When you’re looking to pull together a high quality BBQ with a good atmosphere, great food, and excellent company, what do you look for? Do you prioritise a super easy to use BBQ grill that can be left to its own devices while you entertain your guests? Do you look for that surrounding smoky atmosphere to draw everyone in, or do you want to keep the smoke away from your guests so that they don’t go home smelling of BBQ?
Traditionally, a charcoal or wood fire was used as the best means of BBQ smoking any piece of meat; gushing out tons of smoke into the surrounding atmosphere as the meat slowly cooks and becomes infused with the aroma and flavour of the smoke. Of course, modern BBQ designs have moved beyond this, with the pellet smoker being one such concept which heralds the value and beauty of BBQ smoking a piece of meat, in a controlled and contained environment.
That’s not to say that open flame grills aren’t still hugely popular, but in the BBQ smoker UK market where buyers are constantly looking for ways to elevate their overall experience, it seems as though the pellet smoker is becoming more and more popular.
Exploring the Pit Boss Navigator 850
A popular model within the Pit Boss range, the Navigator 850 takes on all the traits we love about the classic Pit Boss pellet smoker and contains it within a neat body – all without jeopardising cooking space. While so many models and brands now add additional features and body parts to give their grill an authentic appearance, Pit Boss keeps it simple – making sure that even the shelves are removable so that users can decide exactly what they want and need.
In terms of cooking space itself, the Navigator 850 boasts 879 square inches of cooking across one shelf, ensuring that the exposure to heat across the entire surface is consistent and thorough. Not that that matters, with the industry leading 8-in-1 design that Pit Boss herald across their entire range; allowing the single grill to be used for everything from chargrilling to smoking, baking and roasting.
This all comes down to the internal design and the exposure of the meat to its cooking source – a functional design which most modern pellet smokers embody in some way, though no other brands are quite as versatile as the Pit Boss range in terms of the sheer amount of options users get. In the Navigator 850, the temperature of 180 degrees to 500 degrees Fahrenheit allows the grill itself to cook meat low and slow or quick as a flash fry, using both the adjustable flame broiler which exposes or covers up the direct flame, and the exterior digital display built into the grill to allow temperature and cook time control from the outside.
Remember earlier, when we asked if you prefer a smoky atmosphere or a smoke-free garden for the pleasure of your guests? Pit Boss covers it all, allowing the user to keep the smoke completely contained through external control of the pellet smoker, or else releasing it by lifting the lid and giving your guests a taste of what is to come when the meat is ready.
Finally, to the design itself and its value. The Pit Boss Navigator 850 is sturdy and stable, yet also easy to adjust according to your needs. The side shelf can be transferred to the front and centre of the grill as you please, while the reinforced legs and reliable build make this device perfect for all-year-round use.
Exploring the Traeger Ironwood 650
If you put the Traeger Ironwood 650 next to the Pit Boss Navigator 850, you would be hard pressed to find many differences and variations between their external appearance and design. With a similar size of body and the same layout – boasting a pellet box on one side and a tray on the other – the Traeger Ironwood 650 starts to show its differences only when you life the lid or pick up the instruction manual – something we recommend you hold on to until you have got to grips with the technological innovation which is built into this high end pellet smoker model.
What Traeger have focussed on, across most of their designs, is their affinity for innovation and modern features; boasting a built in WiFi connection which elevates the user experience and allows complete control over the grill – wherever you may be. While the Traeger loses out a little when it comes to cooking capacity, with just 650 square inches of cook space, this technical invention gives the user the ability to transform their grill from a slow cooking smoker to a chargrilled furnace within seconds – allowing the meat to be perfectly finished without ever having to open the lid.
Given its reliance on wood pellets as the source of fuel, it seems safe to say that all meat and other foods cooked on the pellet smoker will taste smoky – what really impacts the intensity is the heat at which the meat is cooked at – and that’s where Traeger really pull ahead in terms of usability. However, with just 6 different methods available, Pit Boss comes out on top when it comes to the versatility and options available from a single grill.
And then we come to the design and cost of the Traeger Ironwood 650. The inescapable truth is that pellet smokers come at a cost – how high that cost is depends on the brand, and while Pit Boss keeps prices relatively low with a 5-year warranty for complete buyer protection, Traeger grills come out with vast price hikes and just a 3 year warranty.
That’s not to say that Traeger don’t provide the features conducive to a higher price, and for those really set on technical advances and providing the most unobtrusive experience possible, then a Traeger grill may be right for you. However, in an industry where we value not just technology but also authentic flavour, versatility of use and the value of extra space, it seems clear that Pit Boss is riding at the top of the market.