My 2 Favorite Pellet Smokers in 2019 and Why
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Many people have emailed me over the last several months asking me which pellet smoker is best. I have (2) favorites to be exact but which one is best for you sort of depends on what you are looking for in terms of features.
Wanna know my two favorites? Here they are:
The Camp Chef Woodwind SG has the most useful utility features in my opinion whereas the REC TEC Bull has the best warranty and is the only one, at this time, that can hold an absolute precise temperature.
These two pellet smokers are built with great quality, provide excellent smoke, and if you take care of it will give you a great number of years of service.
Having used both of these smokers for more than a year and many cooks under my belt, I can easily provide you with a list of the pro’s and cons that hopefully can help you make a decision on which one is best for you and your family.
- 22 lb hopper means it holds a full 20 pound bag with room to spare.
- Window on hopper so you can see pellet level at all times
- Chute on bottom of hopper for dumping pellets quickly and easily for changeouts
- Ash cup on bottom of smoke chamber for cleaning out ashes without removing grates, heat deflector, etc. (nice feature)
- Only $899 right now ($100 off)
- Includes propane fueled searbox or sidekick (a large flat griddle) that mounts to the side of the smoker. Your choice.
- 3-year warranty
- 2 meat probes
- Slide and grill technology allows you to slide the heat deflector out of the way during cooking to allow some of the flames to come up to grate level giving you a little more direct heat. It’s not perfect but I have used it some and it’s a pretty decent feature for things like burgers, hotdogs, or when you want to put a little direct heat on something. The side searbox works better if you really want to put a good sear on a steak after smoking it.
- Includes bottom grate and top grate for a lot more cooking area.
- Does not hold a precise temperature. Like your home oven, it fluctuates up and down from your set temperature about 15 to 20 degrees.
- Does not have wi-fi capability or any way to control or monitor via your smartphone.
Cost: $899 with free shipping
Needless to say, I absolutely love this pellet smoker. In my opinion it is the most feature rich of the pellet smokers on the market.
You can check this one out more and/or purchase one at https://smoking-meat.com/woodwind
- Super heavy duty
- Lots of stainless steel on this thing including the entire smoke chamber and hopper.
- 40 lb hopper. You can fit 2 bags of pellets in this thing and you’re cooking for almost 2 days without needing to refill.
- 6-year warranty
- Ceramic hot rod
- Wi-fi enabled controller allows you to connect this to your home wifi and it can then be controlled and monitored right on your smart phone from literally anywhere in the world (a really nice feature)
- 2 meat probes
- PID controller holds your set temperature at exactly what you set. If you set 225 degrees then it will hold that precise temperature for hours on end.
- It looks darn cool sitting on your patio!
- No easy way to dump or changeout pellet flavors.
- To cleanout the ashes, you have to remove the grates, drip pan, and heat deflector.
- Only includes a bottom grate although there is plenty of room inside for an upper grate. You can purchase an accessory that gives you more room inside but this should be built-in in my opinion.
Cost: $1199 with free shipping
I really like using this smoker and the technology in this controller is second to none. I love being able to control it from afar and I love knowing that it is holding an absolute precise temperature. I do miss some of the features that I have on the Camp Chef Woodwind SG though when I am using it.
You can check this one out more and/or purchase one at https://www.rectecgrills.com/rt-700-pellet-grill/
Let me know in the comments below if you agree, disagree or if you have further pro’s and cons to add to either of these pellet smoker models.
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Jeff, have you used or heard anything about the Weber Ex4 pellet grill? I have a Weber smoking mountain but I am starting to look into pellet grills.
David, Weber has created some great charcoal and gas grills over the last several decades however, in my opinion, they should stick with what they know. Their pellet grills have had a ton of issues and I cannot recommend them at this time. Look into Recteq pellet grills and Camp Chef pellet grills for much better options.
Thank you for sharing your experience. In one article, you say something to the effect that you trust your Rec-Tec to the point you will sleep through the night. One think I’ve read about the Woodwind is that some experience flame-outs which sound potentially dangerous? Do you know if flameouts have been eliminated on the new Wifi Woodwind with the PID?
