Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Product Review: Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX Pellet Grill

[FTC Standard Disclosure]  I received an Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX Pellet Grill free of charge for review purposes.  All content and opinions are my own and have been neither reviewed nor approved by Oklahoma Joe's before publishing.  This is what I'd tell you if you asked me about it while we hung out grilling on my deck.

Last year, Oklahoma Joe's shook up their decades-old classic line-up of offset smokers by adding their new drum smokers, the Bronco and Bronco Pro.  This year, they continue growing with the exciting addition of their line of pellet cookers, the Rider 600, Rider 900, and the Rider DLX pictured below.

Review of the Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX Pellet Grill
The Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX is a hoss!  It boasts 1,234 square inches of cooking space making it the biggest pellet cooker that I have used.

While pellet grills have been around for quite a long time, they have more recently become mainstream and now show up in big box stores and backyards across America.  The allure of pellet grills is that they have gas grill simplicity and convenience but the real-wood flavor of a traditional pit or grill.

How Pellet Grills Work

Pellet grills work by burning wood pellets - real wood pieces that have been compressed or extruded into a uniform shape and size.

  • Hopper - Contains the pellets until needed for cooking.
  • Controller - The "brains" of the operation, it is an electric controller that monitors the temperature inside the cooking chamber and controls the fan and auger.
  • Auger - A type of Archimedes screw that moves the pellets when needed from the hopper to the burn pot.
  • Burn pot - A small pot where the pellets drop and burn, creating heat and real-wood smoke. 
You set the controller for a specific cooking temperature, let's say 250°f.  The controller uses a feedback loop that keeps asking if the temperature is 250°f.  If below, it adds more pellets to burn, and if it is above, it stops adding pellets.  The fan stokes the fire and circulates the smoke, providing even cooking temperatures like a convection oven.  There's a lot of science and math that go into it, but that's the basic idea.



Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX Pellet Grill going through it's warm up process

Assembly

Assembly was straight forward and took just under 1 hour for me at a leisurely pace.  The instructions were clear, and the fasteners were clearly identified.  Much of the work is pre-assembled at the plant, making your job much easier.

Assembling the Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX Pellet Grill was relatively easy and quick - 1 hour.
Since the grill is so big, you'll want a good-sized area to spread out and work.  I did ours in the garage.



Pro-tip for assembling any grill or smoker - use a thread locker on screws for your wheels, legs, and handles.
Pro-tip for assembling any grill or smoker - use a thread locker on screws for your wheels, legs, and handles.  This will keep the screws fastened for years to come, preventing loose handles and wobbly legs.  If they have blue marks like the two black ones, they were pre-treated and don't need additional thread locker.

Another thing that I do, in general, when assembling a smoker is to seal any joints with a high-temperature silicone sealant made for BBQs and smokers. Air leaks decrease a smoker's efficiency and can lead to temperature instability.  I typically seal chimneys and for offset smokers, between the firebox and cooking chambers.

Grill assembly tips - only use power tools on a light torque setting, do your final tightening by hand.
If you are using powered tools for assembly, set your torque at a lower setting, so you don't strip out screw heads and threading.  I do my final tightening by hand.


Features

The Oklahoma Joes's Rider DLX is loaded with features that will make your cooking more relaxed and more enjoyable.  Here's a quick look at some of my favorite features.

Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX pellet grill review
The first feature that I noticed was the cavernous amount of cooking space that this beast offers.  It can hold 6 half-sized steam pans on the upper racks alone! We cook for large groups of people, so this excited me. That's over 150 servings of Alexis' First Place BBQ Pit beans!  You can smoke 12 whole chickens or 8 racks of ribs on this smokehouse-sized smoker.

The Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX adds versatility with the Flex Grate system.
The Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX has a Flex-Grate system that offers versatility in how you configure your cooking chamber.  The upper two grates are easily adjustable, tool-free.  You can also swap these out for optional rack units, such as; Drumstick/Pepper Flex Rack, Rib Flex Rack, and Multipurpose Flex rack.


Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX pellet grill review
The Pit Controller uses a proprietary algorithm to keep the cooking temperatures just where you want them to be.
Pit Controller
  • Intuitive controls make it easy to use.
  • Offers three temperature ranges for searing or grilling direct.
    • Low (335-360°f)
    • Medium (435-465°f) 
    • High (620-650°f) 
  • Provides a range of temperatures for indirect cooking and smoking.
  • Easy to read display - I can literally read the temperature from my upstairs window while riding my spin bike. 
  • Two temperature probe inlets - This lets you monitor the internal temperature of your food while it cooks.  
  • Two Guidance Features (see below)


The Rider DLX offers two guidance features.  The first one sounds an alarm when a pre-set cooking time has finished.  The second one alerts when your food reaches a pre-set internal temperature.  These are alerts only and will not shut off, "ramp down," or reduce the cooking temperature.

The cooking temperature probe is located on the left interior sidewall, and it is smartly guarded to prevent accidental damage.  The Pit Controller is smart enough to adjust the temperature reading to approximate the cooking temperature for searing and smoking since the conditions are much different.

Oklahoma Joes's Rider DLX pellet grill
This selector controls the interior heat baffle to configure your Rider DLX for direct grilling or indirect smoking.

When set to "Sear," the heat baffle will be open like this to allow most of the heat to rise directly to the Flex Sear Grate (removed for visibility in this picture) for grilling and high temperature searing.

When set to "Smoke," the heat baffle petals close and the heat baffle lid helps distribute the heat for indirect cooking.

Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX pellet grill set up for direct grilling
You can see the Rider DLX is set up for direct grilling here because you can see the baffle lid is not in place and that the baffle petals are open.  You also might notice the upper racks are gone.  I like the flexibility of being able to remove them for grilling, so I have maximum room for maneuvering in the cooking chamber.

Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX pellet grill has so much space for grilling you'll need to invite a few more friends to your cookout!
I'm a huge fan of being able to adjust and remove the upper racks.

Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX pellet grill review
The sear grate is ready for action.  The lower grates are porcelain-coated cast iron, which gives you the legendary searing power of cast-iron but lower maintenance thanks to the coating.   The Flex Grate system lets you replace the sear gate with either a Deep Dish Pan or a Griddle.

The Rider DLX comes with twin wind-shielded smokestacks for improved air-flow and even cooking temperatures.


Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX pellet grill features
The Quick-Draw Hopper system rocks my socks.  The pellet bucket slides in as shown, then you pull the handle on the side, and the hopper instantly dumps the pellets left in the hopper down into the bucket for dry storage.  If you leave pellets in your cooker, they attract moisture and can break down, jamming up the auger with debris.  

Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX pellet grill has a pass through for your temperature probes
Bonus points to the genius engineer that added the pass-through for temperature probes.  I hate running probes through doors because 1) it creates a minor air leak, and 2) puts wear and tear on the probe lead, causing it to go bad.  TBH I didn't even notice this for the first few cooks, but thank you, thank you, thank you!  


The Rider DLX comes with twin grease outlets and includes the drip buckets.  Two tips about this.  First, use trays when cooking, and your cooker will stay clean in the first place.  Second, buy the aluminum inserts for these.  Just toss them when they are full.

Another feature that I found useful was the easy access to empty the ashes from the firepot.


Cleaning the Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX pellet grill
It merely unscrews off (no tools necessary) to quickly dump the pellet ashes after each cook.  Be sure adequate time to allow the pellets to be fully extinguished.  Remember, one ember can start a fire.
The tool/towel rack on the front is convenient for keeping your Oklahoma Joe's grill tools handy.


Of course, the Rider DLX has the traditional Oklahoma Joe's styling with the wagon-style wheels...

The expanded metal shelving...

And the Oklahoma Joe's nameplate.


Performance

All of that sounds good, but how does it run when put to the test?  I've used the Rider DLX extensively for the past month, trying it out on a range of cooks.  Here are some of the results.

Barbecue Chicken


BBQ chicken cooked on a Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX pellet grill
I injected a pair of birds using the Bird Shot recipe from my second book,  The Offset Smoker Cookbook.  It keeps the birds juicy and gives them a honey butter flavor boost.


BBQ chicken cooked on a Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX pellet grill
I seasoned the chickens with a 50/50 blend of NMT BaCock! Poultry Seasoning and NMT Southern Sweet Rub recipes.

Smoking BBQ chicken cooked on a Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX pellet grill
I put them in the Rider DLX set for 300°f and let them run a few hours until they hit 160°f in the breasts and 175°f in the thighs.

