Can we talk BBQ?
If you’ve ever been to an amazing BBQ joint, you quickly learn the secret to the amazing taste is “low and slow.”
That is, the meat is cooked low (200-225 degrees) and slow (12, 15 or more hours).
Want to replicate this at home? Up until recently, that can be quite a challenge—you have to babysit a regular grill and make sure there is just the right amount of smoke and heat. For hours.
That’s where pellet smoker grills come in: they specialize in low and slow. These electric grills use wood pellets to smoke BBQ and keep it at that magical temperature . . . or least in theory, that’s how it supposed to work!
As we researched this topic (including surveying the BBQ smoker enthusiasts among our readers and then interviewing three BBQ pitmasters from Texas and North Carolina), we realize there are three keys to pellet smoker success:
- Read this instructions! Wood pellet grills don’t work like a regular BBQ grill—you can’t just turn them on and throw ribs on the grill. Many require you to first “smoke” the wood for 15 minutes or so before applying heat. Only after a set period of time do you start smoking the meat. The take home message: pellet smokers have a learning curve!
- Set your expectations. Many wood pellet grill makers pitch their machines as substitutes for regular BBQ grills. Then folks get disappointed that they can’t sear steaks or chicken with the same precision. We think wood pellet grills compliment a regular BBQ—and they are great for BBQ enthusiasts who know cooking a brisket low and slow takes patience!
- You have to keep up with the maintenance. Wood pellet smokers require you to clean out the ashes . . . this isn’t difficult because the best are designed for easy cleaning. But you have to stay on top of it! Yes, this is more effort than a gas grill. Another tip: you probably are going to need your own BBQ thermometer to double check the smoker is at the right temperature.
So if you are still with us, let’s get to the recommendations. For the best pellet smoker grill for newbies, we recommend Z Grills’s ZPG-450A. It combines the best performance, ease of use and value, in our opinion. Here’s more:
What We Liked
• Easy to set up and use.
• Easy to clean.
• Includes waterproof cover which is a nice touch.
• Temps can be set from 180 to 450 degrees. Excellent for low and slow brisket!
• 15 pound hopper. The hopper on this unit holds 15 pounds of pellets.
• Temperatures are generally accurate. That said, this grill is designed to briefly increase the temperature at intervals throughout the cooking process. This freaks out newbies to an extent—read those instructions!
• Easy on the wallet.
What Needs Work
• Burns pellets faster than maker claims. ZGrills says the grill can last for 15 hours on 15 pounds of pellets. In reality, it goes through them quicker than that (based on our research). Our advice: have more pellets on hand!
• Auto feed can be temperamental.
• Not made in the USA.
• Grill may be a bit small for large families. This grill has 450 square inches of grilling space—that’s good for the average family . . . but might be tight for larger gatherings!