With great meat comes great responsibility, and when you are the chef at a large BBQ feast, ensuring that you get everything completely spot on is one of the most important parts of the job. From the evenly cooked and well-textured interior of a piece of steak, to the even cooking of a sausage, to the chargrilled finish of a chunky burger, getting the right balance between flavour and cooked finish is key – and when it comes to achieving that, what better device is there than a pellet smoker?
Created with all-round barbecuing in mind, the pellet smoker takes all the things we love about various other BBQ grills and throws them together into one industry-leading contraption. Having explored a range of different brands and models, we understand that the main crux of a winning pellet smoker is the complete control of gas grill, with the authentic smoked flavour and flame of a charcoal BBQ pit or wood fired grill. More than that, it is the ability to do all those things and more, with the easy to use and intuitive adjustable flame broiler, meat probes and digital display which all play their part in monitoring and altering the temperature and cook time of the meat as you go – without having to open the lid and release all that wonderful smoky flavour.
How, then, do you compare 2 different pellet smokers which are both top of their game? Let’s have a look.
Exploring the Pit Boss Navigator 1150
With a cooking area of 1158 square inches and a pellet box capacity of 32lb of pellets, the Pit Boss 1150 is designed for big cookouts and big occasions. Everything about this grill is over the top and exciting, from its sheer magnitude to the incredible 8-in-1 cooking methods that it boasts, thanks to the innovative design of an adjustable flame broiler and funnelled pellet feeder.
The fire pit itself sits in the centre below the grill, with the cooking plate able to be moved to either expose the direct flame to the meat, or contain it and allow the heat and smoke to slowly infuse into the meat. And it doesn’t end there. With smoking temperatures of up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, and a searing flame which can reach up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, cooking on the Pit Boss Navigator is an extreme sport of juggling high intensity heat with great flavour, giving you the option of cooking your meat quickly and intensely or over the low and slow heat of a smoked grill.
In terms of design, the Navigator 1150 gives extra thought to the little details which only serve to elevate the user experience – all while remaining at a very reasonable and affordable price. The glass window for the pellet box allows you to monitor exactly how much fuel is left, while the inclusion of an adjustable side tray and BBQ tool hooks simply make the process of cooking a lot easier.
And finally, to the additional feature – the meat probes and their direct link to the LED digital display on the outside of the grill. No longer do users need to open the grill to see how their meat is doing – with the Pit Boss meat probes, you can simply stick the probes into meat and leave it to cook – keeping an eye on the temperature via the digital display.
Weber Smoke Fire EX6
The larger of Weber’s 2 pellet smoker models, the EX6 boasts many of the same advantages as the Pit Boss 1150 – though with a reduced cooking capacity and a much higher price point. The temperature range on the Weber series is impressive and provides a consistency of cooking which many users will like, especially given the different design which means the meat is always slightly exposed to the direct flame rather than simply covered over for smoking. This is achieved through the removal of the adjustable Pit Boss flame broiler plate, instead utilising a series of bars which separate the grill from the fire beneath and redirect heat and smoke as required dependent on the temperature of the grill. That’s not to say that you can’t still achieve the slow smoked effect of the piece of meat, but you will also get a slightly chargrilled finish from the impact of a direct flame – rather than the mere transference of heat through the cooking plate.
Weber have taken the concept of usability and raised it to a new level with their WiFi connection, though the lack of cooking options when compared with the Pit Boss Navigator means you are less likely to use your Weber pellet smoker all through the year – whereas with the Pit Boss range, you could just as easily roast a Christmas dinner as you could grill up a BBQ feast.
In terms of the design of the grill itself, the appearance is not unlike the Pit Boss 1150, though the pellet box itself is located on the rear of the Weber, whereas with every Pit Boss model the pellet box is at the side.
Does this have any real impact on quality and usability? It appears that the pellet feeder and fire pit are slightly misaligned in the EX6, meaning that cooking and heating can be quite uneven if the user doesn’t make the conscious effort to manually line up the fire pit with the funnel. The pellet box in the Weber is also prone to becoming blocked or stopping the feeding of pellets, meaning you need to check on it every couple of hours to ensure it is still working – something which does not seem to be an issue with the Pit Boss range.
When it comes to a direct comparison, it would appear both from the outside and on further research, that the Pit Boss Navigator 1150 not only offers a wider surface cooking space and an increase in user friendly features, but also comes at a much more realistic price point – making it the better value option when compared with the Weber Smoke Fire EX6.