Extended Review: Green Mountain Grill Jim Bowie Pellet Grill

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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.

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