Secondly, if you watch RecTec, they claim their fire box is self-cleaning. I assume that means the cycle the fan to blow out ash and leave bigger chunks of pellets for next time. Also, as I think about using aluminum foil on the deflector, I’m going to be disassembling either smoker frequently to change foil anyway. So maybe the ash dump isn’t as significant. Thoughts on cleaning??
I’m not sure if they made any changes to reduce the flame-outs on the newer Woodwind.. I use mine a LOT and I’ve never had this happen on the new Wi-Fi version. It did happen to me one time a few years ago on the Woodwind SG but I just figured that I had forgotten to empty the ash cup or something. I always use a secondary thermometer and set low and high alarms on the pit temperature if I’m letting any smoker run while I am sleeping so I’ll be notified if anything goes awry.
The REC TEC gets cleaned more often than the Woodwind since I have to remove the innards to get the ashes out of the burn pot.. I am not aware of the self-cleaning feature but maybe it does blow out some of the ashes during the shutdown cycle. I’ll have to look into that.
Regardless of anything, both the WW and the REC TEC are nice units with ample features and I can’t imagine not being happy with either one of them. Neither is difficult to clean even if you have to take out the drip pan and the heat deflector.
I have a smaller dedicated shop vac that I use for this purpose and it’s about a 3-5 minute job. Like you say, I have to wrap the REC TEC drip tray anyway so you sort of get into a rhythm with it.
In the winter time, I only vacuum out the burn pot as the ashes that build up in the bottom of the pellet smokers act as insulation against the cold.
I had a Trager for years (when they were made in the USA. It started to go south so I stepped up to a YODER YS640. It grills, smokes, cold smokes, bakes, etc. They just came out with a conversion kit with an upgraded controller which has bluetooth as well as wifi. Have you tried it?
I have not used the Yoder YS640 but I saw some at the American Royal this year and they are sweet looking machines. The new controllers are using some excellent technology made by Fireboard Labs.. a company I am very fond of. I hope to be able to get a review unit soon.
Just bought the Rec Tec Bull after 18 months of research. Did my inaugural cook on it with a whopping 20lb prime brisket from Costco. It did a fantastic job! Nice to see that this is one of your favorite pellet smokers. Excited to do more cooks with it!
I have a Z-Grill and love it. I know with the PID temp controls you dont get as much smoke. Especially at higher temperatures. Have you found that to be true?
The Grilla Grill is made by Z-Grill as a lot of offer pellet smokers. When I bought my grill last year I looked at Traeger and they felt very cheap to me. The Camp chef was twice what I paid for the Z-Grill. I bought 2 for the price of one so it ended up costing me $400 with a cover.
Nick, first and foremost, if you love what you are using then you have no reason to do anything different. That’s what it’s all about. Love what you use, love the results you are getting.
Some PID controlled pellet grills say that it’s impossible to get a lot of smoke and still hold precise temperature but somehow, REC TEC has figured out how to use a PID controller, make it hold an absolutely precise temperature and still pump out an abundance of smoke. I personally believe this is due to the way the fan on the REC TEC cycles on and off every few seconds.
If you have to pick between precise temperature and plenty of smoke, you should definitely choose the latter option. The Camp Chef Woodwind SG on the other hand does use a PID controller, and does not hold a precise temperature but rather stays within a certain range and it cooks just as good as the REC TEC or any other pellet grill and with an abundance of smoke. I love using it just as much as the REC TEC and get amazing, super smoky flavored food.
A note on grill temperatures, all pellet smokers put out more smoke at low temperature than at higher temperatures. The pellet grills have a firepot which is very efficient at burning wood and because of this, the smoke is all burned up before it even gets out of the burn pot at higher temperatures.
Have you tried the Grilla ones?
Grilla makes a good solid pellet grill but their smoke production, in my opinion, is a bit less than most of the others. I know they are coming out with some new stuff so maybe they have corrected this issue but in the end, I want the smoke to be a major part of the flavor and I just don’t get that with the Grilla like I do with the Camp Chef Woodwind and the REC TEC Bull. I know many people who have the Grilla and love it so once again, this is a matter of preference.
