Pellet grills are more popular than ever. You may be wondering which pellet grill is the best? The answer is both simple and complicated.
The best pellet grill is one that meets your expectations and fits within your budget.
As avid tailgaters, we were excited to learn that Grilla Grills offers a portable pellet grill designed for use both at-home and on-the-go. We were excited to put the Chimp Tailgater pellet grill to the test and see how it performs.
Before testing the Chimp by Grilla Grills, we spoke with the company representatives to get a feel for what went into this cooker and how it differs from other pellet grills. It was interesting to find out that feedback from both existing and potential customers helped Grilla identify a need for a better tailgating or portable pellet grill offering than those currently on the market.
Grilla Grills pit master Shane Draper told us that when they were designing the Chimp, their team looked at all similar offerings in the wood pellet category, taking note of which features worked well and identifying areas to improve upon.
Here is a partial list from the Grilla website of what we consider to be some of the most important specifications of the Grilla Chimp pellet grill:
- Wood Pellet Heating Technology
- Alpha Smoke Dual Controller
- Automatic lighting feature
- 180°F to 500°F in 5-degree increments
- Full stainless steel burn grate
- Pellets are continuously fed through the fire pot at the rate set by the digital control panel
- Stainless steel firepot
- High-Temperature Safety Shutdown
- If the unit exceeds 615°F, shutdown is initiated and an error message will be displayed.
- Low-Temperature Safety Shutdown
- If unit drops below 105°F, shutdown is initiated and an error message will be displayed.
- 15-lb hopper capacity
- “Snap Lock” folding legs
- Total Cooking Area: 460 square inches
- Main Cooking Area: 340 square inches (22×15.5)
- Upper Rack: 120 square inches (22×5.5)
- Removable top grate
- Heavy-duty steel construction
- Seams welded, powder coated, and caulked for triple redundant weather protection
- Stainless steel lid
- Stainless steel internal components
- The Chimp is powered by a standard household three-prong outlet: 120 Volt 50/60hz.
Dimensions & Weight (Folded)
- Height: 24 in.
- Width: 37 in.
- Depth: 20 in.
- Weight: 90 lbs
Dimensions & Weight (Extended)
- Height: 41 in.
- Width: 38 in.
- Depth: 20 in.
- Weight: 90 lbs
Read the full list of specifications at the Grilla Grills website.
What We Loved About the Chimp Tailgater Wood Pellet Grill
Grilla Grills said that it could take up to two weeks to receive the wood pellet grill, but to our surprise, it arrived much sooner. About five days after getting the first order confirmation, the Chimp pellet grill arrived at our door.
We were notified that our grill from Grilla Grills was ready to ship, had shipped, when it should arrive after it shipping, and that it was delivered. We realize that the notifications may have been a bit redundant but appreciated their commitment to communicating with the customer.
The Chimp pellet grill arrived cleanly and snugly packaged. There was no damage to the box, grill, or any other components.
One of the most significant features of the Grilla Chimp is the Alpha Smoke controller system.
The Alpha Smoke controller system is simple and easy to operate.
The pellet grill cooking market is quickly becoming dominated by fancy operating systems with often clever, sometimes clunky, bells and whistles to enhance the experience. This Alpha Smoke system, although basic, was intuitive to use.
The Alpha Smoke controller system has two settings and operates in two modes. Setting one is PID mode and setting two is the PRO mode.
PID mode stands for Proportional Integral Derivative. It monitors the set temperature and actual temperature of the grill, making minor adjustments to both the fan and auger that feeds wood pellets and fuel to the fire.
Although that may be a fun explanation to liven up a dull cocktail party, what it means is that the temperature you set, is where it will stay.
Let’s say you want to cook something with a leavening agent like a Papa Murphy’s take-and-bake pizza in your pellet grill. The recommendation is to cook the pizza at 425°F for 18-22 minutes. You can be assured that the heat in the pellet grill will set and stay at 425°F for the crust to rise properly and, ultimately, for a delicious result.
The Pro mode fluctuates between mean temperature allowing swings for additional smoke.
In order to get the most smoke, wood needs to smolder. Pro mode incorporates a small swing in temperature, the wood pellets mimicking the pattern you would experience with a log burner and a real wood fire. If you are cooking a larger cut of meat for a longer period of time like a beef brisket, pork shoulder, holiday turkey, or roast; the temperature fluctuation over time should not affect the final outcome of the food. However the fluctuating amounts of smoke in the pellet grill will over time add more smoke flavor that makes the end result tastier.
Some pellet grill manufacturers use marketing to convey the message that a cooker that does not use a PID controller is garbage. The Alpha Smoke controller allows the user to make the decision based on what they are cooking.
