In late 2021 Yoder Smokers company generously sent me their new YS640S competition pellet grill for a full review on Angry BBQ. I graciously accepted the offer and have been putting the new grill to good use. They connected me with their Canadian distributor Smoker Broker, based in Saskatoon, SK. Smoker Broker shipped the grill to my house and was helpful in getting everything I needed in short time.
This review will be very detailed and will also be a work in progress because there are so many features/options/accessories that Yoder has created for their pellet grill line. Yoder sent me plenty of their optional accessories to review and I’m going to cover them as well. Some of the accessories are proving to be very useful and I don’t think I could do without them.
If you’re reading this review, you know something about Yoder and the high-end product that they bring to the pellet grill industry. These grills are built for people that are serious about their smoking/grilling and are willing to pay for top quality, even if that means paying substantially more than your average China made (most competitors) pellet grill competitor.
|Yoder YS480s||CHECK PRICE|
|Yoder YS640s||CHECK PRICE|
|Yoder YS480s Competition||CHECK PRICE|
|Yoder YS640s Competition||CHECK PRICE|
Yoder Grill Company Explained
Yoder is based in Hutchinson, Kansas and has been building smokers/cookers since 2007. The company initially started as a manufacturer of tools and equipment and made smokers as a sideline for family and friends. Everything is designed/engineered/constructed in Hutchinson, something that is rare in this industry. Yoder doesn’t just manufacture Pellet Grills, they also build Offset Smokers, Charcoal Grills, and also focus on the competition line of grills. Full customized cookers can be acquired for the serious Pitmasters.
Yoder has grown quickly, and their pellet grill line has helped propel their growth. The company continues to expand their dealer network and online retail presence via All Things BBQ.
Yoder YS480s & YS640s Pellet Grill Overview & Specifications
Yoder has two key pellet grill sizes, the YS480 and the YS640. The YS640 offering 1,070 sq/inches of total grilling space is approximately 270 sq/inches larger than the YS480, and I believe the YS640 is the right size that most owners would prefer. I’ve had plenty of different pellet grills over the years and I always end up wishing I purchased the larger version of the grill. The 640 will easily accommodate a couple large packer briskets without overcrowding the cook box, while the 480 will be tight. You want to keep space between your cuts to allow proper smoke flow, and the 640 accommodates this.
Yoder YS640s Specifications
I compiled my own list of the key specs on the YS640s Competition. You’ll notice a couple specs that stick out like a sore thumb when compared to the mass produced pellet grills. (Weight and options.)
|Specification / Feature||Comments / Notes|
|Cooking Space||1070 sq/inches||Perfect size for smoking multiple briskets or turkeys. 12″ overhead space accommodates tall cuts.|
|Dimensions||61.3″W x 55″ H x 36.1 D||Attached shelves included in dimensions.|
|Weight||418 lbs.||Weight demonstrates the quality materials used in this cooker.|
|Cooking Chamber Construction||1/8″ Steel||Best in class.|
|Grill Grates||4: 19.8″ x 7.8″ grates. 1: 15.5″ x 28″ Sliding Top Shelf||Bottom grates are great for grilling. Top shelf is perfect for smoking.|
|Temperature Range||150F-700F||700F is achieved by removing heat diffuser access door and allowing direct flame grilling.|
|Hopper Capacity||20lbs.||Yoder should increase the size of their hopper. This is a big grill and it will go through pellets faster than you are used to when coming from smaller pellet grills.|
|WIFI Connectivity||Yes. Via Fireboard Controller and App||Very strong WIFI connectivity. Has a large antennae which can connect long range. Fireboard Phone App gives a lot of control and monitoring.|
|Direct Flame Grilling||Yes||Yoder includes an access door in their heat diffuser which allows direct flames from the fire pot to the grill.|
|Portable||Competition Cart||The cart includes large caster wheels for easy portability and integrated tie downs.|
|Digital Controller||Yoder ACS System||Controller powered by Fireboard Labs. Accurate and Reliable temperature controller.|
|Ignition System||Ceramic||Very reliable ignition system. Just be sure to clean out the ash regularly or ignition can fail.|
|Storage||1 x Front Shelf, 1 x Side Shelf||Stainless shelves available. A lot of space for trays, sauces, tools etc.|
|Warranty||10 years||10 years cooking chamber. 3 years ACS Controller. 3 Years Igniter.|
YS640s Materials and Construction
This is where you’ll notice the quality of the grill. Yoder uses 1/8” steel for the cook box which is the heaviest gauge steel in any pellet grill offered today. The grill weighs in at 418 lbs. Comparing that to the Traeger Timberline at 200 lbs. which is a similar sized grill. You can understand the quality of materials used when you look at the weight of these grills.
