If you’re looking for a range of pellet grills for under a thousand dollars, the pellet grills produced by Green Mountain Grills should definitely be part of your consideration. They are very well built units for their price, but also they notably include several features which in many cases are only found on more expensive premium pellet grills which cost over a thousand dollars. I’ve been waiting to write this post until I received some feedback from Green Mountain Grills (GMG) on some of the differences between their lower specification Choice grills and their higher specification Prime grills.
The Davy Crockett (now called the Trek), their smallest/portable unit is one of Green Mountain Grills most popular wood pellet grills: Image – BBQGuys.com
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Just to clarify Green Mountain Grills are generally classed as Practical Class pellet grills due to their price point of under a thousand dollars. If you’re not sure about the different pellet grill classes I have a post on how to choose the best pellet grill to meet your needs.
However, GMG now also produce a commercial trailer grill the Big Pig Trailer Rig, as stated on their website ‘this one’s not for everybody‘. At just under $6K that grill isn’t within the practical grill class its a commercial pellet grill. However, most people are going to be interested in their smaller/residential grade grills.
Introduction To Green Mountain Grills
Green Mountain Grills started producing pellet grills in 2008. The venture started from a love of pellet grilling/smoking but also a disappointment of the feature set and temperature control of pellet grills available at that time.
It is true that previous generation pellet grills from several manufacturers and even some pellet grills on sale today have quite wide temperature swings. My article discussing the Gen 1 vs Gen 2 Traeger Pro Series being an example. An area where Green Mountain Grills have set themself apart is the use of PID technology in all their controllers, on all their grills.
If you don’t know what PID is and why its important, don’t worry, I’ll discuss that below. There are different sizes and specifications of Green Mountain Grills on offer. In terms of sizes from smallest to largest, its the Davy Crockett (Trek), followed by the Daniel Boone (Ledge), Jim Bowie (Peak) and the trailer-mounted commercial unit the Big Pig Trailer Rig. However, first I need to discuss the differences between the Choice and Prime versions of Green Mountain Grills.
GMG Choice Standard Pellet Grills (Non-WiFi)
Green Mountain Grills are still offering their mid-sized Daniel Boone and larger Jim Bowie in the original Choice specification. These grills are cheaper than their Prime specification siblings discussed below. However, these grills do still use a PID controller for accurate temperature control within a 5-degree margin.
Though they don’t have WiFi integration which is becoming an extremely popular feature with pellet grill owners. Also, its worth noting that Choice specification grills have a maximum temperature of 500 degrees. Whereas all Prime specification grills have a higher 550-degree maximum temperature setting.
Notably, these grills are built on an AC platform which means precise control of the auger and combustion fan is limited. Whereas the DC platform used in the Prime series discussed below offers for more granular control. Other pellet grill manufacturers such as Traeger with their D2 Direct Drive are also moving over to a DC platform for more accurate pellet grill temperature control.
Every GMG pellet grill (Choice and Prime models) also features a Low Pellet Alarm as standard. Its not as advanced as the Traeger pellet sensor. However, that’s an optional extra on all but Traegers most expensive pellet grills.
GMG Prime/Prime Plus Pellet Grills
As noted above, the Prime specification pellet grills can achieve a higher cooking temperature of 550 degrees. Lower specification pellet grills such as the Cuisinart Woodcreek and Twin Oaks can only reach 500. In fact, even high-end premium grills such as the Traeger Ironwood and Timberline max out at 500 degrees.
What that additional 50 degrees mean is you have the ability to achieve better searing performance. All GMG pellet grills can also direct flame broil with a replacement perforated grease tray, but I’ll discuss that more later.
If you compare the image of the Prime specification Jim Bowie (Peak) above and the earlier picture of the Choice specification you should notice some important differences. First, look at how the legs and wheels on the Prime grill are of a much higher quality and more sturdy.
Secondly, observe the viewing window on the hopper and lid. These will enable you to quickly check how your BBQ wood pellet consumption is going and how your food is cooking without unnecessarily opening the lid and losing heat/smoke.
Prime Plus Specification
I should note that the Jim Bowie above is actually a Prime Plus model. This means several other improvements over a standard Prime model. These include a folding instead of a fixed front shelf, interior grill light, rotisserie enabled mounting and stronger reinforced grates. Furthermore, this model also has the stainless steel lid. However, you can still opt for the cheaper/black painted lid if you would prefer.
Other Prime Specification Improvements
Besides the higher temperatures which can be achieved on Prime specification GMG pellet grills, the more robust legs/wheels and viewing windows there are a couple of other notable improvements on Prime spec grills over the Choice models, they include:
- Improved PID/WiFi temperature controller with dual meat probes
- Stainless steel heat deflector and grease drip tray
- Adjustable heat deflector
- Ash vacuum port into the firepot
Prime Spec Adjustable Heat Shield Benefits
One of the features on the Prime range that interests me the most is the adjustable heat shield. Its a feature I’ve not seen on any other pellet grill to date, but it offers some unique functionality. You can briefly see the adjustable heat shield in the promo video above. However, you don’t get a good look at it. Therefore, I’ve found a second video demonstrating the GMG adjustable heat shield in action.
