Which Pellet Grills Have Direct-Flame Searing?

Hi, I’m Chris. I started PelHeat.com back in 2007.

If you’re in the market for a pellet grill, there is a feature that a lot of people look for, direct-flame grilling. So with this article, I want to discuss which brands offer direct flame grilling on their pellet grills and which don’t (currently). I also want to discuss if you really need it and the potential downsides with direct flame access. While giving the user access to the direct flame from the pellet burn pot can improve grilling/searing performance, it does come with risks. Those risks include a higher probability of grease fire flare-ups along with an increased risk of drying out/burning your food. So use the feature with caution.

Camp Chef Direct Flame Pellet Grills
Camp Chef currently produce my favourite line of mid-range domestic pellet grills with direct flame grilling/searing/broiling: Image – CampChef.com

Disclaimer: Hey! By the way… any links on this page that lead to products on Amazon or other sites are affiliate links, and I earn a commission if you make a purchase.

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Introduction To Pellet Grill Direct-Flame Grilling

While direct-flame access on a pellet grill can definitely help grilling/searing performance, its not true to say you cannot get reasonable grilling performance on a pellet grill without it. There are various other factors that dictate grilling/searing performance.

For instance, what is the grate made from? Thin wire or thick cast-iron? Are charcoal pellets being used for a higher heat out? Furthermore, the type of control panel fitted to the pellet grill can also make a big difference. All will be explained below.

Pit Boss Direct Flame Pellet Grills
Pit Boss is another popular pellet grill brand that has built a strong reputation for offering direct-flame access: Image – PitBoss-Grills.com

Just to point out the obvious, direct-flame grilling is where the means of collecting grease on the pellet grill actually lets the flames of the pellet fire reach the food.

Pellet grills/smokers are commonly referred to as ‘indirect heat cookers‘, like the oven in your kitchen. However, letting the flames reach the food itself is definitely a form of direct heat.

The result of this direct heat is higher temperatures at the cooking surface. Typically, a pellet grill without direct flame access will max out at 500 degrees.

Whereas pellet grills providing direct-flame access will typically achieve around 650 degrees at the cooking surface. Hence, the potential for improved high-temperature grilling/searing performance.

Weber SmokeFire Direct Flame Access
The SmokeFire range of pellet grills from Weber also lets flames reach the cooking grate: Image – BBQGuys.com

Are there potential downsides to providing direct flame access on a pellet grill? Yes, there are, and we have examples below. However, when properly monitored and the pellet grill has been cleaned correctly, those potential risks can be mitigated.

Though the simple facts are if you are going to do direct-flame grilling you need to be more aware and be really paying attention to avoid the potential risks of a grease fire or drying out/burning your food.

I’m mainly going to reference the brands which do provide the option of direct-flame access, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t reference Traeger, as they are the most popular pellet grill brand (here’s proof).

Traeger – No Direct Flame Option

So to date, Traeger has never offered direct-flame grilling on any of their pellet grills. Traeger is instead trying to market their brand with features such as the WiFire app on the latest Pro Series, Ironwood and Timberline models as being very easy to use.

Well, adding in direct-flame broiling does require more user skill/awareness. Hence, the reason I think Traeger doesn’t add direct-flame broiling onto their grills (though its never been expressly stated) is that they don’t want social media posts showing users burning their food or having a grease fire.

Traeger Pellet Grills/Smokers
No Traeger pellet grill to date, including the latest top-of-the-line Timberline models, provide direct-flame access: Images – Traeger.com

How does Traeger’s choice not to include direct-flame access impact their grilling/searing performance? Well, you will not be able to achieve the same high temperatures at the cooking grate as the other pellet grills below. Though grilling performance can be reasonable on the latest models out of the box.

However, previous-generation Traeger grills based on the old Traeger Pro controller, which is not a PID controller, can struggle with a max temp of 450 degrees. That also includes the Traeger Scout and Ranger portable grills. More modern Traeger grills referenced above will get up to 500 degrees.

As I discuss in my article on can a Traeger replace a gas grill recommend the addition of some GrillGrates to improve grilling/searing performance and some charcoal pellets.

Pit Boss – Direct Flame On Most Pellet Grills

As I referenced above, Pit Boss has built a strong reputation offering direct-flame access on their pellet grills to provide good grilling/searing performance.

Furthermore, on almost every Pit Boss pellet grill I can think of, they also include cast-iron grill grates, which help to hold onto the heat, again providing superior grilling/searing performance over thin wire racks found on some pellet grills.

While not every Pit Boss pellet grill offers direct flame access, most do. Though some of the cheapest/budget Pit Boss pellet grills, such as the 340 do not feature direct flame access or cast-iron grates.

