A pellet grill is one of the best tools to use when cooking barbecue. You get to savor the juiciest hamburgers, steaks, and hotdogs. Pellet grills are these “set it and forget it” cookers. They lend an authentic smoky wood flavor to meat slabs without stoking coals. Thus, you can enjoy traditional barbecued meats and slow-roasts in utmost convenience. And the great thing is, you can achieve it with a single press of a button.
While pellet grills may seem new, they were actually invented almost 30 years ago. They are different from other types of grills with their use of wood pellets as fuel. They still kept some of their original features. Nowadays, many pellet grills do all around tasks. They are versatile in their cooking game. You don’t use it for barbecuing and smoking only. You can bake, braise, roast an assortment of foods with a pellet grill.
From Pellet Stove To Pellet Grill
So the pellet grill didn’t start out to be a cooker. Instead, it was conceived as a stove for heating homes in the beginning. Joe Traeger is the creator of one of the first pellet stoves in the market in the 80s. But, it was sometime in the 70s that the wood pellets themselves came out. There was a demand for another type of heat source at the time. An international oil crisis brought about this situation. Hence, wood pellets gave a cheap solution to the problem. They are easy to get anywhere. They consist of compacted sawdust and similar industrial waste materials. They have a capsule shape, which you will burn in the pot to produce heat.
The year of 1980 saw the development of the pellet stove by Traeger. This one used automatic ignition and found its way in many domestic heating systems. For the most part, it was in the Northeast and Northwest. It was not until his creation of the pellet grill in 1985 that the Traeger brand became a household name.
The idea was born out of a mishap during a fourth of July celebration. He stepped away from his gas grill for a short moment. He found himself in shock to see flames upon his return. He burned his barbecued chicken to a toast. He kicked the grill in sheer anger. It went rolling all the way down the hill.
The next thing he knew, he came up with a grill that didn’t use coal or gas. He designed it to avoid a flare up which he encountered with his previous smoker. In 1986, he patented the product. This applied the same wood pellet use. It changed the course of the entire barbecue industry.
Rise of Traeger Grills
As a small enterprise, Joe Traeger did everything that had to do with his product. He took the pellet grill on the road, performed cooking demos to curious crowds. He made it under his family-run company in Oregon. Hence, he was only able to distribute it to a limited store network. All this during a period of twenty years of his patent.
The original grill used indirect fire to cook. It places a diffuser plate between the fire and grates. The exterior looked like a regular barbecue smoker. This was popular in Texas with its horizontal cooking drum chamber.
What would be a firebox on the side is where you can locate the storage hopper of the pellets with a pellet grill. The big difference between the two is how it works inside. Like the stove, the Traeger grill also had a triple-position controller. This consists of low, medium, and high settings. Each has a corresponding range of temperature. It uses electricity to rotate the auger. It feeds the wood pellets to the fire pot. It does so on its own and continues until the end.
This process will provide fuel to raise the grill temperature. A convection fan aids combustion, which would blow the warm air to help cook food much quicker. This grill cycle carries on until you reach the set cooking temperature. As a result, it reduces the intervention of the grill master. All they have to do is to program the smoker. They choose the preferred setting and leave it to do its magic.
Meanwhile, the type of wood pellets a pellet grill uses is another point of comparison. The Traeger grill uses wood pellets not only as the source of heat, but to bring out the barbecue flavor more. The use of natural hardwood is common. But pairing their certain types with specific foods worked well. What’s more, they are not toxic. They use only vegetable oil as an additive. This provides lubrication during the process. And it means a clean burn as well. The wood pellets used in a stove have bark, which would not be a good material to cook with. They are also bigger compared to the ones used in pellet grills.
Competition Is On
Once the patent was out by 2006, other manufacturers sold their pellet grills. They tried to make them better than the Traeger smokers. One year later, Joe Traeger decided to sell Traeger Grills. He received more than 12 million dollars from it. This sum included all the rights to the Traeger name. Despite competition, a lot of people remained with the brand. Sales of the Traeger grills continued to grow. They sold it in mass production across the US.
Louisiana Grills gave Traeger grills a run for their money. They are one of the earliest rivals and came up with their own quality pellet grills. This happened shortly after the patent expired. What they did was to adjust the distance between the firepot and the hopper. They achieved this by moving them closer to one another. They also realized that they need to feed pellets to the hopper at a faster pace. It kept the wood pellets from piling up. This avoided jamming in the fire pot. As such, other manufacturers use this system on their pellet grills.
Green Mountain Grills
David Baker, who is the founder of Green Mountain Grills, used to be a Traeger Grills customer himself. But he knew that the pellet grill could use some more improvements. They have included a cooling mechanism for the heat surface. They placed it where the wiring is. But this area can be a hazard. He noticed that once he turned off his pellet grill, it remained hot for a period of time. Thus, he added a fan to his line of pellet grills, which activates when you turn the grill off. The company also increased the vertical space of their smokers. This will make room for bigger meats like turkey. By installing a higher lid, it can also accommodate extended cooking racks. A regular Green Mountain grill is capable of up to 500 degrees heat.
