The purchasing of a grill can be overwhelming. Just walking into a store, or looking online, will reveal the vast amount of options available. Grills can be heated by propane, natural gas, charcoal, wood, infrared and even electric – each having pros and cons. There are grills that are great for searing a steak, but struggle when it comes to smoking a brisket. Other models excel at the low and slow smoking but are unable to get that high heat for searing meat. The look and shape of models vary greatly as well. Some models are modern and stainless steel, while others look like they are just a horizontal barrel. Then there are kamado style grills that have an old school shape and method for grilling. It is no wonder that consumers can be confused in the decision making process when purchasing their next grill.
Fast Eddy’s by Cookshack PG500 Pellet Grill is one of those grills that can perform pretty much any grilling task. Everything from high temperature searing to low and slow bbq, this wood fired grill can do it all. Made in the USA, this stainless steel grill is built very well and is solid like a tank! I always love the looks and expression from people who see the unit for the first time. It always seems to be a big WOW and once I open the doors and show them the full grill, the PG500 is sure to impress. The designer of the PG500 is BBQ champion Fast Eddy. I had the chance to speak with Fast Eddy on the phone and learn his process for the creation of this grill. He wanted something that was easy to use and provided an even cooking area. He wanted the charbroiler section to be able to have the same heat from front to back and a good indirect area for bbq. Fast Eddy said it was important that the PG500 was able to trap in both heat and smoke. This is essential for good bbq. Fast Eddy used all the experience he has gained from years doing competitive bbq to develop the PG500 and it shows.
Heating with wood pellets
The PG500 is a pellet grill, which means that it is heated and fired by wood pellets. Have you ever seen a pellet wood stove for heating a home? Well the PG500 works in a similar fashion. There is an auger in the grill that moves wood pellets from the hopper into the fire box. The hopper can hold many hours’ worth of pellets which helps the grill be almost a ‘set it and forget’ type unit when doing those long smokes.
The wood pellets come in large 20 pound bags and are available in many types of wood popular for bbq (hickory, apple, pecan, cherry, mesquite and more). Cookshack sells bags of wood pellets, but the PG500 uses other popular brands as well. Pellets are clean burning and produce very little ash. In fact, I was surprised at how little ash was left, even after a long smoke.
The hopper is on the left of the grill. It holds more than a 20 pound bag – I probably was able to get 30 pounds of pellets in there.
The total cooking area is 784 square inches
- 10″ x 18″ direct cooking – cast iron grill grates
- 18″x18″ indirect cooking – stainless steel grill grates
- 10″x28″ top rack – stainless steel grill grates
While most grills have a roll top lid, the PG500 has two swing doors. Opening the doors reveals the grilling area. The grilling area has 2 main sections, and a rack above for addition grilling/cooking space. Below the grill there is a warming drawer and an ash collection drawer.
The left side of the grill is where the fire box is located. This is the direct cooking area and the grill grate here is made of cast iron. The cooking area is large enough for 4 striploins or 6-8 burgers. The right side of the grill is the indirect cooking area and makes up for close to two thirds of the main grilling level. This grill grate is stainless steel and this is the area that would be used for any indirect grilling and low and slow smoking. It is large enough to hold a few whole chickens, pork butts, ribs and more. Above the main grill area is a smaller second level rack, which allows for extra space.
The control panel is on the hopper box to the left of the grill. There is an on/off switch and a temperature setting. Operating the unit is incredibly simple. Turn it on and set the desired temperature, up to 600F. The auger starts moving some pellets from the hopper to the fire box. The ignitor also starts automatically. Eventually, you will see a little smoke coming out of the fire box and after a few minutes, there should be a good fire going.
To test this grill out, I wanted to see how it performed with many different tasks. I tried everything from grilling steaks on high heat, to low and slow pork butt. I also tried using the PG500 to cook a pizza, pork butts, a whole turkey and my absolute favorite meal – RIBS!
A good grill should be able to sear a steak, providing nice grill marks on the outside, while the meat is at the desired doneness in the middle.
To grill a steak, you want to get the grill really hot. I set the PG500 for 600F. This is great for getting a good sear on the steaks. The thermostat on the PG500 is in the middle of the right (indirect) section of the grill, so it would not give the temperature of the left side, where I would be searing the steaks. The grill got really hot and the fire was strong. The thermostat said that the temperature was around 470-490F. It never got up to 600F, but it was October in Canada – so the grill had to deal with a cooler outside temperature. Since the thermostat was on the indirect side, it was obvious that the temperature on the direct side was MUCH hotter, probably at 600F, if not more. This was able to get the cast iron grill grates really hot. I placed the steaks on the grill and the sizzle was immediate and loud.