Now, anyone who has not owned a pellet grill before may be thinking to themselves ‘but why would you want an adjustable heat shield?‘. Well, every pellet grill, even a luxury brand such as Memphis pellet grills will have temperature differences across the cooking area of the grill.
The heat deflector directly positioned over the firepot helps to distribute the heat and so does the grease tray. However, there are still areas of the cooking surface that are hotter than others.
Now if you are cooking burgers or steaks you can easily just move them around on the grill as they cook to get them even. However, let’s say you are cooking something larger, like a rack of ribs for instance. Due to the size of the rack of ribs, you cannot move it around in the grill to the same degree.
With the adjustable heat shield instead of moving the ribs, you move the heat shield during the cook. I’ve not tried this feature myself as yet so I cannot attest to its performance. However, I do think it has the potential to provide additional functionality.
Prime Spec Ash Vacuum Port
As I’ve previously discussed in my how to clean a pellet grill post, from time to time you have got to take out the racks, grease tray and heat deflectors and get into the bottom of the grill with a shop/ash vac. How often you need to do that will depend on the type and length of cooks you have been doing.
After one or two slow/long cooks you will want to clean the ash out of the bottom of the grill. On fast/searing cooks of burgers etc, you would only need to clean out the ash after four or five cooks typically.
However, on the Prime spec GMG pellet grills there is now an ash vacuum port located on the right side of the grills. Its behind a little door which you have to unscrew the latch on. Therefore, this means you can clean out the ash from the firepot without having to dismantle the internals on the grill.
Though, please remember you should only do this when the grill has cooled down and the ashes are cool. A very convenient feature to have, though I would still recommend every now and again taking the internals of the grill out for a proper clean.
GMG PID/WiFi Pellet Grill Controllers
GMG has been pushing the benefits of PID temperature controllers for many years on all their pellet grills. Its now seen on all new models from Traeger and Camp Chef too. For instance, Camp Chef launched a Gen 2 WiFi controller as a retrofit/upgrade for their older pellet grills which features PID technology. To save me having to explain what PID is and how it works I’ve included the video below which will do a better job than I would while being more interesting. 🙂
Obviously, the WiFi integration on GMG pellet grill controllers should not be ignored. Pellet grills have always been promoted on their convenience. With the control of an oven and the flavour of a wood fire. Well, to take that convenience to the next level you want a grill with WiFi integration.
You will be able to keep a track of your cook while in the house or pretty much anywhere with a WiFi/Cellular signal. I’ve not had a chance as yet to compare the GMG WiFi App features to Traeger WiFire or Camp Chef Connect, though I hope to do that in the future.
GMG Davy Crockett (Trek) – Smallest/Portable Pellet Grill
I’ve previously written about the Davy Crockett in my post on the best portable pellet grills. It really is an impressive little unit with features that many larger pellet grills today still lack even though this grill was first launched way back in 2014. Providing just under 220 square inches of cooking space, this is not the grill to cook a banquet for a large family.
However, that’s not what its designed for. Its primarily intended for tailgating, camping/hunting trips and loading into the back of a truck/RV. Its important to remember though, while the Davy Crockett is a very small pellet grill its also a highly capable grill and smoker.
All pellet grills require a source of power to operate the auger and combustion fan etc. Therefore, when making a portable pellet grill you are more often than not going to want to run the grill from DC power, directly from your cars/trucks/RV’s 12V battery. However, other portable power options are available.
You can also run the Davey Crocket at home from an AC inverter. However, in most instances when out and about you will just run the unit directly from a source of 12V DC power. Other portable units such as the Traeger Scout and Ranger pellet grills run on AC power, and require an inverter to run on DC power when out and about.
GMG Davy Crockett Notable Features
- 12V DC (Direct Current) electrical system
- 150°F to 550°F Temperature Range
- PID Controller able to adjust and hold temperature within 5-degree increments (with meat probe)
- WiFi integration and monitoring/control through the GMG App
The Davy Crockett does now sit in the GMG Prime range. However, there are features found on Daniel Boone and Jim Bowie Prime specification units that the Davy Crockett does not have. For instance, the Davy Crockett does not have the viewing windows for the hopper and grill lid.
Furthermore, it does not have the ash vacuum port on the side of the grill or the adjustable heat shield. Though, all in all, the Davy Crockett is an excellent little pellet grill and great value for money. The Davy Crockett has now been rebranded as the Trek.
GMG Daniel Boone (Ledge) – Mid-Size Pellet Grill/Smoker
The Daniel Boone sits in the middle of the range in terms of size, offering a cooking area of 458 square inches. The cheapest version of the Daniel Boone is the Choice model, without WiFi and based on the AC platform. However, its also available for a bit more money in Prime specification or Prime Plus with the folding front shelf etc.
