Product Review: GMG Fruitwood Blend Pellets

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pellets

Our good friends at Green Mountain Grills supplied me with a 28 lb. bag of their new Premium Fruitwood Blend Pellets to try out and give a review on.  Now fans of Drapers BBQ know that we are huge GMG fans.  We love our Daniel Boone’s and our Jim Bowie’s.  I personally have held off using GMG’s branded pellets for 2 reasons.  Number one is there is not a dealer close to me and pellets are like propane when you need them you need them quick.  Number 2 was their lack of fruit-wood flavors.  I love apple, peach and cherry flavor pellets when cooking on my GMG.  The folks at GMG have heard our requests and developed a fruit-wood blend.   How would they compare to some of the pellets I have been using?  Well let me tell you.

I opened the bag for the first time and I was greeted with a fruity aroma.  I could not make out what fruit (as it is a blend) but it did smell sweet.  The pellets were lighter in color that the other brand I was using previously.  I don’t know that this makes a difference at all but thought I would report it anyway.  The pellets appeared to be well made.  They were solid and not crumbly and a variety of different sizes from half and inch to an inch long.  GMG claims that they have less dust than other brands of pellets.  I would tend to agree with that.  I have only ever used 2 other brands and GMG appeared to have less dust.  No scientific test to back that up just my 2 eyes checking.

I cooked 2 different meats with these pellets on 2 different days.  I had a 5 hour rib cook at 230 degrees the entire cook and a 12 hour brisket cook at 225 degrees the entire time.  I added a few different pellets at the end of the brisket cook just to make sure that I did not run out but do not think I used much if any of those.  All in all I got 17 hours of cook time from a 28 lb. bag.  I was pretty pleased with that pellet usage and the usage was right in line with what I usually use.

Results.  That is what we are all about at the end of the day.  Were the ribs and brisket good?  How was the smoke ring?  How was the flavor?  These are the true tests of how good the pellets really are.  rib 6-13Lets start with my ribs.  Excuse the bragging here but I do think these were right up there with some of the best ribs I have ever made.  Tried some new things with this cook.  I tried a new blend of spices (Drapers AP as a base), did not wrap them, and the pellets.  Look at that smoke ring.  It is huge.  The ribs did not have an over smokey flavor.  You could really taste the meat and the rubs used.  My eight year old son ate half a slab and he is like Mikey from the old Life cereal commercial.  He won’t eat anything.  Now for the brisket.  It was a good brisket not a great brisket but a lot factored into that.  I think I put a little to much rub on it and left it on about 30 min to and hour too long.  The bark was a little crusty and I don’t think I got the smoke penetration I was looking for.  It was a little roast beefy but good.

I have only one request for the good folks at GMG.  I would like to see the breakdown of the fruit-wood blend and what type of fruit-wood it contains.  The pellets performed very well during both cooks and I would not hesitate to use them again.  With the fact that GMG gives you 8lbs more that the leading pellet brand for the same price it is a no-brainer to go pick a bag up.  Check your local retailers for some new GMG Fruitwood Blend Pellets.  I highly recommend them.

 

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Boy Scout Feast – A Fish Story

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If you have read my posts in the past, you know that my son’s are both involved in scouting.  My oldest son’s troop has an annual feast camp-out in the month of November every year.  Last year, when we were considering joining Troop 10, we were guests at this camp-out.  This year we were full fledged participants.  I brought my GMG Daniel Boone and a salmon recipe given to me by Steven Hartsock of Sock’s Love Rubs prepared for a long day of work and long evening of feasting.

The Grub-master told me I would be cooking turkey breasts and salmon for the feast.  I have done turkey several times before and think I make a really good smoked turkey.  Salmon on the other hand scares the heck out of me.  I really have never cooked a piece of salmon that I would be proud to serve to someone.  I am not a big salmon fan in the first place so anything I am going to serve will have to knock my socks off.  I asked a lot of BBQ friends what they did to salmon.  I received a lot of different answers.  Wet Brine?  Dry Brine?  160 degrees?  225 degrees?  What to do?  I finally settled on a recipe that was given to me by Steven Harsock creator of Sock’s Love Rubs.  It was a wet brine with some unique savory ingredients that just said “autumn season” to me.  The recipe contained brown sugar, whole all spice, clove and peppercorns.  These are things that I never would have thought to put into a brine for fish.  After 2-3 hours in the brine we took the salmon out and rinsed it off making sure none of the brine ingredients clung to the fish.  After rinsing the fish, we let it air dry for 1-2 hours.  When the fish was dry I gave it a good sprinkle with some Drapers AP rub.  I knew that the flavor profile of Shane’s rub would reinforce the flavor of the brine.  I also gave the fish a good coating of brown sugar.  The recipe also gave me instructions on how to make a baste, but I was so busy that I decided to go with just a heavy coating of brown sugar instead.

Salmon fillets after brining on the Green Mountain Grill

I had a little over 2 hours to smoke the 4 large pieces of salmon which was just enough time.  I put them on and set the GMG at 225 degrees and let them sit in the smoker.  Of course I had to open the GMG multiple times to show off the salmon, so it probably would take a little less time to make this at home when you are not looking so much.  I cooked the salmon to a temperature of 140 degrees.  Then placed the salmon in our hotbox for about 30 minutes before serving.

The buffet line was filled with a large variety of delicious meats and side dishes.  We had chuck roast that was cooked all day in dutch ovens, tur-duck-ens that were flown in from Louisiana, sausages made from exotic game meats like deer and alligator, turkey breasts, brisket and 2 whole pigs roasted for us by a local meat market.  It was really quite the spread.  I was hoping my salmon would be a favorite of the crowd.

Salmon fillets after smoking and ready to be served.

As the people got in line and began to fill there plates you could hear comments about everything.  The people loved everything we had on the table.  I tend to go get my food last when I cook usually because I have sampled my product before it hits the table and am a little less hungry because of that.  My buddies pushed me into the line and said I needed to eat with them after I had cooked all day.  When we reached the salmon, only enough for 4 small portions remained.  One serving for me and my 2 buddies and then 1 left for someone else.  The line was only about halfway done.  The Grub-master underestimated how popular the salmon would be.  We went to our table and began to eat and a lot of people went out of their way to compliment me on how good the salmon was.  I was really amazed as this was my first try at smoking salmon.  The ultimate compliment came about an hour later.  I was packing my spices back into the car and I overheard to men talking about how good the salmon was.  It was an hour later and they were still talking about it.  What a compliment!

I have never had a piece of salmon that I cared for very much.  Most salmon I have had has been palatable, but the it never has been something that I crave or have to make.  I find it is usually dry and very fishy tasting.  It is not one of my favorite foods.  That being said, this salmon was moist, savory, sweet and not fishy tasting at all.  It was the best piece of salmon I ever had (sorry for the brag) and would actually request this again.  I would like to thank Shane Draper and Steven Hartsock for all the help last week.  Without those 2 men, I would not have received all the praise that I did.

