Over the past few weeks I’ve been experimenting with a new kind of smoker… well it’s not really new, but for a charcoal and wood man, it’s a little different. I’m talking about a pellet smoker. For those of you that don’t know, a pellet smoker is a cooker that runs off of compressed wood “pellets”. This type of grill has been around for a while, but now days I’m seeing more and more of them at BBQ competitions. A good friend of mine who happens to be in the pellet grill business called me up and asked if I would be interested in playing around with one for a while. Of course I jumped on the chance because I really wanted to see if these cookers could actually turn out competition quality product.
The cooker he brought over was a Yoder YS480. Yoder smokers are known for being quality products and this little unit seemed to be well constructed. It was the first time that I had actually put hands on a pellet grill, so Tom had to walk me through the basic operations.
How a pellet grill works is pretty simple. They all have a hopper that holds pellets. In the bottom of the hopper is an auger that moves the pellets slowly into the fire box. This is where they are burnt which produces heat and smoke for cooking.
The cooking chamber is pretty standard. On the YS480 there is a 20”x24” grate (480 sq inches) plus an optional 2nd shelf which brings the cooking area up to 800 sq in.
The whole cooker is ran by a built in control panel that is basically the brains of the smoker. On the Yoder it is as simple as flipping a switch and pressing start. It immediately starts dropping pellets into the fire box where a heating probe starts the fire. There’s no messing with a flame, lighter gel, or anything else. The cooker does the work for you.
It’s preset to climb to 350 degrees, but it’s easily dropped to smoking range by pressing the temp down button a few times. There are also 3 different settings on the Yoder depending on how hot you want to cook. This thing has a range of 150-600 degrees.
How can a little pellet produce enough smoke flavor to give meat a true Barbecue taste?
You may have heard that pellet smokers can’t produce the same smoke flavor as traditional bbq grills, and this was a concern of mine too. Candy Weaver owner of BBQr’s Delight pellets broke this down too me:
In the process of making pellets only pure 100% wood is used. This wood is compressed so tight that all of the moisture is removed and when burned, all you get is pure smoke and heat. There are no fillers or binders in these pellets, so the flavors are as pure as any sticks of wood you may be using now.
This I had to see, so I fired up the Yoder and seasoned up a few slabs of Competition Ribs. You can see the whole process here >>
I have to say that I was impressed after seeing this pellet grill in action. As far as operation goes, it can’t get an easier. If you can turn on a light switch, you can fire up this smoker.
The smoke it produces is exactly what you’re looking for in competition bbq. You’ve heard of Thin Blue Smoke Right? This thing pumps out just a small trace of smoke and If you didn’t know better, you would think that it’s not enough. You’ve heard me say it before… A little smoke goes a long way!
So far the meat I’ve cooked on the pellet grill has been outstanding. If you’re looking for a new competition pit, check out pellet smokers too. There’s a reason some of the top teams in the KCBS are bringing home trophies with them.
If you have any questions about the Yoder, I’ll be glad to answer them; and if I can’t I’ll get you in touch with the man who can.
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