The Wood Pellet Grill market is a very competitive one. This may be due to the fact that more and more people realize the benefits of these grills. Benefits such as “low” heat, smoke, set and forget, ease of use, and many other factors.
Some companies have been able to stand out from the pack, while others have been lagging behind. One of the best examples of a company that has been doing things right is Pit Boss Grills.
This review will focus on one of their newest grill of The Sportsman series – the 820 Wood Pellet Grill. Let’s take a closer look at what makes this grill so special to see how it performs.
Pit Boss Sportsman 820 Review and First Impressions
Some BBQ masters consider pellet grilling a cheating method of grilling. I believe that it all comes down to what you are cooking and how you like your meat.
At first, I was also one of them (considering myself a rookie in the BBQ world), but my perspective changed for good after using a pellet grill.
I am not going to debate whether pellet grills are better than the traditional ones. I will only say that these grills are very efficient, user-friendly, and just flat-out produce delicious food.
After using the Pit Boss 820 for over a month now, I am confident to say that it is one of my favorite grills and one of the best pellet grills available right now at an attractive price point. It is in the mid-price range, far from being the most expensive or the cheapest one.
Since I have been using it, I have produced professional results for my family and friends while having a great time doing so.
In terms of aesthetics, this is one good-looking pellet grill! It’s built to last under Mother Nature’s harsh conditions and is intended to endure for many years.
With its robust construction, the grill is very rigid and stable on the ground. It’s also filled with high-quality components, including a thick steel diverter plate, powder-finished and sturdy body construction, porcelain-coated cast-iron grates, etc.
One of the best features of a pellet grill is the set and forget technology. It comes with an easy-to-use digital control board with eight pre-set cooking levels (160°F – 500°F). You set the desired temperature using the +/- buttons and let it do its job!
I am delighted with the 820’s construction, performance, design, and ease of use, making it one of my top entry-level pellet grills.
Pit Boss Sportsman 820 Specifications and Features
The cooking surface is 849 square inches, which is more than enough for a large family or a gathering of friends.
Thanks to the innovative Flame Broiler Lever, the ability to cook at stable temperatures of 180°F to 500°F. You can use direct or indirect heat, making the grill suitable for cooking almost everything, from vegetables to slow-cooking meat.
Above the many features are the 21 lb pellet hopper with a spice rack attached to the side, a side shelf with a removable stainless steel tray, and an innovative Flame Broiler Lever.
For those of us who enjoy a few cold ones during the hot grilling sessions, there is a bottle opener attached to the grill’s body.
The dial-in digital control allows you to monitor the temperature of your meat, as it works directly with the Pit Boss meat probes. You can track the fuel and easily set the desired cooking temperature through the easy-to-read display and the large controls.
The grill is heavy, built of thick stainless steel, which ensures durability and strength.
- Cooking surface – 849 square inches is more than enough for a large family or a gathering of friends. The grill is suitable for smoking big chunks of meat and easily fits multiple pork butts or beef briskets.
- Grill grates – The grill comes with porcelain-coated cast-iron grates. These grates are great at heat distribution and will sear your meat to perfection. The grate’s surface makes for a swift and easy cleanup, which is essential if you are planning to use your grill regularly.
- Effortless cleaning – With the cast-iron grate, you will have an effortless time cleaning up. The ash is also carried in a plate at the bottom of the grill, making it simple to remove rather than cleaning it from the top.
- Accessories – The removable stainless steel side shelf, the side spice rack, and the foldable front shelf add to the convenience of using this grill. The adorable bottle opener attached to the grill’s body is a wonderful addition for all beer enthusiasts.
- Searing zone – The searing zone is tiny, and even though it can reach a temperature of 500 degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll be able to sear only two New York Strips or one ribeye at once.
- Weight – The heavyweight adds a lot to durability and longevity and makes it a little challenging to move around.
- The diverter plate is round in shape, making it challenging to put a dripping pan under the food. The drippings fall straight on the diverter plate and burn, producing unpleasant smoke.
- Unstable temperature – All pellet grills have their ups and downs in terms of temperature, and this model is no exception. To set the amount of time that the augur will supply fuel to the grill, use the “P” option. This will help you reduce the temperature swings that are typical for this type of grill. There is a learning curve, but controlling the temperature shouldn’t be a problem once you get the hang of it.
Unpacking and setting up the Sportsman
The packaging of this pellet grill is excellent. It comes on a pallet and is wrapped in a thick plastic cover.
While unpacking the Sportsman 820, I noticed that all components are well-made and sturdy. Even though they are not top-of-the-line materials, they are still extremely durable.
All the paperwork is easy to understand, and if you are not familiar with the assembly process of a pellet grill, it is straightforward to follow.
In total, it took me around 30- 45 minutes to assemble this grill.
The grill comes partially assembled, which saves you the headache of having to set it up out of the box.
Basically, you will need a screwdriver to attach the legs and wheels. The cooker box comes fully assembled. The only thing you will need to do is attach the legs and the side shelves.
Design and Build quality
At this price range, it is understandable to expect thin metal and plastic parts. However, this Sportsman is built of thick stainless steel, which ensures durability.