Yoder isn’t just stamping and forming steel to make their cook box, you can see quality weld joints throughout the construction of the grill. Yoder also includes a welded counterweight for their lid/door to ease opening and closing, due to the weight of the door. Stay-cool handles are installed on the door, variable displacement damper and the pellet hopper lid.
YS480s / YS640s Design
The overall look of the grill is like a traditional offset stick burner, and for good reason. Yoder locates their fire box on the left-hand side of the cook box, not the center like all other pellet grills. In designing their grill this way, they can have dual zone cooking available on their grill.
Variable Displacement Damper
You can counteract this dual zone heat by adjusting the included variable displacement damper. The damper can be adjusted to focus all the heat above the firebox (great for searing) or adjusted to try and keep the heat even throughout the cook box (great for smoking). I’ve been playing around with the damper positions and have found that having the damper out about 9″ provides the most even heat inside the cook chamber when smoking around 225F-250F. It is not perfect, and I’ll explain further below in my smoking performance review.
Yoder includes quality grill grates for the main lower grilling area and a 2nd level slide-out shelf. The slide-out shelf is great for smoking as it’s constructed of diamond pattern steel. Yoder also offers authentic GrillGrates for direct grilling. Remove the access door from the heat diffuser and you’ll have direct flames entering the cook box from the fire pot. Insert your GrillGrates above the fire pot and you have direct flame grilling. Great for searing.
Yoder upgraded their ignition system on their pellet grills a couple years ago. They offer a ceramic ignition system. Ceramic igniters provide more consistent startup vs. typical conductive heat probes found in other pellet grills. The Yoder will fire up consistently, but I have learnt you need to clean the ash from the fire pot more often than most pellet grills. I clean the ash out every 2-3 cooks. If I forget to clean it, you’ll end up with no ignition and overflowing pellets in the fire pot. Keep your firepot clean.
Yoder provided me their competition version of the grill which includes the beautiful orange heavy duty cart. The cart eases mobility which is important if you’re competing with your pellet grill. The cart includes large 8” caster wheels that can lock in place. There are plenty of areas to strap your grill down for transport as well. The cart is well thought out and is visually pleasing.
When you order the competition version grill you will also receive full stainless steel front and side shelves. It’s a nice touch and also meets health standards if you’re ‘cookin for a livin’.
Controller and Connectivity
Yoder also recently updated their digital controller system. In partnership with Fireboard Labs out of the US, they now offer a modernized digital controller that offers WIFI and Bluetooth connectivity. The new controller is a major upgrade compared to the previous controller. Full grill control can be managed from your iOS or Android device. Temperature settings range from 150F-600F; however, the grill can achieve temps beyond 600F when the access door of the diffuser is removed.
Below is a screenshot of the new FireBoard App to control your grill with your phone. Typical settings available such as setting grill temps, current pit temperature displayed, meat probe temperature displayed, and grill shutdown. The app records every grill session so you can go back and review how your cook went.
The app allows for customizable programs such as setting gradual temperature changes over time. If you know exactly how you want to cook or smoke something, you can program it all into the app. You can simply program it to reduce the pits temperature to “Keep Warm” after the meat reaches a certain temperature. Some nice features.
The app isn’t as feature rich as Traeger’s WiFire app system which includes built in recipe programs or an alert for low pellets, which is something Yoder should think about including on their grills.