 

 

 

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Houston We Have Ribs

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Picture provided by Chile Pepper Magazine
Photographer – Rick McMillen

Many of you have been asking when you can find the issue of Chile Pepper magazine featuring us.  I got confirmation today that is hitting newsstands as we speak.  So check it out and let us know what you think.

Up until this point we have been a bit tight lipped about the details of the article and the ensuing rib competition.  We can now talk about it a bit more and share some of our experiences.  The article is of course about our competition team, experiences and what we bring to the table as a competitor in the Quest for the Perfect Ribs.  It also features our rib recipe, my favorite broccoli salad recipe and Mike’s sweet potato pie with pig candy recipe.  All in all, the editor of Chile Pepper magazine, Rick McMillen did an awesome job capturing who we are and what we are about as a competition team.  His photography skills are amazing and he was exceptionally easy to work with.  We are pleased to now count Rick as a personal friend and barbecue fanatic.

I want to also remember to thank Hoyt Liggins for the use of his amazing house down in Millington,TN for the photoshoot.  The location was nothing short of perfect and for those of you that know Hoyt you know his hospitality is second to none.  Hoyt remains one of the best people I have come across and we are blessed to call him a friend.

We begin the next leg of our journey to compete in the Quest for the Perfect Ribs on September 13th, driving to Houston,Texas.  The activity starts the next day where we attend a Meet n’ Greet hosted by McAby Media owners of Chile Pepper magazine.  This will be the first time we get to meet the rest of the CPM team as well as our competitors.

Our competitors for this challenge include:  Bill & Barbara Milroy (Texas Rib Rangers, Denton,Tx), Dann & Dianne Boland (2 Skinny Cooks, St. Charles, Il), Pete & Melissa Cookston (Yazoo’s Delta Q, Memphis, Tn), Harvey Gebhard (Lone Star BBQ Society,  Burnet, Tx) and Vince Carrocci & Alexa Fairbairn (Rhythm ‘n Que, Phoenix, Az).

As you can see for yourself, a laundry list of world class talent makes up the field and we are just proud to be included in an event that includes these amazing pitmasters.

On Saturday, September 15th the gloves come off and the competition takes place center stage at the Houston Hot Sauce Festival.  There are 3 turn-ins that take place.  The first is the main blind box turn-in to the judges.  An hour later we complete a second turn-in for people’s choice.  Finally, three hours after the people’s choice we serve ribs to the attendee’s for dinner.  The official awards ceremony takes place at 7:00pm and the Grand Champion is crowned.

The awards for this challenge are as follows:

Grand Champion – $2,000, 4 page feature story in Chile Pepper magazine, interview with editor in chief recorded and aired for 30 days on chilepepper.com, 2 ¼ page ads and 1 free booth space at the Chile Pepper Extravaganza to be held in New Orleans, La Sept 2013.

1st Place – $500, feature story in Chile Pepper magazine, interview with editor in chief recorded and aired for 15 days on chilepepper.com.

2nd Place – $250, feature story in Chile Pepper magazine.

This will mark the first live competition for Draper’s BBQ using Green Mountain Grills.  Green Mountain Grills has been a great partner and sponsor.  They are instrumental in Draper’s BBQ being able to attend this awesome event.

The test cooks we have done on the GMG’s for this event have been excellent and we expect nothing but a great cook on these cookers.  The GMG’s are easy to control the temp on, easy to maneuver, take up very little space and produce excellent barbecue.  These are essential when you are competing at a high level.

All in all this is shaping up to be one amazing opportunity and we plan to chronicle and document every part of our trip and our experiences.  So be on the look out for updates as we get ready to begin the Quest for the Perfect Rib.

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Draper’s BBQ and GMG

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Some of you may have heard the rumors, so here is the confirmation.  Draper’s BBQ is now officially sponsored by Green Mountain Grills.  This cooperative agreement is a culmination of several projects where we got to work side-by-side with members of the GMG team.  It became obvious to both us and the GMG leadership that working together on a more formal basis would greatly benefit both companies.

Draper’s up to this point has never accepted an endorsement deal or sponsorship of any kind for our competition team.  We have and will continue to help all companies whose products we believe in and use but our competition focus, for the remainder of 2012 and beyond, will now reside primarily with GMG and the pellet grill market place.

As a part of this partnership we are now also a full GMG dealer and will become an active part of driving GMG to the forefront of the pellet grilling market.  We will do everything we can as a company to support our partners in this endeavor and look forward to becoming West Kentucky’s premier full service pellet grill dealership.  We are fully committed to GMG’s policy of service excellence before, during and after the sale and we will be bringing you a line of barbecue products and classes designed to help all barbecue enthusiast get the most out of their culinary adventures.

If you have any questions about Green Mountain Grills please contact Shane or Mike via email and they would both love to help you in making the right choice for your barbecue and grilling adventures.

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Product Review: Green Mountain Grill Daniel Boone Pellet Grill

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As a writer for Drapersbbq.com, it is my job to find interesting things to blog about.  Often I have to cold call different companies and arrange for samples to be sent to me to try out and review.  Small things like sauces or rubs are very easy to ship via what ever postal carrier you choose.  Grills and smokers on the other hand, those are a whole different story.  So right off the bat, I would like to thank Jason from Green Mountain Grills  (GMG) and Bob from BBQ Bonanza in Kansas City, KS for providing me this GMG Daniel Boone model to try out and review for our readers.  Jason made all the arrangements and Bob had the GMG delivered right to my front door, unpacked it and even loaded it with a few pellets.  They could not be nicer folks to work with.

The GMG brand is no stranger to us here at Draper’s BBQ.  Mike has owned a GMG for sometime now and I have a next door neighbor that has one as well.  Our intent is to give you a review through the eyes of a first time user (me) and a longtime owner (Mike).  We hope this will give you some helpful information if you are in the market for a new pellet grill.  You can read Mike’s long term review here.

Lets talk about the features of the GMG Daniel Boone model I cooked on.  The Daniel Boone features a 27×16 inch stainless steel grate for 432 sq inches of cook space.  Team that with a 13.5 inch clearance and you have a very large cook space.  The Daniel Boone weighs 152 pounds which makes it very portable.  Some pellet cookers can weigh over 300 lbs.  GMG gave this machine a digital control for easy use, a meat probe, utility hooks to hang your tools on and a thermal sensor to measure ambient temperature.  This thermal sensor tells the GMG to kick it into high gear if it is cold outside so you don’t have to wait for you grill to heat up in cold weather. GMG also equipped the Daniel Boone with a positive pressure hopper fan to prevent burn-back and a “fan only” mode with auto shut off to blow ash out of the firebox when you finished.  All of this for less than $800, making the GMG Daniel Boone one of if not the most affordable pellet grills on the market.  You can also purchase extras like a stainless steel (no warp) lid, a form fitting cover, a dome thermometer (to measure temps at the top of the grill) and a remote.  Bob was nice enough to include the remote with my Daniel Boone.  I was really excited to try that feature out.  Green Mountain Grills also includes an instruction/recipe book and an instructional DVD to help new owners.

