The market around pellet smokers and BBQ grills spans a number of different brands and products, each with their own design specifications and priorities based on user experience, overall cooking method and the quality of the meat that comes off of it.
While some feature components which deal with the finer points, for example the gas grills complete with their different dials and exterior controls, others put more of an emphasis on flavour – creating within them a portal to an authentic BBQ experience without the hassle of lighting a wood fire or stoking a charcoal grill.
The fact is, smoking meat is one of the oldest methods of cooking known to man, and is something our ancestors would have done to cook and preserve the quality of the meat – all while learning about and benefitting from the beautifully rich and enhanced flavouring that smoke infused into the meat. Today, we are still seeking those same benefits and taste notes, though often in a more convenient, controlled, and easier to use environment.
And so, the pellet smoker was born – a concept built on great flavour and versatile usage, which takes all the advantages of the other styles of BBQ grill and channels them into one BBQ smoker UK market leading product. But how can we decide which pellet smoker is best for our individual needs?
That’s where brand and additional features come in.
Exploring the Pit Boss Navigator 850
One of Pit Boss’ classic models for home use, the Navigator 850 features 879 square inches of cooking space on one large shelf level, providing every piece of meat with a consistent cook and the same level of exposure to the heat and smoke levels as they are infused into the cooking space. Designed to optimise the user experience and allow users to monitor the perfect piece of meat while still entertaining guests and continuing their conversations, the Pit Boss 850 has an LED digital screen designed to monitor and control temperature from the outside of the grill – not just making life easier for the chef, but also ensuring that none of the precious smoky flavour and aroma is lost to the atmosphere by opening the lid.
One of the most crucial parts of any pellet smoker is the interior space between the pellet box and the fire pit, whereby additional pellets can be funnelled into the fire to ensure it remains well fuelled and stocked to provide consistent burn levels and cooking. The Navigator is no different from any of the other Pit Boss models, featuring an adjustable flame broiler plate which can be moved to expose the direct flame or else contain it and allow the meat to be cooked through the low and slow method of smoking and heat transference.
The overall design is solid and stable while remaining stylish, and though the interior of the cooking space only provides 1 shelf, the 8-in-1 cooking method features means that users can fit everything from a roast turkey to a large rack of ribs, a stack of burgers, and even a pizza inside the grill.
Exploring the Weber Smoke Fire EX4
Weber is a brand which spans the BBQ market across a whole range of sectors – manufacturing everything from gas grills to charcoal grills, electric BBQs and pellet smokers. Their pellet smoker range is particularly popular with those looking for an authentic experience, and the EX4 from the Smoke Fire series is one of the best in terms of its high user response rate and top quality results. That said, on immediate first glance one can see that the castors on the exterior are too small to make transporting the grill easy, and the legs are simple but are created in a one-size-fits-all style which cannot be adjusted according to height.
The 672 total square inches of cooking space are split over 2 shelves, providing less total space than the Pit Boss Navigator but allowing for 2 separate cooking spaces at any one time – particularly ideal if you happen to be catering to both meat eaters and vegetarians.
The key difference between Weber’s EX4 and the Pit Boss range is the way in which the smoking and heat system works – with the EX4 feeding pellets upwards from a pellet box which is mounted on the rear of the grill. Instead of a large flame broiler plate which can expose or conceal the direct flame, the Weber pellet smoker uses a series of bars which spread the heat evenly and catch any falling fat – while still exposing the flame at all times beneath these bars. This means that every piece of meat, whether it is being smoked or not, will benefit from a chargrilled effect if cooked at a high enough temperature.
Of course, for some this is great – particularly those who tend to use a pellet smoker as a smoker first before turning on the chargrill effect to sear and finish off their meat. But for those who want to use the grills in other ways besides for the BBQ, or for those who simply want to slowly smoke their meat without direct flame grilling, this creates some challenges.
That’s not to say that the Weber EX4 isn’t intuitive – with its built in WiFi connection, it is easy to control, and given practice users will find themselves able to cook meat in a range of different ways using the remote control option and temperature gauge. But with the open flame design, the Weber EX4 is subject to excess mess caused by dripping fat, and users may also find that the wider pellet container causes more of a problem when it comes to evenly fuelling the fire – and subsequently evenly cooking the meat.With regards to value, the Weber EX4 is almost double the price of the Pit Boss Navigator 850 – but with less cooking space and a lower rate of versatility across the available cooking methods. Furthermore, the Pit Boss range is easy to use whether you are a pellet smoker veteran or a complete novice and provides the desired finish every time without challenge or uncertainty. A sure-fire win for Pit Boss.