Gear Review: Camp Chef Pellet Grill (Plus, a Bacon Recipe)

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A fat corn- or rice-fed mallard roasted rare at 450 degrees for around 20 minutes has always been one of my favorite meals. The only thing I like better is a whole roasted Canada goose. The problem with roasting a duck at high temperatures is what I call “duck smoke.” Dripping duck fat in a hot oven makes billowing clouds of smelly, greasy smoke that fills the house, putting all but the hardiest diners off their feed.

The solution to my problem is the Camp Chef Pellet Grill on my back deck. Not only can I roast ducks without filling the house with pungent fumes, I can infuse birds with a delicious hickory or applewood flavor. I have also used it for roasting pheasants, for slow cooking ribs, for barbecuing goose legs, and more.

Pellet grills are in right now, although the term “pellet grill” is misleading. They are pellet smokers, really, burning compressed hickory, apple, mesquite, and other wood pellets for fuel. They can hit a top temperature of 450 to 500 degrees, which is great for roasting ducks, and you can set them way down low, which produces the most smoke for slow cooking.

The Camp Chef pellet grill is neither the cheapest nor most expensive pellet smoker. Mine lists for $834, although Cabela’s sells their branded version, also by Camp Chef, for $599.* I’ve been completely happy with mine since I got it last winter. I put it together (mostly a matter of attaching the legs) easily per instructions and started cooking. It has been trouble-free, and it has a couple of nice features. The first is a digital temperature control that’s very accurate. The second is a removable ash and pellet trap on the bottom of the grill that greatly simplifies cleanup. You pull open a trip on the bottom of the grill and it dumps the cool ash in the burn box into a cup, making it easy to toss.

Pellet grills have two drawbacks, if you’re considering one. The pellets are a little bit costly at about $20 per 20 pounds and in some places they can be hard to find. The other is that they cook through indirect heat, which is not a drawback, but it does mean you can’t sear a steak in one. For that, I still use my Weber charcoal grill. For everything else, I use the pellet grill and I love it. In fact, if you need a reason to get one, try this. You may remember David Draper’s recent post explaining why you shouldn’t cook game with bacon, with which I completely agree. So what do you do with bacon? You cook it in the pellet grill. Like this:

-Take a pound of bacon. Ideally you do this with really good, thick-cut bacon.

-Brush the strips of bacon in half a cup of warmed maple syrup.

-Toss them in a bowl containing half a pound of brown sugar.

-Put the sugar-coated bacon strips on a wire cooling rack on a baking sheet and put that on the grill.

-Set the pellet smoker to 300 degrees and cook the bacon to your preferred doneness, about 15 minutes or so.

Yes, it is sugar and syrup coated bacon with some smoky flavor added, and that’s exactly what it tastes like and, yes, it really is as good as it sounds.

*This model won a Field & Stream Best of the Best award in 2014.