Start up would have been easy if I would have read the instruction book that was given to me.  Being a man,  I did not read it until I became frustrated.  To start up the grill you must turn on the power switch then hold the increase temperature button.  I assume this is a safety feature so the grill does not accidentally get turned on by a child or accidental bump.  This is a very nice safety feature.  Once started, the grill begins to go through the motions of starting up and getting to temp.  The grill is automatically set to get to 320 degrees F, then you must set your cooking temp.  I lowered mine to 230 degrees F and opened the lid to help the temperature decrease.  This entire process took about 15-20 min.

Once I reached my desired temperature I put my brisket on and inserted the food probe so the Daniel Boone could keep track of the meat.  I turned on the remote control and headed inside to relax and watch the BBQ Pitmasters marathon on Destination America.  The remote worked flawlessly.  I could check the temp of my cooker and the meat with just the push of a button.  I waited until the meat’s temperature was 145 then I put it in a foil pan with some beef broth and covered it until it was time to take it off.  Total cook time for a 4.67 lb brisket flat was about 7 hrs and 45 min. This is a picture of the finished product. 

The next day, I wanted to test the Daniel Boone out as a grill.  I cooked a flank steak for fajitas.  I took the grill up to 500 degrees F (its maximum) for this.  The GMG took about 15 to 20 minutes to get to this temp.  I placed the steak on and heard the sizzle.  I could not wait to have those fajitas.  I took about 40 minutes to cook the flank steak to 155 degrees F.  This was longer than it would have taken me on my propane grill but the Daniel Boone cooked an incredible steak.  It was very juicy and flavorful and I did not have to worry about flare-ups with the GMG.  With the fan circulating the heat all around the food, I would almost call this smoke roasting vs grilling.  It takes a little longer to grill on the GMG but the result was just as good.  I did have substantial pellet usage while grilling at that high of temp so the cost to use the Daniel Boone as a grill is higher than a propane or charcoal grill but the products put out on the GMG were very tasty.

My overall impression of the GMG Daniel Boone model was excellent.  Start up was easy (once I read the instructions),  the cook was good, and the temp of the GMG only fluctuated a degree or 2 all day.  This was a very hot day in KC (high 101 degree F) and I did not use a lot of pellets.  My estimate was less than 5 lbs of pellets for the almost 8 hour smoke.  This pellet grill has a lot of high end features that you do not find on higher priced pellet grills.  I love the meat probe and the remote control.  I only left my recliner 3 times all day to check on the grill.  A few concerns I have about the GMG Daniel Boone are the thickness of the metal used in construction.  Will it insulate well enough in the cold weather months?  Will it warp and bend over time with the high heat of grilling?  Mike can probably address these questions in his review as a long time owner.  For the price,  I do not think you can beat this pellet grill.  It performs well under normal conditions, has some high end features that you wont find on higher priced pellet grills and the company has been very accommodating and easy to work with.

One footnote to my article:  The GMG Daniel Boone that I tested was an older model and may differ in specs from the current model.  Sorry for any confusion.

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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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Father’s Day Gifts – 2012

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Ok everyone one and their play cousin has published a Father’s Day Gift Guide already. In typical Draper’s fashion we are one of the last to post our recommendations.  It’s ok to save the best and most comprehensive for last though.  You would expect a barbecue company to give a Father’s Day Gift Guide chocked full of grilling related items, accessories and sauces.  You will find some of those here, but being the renaissance men that we are, we wanted to provide you  a list of items that addresses all the parts of good ole dad.  Dad isn’t a one dimensional guy and while he may love barbecue and grilling the most we are betting he also has a humorous side and an intellectual side as well.  So our gift guide was designed to address every side of your special guy’s persona and give you ideas in which we know he would love.

Idea 1 – T-Shirts

Before you think we’ve lost our marbles and have gone all cheap on dear ole dad hear us out.  If your dad is stuck in khakis or slacks and a button down all day, at that 9 to 5 grind he calls a job to put you through school, then I can promise you one of his favorite things to do is put on a pair shorts, a t-shirt and some comfy shoes and chill out.  To add to that putting on a funny t-shirt only makes it better.  So check out some of our favorites from Tanga.com all of which are under $10!

Idea 2 – Bacon

Dad understands that bacon is not a food it’s a lifestyle and we believe it’s one that should be celebrated in every way possible.  We firmly believe nothing says “I love you” quite like bacon.  So here are just some accessories that will be sure to please the giver-o-the-allowance.  If you want even more, even crazier gifts just Google “Bacon Gifts.”

The Bacon Wallet

Bacon Wallet – Because its cool! – $9

Bacon Hot Sauce

Bacon Hot Sauce – What’s better than bacon? HOT BACON! – $7

Bacon Bandages

Bacon Bandages – Because sometimes dad’s Ninja impersonation ends badly. – $5

Bacon Wrapping Paper

Bacon Wrapping Paper – Why? Because EVERYTHING should be wrapped in bacon. – $6

Baconnaise

Baconnaise – Want the ultimate BLT? Then you need this! – $15

 Idea 3 – Tech

Every dad is a tech dude to a certain extent, yes we know he still can’t program the correct time on the 15yr old VCR but we promise he will like these tech gifts.

Logitech Harmony 650

Logitech Harmony 650 – Because he deserves the remote control at all times! – $60

 Klipsch IMAGE S4 Earbuds

Klipsch IMAGE S4 Ear buds – Because yes your mother does talk too much…. sometimes.  shhh Dont tell! – $65

Roku LT Streaming Player

Roku LT – A Roku of his very own! He will love recording his favorite bbq shows on this! – $50

Idea 4 – Grilling

We know your dad is already the Greatest of the Grill Grates but just in case he isn’t or perhaps he just doesn’t have these items then you know what to do.  HOOK HIM UP!  These are the our personal favorite things from around the grill and we know your dad will love them as well.

Thermapen

Thermapen – Super fast and now even cooler! – $96

Firewire - Flexible Skewers

Firewire Flexible Skewers – These are awesome for those bbq grills that are tight on space! – $10

Victorinox Knives

Victorinox Knife Set – If dad travels to bbq competitions this is a fantastic set of knives to have! – $130

Grill Grate

Grill Grates – There arent many universal bbq tools that make everyone a better cook but this is one of them! – $55

MeatRakes

MeatRakes – Help dad stop fingering his food and RAKE some MEAT. – $20

Draper’s BBQ Moo’d Enhancer with Shaker – No list would be complete without some Draper’s products. This package contains our super successful beef rub and the best shaker dad will ever have! – $20

Yoder YS-640 Pellet Smoker

Yoder YS-640 Smoker – This smoker got the most votes on our panel for its combination of cooking size, features, build quality and pricing. – Starting at $1300

Idea 5 – Books

Before you start saying “books??? LAME!” Just wait and hear us out.  These aren’t regular books, they are reference/recipe books and are of course barbecue related.  These books represent a mix of our personal favorites along with the best that has been released this year.  I can promise dad will thumb through these books over and over again getting ideas and inspiration for his barbecue.  What we love about books is that they work just as well in great weather as they do in bad.  They are a year round gift that keeps us inspired and thinking about what we really love, barbecue.  🙂  Oh don’t cry we still love you too.

