If you are looking for heritage with your pellet grill/smoker which is actually made in the USA you should be considering a Cookshack pellet grill/smoker. Cookshack has been producing electric smokers since the early 1960s. However, its their partnership with Ed Maurin, better known in the BBQ world as ‘Fast Eddy’ who helped to develop the company’s wood pellet grills/smokers. While Traeger was the first to market with pellet grills/smokers in the 1980s, Fast Eddy in the mid 90’s also realised the huge potential that wood pellets offered to make cooking/smoking with wood easier than ever before.
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In this post, I’m going to review the features of the Cookshack/Fast Eddy’s residential pellet grill/smoker range. These are full stainless steel units, therefore they fit in the Luxury pellet grill class category. If you are not sure about the different categories of pellet grills/smokers please review my post on how to choose the best pellet grill to meet your needs.
Introduction To Cookshack/Fast Eddy Wood Pellet Grills/Smokers
All Cookshack products are engineered and made in the USA at their production facility in Ponca City, Oklahoma. As I stated above, the development of wood pellet grills/smokers at Cookshack is in collaboration with Fast Eddy. Therefore, all pellet grills/smokers produced by Cookshack since 2003 bear the name of Fast Eddy.
Fast Eddy has been participating in BBQ competitions since 1986, however today he apparently spends most of his time in the Cookshack R&D department and teaching his students his honed BBQ techniques and recipes. Cookshack produce both residential and commercial units. However, with this post, I’m going to focus on their residential units, namely the wood pellet grills/smokers the PG500, PG1000 and the vertical pellet smoker the FEC100.
While the PG500 and PG1000 are residential pellet grill/smokers they are manufactured from the same stainless steel and use a similar control system found in Cookshacks commercial equipment. As stated in the video above, there are several features that stand out on Cookshack pellet grills:
- Made in the USA
- Full stainless steel construction
- Ability to flame broil/sear over the pellet fire
- Warming draw with cold smoking ability
Below I’ll discuss the specific features of the PG500, PG1000 and how they differ along with the capabilities of the FEC100 vertical smoker. I’ll also discuss the type of stainless steel (201 grade) that Cookshack pellet grills are made from and its pros/cons compared to other grades of stainless steel (304/430) used on other luxury pellet grills.
Cookshack Fast Eddys 30″ PG500 Pellet Grill/Smoker
The smallest/cheapest pellet grill in the Cookshack lineup is the PG500. However, what is important to note is the PG500 and PG1000 offer the same cooking area of 784 square inches. Furthermore, both the PG500 and PG1000 provide 4 cooking zones which include the warming draw which can be used as a cold smoker, more on that later.
One of the first things that should stand out about the PG500 is the two front-facing handles. As can be seen in the video below this grill does not have the typical hinged vertical lifting lid, its a split door design. As Fast Eddy notes in the video below the advantage of this design is people in wheelchairs can even cook with this grill which is not really practical or safe with a lid that opens vertically. Another benefit is the top of the grill can be used as an area to keep food warm.
While the top of the PG500 can be used as an area to place cooked food to keep it warm that should tell you that this pellet grill is not insulated. Hence, the PG500 is not ideally suited to cooking in cold climates, its more suited to warm climate/summer grilling. I’ll discuss the 4 different cooking zones after a quick run-through of the PG1000.
As mentioned above, both the PG500 and PG1000 are the same in this regard. I should quickly point out the PG500 features a 23lb BBQ wood pellet hopper. Hence, it can take a full 20lbs bag of pellets in one go.
Cookshack Fast Eddys 32″ PG1000 Pellet Grill/Smoker
The PG1000 has the same cooking area as the PG500 at 784 square inches, however its a more conventional pellet grill design. In the sense that the PG1000 has a lift-up lid. With a lift-up lid, you lose the benefit of being able to place food on top of the grill to keep it warm, however, it does have its own benefits. The lid on the PG1000 is insulated and the grill, in general, is double-wall insulated construction.
