Extended Review: Green Mountain Grill Jim Bowie Pellet Grill


As a companion piece to Ernie Rupp’s excellent review of the GMG Pellet Grill, I offer my thoughts on the Green Mountain Grill Jim Bowie Pellet Grill, which is part 2 in this series of 3.  If you would like to see Jason Baker’s response to our review please check out his post here.

Let’s start off with a quick overview of the differences – the Jim Bowie is the larger of the two standard models.  The main differences are strictly size specs- the cooking surface on my GMG is 600 square inches and the weight tips the scales at 183 pounds.   That’s a gain of roughly 70 square inches of cooking surface for an additional 30 pounds or so.  Both models feature the same pellet hopper/auger system and stainless steel grates for easy clean up.

After reading Ernie’s review, I noted a few more points where the newer and older GMGs differ.  The startup procedure for my cooker is different than for Ernie’s Daniel Boone.  After speaking with Jason Baker of Green Mountain Grills, we determined that my Jim Bowie is actually the newer model than Ernie’s.

Where the older model requires one to keep the “On” switch depressed for an extra second or two, mine just has a rocker switch for power and then uses the temperature “Up” or “Down” button to start the process of filling the firepot with pellets, heating them to ignition and then getting the temperature up to the default setting.   On my newer Jim Bowie, the default temperature is 150 degrees Fahrenheit whereas Ernie’s older Daniel Boone is 320 degrees.

My GMG was purchased in October of 2011 and there haven’t been too many weekends when it didn’t see some action.   The majority of my cooks have been more in the barbecue vein so it’s seen more briskets and butts than burgers and hot dogs but it’s a versatile machine.  The cooking surface will accommodate a ton of food and the height of the cooking chambers means turkeys or several beer-can chickens will fit easily.

When it comes to smoking and barbecue, the GMG is a wonder of convenience.  Like Ernie’s, my cooker has the remote which allows for easy monitoring of both the meat (via probe) and the internal temperature of the cooker itself.  Changes can be made to the temperature and you’ll be notified if your pellet supply gets too low.

Since I got my cooker so late in the year, I cooked a lot this winter.  It never really got very cold for very long in my part of the country but there were a few days of sub-freezing temperatures where the GMG saw use and invariably produced excellent quality food.

What was immediately noted and been reliably repeated is the consumption of pellets increases significantly when the weather is cold.  I don’t have an enclosed area for the GMG when it’s cooking so wind and cold really pull the heat out of the metal.  To offset this, I bought a wool blanket and some magnets at Harbor Freight and fashioned some insulation that would help with the cold.  Wool doesn’t combust until at least 570 degrees Fahrenheit and the blanket never saw use above 275 degrees.

With the magnetized blanket in place, fuel consumption dropped from about 1½ pound an hour to a much more reasonable pound an hour.  I’m estimating because I never emptied the hopper to weigh the remaining pellets – I’ll do a lot in the name of science and accuracy but standing in the cold, emptying pellet hoppers and weighing compressed sawdust isn’t one of them.

Update: I’ve learned that GMG makes a thermal blanket that provides all the benefits of my cobbled-together solution with a custom fit and much better looking.

The durability of the unit has been remarkable, even when stupidity threatens to destroy it.  I had put some meat on in the wee hours of the morning for a barbecue lunch.  I had just gotten settled into bed when I realized that I had left the wrong flavor of pellets in the hopper.

Knowing the auger was full of pellets, I figured I had time to empty the hopper and refill with the flavor I wanted.  So I drove both hands into the hopper, dumping the pellets into a box then topped the now-empty hopper with the right flavor.

Just as anticipated, the auger tube never ran out of pellets and the flavor was what I wanted.  Mission accomplished.

The lunch was so successful, I had folks asking for more.  So I obliged them, happy that my GMG and I could produce food that people enjoyed.  Two more cooks come and go and I realize I’ve managed to lose my wedding ring in the process.  I figured it was somewhere by the kitchen sink and would turn up eventually. After the second week, I was pretty sure it was just gone.

Wanting to cook again the next weekend, I took a weeknight to clean up the GMG.  I pressure washed the grates, stripped the heat diffuser and re-wrapped it in foil for easy clean up.  I dumped and cleaned the grease pail and vacuumed out the ashes and firepot – where I found my wedding band, now hickory-smoked and crusty with ashes.  It had fallen off while I was pulling pellets out of the hopper weeks ago, made its way through the auger tube and been cooking ever since.