There is a slight difference between the Choice version and Plus models as well in terms of hopper size. The Choice spec has a 17lb hopper, whereas the Prime spec features an 18lb hopper. Its not a significant difference.
In terms of weight, that’s where you can really tell the difference between the Choice spec and the upgraded construction on the Prime models. The Choice Daniel Boone weighs 154lb, whereas the Prime spec weighs 177lbs.
That additional 23lbs is mainly due to the upgraded legs on the unit to provide improved stability. Intern, the wheels on the Prime spec models are also upgraded to deal with the additional weight. The Daniel Boone has now been rebranded as the Ledge.
GMG Jim Bowie (Peak) – Large Pellet Grill/Smoker
The Jim Bowie is the largest conventional pellet grill/smoker that GMG produces. There is the Big Pig Trailer discussed below which is larger. However, that’s only really for commercial applications. The Jim Bowie provides 658 square inches of cooking area, so an additional 200 square inches over the Daniel Boone.
However, the pellet hopper size on the Jim Bowie is actually the same as the Daniel Boone at 18lbs. Its a little disappointing the hopper cannot take a full 20lb bag of wood pellets, but its not a big deal.
Just as with the Daniel Boone the Jim Bowie is available as a Choice specification unit with no WiFi. It can also be ordered as a Prime and Prime Plus unit with all the benefits referenced above such as adjustable heat shield, ash vacuum port etc.
You can also opt for a stainless steel lid in Prime specification if you choose to. The benefits being not only increased durability but it will also be easier to clean. The Jim Bowie has now been rebranded at the Peak.
GMG Big Pig Trailer Rig – Commercial Pellet Grill/Smoker
So the largest unit that GMG produce is the Big Pig Trailer Rig. This unit is really designed for commercial cooking applications. However, I suppose for those people who treat BBQ events as a serious hobby they may also consider a unit such as this.
Now, above I noted the Jim Bowie is the ‘most advanced large pellet grill’ that GMG currently produces. The reason being, the Big Pig Trailer Rig is not the same as the Jim Bowie in terms of capabilities/features even though both are Prime specification grills.
It does use a 12V/DC platform and the PID/WiFi controller. However, it doesnt have some of the other features found on the Prime versions of the Daniel Boone and Jim Bowie. For instance, the peak cooking temperature on the Big Pig Trailer is 500 and not 550 degrees.
It also doesn’t feature the adjustable heat shield or the ash vacuum port. However, I still think this is one of the most capable trailer-mounted pellet grill/smokers on the market.
GMG Pellet Grill Direct Flame Broiling
When I first started to research GMG pellet grills in detail I noted that their promotional videos from 2016 showed a sliding/perforated grease tray to enable direct flame broiling. However, when I’ve been reviewing the specs on their latest products I noticed that only solid grease trays are included.
When I reached out to Green Mountain Grills to confirm if direct-flame broiling was possible on their grills Jason Baker, their Business Development Manager kindly replied with more details stating:
“We don’t offer the sliding two-piece grease tray as standard in any unit but they are available as an accessory. Any open flame system can be very dangerous to a user not familiar with it.”
Personally, I think this is a very sensible approach for GMG to be taking. As flame broiling with ‘direct flame kiss’ is a great feature to have but you really do have to appreciate the flare-up risks of the grease catching fire. If the launch of the Weber SmokeFire should teach us anything, its that grease fires need to be taken seriously.
After I reviewed the parts pages over on the GMG website you can get the sliding grease tray for every GMG pellet grill, even the tiny Davy Crockett. You can also easily order many other parts to improve/repair the pellet grills such as their pizza oven attachment. I also think their product support page with instructions/videos is one of the best in the business.
Green Mountain Grills Reviews
Normally when I research owner reviews for my posts I like to find the latest reviews on the latest products. However, with this owners review, I’m going to include something a little different. Its a review of a 10-year-old GMG pellet grill!
Obviously, the features/control panel on this grill are not comparable to the latest and greatest GMG pellet grills referenced above. The reason I wanted to include it is to show the build quality of GMG pellet grills.
Conclusions on GMG Pellet Grills/Smokers
I really do think the line-up of pellet grills/smoker from GMG offers excellent value for money. Even the large Jim Bowie pellet grill in Prime Plus specification is under a thousand dollars with a stainless steel lid. At the other end of the scale, the little Davy Crocket grill I think is extremely impressive with its PID/WiFi controller for under $330.
To be able to get a pellet grill with a PID controller at that price point I think really stands out. I discuss this more in my Traeger vs GMG pellet grills post.
That’s it! Thanks for reading, I hope you found my summary on the range of GMG pellet grills/smokers interesting. You can order the GMG Davy Crocket over at the BBQGuys.com where you can compare its features to other small pellet grills they sell. If you would like to read more of my articles please review 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.