However, all the latest models, which include the Pro Series and Platinum Series, do feature cast-iron grates and direct-flame access.

For instance, the latest model which has been added to the Pit Boss Platinum range is the Laredo which is currently one of the best pellet grills under $500. Part of the reason for that is the Laredo does indeed feature direct-flame access.

Pit Boss Platinum Laredo

  • Total Cooking Area = 1,006 sq.in (527 sq.in at the main grate)
  • Pellet Hopper Capacity = 26 lbs
  • Temperature Range = 180 to 500 degrees (650+ Direct Flame)
  • Direct-Flame Access? = Yes
  • PID Temperature Control? = Yes
  • WiFi/App Control? = Yes
  • Typical Price = $500
  • Availability = Walmart.com (exclusively)

Camp Chef – Direct Flame On Some Pellet Grills

At the top of this article, I stated that Camp Chef currently produce my favourite mid-range pellet grills providing access for direct flame grilling. However, there are several Camp Chef pellet grill models which do not feature direct-flame access.

While all Woodwind models feature ‘Slide’n Grill’ direct flame access, certain models in the cheaper SmokePro range do not.

Neither of the SmokePro SE, XT, DLX or LUX variants feature Slide’n Grill. However, the SG models do. An example is the SG WiFi 24, which is one of the best pellet grills under $600.

Direct-Flame access is also not included on the Woodwind Pro models as I discuss in my linked article, the feature simply couldn’t be fitted into the design.

The new Camp Chef Apex also doesn’t feature direct flame access from the pellet fire. However, it doesn’t really need it as its a full-width pellet/gas combo grill, and currently of the best on the market.

Camp Chef Woodwind 24″

Total Cooking Area = 797 sq.in (439 sq.in at the main grate)
Pellet Hopper Capacity = 22 lbs
Temperature Range = 160 to 500 degrees (650+ Direct Flame)
Direct-Flame Access? = Yes
PID Temperature Control? = Yes
WiFi/App Control? = Yes
Typical Price = $899
Availability = CampChef.com & BBQGuys.com

Weber – Direct Flame Access, But…

While Weber is relatively new to the pellet grill game, they are the biggest name in BBQ, period. So there was a lot of fan fair when Weber brought out their SmokeFire range of pellets grills to market, which all feature direct-flame access.

Unfortunately, as many owners found, the first generation of SmokeFire pellet grills had some issues. The Weber SmokeFire Gen 2 has fixed several of the issues, but I still think they need to be cleaned more frequently than other pellet grills to avoid grease fires/flare-ups.

The choice to use the same flavorizer bars from their gas grills and their method of capturing grease and ashes from the fire are the main causes of concern.

So while they are very capable pellet grills, it is recommended to clean SmokeFire pellet grills of grease more frequently than other grills for safe operation.

Weber SmokeFire EX4

Weber SmokeFire EX4

Total Cooking Area = 672 sq.in (432 sq.in at the main grate)
Pellet Hopper Capacity = 22 lbs
Temperature Range = 200 to 600 degrees
Direct-Flame Access? = Yes
PID Temperature Control? = Yes
WiFi/App Control? = Yes
Typical Price = $1,099
Availability = BBQGuys.com

GMG – Direct Flame Access, If You Ask For It

So GMG (Green Mountain Grills) are an interesting case. While you can get direct flame access on any pellet grill they offer, including the superb Trek (Davy Crockett) portable pellet grill, you have to purchase the required sliding grease tray separately.

When I asked GMG why this is the case, they responded with, ‘the open flame system can be very dangerous to a user not familiar with it.’ As I’ve stated several times above, this is true, and therefore I actually commend GMG for its approach.

They are offering the option to consumers, but not specifically marketing the feature. Therefore, they get to warn users before they decide to use the feature. I suspect if Traeger ever does offer direct-flame grilling in the future, this is the approach they may take.

GMG Trek (Formally Davy Crockett)

GMG Trek (Davy Crockett) Pellet Grill/Smoker

Total Cooking Area = 219 sq.in
Pellet Hopper Capacity = 10 lbs
Temperature Range = 150 to 550 degrees (650+ Direct Flame)
Direct-Flame Access? = Optional
PID Temperature Control? = Yes
WiFi/App Control? = Yes
Typical Price = $349 to $399
Availability = BBQGuys.com

Oklahoma Joe’s – Direct Flame On Most Pellet Grills

There are currently three Oklahoma Joe’s pellet grills on the market in their Rider range, and there is now the Gen 2 Oklahoma Joe’s range with a few improvements, one of which would appear to be PID temperature control.