The built-in controller is user friendly and offers some unique options that I have yet to see on other pellet grills. Yoder includes a prime pellet feed button. The idea of this feature is to manually feed extra pellets into the grill after the lid has been opened for a long duration and the temperatures have dropped a lot. It’s a nice feature and I do use it.
Temperature settings are easily adjusted by the large dial and can be set in 5 degree increments.
The controller offers two temperature probe ports and can be used simultaneously. Yoder includes two quality temp probes and also drilled a probe port on the side of the cook box next to the controller. No more damaging probe wires.
Smoke Stack and Grease Drain
The YS640S contains the traditional offset smoker style stack on the right hand of the cook box. The stack is removeable by turning a winged set screw. You can change the angle of the smoke stack with this system. If you are like me and want to keep your gear looking good, you’ll purchase their grill cover. FYI: You will need to angle the stack to allow the cover to fit.
The grease drain is simple, and Yoder keeps the bucket location at the bottom of the grill and not the side. I hate the side grease bucket system because I have accidentally knocked the buckets over when putting a grill cover on. With the bucket installed under the grill, you’ll never accidentally knock this over.
Yoder YS640s Smoking Performance
We all know pellet smokers will never produce the same smoke flavors you can produce from an offset smoker, but you already know that, and you want something more convenient to use instead of a stick burner. Overall, the YS640s does an admirable job of producing smokey flavors. Smokey flavors is just one part of what makes a good smoker. Let’s go over the key categories of what makes a good smoker and see how well the YS640s meets them.
The Yoder needs some time to pre-heat. It takes longer than most of the other grills I have. I think the reason for this is the size and the heavy materials used to construct the cook box. When you start heating the cooker up, you need to start heating up 1/8” thick steel to your desired temp. This takes time. Give yourself 30 minutes as a minimum to get this preheated and stable.
Once the grill reaches temp, it holds it very well. Better than any pellet grill I’ve used so far. If you leave your door open for a while and you lose a lot of heat, you can speed up the reheat by pushing the pellet prime button on the controller. The controller will feed a couple extra pellets into the fire pot to reheat faster. You don’t have to do this but if you left the lid open for a long time, it is a good idea to push this button. It makes a difference.
The grill is sealed well and the only place that smoke escapes is the smokestack.
Everything can be monitored with your smart device while using the Fireboard Labs application. Monitor the cook box temp, change the set temperature, check your meat temperatures via the included dual probes.
Temperature Zones with Variable Displacement Damper
As I mentioned before, Yoder includes this adjustable damper. They recommend only pushing the damper in 5-6” when smoking to get even temperatures throughout the cook box. I haven’t perfected this setting yet. I find this recommended setting gives me a lot more heat on the right hand side of the grill.
I used my trusty and accurate Thermoworks Signals multi-probe thermometer system and placed four probes across the bottom grill grates to monitor temperatures inside the cook box. I also adjusted the variable displacement damper to see how even I could get the heat across the cook box. I spent several hours at this at a couple different temperature settings, 230F and 350F. The results were interesting. At the end of the day you cannot get a perfectly even temp across the cook box, but this isn’t a bad thing, as it acts more like an offset smoker.
What was interesting is most of the heat originated on the right hand side of the grill which is opposite side of the firepot. I assume the fan that is used to manage temperature, pushes the heat to the right hand side. The front of the grill was also hotter than the rear. This is good information to have when doing a long slow cook on say a brisket or pork butt.
My images above confirm the right side of the cook chamber run hot and so does the front. I adjusted the variable displacement damper and found that leaving it out 9″ provided the most even heat in the cook chamber. I used a welders pen to mark this setting.
Now that you know how temperatures run in the Yoder, you can properly place your briskets and other meats. If you’re cooking multiple items on the Yoder, you now know that you should move them around to cook evenly.
|Yoder YS480s||CHECK PRICE|
|Yoder YS640s||CHECK PRICE|
|Yoder YS480s Competition||CHECK PRICE|
|Yoder YS640s Competition||CHECK PRICE|
Yoder YS640s Grilling Performance
This is where the Yoder really shines and dominates most other pellet grills on the market. There are a couple simple reasons for this.
