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By: Bill McGrath
The Green Mountain Grills TREK Prime is a portable pellet cooker that operates on 12 volts direct current that can be supplied by an AC power supply or directly from a vehicle’s cigarette lighter or battery. It is small and light enough for tailgating but large enough to be useful on the back patio.
If you don’t already know how pellet smokers work, you should. They are by far the easiest way of smoking delicacies like ribs, brisket, salmon and turkey. Just set your desired cooking temp and walk away. Pellet smokers will maintain your set temp and keep smoking as long as you replenish the wood pellet fuel—even overnight if necessary. They are outdoor kitchen ovens with smoke. Click here to learn more about pellet smokers.
The TREK Prime goes a step further than the standard pellet smoker. It has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity that allows the user to monitor and control the unit via a smartphone app. Let the cold winds bluster and blow—you can stay warm and cozy inside while TREK Prime takes care of business. The app, available for both Apple and Android operating systems, also allows the user to configure and calibrate the smoker’s electronic controls.
The TREK Prime’s dimensions are 24 inches high x 32 inches wide x 16 inches deep. The cooker is built solidly, as evidenced by its weight of 63 pounds. Handles on each side allow a reasonably strong person to pick up and carry the unit, although two persons would be preferable. The hopper that supplies the wood pellets is on the left side. The electronics, the fan, and the pellet feed auger are in the same housing as the hopper.
The pellet hopper will hold nine pounds of wood pellets. Green Mountain sells pellets in four different blends of wood offering a selection of smoke profiles. You can use other manufacturers’ pellets provided that they are intended for cooking and use hardwoods. (The user is cautioned to avoid fuel intended for home heating as it will likely contain harmful additives not found in food grade wood pellets.)
My one gripe with TREK Prime is the lack of an easy way to change the pellet type. Many pellet smokers, including Green Mountain’s full size models, have a pellet clean-out door or chute to easily empty the hopper. With TREK Prime you pretty much have to go into the hopper and scoop or vacuum out the existing fuel; there is no way to purge the hopper if you want to change the wood blend.
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A wide, close-fitting stainless-steel hood spans nearly the entire cooking surface, making it easy to place or reposition food while cooking.
The rest of the cooker is black powder coated steel. Everything fits together nicely, an indication of the unit’s high quality.
The stainless steel cooking surface area is 219 square inches.
The arched shape of the hood provides seven and three quarters inches of headroom and the interior will accommodate a medium-sized turkey or a pork butt with adequate airflow clearance all around. Beneath the cooking grates is a drip tray that funnels rendered fat and drippings to a gutter on the right.
The gutter channels grease into a stainless-steel bucket on the right side for easy disposal.
The rod above the grease bucket connects to an adjustable heat shield inside the smoker, located underneath the drip tray. The shield slides left to right and can be centered via the sliding rod to distribute heat evenly across the cooking surface as shown in the picture.
It can also be positioned off center to set up a warm heat zone on one side and hot heat zone on the other.
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At the bottom of the cooker is the fire pot where the pellet fuel is burned. A thermostat located on the left above the cooking grate reports the actual temperature inside the cook box to a control system. The controller feeds wood pellets from the hopper via an auger that empties into the fire pot. A fan system stokes the fire. The controller will cycle the auger feed and fan on and off as needed to maintain your selected cooking temp.
The exhaust chimney is on the right side and has an adjustable damper to regulate airflow.
A receptacle on the rear provides flexibility by accepting power from your choice of several sources. There is a 115 VAC to 12 VDC converter that plugs into a standard wall outlet for use around the house as well as a heavy-duty wire with a male plug on each end to run on a vehicle’s cigarette lighter. This wire can also be used with a pair of supplied alligator clips to clip directly to a vehicle’s battery terminals or an external battery.
The cooking temperature can be set anywhere between 150° and 550°F, either at the control panel or remotely with the smartphone app.
There is also a built-in meat temperature probe that can be inserted into the food for monitoring or control of the cooking cycle. The probe input is located to the right of the control panel display.
At the end of a cooking session an automated shut-down sequence stops the fuel flow and renders the burning fuel into ash. There is very little residue of exhausted fuel; ash cleanout is only needed after burning a couple of 28-pound bags of pellets.Get a sneak peak at Meathead’s next book. He shares chapters with members of our Pitmaster Club as he finishes them. Click here for a free 30 day trial. No credit card needed. No spam. Click here to Be Amazing!
