Steven Raichlen's Barbecue! Bible


Under the Hood

Innovative Memphis Wood Fire Grills Change the Pellet Game

Innovative Memphis Wood Fire Grills Change the Pellet Game

Steven’s latest show, Project Fire, is made possible, in part, by the sponsorship of several grill and smoker manufacturers. We receive many emails inquiring about the equipment showcased on the series and want to acquaint you with their individual features.

First up is Memphis Wood Fire Grills. This multi-year sponsor of Project Fire and its predecessor, Project Smoke, produces its high-end line of pellet grills/smokers in the U.S. Free-standing and built-in models are available.

While many pellet smokers are designed to mimic old-school off-set barrel smokers in appearance, Memphis Wood Fire Grills have adopted the handsome sleek lines and bold bravado of premium gas grills. Constructed of double walled 304 stainless steel with seamless welds, the unit does a magnificent job of maintaining preset temperatures, even in inclement weather. (The company—based in Bloomington, Minnesota—knows a thing or two about the winter and the challenges it throws up to diehard barbecuers.) A substantial oven-grade gasket around the periphery of the lid creates a tight seal for superior temperature control and minimum pellet use.

But this grill—Steven uses the Memphis Elite model on the show, at Barbecue University, and at home—has beauty and brains, the latter exemplified by a number of features. But first, a little background on wood pellets as cooking fuel.

Pellet grills/smokers were spawned by the oil crisis of the 1970s. The quest for affordable heat sources renewed interest in wood stoves. Of course, they are not particularly convenient to use. An Oregon-based heating company, Traeger, pioneered a method for converting hardwood sawdust into small pellets and developed a furnace that used them efficiently. By the late 1980s, Traeger had patented and begun production of the first pellet grill.

Pellet grills are one of the fastest-growing segments of the grill industry. Though they currently represent just 3 percent of all grill and barbecue sales in the U.S., they are becoming increasingly popular with competition-level pit masters and home cooks according to the Hearth and Patio Barbecue Association (HPBA).

Among the many benefits Memphis Wood Fire Grills give barbecuers and grillers is the opportunity to cook over real wood, the most flavorful cooking fuel on the planet. The company’s one-touch Intelligent Temperature Control (ITC) makes it super-easy to maintain consistent temperatures that can be so challenging to hold in traditional charcoal- and wood-fired grills and smokers, especially for long cooks. You simply set your desired temperature on the digital controller; the range is 180 to 700 degrees. A special app (included with the grill) links with your smartphone. Memphis was the first pellet grill to offer a Wi-Fi enabled controller, a real plus on days when “set it and forget it” is your goal.

Smoking, indirect grilling, smoke-roasting, and even convection-type baking are functions most pellet grills offer. But some models of the Memphis Wood Fire Grill go one better: You can actually do a high-temperature sear—desirable when grilling steaks or chops, for example: The heat diffuser plate can be replaced with a perforated “over flame” plate (optional) that sits directly over the burn chamber for steakhouse-quality searing.

According to the company, Memphis Wood Fire Grills cost about the same to operate as a propane grill. The Elite model holds 16 pounds of pellets and uses approximately 1.5 pounds of pellets per hour.

On the Elite, a trio of temperature probes monitors the internal temperature of up to three meats. Using the aforementioned app, you can set up separate alerts on your smartphone to keep tabs on everything. The grill is very roomy, too, with 1274 square inches of cooking space.

Memphis Wood Fire Grills currently offers four cart models, which range in price from $2599 to $4999. Three built-in units for outdoor kitchens range in price from $3599 to $9698 (the latter includes a premium Elite model grill). See the options at www.memphisgrills.com.

NOW THROUGH MAY 31ST, ENTER FOR A CHANCE TO WIN THE PROJECT FIRE SWEEPSTAKES, INCLUDING A MEMPHIS GRILL! ENTER HERE.

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