Grilling & Barbecue - Cooks IllustratedSlow Fire by Dr. BBQ - Ray LampeWicked Good Barbecue - A. Husbands & C. HartBeerlicious - Ted Reader

Alright kids that pretty well covers it.  If you can’t find something on this list for the older dude in your house you call dad, well you just aren’t looking very hard.  We did our best to cover a wide price range and provide you with gifts that any dad would love to have.  In the end though we dads would prefer spending the day just hanging out, manning the grill cooking up something for those that love us and call us dad.  Of course doing that on a new pellet smoker, drinking a nice cold and frosty beverage, using new barbecue tools, to cooking up a new recipe from a book you got us wouldn’t be all that bad either.

Peace, Love and Pork Grease to all the men out there who go the extra mile to be involved in their families lives and earn the title Dad.

– Draper’s BBQ Staff

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Product Review: Yoder YS 640 Pellet Grill

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I would like to say hello and introduce myself.  My name is Ernie Rupp.  I am based out of Kansas City and I am a new blogger and for DrapersBBQ.com.  I am a pharmacist in my daily life but my passion is BBQ.  I am mostly a backyard barbecuer but have competed in a few contests and recieved a few calls.  I will be blogging on pretty much everything.  Product reviews, television shows, cook books, recipies and anything else that I think you will find interesting.  If you have an idea for me that you want to see in the blog please contact me.  My email is ernierupp@drapersbbq.com or you can catch me on twitter at @qsyourdaddy.  I look forward to blogging for Draper’s BBQ and I hope you like what I have to say.

Living in Kansas City has a few advantages:  a BBQ joint on every corner, The American Royal and we are very close to one of the finest manufacturers of grills and smokers in the world, Yoder Smokers.  Yoder Smokers has a 70,000 sq. ft. factory in the heart of Kansas where they make smokers for competition and backyard use.  The YS 480 and the YS 640 were their first try at pellet grills and they did not want to disappoint.  I will be reviewing my personal YS 640 that I bought in March of 2011.  I have been using it for the last 15 months and would like to share my thoughts with you.

Statistics 

The YS 640 weighs in at over 300lbs due to its heavy duty construction.  It has 10 gauge steel in the cooking chamber and 14 gauge steel in the pellet hopper and cart.  It boasts 640 square inches of cooking space that I chose to increase to 1070 square inches with the addition of a second cooking shelf.  The YS 640 has a temperature range of 150 degrees F to 500 degrees F.  At lower temps it will perform like a smoker and high temps it will perform like a grill and even seer a steak. The YS 640 is painted with a high temperature urethane finish to help it prevent rust and last a lifetime.  The YS 640 comes with a 10yr warranty on the body of the smoker and 3yr warranty on control system.  This machine has a huge pellet hopper able to hold 18lbs of pellets for that long day of cooking.

Performance

As I stated earlier, I have had my YS 640 for about 15 months and have smoked in all 4 seasons.  This pellet grill performs fantastic in cold weather.  I smoked 3 turkeys between Thanksgiving and New Years and had no problem holding temp in winter weather/temps.  It also recovers fast after you open the lid to baste product.   The YS 640 also cooks very evenly.  I just did 6 slabs of ribs on Mother’s Day this year and the ribs on my top rack were as well cooked as the ribs on the bottom level.  I have not discovered any hot or cold spots on this model.  Cleanup with the Yoder is easy.  Clean the stainless steel grates with a good grill brush, replace the foil on the grease collection ramp and empty the ashes from the fire-pot and you are set to go again.

What I like

I love the way this unit is constructed.  The doors to both the cooking chamber and the pellet hopper are inset.  This gives the unit a better look and less leakage than other pellet grills.  The 10 gauge steel of the cooking chamber is tough.  Not only will it last a lifetime of cooking but it is resistant to the elements.  The day I placed my YS 640 on my deck, we were hit with golf ball size hail.  Lots of damage to my house but my YS 640 did not have a dent in it.  Everything I have cooked with my Yoder YS 640 has turned out as good if not better than my stick burner.  Fast start up is another thing I like about the YS 640.  From the time I press the start button it takes 10 to 15 minutes to get to cooking temperature.  Lastly I love that I bought a product that is made in the USA. 

What I wish I could change

I would only change one thing about this pellet grill.  I would change the front and side shelf to a solid shelf instead of the wire rack look.  A full stainless steel shelf would make it look cooler (in my opinion) and hopefully I would not spill as much on my deck.  The guys at Yoder Smokers are always updating the features of their smokers.  They can usually retrofit  a new feature to your old smoker if you wish.

Overall Impression

I am thrilled with the purchase of the Yoder YS 640.  I researched pellet grills for almost a year before I pulled the trigger on this one.  The Yoder has everything I needed:  Fast start-up, low maintenance, easy cleaning and at the time it was a lot less expensive than most pellet grills on the market.  I was able to personally speak with Don Cary at Yoder Smokers and he answered all of my questions.   Yoder ships anywhere in the US (freight fees apply) and can make arrangements when service is needed.  If you are in the market for a pellet grill/smoker, check out yodersmokers.com and see what they can do for you. 

 

 

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Dancing with a Grilla

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Many of you know the story: I’m a third generation pitmaster and spent my early years in and around my grandfather’s barbecue restaurant.  My grandfather cooked barbecue in a cinder block pit and stick burned mostly oak for his coals. He added those coals one shovel full at time until whatever he was cooking reached perfection.  To me, that  is “real” barbecue.  I know this probably offends some folks already, but I need you to know where I am coming from with this review.  Barbecue for me is something that takes a long time, takes a lot of work and is done with wood.  That is my preferred route to achieve what I consider barbecue nirvana.  This method is archaic, punishing, difficult and the reason many pitmasters don’t last very long.  

A couple of years ago I was forced to have a heart to heart with myself. It’s the same conversation many pitmasters have had with themselves over the years.  The questions when I boiled it down was “is it more important to put in 100% effort, go without sleep and come away with a product that is a 10, or is it more important to put in 50% effort, sleep, have a life and come away with a product that is a 9?”  What I came up with is an answer which allows me to have a life  stay married and see my kids.   When cooking for pure enjoyment, as backwards as it may sound, I still take the purest pursuit of that 10 and do it the hard way.  It is how I share kinship with my grandfather who passed several years ago.  When cooking to sell, for dinner around the house or just to practice, I take the easier path.    

This easier path has led me in search of new ways to cook as well as a new mission.  Obviously the cookers I needed for easier cooking included ones with constant fuel sources and some sort of automated temperature management.  We now have a few of these type of cookers in our arsenal and you know what, I’m glad.  I’m a much happier person overall when I’m not literally killing myself for my craft each time I cook.  These pits have given me a way  to extend what is my livelihood and time in this game.  