The cook box, diverter plate, and legs are all constructed of heavy gauge steel to ensure durability.
The thick, heavy-duty stainless steel gives the grill a lovely look, which you’d expect from much more expensive pellet grills.
The grill is heavy, but that’s what you get for buying a durable product. All the parts fit together perfectly, and after the assembly, this grill looks very sleek. The wheels are solid, and when you move the grill, it won’t rock or rattle.
As far as design goes, I like the brand complies with the user’s feedback and implements all the necessary features.
The stainless steel is well-finished, without any sharp edges. It also doesn’t include any low-quality plastic parts which you sometimes find in other brands. The cooking grate is high-quality cast iron, and it feels very durable.
The lid has a stopper, so when you open it won’t come down. Since the lid material is 1.5 mm thick heavy-gauge steel, it won’t be pleasant if it falls on your hand.
The hopper has a pretty handy window, which allows you to monitor the pellet levels. When you open the hopper, there is a safety grate, stopping you from shoving your fingers into the hopper. The grate is removable, which makes the cleaning process very easy.
The shelf on this grill is on the left and holds a detachable tray for easy cleanup or effortless food transfer from your kitchen to the barbecue.
Cooking experience with the Sportsman 820
The manufacturer claims that this grill has an 8 in 1 cooking versatility. In fact, you can indeed cook almost everything on it.
Yet, all pellet grill brands hype a bit the same claims.
The truth is that pellet grills are primarily smokers with some oven and grilling options.
As I mentioned before, this grill has a few temperature swings. But this problem occurs with most of the pellet grills.
The problem is that the pellet smoker works oven. The thermostat measures the temperature and commands the hopper to feed pellets into the firepot. When the temperature reaches the set value, the auger stops feeding pellets into the fire.
This leads to a temperature rise after the pellets are fed, and a temperature drops before the thermostat activate the hopper to feed fuel.
In order to get a more accurate read on the actual cooking temperature, you can use sealing and reduce the smoke and heat leaking through the gaps between the lid and the body of the grill. A high temp smoker and grill gasket will help seal the gaps and keep the heat where you want it.
In the end, all food cooked on the Sportsman 820 is delicious. There is no doubt about it.
On the other hand, when prepared low and slow, the food can’t achieve the deep smoky flavor as it would if cooked over a charcoal or wood smoker.
The Smoke Ring
The smoke ring is a beauty, and with this grill, and it’s not difficult to achieve. However, the smoke flavor is much more muted compared to smoking with wood chunks, chips, or logs.
Also, the smoke isn’t constant. When pellets are fed into the grill, there is a burst of smoke, and then it gradually dissipates.
On smoke setting, the grill cannot maintain a stable temperature of 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Here comes the “P” setting. It helps you adjust the amount of pellet fed into the hopper. There are eight options, from zero to seven, and the default is four. The lower the “P” setting, the higher the temperature.
In my opinion, the smoke setting temperature is a bit low for big chunks of meat like brisket and pork shoulder. Yet, it should do fine with smaller meats like chicken and ribs or sausages.
The sear option is a nice additional feature, and it works as advertised. The grill has an adjustable flame broiler which enables direct and indirect cooking.
The side plate could be opened, allowing you to sear over direct flame. The temperature could reach up to 1000°F, leaving beautiful searing marks on your food.
The downside is that you could only sear on the small area above the open flame. If you need to sear a lot of food, it will take you a while.
Even if you can’t use the whole cooking area for searing, having this feature will prove helpful in any recipe that requests reverse searing.
Does Pit Boss Sportsman Worth the Money?
If you are looking for your first pellet grill, the Sportsman is a good choice.
It’s relatively inexpensive, and it has a few useful features. The temperature swings are there, but they won’t affect the outcome of your food.
The quality of materials used is decent, and the cooking experience is excellent. The learning curve isn’t steep at all; you will get the hang of it in no time.
The controller’s handy set and forget feature combined with the smoke setting will help you achieve delicious, smoky flavored meat. The smoke flavor won’t be as deep and smoky as in a charcoal or barrel smoker, but it will do the trick.
The porcelain-coated cast-iron grates will leave beautiful searing marks on your food.
To enhance the grill’s performance, I propose utilizing a high-temperature gasket. This will assist in maintaining the internal temperature constant and minimize smoke leaks.
On the other hand, if you are looking for a professional pellet smoker that will give you the ultimate smoky flavor, I recommend you skip this grill and look for something better.
That said, it’s up to you to make the final call, but if we need to be honest about it, Pit Boss 820 Sportsman is great for those weekend warriors, willing to experiment and have fun with their cooking.
Overall, I’m impressed with the Sportsman 820. The price is relatively low for a pellet grill and it has a few features that make cooking on this unit enjoyable.
The smoke flavor isn’t strong, but it’s enough to make any meal delicious.
Designed with a few innovative features, the grill is easy to use and very durable.
I would recommend this grill for novice users looking for a dependable grill to have fun with.
I hope you found my review helpful. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.
Thanks, and happy smoking!