[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
|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.
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.
|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. 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.|
|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.|
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.
|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 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.|
|The Pit Controller uses a proprietary algorithm to keep the cooking temperatures just where you want them to be.|
- 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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|I'm a huge fan of being able to adjust and remove the upper racks.|
|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.|
|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. |
|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.|
|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.|
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.
|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.|
|I seasoned the chickens with a 50/50 blend of NMT BaCock! Poultry Seasoning and NMT Southern Sweet Rub recipes.|
|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.|
Smoked Beef Brisket
|I basted them with my Honey Bourbon BBQ Sauce recipe in the last 30 minutes of cooking.|
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.
|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. |
|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.|
Grilled Chicken Breast
|The burnt ends were killer diller. Perfectly rendered and amazing.|
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.
|I was impressed with the grilling ability of this pellet cooker.|
|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.|
|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.
|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.
|Perfectly medium rare with the Rider's unique sear marks.|
|I started with two perfect Certified Angus Beef® Brand NY Strip Steaks from my local Food City.|
|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!|
|I cranked the Rider DLX up to the High grilling setting and let'er rip, potato chip.|
|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.|
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.