My new mission?  Well, that changed from just being able to turn out 9s and 10s to being able to turn out that quality on any type of pit, fired by any fuel in just about any configuration, under nearly any circumstance.  I got this idea from talking to Danielle Dimovski at Memphis in May this past year.  The idea that she can fly in somewhere, borrow gear and do well competing was a revelation of what it means to be a pitmaster today.  I realized that as much as I love the way my grandfather did things, the game has evolved. I realized that I had to lead Draper’s BBQ head long into this new world if we had any chance at longevity.  

Of all the pits we own, we did not have a pellet fired contraption, up until a few weeks ago.  Why?  Well, to be honest I didn’t like them, didn’t want one and never gave one a chance.  I often make the comparison of pellet pits to glam/hair metal back in the 80s/90s and how much the “true” metal heads hated and discounted the genre.  Those of us “real pitmasters” wouldn’t dare to cook on one.  It’s kind of like a true metal fan being caught listening a band like Poison, even though you often found your self singing along in your head to their songs.  Pellet cookers were a lot like that to me.  Yes, I know this is unfair, it’s wrong, it’s unfounded, it’s close minded…it’s..it’s just  the way I felt.  I grudgingly admitted that they had their place and couldn’t discount that many friends had won grand champions on them and love them. I just wasn’t quite ready to give in.

Recently, I stumbled across a new cooker called the Grilla when I noticed their postings in Twitter and read up on them.  Thankfully, not too long after that my good friend Jay Prince did a great review of the pit.  Based on Jay’s write up I contacted Fahrenheit Technologies to get more information because the pit was different and it intrigued me.  I was really more interested in the product from a competition perspective, but thought it might serve as a practice pit as well.  After several emails and phone conversations with Mark Graham I conceded that maybe it was time to try a pellet cooker myself and agreed to review the Grilla.

I don’t want  to completely retread what Jay has already done with his excellent write up from a back yard perspective, so my thoughts will mostly pertain to the competition capabilities of the Grilla.  Go check out his review!

Special Delivery

Since the Grilla is so new to the market there are currently few retail outlets, so you will likely have to order the Grilla direct from Fahrenheit Technologies.The Grilla is shipped via freight.  Shipping arrangements were easy and it shipped very quickly.  I had my unit in two days.  The Grilla came fully assembled, strapped to a pallet.  This evidently is a rare thing among most of their competitors.  The weight of the unit and pallet was right around 165lbs.  Very, very reasonable weight considering the unit is made of a nice thick steel.  

I wish I had pictures of this but unfortunately the SD card I had many of my pictures for this review on failed.  Thankfully Jay Prince allowed me the use of some of his pictures so you get an idea what the the Grilla looks like new.  I owe Jay a beer the next time I see him.

Initial Thoughts

When I first unpacked the Grilla and stood back to take it all in, the first thought I had was “this thing is a pellet powered Big Green Egg.”  That may sound odd at first given that one is steel and one is made of ceramics, but when you stop to consider cooking ability, size and pricing of both cookers you can see where I’m coming from.  I think that both initially strike the average consumer as mildly unattractive.  It’s not until you take a deeper look that you really begin to see the true beauty of each.  This thought hung with me so much that I have decided to do a point by point comparison of the two units that will be released shortly after this article. This should be of interest to those of you who may be trying to decide between the two.

Some Key Features

The Grilla website has a fairly extensive list of the cooker’s features.  I have included most of this list below with my two cents thrown in.  

  • Keep Heat Swing Lid – Makes checking of food faster because you don’t have to remove it completely, when swung all the the way open it allows access to all parts of the Grilla, can be left partially open without propping it. Nothing to lift is great!
  • Even Temp Chamber – The shape of the chamber itself eliminates hot / cold corners.  I found no hot or cold spots on the cooking area which the average cook will appreciate.
  • Never Flare Flavor Disc – prevents grease flare ups, keeps the flame away from food.  This is a nice feature and is included on many pellet cookers and even the Big Green Egg has it as an option.  On the Big Green Egg’s this device is called a “plate setter” and is removable if you want the option of flame grilling.  
  • Lower and Upper Grill Grates – This is something a lot of the Grilla competitors have as an option, but usually not as a standard feature.  Obviously having it is a good thing.  The Upper grate is ideal for large parties or for when you want more smoke and less heat on the bottom of your meat.  It also pops out easily to make room for whole chickens, turkeys, shoulders, etc.
  • Versatile Temp Range – With a range of 180°-550° Fahrenheit (F) and 16 smoke settings the Grilla truly is a pit and a grill.  
  • EZ Fuel Change Out – This feature is huge.  Swapping out one flavor of pellets for another takes less than a minute and is super easy.  You just flip open the door, empty the hopper and refill with new pellets.  I never would have thought of wanting or needing this but I am glad it is there.  Very nice feature that every pellet cooker should include.
  • 20 lb Hopper Capacity – This keeps the Grilla cooking for hours and hours.  The 20lb capacity isn’t unheard of.  I think it is just about right for pellet cookers.

Size and Cooking Area

The physical stats of the Grilla are as follows:  Height – 44in, Width – 31.5in, Depth – 29.5in, Weight – 145lbs.  What these numbers do not accurately portray is just how small a foot print that is.  This unit takes up about the same space as a Weber Kettle, Weber Smokey Mountain or Big Green Egg XL.  Of course, this small foot print does affect cook area, but you aren’t looking at this cooker if your intention is to cook a case of boston butts or half a dozen briskets at one time.  This is not to say the cooking area is undersized. There is, in fact, more cooking area in the Grilla (488 sq in) than a Big Green Egg XL (452 sq in).  You could fit a pork shoulder and brisket on the lower rack of the Grilla and still have room for a rack of ribs on the top shelf.

From a competition perspective I found the cooking area and overall stature of the Grilla to be very good.  I could easily see taking 2 or 3 Grilla’s, loading them on a small trailer and doing some serious damage out on the circuit.  This cooker is easily moved so load outs and off loads would be simple even with a single person or small team.  

Draper’s  has several much larger cookers, some of which will hold several cases of boston butts at a time.  While I love these cookers, it is a bit refreshing to have a smaller cooker on which to just flip a switch and cook some chicken,  burgers, steaks or a single shoulder. This is an especially nice cooker to have around just for practice and recipe invention.  I found myself trying new things just because it was so easy to get a fire started and ready cooking.

Build Quality and Design

This is one of the few things still made in the USA that makes me proud to be American.  When I say this thing is over built by a mile I mean it.  Seriously they could have cut 10 corners and no one would have ever known, but they didn’t.  Every weld, every seam and every surface is done impeccably.

A couple of the of the areas that deserve to be mentioned specifically are:

  1. Grates – Wow! These things are nearly pencil thick stainless steel.  I don’t know how much they would cost to replace but it seriously can’t be cheap.  These grates are so well built, I’m convinced they will survive a nuclear apocalypse.

