By Michael Hiller
Some people spend hours working on their abs. We’ve been working on our ribs.
The top half of the country will be pulling out snow gear this month, but it’s peak season here for smoking ribs, brisket and chicken in the backyard — heck, we’re already perfecting our Thanksgiving turkey game.
You don’t have to own a 500-gallon smoker or possess Aaron Franklin’s skills to make some great ’cue. We’ve discovered a shortcut: the Yoder YS640S.
Yoder got its start building competition smokers, the offset rigs that people serious about barbecue haul to cooking contests in order to win awards. Yoder builds its pellet grills with the same heavy-duty materials and attention to detail that they devote to the offsets, giving you and me the chance to produce top-notch backyard barbecue.
We don’t have competition wins, but no one in our house is complaining about anything we’ve cooked on theYS640S, Yoder’s top-selling pellet smoker. The 640 refers to the number of square inches on the main cooking grate; a second grate nearly doubles the area.
We’ve loaded it with briskets, racks of ribs, chickens and even a couple of test turkeys. You can go smaller (Yoder’s YS480S) or larger (YS1500S), but we think the YS640S is the sweet spot.
First, let’s clear up a couple of common misconceptions. Pellet grills aren’t electric smokers, which generate heat with electric coils and smoke from sawdust. While pellet grills do require electricity to operate, heat and smoke come from a live fire fueled by inch-long hardwood pellets.
Yoder’s pellet grills use a custom-designed computer and an electric motor to feed the fire the right number of pellets to maintain whatever temperature you’ve set, between 150 to 600 degrees. On the YS640S, you enter that temperature by pressing buttons on an LCD screen or programming it through Yoder’s mobile app, which syncs over a wireless network and Bluetooth. The app can modify the smoker’s settings on the fly and also charts the temperatures of the 640’s two digital meat probes. Yoder’s system didn’t trip up once, which makes it foolproof in our book. Once underway, it’s truly set-it-and-forget-it barbecue.
We love that. We also love the 640’s exceptional temperature control and that it produces consistent, high-quality smoke that transforms fat-marbled pork ribs and shoulders, briskets and poultry into something magical.
Want to sear a steak over a blazing flame? Slip the heat deflector out of the way, so you can grill something almost as easily
as you can smoke it.
A reliable ceramic ignition system, double-stacked steel cooking grates and hefty, 10-gauge steel construction outclass the competition (the YS640S weighs more than 300 pounds, but its wheels maneuver easily). So do two removable shelves, a counterweighted lid and the reinforced, stay-cool handles — all features you typically see on large offset smokers, not pellet grills.
Many pellet grills are made with lightweight materials that feel flimsy. Yoder builds tanks. Fans crow on social media that Yoder pellet smokers are built so well, they’ve survived hailstorms, wildfires and hurricanes. We believe them.