Grilla Silverbac Alpha Wood Pellet Grill Review

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Horizontal barrel-shaped smoker on a double door cart on an outdoor deck.
Silverbac Alpha Wood Pellet Grill

Grilla Grills’ full-sized Silverbac pellet cookers are solid, well-built and well thought out pieces of BBQ equipment. Grilla introduced their popular, industry first, vertical round pellet grill known as the original “Grilla” in 2010. Silverbac reverts to the more common horizontal rectangular grill shape, and according to their website, it has become the new “patriarch of the Grilla family.”  

Many folks refer to these cookers as pellet grills or pellet smokers, and with the exception of high temperature searing, these cookers can do a lot of both with the push of a button. So I like to refer to them as “cookers” to avoid categorizing them into one specific style of outdoor cooking. Low and slow overnight ribs & brisket? Yes! Quick burgers or wings? Yes again! All with greater ease than a traditional charcoal or wood smoker, or even a gas grill.

Pellet smokers use a temperature regulation system similar to a kitchen oven. A thermostat inside the oven senses the temperature and tells a controller when the temperature has dropped below your set point. The controller then feeds wood pellets and blows air into a burning firepot until the desired temp is regained. Set it and forget it. No babysitting required, but electricity is. Silverbac runs on a standard household three-prong, 120 volt outlet. Click here to learn more about pellet smokers.

While the Silverbac lacks a dedicated sear burner which some competitors offer for an extra fee, it does boast a 500°F high temp, great for pizza baking. And the optional, custom-sized, cast aluminum GrillGrates can really elevate your searing capabilities. Click here to learn why GrillGrates are so popular for boosting temps on pellet smokers and gas grills. On the flip side, Silverbac’s controller also gives you a low 180°F temp; great for smoking jerky or holding a brisket. Double walled construction insulates the cook chamber and welded, powder coated, and caulked seams provide extra protection to aid in cold weather efficiency (see photo below). 

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Silverbac Original, Pro, or Alpha

The Silverbac first strutted out of the jungle in 2016 and is now available in 3 model tiers; the entry-level Silverbac Original at $649, the upgraded Pro at $749, which adds more stainless steel internal components and a pellet hopper clean-out chute, and 2019’s top-level Alpha at $799 which features Grilla's new Alpha Smoke Technology. All come with free shipping in the USA. The model we tested was the new Alpha, which has a unique control system Grilla’s website describes as, “an industry-first, dual mode controller. Its design lets you choose between "Standard Mode" which creates more smoke by letting the pellets intermittently smolder, or "Alpha Smoke" which switches to a precise PID control system that holds your set temp rock solid, but produces slightly less smoke. More on the two separate modes later.

On the Pro and Alpha models, all components inside the cooking chamber are long lasting stainless steel.

The Firepot

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The Heat Diffuser

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And the Drip Tray

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These components are designed to evenly disperse the heat from the pellets burning in the firepot and eliminate hot spots and flare ups from grease. Even the cook chamber temperature sensor probe and included meat probe are stainless steel. 

Providing a generous 692 square inches of cooking area (507 square inches main grate, plus 185 square inches upper grate), Pro and Alpha come standard with heavy-duty 1/4 inch thick stainless steel grates. An optional Rack Extension increases the total cooking capacity to a generous 877 square inches.

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Remove the upper grate and you have 10 inches of headroom for your holiday turkey. Overall, the unit measures 51 inches tall x 47 inches wide x 22 inches deep and weighs in at about 170 lbs with no pellets in the hopper. 

All 3 models feature digital, push-button controllers which are adjustable in 5-degree increments from 180°F to 500°F. All have 20 pound capacity hoppers, too. Cooking at 250°F, Grilla estimates a full hopper will last up to 20 hours, depending on the outside temperature and weather. 

Pro and Alpha also feature a convenient pellet hopper dump chute to easily empty the hopper. This comes in handy if you’ll be storing Silverbac for extended periods or if you want to change the pellet species for a different cook.

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The hopper lid is stainless steel and doubles as a nice side shelf with plenty of space.

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My test unit stood outside uncovered through two rather nasty thunderstorms, one severe enough to knock our power out. The next day there wasn’t a moist pellet in the hopper. The hopper lid did a fine job preventing rain from entering the hopper, even rain with wind strong enough to down some nearby tree branches. While the optional cover is very high quality and definitely recommended to protect your investment, it’s good to know if a surprise rainstorm catches you off guard, Silverbac can hold its own and won’t wind up on the endangered species list.

Easy auto ignition

All Silverbac models feature auto-ignition. Simply press the power button to turn Silverbac on, press the up or down arrows on the digital control unit to set your desired cook temp on the display, then walk away. That’s it. Easy as cooking with your kitchen oven. Upon the initial fire-up for the cooker’s first run, the empty auger tube that feeds pellets to the firepot needs to be primed. Grilla recommends removing the grates, drip pan and diffuser so you can observe the firepot, then turning the unit on to watch until pellets begin dropping into it. They estimate 2 to 4 minutes. On my test unit, it took about 3 minutes for pellets to emerge from the auger tube, and 4 minutes until they were dropping steadily. 