  1. Swing Lid – Okay, so the fact that the lid swings instead of flips open or detaches completely, like on some units, is cool.  The fact that they thought enough about the lid to include bearings in the mechanism is AWESOME.  Such a smooth glide to the lid is a very classy touch.

  1. Wheels – The wheels for me are much like the lid.  You expect it to have wheels, but you don’t necessarily expect them to be nice 5 inch rubber wheels that roll like they are greased with duck fat.  Maybe roll isn’t the right word, perhaps I should say glide.  One quick, easy motion and the Grilla tips back and glides effortlessly wherever you want it.

  1. Side Tables – It’s a really a nice touch to make these stainless steel.  We have stainless on our Tucker Cooker and have never regretted opting for it.  Sun baked, 10 day old barbecue sauce cleans up easily and it really looks better long term.  The hooks to hold your utensils are also a nice touch.

  1. Cord Storage – This is a such a little thing but I wanted to highlight it because it is yet another example of a place where the engineers could have cut corners and slacked but they didn’t.  The electrical cord wraps perfectly around the holder and even has a perfect little notch where the end clips in to for secure storage.

  1. Auger, Motor and Fire Pot – Auger, Motor and Fire Pot – I think is the area where some lesser pellet grills are suspect, so  I was worried about this with the Grilla.  After doing some research I found out that Fahrenheit Technologies is a home furnace company. Guess where the auger, motor and fire pot were developed?  In their home units.  This heating system and pellet delivery mechanism has been proven over the past few years.  This to me is a huge relief. Fahrenheit Technologies has also backed the Grilla with a 3 year warranty, further showing their confidence in this product.

  1. EZ Fuel Change Out – I have to admit that at first I thought, “big deal.”  Then I needed to switch pellets and the hopper was full and you know what? It was a big deal.  This is a necessity that every pellet cooker should include and deserves to be highlighted.  You just turn the latch, the door opens to a 90 degree angle and has side walls to help funnel the pellets into your bag.  You can swap out a complete 20lb load of pellets in just a couple of minutes.

  1. Finish – This thing has a great powder coat finish that should have no problem holding up a long, long time.  It feels good to the touch, cleans easily, and is on nearly every surface inside and out.

Quick Cooking Thoughts

To test the cooking abilities of the Grill I performed a total of 7 different cooking tests.  These tests were designed to replicate the different cooking styles and methods a competition cook and backyard cook would use.  

To be a true barbecue pit, a cooker must first and foremost be able to cook low and slow.  To be a great grill it has to be able to sear meat and cook at higher heat.  A newer competition cooking trend is hot and fast, so I also ran a test to represent that method as well.  

1 – 14lb turkey at 250 degrees followed immediately by 150 MOINK balls.

2 – 8 thick all beef hamburgers cooked at 300 degrees.

3 – 18lb pork shoulder cooked at 225 degrees for 11hrs (low and slow).

4 – Medium sized beef brisket cooked at 350 degrees for 3hrs (hot and fast)

5 – 3lb beef tri tip cooked at 250 degrees

6 – 18 chicken thighs cooked at 275 degrees then at 375 degrees to set the sauce and finish.

7 – 1 rack of beef ribs cooked at 250 degrees for an hour and a half.

The Grilla did very well in all tests.  I admit for the first cook I had to get used to cooking on  pellets.  I was pleasantly surprised how fast it recovered temperature, held even cooking temperature and how much smoke it put out.  Never was I disappointed by the results.  It is a very solid cooking platform that in the right hands is capable of pulling off 180 scores in competition.  This pit has been my “go to” pit for at home cooking the past several weeks and I have come to realize the more I leave it alone while cooking, the better it does.  Yes, I know this is a basic idiom of barbecue, but sometimes we all need to be reminded we aren’t always as smart as we think we are.  This is especially true for me.

What I Liked

  • Build Quality / Design – I did a whole section highlighting this.  Nothing short of exceptional and being American Made is just the cherry on top for me.
  • Size – It really does take up very little space for the cooking punch it packs.  Fantastic form factor that is led by functionality and tempered with smart design.  
  • Mobility – This pit still surprises me at how easily it moves.  It’s such a small but very essential part of making the Grilla even easier to live with.  The Big Green Egg could learn a thing or 10 from the Grilla.  
  • EZ Fuel Change Out – Yet another “feature” that should be a “standard” on all other pellet cookers.  Don’t underestimate how nice this is to have and other pellet pit makers should take note.
  • Cooking Versatility – I cant think of a thing the Grilla couldn’t do…..ok it can’t do a whole hog, but neither can most pits.  Other than that though the temperature range and how quickly the Grilla can go from 225 degrees to 400 degrees make this one impressive cooker.
  • Cooking Ease – There are few pits that I would say can take a very average person and make them a great cook.  This one is one of them.  One good barbecue book such as  “BBQ Makes Everything Better” and the Grilla and the average Joe could turn out the best barbecue his buddies has ever had the pleasure of eating. Same pit plus a good pit master and the Grilla has a really solid chance at turning out world class results.  

What Could Be Improved

For those of you who know me or have read any of my reviews know that I do not review or give my comments about any product without also offering suggestions for improvement.  Here is my short list for the Grilla.

  1. Grease Catch Can – As it is configured now you can use an soup can or soda can to catch grease.  This is good, but not great and to me it’s not in keeping with the quality of the rest of the unit.  My suggestion would be to include a bucket, that could hold around 48oz of liquid.  (One with the awesome Grilla logo on it would be fantastic!)  I found the need for this larger capacity while cooking the MOINK balls.  Evidently when cooking the equivalent of 5 packs of bacon wrapped around meat balls it makes a whole heck of a lot of grease.  When the can overflows while you aren’t paying attention to the back side of the grill it makes a large mess that doesn’t make the wife happy.  The average user may never experience this, but if there is even a possibility that they could, an effort should be made to address the issue.

  1. Side Tables – I have no issue with the build quality or material of the side tables.  In fact I think those parts are great.  It is a minor nit pick but I would like at least one of the side table to be be able to hold a large aluminum pan.  I found myself sitting larger square pans on top of the hopper vice on the side tables. Understandably, making a larger side table would negatively affect the overall footprint of the unit, which could be considered a larger negative.
  2. Digital Up/Down Controls – Some folks will want a more precise control panel other than the one that is currently offered on the Grilla.  They will say they need control in 5 degree increments vice 15 degree.  I understand their reasoning, but I have to say I don’t necessarily agree.  I think this “precision panel” could be offered as an option for those that feel that strongly about it, but isn’t an absolute requirement.

