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smokers Trying the Pit Boss Austin XL - $397 Walmart special?

Backstory:

I've been using my $25 used offset stick burner for a few seasons. (https://thehotpepper.com/threads/smoked-pork-butt.65342/page-9)

Had a chance to cook some 3-2-1 ribs on my dad's camp chef over the holiday weekend. Some of the best ribs I've done. And I didn't have to manage a fire! I was hooked on this pellet cheater grill. :P

I'm cheap. I really didn't want to spend Recteq, Traeger, Camp Chef dollars $$$$ for a similar size grill. I couldn't find anything decent used.

I noticed Walmart of all places had the Pit Boss Austin XL on sale for $397 + tax. The build quality seems just as good as the $1k pro version at Lowes next door except the controller isn't great. Coming from a rusty stick burner - I figured I could make it work for a $600 price difference. Plus for $200 I could swap in a PID controller if I really need it.

Link: https://www.walmart.com/ip/Pit-Boss-Austin-XL-1000-Sq-In-Pellet-Grill-with-Flame-Broiler-and-Cooking-Probe/793230399?athbdg=L1300

So I picked it up with some pit boss brand pellets. (with the help of a friend, it's heavy!) Along with a pork shoulder, some bacon, and some spare ribs that were on sale at Meijer.

Only time will tell if it was worth it - or if I should have just spent the $$$$.

Assembly:

The grill is very well packaged. Better than the Camp Chef I put together with Dad. I didn't find any scuffs/dents putting it together.
There are a bunch of parts. It took me 2~ish hours taking my time. Call it a 3 beer job. Everything fit together fine.
It was frustrating that at the very end I had to undo 6x screws to remove the hopper grate to get the drip bucket out of the hopper.
Love the color, very pretty grill. Would rather have stainless but... oh well.

Mods:

I removed lowest heat shield around the firebox. It causes the right side to be 50-100F hotter than left. You can feel the difference with your hand. It's absurd it is sold this way.
I added grill gasket around lid before I broke it in. Easiest to do it when it's clean.
I added a strip of leftover gasket to the metal lid stop so it wouldn't scuff the paint (old trick).
I added aluminum foil heat deflectors to the ends of the drip tray to keep hot air from directly hitting the temp probe. Plan to machine something more permanent.
The grill grates are too wide which will make veggies/bacon difficult. Those will need to be replaced with some X pattern.

Break in:

After a priming, it fired up on the first try.

As I expected - even with mods, the temp settings on my controller aren't accurate. But it appears to be consistent, which I care about more. I consider it more low / medium / high than the temperature face values on the dial.

For example:
The 225F setting on mine cooks at 250F grate temp (checked with included thermometers and my wireless one). My thermometer had slipped off the rest in the pic below. Please ignore. The lid reads 300F something. :crazy:
Up around 400F setting you see 475F grate temp.
Maybe there is a setting to adjust to calibrate. I'm not too worried.

I wiped the grill down with cooking oil. Then cooked the fat I trimmed off of the shoulder at 250F grate for 2 hours. Then cranked it up to 475F for 2 hours. Put some bacon on at the very end. Neighborhood smelled great at 11PM.

First cook:

Today I woke up at 5:30 to put a pork shoulder on. Then I realized I ran out of mustard and had to go to the store. Rookie mistake. So the shoulder didn't go on until 7! Yikes!!

I set the controller to 225 (250F grate temp). Grill came up to temp pretty quickly considering the barrel size (58F ambient). Put the shoulder on and took a nap on the sofa. (No fire to manage, yay!)

Around 10AM grate temp was hovering around 250F. The shoulder crossed the 140F mark somewhere around then (3 ish hours). Did a mop/sprinkle and put some eggs on for a late breakfast.

3-2-1 ribs are going on a little later today.

More soon... so far so good. Questions?

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First cook part 2:

I had to leave with my wife during the cook to take care of some errands. (Something I couldn't do with my stick burner.) We ended up being gone 5 hours. Came back and the smoker was still hovering 250-260F. The shoulder was fine with those temps for that long. The ribs weren't as happy. I didn't get to mop them at all during the cook. That's my fault for being gone - not the grill. :banghead:

Pulled the shoulder at 200F internal after ~11 hours on the cooker. Wrapped both the ribs and the shoulder and let them rest for 30 minutes in a cooler.

The shoulder was one of my best tenderness wise. It shredded great with all of the buttery pork goodness you expect from a shoulder.

The larger ribs were fine, maybe a B-, but the smaller cuts on the end were starting to dry out (C-). Definingly edible, not burnt, but not something I would serve with pride at a party. But again, that's my fault, not the grill's fault.

My biggest disappointment was both barely had any smoky flavor in them. I like a lot of smoke - like I get from my stick burner.

It's probably my fault for using cheap Pit Boss brand pellets from Walmart. I'm going to try some Bear Mountain Hickory next.
I also have 2x smoke sticks to try for the next cook.
I'm also going to look at lowering the temp one notch - especially for ribs.

Plated it up. Once we had our fill we took a plate down the the neighbor. Froze a bag for my friend that used his truck to get the grill home.

