Why I got a pellet smoker

Or is it really just an easy bake oven for dads?

Anyone who has been in my DMs on Instagram asking for advice on what cooker to get knows that historically I have been a skeptic of pellet grills. And that probably puts it lightly.

Well, now I own one.

What changed, what did I get, and how have I liked it so far? Here’s why I got a pellet smoker.

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Why I got a pellet smoker

“I have an oven in my kitchen, why do I need one on my deck, too?” Have I said this before? Yes. Is a pellet grill a bit like an oven? Also yes.

It plugs in. You set the temperature. You leave it alone until the food is ready. Sounds like a familiar process!

Here’s why I flip-flopped on this issue:

I don’t cook professionally — I cook to feed my family.

My wife and I just welcomed our third child — bringing our total to three under five — and convenience comes at a premium these days. 

I coach soccer on Saturday mornings and we go to church on Sunday mornings. If I want to do a long cook on the weekends, like brisket, pulled pork, beef cheeks, etc., I need a cooker that I can truly set and forget.

And on weeknights I want to give my attention to my kids, not my cookers. Being able to put dinner on, play with the kids, and come back when dinner is ready is worth a lot to me right now.

I got into outdoor cooking because I like to feed my family. Pellet cookers are undeniably a great way to do just that!

One of the first meals I made on my new cooker was grilled chicken breast with roasted potatoes and green beans — all cooked on my deck with Kosmos Q Clean Eating rubs.

I’m at least a little self-aware — I’m already using easy-to-use cookers.

Like many of you, I love the process of cooking outdoors, especially low and slow cooking. Learning the nuances of a fire and a smoker is part of the fun.

But here’s the thing, I don’t use an offset smoker where fire management and pit knowledge are critical. For my low and slow cooks I use a variety of charcoal smokers, which are definitely on the easier side on the difficultly scale. Sure, I think about things like air flow, lighting strategy and fuel management, but I’m not a true pit master.

Or, as the HowToBBQRight podcast put it in this episode: if you think pellet smokers don’t produce real barbecue, you better be using cinderblocks and digging a hole in the ground to cook your food. (Jump to a about 32:00 mark for this portion.)

I’m a backyard enthusiast, and pellet cookers fit in perfectly for backyard types like me.

Capacity — I wanted to add something to my arsenal that would expand my cooking options.

The one thing lacking in my previous deck set up was grate real estate. My barrel smoker has impressive capacity when hanging meat (I’ve done up to 12 racks of ribs this way), but for things like wings, pork belly burnt ends, or sides, fitting a lot of food is a challenge.

I love cooking for my family, and that includes my extended family that lives nearby. (Between us we have 9 kids 10 and under!) Adding significant capacity to my setup came with serious upside.

In one cook I made beer brats, corn on the cob, roasted potatoes plus a bunch of chicken to be used on salads for lunches during the week.

Why I chose the Pitts and Spitts Maverick 1250

So here’s what I got: the Pitts and Spitts Maverick 1250. And here’s why I picked it:

Pellets don’t produce the same flavor as charcoal or hardwoods — so everything else needs to be perfect.

Some people swear that pellets produce the same amount of flavor as other fuels. I tend to agree with folks like Jeremy Yoder of Mad Scientist BBQ, who gives a great explainer about why this is the case in this video:

And while you can purchase premium pellets to help alleviate this drop off in smoke flavor, the reality is that you are trading some flavor for convenience. For all the reasons listed above, I think it’s a fine trade to make! 

But the right pellet cooker can help.

Pitts and Spitts smokers are all built with thick gauge steel and fully welded construction, just like their beautiful offset smokers. My 1250 weighs about 275 pounds and is fully American made, and I fully expect to pass it on to my kids with how long it should last with proper care.

And as this review from AmazingRibs puts it, “That gauge matters. Thicker steel retains heat better, delivers more heat, and recovers heat better, giving the smoker an edge at maintaining a steady temperature throughout the cooking. Better heat retention also means better efficiency because you’re using less fuel.”

This edge to edge temperature control, and the ability to recover temperature after the pit has been opened, are critical components to nailing a cook. Pitmasters all work to limit swings in temperature inside their cooker, and I figure this is especially important when I’m already sacrificing some flavor to fuel type.

Enormous grate space and pellet capacity with limited deck footprint thanks to the roll top lid.

The Maverick 1250 got its name because of it’s 1250 square inches of grate space. Tack on a 35 pound pellet hopper — compared to the 24 pound hopper that comes with the comparably sized Treager 1300 — and this thing can run for a long time and hold a lot of food.

If you’re wondering if I’m looking for a reason to cook six briskets for 18 hours to test the limits of this thing, you better believe it.

And with the roll top lid, it gets a substantial amount of its grate capacity on the upper rack, meaning the smoker is still very reasonably sized for a backyard pit — and fits very nicely next to the rest of my collection!

Support a great local dealer — visit Dominion Grills if you’re ready to up your game!

Once I narrowed down my search to the Pitts and Spitts models, I contacted my nearest dealer (Dominion Grills in Fredericksburg, VA) with some questions. They were super helpful and great to work with, and made pickup a breeze.

Buying from them meant I supported a local dealer, avoided delivery fees, and got my smoker right away, while ordering direct from Pitts and Spitts comes with decent wait times given high demand. All it cost me was a $12.95 trailer from U-haul and a stop at Cookout.

If you’re in the DC area like me, contact Dominion Grills and tell them I sent you. If you live elsewhere, here’s a handy tool to find your local dealer.

Do you own a pellet smoker?

If so, send me your suggestions, including which brand of pellets you prefer. And if you’re local to the DC area, send me a note if you’d like to get in on a bulk pellet order: costcogrilldad@gmail.com.

Thinking of buying a pellet smoker?

Let me know if you have questions about my cookers and when I use which one. To state the obvious: I’m not retiring any of my other cookers, and will still use them plenty. Here’s to a growing squad!

Picture of the Week

What I’ve cooked so far on my Maverick 1250 (and a preview of what’s to come on Instagram):

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