  1. A Cover – All high end cookers are an investment.  To protect that investment the Grilla should either ship with a weather proof heavy duty cover or one should be offered as an option.  It is my understanding that one is in development.  I will be buyer number 1 when it is officially released.
  2. Price – After having the Grilla for a few weeks and comparing it with other pits I have to say I like it.  I really, really like it.  The only thing I found myself the least bit unsure about was the price.  The Grilla s a premium product, made in the USA and has no corners cut.  That means it also has premium pricing.  Is $1495 shipped expensive?  Yes.  Is it worth it?  With all factors weighed and lived with I can’t imagine not having the Grilla.  Therefore I would have to say “yes, it is worth it” and it gets a complete recommendation from me.

How To Get One

The availability of the Grilla is limited as of this writing.  I know Fahrenheit Technologies is working hard to bring dealers online and get units out to stores.  For now though to get one you  can order directly from their web store or contact Fahrenheit by phone at  616.392.7410 or email them at getcooking@mygrilla.com for more information.  Pricing as of this writing it is $1495 shipped to your door.    

Parting Thoughts

My time with the Grilla has changed my thoughts on cooking.  I still don’t think I am ready to give up any of my other cookers because  they each serve a purpose.   I will say that I am now a fan of pellet cooking. It has made some serious improvements since I first looked at it.  Most of which is just in general quality.  The pellets you can get now are a much higher quality and the pits you can get range from very cost conscious, mass produced units now being carried at Costco to very limited run, almost hand made units that you will have to get on a waiting list for.  The Grilla is certainly the latter of the two.  I am glad that my first real long term experience with a pellet pit was with one of such quality because I would pick a unit of less quality apart no matter how well it cooked.  I place a big premium on quality, always have, always will.  It is just who and what I am.  

If I had to put my thoughts about pellet cooking in general into one statement it would be this:  “Did I cook the best barbecue I’ve ever eaten on a pellet pit?  No, not yet.  Did I cook the best barbecue I’ve ever had for the least amount of effort?  YES, yes I most certainly did.”  I have had better barbecue.  That is the truth.  What is also true is that I’ve never had barbecue anywhere this good for the this small amount of effort.  For 98% of the people in this world the Grilla will make the best barbecue you’ve ever eaten.

The Grilla is a mainstay at my house now.  When it comes to everyday cooking or cooking for smaller groups, it’s just too easy not to have around and use.  I have to take my hat off to Jay Prince and Mark Graham for doing the impossible: changing my mind about pellet cooking!

 

 

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The Big Green Egg XL vs The Grilla: A Comparison

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When I first saw the Grilla in person a few things jumped out at me.  First, it was very unique but mildly ugly at initial glance.  It took a closer look to really appreciate it.  It was that thought that brought me back to the purchase of our Big Green Egg XL (BGE  XL).  That triggered a whole host of other ideas that basically brought me to the realization that the Grilla, whether it intended to be or not, was basically a pellet powered BGE XL.  

That may sound odd at first but when you stop to consider price point, cooking ability and the size of both cookers, I think you can make a case for a side by side comparison.  So I have jotted down my thoughts comparing and contrasting the two in hope of helping someone who is currently considering either of these two units.  I understand before the first comparison is even made there will be members of both camps who will cry foul and make points contrary to my points.  I completely understand this, as I too am passionate about the barbecue pits I own.  This is just my take and comparison on the two having owned each and it is not a personal attack on you, your choice or your favorite barbecue contraption!  With that out of the way let’s begin.

The list below is in the order that ideas occurred to me and I did not change it for purposes of publishing.  Also in bold at the end of each paragraph I will list which unit is better in that particular category and include a tally at the very end.

– Size / Weight / Cooking Surface – Both the BGE XL and the Grilla take up approximately the same space when the BGE XL has it’s side tables (known as mates) folded down.  They are not the same weight with the Grilla weighing in at nearly 100lbs lighter.  The Grilla has a larger standard cooking area (488 sq in) than a Big Green Egg XL (452 sq in). An additional upper rack can be purchased for the BGE, but the reviews I’ve seen are mixed on this rack so I only compared what comes standard for this one piece.  Winner:  Grilla

– Assembly – For the Grilla there was none.  Once you remove the shipping and packing material, it is ready to go.  Nothing to put together, no shelves, no nest (a cradle of sorts made to elevate the Egg to a comfortable cooking height) to build, no hinge system for the lid, nothing.  (I can tell you there is nothing more unnerving than paying over $1200 for a XL Egg and to sit on pins and needles hoping the nest they provide actually holds this 200lbs + of ceramic up after you have put it together).  I understand why the BGE is shipped the way it is.  It is after all an egg and is fragile so I don’t see any real way around the assembly issue for BGE.  Winner:  Grilla 

– Sturdiness –  I’ve had our BGE XL for almost a year and I have already broken two parts.  Of those two parts, the first (the fire ring) was definitely my fault as I sat it down harder than I should have.  The second part was the plate setter that broke while I had it propped up and was reloading some charcoal while the plate setter was hot.  I don’t know in that particular instance that I was at fault.  It literally cracked like a saltine cracker and fell apart in the middle of a competition.  Honestly, I feel the way I reloaded the charcoal was in a manner in which any cook would have done.  I can’t necessarily blame BGE, I realize I am probably asking more of the unit than it was intended for by competing with it.  The rigors of competition and travelling are huge and unless a unit was designed with that in mind it might be a bridge too far.  I don’t foresee that being a problem with the Grilla as it is 18 gauge steel and has a great powder coat and no fragile parts.  I’ve only had the Grilla for a month and a half, but the Grilla wins here in my opinion.   Winner:  Grilla

– Lid – Each cooker has a unique take on lids.  The BGE uses what amounts to heavy duty springs to assist in the lifting and holding of it’s lid up.  This design works and I would hate to feel the full weight of it’s lid each time I had to open it.  The Grilla addresses the lid with a swing design.  There is no lid to take off or to lift up on a hinge, instead it slides open on a set of very smooth ball bearings.  The hinged lid on the BGE requires more space to the rear of the cooker, meaning it takes up more space while you are cooking with it.  The Grilla lid swings out of the way neatly and easily.  The BGE method of dealing with the lid does provide a little more access to the pit, but it is nominal in comparison.  All things considered for longevity of the moving parts, space, etc I have to give a very slight edge to the Grilla.  Winner:  Grilla

– Made Where? – This seems to be less of an issue for some people in our very global economy.  For me, though, it’s still a very important factor.  I served in the military and supporting products made in the USA is a priority to me, even when they cost more.  The Grilla is made in the good ole US of A by Americans in Michigan.  The BGE XL is made in Mexico.  Most of the Grilla’s pellet pit competitors are made in China.  They may be American companies but there are very few companies who actually manufacture pellet pits here.  Grilla does and, to be honest, that makes me proud.  I guess it is comforting to note that the BGE XL is at least made in North America.  Again for some this is a non issue and is far less important than overall price, for me it is an issue.  Winner:  Grilla

– Full Product Line – BGE is a well established company, with decades of experience and millions of happy customers.  They truly do have a BGE to fit just about every need.  I think most of them are just flat too small and that is why we bought an XL over the mini, small, medium or large.  Grilla currently offers only one size.  I don’t know if there are plans for a larger unit, but I hope so.  I have to give the nod to the BGE XL on this one.  Winner:  BGE XL

