So torn on grill/smoker choices! Need help!

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by bwarbiany, Apr 9, 2015.

  1. So, my gas grill is on its last legs. Actually, it's probably been on its last legs for two years. It needs to go. I also have a MasterBuilt XL40 which I bought cheap to "get my toes in the water" for smoking. I like it, but it's a bit high maintenance and I'd much rather be cooking on wood or charcoal. Add to that the fact that I have a bit of "found money" by winning an NCAA tourney pool, and I'm in the market for a new grill, and smoker.

    The goal is to have one single item which fulfills the entire outdoor cooking needs for my family. Grilling, smoking, it has to cover it all. And capacity matters. I want to be able to toss a full packer brisket on there, or at least 3 slabs of ribs. 

    I'm thinking either a Kamado or a pellet grill. Frankly, I'd like to keep the budget in the $1K range or lower, although I know that might not be easy.

    Primary options:


    Vision Grills available at Home Depot for $699. Probably also need to buy their lava stone. Not sure what else accessories I need.

    Primo Large Oval - better for capacity, but more expensive and I think I'd need to spend additional money on their indirect cooking plates. Also, I don't have a table for it and I don't want to spend tons of cash for a table. I can set it on paver stones, but I'd much prefer to look nicer than that. The grill is ~$1000 retail, but I'm not sure how much more I need to spend for the minimally necessary accessories.


    Rec Tec is my top choice. Unfortunately, with the cost of the grill, the shipping, and a cover, I'm already nearing $1300... That's more than I want.

    Traeger Texas Pro - Nominally $1K, but there is a Costco road show for Traeger this week, and I understand they sell these cheaper at those events.

    The fact that my wife can operate a pellet grill but probably will never even attempt to touch the kamado is a point in favor of the pellet grill, and the fact that they truly are easy "set and forget" grills helps quite a bit too. I also happen to already have an Amaz-n Tube 18", so the concerns that a pellet grill don't provide enough smoke don't bother me, as I can add smoke as needed.

    The fact that everyone I talk to who has ever used a kamado absolutely loves the damn things is a great point in favor of the kamado. They are more work, but they're also less likely to break due to electrical or motor failures. And the knowledge that I can get them screaming hot for searing is nice. The last thing I want is a pellet grill which is great for smoking but won't make a steak how I'd like it. (That last point also suggests that with a pellet grill, I might end up having to buy accessories like "grill grates" to sear, which adds cost there). I think the ideal kamado would be the Kamado Joe BigJoe model, which has capacity and accessories, but that's $1500 everywhere I look. 

    Thoughts? I'm honestly completely torn on this decision!
  2. boykjo

    boykjo Sausage maker Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

  3. welshrarebit

    welshrarebit Master of the Pit

    I have that smoker and can highly recommend it as well! If you're patient you can one for a good deal off of Craigslist...
    I payed $225 for mine, plus I payed $58 for a brand new 22.5 kettle and built a mini for about $75.

    Let's see... Around $360 and I've got a smoker/grill for any occasion!
  4. I love my pellet cooker!  That's it, that's all I got!

    I've got a Weber Performer, Weber Genesis and a Smoke Vault cabinet that I love to play on, but my pellet cooker is my most common go-to for most foods.  It's super easy to use, low maintenance and cooks great food.  When I have time to relax and devote time to a cook, I look to the Performer or Smoke Vault depending on what and how much I'm cooking.  The Genesis I'll just keep forever, well, because it's a Genesis.  Pellet grills can do it all, albeit not to the degree of dedicated cookers for certain tasks, but certainly well enough to suffice a backyard enthusiast.  A few extra dollars for those grill grates and you are good to go.  I did a lot of research and there are cheaper and more expensive grills than the Rec-Tec, but the Rec-Tec is hard to beat for the value to the expense.  Also, there is the Rec-Tec Mini if the grilling area would work for you.  They are getting great reviews. 
  5. timberjet

