By Steve Nelson (Pitmaster Club member: Troutman)
A simple device that expands your available searing area
No other barbecue rig evokes more opinion, disagreement, frustration, and drama than a pellet cooker. Since Joe Traeger first introduced the pellet cooker in the mid-1980s, it was lauded as the next great cooking device the likes of which had not been seen since the indoor oven. Here was the perfect marriage of convenience and barbecue all rolled up into one package. It took a while, but since then the popularity of pellet cookers has exploded with more brands being introduced each season.
Folks are passionate about their pellet cookers with brand loyalty comparable to automobiles. But note that I continue to refer to it as a "cooker". That's because, despite the convenience and versatility, these devices are not true smokers, and they're not true grills. They do smoke and grill adequately, but they do not shine at either.
I own a modified Pitts & Spitts pellet cooker, and a few months ago, I reviewed a device from Smoke Daddy called the Heavy D Stick Burning Heat Diffuser that really helps with the first problem: it uses real logs to introduce more wood smoke into the cooker. Now the folks at Smoke Daddy have tackled the second problem. Their Sear Daddy Universal Pellet Grill Searing Station helps turn a pellet cooker into a true grilling machine.
Sear Daddy's base is a 19" square funnel of sheet metal that tapers down to a 6" opening at the bottom. You remove your pellet cooker's heat and grease deflector plates, then Sear Daddy sits over the burn pot, directing the heat and spreading it out over the Searing Station. Depending on your brand of pellet cooker, the device may sit on the top lip of your cooker or it may wedge up against the nearest wall. It fit almost perfectly on my Pitts & Spitts. If I had maybe another 1/4" of height it would have fit like a glove.
In the photo, note the studs welded to either side of the funnel base. Those studs hold three heat deflectors or "flavorizer bars" that you drop in place.
These angled bars help channel the heat, vaporize drippings, and hold the lava rocks supplied with the Sear Daddy.
If you ever owned an old-style propane grill, you know that the lava rocks act as a heat sink, spreading out the heat load. And they help absorb grease. I made the mistake of simply opening the bag and dumping the lava rocks onto the top of the angled bars. Unfortunately, there were a lot of tiny lava rocks in the blend, and those immediately fell into my burn pot. You don't want rocks in your burn pot! I had to carefully lift up the entire device and clean out the pot. Then I put the device over a garbage can and gave it a good shake to get rid of any other tiny lava rocks. Word to the wise: set up the device with its lava rocks over a trash can before installing it in your pellet cooker.
I was a little surprised that Smoke Daddy didn't supply a grill grate to finish off the build. No matter. I own a ton of grates. I used two GrillGrates from my gasser, and they ended up bridging perfectly over the top of the lava rocks.
As you can see, I could have easily fit two more GrillGrates over the Sear Station for a total grilling surface of about 360 square inches. Still, I had plenty of grill space for a family sized meal. I grabbed a couple cowboy steaks (bone-in ribeyes) and some homemade brats and boudin sausages.
First I grilled the steaks, which took about 10 minutes. While they were resting, I cooked the sausages, another 10 minutes. With two more grill grates mounted, I could have cooked the entire meal in about 12 minutes flat.
As you can see by the grill marks, Sear Daddy worked like a true searing station. To check the surface temperatures, I shot my infrared gun right in the middle of the grates directly above the burn pot and registered 650 to 680ºF. Plenty hot for searing. The perimeters of the searing station fell off gradually to between 550 and 600ºF, which is still pretty hot for a cooker designed primarily for low and slow smoking. Actually, I found it a plus to have a hotter zone in the center and cooler zones at the edges. It acted like a natural 2-zone setup so I could move food from the hot zone to the cool zones as necessary.
Overall, I was impressed. If you have the Sear Daddy pre-installed in your pellet cooker, you could conceivably come home, fire it up, and enjoy a delicious grilled meal in about half an hour. Not bad!
- Turns almost any large pellet cooker into a true pellet griller.
- Achieves high heat (550-700ºF) at the grate level over the entire surface area.
- Large 19" square grilling surface accommodates a variety of grates.
- Lava rocks keep grease from running into the burn pot, and there's no grease trap to empty.
- Must be installed by removing existing grates and heat deflector plates in your pellet grill.
- If you already have a charcoal grill or gasser, you may be able to achieve similar searing temps without the hassle.
- Lava rocks will eventually get nasty and need to be replaced.
- Removing and storing the device requires some extra space (it's best to leave the lava rocks in place in the device if you can).
- $99 plus tax isn't cheap. However, they offer a discount for first time buyers.
I give the Sear Daddy high marks for turning my pellet cooker into a pellet griller. If you already own a pellet cooker and don't have other options for quickly searing a steak, I would recommend giving it a try.
Smoke Daddy, Inc. is a family owned business run by a semi-retired machinist who invented the Original Smoke Daddy Cold Smoke Generator. Since 2009, the company has expanded and now produces a wide range of cold smokers, pellet smokers, pellet hopper assemblies, wood pellets, chips, chunks, and custom smoker parts and accessories.