Thank you all
I'd first start with what fuel you want to use and the taste benefits. We all know that brines, rubs can add flavor to meats but what about the fuel type used?
Electric- ease of use, smoke jerkey, sausages etc.... but lack the flavors wood can do.
Propane- ease of use, better flavors than electric but can't do the low temps like the electric can.
Pellet- ease of use but have to think about the high cost of shipping pellets and need to supplement smoke sometimes.
Charcoal and wood cookers- Don't have the set it and forget it but you get the best flavors. Kamado cookers and insulated models can give you good temp control and use less charcoal and are pretty easy to use because they keep temp so well.
IMO from what you said and your budget i'd look at the BGE's w/ automatic temp controllers or something like this...It's called ONYX oven and it works with a automatic temp controller. You could do the whole setup for around $1500. I'm going to get one one of these some day...pretty cool.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WcRAaCtkdNY This is the smoker. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3LXTfMnxNQ
I remember hearing of a lot of competitors using Fast Eddy Cookers (FEC's) I think they're on the expensive side but I can't remember. I also heard a lot of good things about BBQrs Delight pellets, who Candy Weaver (may or may not still be the president of the KCBS) owns. Mind you I heard all these things while listening to the BBQ Central Radio Show. That's about all I can think of off the top of my head about pellet cookers.
I have a Lang 36, which new plus shipping will be at the top of your budget. It's not a set it and forget it cooker but the craftsmanship of it will allow you to go 45 mins to an hour without fussing with it, depending on what woods you use. Might even be longer if you use a charcoal basket and wood chunks or something, but I use only wood. About every hour or so I just throw in two more splits of wood and I'm good to go.
Good Luck on your search.
I have had my yoder 640 since Jan. I really like it, I cut my teeth on offsets and still cook on them ...but do like to be able to start the Yoder and know that it will keep that temp as long as it has fuel. As far as the lack of smoke...I am a little confused by all the talk of pellet smokers not having enough smoke. I will start low at 180 for the first couple hours and my brisket had a great smoke ring.
The FEC pellet smokers start out at $4k for the entry level vertical smoker. So they are out of your budget. In regards to what you are looking for, you need to think about the number of people that you will regularly feed. While the yoder is a great unit, it may be too big for what you want. For myself i would love to have a trailer mounted FEC700 which will cook everything in the world almost at one time, but hey i regularly cook for 100+ people. Seems people here love the Yoder, but there is also GMG, and Louisiana pellet grill. Both make great units. not to mention MAK grills. I recommend you look at the pros and cons of each brand. I know very little about rectec other then they seem to be a new manufacturer of pellet grills. But hey I have a Traeger so I could say I am old school. since they built them first, but are quickly be passed up in features by other manufacturers.
I'd say middle price of the American made units - $1,500 for the 500 & $2,500 for the 1000.
They have two "entry level" smokers, see above.
OP - In the same position you are, looking to replace my propane smoker (& grill). So far the Fast Eddy's are by far the most versatile. Haven't found any other unit on the market that can grill, smoke, and cold smoke - all without changing anything (no grate changes). Also the only one I can find that allows control of the BTU output of the firepot. Four zones & a warming zone = more types of cooking.
Yeah....if they'd only let us design a unit - maybe I'd find one that was 100% perfect I also noticed it "only" has a 20lb hopper.
Depending on the person - given the FEC's can do 4 or so butts, 8 racks, and some others it's not the largest but it will work for me.
The 20lb hopper is pretty normal for most pellet grills of that design. Mind you a 40lb bag is pretty big and would require more weight on the other end of the grill to offset it. And if you are smoking understand that is almost a days worth of smoking. Where you come into problems with that size is it higher temperatures.
And in regards to price I stated earlier, it is for the vertical pellet smokers they have not their grills. Honestly, they do not meet my needs for cooking, but they will definitely work for many other people on this forum. FEC's have a reputation for being probably one of the best cookers out there. If you get one, have fun and enjoy.
Well that's why I keep coming back here - have no knowledge to impart, but I get to read a lot of solid advice...............which worked real well two years ago when I was looking for a propane smoker.
I do grill 3-7 times a week and smoke maybe once a month = FEC's with a charbroiler would be ideal............for someone who does more smoking maybe not.
On the positive Traeger's patent expiring = many choices for the consumer, get exactly what we need.
I didn't have the budget you've got for a pellet grill so I purchased a GMG DBR. It's worked really well and cooks like a champ. All of that said if I had a larger budget I would have opted for the Yoder 640.