That speaks volumes to the quality of this machine that it would take sizeable chuck of titanium through the auger tube and have enough grunt to push it all the way into the firepot without damaging any component in the cooker.  A panel for emptying the hopper would have prevented this issue but it’s a minor quibble for an otherwise rock-solid design. Oh, and the ring wasn’t damaged either and I can tell people that even my wedding band is a smoke ring!

My GMG has survived pop-up thunderstorms that drenched it but never a drop entered the hopper. The pellets were always dry as a bone.  For those unfamiliar with pellets, they’re compressed sawdust.  Water causes them to swell dramatically in size and then they dry, turning into wood-based concrete.   This is not what you want to happen inside your pellet grill.

So despite my best efforts to kill it, the Jim Bowie has survived without ill effects.  Obviously, I’m not the most careful cook but I do try and keep it inside when not in use.  For me, that’s my basement garage.  Like most basements, it’s a little dank and musty but the pellet hopper is always bone dry.

Speaking of damp, I’ve had very little trouble with rust.   There were a few spots starting to show on the side table but that’s entirely my fault – I had set a sheet pan with a wet bottom on it which trapped water against it.  I didn’t notice until weeks later as I don’t always raise the table.  A quick pass with sandpaper and a light coat of BBQ paint and it’s good as new.

After 9 months of ownership and countless pounds of pellets, I have to give my unreserved recommendation to these grills.  They really perform exceptionally well, are light enough to be part of your competition load-out, and have the best bang-for-your-buck value of any pit I’ve cooked on.   I simply cannot recommend them highly enough.


6 thoughts on “Extended Review: Green Mountain Grill Jim Bowie Pellet Grill

  1. Well it’s down to a GMG Jim Bowie or a Yoder YS640. Have you ever cooked on a Yoder? I guess they’re kind of new? Thanks

    • Jeff I do own a Yoder YS 640 and I love it. I have had it about a year and a half and have had no problems with it. The differences between the 2 are very minimal. The Yoder is made of a thicker gage metal I have cooked into December and January with it with no problem or need for a blanket. Mike stated that he has cooked in the winter with the use of a warming blanket and his GMG worked fine. The Yoder seems to not leak as much smoke as the GMG. The smoke from the Yoder comes only out of the stack and the GMG leaks some around the door. Advantages with the GMG are the remote control and meat thermometer (not offered in the Yoder) which were highlights of my review. The GMG can give you some high end features that the Yoder cannot. For the money, I do not think you can beat the GMG.

  2. I am in the market for a pellet grill and have my decision down to the big traeger or GMG jim bowie. I t seems to me that the GMG just has a lot of features that there competition just does’nt have. Also the owner of my local GMG dealer/Traeger dealer (Basin Sports Vernal, Utah) gave me his feedback, which was the fan that cleans out the fire box after use is a feature that he says seperates GMG from traeger.

    P.S- He also has owned a traeger. But I would like to hear some more feedback.

    • Randy, there are a lot of little things that separate the GMG pits from the competition and the sum of them helps GMG stand apart.

      The feature list is great on the GMG – the meat probe, peaked lid, temperature range, fan mode on shutdown, low pellet alarm and the turbo mode all keep the plus column full on the GMG side.

      There’s also just the size factor – you get more cooking surface with the GMG and that means more flexibility. That peaked hood lets you cook larger pieces of meat, especially beer-can-chicken/turkey. But with the added top rack, you can make use of the extra headroom with other protein as well.

      Draper’s just cooked a case of pork butts on a Jim Bowie for a charity golf event and I just don’t think you could do that on a Traeger. Sure, it was packed pretty tightly but the meat was moist, smokey and delicious. No complaints that day!

      Another thing (which you won’t notice much) is the weight of the thing – those wheels and casters make moving the GMG a snap but GMGs are heavy! And heavy means beefier components, better construction and longer wear. There’s more than 20 pounds on a GMG than the nearest Traeger competitor, whichever model you’re talking about.

      And, as you can see, there’s plenty of folks happy to talk about their experiences with GMG. They’re happy because they have the support of not only their dealer but GMG, too.

      Problems are few and far between but if they occur, you’ve got someone to call, someone with detailed knowledge about your pit and how to resolve it.

      As Shane said, holler if you have any specific questions or post here. You might also try pelletheads.com – some of those guys really get attached to a name brand but they all share a love for pellet cooking. Plenty of good information there as well.

      Thanks for reading, Randy. Let us know what you decided on!

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