Would help to know which grills you compared these to.
I have the Pit Boss Copperhead 7 series, Treager Lil’ Tex Elite 22, and the Grilla Silverbac. All 3 of these worked fine, did a good job of cooking and smoking but in the end I had to break it down to my top 2 picks and these three did not make it to the finals. Having said that, if you have a Pit Boss or a Traeger or a Grilla and you love it, there’s nothing wrong with any of these units.
Where do your GMG grills fit in on comparison
Sparky, I have not had the pleasure of using a GMG but everything I have heard from others has been very positive.
I bought the Rec Tec Bull in May of this year. I have cooked on it an average of twice per week since. I love it.
I think Jeffs comments are spot on. The trap door to change out pellets would be nice, but I never do that. I stick with the Rec Tec ultimate blend pellets for everything and all cooks come out terrific. What I do find a bit of a hassle is taking out the grates etc for clean out.
On the plus side, the temp controller is is as steady as Jeff says. I find that a big plus for all types of cooks. And plenty of smoke for sure. Also, I love having the wifi feature. Expl: I am cooking chicken wings this afternoon. 225 until about 90% done, then crank it up to 500 to crisp up the skin. All from my LazyBoy. And lastly, the thing is built like a tank.
would you take these over the green egg?
This depends on the style of cooking that you enjoy. I find myself using my pellet smokers a lot more often than my BGE due to time constraints and trust that it will keep doing what it’s supposed to be doing for hours on end even if I can’t be home to babysit it. The BGE doesn’t need much babysitting but I won’t go off and leave it for 8 to 10 hours like I will my REC TEC Bull. So for me, that confidence means a lot. I do enjoy using my other smokers such as the BGE, Pit Barrel Cooker, etc. when I have the time and will be around the house to keep an eye on things now and then.
I’ve ne er used a Woodwind or any other pellet grill than Rec Tec, I have put my hands on a Woodwind and other grills of comparable size.
Hands down I believe the Rec Tec is a heavier grill / smoker, part of the reason it holds temperatures as well as it does in junction with the PID controller.
One of the great features of any of the Rec Tec Grills other than the Bullseye is the extreme smoke feature, the lower settings will allow the blower fan to cycle to generate more smoke while still maintaining set temperature.
Rec Tec hands down had the best customer service I have ever witnessed, if its electric or mechanical it will eventually give you problems. I can attest that a phone call is all it takes to troubleshoot any situation that could arise.
If they can’t help you fix a problem over the phone, they will have within reason parts in the mail the same day.
I’ve never experienced a company that I’ve purchased from that you get a thank you letter, attached to the letter that has the daytime business phone number, a after hours number and the personal cell number to both of the founders of the company just in case you can’t reach someone using the first two numbers.
I’ve never seen another company that keeps such a close finger on the pulse of the products they have, I own 4 of the grills they carry and intend on buying more.
I have to say about REC TEC I have owned mine for over 8 years and even though the warranty is expired they still take care of my grill if I have a breakdown. Their customer service is second to none and I will never buy another smoker unless it has horns on it!
I agree with the Camp Chef. The features especially the ash dump is a major advantage. I have the Windwood and have not used or seen a RecTech. I believe that the temp swings are necessary to get more smoke. I don’t see how a PID controller running +/- 1 or 2 deg will give equivalent smoke. The WIFI is not important to me. The Camp Chef will cook anything as good as anyother cooker.
I love my Camp Chef Woodwind SG for sure. The REC TEC does hold an absolutely precise temperature and yet, it still is able to put out some of the best smoke you’ve ever seen in a pellet smoker. I think it may have to do with how the fan pulses on and off instead of just running steady like most pellet smokers. Any other REC TEC users with more knowledge on this, feel free to chime in.
Have you tried the rec Tec 590? Thoughts?
Adam, I have not used the 590 but it is my understanding that it uses the same controller as the larger Bull. That controller is awesome and I have had no problems with it at all. It also holds a perfect temperature and the built-in algorithm produces plenty of smoke as well.