One of the major issues that plague the pellet grill industry is how tough it is to get a good sear with a pellet grill. Pellet grills are great for smoking meat, but the majority of them lack the ability to sear like a gas or charcoal grill.
With the Navigator Pellet/Gas Grill Combo, Pit Boss attacked the searing problem from two different angles. Do Pit Boss’ attempts make the Navigator a worthy addition to your backyard lineup? Read on to judge for yourself.
True Searing Capability
Pit Boss gave the Navigator combo grill two separate ways to sear. If you are using only the pellet grill side, they included the Adjustable Flame Broiler lever. This allows you to slide part of the heat baffle out of the way and reveal the fire pot. Pit Boss says it can reach around 500 degrees Fahrenheit with the direct flame.
If that’s not hot enough for you, you can easily transfer whatever you’re cooking over to the gas side of the grill while cranking up the heat. It has three burners putting out 30,000 BTUs of heat, plenty for grilling burgers and hot dogs or searing steaks.
The Navigator has a total cooking area of 1,084 square inches split between the pellet side and the gas side. The cooking grates are porcelain-coated cast iron on both sides, perfect for heat retention and easy clean-up.
Nearly midway through 2022, we took a look at how to cold-smoke cheese. Now there are a number of ways to do that, and there are other foods that you can cold-smoke, but Pit Boss made it possible to cold-smoke on the Navigator. Between the pellet side and the gas side is a tube that will allow smoke to pass from the fire pot to the gas side of the grill.
That can allow you to get a low-enough temperature on the gas side to cold-smoke cheese or fish. You still need to monitor the temperatures to make sure everything goes well, but it’s a really handy feature. You can also use that pass-through while grilling to add some wood smoke too.
The Navigator combo grill does not have a PID controller, instead relying on the traditional timing-based temperature control system. So the Navigator is more prone to temperature swings and takes longer to react than a pellet grill with a PID controller, but it won’t ruin a cook for you.
The controller does give you a range of temperature selections from “SMOKE” to “HIGH”, with the actual degree settings ranging from 200°F to 475°F. The controller also has a “PRIME” button so you can tell the auger to feed extra pellets into the fire pot. This can help recover temperatures when you’ve got the lid open for a longer time. It can also add more smoke flavor to your ribs or brisket.
You also have the ability to adjust the “P” setting while the grill is in the “SMOKE” setting. Typically the “P” setting will be adjusted to deal with inclement temperatures. If you’re trying to smoke in a colder temperature, you will want a lower “P” setting so the auger is feeding pellets more often. If you’re smoking in hot temps and are struggling to keep temperatures down, a higher “P” setting will slow down how often the auger is feeding pellets to the fire pot.
The controller also has two probe ports and comes with two probes to monitor temperatures on the display. The grill has a spot for the probes to feed through the side of the grill so you don’t have a gap at the lid. The manual does say that the controller is only compatible with Pit Boss probes, so if you need to replace any probes, you do have to buy from them.
The Navigator is not Wi-Fi nor Bluetooth-capable, so any temperature monitoring needs to be done at the grill itself or using your own wireless thermometer.
Pit Boss put two shelves on the Navigator combo grill. The side shelf is always out, and they included a folding shelf on the front of the pellet side for when you need a spot to load food onto the grill or take it off. There is no under-the-grill shelving in the cart.
The Navigator’s pellet hopper holds up to 16 pounds of hardwood pellets at a time. A lot goes into how many pounds of pellets a grill burns in an hour. Colder temperatures can cause your grill to burn more pellets to maintain the proper temps. A bigger cooking chamber will need more pellets than a smaller chamber. Cooking at a higher temperature burns more pellets.
Pit Boss’ rule of thumb is two to four pounds of pellets an hour, two for smoking and four for a hotter temperature. Some places will tell you one to three pounds. The Navigator doesn’t come with a pellet sensor nor a window, so you need to keep a close eye on your pellet levels if you’re smoking a pork butt or brisket.
The Pit Boss Navigator pellet/gas combo grill gives a backyard grillmaster two different ways to get a sear on a pellet grill. It also comes ready to cold-smoke, which is a nice addition for backyard pitmasters looking to expand their repertoire.
It’s not the only grill on the market to try to solve the searing problem, but it’s a big grill with plenty of cooking space whether you want to smoke or grill. It’s a good-looking grill with good features, and I’d love to get my hands on it to give it an in-depth review. Keep checking out AngryBBQ.com for that possibility and other reviews, tips and tricks, and recipes!
If you are looking for a high-end hybrid pellet grill that has a bigger hopper and Wi-Fi connectivity, check out our quick take review of the Camp Chef Apex series. Let us know in the comments what you think!