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Turn the unit off, replace the internal components, and you’re ready to season before the first cooking session. Seasoning doesn’t require anything special, just a 45 minute burn at 450°F and you’re ready to cook! Priming the auger again would only be necessary if you let the hopper run out of pellets. 

Standard Mode vs Alpha Smoke Mode

Now we get to the fun stuff. Standard Mode, which is the only mode on the Silverbac Original and Pro models, allows more temp fluctuation and produces more smoke. Alpha Smoke Mode switches to an integrated PID control system that reduces temp fluctuation and smoke generation. PID controllers are used in many industrial applications to detect and correct error values or fluctuations between a measured value and a desired set point. They are extremely accurate and efficient at holding set points steady. With the Alpha models you can choose either Standard or Alpha modes. A simple press of the Mode button on the control board easily switches modes at startup or even mid-cook. Grilla's video below does a good job of explaining how Alpha Smoke works.

So what’s the actual difference in how these two modes behave with respect to the flavor of your food or ease of your cook? Grilla states that in the Standard Mode there are greater temperature swings during your cook, which allows the pellets to smolder more, producing heavier smoke to flavor your food. As you’ll learn from our What You Need To Know About Wood, Smoke and Combustion article, in traditional wood burning smokers, the best smoke is clean, light, thin, and faintly blue in color. So why do we seem to go against this prevailing pitmaster wisdom and want our pellets to smolder more? Unlike whole wood chunks or logs, pellets are very efficient: they burn very hot and clean. Clean burning means thinner, cleaner smoke with less flavoring particles in it. As such, many report that the smoke flavor from pellet cookers tends to be mild and delicate compared to traditional wood burning smokers. Some say too mild. When pellet cooker manufacturers include a ‘High Smoke’ or similar mode in their device, this usually is a mode where the temps swing more, creating a slow cycle of hotter-cooler-hotter-cooler swings, which allows more lower-temp smoldering of the wood pellets, which then produce thick, heavy, more flavorful smoke.

Many manufacturer's "High Smoke" modes are only available at lower cooking temps, but Silverbac models allows this at any cook temp. "High Smoke" modes are meant to address complaints from owners who feel pellet smoke flavor is too light for their tastes. But as we all know, flavor is very subjective. Pellet smoke flavor is inherently mild and neither of Alpha's modes duplicate smoke flavor from burning charcoal or wood logs. In Standard Mode, the fan ran in short bursts of a few seconds on, a few seconds off. I couldn’t see the auger or the pellets entering the burn pot of course, but the swinging temps indicated it worked as promised. In Alpha Mode, the convection fan ran non-stop and the temps were steadier, albeit higher than my set point by an average of 10 to 15 degrees. In Standard Mode, I did notice a more pronounced smoke flavor. Alpha Mode was not far behind, but I noticed slightly more smoke in Standard Mode.

Even heat

Temperatures on the primary cooking grate were fairly similar at the four corners and in the center, with some hotter spots near the chimney side, which is common since the hot air is traveling in that direction and collecting there. All thermometer probes were within about 15-20 degrees of each other at the widest swings and closer for most of the tests. I used a Maverick XR-50 digital thermometer for my tests. Click here to learn why digital thermometers are an absolute necessity for all backyard pitmasters.

Trouble at low temps

The Grilla Silverbac promises temps from 180 to 500°F. At the low point of 180°F, it struggled to dip below 260°F, a full 80 degrees off the promised low temp, which was not acceptable. Switching modes didn’t help. I contacted Grilla via email and they quickly replied with troubleshooting steps. There’s an easy way to adjust Silverbac's auger feed rate if the grill temperature will not go low or high enough. They have a very clear and brief video explaining the process, which helped correct the issue with minimal effort. Both Standard Mode and Alpha Mode still swung from about 175 to 200°F when set to 180°F. I could have kept tweaking the feed rate to dial it in more precisely, but it ended up being close enough for the real world of my backyard and I didn't feel it necessary to pursue further adjustments. Sometimes you just go with it!

Grilla says the feed rate does not typically need adjustment, especially in mild weather, but in my case, it definitely did. We did not find reports of this issue in other reviews of the Silverbac, so as of now we believe the problem is rare. For the record, my tests were conducted in summer outdoor temperatures ranging from 70 to 90°F. 

Accessory pack

The Accessory Pack, which can be purchased for about $50, consists of 3 items:

A Lid Deflector, which attaches to the inside bottom edge of the lid itself, is designed to deflect air and moisture away from the bottom edge of the lid, and prevent moisture and grease from dripping out and down the front of your grill.

A Front Edge Grease Catch captures whatever drips make it past the aforementioned deflector.

Two "Rack Jacks" allow you to grab and remove or install the grates if they’re too hot or greasy, or to easily prop up the bottom grate to access the drip pan and firepot for cleaning. The Rack Jacks can also double as grate scrapers.

All three accessories are made of high quality 304 stainless steel.

I used the cooker for a few sessions without the optional lid deflector and front edge grease catch, and a few brown drips ran down the front of the otherwise clean Silverbac and dripped on my deck. 

