I picked up this pellet grill smoker based on the recommendation of crew member Matt French, he has been smoking meats for years on a propane vertical smoker but recently picked up this same model pellet grill. To sweeten the deal, Wal-Mart was having an end of season clearance selling off these $700 units for only $350!
The Pit Boss Austin XL is a pellet fed grill. It uses food grade pellets similar to pellet wood stoves for home heating, fed though a hopper, via an auger to the fire pit. It has an electrical element for initial ignition, a fan to force feed air to the fire and a computer controller that senses heat inside the grill and automatically feeds pellets to maintain the temperature you have the unit set to.
It can slow smoke at 130ish degrees F and grill/sear up to 500 F making it a true smoker and grill all in one.
The Austin XL has over 1000 square inches of grilling space and a 20lb hopper which can run the unit overnight on smoke setting such as when doing a brisket.
The unit itself is very well made, its constructed of 14 gauge sheet metal and has great fit and finish, for which I was pleasantly surprised at this price point.
To start the unit you simply make sure the hopper is full, hit the power button, turn the dial to smoke setting and leave the lid open.
Once the heavy white smoke of ignition clears away, close the lid, set your temperature and let it come up to temperature. The whole process is similar in time and effort as lighting a propane grill. Very easy and quick. If the unit is brand new or ran out of pellets, be sure to follow the instructions in the manual to purge the auger feed pipe.
The big benefit of a pellet grill (for me) vs. an offset, stick burner or charcoal grill is the set it and forget it system of maintaining temperature. The pellet grill monitors the grill and automatically adds pellets to maintain your smoke or heat setting. You should check on it periodically but you don't need to build a fire and babysit it which is a big time/stress saver on a 8-12 hour brisket cook! I can have the grill going and get stuff done around the house occasionally popping out to check on the cook.
My first item ever cooked on the new grill was a pork tenderloin. I seasoned it with my rub of choice in this case Honey Hog, and put the machine on smoke setting P4. There are 8 smoke settings to choose from using the "P" button, P0 means less smoke more heat, to P7 which is maximum smoke and lowest heat. After and hour or so I turned the unit up to 225 degrees and finished on 250, all in all about a 3 hour slow cook to get to 160 internal temperature.
When making bacon or brisket I add a Lumberjack smoke box for maximum smoke flavour on longer cooks. The box will burn for about 2 hours and greatly intensifies the smoke flavour as required during the initial stages of Bacon.
The Austin XL comes with 2 temperature probes that plug into the main controller so all your temperatures are displayed at once. Temperature Setting, actual grill temperature, and one or two meat probe readings.
When grilling you select a much higher temperature, usually 400 and above. You can also reach in with a tool and slide open the searing plate to partially expose your meat to direct flame to sear or reverse sear steaks and other items. Here I used the sear feature to crisp up and render out bacon on bacon wrapped ptarmigan breasts.
In Torbay we don't have much shelter, so on windy days I stick up a windbreak to help keep internal temperatures and smoke consistent. This is more important on lower temperatures and especially when smoking, grilling I don't think you can fan out these flames!
The unit comes with an additional upper grate which I only install when I need more square inches, particularly when smoking.
All grease inside the unit flows outside to a tinfoil lined bucket. At first replacement liners were hard to find so I made an extra liners from tin foil until I secured a stock of regular liners.
Other than changing liners on the grease bucket, the only other regular maintenance items required are:
I usually vacuum mine out every 3-4 cooks or every 12 hours of run time.
There are lots of different pellets on the market, I've used Pit Boss, Jealous Devil, Lumberjack and Furtado Farms all with great success. They are all unique and each add something different to your food.
Pellets need to be kept very dry so I keep a damp trap in the hopper of the machine and the rest of my pellets are stored indoors in buckets with water tight lids. I also made some custom cut decals printed on our Cricuit for my storage buckets.
Smoking meats with a pellet smoker has been one of the best things I've started in a long time. The flavors are out of this world, there is a wealth of information and ideas on the internet and the pellet grill makes it easier than most other styles of units. You don't have to babysit a pellet grill nearly as much as maintaining a fire in an offset, or adding chips to a electric or propane vertical unit. You can set the unit and continue on with projects around the house making it very enjoyable for the busy outdoorsman and people new to smoking alike.
Copyright © 2011 Michael Smith