REVIEW – The news of the ASMOKE Pellet Grill has turned into the chance to test-drive and actually cook dinner. How will it turn out? Let’s see!
What is it?
The ASMOKE Applewood Pellet Grill is a portable, pellet-fueled grill/smoker. A little bit larger than a carry-on suitcase, it provides a grilling rack and a wood pellet delivery system for high-temperature steaks or pizzas, or low-temp, slow-cooked ribs or roasts.
What’s in the box?
The delivery box contains the smoker chassis. Assembly parts include the handle, racks, feet, and heat shields.
Accessories include a 5lb bag of applewood pellets, a temperature probe, BBQ tongs, a pair of meat claws for shredding or transporting a large roast, and a set of insulated oven mitts.
Dimensions: 24.80″ x 17.52″ x 14.45″
Fuel source: Wood pellets
Main Rack cooking area: 191.4 square inches
Upper Rack cooking area: 64.6 square inches
Material: Steel & Stainless steel
Design and features
The structure of the grill has several design elements that show its intention for slow cooking with a minimum of space. The main cooking area has a heat plate setup that distributes heat and smoke to the full cooking chamber. The heat plate is mounted at an angle, to send grease and buildup to an external bucket for easy disposal. The top and sides of the grill are insulated, and the cooking chamber lid has gasket seals to maximize smoke and heat retention. The hopper and pellet delivery speed is tuned to the temperature control, to set and maintain a specific cooking environment.
Installation and setup
Assembling the grill was a simple process. The grill feet were easy to install, and the handle attached to the lid without difficulty. (The handle parts come with an insulated washer, that the instructions do not mention. In order to minimize heat transfer to the handle, I placed the washer between the lid and the decorative bezel.)
With the main structural pieces (feet, handle) in place, the heat shield and racks were obvious in their location and use.
Starting the grill for the first time is a slow process – mostly because the pellet auger has a deliberate and methodical rate of delivery to move pellets from the hopper to the burning chamber. If the auger is completely empty, this takes a few minutes. Once there is a handful of pellets in the burning chamber, wood ignition and white smoke shows that the process has started, and the desired temperature can be set.
The grill has the shape and durability of a toolbox, or steel storage container – with the exception of the control knob and display panel. The control knob protrudes about an inch from the otherwise stout structure. During shipping to my house, this control knob received a good knock and dented the display screen inwards. All aspects of the grill were functional – my recommendation would be to protect the control knob from the factory and during shipping with a short cardboard packing cylinder or a disk of packing foam.
My first adventure with the grill was the chicken wing recipe from the back of the Asmoke instruction manual. The recipe was simple, with a mild salt/pepper/spice rub and no sauce – the better the let the natural smoking flavor permeate the wings.
The cooking process went easily. I probably cooked right at the volume capacity of the grill, using both the upper and lower grill racks. On my gas BBQ, the upper rack has a tendency to sit in a hot zone and scorch things. The Asmoke grill displayed a much more consistent temperature control and similar cooking experience on both upper and lower racks. My other grill has some hot spots that cook faster, requiring small items to be moved around. The Asmoke grill cooked a few wings in a quicker hot zone, but the overall consistency was quite good. I distributed the wings around twice and ended up with a nice even set of cooked wings. (The chicken flavor was nicely crispy and smokey but a little bland – for this, I blame the cook and the recipe, but not the grill.)
The second round of smoking was for a couple of racks of ribs made with a paleo rub. Again, I maxed out the capacity of the grill. Ordinarily, I would cook ribs in a rack that aligns them vertically, but the lid on the Asmoke grill only allows for a clearance of about 4.5″ between the lower grill and the top of the lid.
I followed the 3-2-1 rules and got a nice smoked texture and good temperature levels after about 2 1/2 hours (thank you, temperature probe!) and then transferred them in foil to the oven and a couple of hours at low temperature to really break down the connective tissue. Then back into the smoker to crisp out the outer layer and then serve.
I got a great smoky layer and fantastic flavor all the way through. The ribs were easily pulled apart with my fingers and were eaten all too quickly.
What I like
There are several key things that the Asmoke Pellet Grill does well, and are helping me choose it over my standard gas grill.
The cooking chamber and the applewood pellet fuel source provided a consistent level of heat throughout the cooking area, especially at the lower temperatures that I was looking for with longer cooking times. The lighting process and adding fuel were simple – and a huge improvement over managing charcoal or tuning gas burners. Turn the control dial to the right temperature and watch it maintain for hours.
The grill produces relatively little smoke, and the seal on the lid makes for a well-contained smoking and temperature chamber. The walls and lid are well insulated and don’t get as hot as the sheet steel sides of my gas grill. This makes Asmoke grill an unobtrusive presence in a cookout or picnic.
What I’d change
I did run the hopper empty of wood pellets – the burning chamber defaults to ’empty fuel’ mode and – of course – cooking and smoking basically shuts down. Since the control panel is aware of the scenario, it would be nice to add a warning beep or tone to the instrumentation.
I mentioned the impact given in transit to the control knob and the display panel in the review – a little more shipping protection for this protuberance would be helpful.
Increasing the height of the lid and the cooking/smoking volume would be a big win. The portable size of the Asmoke pellet grill is a nice selling point, but I would happily take another 3-4 inches of height if it offered the ability to fit a serious pork shoulder or standing rib roast into the cooking chamber. Given the volume that is used for the lower/burning/control section of the grill chassis, the current height/size of the lid feels like a concession. Maybe offer a larger lid as an upgrade?