    timberjet Master of the Pit

    Traeger's were all the rage around here and everyone got one a few years back. Well, they all own green mountain grills now. Every one of them. If that tells you anything, I would concentrate elsewhere other than them. Their customer service really sucks. If and when the thing breaks down expect to have to rebuild it yourself. In order to smoke on one you need a bunch of accessories to do this. I would not recommend them. If you want what you say you do for your budget. I would get a Weber Smoky Mountain 22.5 inch and a Weber Kettle 22.5 one touch gold or platinum. Much more capacity and you are still way under your mark. The ceramic cookers are really neat and I would like to have one too but for large capacity you might want to think about all this. I love Weber, they last forever and are made in the USA. They have the best customer service and satisfaction of any manufacturer that I know of too. I can still get all the parts to fix my 30 year old genesis. That is pretty cool.
  6. I have both a gas grill (actually two right now, but leaning towards selling the Weber Genesis now that I have a built-in) and a Traeger pellet smoker.  I love both devices but I see them as serving completely separate purposes.  The Traeger is awesome for smoking - pretty much fill the hopper and forget about it.  I've put meat on it at midnight and let it smoke while I slept, no worries at all about monitoring the temperature and tending to the fire.  The problem with it as far as grilling is concerned is it just doesn't get hot enough for a lot of things.  If I'm cooking a steak I want a good sear - I want to hear it sizzle when I plop it down on the grates. The Traeger only gets to about 425 - 450 max - not enough to get a good sear.  I have a 1600 degree sear burner on my gas built-in that really does a nice job of carmelizing the outside of the meat before I move it over to a lower temperature.

    I have never personally cooked on an egg but I have a number of friends who swear by them and use them for both grilling and smoking.  It's all a matter of personal preference but I grill several times a week, but I enjoy the convenience of just coming home, turning a couple knobs, and being ready to cook in 10 minutes or less.
  7. fwismoker

    fwismoker Master of the Pit

    If you don't care about not having "automatic" then a Big Poppa UDS kit can be put together and painted for less than $200.  WSM is another great alternative if you want store bought. Those types are very easy to maintain temps and the BP also grills though.
  8. flyfish

    flyfish Fire Starter

    I know you are looking for a single unit but speaking from experience a gas grill works great for throwing burgers or other items on for a quick meal after work. My gas grill bit the dust and put toe in the water with a chargriller super pro side burner that I also use for grilling and smoking. certainly well under your budget with enough for a gas grill for those quick meals you don't want to wait for firing up charcoal.
  9. timberjet

    timberjet Master of the Pit

    WEBER that is all.
  10. Are the Traeger grills really that unreliable? I'm not as concerned with the "fix it yourself" mindset, as I'm an electrical engineer. My boss also has one and loves it. Of course, he's also an engineer, so tinkering isn't beyond him...

    Anyone who has actually cooked on and lived with both a kamado and a pellet grill able to chime in here on the relative advantages/disadvantages?
  11. Outside of your price range a bit, but the cook shack /fast eddy PG500 pellet grill fits your needs to a T. I use mine for grilling 2-3 times a week and smoking once a month or so. It is the best grill I have ever owned without taking into account the smoking side of things.

    In another fourms testing the pg500 maxed out their infrared thermometer at 990 degrees. It works great with an amazing tube for cold smoking or you can add some trays of ice and cold smoke without the addition of the tube using the warming drawer below the ice
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2015
  12. Lots of guys have Traegers and really like them.  It's just that Traeger hasn't kept up as much as other vendors.  I looked at several pellet grills before I bought mine, all you need to do is feel the difference in build quality.  Kinda like Char-Broil and Weber, just raise the lid, kick the legs, pick up the grates, look at the burners.  

    I've never cooked on a Kamodo but know they cook well.  Someday I'll own a Big Green Egg just because I like to collect BBQ toys.  Even if I do get one though, it will be more of a novelty for me when I have time because my pellet grill and gas Weber are so easy to fire up, put the food on and let it cook, very little effort.

