In the beginning pellet cookers were used mostly as smokers because they didn't really have high temperature grilling ability. After more than a decade of design revisions, most of the pellet burners still cannot do both well. Introduced in 2010, the Fast Eddy's by Cookshack PG1000 took an innovative approach to being both a low and slow smoker and a fast cooking grill. Now Cookshack has introduced the PG500, which has the same primary cooking surface area and very similar cooking capability, but sells for several hundred dollars less. The main differences are the PG 500 has a smaller cart with no lower storage shelf and very little work space. The PG500 also does not have an insulated hood. In fact it has two doors that access the cookbox rather than the tradition flip up hood.
Although similar to other backyard pellet cookers in appearance, the PG500 differs most significantly from the competition by moving away from the standard design of a fire pot on the bottom, a diffuser plate in the middle, and a cooking grate above. This design makes most pellet cookers exclusively indirect convection cookers, so it is impossible to have a 2-zone system, the best configuration for grilling, or to get direct flame contact for a high temperature sear.
Fast Eddy's revolutionary design provides four distinct cooking zones:
-Zone one is a 10" wide x 18" deep direct cooking area with the firepot directly below so flames can directly contact the food for high temperature grilling.
–Zone two located to the right of the firepot is an 18" x 18" indirect zone for roasting with or without smoke.
-Zones three and four are spread across a 10" x 28" secondary cook surfaces above Zones one and two. Zone three above the firepot, is significantly hotter than Zone four above the indirect primary cook surface.
The direct zone has a stainless steel grate, the indirect zones have nickel plated wire grates. Total cooking surface is 784 square inches. The firepot, heat diffuser and drip plate are stainless steel.
The digital controller is simple and easy to use, but has some useful features that enhance performance for low and slow cooking and searing. When cooking at low temps like 225, one can modify the controller program to reduce temperature fluctuations over long cooking periods. It smokes meats beautifully creating a deep mahogany finish much like the big heavy offsets used in BBQ competitions. For searing, the controller can be recalibrated to run continuously and produce maximum heat. Results are not bad. We are still testing this feature.
The ash drawer is front-mounted making cleanout easy. The 25 pound capacity pellet hopper is mounted on the side. The body is stainless steel and the whole unit is covered by a 30-day money back guarantee and a 2-year limited warranty. When is the last time you saw a money back guarantee on a grill?
Although the combustion cup in the direct grilling zone puts out plenty of searing heat, the temp drops off rapidly as you move away from the center of the relatively small area. If you are grilling steaks with the doors open, you cannot control the heat output from the burn cup. As much as we recommend the 2-zone system, this is an awkward configuration. In addition, the fact that there is no cover over the flame allows ash to blow into the cooking chamber, often landing on your food. Interestingly, this configuration creates a convection flow of hot air cooking from the top on the indirect side rather than the bottom as do most other pellet smokers.
The PG500 comes with a side shelf and 40 pounds of pellets.
Cooked On It
We have hands-on experience testing this product. We have also gathered info from the manufacturer, owners and other reliable sources.
The Fast Eddy's by Cookshack line is a collaborative design from Cookshack of Ponca City, OK and competition barbecue circuit pro, "Fast Eddy" Maurin. The FEC line, (Fast Eddy's by Cookshack) has been popular with competitive teams for years. The PG500 and PG1000 are their first residential smokers.
Cookshack is a second generation family owned business started in the early 1960's by Gene and Judy Ellis. Gene Ellis was an inventor and entrepreneur who loved barbecue. They began selling sauces and spice blends then branched out into hardware. Cookshack now manufactures a wide variety of pellet and electric smokers for restaurants, professional competitors, and back-yard barbecue enthusiasts. In 2004 Cookshack began a relationship with Fast Eddy Maurin, winner of numerous Grand Championships on the competitive BBQ circuit. Together they produced Fast Eddy's innovative pellet smoker designs which were greeted with enthusiasm and have become some of Cookshack's most popular smokers.
All their well-built machines are made in the USA and come with 2-year limited warranties. The company is universally respected for customer care and their online open forum is extremely informative and helpful. Owners absolutely positively love their Cookshacks.