When you want to grill, you typically want searing heat. I’ve tested most other pellet grills for their searing abilities. I’ll take a steak and see how it sears. The results with most pellet grills are disappointing. They never seem to put out the real high searing heat because they have a large pan/diffuser between the fire pot and the grill grates. Having a diffuser between the fire pot and grill grates does not allow the full heat to radiate through. See how my Traeger Ironwood 650 grills a steak and you’ll see what I mean.
This is where Yoder engineered their grill to allow for massive searing temps. You can honestly get the left hand side of the grill over 700F. Yoder designed an access door in their heat diffuser which allows direct flame heat from the fire pot straight to the grill grates. When I want to sear a steak, I remove this access door and I slide the variable displacement damper all the way in. With these settings, the left hand side of your grill is now a high heat grill.
The images above demonstrate the real direct flame you get from the Yoder. I have the optional GrillGrates installed on the left hand side when grilling the steaks. These are a must have option for the Yoder when grilling. The flames do not touch the steaks but the grates get evenly hot and do a great job with searing.
Can a Yoder Sear a Steak?
Yes. Absolutely. Look at the results I got on this Ribeye and a couple Sirloins. I have yet to find a pellet grill sear like this. The GrillGrates option are a must.
Even Grilling Heat
The grill is also capable of offering more uniform heat across the entire grill by making a couple different settings. If you are only grilling around 350F, then keep the diffuser access door in place and slide the variable displacement damper all the way out. This keeps the heat quite even across the entire grill.
If you’re planning on grilling over 400F, then Yoder recommends removing the access door on the diffuser or completely remove the entire diffuser. Adjust the variable displacement damper to focus the heat on the left side or across the entire grilling space.
I find Yoder’s owner manual a little confusing when they try to explain the positions of the variable displacement damper. The settings that I explain for smoking and grilling will cover you for most of the cooks you’ll ever do. Play around with the damper and get to know how your grill reacts.
Yoder Optional Accessories
Yoder has a large offering of optional accessories that you can get for your YS480 or YS640. I have quite a few of these accessories and I’ll cover which ones I think are a must and which are a nice to have.
Direct GrillGrates 3-Piece
These are a must have. If you’re buying a Yoder, you know that these are great at grilling and not just smoking. Yoder offers the Aluminum Direct GrillGrates that fit perfectly into the YS480 and YS640 grills. The grates ensure no flareups on your meat and also provide very even heat distribution across the entire grate. When you setup the grill for direct flame grilling, these are a must.
Yoder Outdoor Grill Cover
I like my gear staying in good condition. If you’re spending some serious coin on a cooker, spend a bit more and protect it. I consider this a must have accessory. The cover fits the grill perfect and has a couple buckles at the bottom to keep it tight and in place, even when it is windy. You’ll need to remove the smoke stack when putting the cover on. It’s not hard to remove the stack, just one thumb screw needs to be loosened.
Yoder Universal Thermal Jacket
As you can see I live in the Ice and the Snow, where the sun doesn’t shine and the wind always blows (Saskatchewan, Canada). If you love smoking food year round, you’ll be using your Yoder in the cold. Yoder has a thermal jacket kit that helps insulate the cook chamber. I never did any hard testing to determine how much this saves in pellet consumption or aiding in temperature consistency. I just believe it makes a difference as it fits tight to the grill and seems to contain a lot of insulation. If you live in a cold climate, I would say this is a must.
Yoder recommends removing this when using the grill over 300F, so if you are doing any grilling, you should remove it. Luckily it is quite easy to install or remove. Yoder also created an opening on the right side in case you have the optional Tel-Tru Door Thermometer.
Yoder Grease Shield
One of the common complaints amongst early Yoder owners was the grease that would run down the front of the grill below the door. Yoder provided a fix which adds to the esthetics of the grill as well. They provide a stainless steel grease shield that attaches at the bottom of the door opening. Any grease that runs down the door now falls into the stainless shield which contains a catch tray. It simply snaps into place and is easy to clean. Another must option.
