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Capacity Just like with other grills, cooking capacity is an important consideration. Will you only be using the grill for family dinners, or will you be hosting backyard parties where you’ll need to feed a crowd? While pellet grills cook food quickly, you don’t want to make your guests wait in line while you’re putting the second wave of burgers on the grill.
Compared to the Traeger Pro and the other smokers we’ve reviewed, there’s not much not to like about this bad boy. It’s significantly cheaper, packs ample cooking space, and a good, consistent temperature controller. At 173 lbs, it is quite heavy, and not at all portable like the Davy Crocket, and we’d love to see it come with more precise temperature control, and maybe even WiFi in the future. But for the price, it’s a beast of smoker that is almost as good as the Traeger.
The “Smart Smoke” controller goes from 160-450F, with an internal sensor and electric auger maintaining that heat. The hopper holds a good 20lbs of pellet - enough for 10-20 hours of smoking. And it’s built from a sturdy stainless steel that feels solid and looks fantastic, with locking caster wheels keeping it secure while in use. It’s also backed up by a 3-year warranty.
****Update 12/2014: So I finally found something negative to report. Today I was cooking 2 pork butts and a brisket and discovered that this grill does not do well with wind on a brisk day (It was 45 degrees here today). When set at 250 degree, the smoker could barely make it up to 190 degrees. I was able to bypass the problem by throwing a cheap moving blanket over the grill (an $8 fix) but I think it's worth noting.
But as said, there are a few things we don’t like; it’s relatively small, doesn’t have a lot cooking space, and the design feels cramped. At the same time, it’s still relatively heavy at 140 lbs. For the same price, you could choose the Z-Grills Master 700D, which packs almost 25% more surface area on the rack. That doesn’t seem like much but is a significant amount of room. Or you could just spring for the Traeger Pro 22. There have also been reports of poor quality control, and that the temperature control is very inconsistent, often swinging up and down nearly 30 or 40 degrees.
I've had it for right at a year as of the time of this review, and I absolutely LOVE IT. Normally I am of the opinion that you should overspend to get the better product, but I am 100% satisfied with the SE. I've gone through almost 200# of pellets in a year and I've successfully smoked three briskets, pork in various forms, a bunch of whole chickens, salmon, and probably some other thing I'm not thinking of. The show-stopped for me is bacon-wrapped dove breasts. I smoke them for an hour and then finish them on my grill. They are out-of-this-world amazing.
Bought the Costco trade show model after about 4 years of debating the purchase... OK, first one broke on day one as "auger" stopped spinning. Returned and received a new unit. 2nd one smoked a turkey for 4.5 hours. After 4 hours temp. dropped to 100 degrees and it was set to 350. When I opened the smoker to check on why this happened, it exploded into a ball of flames! There was fire shooting out from all sides of the grill and smoke and heat coming from the feeder side of the grill... This was SCARY and could have absolutely caused a major fire, and/or injury!!!
Each of the alternatives to the Traeger Pro we’ve reviewed above is an excellent choice for an affordable pellet smoker. We think the Z Grills Master 700D is worth every penny and competes with the Traeger for even less money. We highly recommend you check it out. It has an even larger grill area, a larger hopper, burns just as consistently, and produces some perfectly smoked and grilled meats.
Our reviewers spent 12 hours testing a top-selling, budget-friendly pellet grill. To get the most comprehensive feedback possible, we had our testers take this grill for a spin and had them consider its most important features — from how much it can cook at a time to how easy it is to travel with. We've outlined the key pointers here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.