Pit Boss has introduced several new PID controlled pellet grill and it has created confusion as to what the differences are between the models and which one is the best. There are two grills in particular, the Platinum Laredo 1000 and the Pro Series 850, that appear to be nearly identical in price and features.
Let me walk you through the upgrades and key differences on these grills and why, if I was buying a new pellet grill, I would purchase the Laredo.
Head to Head Comparison
The Platinum Laredo 1000 comes in one size while the new Pro Series grills come in two sizes, the full size Pro 850 and the oversized Pro 1150. Here are the stats on how all three grills stack up against each other.
|Laredo 1000||Pro 850||Pro 1150|
|Main Grill Area||527 sq in||539 sq in||711 sq in|
|Secondary Grill Area||470 sq in||234 sq in||440 sq in|
|Easy Slide Flame||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Meat Probe||2 ports, 2 included||2 ports, 1 included||4 ports, 2 included|
|Hopper Capacity||26 lbs||20 lbs||32 lbs|
|Warranty||5 Years||5 Years||5 Years|
From a price standpoint, as well as the size of the primary cooking grate, I think the Platinum Laredo 1000 should be directly compared against the Pro 850 model.
- PID Control
- WiFi/Bluetooth Connectivity
- Easy Slide Flame Access
- Easy Ash Removal
The standard Pit Boss controller that comes with grills like the Austin XL were good enough to get you in the right ballpark as far as temperature is concerned. If you set your grill to 250F with a standard controller then the temperature will typically swing between 235-270F during the cook. You average temperature will be very close to what you dialed in but the variance can be large.
A PID controller uses smarter logic and better feedback to control temperatures. Every pellet grill that I have used that had a PID was able to achieve a target temperature and hold it within +/- 5 degrees. If you set wither the Laredo or Pro to 250F then you should expect it to have a swing between 245-255F. As far as temperature control is concerned this is a massive upgrade.
I love the idea of being able to check the internal temperature of my steaks without having to get up and walk outside. The ability to change the temperature on your grill remotely is also very cool!
That being said, I can’t decide if being able to connect you grill to your phone via WiFi is a brilliant idea or an abomination. Lord knows that getting up and doing more walking is something I need to do and I sure as heck do not need another excuse to stare at my phone.
Easy Flame Access
One of the selling points for Pit Boss pellet grills has always been the ability to slide the heat shield to one side and get access to direct flame grilling over the wood pellets that are burning in the fire pot. The problem with this direct flame grilling has been that to move the heat shield you first had to remove the cooking grate and then use a pair of tongs to move the shield. It worked but was a hassle.
On one of the first generation Pro series grill, the Pro 1100, Pit Boss added a lever located outside the grill body that would move the shield for you. This lever worked great but was in an awkward location on the right side of the grill underneath the side table.
Pit Boss has finally gotten the design right and have placed an easy to use lever on the top left of the grill where it is easy to reach and manipulate. The lever location is in pretty much the same location for both the Laredo and Pro Series grills.
Easy Ash Cleanout
Cleaning the ashes out of a pellet grill can be a hassle. Typically you have to remove the cooking grate, remove the grease tray and then use a shop vac to suck out the ashes and sawdust.
Pit Boss has added an easy ash removal system to these new grills. Interestingly, the design of these systems is extremely different between the Pro and Laredo. The pull out ash removal bin for the Pro grills is located underneath the grill and is secured in place with a latch. The ash removal system on the Laredo is located on the front of the grill.
These grills are too new for any meaningful customer feedback so I can’t tell you if one of the designs is more effective than the other.
Things to Know Before You Buy
These grills are not perfect and there are four main things you ought to know before you buy one.
- Hotspots Exist
- The App is Disappointing
- Still Need to Clean the Ash
- Smoke Flavor is Lower
The design feature of Pit Boss pellet grills that allows direct flame grilling is a double edged sword. In order to provide you with direct flame access there is not a heat distribution shield above the fire pot. The lack of a heat distribution shield creates a significant hotspot directly over the fire pot and a very uneven cooking environment.