What this means is the PG1000 is better suited to grilling/smoking in colder climates than the PG500 as it will hold its heat better. It will also be safer in the sense the exterior surface of the grill will not be as hot to the touch as the PG500.
The hopper on the PG1000 is slightly larger than than the PG500 with a 25lb capacity. In reality, the difference in capacity will make little difference, the important point is both models can take a 20lb bag of grill pellets in one go. Both units also benefit from the quick empty door on the hopper.
This can be used to quickly change pellet flavours, however, it also serves another purpose. You should not leave pellets in the hopper over an extended period of time, they will absorb moisture from the air and go bad. Hence, the chute in the base of the hopper means you can quickly remove used pellets to store them in an airtight container/bag.
Cookshack Pellet Grill 4 Cooking Zones
Both the PG500 and PG1000 have the same cooking area at 784 square inches split over 4 cooking zones with a maximum cooking temperature of 600 degrees. The first cooking zone on Cookshack pellet grills is directly above the pellet firepot with a cast-iron grate.
Therefore, both residential Cookshack pellet grills provide access for a direct-flame kiss for searing/broiling. The second cooking zone is the upper rack which spans the width of the grill, ideal for vegetables and smaller/thinner cuts of meat.
The third cooking zone is the grates on the right. As the flue is located under these grates the draft created pulls the heat down over the food for indirect cooking. This area of the grill is suited for ‘low and slow’ indirect cooking/smoking. The fourth and final cooking area is the warming draw.
However, the warming draw can actually be a cold smoker if a tray of ice is placed in the grill above it. Hence, as Eddy discusses in the video above you could use this draw to smoke cheese/fish and other food items. The cold smoker capabilities of the Cookshack pellet grills are a notable feature not found on many other pellet grills.
Cookshack Pellet Grill Digital Tempreture Controller
I do think Cookshack is producing some very high-quality wood pellet grills at a reasonable price point factoring in they are made from stainless steel and made in the USA. However, I do believe there is one area where I think Cookshack need to update their residential pellet grills to be more competitive with other premium and luxury pellet grills, and its the control panel.
In one sense its very simple to use, just an on/off switch along with up and down temperature buttons. However, when you need to adjust the process more precisely by modifying the LHt (Low Heat time) and HHt (High Heat time) settings for more accurate and consistent cooking/smoking it gets tricky.
Both the LHt (Low Heat time) and HHt (High Heat time) settings are essentially time delay settings that tell the controller how long of a gap in seconds the unit should leave between turning the auger on and off to feed in more pellets to feed the fire.
Essentially very similar to the P-Setting on older Traeger pellet grills. When you would want to adjust such settings is when the ambient temperature around the grill has changed. Say for instance its very cold and/or windy. Well, the unit will need to feed in more pellets to consistently hold a set temperature.
The problem is your average pellet BBQ owner is buying a pellet grill for convenience. To get great wood flavour without having to manage, monitor and maintain a charcoal grill for instance. Therefore, many other Premium/Luxury pellet grill brands are now using PID (Proportional Integral Derivative) controllers.
A PID controller with some complicated mathematical algorithms is constantly monitoring the internal temperature inside the grill and adjusting the auger and fan speed accordingly. A PID controller makes all the adjustments for you, even if the ambient temperature around the wood pellet grill changes.
Missing WiFi Integration
Cookshack pellet grills are not currently WiFi/App enabled. Traegers WiFire and Camp Chef Connect are very popular with pellet grill owners to monitor and adjust the operation of the pellet grill from anywhere with a WiFi/4G/5G signal. All other luxury/stainless steel pellet grills from Coyote, Memphis and Twin Eagles have WiFi.
As Cookshack stainless steel pellet grills are built to last to provide existing and new customers with WiFi integration I think Cookshack should consider a new control panel upgrade option as Camp Chef has done with their Gen 2 WiFi controller.