Barbecue chicken cooked on a Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX pellet grill
I basted them with my Honey Bourbon BBQ Sauce recipe in the last 30 minutes of cooking.

Smoked Beef Brisket
Did you see my post on the Ooey Mooey Gooey Brisket Slider on a Krispy Kreme donut?  That brisket was smoked on the Rider DLX, and I was perfectly happy with it.

The OMG Brisket Slider cooked on a Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX pellet grill

Smoking brisket cooked on a Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX pellet grill
I separated the whole brisket into the flat and point.  Here the flat is finishing on the tray, and the point has been cut into burnt ends, which are in the half-sized steam pan on the upper rack.  


Brisket smoked on a Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX pellet grill
Everything came out just as expected.  The slices were juicy, tender, had a nice bark and a beautiful smoke ring.  The Rider DLX is a brisket cooker for sure.
Burnt ends cooked on a Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX pellet grill
The burnt ends were killer diller.  Perfectly rendered and amazing.

Grilled Chicken Breast
I butterflied some boneless, skinless breasts and seasoned them with my NMT BaCock! Poultry Seasoning.  Then I grilled them about 4-5 minutes per side on the Rider DLX.

grilling juicy butterflied chicken breasts on a Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX pellet grill
I was impressed with the grilling ability of this pellet cooker.

Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX pellet grill review
The medium setting for grilling ran right at 450°f for my cooks, which is right about the same temp that I like to grill chicken on my kamado grills.

It's easy to cook juicy chicken breasts on a Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX pellet grill
We grill a big batch of chicken on Sunday, vacuum seal them, and then use them during the week for salads, pasta dishes, and casseroles. 

Smoked Pork Tenderloin
I smoked glazed pork tenderloin and topped it with some sauteed Granny Smith apples tossed in honey and Gentry's Ham Bone Seasoning.


Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX pellet grill review
I did the pork tenderloin on the 225°f setting to give it enough time to get some smoke.

It's hard to go wrong with grilled pork and apples.

Ancho Espresso Strip Steaks
I seasoned a pair of NY Strip Steaks with Lane's Ancho Espresso rub and grilled them on the Rider DLX in the Sear setting on High.

Certified Angus Beef® Brand NY Strip Steaks cooked on a Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX pellet grill
Perfectly medium rare with the Rider's unique sear marks.

Certified Angus Beef® Brand, USDA Prime NY Strip Steaks from Food City
I started with two perfect Certified Angus Beef® Brand NY Strip Steaks from my local Food City.

Certified Angus Beef® Brand Strip Steaks with an ancho-espresso rub
I seasoned them with Lane's Ancho Espresso seasoning.  I usually would have let them dry brine for 8 hours, but I was hungry and wanted them now!

The Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX pellet grill can grill at temperatures above 600°f
I cranked the Rider DLX up to the High grilling setting and let'er rip, potato chip.


Grilling a pair of Certified Angus Beef Brand Strip Steaks on a Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX pellet grill
Searing away on the aptly named Flex Sear Grate.  I want to get the griddle insert for this because it would be perfect for whipping up some chorizo and eggs burritos on the weekends.

Certified Angus Beef® Brand NY Strip Steaks cooked perfectly medium rare on a Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX pellet grill
Fantastic!

After a month of grilling, the Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX has proven to be a solid performer and feature-rich for a good price at its MRSP of $599.  I'm going to start with the cons since they are outweighed by the positive things.

Cons

  • Upper limit of 300°f for indirect cooking - This is a bit low, for my preferences.  I like to fire roast on my grills a good bit, and the other pellet grills I have used will go up to 450-500°f for indirect cooking.  You can work around this by cooking in sear mode on Medium with the food on the upper racks shifted to the sides, so they aren't directly over the Sear Grate area.
  • Hot spot on the main cooking grate near the heat baffle - When set to cook at 300°f, areas around the heat baffle would register over 400°f as measured by 3 different, calibrated thermometers.  This isn't a huge deal to me since I cook on sheet pans, and that would deflect the hot spot, balancing it out.  Additionally, if you use the upper 2 racks for smoking, it's a non-issue.
  • Ease of Maintenance - Like many pellet grill users, I vacuum out the inner workings of my pellet grills when I give them a deep clean about once a month because pellet ash doesn't just stay in the pot.  To do that with the Rider DLX you have to remove several screws or bolts and remove the baffle system.  