The hotspot can be managed in a couple of ways. You can be aware of the issue and keep moving your food around during he cook or you can do some simple modifications at the grease tray levels to mitigate the issue. Here is a great video that walks you through the hotspot issues and what simple modifications you can make to improve the heat distribution in a Pit Boss pellet grill.
Notice: I am writing his on November 21, 2020. Pit Boss might update the app and deal with these issues at anytime. If you find new information then please leave me a comment below so I can update this section.
The app and associated WiFi/Bluetooth connectivity have disappointed a lot of people. The issues with the app are plentiful.
The biggest complaint I have seen is that despite the transition to a digital platform the grills are still limited to the same temperature settings as are on the standard controllers. There is a large disconnect between what Pit Boss says the controller can do and what actually happens in the real world. You cannot make 5 degree adjustments and you still cannot set the grill to 275F. The customer review below summarizes the issue well.
Other people have complained about the limited functionality within the app as well as non-working features such as the “Recipe” function. A larger issue appears to be the role of WiFi vs Bluetooth. It looks like the WiFi is only used to update the firmware on the controller and is not used for connectivity with your phone. You are able to control and monitor your grill with the Bluetooth connectivity which is nice but limits your range. Here is a great video that demonstrates many of the current issues with the app.
Both grills have a nice ash cleanout system. Please be aware that you are still going to need to clean the inside of the grill on a regular basis. The ash dumps on these grills will let you clean out the ashes from the fire pot but you will still get sawdust and grease into the bottom of the grill that must be cleaned out to prevent a grease fire.
This is not a problem/defect with these grills. Just be aware that the presence of the ash dump does not replace the need for periodic cleaning.
This falls into the camp of it is impossible to make everyone happy. People love PID controllers because of the tight, precise control over temperatures. If you set these grills to 250F then they are going to stay at 250F.
The downside is that because PID controllers are so precise they burn pellets cleanly and don’t produce as much smoke as a standard “sloppy” controller. A standard complaint about pellet grills with PID controllers is that the meat tastes like it was cooked in an oven. Some manufacturers build in features like a Super Smoke Mode into their controllers to combat this issue but I am not aware of such a feature on the Pit Boss design.
You can get more smoke flavor with these grills by running them at the lowest temperature setting for the first couple hours of smoking or by using a supplemental smoke tube.
Which Would I Buy?
Both of these grills are great alternatives to a Traeger and I think you would be happy with either model. If I was buying a new pellet grill and had to choose between these two models then I would absolutely purchase the Laredo instead of the Pro 850.
There are several small reasons and two large reasons why I prefer the Platinum Laredo 1000.
The small reasons are that the Laredo has more grilling space from to the secondary grates, comes with an extra meat probe, has a larger pellet hopper and even has a built in grill light for night time grilling. These reasons are not really that important though. I hardly ever use secondary grill grates and built in grill lights usually get gunked up by smoke and grease.
A big reason why I prefer the Laredo is the design of the cooking grate. The Laredo has a simple cooking grate made from coated rods compared to the cross hatch grate on the Pro 850. The grate on the Pro 850 is heavy duty and looks cool. What I dislike about cross hatch style grates is that I have a hard time getting grates like these clean. It is much easier to clean off a simple rod grate like you get on the Laredo.
Another massive reason I would go with the Laredo is the location of the ash cleanout system on the front of the grill.
I am an older fella and my knees give me a lot of trouble. When I saw the Pro Series grill at Lowes I tried to release the ash clean out assembly. I had to squat down to get underneath the grill and undo the latch. After about 15 seconds of squatting my knees were killing me and I gave up on trying to remove the assembly.
On the Laredo you do not have to squat down and get under the grill. The ash cleanout is in the front of the grill and pulls out cleanly.
What About You?
Both of these grills are extremely new and real world customer reviews are scarce.
What else would you like to know about these products? Do you have any first hand experience that you can share and help us all learn? Please leave a comment below!