First cook final thoughts:

Preface: This was an ideal day for BBQ. Will see how it does in the dead of midwest winter (-10F and blowing).

Pros
-Build quality is nice
-Grill space is great. Love that.
-The removeable SS side shelf is nice. You can bring the tray into the kitchen, load it up, and set it on the bracket on the grill. Great mop tray.
-Easy to start. Comes up to temp quickly on cool mornings.
-Reliability (n=1 cook) is great so far. It steadily applies heat to meat with little effort. Knock on wood. Left it for 5 hours without any issues.

Cons
-Temp control is passable with mods and once you learn what the grill is doing. But it isn't "out of the box" ready like higher end grills. I can see a lot of folks ruining cooks thinking it's plug and play, only to be cooking 25-100F higher than the "set temp" read out. Not cool. Lid temp dial is not accurate either.
-Smoke level was disappointing. Not entirely the grills fault.
-The stock grates are spaced too far apart for vegies and bacon - or even small cuts of meat. Come on!!
-No front shelf. Really missed that from my stick burner. You can get one, but again +$60 to the cost of the grill.
-I have to take it all the way apart to clean out the fire pot. The camp chef has a quick release to dump ash in 5 seconds. Oh well, I need to clean it anyway.

Next

I'll continue to post more cooks here. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
Cheers :cheers:

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rgreenberg2000

Extreme Member
The results look great! As you pointed out, as long as you know it's "off", and it's "off" by a reasonably consistent amount, you can adjust. I used to have a WSM, and while I cooked by the lid therm, I don't really know (or care) what the grate temp was. It was consistent, and that's all I cared about. I've got one of the other pellet grills you mentioned, and I love the simplicity of firing it up, and not managing the fire at all (from decades of stick and charcoal burners......not that they were that hard.....)

Lack of smoke flavor is a common complaint with pellet grills, ESPECIALLY if you are used to an offset stick burner, or a charcoal rig with chunks. Many folks will add a smoke tube to their set up if they feel like they need more smoke.....I will tell you, that it's not the pellets you used, it's just how pellet grills are. In my case, I found I preferred a lighter smoke flavor, and have enjoyed a better balance between smoke and the various rubs, sauces, etc. that I put on the food. Your preferences will drive what you end up doing.

Enjoy that new grill!!

Rich
 
Cook 2 weekday warrior testing:

I wanted to test the open flame cooking before dinner depended on it.

A local supermarket called Martins has these bomb pre-made "pub burgers" and marinated chicken breast that's perfect when you forget to prep dinner. or have unexpected guests.

Normally chicken and burgers would be a job for the trusty weber kettle. 10-15 minutes to get a chimney of hardwood charcoal started. Another 10-15 to get the grill up to temp.

First up the burger: (wife didn't want one)

I opened the lid, slid the flame broiler plate over, turned it on and set the dial to max. The sugary goodness from the last cook caused the plate to stick a bit. It wasn't difficult to break the crusties off but worth noting.

After a few minutes I had a ripping fire. I closed the lid and walked inside to grab a burger. When I came back the grill was hot! Maybe even a little too hot. Tossed the burger on and it cooked fast!

Flavor was spot on. It was as as good or better than the weber. You could cook some killer burgers for an army of guests if you needed to. My Wendy's grill training from way back in the day says so. :lol:

Next chicken:

I closed the broiler plate and dropped the temp to the "200 setting". Which at this point we know is closer to 225F. I filled the smoke sticks and lit them with a propane torch. The pellets didn't want to stay lit. After a few tries of letting them burn I just tossed them on and said "heck with yas".

The pellet hopper empty chute is perfect for filling the smoke sticks!

3.5 hours lid closed at 225F - WOW that chicken came out great! Only the "burnt ends" were dry. But I gladly ate those before it was served. Perks of the job. Super happy with the results.

Verdict:

I'm starting to see where this grill is going to shine.

For long cooks it trades less smoke flavor for ease of use. As-is I don't see it ever matching the flavor from expert stick burner pit masters.

For medium/short cooks, I'm not seeing a ton of downsides. It's easier to setup than my weber. What's propane like? :P

Was it worth the $397 + tax? So far, yes! Will I get rid of my webers? Heck no. Will I get rid of my $25 offset stick burner. Not yet. Does my hillbilly gravel "patio" area look like a used grill emporium? Absolutely.

I do want to get rid of the massive Pit Boss logo on the front of it. I should have just assembled it 180 degrees off. :doh:

Can't wait to try some steaks and my first ever brisket... stay tuned.

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The results look great! As you pointed out, as long as you know it's "off", and it's "off" by a reasonably consistent amount, you can adjust. I used to have a WSM, and while I cooked by the lid therm, I don't really know (or care) what the grate temp was. It was consistent, and that's all I cared about. I've got one of the other pellet grills you mentioned, and I love the simplicity of firing it up, and not managing the fire at all (from decades of stick and charcoal burners......not that they were that hard.....)

Lack of smoke flavor is a common complaint with pellet grills, ESPECIALLY if you are used to an offset stick burner, or a charcoal rig with chunks. Many folks will add a smoke tube to their set up if they feel like they need more smoke.....I will tell you, that it's not the pellets you used, it's just how pellet grills are. In my case, I found I preferred a lighter smoke flavor, and have enjoyed a better balance between smoke and the various rubs, sauces, etc. that I put on the food. Your preferences will drive what you end up doing.

