ATC system vs Pellet grill

BobJ

TVWBB Super Fan
I have a WSM 14 that I picked up early this spring. All my long cooks have been started roughly at 9pm, meaning I stay up till midnight or 1am waiting for everything to get settled in, then up a couple times during the wee hours to check things, and getting up for good around 6am. I'm looking for a way to make this less labor intensive, both at night and during the day.

Been considering a small Rec Tec pellet burner, but have recently been looking at bumping up to a WSM 18 and adding an ATC system of some sort as an alternative to the pellet grill. The main reason for bumping up in size is for food, ash, and charcoal capacity. I do enjoy working with the coal burner, it's just gotten to be too much messing around on these long cooks.

The small Rec Tec runs $600, which is roughly what the WSM 18 plus a decent ATC will run so price wise there isn't enough difference for that to be a deciding factor. If I go the ATC route I'll probably use it with the 14 for a while before getting the 18.

Wondering if folks with an ATC system are happy with the results, labor savings wise.

Any comments on one over the other?
 

GaryP

TVWBB Member
I think I have a little insight to share. I have a 18wsm with a flameboss and a 34 traeger. I used to use the flameboss all the time but after it failing on me at a comp, I had to go without it and was so pleased I havent used it since. I use the firedial and kbb and it just seems to run very smooth with just an adjustment here or there every few hours. I do not miss the motor from the ATC blowing ash all over my food. Probably my biggest reason for not using it anymore. I do still monitor it with a thermoworks signals, but no flameboss. I bought the billows but have not used it yet. If I could go back in time I would pass on the ATC and use the money for something else cool.

My traeger runs like a top. Fill the hopper, set the temp, put on brisket and go to sleep. Never skips a beat, gives great results. And I hear rectecs are even better. Myself and the wife use it all the time, she loves it for ease of use and I dont think I will ever be without one again. No, the smoke/ flavor is not the same, but that doesnt make it bad.

My crazy suggestion would be to get the 18 wsm for afternoon cooks where you're doing ribs, tri-tip, and things where you want some smoke in a shorter cook time. No need for the ATC. Then get a pellet grill for those long overnights when you need some sleep. I think you'll be surprised how much you use it especially on those warm days you dont want to heat up the house.

Full disclosure I think my current grill/smoker count is at 8, so not too shocking I'd suggest both! Hope that helps some.
 

Lew Newby

TVWBB All-Star
I have the 14 and 18" WSM and used an Auber ATC in the past. I sold it with my 22" WSM but got such a good deal on the Thermoworks Signals + Billows that I bought it. Next weekend I'll use it for Brisket and find out if I made a good or bad call. The Auber worked fine and kept temps steady but after awhile I just went with manual cooks. I suspect that I'll use the Thermoworks more because of the wifi capability and I'll always have a WSM.

I have owned a Rec Tec RT-300 (the old small one) for 20 months and it's great but has limited capacity - about the same as the 14.5" WSM. The wifi controller helps generate a lot of smoke at temps below 250 so you don't lack smoke flavor with it. I wanted more capacity for Jerky so I picked up a bigger Camp Chef DLX pellet grill off Craigslist and modified it a lot. I put the Rec Tec wifi controller in it, casters on the two straight legs, and added a lower shelf for stability. It's now my go to pellet grill so I'm giving the Rec Tec to my son because he'll use it for camping.

Since you already have the WSM I would suggest keeping it a manual cooker that's reasonably portable and get the new Rec Tec RT-340. Of course, if you do a lot of Jerky the RT-590 has twice the capacity. Weber and Rec Tec both have impressive customer support. Rec Tec owners are almost as fanatical as Weber owners and I'm both of them.
:wsm:

If you want more info just sing out.
 

MartinB

TVWBB Pro
I got 18 WSM and use a heatermeter

I cooked a pork butt Sat. night
Put on at 9:30 at night....checked temps about twice on phone when i just happened to wake up ...while in bed. Didnt crack lid till about 9am, when stir coals a little and knock ash away.

Almost nothing easier.

Ive spritzed sugary juices all night before...but its definitely not worth losing sleep over . Took off about 10 am, wrapped in foil, put in cooler till about 1 pm.



 
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BobJ

TVWBB Super Fan
Thanks folks, seems like either route will work for my intended purpose.

Lew, would be interested in hearing how the Thermoworks works out next weekend.
 

Lew Newby

TVWBB All-Star
I must have posted that in a senior moment. I'm getting ready to fire up the 18.5, check out the Thermoworks rig and the do a rack of ribs for dinner. I'll let you know how it works out.
 

Lew Newby

TVWBB All-Star
I cranked up the WSM with the Signals/Billows attached. I had one WIFI glitch but that was operator error. My Maverick read 2 degrees higher and the Thermoworks kept the temp within 8 degrees of set except for one short excursion down to 180. I'm learning the Signals and the app but I am pleased with it on my first cook. To set the sauce I set the temp to 300° and it took 20 minutes to go from 225 to 300. After I puled the meat off I set it to 400 but never got there. The Signals topped out at 342° and fell back to 330. My first impression is that it's a good setup but I don't have vast experience with ATCs. For me it's a keeper. This Saturday I'm cooking a Brisket Point for burnt ends and will use the meat probe and take a step up the learning ladder. Sunday I cook the flat so I should get some good practice in.

Conditions: Outside air temp above 90°, KBB charcoal, NO water in pan, Top vent set at less than 1/4 open.
 
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Bob Bass

TVWBB Guru
Lew, during my last (and only) cook with the Signals/Billows I ended up opening the top vent fully open. The atc handled it well.
 

Lew Newby

TVWBB All-Star
I debated about doing that but decided to follow manufacturers recommendation on my first cook. It felt weird to choke down that top vent and knowing me I will definitely check out the top vent full open at some point. One thing I believe is that big fan is massive overkill for the 18.5" WSM but it sure is quiet and it holds temperature well.
 

Lew Newby

TVWBB All-Star
I tried leaving the top vent at 100% yesterday and with a set temp of 250 the temp ran up to 325 on start. I chickened out because I wanted to get meat on so reduced the opening to 1/4. I'm going to have to talk to Thermoworks because I'm getting bigger temp excursions than I like and expect from an ATC. Yesterday it was inconsistent and I had excursions of 50 degrees throughout the cook. The Flat came out great but it was not a comfortable cook and I don't know how much of that I can attribute to strong wind gusts all day.
 

Bob Bass

TVWBB Guru
I had initially set the top at 1/4 open, but opened it up fully once temperature was nearing the setpoint. Also, my pit probe is inserted approx 1" to 1 1/2" into a hollow metal grommet that replaced one of the lower grill hanger bolts. So my atc measures (and controls) the heat before any variability is added...
 

MikeS in Alaska

TVWBB Fan
ATC units with a fixed output blower for such a small volume of space seem like over kill.

I would be more inclined to look for a unit with a variable speed fan.

The billows unit is rated at 46cfm. That's about the starting point (50cfm) as a fairly large number of fart fans in the bathroom. Based on comparing the volume of space, I think a fixed speed blower will tend to lend itself to temp swings.

Can the intake to the billows unit be choked down to match the output volume closer to the WSM volume?
 

Bob Bass

TVWBB Guru
The output of the Billow's pid is a on-off pulse. This works well in this application! In fact, some rather expensive bbq atc units also use on-off pulse, such as Rocks BBQ Stoker !
 

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