Pros

  • Ease of Maintenance - I thought you just said.....yeah, but it goes both ways.  The cleaning required for every use is more accessible thanks to the easy access to the ash catcher.  
  • Grilling - I usually stick to smoking and roasting on pellet grills, but I have been grilling a good bit on the Rider DLX because it works well.  In fact, I have grilled more than I have smoked on this cooker. 
  • Convenience - I would still stick to a kamado grill if I could only have one grill, but I much appreciate having the Rider DLX for the convenience factor.  Like I said earlier, it has the convenience of gas grills with the real-wood flavor of charcoal grills.
  • Space - The capacity of this grill is fantastic.  It absolutely will be one of our first grills put into action when we are cooking for large groups of people.  
  • Flexible rack system - This was an unexpected surprise.  Most grills that I own have fixed shelves.  The Rider DLX offers versatility by being able to adjust, remove, or swap out the grates for the optional Flex Grate accessories.  
  • Quality of smoke - I have been impressed with everything I have smoked on this grill.  I get a beautiful bark, a defined smoke ring, and a clean smoke flavor.  

Summary

Overall, the Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX pellet grill will more than meet the smoking and grilling needs of the average backyard grillers.  It is also an excellent second grill/smoker for those grill masters wanting to add capacity and convenience to their existing grill set up.  If you are looking for a new grill and smoker and you want something easy to use, feature-rich, relatively inexpensive, and creates juicy, delicious food, the Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX should be on your shortlist.

29 comments:

  1. Nice review! I love the Rider DLX, too!

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    1. I've enjoyed it as much for the grill as smoking.

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  2. I think your tip about cooking in pans is a must for this grill. I wish I would have had that tip months ago. I purchased a pre-assembled Rider DLX from Lowe's in December. My first two smokes we're a couple of split chicken breasts and then two full chickens. My third smoke I did a Prime Rib for Christmas using the high heat sear at first and then took it down to 300 to finish. Everything seemed great, but then my fourth cook I did two briskets. Stayed up with them for a couple of hours and then I just set my MEATER Probes and hit the hay. I was awoken about two hours later by my MEATER app telling me that the ambient temperature of grill had exceeded the temperature limit's of the probes and I needed to pull them before they fried. I went outside to find the grill fully engulfed in a grease fire. The grease buckets we're virtually grease free. I'm not sure if this grill has a grease handling design flaw or if the heat baffle was damaged or installed improperly, but there was definitely an issue.

    After trying to work through Char-Broil's customer service for a month and half, I finally gave up and took it back to Lowe's. They took the return and refunded me without any hassle.

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    1. Wow! That is pretty intense. Like you, I find it very surprising that the twin grease buckets were empty. With one at each end, even if it was tilted, one of them should have gotten something. Was there grease pooled up around the fire pot?

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  3. Sheesh, good review, man. Insightful, candid, and practical.

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    1. Thanks! I call 'em like I see 'em. I try to pretend that my dad is thinking about buying the smoker and has asked me my thoughts.

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  4. how close was the temperature at low levels like the 225 degree cook you did? i am looking for a pellet grill and this is on my list. I've been thinking about the woodwind camp chef as well.

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    1. I need to do a better job collecting objective data for that. I'm doing a couple of briskets and turkey this weekend, I'll monitor it with a secondary remote probe and see. In general I can tell you temps are a bit sketchy for the first hour and then seem to straighten out and come in line. I see the same thing on my other pellet grill and my kamado grills when they are using a computerized controller.

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  5. I'm wondering if any of you have had an issue with the auger, we already returned 1, this is the 2nd purchased & the auger turns on but will not turn...please help!!

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    1. Hi! I have not encountered such an issue on any of my pellet cookers so I won't be a ton of help. Was this an issue brand new out of the box or did it develop after some use? If it is brand new out of the box, I'd get back on the phone with OKJ and get them to make it right. If it is occurring after some use, the only thing that comes to mind is are you leaving pellets in the unit while storing it outside? If the pellets get wet, they will expand and jam up the works. My Grilla pellet cooker accidentally got wet in the garage and I had to remove the auger, clean it out and put it back. It worked fine after that. When you returned the first one, did they tell you what was wrong with it or just replace it? Sorry for so many questions, just trying to figure it out.

