Pit Boss Pro 820, differences from 2018 to 2019
Wood pellet grills have been growing in popularity since the Traeger patents expired just a couple years ago. This has opened up a host of options for us BBQ guy's and girl's when it comes to which grill we'll be taking home to cook with. While Traeger may still be the best-known pellet grill, names like Pit Boss, Camp Chef, Louisiana, Green Mountain, Z Grills, and others are all making wood pellet smoker grills that are all strikingly similar.
Pellet grills work just like top-tier convection ovens in commercial kitchens, but have the added distinction of wood smoke. A pellet grill has roughly three ranges of temperature: low, medium, and high. The lower temperature range on a pellet grill is used to get a "low and slow" smokey flavor. As you go up in temperature to the medium and high zones, less smoke will be produced and your food will cook faster like a traditional grill, all while locking in natural juices and providing a hint of smoky flavor.
Pellet grills fill a niche in the BBQ world because they deliver all of the complex flavorings of wood smokers, but have all of the added convenience of a gas grill. Take it from me, I’ve been cooking on pellet grills for close to a decade now, there’s nothing quite like it. Smoking a Thanksgiving turkey with apple pellets is to die for. Fresh salmon smoked with pecan pellets and then lightly seared with grilled pineapples...heavenly. Texas style hickory smoked brisket with that thin layer of outer crust, you get the point. Whatevers on the menu, one thing we can agree on is that cooking with wood pellets is here to stay.
If you’ve been cooking with a pellet grill, leave a comment about what grill you have. Tell us what you like about it. What do you wish it could do better? What are your favorite recipes? Leave comments below. If you are new to pellet grilling, here is a comparison of the 2018 and 2019 Pit Boss Pro 820. Bon BBQ Appetite!
Pit Boss Pro 820 (2018 model)
Pit Boss Grills are made by the Danson Company in Alberta, Canada. They have no association with The Traeger Company other than they are using Traeger's expired patent designs all while hiring Joe Traeger for expertise. There are a few differences between Traeger and Pitboss grills there are but a few differences. The biggest difference is the price. You can effectively purchase any three Pit Boss Grills for about the same price as a high-end Traeger.
The most notable difference with the Pit Boss grills compared to Traeger is the drip tray design. Unlike most pellet grills, the drip trays in Pit Boss grills are a barrel-like or “rounded” pan that slants toward the grease bucket. In the center of the tray, there is a slider that can be opened to expose the center of the primary grilling rack to open flames for a hot “sear zone”. I can tell you from experience that this feature is nifty but works with mixed results. It’s difficult to move once the grill is heated up because the slider is under the grilling racks. In use, the area the fire can actually rise up not a very large spot so you have to flip the food back and forth over the center of the cooking rack to gain any bit of “charring”. Also, unless you have the grill set for a very high temp setting, I’d say over 350°F, the flames will never rise up far enough to achieve the desired effect. I’m sure it’s going to take time to get used to.
The Pit Boss Pro 820 has 820 square inches of combined cooking space between the primary and secondary racks, this is plenty of space for any backyard BBQ. The cooking chamber is your standard round design. My first attempt at using the grill, we ran out of hamburgers and I was convinced it was because they were so good! Nope, forgot 4 of them... way, way in the back under the upper shelf. I’ll admit, it’s difficult to decide what size grill is best for your needs. It has always been fine except when we are cooking for more than 6 people. Each time you open the grill hood and rearrange food you’re losing heat and the grill has to recover. Looking at a grill with roughly 500 square inches, that would be good for a family. 820 square inches is great for weekend BBQ’s where you’ll be cooking for more than just your family. At 800+ inches there’s more than of room to move things around and plenty of separation.
When just grilling on Pit Boss 820, I’ve noticed that the right side of the grill is cooler than the left side of the grill pretty much at all time by about 40°F. The controller is fixed at 25°F increments and generally fluctuates between 20°F at any given temperature. It takes about 10 minutes for the grill to get to 500°F from startup on a 65°F day and does a very good job of maintaining just about any temperature I set it at.
Smoking with the grill was very simple and the whole process was exactly like every other pellet grill I’ve used. Since we got the grill I’ve smoked with it three times. Two of the days were right around 45°F and one of the days was about 67°F. My smoking temps seemed to hold steady each day though there were two or three times that I checked on the grill and my inside temps were 25°F to 30°F higher than my set point. There is an adjustable P setting on the controller which is set to P4 from the factory. I never played with it and everything seemed ok. Everything I smoked on the grill came out perfect. In fact, everything was remarkably moist and perhaps did an even better smoke than any of my other grills.
I like the bottle opener on the front and the power cord hanger on the back of the hopper. The metal seems to be about 16 gauge all powder coated and all of the tapped holes lined up okay during assembly. The removable stainless tray on the side doubles as a grill basket but somehow I’ve already lost one screw for the handle for it. No idea how that could have come out or where it went. It had to have been on there because I toted all of the grilling supplied out to the driveway on the tray holding it by the handles.
I bought this pellet grill a couple of weeks ago before spring had officially sprung. I got it at the steep discount of $249.50, so I bought two of them. It was last year’s model marked down 50% off retail.
What I don’t like about this grill? Not much really. I’m not too fussy but the wheels could be better. They’ve updated those on this years model. My hood thermometer already had condensation inside the glass and I’m sure that will be a couple of degrees off by the end of the summer, however; the controller has a digital readout of the internal grill temperature as measured from the RTD probe.
Pit Boss Pro 820 (2019 Model)
The 2019 mode is a redesign that has pretty much the same fabrication of the grill itself but with improvements in the components and controller. It features a larger, softer wheel at the heavy end and omnidirectional casters so the grill can be rolled and positioned without lifting. Also added are ceramic coated “diamond” pattern cooking grates for grilling smaller items without a basket, a folding front table apron, a fixed side shelf with utensil hangers on the front instead of the side and a newer style controller with a prime feature and connection with dual external meat probes. Retail price for 2019 is $499.00
Pit boss also makes an 1100 series grill in the Pro-Line which boosts up the combined cooking area from 820 to 1100. That's a lot of cooking space and it’s also a lot of deck space your giving up to host the grill once you add in clearances around it. All if the controls seem to be the same but there are a few noticeable differences from the 820 to 1100. First, the over flame cooking area has an external rating knob under the side shelf for opening and closing the trap door. Those of you who opt in for the 820 will still need to fuss with manually sliding opening through the cooking grates. The Pit Boss Pro 1100 weighs in a 178lbs. Vs. the 820 at 149 lbs. And the only other difference I could find was the hopper size. The 1100 grill can hold 39 lbs. Of pellets where the 820 can only hold 19lbs., but either way, those are both large enough hopper to do a 24-hour smoke without having to get up at 3 AM to refill the hopper.