Now, the base model (Rider 600) does not have a sliding grease tray for direct flame access. However, the two larger models, the Rider 900 and the Rider DLX do have sliding grease trays.

Though I should note, the Rider DLX offers a much more convenient means to adjust the grease tray to let the flames through. With the 900 you have to lift up the grates and use a tool to slide the grease tray.

On the DLX there is a handle on the outside, you select Smoke and the grease tray is closed. You select Sear and the grease tray opens up to let the flames through, it appears to work pretty well.

Oklahoma Joe’s Rider DLX (Gen 1)

Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX Gen 1 Pellet Grill/Smoker

Total Cooking Area = 578 sq.in (1,234 sq.in at the main grate)
Pellet Hopper Capacity = 20 lbs
Temperature Range = 150 to 500 degrees (650+ Direct Flame)
Direct-Flame Access? = Yes
PID Temperature Control? = No
WiFi/App Control? = No
Typical Price = $699
Availability = Walmart.com

Z Grills – Direct Flame On One Pellet Grill (Currently)

Until recently, direct flame was not accessible on any Z Grill pellet grills. However, Z Grills have been updating their product range with features such as PID temperature control on some models.

The 600 Series from Z Grills features an updated PID control panel along with direct-flame access, making the it the only Z Grill currently which can achieve temperatures in excess of 450 degrees at the grate.

Z Grills 600 Series

Z Grills 600 Series Pellet Grills/Smokers

Total Cooking Area = 332 sq.in (572 sq.in at the main grate)
Pellet Hopper Capacity = 10 lbs
Temperature Range = 180 to 450 degrees (650+ Direct Flame)
Direct-Flame Access? = Yes
PID Temperature Control? = Yes
WiFi/App Control? = No
Typical Price = $339 to $439
Availability = ZGrills.com

Luxury Pellet Grills All Offer Direct Flame Access

So let’s say you are not limited by a budget of up to $2000, and you are in the market for a luxury stainless steel pellet grill. In that case, they all offer direct flame access by various means.

There are quite a few luxury pellet grill brands, and the number seems to grow every couple of years. Currently, they include the following:

But Do You Really Need Direct Flame Access?

Ok, so you do need at least 450 degrees at the cooking grate to have at least a reasonable (not great) searing performance.

As I’ve discussed above, having direct flame access can help to get the cooking surface in excess of 450 degrees, and much higher, potentially up to 700 degrees.

However, a pellet grill with a PID temperature controller, decent cast-iron racks or GrillGrates and some charcoal pellets will get above 600 degrees at the cooking surface.

So my point is, don’t presume you have to have direct-flame access to get good grilling/searing performance from a pellet grill. I discuss this more in my article on which pellet grills get the hottest.

Camp Chef Apex 36"
The Camp Chef Apex doesn’t offer direct flame access from the pellet fire as it doesn’t need it will its full row of propane burners: Images – CampChef.com

Another point worth making is a gas grill will actually get to a higher temperature at the cooking grate, closer to 900 degrees. Therefore, you are seeing morre manufacturers come out with combo pellet/gas grills.

Camp Chef also offers a slightly different approach with their Sear Box/Sidekick attachment, which can be added on/purchased as and when needed.

Then again, as I discuss in my pellet vs gas grills article, if you have a working gas grill already, a vertical pellet smoker might actually be a better option for you.

You do the first part of the cook on the vertical pellet smoker, then sear the food off on your gas grill.

Conclusions On Wood Pellet Grills With Direct Flame Access

Do I think direct flame access on a pellet grill is a good feature to have? Most definitely, while the user has to be aware of the risks, I think its an important feature.

Do I think its the most important feature on a pellet grill with regard to grilling/searing performance? No.

I think, first and foremost, you should focus on getting a grill with a PID controller if you can afford it. Then focus on the grate material, thin wire>thick wire>cast-iron.

However, I pretty much recommend GrillGrates on all pellet grills (any grill for that matter). Therefore, the grate that comes with the grill isn’t that important.

To get the hottest temperatures when grilling as well using 100% charcoal pellets is going to provide the best searing/grilling results on any pellet grill/smoker

That’s it! Thanks for reading, I hope this article has helped you to decide if you need a pellet grill with direct flame access or not. There are lots of pellet grills without direct flame access that are excellent grills/smokers. Please check out my Wood Pellet Grill/Smoker Guide to learn more. 🙂

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Research/compare over 240 pellet grills/smokers on sale today

Chris - PelHeat.com

Hi, I’m Chris. I started PelHeat.com back in 2007. This website is intended to be an educational resource on BBQ pellets, pellet grills & smokers. I hope you find the information useful.

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