When it comes to full stainless steel pellet grills/smokers the first two brands to offer such a product were Memphis and Cookshack. However, these two brands do differ in terms of their target market. Memphis primarily target the high-end domestic market. Whereas while Cookshack does offer their products to domestic customers, they are also targeting commercial needs with products such as their vertical pellet smoker. For this particular comparison, we’ll look at how the entry-level products from these two brands compare. As both brands offer a sub $2K wood pellet grill/smoker.
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This comparison is going to specifically discuss the Memphis Beale Street and Cookshack PG500 as these are grills are the closest match on price from each brand. The Memphis Beale Street comes in just under $2,000, whereas the Cookshack PG500 is typically found for a little less, around the $1,800 mark. I’ve detailed articles on the Memphis pellet grills and Cookshack pellet grill ranges if you want to learn more in general about these two brands.
Memphis Beale Street vs Cookshack PG500
As discussed above, there is typically around a $200 price disparity between these two pellet grills. However, at this price point around $2K, a $200 price difference is not that significant and therefore we can compare these two pellet grills as a fair comparison. As usual with my comparisons first, we’ll look at cooking area & functionality, move onto materials & construction then finally discuss their control panels.
Something I should point out as I know its a question some of my readers ask about is where are these grills made? Now, Cookshack has always been and continue to be a made in the USA pellet grill brand. Memphis on the other hand up until 2020 were made in the USA, however, they have now moved their manufacturing operations overseas.
Cooking Area & Functionality
As the Cookshack PG500 has a different appearance to the Memphis Beale Street with its split doors, its not obvious by looking at these pellet grills which offers the larger cooking area. Well, the Memphis Beale Street provides 429 square inches at the main cooking grate, with an additional 129 sq.in from an upper smoking rack for a total of 558 sq.in. The Cookshack PG500, on the other hand, provides 504 sq.in at the main cooking grate and an additional 280 sq.in for an upper rack for a total of 784 sq.in. Hence, the Cookshack PG500 is not only offering the larger main cooking grate for grilling and smoking but the larger cooking area overall.
In terms of cooking functionality, both of these pellet grills provide direct flame access. However, the way each brand has implemented the feature is different. First off, the Cookshack provides a dedicated direct-flame grilling area on the left side of the grill of 180 sq.in. Memphis has gone for a different approach. To use direct-flame access on the Beale Street the metal plate in the centre of the grease tray has to be swapped for a direct-flame insert with holes. However, this direct flame insert is not included with the Beale Street, and is an optional accessory for around $125.
Hence, the price difference between these two pellet grills is actually around $325 if you want to be able to use the direct-flame access feature. I’m also not a massive fan of having to lift up the cooking grates to swap in the direct-flame access insert. If you need to change it over in the middle of a cook with food already on the grates that not ideal. It’s why pretty much all Danson pellet grills with direct-flame access (Pit Boss Pro Series/Louisiana Black Label) now have an external leaver to turn the feature on and off.
Materials & Construction
The Memphis Beale Street and the Cookshack PG500 are the two cheapest full-stainless steel pellet grills currently on the market. However, they are not actually made from the same grade of stainless steel. Stainless steel is an alloy of different metals, you can read my article on stainless steel pellet grills to learn about the different grades. The best grade of stainless steel you will find on a pellet grill is 304. As I discuss in my Memphis vs Coyote article, on the larger Memphis pellet grills the Pro and Elite they are purely offering 304-grade construction now. However, the Beale Street is made from a cheaper grade of stainless steel called 430.
430-grade stainless steel is not as corrosion resistant as 304-grade, and in coastal climates with salty sea air maintenance of the Memphis Beale Street may be needed to keep it looking its best. So what about the Cookshack PG500? Well, for its internal construction the PG500 features both 430 and 304-grade stainless steel. However, the external construction of the PG500 201-grade stainless steel is used. In terms of corrosion resistance, 201 is a step down further from 430-grade. Though 201 is a stronger grade of stainless steel, and can resistant dents better. However, in terms of corrosion resistance, the Memphis Beale Street has the edge over the Cookshack PG500.
Control Panels & Connectivity
First, let’s discuss their temperature ranges. The Memphis Beale Street can be set as low as 180 degrees and as high as 500 degrees. The Cookshack PG500 on the other hand can match the Memphis on the low end but exceed it on the high end reaching 600 degrees. Now, I should state though, that on the Memphis Beale Street with the optional direct-flame insert fitted the temperature at the grate will actually be around 650 degrees, likewise on the Cookshack PG500. In terms of the control panels themselves, while I think the Cookshack features a reliable controller, I do think it needs to be updated to match offerings such as those fitted to the Memphis Beale Street.
While both control panels are ‘digital’ the ITC (Intelligent Temperature Control) fitted to the Memphis Beale Street features a PID algorithm and WiFi functionality, both features missing on the Cookshack PG500. A PID algorithm is constantly measuring the internal temperature inside the grill and comparing it to the set temperature on the control panel. The PID algorithm can then work out how fast to run the pellet feed auger/fan to achieve and maintain the set temperature to within 5 degrees. Typically, the control panel technology featured on the current Cookshack PB500 will maintain the internal temperature inside the grill to within 25 degrees of the set temperature.
I personally regard PID temperature accuracy as a more important feature than WiFi, however, I also don’t think WiFi/App functionality is a gimmick either. We are all busy people, and if you are interested in purchasing a pellet grill/smoker to make BBQ easier, then you would likely benefit from WiFi/App functionality. When it comes to grilling/searing steaks and burgers, no, you’re not really going to be controlling the grill with your phone. However, if you want to cook a brisket, for example, nice and slow over 12 hours or so to produce a melt in your mouth sensation without constantly checking the pellet smoker, yeah, WiFi can come in handy.
Conclusions On Memphis vs Cookshack
So who wins when it comes to the two cheapest full stainless steel pellet grills on the market today? Well, on the cooking area and functionality side of things, that goes to the Cookshack PG500. While the Memphis Beale Street is also capable of direct flame searing, to do so it would effectively cost you $300 more than the Cookshack. Furthermore, the PB500 offers the larger grilling area and the larger cooking area overall. It also has a warming draw which can be used for cold smoking and can be set to the higher temperature of 600 degrees.
When it comes to materials and construction, I think the Memphis Beale Street has the edge with its 430-grade stainless steel exterior. I also personally prefer the look of the Memphis grill. Now, how the grill looks obviously doesn’t impact how it functions. However, if you’re dropping near enough $2K on a grill, you want your friends and family to be impressed by it. When it comes to the control panel and connectivity side of things, that one is an easy win for the Memphis Beale Street with its PID/WiFi control panel.
Overall all then, I think as long as you are prepared to be more hands-on and monitor the Cookshack, it provides the better value for money on the functionality front. For a more automated approach, the Memphis will suit that requirement better, but you have to pay a premium over the Cookshack to get it. Then there is the fact that the Cookshack is made in the US, while the Memphis is not. How much weight you want to put to that one is a decision that is obviously very personal.
That’s it! Thanks for reading, I hope this Memphis vs Cookshack comparison was interesting/useful. If you would like to learn more about all your pellet grill/smoker options 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.