The design and culinary team at Grilla were proud to showcase the research and development that went into the Chimp pellet grill. Grilla looked at all available offerings in the tailgate pellet grill category and asked what people would want in a portable grill. They then set out to realize those features.
The results of the research and development are immediately identifiable.
Both the drip pan and fire pot heat deflector are stainless steel and rugged. The heat deflector has a clever slide-to-lock notch designed to keep it snugly in place during transit.
As you put together the inner pieces of the pellet grill, more of the innovative features for a portable grill become evident.
Tabs that keep the grill grate securely in place prevent it from bouncing around during transportation. On the bottom of the grill grate, a couple of pieces of metal prevent the drip pan from bouncing around in transit. If you’re driving down a country road, a side bracket shields the grill grate from potentially bumping into and damaging a temperature sensor.
The Grilla Chimp pellet grill also has side venting or exhaust built into the cooking chamber. This eliminates the need for a smoke stack that, the grill designers found to be unnecessary. Functionally, this grill from Grilla Grills draws smoke over the food and out the end or side instead of naturally finding path of least resistance toward a smoke stack.
A latch on the pellet hopper (that holds the wood pellets) keeps it closed and from bouncing open and shut in transit. If you look closely at the hopper, its edge is slightly hyperextended over the face of the control panel area—a bit of extra engineering that keeps the Alpha Smoke controller further protected from the elements.
Sturdy handles on each side of the Grilla Chimp pellet grill make it easy, with the help of a friend, to quickly load and unload the grill.
The legs are easily deployed and stowed away with a simple push button release and folding hinge. When the legs are closed, there are metal casters the Chimp sits on if you choose to operate it on the bed of a pickup or a table.
The front exterior of the grill has a metal plate below the cooking area with tabs on it. You can hang some tongs or a spatula from the tabs. In addition, interestingly, it was designed to hold the grills grate so if you need to remove it you won’t have to set it on the ground.
What Could Be Improved on the Chimp Tailgater Wood Pellet Grill
I have a mixed response to the simplicity of the Alpha Smoke controller. A part of me yearns for it to be more multifaceted yet its simplicity is one of its benefits.
Having loaded the full 460” square inches of cooking space with food it is amazing just how much food you can get into this portable pellet grill.
Considering the amount of thought that which went into this pellet grill, the designers may have overlooked one small detail—making the upper rack adjustable and expandable.
Making the upper rack expandable may have made transportation somewhat more noisy and the rack not as tight fitting as the other components. I suspect an aftermarket accessory for this would be a welcome addition.
Who the Chimp Tailgater Wood Pellet Grill Is For
This grill is for someone who prefers the versatility of having a pellet grill that can be taken away from the home and used on location. But don’t get me wrong. This is a fantastic wood pellet grill for home use and a wonderful addition for a couple or small family. For home use, the ability to quickly break down and conceal the legs allowing the pellet grill to sit on built-in casters would make it one to strongly consider if you have a built-in outdoor kitchen or are considering building one.
Final Thoughts on the Chimp Tailgater Wood Pellet Grill
Compact size, well thought out engineering, and ease of use are all benefits of the Grilla Chimp grill.
Having cooked with it about two dozen times I have put through its paces in both the Pro and PID modes. It’s been used as a pellet grill and smoker, doing long cooks of brisket and pork butt. We used it to smoke and grill steaks and chicken, bake potatoes, and grill other veggies. We even tested it as an outdoor oven to bake bread and have not yet been disappointed with the results.
At the moment, you will not find Grilla’s Chimp or any of their other offerings at the local hardware store, box store, or discount club. When you order a grill from Grilla Grills, you are ordering direct from the manufacturer. Therefore, there is no retail or distributor markup on the pellet grill cookers making them an exceptional value for the quality you are receiving.
It’s hard for us to identify if Grilla Grills technology, engineering, and build quality is exceptional compared to other popular pellet grill brands, but there is one point of differentiation we find extremely satisfying: The Grilla Chimp tested here had fewer temperature fluctuations and for shorter periods of time than other pellet grills we have tested. Meaning if I put a large cold hunk of meat in the Grilla, like most grills, the set cooking temperature will fluctuate and drop. But temperature control in this pellet grill seems to recover faster than comparable units we’ve tested.
Temperature drops also happen if you have the lid open for a period of time to add food, sauce food, or make adjustments. Compared to gas and charcoal grills, pellet grills often take a painfully long amount of time to recuperate from minor adjustments.
In our testing the Grilla Chimp pellet grill was extremely effective in recovering and getting the cook back to the desired pit temperature.
I suspect we will continue to see promising innovation and quality products from the Grilla Grill Company for years to come.