I do not marinate my steaks, I like them with just a little seasoning. I prefer my steak from rare to medium rare and when the steaks came off the grill, they were HOT. The fat had started to crisp up and cutting into the steak showed they were nice and pink in the middle. The PG500 cooked them very well and totally to my liking.
Ribs are one of the most important cuts of meat for BBQ and a grill has to be able to cook up ribs well. We make ribs all the time, so I was eager to throw them on the PG500. Cookshack sent their spice rubs and bbq sauces, so I figured this was the perfect time to try them all out!
After rubbing the ribs with brown sugar and letting them rest in the fridge for a few hours, I them started up the PG500. I used hickory wood pellets and set the temperature for 275F. Once the grill was up to temp, I coated the ribs with rib rub, put them on the indirect side, and closed the doors.
After about 3 hours, the back ribs looked great and seemed like they were done. I gently lifted them up and I felt a good bend in the rack and knew that the ribs would be tender and close to falling off the bone. Perfect!
I brushed the ribs with bbq sauce and then served them to a hungry family. Everyone raved and my wife said that they were the best ribs she has EVER had. They were tender, smokey and had a wonderful flavor.
I love a good pizza and a few days after I had the PG500, I began to think that this grill should be able to function similar to a pizza oven. Outdoor ovens dedicated specifically for making pizzas is quite popular, and if the PG500 can cook a pizza similar to a wood fired pizza oven, this grill is something special! To start, I set the temperature for 600F and placed the pizza stone on the indirect side. I let the PG500 cook for about 20 minutes with the stone on the grill so that it would get nice and hot before the pizza is placed on it.
I put the pizza on the pizza stone with the parchment paper. It was easy to transfer it that way. I figured that I would let it cook like that for a bit and then pull out the paper and let the pizza cook directly on the pizza stone.
The pizza cooked really well. The crust was nice and browned and the pepperoni was crisp. The PG500 cooked pizza way better than a traditional kitchen oven can do.
Pork Butt Test
The PG500 is different than a regular grill. Since it is heated with wood and can keep a low temperature, this grill can operate like a smoker. To test this out, I purchased about 30 pounds of pork butts. I figured that if the PG500 can cook these low and slow for 13-16 hours (or whatever is needed to get them to 195F), then this might just be the most versatile grill I have ever used!
I trimmed any excess fat off the pork butts and rubbed them down with a good spice rub. I set the PG500 to 225F using pecan wood pellets. I place two of the pork butts on the bottom, off to the right on the indirect side. The third roast, I placed on the upper rack, just above the other two.
I closed the lid and let the PG500 do all the work. Since the temperature is at a low 225F, there was far more smoke coming out of the chute than would happen at a higher temperature. Cooking pork butts takes a long time and I figured around 14 hours. They needed to be ready for lunch the next day, so I started them in the evening, just before it got dark. Letting a grill cook overnight, is always a nerve-racking thing for me. I usually get up once or twice to make sure everything is going fine. Since this was the first time I cooked through the night with the PG500, I was especially anxious. I did not need to be, as it cooked very well all through the night, and held temperature right around 225F each time I checked.
Getting up in the morning to check on the pork butts is always an exciting experience and I want to start pulling the pork right away! I checked the temperature in the mid morning and it was at about 193F for the bottom two butts and closer to 200F for the one in the upper rack. I let them rest and pulled the pork for an incredible BBQ feast! There was a great bark and smoke ring on the butts and the taste was wonderfully smokey. The PG500 did an awesome job cooking low and slow. I cannot wait to try a brisket next!
The PG500 is an extremely versatile grill. It can sear and it can smoke at a low temperature. The wood pellets provide some nice heat and fire box The fuel consumption of the wood pellets is more expensive than propane or natural gas, but the taste is true bbq. The one down side of this unit is that you can only use the left portion for direct grilling. So, grilling a lot of burgers and steaks will require some creativity. This is minor, considering all of the features that this grill can do. If you are looking for a new grill and want to be able to smoke meat as well, the Fast Eddy’s by Cookshack PG500 Pellet Grill is a great choice!
Purchase this pellet grill at Amazon.
Disclaimer: Cookshack provided me with the PG500. They did not pay me for this product review and the views expressed above are my honest reactions after trying the product.