– Working Area – I think the BGE XL with it’s accessory “mate” shelves have about the same area as the Grilla’s shelves.  The difference though is that the BGE XL’s shelves are only blocked on the back side.  This allows larger pans to be balanced on the shelves.  If you only considered this factor I would say BGE is the slight winner.  If you take a minute to look at how the working area is constructed and the materials used I think there is a different story to tell.  The Grilla’s shelves are stainless steel and are a fixed part of the unit. They are also so sturdy I stood my 9yr old on one to test it.  I do not feel confident enough to stand a 60lb kid on my mate shelves, especially with as wobbly as the BGE is in its nest.  I am going to call this a draw.  Winner:  Draw

– Cook-ability – I think both the BGE XL and the Grilla win here.  The BGE XL wins because it can hit near crucible temps and you can find Royal Oak lump charcoal at nearly any hardware, big box store or grocery.  The Grilla wins because it is just flat out easier to cook with it.  You flip a switch and you achieve the temp you are looking for.  Some in the BGE XL camp will of course bring up that you can hook up a BBQ Guru device and nearly do the same thing.  Except you really can’t.  The Guru, as amazing as it is, still only works once you have arranged your coal in the BGE XL and lit a proper fire.  So no matter how you slice it, achieving the appropriate temperature is more difficult in the BGE XL.  Both units can cook for hours and hours on end with a load of fuel and both have turned out some of the best and easiest barbecue I’ve ever eaten.  If pellets were more of a mainstay and you could find them at any store I might give a slight edge to the Grilla.  Because they are slightly harder to find I think I’m calling this one too close to call.  Winner:  Draw

– Moving – Every single time I move our BGE XL, I  worry that I might break something.  This may not be as pronounced with smaller BGE’s or for those people who are not moving their BGE frequently.  I worry its going to tip or the nest is going to fall apart.  Sadly for BGE XL it would be so easy to fix this with a much better designed nest.  In fact the more I think about it, 90% of my personal complaints about the BGE XL center around that terrible contraption they pass off as a nest.  If you pay $1200+ for something that is fragile it should come with something that ensures it’s safety, something that adds a sense of sturdiness and stability, something that…well isn’t poorly made to be frank.  The Grilla is solid, easy to move and never gives you slightest pang of worry when moving it.  This honestly is something I probably would never have noticed had I not owned a BGE XL. Winner:  Grilla (by a mile)

– Accessorizing – Some people are all about the accessories that are available with a particular unit.  In this area I have to give the nod to the BGE XL.  There are accessories galore, most of which are over-priced, but they all seem to be of fairly good quality.  The Grilla is so new that there isn’t much in the way of accessories.  I think there will be in time, but I can only comment on what is available at the moment.  Winner:  BGE XL

– Roughing It – One of the negatives of all pellet pits is that they require electricity.  So the ability to take them tailgating or off to a hunting camp where electricity may not be available is a limiting factor.  Of course, some inventive pellet-heads have used batteries and generators but it’s not what the average guy would bother to do.  That said, the BGE XL does not require electricity, so it gets the nod here even though I think it is very fragile and hauling it to a deer camp would give me pause.  Winner:  BGE XL (by the slightest of margins)

– Price – I know the pricing on the BGE XL’s vary and some folks have gotten some great deals.  I will have to go only with what we paid for our BGE XL versus the shipped MSRP of the Grilla for comparison.  Our BGE XL, with Nest, Plate Setter, Mates, taxes, etc out the door was just over $1200.  The Grilla delivered to your door is $1495 (pricing based on information from Grilla and subject to change).  

First off the Eggheads will say “but you don’t have to buy the plate setter or the mates.” My reply would be “Yes, you really do”.  For low and slow cooking the plate setter isn’t an option, it’s a requirement.  The mates (shelves) are optional to some, but not to me.  Furthermore, many BGE owners would consider the purchase of a pit temperature control device such as a BBQ Guru’s Party Q a near requirement.  This unit is the entry level of the BBQ Guru devices and rings in at $130.  So by the time you factor all of that in we are talking very similar money.  

The next argument from Eggheads will be that “I only paid $1000 for the same set up you have”.  To that all I can say is:  “Great!  We worked a deal on ours but didn’t manage as good a deal as you did.”  All things considered such as options, assembly, etc I am honestly going to call this one a draw.  I know the BGE XL is technically cheaper, but I think you have to factor in the assembly time and accessories into the overall cost for this to be a like comparison.  Winner:  Draw     

– Community – For many having a lively community of users and experts to ask questions of and interact with is the single most important factor.  There are literally hundreds of sites dedicate to the BGE and kamado style cookers.  There are nearly an equal number of sites dedicated to pellet cooking.  No, the sites aren’t specifically for the Grilla, but you can bet there are plenty of pellet-heads out there to learn from.  All things considered I would say this is pretty even, but since the Eggheads have been around longer I can only assume they have had more time to amass a great amount of knowledge and recipes pertinent to their specific cooking platform.  Winner:  BGE XL (by a very slight margin)

                       

                                BGE                                  Grilla

Totals*:                       7                                         9

*all draws were listed as a win for both units

By my very nature I hate articles that call both units in a comparison a winner, it really is one of my biggest pet peeves.  The whole purpose in comparing something is to pick a winner.  Car and Driver and Consumer Reports does it and so should we as bloggers / reviewers.  In this case numerically the Grilla did win based solely on the categories but I think more consideration has to be given to the actual cook who is going to use the pit. With that said the big question obviously is:  which should you buy?  Well that depends.  🙂

The BGE XL is a fine cooker and I still enjoy cooking on it despite my complaints about the nest and it’s fragile nature.  For those that prefer a more hands on approach to cooking that includes lighting a fire and accessories then I would say the Egg is the winner.  I’ve turned out a lot of great barbecue on our BGE in the year we’ve had it.  I’ve even got a couple of trophies from the entries cooked on it.  It is versatile, it is proven and despite some corners being cut in quality in an effort to make better profit margins, it is still a good cooker.  

The Grilla is a fine cooker as well. I am learning to love it more each day and there really isn’t much to complain about other than price.  I think the buyer who loves the ease of flipping a switch and turning out great food with as little effort as possible will gravitate to the Grilla.  It’s hard not to love just how easy this cooker is and I know I can win trophies with it as well.  As the pellet options and availability are addressed, I think the pellet cooking world as a whole will over take much of the grilling/barbecue market.  That is just my personal opinion, but I think it’s a fairly safe bet at this point.  

You honestly cant go wrong with either choice as they are both fantastic cookers.  This is like trying to pick between a BMW and a Mercedes.  No matter what you will be well taken care of.  All I can say is I have driven both and as of this very moment if I had to write the checks over again I would likely buy the Grilla.  I recommend you taking a hard look at the type of cook you are and what your expectations are of a unit and apply what you read in this review accordingly.  

Happy Grillin’ Folks!

 

 

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