Last edited by ofelles; September 20, 2020, 05:44 PM.

              • ofelles
                ofelles commented
                Editing a comment
                Sweaty Paul And like any grill that has mass if you don't slow down the temp rise early you will way over shoot the mark. I have since used a FireBoard I and Pit Bull fan to control it. It does a good jobs of controlling if I don't play with it, thinking I can out think it. remembering where to adjust the fan damper and ball valve from the last cook works. It holds within a 15 to 25 degree swing.
                Last edited by ofelles; September 20, 2020, 05:48 PM.

              • ofelles
                ofelles commented
                Editing a comment
                Sweaty Paul Chris at Lone Star Grillz says he has seen +/- 1 degree but he build them and has used them for years. Yes I notice more smoke flavor. I use a combo of KBB an d wood chucks spaced close enough that there is a chunk burning all the time. I fill the water pan all the time because the mass slows the temp changes and provide a nice humid environment. I might try cooking chicken with no water sometime.
                I have not regretted this purchase at all.
                Last edited by ofelles; September 20, 2020, 05:49 PM.

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