By: Max Good
Green Mountain describes their small portable Davy Crockett smoker as the Ultimate Tailgater Pellet Grill. There’s a lot to like about Davy Crockett and a few negative issues that must be pointed out, but given the lack of choices for compact portable pellet smokers, Davy Crockett rises to the top of a very short list.
Regarding portability, it’s difficult, and not recommended, for one person to try and move DC. Two people are required, with one on each side to lift the smoker then fold up the steel tube legs which function as a handle. The design works, but is slightly awkward. Bulky and weighing almost 60 pounds, many people will find it hard to carry without help, even in the folded position.
Traeger’s PTG (Portable Tailgate Grill) weighs less and can be carried like a briefcase, BUT the cook surface is much smaller. Plus Davy Crockett uses Green Mountain’s sophisticated digital thermostatic controller with a dual readout LED display to accommodate the included meat thermometer. Green Mountain also includes adaptors to provide power from a wall outlet, car cigarette lighter, or car battery: items that are often optional. There are a couple other “portable” models on the market that are bigger, heavier and more expensive even though some still use the old three position controllers like the PTG.
By design Davy Crockett is small. The primary cook surface is approximately 12″ deep x 16″ wide. The gable or triangular shaped hood is about 7″ tall at the highest point. Of course this is an asset for someone who wants small cooking capacity. The compact size is also ideal for apartment and condo dwellers with space considerations.
Temperature across the cook surface is uneven. Although the fire pot is located at the center of the smoke box, temps on the left side are higher than the right, creating two slightly different heat zones. We quickly adapted to this, and it turned out not to be a big problem. For example: with fish fillets – thick side on the left, thin tail on the right. For chicken pieces – breasts on the left, thighs on the right and so on. At low slow BBQ temps we turned ribs and butts around periodically. Results were good, but even heat would be an obvious improvement. Since we tested DC, Green Mountain claims they have made some tweaks to address this issue.
Green Mountain Grills used to come standard with a two piece drip pan designed with their “Open Flame Technology”. In 2018 they switched to a one piece stainless steel drip pan, however the two piece Open Flame is still available as an option. It consists of one large drip pan with a grid of small holes and a smaller heat shield on top with a corresponding grid of holes. The heat shield slides left to right. When the holes line up, one can see the flame in the firepot. This is meant to expose meat to a searing open flame. We’ve seen variations on this idea from other pellet manufacturers. It sounds good on paper, but generally doesn’t do much. Pellet firepots are small and the flames generated are not powerful enough to make much difference at the grate surface. We grilled burgers at the highest temp setting of 550⁰ and tried the heat shield open and closed. There was no appreciable difference, but 550⁰ is pretty hot for a pellet smoker and we were able to get a little brown crust on the meat surface in both positions. Of course we swapped burgers from left to right while cooking in consideration of the hot left side.
Some owners expressed alarm to see smoke backing up into the pellet hopper. We found leaving the chimney damper wide open helped. In fact, we recommend leaving it wide open when cooking, and shutting it down only when not in use to protect the smoke box from the elements.
Vague assembly instructions with blurry photographs weren’t much of a problem because the DC is packaged almost fully assembled. Only the heat diffuser and drip pan configuration forced us to call customer service for clarification. The heat diffuser has a lip bent downward which goes on the left side. The drip pan has a notch on the left that fits around the temperature sensor coming from the control box and a lip on the right that rests on a ledge, setting the pan at an angle to channel grease into the grease bucket. The heat shield that goes on top has a small handle which belongs on the right side.
After several uses, the controller malfunctioned. It began shutting down shortly after start up and the LED displayed the error message “FAL”. The instructions recommend re-starting, then contacting Technical Service if the error persists. We called Tech Service and ended up getting a new controller. Green Mountain controllers have a very good reputation, so we don’t believe this is a chronic problem. If it does happen, the good news is Green Mountain’s warranty covers defects in workmanship and materials for two years and the controller is a breeze to replace: just two mounting screws and two wire connections.
Despite the warts, we recommend Davy Crockett. The internal meat thermometer is useful and convenient and if you want to take DC on the road, you don’t have to buy an additional power inverter. In addition to The AmazingRibs.com Best Value Gold medal, Davy Crockett won the 2013 VESTA Award for “Barbecues, Other Fuels”.
Click below in our Where to Buy section to get the basic model or a smoking package deal that includes Wi-Fi, a cover, sauces and rubs.
Green Mountain provided a demo for this review.
UPDATE: GMG keeps innovating and upgrading. Davey Crockett is still available for now, but being replaced by their new Trek Portable.
Here are some of the key changes for Trek:
Trek can also be mounted on an optional, stainless steel cart with a side tray and adjustable flip down front shelf. The cart is on 4 wheels – two locking. The price is $189.
Trek is available for $379 from Pellethead.com at the link below.
Traeger and Louisiana Grills used to be pretty much the only game in town for pellet smokers less than a grand, but Green Mountain Grills changed that in 2008 and has run up significant sales numbers. They make two residential smokers, one large trailer smoker and recently introduced a small portable model. They also offer pellets, sauces, rubs and various accessories.
In 2014 Green Mountain drastically lowered prices on their residential models making them a best buy. We always liked Green Mountain, now we love them. Jason Baker of Green Mountain explains, “We have dramatically lowered our prices to allow the WIFi units to come in at better prices. The move towards WiFi will be interesting. We hope to bring a whole new consumer into the pellet grilling umbrella.”
WiFi adds about a hundred bucks to our posted MSRP for GMG’s full size Daniel Boone and Jim Bowie models and fifty bucks for the portable Davy Crockett. No other pellet smokers currently on the market in GMG’s price range are offering WiFi control. Download the GMG ap to your smart phone to enable a point to point connection to the pellet controller. You’ll get system malfunction and low fuel warnings – the ability to turn the cooker on and off – monitor and control internal meat temp, cooking temp and timer – you can even store time/temperature based profiles of your favorite recipes. For example, “Tri-Tip Beef Roast” STEP 1: Cook at 225° until the internal meat temp hits 110°, STEP 2: Crank to 500° for browning until the meat registers 135°, STEP 3: drop cooking temp to 150° to keep warm.
GMG doesn’t sell much on the internet, but the company website has a dealer locator to help you find their products. The dealer network is expanding and GMG products can now be purchased in Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and South Africa. The cookers are assembled in China, but management, sales and distribution are headquartered in Reno, NV.
Published On: 6/19/2014 Last Modified: 8/9/2021
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