No-Effort Grilling To Perfection
llet grills made a time-consuming task a lot easier with the same delicious results. This is one of the reasons why pellet grills took off. Many people grew up eating barbecued meats on weekends and celebrations. Your mom, dad, or your grandparent prepared them the night before. They would stay up all night burning hickory and oak and shoveling them into the pit for hours on end. All that effort to get the best flavor.
You don’t have to put that level of care to produce the mouthwatering pork of your hungry dreams with a pellet grill. It has the convenience of a gas grill, but without the fire hazard risk. At the same time, it retains that rich, smoky flavor. It has the same delicious results reserved for traditional charcoal grilling. It combines all the benefits of other types of grillers. As such, more barbecue lovers are now using pellet grills. At the moment, there is no other grilling platform like it.
The simple mechanism of the pellet grill was one of the things that appealed to many consumers. Since its creation by Joe Traeger, this smoker continues to improve as time goes on. They only have one goal which is to make the pellet grill a fixture in every outdoor kitchen.
Some have observed that pellet grills do not have enough heat during cold winters. Such is the case even in hot weather conditions. The meat may not be as tender as you expect it. Louisiana Grills addressed this issue by enhancing its construction. They use thicker steel for the body. Fitting it with a snug lid will leave no gap on the edges.
To keep up with the highest standards of barbecuing and grilling, the triple position controller had to be refined. With a wide range of temperature requirements for different kinds of meat, the lumped settings just won’t cut it. Aside from the grill cycles being fixed such that regardless of target temperature, the duration of feeding pellets into the firepot, with breaks in between, remained constant.
This made for inconsistent grill temperatures. As such, newer pellet grills have controllers with multiple positions which allow more precise control of temperature. This was made possible by sensors which prompt the controller to adjust its grill cycle accordingly. Then there are these handy meat probes which check the temperature of both the meat and the internal chamber.
They are connected to your control board, prompting adjustments depending on the amount of heat present.
The pellet smokers become more advanced with time. Most of them use a computer program that dictates the right grill cycle. They do this with more precise timing. They include fans that blow short air puffs to support this function. Most pellet grill makers have come out with high tech smokers. They have a digital control panel. Such use increments of 5 degrees Fahrenheit.
Aside from an LED screen, it only requires a single-touch interface like a typical oven. It also became easier to use with the help of sensors and computers. They work by running through a loop which affects auger activity. This way, the wood pellets do not pile up in the fire pot. If this happens, there will be temperature spikes. This will reduce automatic heat because it detects that the food is already cooked. Such characteristics make the pellet grill a “set it and forget it” cooker.
The pellet grill was only capable of indirect grilling. With the continuous changes, some of its models are able to cook at higher temperatures. This is an available feature in many pellet grills. Their models boast of an open-fire style of grilling as an option. As such, they can serve as a pizza oven, or breakfast griddle. And the versatility of the pellet grill does not seem to stop there. They are no longer limited to grilling, barbecuing or smoking your meats. You can also bake on the same grill. This is possible due to a convection fan which blows warm air. This would mean less cooking appliances to buy for your kitchen.
If you can afford one, there are these expensive pellet grills on the market. And it is also for those who want nothing less from their smoker. These high-end models have all the bells and whistles. They match the beautiful exterior with durable performance. Memphis Wood Fire Grills is one of the manufacturers of such. They have a capacity at a higher grill temperature. They are also built using stainless steel that is double wall. With a stylish design, you can get a built-in griller. You can install it in your outdoor kitchen setup for a seamless visual appeal.
Pellet grills with wifi have also become a thing. They allow you to program your cooking from beginning to end. You can set them using your own wifi device. Users may find the prices of these pellet grills on the higher side. But they can be worthy investments with their special features. Such boost their functionality to last a lifetime. In any case, there are also pellet smokers which cost 500 dollars and below. They also have great specs which are not offered even in the pricier kind.
Traeger Grills Reinvented
The pellet grill pioneer continues to be one of the leading brands. They have consistency and unparalleled quality loved by many. They make cooking not only faster and easier, but fun, too. It is currently headed by a former Skullcandy CEO Jeremey Andrus. He rebuilt the company from scratch, moving the headquarters from Oregon to Utah. He sold the Traeger grills to direct consumers online and through big box retailers. He also used infomercials as a marketing tool to teach people how to use them. He believed that people needed to see and learn more about these smokers. And it paid off. Today, Traeger grills rake in more than 300 million dollars every year. It has cemented its name as the ultimate smoker of choice.
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