Oklahoma Joe's 20202105 Rider 900 Pellet Grill
Wide temperature range for pellet grill
Separate smoke and sear modes
Includes bucket for pellet storage
“Flex System” can be used with other accessories
Two temperature probes included
Run hotter than other grills
Tricky to clean
Oklahoma Joe's 20202105 Rider 900 Pellet Grill
We purchased the Oklahoma Joe's Rider 900 Pellet Grill so our reviewer could put it to the test in her kitchen. Keep reading for our full product review.
I’ve been testing pellet grills for several years now, and the main thing I tell people who are interested in buying one is that they’re not great at “traditional” grilling. Most pellet grills top out at around 400 degrees (and some can’t make it there at all), which makes them much better suited for low-and-slow cooking—if you try to sear a burger on them, you’ll get lots of flavor, but it will take longer than expected and your sear marks will be pretty pathetic.
This has been my experience with almost every pellet grill I’ve tested, so when I saw that the Oklahoma Joe's Rider 900 Pellet Grill could supposedly reach temperatures up to 650 degrees, my interest was officially piqued. If it could deliver high-heat searing and low-temperature smoking, it would truly be a game changer. Did it live up to the hype? Read on for my honest thoughts after a month of testing.
Setup: The grill with 1,000 pieces
I’ve set up a lot of grills in my career, and the Rider 900 was one of the more complicated projects. Not only was the box extremely heavy, but it was packed full of different boxes. I found myself opening one after another, thinking, “How many more pieces can there be?!” The grill comes with two chimneys, a hook bar, two grease pails, an ash catcher, three different grate pieces, two racks—the list goes on. So while it’s not a hard task, it’s certainly more time-consuming than most and there’s a lot of packaging to throw away after.
My only other note about this grill setup is that there’s a sticker on the inside of the lid that did not want to come off. I tried peeling, scraping, and even using Goo Gone, but I still ended up with a piece of it stuck. I hoped it would eventually burn off, but after several weeks of use, it’s still there—albeit quite charred.
Design: As heavy duty as they come
I mentioned that the Rider 900 is heavy, and that’s because it’s extremely solidly made. It has a heavy-gauge steel construction that could likely withstand anything you threw at it, and its main grates are heavy porcelain-coated cast iron. The main cooking area is 578 square inches, and there’s a unique circular piece in the middle that can be swapped out for the brand’s other “Flex System” accessories, such as a griddle or deep-dish pan.
The main cooking area is 578 square inches, and there’s a unique circular piece in the middle that can be swapped out for the brand’s other “Flex System” accessories, such as a griddle or deep-dish pan.
Other features worth mentioning include the grill’s two included temperature probes, which are great for seeing exactly when your food is done, as well as its built-in timer. Both of these can be monitored via the small control screen, which is located on the hopper. The grill has a towel bar across the front with four included tool hooks, as well as a small side table on the right-hand side. I found the table to be a little small for my needs, and most of the time I ended up putting my plates on top of the hopper, which offers a larger surface area.
The grill does come with two upper racks, but they got in the way when both were inside the grill—it feels like the brand only included two in an attempt to increase the specs for the overall cooking area. I ended up just using one of them for items like burger buns, and the other got stashed away in the garage.
Fuel Type: Wood pellets
This grill is fueled by wood pellets—tiny cylindrical pellets made from various flavors of hardwood, which you can buy by the bag at any home improvement store. The grill has a pellet hopper on the left-hand side, and it can hold up to 20 pounds of pellets at a time. The grill also comes with a lidded bucket that you can use to store extra pellets, and it hangs right below the hopper for easy access. As someone who has lots of half-empty pellet bags hanging around, I really appreciated this small feature, as it makes it much easier to keep track of your fuel. The only downside is that the bucket easily blows off the grill if it’s empty—I ended up chansing it across the yard on one particularly windy day.
For those times you want to switch pellet flavors, the grill has a “Quick-Draw” handle that lets you quickly empty the hopper into the bucket hanging below it. The hopper also has a grate over the top, presumably to prevent any fingers from accidentally getting caught in the auger, but it makes it hard to push stray pellets down into the center where they belong.
Temperature Control: Low and slow, or hot and fiery
One of the biggest features that sets the Rider 900 apart from the standard Rider model is its unique searing mode. The grill has a horizontal lever right under the towel bar that you can toggle between smoke and sear mode. In the former, a metal heat shield covers the grill’s fire pot, allowing you to cook with indirect heat, as is standard on most pellet grills. When you switch the lever to sear mode, that shield opens up, exposing the grates to the direct flame for high-heat cooking. It’s truly an ingenious design, and it definitely sets this grill apart from any other I’ve tested.
The caveat (because there’s always one) is that the “searing area” exposed to the fire box is a 17-inch circle in the middle of the grill, and any food placed outside the area isn’t going to be over the flame. This limits how much food you can sear at one time, but it’s plenty of space to cook four burgers or a pair of steaks.