Yoder Tel-Tru Door Temperature Gauge
I don’t have this temp gauge yet but I’m going to be purchasing it right away. Yoder offers a single or dual gauge kit. I’m going to get the dual because I know temps across the cook chamber are somewhat uneven. I think this is a must have option.
Yoder Ownership Experience and Warranty
So far the Yoder experience has been great. The grill performs well and is obviously made of quality materials and craftsmanship. The grill is meeting all my smoking expectations and has surpassed my grilling expectations. I’ll go over the key aspects I like and what I believe are some shortcomings.
I first want to say that the grill was packaged extremely well when it was delivered to me. Yoder and the Smoker Broker boys did a great job at this. Thank you again.
What I Like About the Yoder YS640s
- Overall build quality and materials surpassed my expectations. Nothing looks cheap on this grill. I like buying something once and prefer quality over quantity. The Yoder is just that.
- Grilling has always been disappointing on a pellet grill, but the Yoder has proven that a pellet grill can grill hot and even sear a steak.
- Temperature Consistency is another strong suit for Yoder. It may take a while to get to the temps, but once it hits the desired temp, it stays there and doesn’t fluctuate.
- The available accessories with the grill remind me of the Harley Davidson company. If you’ve ever owned a Harley you know what I mean. There are so many extra things you can buy. They are quality accessories and they make your cook that much better. I listed my favorite accessories above. Most pellet grill manufacturers really lack on the accessory offering.
- Bragging Rights. Friends and family will be envious of your smoker. Eventually they will join the club.
What Makes Me Angry About The Yoder YS640s
- Low Pellet Sensor: Yoder should include a low pellet level sensor in their grill. I have run it empty because I’m not used to the consumption of such a large pellet grill.
- Larger Pellet Hopper: 20lbs hopper is large enough for smaller grills, but a grill of this size could use a larger hopper. Again pellet consumption on such a large grill is faster than smaller grills, so naturally the hoppers should be larger as well.
- Temperature Uniformity: I was a little surprised to see how much hotter the right side of the cook chamber was when I was at smoking levels. After putting the variable displacement damper in numerous settings, I was able to keep the temperature differential down but it was still more than I thought. You need to be aware of this when smoking on the Yoder. Another reason to get the dual Tel-Tru temp gauges on the door.
Do I recommend Purchasing the Yoder YS480s or YS640s
When you get to this level of pellet grill/smoker, you cannot give a simple yes or no answer. This grill is for people that are serious about their food/cooking. I obviously have a large interest in this, so for someone like me I would say YES, buy a Yoder. You will not regret it. If you’re a beginner, I would say hold off for now and get your feet wet with something more introductory. If you build on your interest, then you’ll know when you’re ready to buy one.
When comparing the Yoder to other premium pellet grills/smokers, there are very few that come into this price point and build quality. Traeger has the new Timberline grill that is close in price, but I feel it is still not on the same playing field as the Yoder. Yoders are made in the USA and weigh twice as much as a Traeger Timberline. That tells you something. A lot of commercial / competitive BBQ joints use Yoder and they are using them daily. That tells you something.
To ease any investment concerns, Yoder offers a very robust warranty program.
- 10 years on Cooking Chamber
- 3 years on ACS Controller
- 3 years on Ceramic Igniter
The 10 years on the cook chamber is the longest of any pellet grill on the market. Digital devices usually have lesser warranty times, and you can see why the controller is at 3 years. 3 years on the ceramic igniter is fare.
Yoder YS480s/640s Review Wrap Up
You can see I’m very happy with the grill overall. If you’re serious about BBQ, then the Yoder is worth a look. There are few competitors at this level. The only other companies I can think that have something comparable is Lone Star Grillz in Texas or Mak Grills in Oregon. Those grill lines are not as widely distributed in the US so getting to see one before you buy might be challenging.
If you’ve read this far, do yourself a favor and buy one today. You obviously have a great interest in these. It won’t disappoint.
Here are a couple recipes that I published, while using my Yoder.