    It really depends on how much effort and time you want to put into your cooking.  On the weekend when I want to relax I cook on the more challenging cookers, have to monitor, tweak, add wood chunks, watch the water pan, etc.  I know, I'm sick, but this relaxes me, it's playing with the toys and making them do what I need them to do.  On a night after work, depending on the meat type, I'll fire up the gasser or the pellet and have dinner ready as fast as I could have in the kitchen with no mess to clean up.  
  13. I wouldn't say they're unreliable at all.  I love mine - it runs like clockwork (and I'm also an engineer by degree - I just don't do engineering work anymore).  As others have said they aren't up to the quality standard of others, so if you're using it every day I'd expect it to not last forever.  But on the flip side they're inexpensive - as another poster suggested it's like the difference between Weber and Char Broil.  Also, don't expect a Traeger to get much hotter than 450 and that's if you're lucky.  I can get mine to 425 pretty reliably but 450 is a stretch.  They're made for low and slow so they aren't the best cooking device in the world for steaks.
  14. timberjet

    timberjet Master of the Pit

    I just talked to one of my buddies and he said he has replaced the entire auger and motor 2 times in 2 years and the control unit once. FYI. 
  15. timberjet

    timberjet Master of the Pit

    I guess I am of the old school mindset that if you pay 750 bucks for a grill you shouldn't have to fix it for at least a couple of years after the warranty runs out. I know. They don't make em like they used to. Mom just replaced a 30 year old dishwasher that has never broke down with a shiny new whirlpool and the thing has broken down 3 times in less than a year.
  16. fwismoker

    fwismoker Master of the Pit

    My friend has a Traeger and loved it....right up to the point he started eating the food off a drum smoker he got for Christmas...still uses the Traeger occasionally but not often because the flavor is just better.  Oh he added a smoke generator to it also.

    Nothing wrong with kamados either, they burn less fuel so it's a lighter smoke taste but people seem to like them. 
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2015
  17. I have a GMG Jim Bowie and I love it.  I have done a few tweaks to it on the side to make it a little better towards my liking. It is nice to know that I can set it and forget it.  When I first got it,  I had some issues with controller but their support sent a new one out no questions asked.  I have grilled on it, smoked on it, baked pizza,baked bread and baked cookies in it.  

    I used to have charcoal smoker/grill and my wife would not touch that.  It is nice that my wife can just set the GMG to 350 and grill a burger or two on it with out issue as well.  

    The RecTec was my second choice, but I lucked out and found a nearby GMG dealer that was running a special on them so I picked it up on the cheap.  Not to knock but my neighbor had the fire on his Traeger back flow into the hopper and catch the entire hopper on fire. If you search online others have had this issue as well.
  18. That is an option... There is a GMG dealer nearby and I'll have a few hours to kill Saturday morning. And the pricing is good. With MSRP $799 (plus tax), I'd save $300-400 over shipping the Rec Tec...

    I've heard build quality isn't quite as substantial on GMG vs Rec Tec, but outside of things like metal thickness, is the reliability pretty solid?
  19. One of my friends has the GMG.  It's definitely a better quality piece of equipment than the Traeger, but it's also considerably more expensive - roughly double the price of the equivalent size Traeger.  Maybe the next smoker I buy after I cook my Traeger into the ground will be a GMG, but I had to work hard to convince my wife to let me buy a smoker in the first place, and $400 is a lot easier to justify than $800 for a smoker that I use 3 or 4 times a month.

    I too have had the backup fire into the hopper.  One thing you have to really be careful of on the Traeger is making sure you vacuum the ash out of the fire box after a long smoke, otherwise you're at risk for exactly that happening.  Once that ash gets to be about 1/4" deep it starts backing up into the auger and you have a potential problem.  Start with a clean fire box and no issues at all.

    To each his own, but to me 350 isn't hot enough to cook a burger or a steak.  I've cooked smoke burgers on the Traeger (2 hours of pure smoke at 225) and they came out tasting amazing, but they have very different flavor than burgers that I sear on my IR burner for 2 minutes a side at 1000+ degrees and finish to medium on the regular gas burners at 500.  I'll do the former every now and then when I have time and I'm in the mood for a smoked burger, but the latter is more of the norm when I get home at 7 PM on a weeknight.  That's why in my book at least, there's no "one size fits all" device.  The Traeger and the built-in each have their own unique characteristics and cook very differently flavored foods, and I use them accordingly.

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