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    2. My first auger burned out after 30 days. I've only used it probably 10 times.

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    3. Here's what may fix your problems. My first cook on my Rider dlx the auger made sounds like it had bound up and once or twice stopped for brief second then made a pop noise when it started moving again.

      After searching around I found out that quite a few folks with many different manufactures pellet grills have issues with the auger. I did a couple of things that seem to remedy it's ill's. First I started sifting my pellets through a 1/4" sieve especially when I got down to the last 1/4 of a bag of pellets some pellets I sift the bag as I use it if I see a good number of small pieces in it. When you do your first 1/4 of a bag through your sifter you'll be amazed at how many tiny pieces are in the bucket when your done sifting, and they'll be a good bit of sawdust too. both will cause your auger to bind. I also dump the pellets out of the hopper a few minutes before my cooks done then I run the grill on low sear for roughly 10 minutes to empty the pellets out of the auger tube. This keeps you from having issues of your pellets swelling because of humidity in the air and causing you auger to bind up. By the way I save the small pieces and sawdust for cold smoking so nothing goes to waste.

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  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  7. What brand pellets do you use? What brands are ok to use in this smoker?

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    1. To be honest, I'm not too particular about pellet brand. I look at the specific bag itself to make sure it doesn't have a lot of dust and broken pieces in it. Of course, every manufacturer recommends using THEIR pellets if they have them. I have used probably 5 different brands in this cooker without any issues. Grilla, Traeger, and B & B are consistently good. I have a bag of Jack Daniels pellets that are black, I can't wait to try those.

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  8. How does this compare to the GMG Daniel Boone non-wifi?

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    1. I have no clue, I haven't used the Green Mountain Grills cookers. I've used Traeger, Grilla, RecTec, and Oklahoma Joes. I know several people that swear by their GMG, I just don't have direct personal experience with it. Sorry!

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  9. I would love to smoke a pork but on mine all day today but it’s really my first time using it and it’s suppose to rain.. is this even possible?

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    1. Sorry, I've been behind on moderating comments this week. I would never use a pellet grill in the rain unless it is in a covered area. First, electricity and rain puddles don't mix. Second, if pellets get wet, they swell up and that can jam up your auger tube. If the grill is fully covered overhead, it shouldn't be a problem.

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  10. I have had my grill for 3 days did the setup everything was golden went to do my first cook keep getting an error code ers5. Ash pot is empty swapped for treager pellets restarted the whole process and still the error every time. I have tried about 10 times and can’t get past the pre heat cycle 😡😩

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    1. Oh man, that bites. That could be several issues, can you hear or see the auger spinning and getting pellets to the cup? If not, the auger could be jammed (not likely after 3 days). If so, it's more likely a thermometer probe issue, check the connecting wires to make sure they didn't get pulled loose. Otherwise, I'd get on the phone with Oklahoma Joe's because they need to get that thing working for you...it's peak BBQ season :)

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  11. Just bought one and hope I dont have any issues, I do plan to fire it up soon and all during spring and summer. I will keep you all posted as how well things run.

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  12. I just purchased yesterday and smoked a whole chicken. With the hot spot in the middle this "smoker" seems to be more for grilling as it would be very difficult to go low and slow. Well crafted it but not impressed with hot spot after 1st use. I suspect I will play around with temp and placement to overcome what seems to be a lack of heat dispersement.

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  13. Thank you for this post. Just purchased mine!

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  14. Great write up Chris! The OKJ is now at the top of my list for replacing my 20 year old Weber gas grill. It seems to fit the bill for quick grilling and better flavor which is what I'm after. My other concern big ease of use so my wife feels comfortable with it too. Hopefully the OKJ folks come up with a WiFi option that we can retrofit later on.

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  15. The auger gets stock so much that we are returning and going back to a Green Mtn pellet

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  16. Great BBQ. For owners who have this rill on a concrete surface and not a wood service and useing a dedicated gci or gfi circuit disconect the ground on the control panel to eliminate fuse popping. I am a certified retired electrician and when you have a gci or a gfi already grouned you do not need for the grill to be.

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