While there's not a lot to dislike about pellet smokers, it really comes down to your cooking/grilling style. Some Smoking Geeks prefer pellet smokers to traditional smokers (or even the Green Egg style smokers) testifying that flavor is superior to that of other styles of smokers within the price range – and it's hard to argue with them. While Traeger is the pioneer, there are other brands that give it a run for its money.
You want even grilling: One of the downsides of using a charcoal grill is ensuring that the entire grilling area is evenly heated. Spreading the charcoal evenly and avoiding hot spots is difficult. Traeger’s pellet grilling system overcomes this problem with a fan that evenly distributes the heat throughout the grilling area, much like a wood-fired oven would have.
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The SG and ZG are not exactly the same though. Just from the pictures I can see that the bases are different. The SG has L-shaped legs and a bottom shelf while the ZG has square legs that are larger than the DLX legs but no bottom shelf. There were also different specs for many features. I took a picture of the ZG spec sheet at the store and compared it to the SG specs on the website and there are slight differences in capacities. For example ZG 3778 cubic inch - SG 4859, grilling area ZG 776- SG 811, hopper volume ZG 18 lbs - SG 22, ...
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.
***Update: 11/2014: It's been a year now and I still adore this little grill. I've got a kamado and 3 different kettles and this is by far the most convenient and easy to use. The smoke rings this guy puts on a brisket are amazing and the flavor is the perfect balance of wood flavor without overpowering the meat. I've researched about 15 different pellet grills and I still can't find a better value than what this grill offers
Depending on your budget and grilling needs, there are a variety of Traeger options ,including the Renegade. With the Traeger Pro Series 22 you get a bigger Traeger with more advanced features at about the same price, while the Junior Elite, Tailgater, and Bronson also offer an incredible value. Or, if you prefer a pre-set package deal, the Outlaw Package comes with upgraded accessories and and costs less than the Renegade.
Customer Service: I spoke with customer service department about 10 times during this process, and every time I emailed or called I received a different person in response to my same issue. This did not feel good as I never got past the ground level in service even asking for upper management. After the initial response to the dented barrel I received a month back order request for a replacement. After this no offer was made to remedy the situation meaning no refund, or any extras were given as a sorry. I had to contact 3 more times (with three different people) asking for upper management before they agreed on making up for the situation. I ended up receiving for "free" a folding front tray. A month and week later I received my replacement barrel only with no lid, and then a week and half later received the lid.
First one, had an auger problem... told that this never happens. Returned to Costco, now on 2nd Unit. FIRE HAZARD, fire pot overloaded after temp dropped from 375 to 100 on a four-hour turkey. When I opened the lid to see what was going on it EXPLODED into a fireball and then had flames shooting out from all sides of the grill. There was even smoke and heat felt from the firebox side of the grill and it looked as though the overloaded firepot was burning into the auger line as well. DANGEROUS PRODUCT!!!
I bought this grill in May 2018. Had to return it to Ace 9 days later because it wouldn’t keep temp or would go out and fill up with pellets. I had to have the GM of Ace fight for me to get a new grill from Traeger. Once I did the new one seemed to work for about a month. Since then this one does the same thing as far as heat and pellets. I thought this thing was supposed to be a set and forget grill. If I don’t watch the heat it will be 200+ degrees over the set heat or sometimes be at ambient temperature and I have to pull me meat, grill and grease tray out so I can empty the heat pot of all the Unburned pellets. This thing is nothing but trouble. Does it cook great meat? Yes! When it works and you babysit it the whole time. On top of that customer service is about as useless as ** on a boar! They will try and tell you it’s something you’ve done wrong. I will be buying another brand smoker and giving this one to someone who like to deal with troubles.
REC TEC Grills was born in Augusta, Georgia in 2009 by lifelong friends Ray Carnes and Ron Cundy. The pair made it their commitment to build high quality grills and sell them at reasonable prices. But that was only the beginning of their story. The rest of the promise was to treat everyone like family and provide them with world-class customer service. With those two fundamentals in place, the REC TEC Family was born and the REC TEC Lifestyle started to flourish. Your feedback as members of the REC TEC Family and your living the REC TEC Lifestyle has helped this family grow and become that special bond that binds us all together. Thank you to all of our current and future REC TEC Family members. It just would not be the same without you all.