The initial setup procedure involves configuring Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, both of which went without a hitch during our testing. The settings are stored in the app and in the cooker’s electronics and don’t require further attention unless you change your Wi-Fi router’s settings. The cooker and app can work in local mode or in server mode, which allows the user to monitor and control the cooker anywhere an internet connection is available.
If you are unfamiliar with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technology or do not have a smart phone or router, you will not be able to use the advanced features that require that hardware. However, you can still operate the TREK Prime from the control panel on the pellet hopper, albeit without the remote control and programming features. If you have a smart phone and router, the TREK Prime is easy to set up and operate. You’ll have to download the app and its user’s manual from the company’s website, but that’s a cinch and the guide is well-written and clear. As with any wireless connection, there are range limitations that restrict how far apart your router, your phone, and the TREK Prime can be.
The user can create and save cooking profiles that take their cues from a timer or the food temperature probe, making it easy to recall and repeat successful cooks. The profiles can be as simple as a single instruction or contain multiple time and temperature steps that run automatically.
The app allows the cook to calibrate the system so that temperature is uniform across the cooking surface and accurate, as determined by a third-party digital thermometer. The sample that I tested ran a little hotter on the left side than the right. This was corrected by moving the heat shield slightly, using a calibrated scale on the actuator until both sides were equal temperature. The overall internal temperature ran about 10°F to 12°F cooler than indicated, so I made an adjustment in the app that made the actual temp agree with the set temp. I ran my calibration tests on a cold, windy day; the results may have been different on a hot day.
The GMG TREK Prime can be used to smoke at low and slow temps or roast at medium temps. I smoked a rack of baby-back ribs and roasted a ten-pound turkey. I felt that the unit was not getting up to the desired temperature, so I ran the calibration tests at 225°F, a common smoking temperature, as well as 325°F using a Fireboard 2 Digital Thermometer. Click here to read my review of the Fireboard 2.
After making the adjustments outlined above, the TREK Prime did an excellent job of maintaining a constant temperature. With a top temp of 550°F, the TREK Prime gets hotter than most pellet smokers and should do an OK job in a pinch for burgers. But like almost every pellet “grill,” TREK Prime is essentially an oven and not particularly effective for high temperature searing. A popular work around for searing on pellet smokers is to use cast iron griddles or extruded aluminum GrillGrates. Heat energy from the firepot builds up in the thick cast iron or aluminum and sears with conductive heat when the meat hits that heavy metal and sizzling ensues. Click here to learn about conductive heat and the different types of cooking.
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Green Mountain sets an example that I wish all manufacturers would follow: excellent documentation. There is a booklet devoted entirely to assembling the unit. It is clear and complete. The owner’s manual does a fine job of walking the new user through the steps to get the most from their new cooker. There is even a 96-page recipe book that illustrates how to effectively use the various features of the TREK Prime. These documents are all printed four-color using quality paper, but the app’s manual is a downloadable PDF document—reasonable given how often apps are updated. Everything has a quality feel to it. Nice work, GMG!
Overall, the Green Mountain Grills TREK Prime pellet cooker performed very well. The documentation is excellent. The unit is well-constructed with nothing feeling cheap or flimsy. Support is a phone call away if you can’t find answers in the manuals. The TREK Prime is an excellent choice for a portable pellet smoker and, if the size is adequate for your purposes, it makes a fine addition to your backyard barbecue arsenal as well. TREK Prime earns our AmazingRibs.com Best Value Platinum Medal.
The Green Mountain Grills TREK Prime pellet smoker has a three-year limited warranty that covers defects in materials and workmanship for the original purchaser. To obtain warranty service, the unit must be returned to the company or one of its dealers. The owner’s manual has all the necessary contact information that the user might need.
We thank Green Mountain for providing a TREK Prime for our tests.
Today consumers can choose from a wide variety of pellet smokers in all shapes, sizes and price ranges. But it wasn’t long ago that Traeger and Louisiana Grills used to be pretty much the only game in town for pellet smokers less than a grand. Green Mountain Grills changed that in 2008 and has run up significant sales numbers since then by consistently coming up with affordable, innovative products. They also offer pellets, rubs and various accessories.
In 2014 Green Mountain drastically lowered prices 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.” Indeed, Green Mountain was at the forefront of remote and WiFi controlled pellet smoker technology.
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: 1/6/2022 Last Modified: 12/7/2022
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