In terms of actual heat settings, this grill has high, low, and medium options for searing, and five settings between 170 and 300 degrees for smoking. The smoking temperatures increase in 25-degree increments, so you’re not able to set the grill to, say, 190 degrees, but it was never a big deal while I was smoking with it—I would just set it to the closest option to the temperature called for in the recipe and adjust the cooking time accordingly.
Performance: Feelin’ hot, hot, hot
My partner and I tested the Oklahoma Joe's Rider 900 Pellet Grill over the course of a month, using it to cook a wide variety of meats. I actually let my partner try the grill out first—a high honor—and he used it to cook steaks for dinner. He set the grill on its high sear setting, and because he was used to cooking on other pellet grills, which only reach temperatures of around 450, he didn’t monitor the steaks as closely as he should have. Our steaks ended up much crispier than he would have liked but they had great flavor. Plus, the whole incident proved that we would have no problem searing with this grill—it easily reached temperatures in the high 500s!
I took over from there, using the grill to smoke some chicken thighs for my weekly meal prep. I was testing a second grill simultaneously, and though both grills were set to 225, the Rider 900 cooked the poultry 30 minutes faster than the other grill. I also noticed that it flared all the way up to 280 when I was preheating it, so I do think it tends to run hotter than other grills. (Though, I hadn’t quite learned my lesson yet.)
When you switch the lever to sear mode, that shield opens up, exposing the grates to the direct flame for high-heat cooking.
Next up, I wanted to try a longer smoking session, so I made two racks of pork ribs for dinner on a weeknight. I wasn’t in the mood to take the ribs on and off the grill all afternoon (like you have to with the 3-2-1 method), so I simply rubbed them with a generous coat of seasoning, slapped them on the grill at 200 degrees, and let them cook. After about four hours, they were almost to temperature, so I put a coat of barbecue sauce on to finish them off.
Here was my mistake, though—I only used one of the grill’s temperature probes, and I put it in the larger of the two racks. (I wasn’t thinking, but in my defense, I was trying to do this while working.) So while the larger rack was perfectly cooked, the smaller rack was, well, crispy. The tops of those ribs were overcooked but edible, but the bottoms were just straight char. Thankfully, the larger rack was cooked nicely, and the meat had the great smoky flavor you’d expect from wood pellets.
We also used the grill to cook hamburgers several times, and I’ve learned you have to monitor it like a gas grill when it’s on sear mode. As long as you keep an eye on what you’re cooking, the results are amazing—nicely seared with more wood-cooked flavor than you’d get from a gas grill.
Cleaning: Cover sold separately
Most pellet grills have a heat shield that runs the length of the cooking chamber, funneling greases into a convenient clean-up cup, but because of this grill’s unique design, it’s not quite as easy to clean. Greases are able to drip down onto the sear zone “cover plate” when you’re cooking, and it tends to get covered in crud. The brand recommends wiping it down with a damp cloth and dish detergent on a regular basis to keep it clean.
There are two grease buckets that hang from the bottom of the grill, but the grease doesn’t always flow nicely into them. After a few uses, we needed to take off the grates and wipe lingering grease out of the bottom of the grill. The good news is that the grill has a convenient ash catcher that you simply unscrew and dump out, saving you from having to vacuum out the ashes like you do with other grills.
The brand also recommends emptying the pellets out of the grill’s hopper after every use, but let’s be honest—who’s actually going to do that? I certainly won’t, which is why I generally just cover pellet grills when they’re not in use. This keeps moisture from getting into the hopper, which in turn prevents pellets from expanding and clogging the auger, but unfortunately, the Rider 900 doesn’t come with a cover. You have to buy the compatible cover separately, and it will run you another $50.
Price: Pricey but worth it
With an MSRP of $999, the Oklahoma Joe's Rider 900 Pellet Grill is on the higher end of the pellet grill price range. However, I’d argue that it’s worth the premium thanks to its unmatched searing abilities, and it’s often available on sale. There aren’t many other pellet grills that can reach 500 degrees—nevermind 600+—so this is one of the only options out there that can replace both your smoker and your gas grill.
Oklahoma Joe's Rider 900 Pellet Grill vs. Traeger Ironwood 885
My other favorite pellet grill is the Traeger Ironwood 885, an oversized, high-end pick that offers Wi-Fi functionality. Despite being $500 more than the Rider 900, the Traeger isn’t quite at good at searing—it can reach temperatures around 500 degrees, but its char marks are always less pronounced. However, the Traeger is much more spacious than the Rider, offering a larger main cooking area with just one warming rack.
A replacement for your traditional grill.
If you’re looking for a pellet grill that can smoke just as well as it can sear, the Oklahoma Joe's Rider 900 Pellet Grill is undeniably one of the best options out there.
- Product Name 20202105 Rider 900 Pellet Grill
- Product Brand Oklahoma Joe's
- SKU 20202105
- Price $999.00
- Weight 236 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 55.1 x 49.4 x 32.5 in.
- Hopper Capacity 20 lbs.
- Cooking Area 578 sq. in.
- Warranty 2 years