Enjoy that new grill!!

Rich
Great insight - so I'm not crazy! Even thought I have much less exp than you with a stick burner - I can already appreciate the simplicity you mention of the pellet grill. Glad to know I'm not the only one who has switched over. :D:cheers:
 

rgreenberg2000

Extreme Member
Great insight - so I'm not crazy! Even thought I have much less exp than you with a stick burner - I can already appreciate the simplicity you mention of the pellet grill. Glad to know I'm not the only one who has switched over. :D:cheers:
Well, I can't certify that you aren't crazy, just not about that! 🤣🤣

I know tons of folks who are pellet grilling (RecTeq, Camp Chef, Traeger, Weber, Yoder, Pit Boss, etc, etc.), so you are part of a large, and growing crowd. If you want to mess with other pellets, I'm partial to Lumberjack and Bear Mountain, though have had good success with a few others as well. Lately, I'm getting Bear Mountain from CostCo (online only) @ $25/40lb bag with free shipping. They usually carry either the Gourmet Blend or Bourbon Barrel. Bear Mountain and Lumber Jack have some nice "single wood variety" pellets, too. Lumber Jack can be found at great prices if you have a Tractor Supply or Rural King anywhere near you.
 

Downriver

Extreme Member
@NeedsWork Nice, insightful write-up NW. Our grilling/smoking equipment history is very similar, but I stopped short at the pellet-pooper. I can't really say "I'm not a fan" because I've never used one, but....lol. The biggest knock I've heard is the lack of smoke flavor. I LOVE smoke, so that's a big neg for me. I know there's smoke tubes and such, but, ....I don't know. Maybe one day I'll encounter a deal I can't refuse as well lol.

Good luck with it. Looks like you're well on your way to mastering the Pooper. Smoke on!
 
Well, I can't certify that you aren't crazy, just not about that! 🤣🤣

I know tons of folks who are pellet grilling (RecTeq, Camp Chef, Traeger, Weber, Yoder, Pit Boss, etc, etc.), so you are part of a large, and growing crowd. If you want to mess with other pellets, I'm partial to Lumberjack and Bear Mountain, though have had good success with a few others as well. Lately, I'm getting Bear Mountain from CostCo (online only) @ $25/40lb bag with free shipping. They usually carry either the Gourmet Blend or Bourbon Barrel. Bear Mountain and Lumber Jack have some nice "single wood variety" pellets, too. Lumber Jack can be found at great prices if you have a Tractor Supply or Rural King anywhere near you.

$25/40lb bag of Bear Mountain is a great price. I paid $34 on amazon. I'll have to check Tractor Supply for Lumber Jack. Thanks for the tip!

@NeedsWork Nice, insightful write-up NW. Our grilling/smoking equipment history is very similar, but I stopped short at the pellet-pooper. I can't really say "I'm not a fan" because I've never used one, but....lol. The biggest knock I've heard is the lack of smoke flavor. I LOVE smoke, so that's a big neg for me. I know there's smoke tubes and such, but, ....I don't know. Maybe one day I'll encounter a deal I can't refuse as well lol.

Good luck with it. Looks like you're well on your way to mastering the Pooper. Smoke on!
Thanks! It took my dad getting a pellet grill to convince me to try one. Still not 100% in one camp or the other. Going to try a few things to see how much smoke I can get out of it. I might try some wood chips in the smoke tubes. Maybe do a simple salt/pepper rub to leave more of the meat exposed to the smoke? Heck they even make a bolt on smoke tube that pumps smoke in... :lol:
:cheers:
 
Caught a Camp Chef wifi PID controller on sale for $100 + $15 for the matching temp probe. Couldn't say no since they are usually $200-$250 range.

Do we call it a Camp Boss or a Pit Chef?

I'm going to try to model and 3D print an adaptor plate so I can switch the controller back to stock if needed.

Have to finish a shoulder for a birthday party tonight before I can install it. It was really nice having it on the grill in 30 minutes before work. Checking in at lunch to find it 1/2 way done. Grill holds temp like a champ.

Cooking bear mountain hickory pellets with pellets & hickory chips in the smoke tubes.

Trim. (I take the fat cap off) Brine 24 hours. Rubbed the night before. Injected on the grill.

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Pork was a hit at the party. Even got a compliment from another bbq guy. The grill made it possible. Put it on in the morning. Checked at lunch. Took it off after work. I let it rest for the 30 minute drive to the party and shredded it just before serving.

I got the controller hooked up today. It had 3 updates. The first time around it failed so I had to do a hard reset and then it got through all three.

I let it go for a few hours to learn 225. It's neat to watch the grill try to zero in. The higher the smoke setting (1-10) the more variability in the temp.

Next I want to model an adapter plate and 3D print it. I'll probably end up cutting the original grill a bit to keep it from hanging out. But for now I'm hungry so we are going to test the new controller.

Bring in SPG steak for a reverse sear. Never cooked one of these before...

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