Lightweight and compact
Included portable power options
Learning curve on temperature interface
Some design quirks
Green Mountain Grills, an enthusiast smoker brand out of California, designed its Davy Crockett Grill and Smoker primarily for camping and tailgating. We tested the “ultimate tailgate grill,” as it’s been dubbed, to see if it was small enough to fit in most cars but large enough to cook for a group. Not only did we put the portable grill with Wi-Fi capabilities to work prepping post-hike parking lot meals on our own tailgate, but we also smoked meats at home on our deck in the Rocky Mountains.
Setup: Simple build but confusing startup
The Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett pellet smoker comes mostly assembled aside from some parts that more or less just need to be placed inside. There are a few minor annoyances such as protective plastic coating behind the logos which we had to remove in order to fully remove the blue plastic.
The instructions gloss over quite a few of the steps, but common sense got us through the build successfully. Once assembled, we used the electronic controller on the pellet hopper to go through an initial setup process involving feeding pellets into the auger and firebox—and that’s where things get a bit strange.
The smoker went through a warm-up countdown that sounded straightforward on paper but raised our eyebrows simply for how long it took. After five minutes, we thought we got a lemon as we stared at the single number readout. However, our patience was soon rewarded with the grill firing up normally.
Thankfully, the process started to get clearer as we moved on to setting up the Wi-Fi-connected app. While that setup process is as opaque as the initial firing, we found the the app interface much friendlier than the on-grill readout.
The smoker went through a warm-up countdown that sounded straightforward on paper but raised our eyebrows simply for how long it took.
Like most smokers, we needed to season the Davy Crockett through an initial startup process and burn-off procedure. We simply ran the grill relatively hot for about 45 minutes to make it food-safe. Many of the internal pieces such as the hopper/burner assembly and heat shield come heavily oiled, and as soon as we started burning that off, we smelled why it’s not advised to cook in it right away. In our testing, the smell was mostly gone after a half hour of burn-off.
Design: Not your average matte black smoker
The first thing we noticed about the Davy Crockett is that it doesn’t look like your average matte black smoker. For one, it’s very short. We could kneel and be comfortable loading the grill in stand-up mode. When placed on a tailgate, the ergonomics are much better. Outside on our deck, we preferred using it on a railing or a stand than on its short legs.
Secondly, the polished silver steel smacks more of a fancy gas grill than the all-black of most smokers. The metal lid and handle feel substantial, especially for a tailgating grill. In theory, this construction should retain heat better than the thin, weight-saving metal used on other light smokers, although this was difficult to definitively confirm.
The stiff but lightweight legs fold up into a handle for the roughly 68-pound grill, making it much easier to carry than most awkward “portable” smokers. Extending them into stand-up mode is a bit confusing; when standing it up for the first time, we were worried the legs would collapse under the substantial weight of the smoker body (they didn’t).
One confusing aspect of the tailgate mode is that when we folded the legs up, the front leg stuck out from the front of the grill. It didn’t necessarily get in our way, but we wish there was an option to use it as a staging tray—something this smoker lacks, outside of a metal grate removable side tray.
Overall, the smoker feels heavy-duty for its size and well-built, perhaps even over-built for what it is.
Portability: Everything you need to smoke on the road
We folded up the Davy Crockett several times to test on the road for a Colorado ski resort parking lot tailgate. While converting the legs to handles is a bit awkward, it actually is light enough for one person to carry.
The grill’s thought-out tailgating power capabilities really set it apart. Most other tailgater-style grills require additional connectors sold separately to work with generators and car batteries on the road. The Davy Crockett comes with a standard 110v AC plug option, an auto (cigar lighter) plug, as well as 12v battery option that uses small red and black alligator clips, just like jumper cables.
Though a bit intimidating, the included cable options meant we were ready to smoke anywhere we could imagine connecting to power, whether a car battery or standalone battery. We didn’t use our vehicle’s battery for very long, as we feared it would die in the ski area parking lot. However, we were able to run the grill off a separate 12v marine battery for several hours without issue.
Performance: Mostly reliable temperature control, but don’t look away
Aside from the aforementioned quirks with the on-grill digital controller interface, the Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett performs mostly like your average pellet smoker.
Many smoker controllers look similar but feature a knob with easy-to-understand temperature setting markers like the ones found on your oven. The Davy Crockett uses up and down arrows. It isn’t rocket science to understand, but we had to know the button combinations in advance to feel confident we were doing things right.
Friends at our tailgate raved about the deeper flavors and light smoke ring effect enjoyed even with shorter cooking times.
Once the temperature is set, the smoker mostly behaved as expected: It used the built-in sensor to feed the hopper, maintaining the set temperature mostly reliably.
However, like some other pellet-fed smokers, we found that the Davy Crockett occasionally struggled with pellets not feeding properly. Gravity is what actually feeds the pellets down into the auger, and at times the pellets, especially when low, didn’t drop in. One answer is to always keep the 8-pound hopper full, but that’s not a lot of weight to begin with, and constantly monitoring isn’t exactly a great user experience. This bug also minimizes the benefit of the Wi-Fi/app capability because being able to control the smoker from anywhere doesn’t help if pellets suddenly aren’t feeding into it.
That said, the Davy Crockett usually did its job, staying within 50 degrees of the desired temperature. Grilling required us to crank to the higher temperature ranges for more traditional quick-sear fare. We noticed, especially with the smallish hopper capacity, that we needed to refill more often.
Like most smokers with a high-temp option, this one sacrifices some of the conveniences of a gas grill for the improved flavor of a smoker grill. Even when searing up burgers and brats for a post-ski snack in the parking lot, friends raved about the deeper flavors and light smoke ring effect enjoyed even with shorter cooking times.
Price: As affordable as smokers get
Most pellet smokers are $500 and up, and even the smallest and most affordable options start around $400. At just over $300, the Davy Crockett is an anomaly for a quality smoker. There are limitations, of course, not the least of which is size, but for the price, there aren’t many other low-cost options for getting into pellet smoking.
Beyond the price, the Davy Crockett offers real out-of-the-box portability that isn’t even an option for most pellet smokers. If you’re in the market for a dedicated travel smoker, the Davy Crockett is a purpose-built specialty tool at a reasonable price that doesn’t require additional accessories to work on the road.
Traeger Tailgater Elite 20 vs. Green Mountain Davy Crockett Wifi Control Portable Wood Pellet Electric Grill
The Traeger Tailgater Pellet Grill is about $120 more than the Davy Crockett and is the closest thing to a category competitor. For the additional dollars, you mostly get more grilling surface area. What you don’t get is the Davy Crockett’s portable power options and convenient carry handle.
The Traeger Tailgater is noticeably larger and more awkward to move and only makes sense if you’re mostly smoking at home and only occasionally tailgating. Those who find the Davy Crockett just a little too small might also sacrifice some convenience for the Traeger’s 30 percent larger cooking area.
- Product Name Davy Crockett Grill and Smoker
- Product Brand Green Mountain Grills
- SKU 850745008553
- Price $329
- Weight 68 lbs.
- Grilling Area 219 sq. in.
- Hopper Capacity 9 lbs.
- Warranty 2-year