Not All Stainless Steels Are Created Equal
I don’t believe that most people are aware that stainless steel comes in many different grades. While all stainless steel is more corrosion resistant than mild steel used on lower priced pellet grills, the specific grade of stainless steel used in the construction of the pellet grill is worth noting.
Most luxury pellet grills have their exterior panels made from either 430 or 304-grade stainless steel. 304 is a higher grade/more corrosion-resistant stainless steel which can even cope with salty coast air.
While Cookshack does use 304 and 430-grade stainless steel in the construction of their pellet grills, they also use 201 grade. 201-grade stainless steel was developed due to the high cost of 304 stainless steel due to its high Nickel content.
Therefore 201-grade stainless steel was developed as a cheaper alternative with half the Nickel content. The good news is that 201 stainless steel actually has a higher strength compared to 304 and is more resistant to dents/scratches. The downside with 201 is that its not as corrosion resistant. Hence, 201 can suffer surface corrosion (also referred to as pitting).
The result is that over time as Cookshack pellet grills feature 201-grade stainless steel in their construction they may not look quite as bright and shiny as other stainless steel pellet grills made from purely 304-grade stainless steel.
However, Cookshack pellet grills are significantly cheaper than other luxury pellet grills and are designed to be more of a work-horse. Furthermore, a Cookshack pellet grill over time is still going to look a lot better than other pellet grills made from painted mild steel when the paint starts to come off and rust comes through.
Cookshack/Fast Eddy Wood Pellet Grill Conclusions
For someone like myself with a background in helping to engineer pellet based equipment the Cookshack/Fast Eddy pellet grills particularly appeal to me. After Traeger, Cookshack is one of the longest established pellet grill manufacturers. However, you probably wouldn’t be aware of that fact as their marketing budget is not that of much of their competition.
However, Cookshack is still around today after decades of making pellet grills/smokers. The reason, they produce high-quality products not only for the residential market but also for commercial operations. Hence, Cookshack knows how to produce durable equipment that works and lasts. So while their products/marketing is not as ‘flashy’ as some of their competition they are producing high-quality pellet grills/smokers at a very reasonable price point for a full stainless steel pellet grill.
That’s it! Thanks for reading. If you are interested in a Cookshack/Fast Eddy wood pellet grill hop on over to the BBQGuys.com. They also have some great financing deals to spread out the cost of a pellet grill. If you would like to explore your options more before making a purchase please check out my Wood Pellet Grill/Smoker Guide. 🙂
Back in 2007 when I first become aware of pellet grills and smokers the only brand I was really aware of was Traeger. Traeger is really where this whole concept of cooking with pellets started in the 1980s. It was a ‘slow burner’ (pardon the pun) but since the 2010s is really when pellet grills and smokers started to get mainstream awareness, discussed alongside gas and charcoal grills. There are now over 30 pellet grill/smoker brands that I’m aware of, and the link above goes to my A to Z list of brands article.
Now, you may already be aware of a few of the other brands such as Pit Boss, Camp Chef, Z Grills and I’m sure you are aware of Weber, though you may not have known they have entered the pellet grill game. However, they are now many, many more brands to look into. Some may be what are commonly referred to as ‘Traeger clones’, but many others are offering their own unique designs and features.
A pellet grill/smoker is only as good as the BBQ pellets you put into it. The type/quality of the BBQ wood pellets you use will impact temperature performance and smoke flavour. There are many pellet flavours including Apple, Hickory, Mapel, Oak and Walnut to name but a few. However, some brands are hardwood blended pellets whereas others are 100% single wood species.
In this article, I provide details on over 20 brands of BBQ wood pellets, their range of flavours, whether they are 100% single wood species or hardwood blended pellets, their typical price and where they are available. I also provide tips on how to get the best deal when buying BBQ wood pellets and how to test pellet quality. Finally, I discuss the new kid on the block, charcoal pellets and their special attributes compared to all other hardwood BBQ pellets.