9/27/2010 – A list of features of the MAK and my review of them.

Pellet Boss Controller:

I have very little experience with pellet cookers, but have been doing a lot of reading and research regarding features, issues, workarounds, etc.  Throughout my research, I have come to appreciate the Pellet Boss.  Some of the major features I find particularly useful:

  • Ease of use – A real “set-it-and-forget-it” feature!
  • Real-time feedback on setpoint, pit temperature, and meat probe temps.
  • Programmability.  Back to the “set-it-and-forget-it” mentality (what??  I’m lazy!) – You can set three programs to automatically adjust the setpoint depending on various input factors such as time and meat probe temperature.  You can set it to run on smoke till a certain time/temp, increase temp until the probe hits a certain temp, and reduce pit temp to hold.  All without having to think about it!  This is great for large cuts of meat such as Pork Butts, Spare Ribs, or Beef Brisket.  Once you get a program dialed-in you keep it and use it whenever you cook that type of meat again.
  • Temperature stability – Since the Pellet Boss is using the pit thermocouple to regulate the pit temp, the internal pit temperature is held very stable.  if you open the lid to check on the cook – the pellet bos very quickly stabilizes the temperature without overshoot, ensuring consistency in your cook.
Pellet Dump Door

I like to use different types of pellets depending on the type of cooking I am doing and type of meat I am cooking.  Loosen an easy to reach thumbscrew and I can dump my pellets back into the bucket.

This is also particularly useful since I live in Oregon and would prefer not to leave my pellets in the hopper between uses during the long, wet winters!

After spending some time using a pit without this feature – I can say without hesitation that the guys at MAK made the right call in adding this to the list of standard features on this pit!

Removeable Firepot

One of my favorites.  Despite the blow-out feature, some ash will ultimately accumulate in the fireport.  Pull a grenade pin and tap the firepot upside down and it is clean!

The one and only time I had an issue with the firepot getting pull of smoldering pellets (my fault), I simply pulled the pin, dumped the pellets, reinserted the firepot, and restarted the pit.  Any other pit you might have to wait 1-2 hours for the pellets to stop smoldering to the point where you could use your shop-vac to vacuum them out.

Firepot blow-out

OK, so this is a part of the Pellet Boss, but I like it so much that I felt I had to add it as its own feature!  At the conclusion of the cook simply turn the MAK off, and the fan will continue to run to cleanly burning the pellets left in the firepot.  No electrical modification needed like with some other pits, and no pellets smoldering in the firepot for an hours after the cook.  No catching your shop vac on fire because you sucked-up a hot ember.

Warming tray / Cold Smoker

I recently read some posts on Pelletheads.com where people with other pits were discussing how to cold smoke with their pits.  The results were creative and in some cases, elaborate.  The MAK 2 Star General has a cold smoking box attached.  Simply set the MAK to smoke, and place the items you want to cold smoke in the box.  Add a pan of ice if you’d like to keep it really cold, but the temp inside the bx stays cool enough to smoke cheese, chocolate, nuts, marshmallows, etc.  Check the “Projects” page from time to time as I delve into this feature over the fall/winter.

So far I typically use it as a warming box.  worked great when I was doing a full breakfast on the MAK.  it is also useful for warming plates prior too pulling steaks, chops, and burgers off the MAK.

On the negative side, The tray is an integral part of the airflow of the pit so you cannot block it off meaning you will have to clean it every so often whether you use it or not.

MAK / Pellet Temperature Testing

After a couple of grilling projects where I felt my MAK was a little cooler than I would like, I started investigating the temperature and the influence of pellet type and manufacturer on the max temperature of the MAK.  I loaded the MAK with various pellets and started it cold to determine the nominal time-to-temp, and which pellets got me the highest heat for grilling.  I will add other pellets to this test as I get them, but I would expect the results to stay within the basic parameters of this chart.  I plan to add 100% Oak and 100% Alder to establish the highest and lowest BTU woods that I am likely to cook with.

January 23, 2013 – NOTE: These tests were done with the stock MAK 2 Star that I took delivery of, with the original heat diffuser, half width flame zone, and powder-coated body.  I have not replicated these tests on my “rebooted” MAK, but I can say that the Traeger Oak are still the hottest pellets I have used for grilling.