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Once installed, The Accessory Pack did its job perfectly and eliminated any worries I had about drips staining my deck. They really are a necessity in my opinion to keep both your cooker and your deck or patio clean.

Packaging and assembly

Silverbac packaging was super-solid with heavy, protective cardboard walls all around. All parts were safe and snug in custom fit foam.

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Grilla’s packaging includes a handy blister pack of all necessary hardware and tools for assembly. Mine came in a separate package that arrived a day or two after the grill. Grilla says the tools usually come in the grill box and had no explanation for why mine did not. At least it arrived.

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Grilla’s manual includes easy to follow assembly instructions, and they even have a useful video on both their YouTube channel and website which walks you through the process. I used a combo of both and had no trouble. You do need a second person to help lift the grill body onto the cart once assembled. It’s too awkward and heavy to attempt by yourself without risking damage to it or you. My 12 year old son helped me without much difficulty. If an extra set of hands aren't readily available, offer a neighbor smoked samples from your first cook in exchange for a few minutes of labor. 

Other nice features

As a safety precaution, Silverbac will shut down automatically if the cooking temp drops below 110° or above 610°F. I mentioned the stainless steel hopper lid/work shelf. The digital display shows current temp, set temp, mode, and meat temp at the push of a button.

The enclosed, spacious storage cart with magnetic doors rests on four pivoting casters with two locking brakes. A grease can holder hangs from a hook on the right side, but no grease bucket is included and one must use a paper cup or soup can to catch grease. Upgrades, such as a stainless steel fold-down front shelf, deluxe competition cart with all terrain wheels, and sauce/rub caddy are available.

Grilla offers some optional accessories for the Silverbac, such as a high quality cover, an additional top half-grate to double the upper grate capacity, and custom-sized GrillGrates.

Grilla Grills’ website

GrillaGrills.com is a very customer service-oriented website absolutely packed with content. Beyond just marketing to prospective customers, Grilla owners can find numerous short videos regarding assembly, maintenance and upkeep, as well as company history, recipes, product manuals, social media links for current owners to share their cooks and keep up with company news, and their phone number and email address is prominently displayed everywhere. Grilla also offers 6 different species of high quality wood pellets for about $20 per 20 lb. bag, rubs & sauces, swag (apparel), coolers, mugs, and as mentioned earlier, plenty of parts and upgrades, all from their website with free shipping on any orders over $49. They even offer financing.

Likes

I really liked the ease of startup and use. I was able to get cooking without a lot of fuss. Silverback also features solid, well-built, heavy-duty construction; nothing feels flimsy or cheap. I love that you have two modes to choose from on the Alpha model, and “more smoke mode” is available at any cook temp not just low temps. The included meat probe, probe port, and assembly tools are nice touches

Dislikes

The additional grease management afforded by Grilla's optional Accessory Pack should come standard, and I suggested they include it with all models. Grilla feels many buyers wouldn't view it as a necessity and would prefer to see the lower price tag. Fair enough. But if you love your pretty deck or patio and can afford the extra dollars, I highly recommend it.

The lack of Wi-Fi connectivity could be a stopping point for some. I didn't miss it because I’m a hands-on kind of guy. The exclusion of Wi-Fi keeps the price point lower and avoids some headaches associated with connectivity issues, but Wi-Fi is becoming more common on pellet cookers and many prospective buyers may quickly dismiss Grilla for this reason.

The Bottom Line

My BBQ roots are in extensive wood burning and charcoal smoking and grilling, yet I have loved everything I cooked on the Silverbac from wings to burgers to steak, even veggies, corn, and fish. While it’s a fact that you cannot reproduce the rich smoke flavor of wood and charcoal with a pellet cooker, they offer the set-it-and-forget-it freedom that you simply cannot get from wood burners and even most charcoal smokers. The Grilla Silverbac offers a few extra perks beyond the competition at a price point below most in this league and comes highly recommended by us. We give this cooker our AmazingRibs.com Best Value Gold Medal. 

Warranty

4 year limited, from purchase date, original owner only; excludes paint, cover, and damage caused from corrosion.

First reviewed on 8/21/2019

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price: 
$799
Primary Function: 
Smoker
Fuel: 
Wood Pellets
Primary Capacity: 
507 square inches
Secondary Capacity: 
185 square inches
Made in the USA: 
No
Review Method:

Cooked On It

We have hands-on experience testing this product. We have also gathered info from the manufacturer, owners and other reliable sources.

Grilla Grills

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Grilla Grills makes a unique backyard pellet smoker with a compact footprint. Rather than the the popular horizontal design of most pellet smokers, Grilla has a round, upright shape. Instead of a lid, the cookbox swivels open from right to left. They expanded the line to include a few traditional style cookers. Here's an interesting Behind The Scenes video about Grilla featuring their Engineering Manager, Mark Graham.

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Aaron "Huskee" Lyons

Huskee serves as Manager of AmazingRibs.com's Pitmaster Club, and Comments Moderator on our public site. A KCBS Certified Barbeque Judge (CBJ), he experimented for a few years with a cheap Brinkmann cabinet charcoal smoker before graduating to a Yoder Loaded Wichita offset smoker in 2012. His arsenal has since expanded to 9 cooker

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