I have spent the last several weeks testing popular brands of wood pellets and searing grates while measuring temperatures on the MAK 2 Star General pellet grill. After many hours and several bags of wood pellets, the results are in, and they may surprise you. Hopefully, this article will put to bed any doubts on whether a pellet grill can sear.
On the MAK 2 Star pellet grill I had the MAK searing grates and the popular GrillGrate Brand searing grates side by side to find out how hot they can get on a pellet grill at various temperatures. I also measured a cast iron skillet on the MAK 2 Star and GrillGrates over premium lump charcoal. Get your popcorn ready. All you barbecue nerds are going to love this.
If you’re looking for one barbecue grill that can do it all, then look no further than the MAK 2 Star General pellet grill. This is a pellet grill that can sear at high heat and smoke low and slow like no other pellet cooker on the market today. It has a secret side smoker that opens up a whole new world when it comes to cooking on a pellet grill, and it doubles as a large shelf. It is the ultimate grill in versatility and function.
If the MAK 2 Star is out of your budget, I would first look at the MAK 1 Star General pellet grill as it features the same FlameZone system and Pellet Boss controller for about $1,000 less. I have not tested the maximum temperature on this grill, but I would assume it’s comparable since it is using many of the same parts. If that is still out of your budget, there are less expensive options that might work for you.
Take a look at the Camp Chef Woodwind 24” Wi-Fi with Propane Sear Box. This is a popular pellet grill that features a gas sear box accessory on the side for cooking steaks. They also have griddle and pizza oven accessories you can place on the side if you prefer to go that route. I have not personally used this unit, but from reading many reviews online it seems many people find it works well for the price.
Wood Pellets Test Criteria
- The Pellet hopper was dumped and I ran the grill to push pellets through the auger when switching brands
- The grill was allowed to properly cool down between pellet tests
- The fire box was cleaned out before each test
- All bags of pellets were brand new, un-opened bags
The pellets we used when testing were the Lumber Jack Supreme Blend, Bear Mountain Gourmet Blend, Traeger Gourmet Blend, and B&B Post Oak wood pellets. The Lumber Jack and Bear Mountain pellets both performed the same while the Traeger and B&B pellets maxed out at a much lower temperature. All were fresh, unopened bags that were stored in our warehouse.
I will be doing a separate article about the performance of the pellets used in this test. I will go through the time it takes to heat up to various temperatures and discuss variances between the brands. Furthermore, I may even purchase a couple more popular brands of wood pellets for that comparison article.
MAK 2 Star Pellet Boss Controller Reading 590F
Yes, you heard me right. The Pellet Boss Controller was reading 590F when I lift the lid to check the temperature of the searing grates. Now, that is hot for any grill, much less a pellet grill. You have to be careful because there is so much heat coming of the grill that you can singe the hair on your fingers.
So, that begs the question, what was the temperature of the searing grates Slick? I’m getting there, hold your horses.
Best Wood Pellets for High Heat Searing
Out of the four different brands of pellets I tried, only the Lumber Jack Supreme Blend and the Bear Mountain Gourmet Blend could produce enough BTU’s to get the MAK 2 Star grill up to 590F on the controller. Both brands of pellets performed equally well during the time it took to heat up the grill. Where the Bear Mountain and other brands of wood pellets fell short for me was with the smell and smoke flavor. I have not found a wood pellet that produces the rich wood smell and flavor you find when using Lumber Jack pellets. I always go back to this brand.
The Traeger Gourmet Blend and B&B Post Oak wood pellets did not perform as well on the high end. They both did a good job climbing to their maximum temperature, but they maxed out around 460F and stopped. I let the grill burn another 30-45 minute’s to see if the temperature would rise, but no luck. For some reason, these two blends maxed out around the same temperature which was about 130 degrees less than the Lumber Jack and Bear Mountain pellets. I tried the test again the following day, but ended up with the same results.
If your looking for a wood pellet that produces the best flavor and can heat up quickly and reach maximum temperatures, I would recommend Lumber Jack. They may be harder to find and more expensive, but when your trying to get the best flavor out of a pellet grill, you need to be using real wood pellets from whole logs. They all claim to be using 100% real wood which may be true, but the quality of the wood being used is not the same. The reaction I get from my family and friends when I cook with Lumber Jack pellets is always better.
There has to be something to leaving the bark on the wood and producing pellets from whole logs vs. residuals from furniture factories. The only brand I have found claiming to keep the bark on the wood when making wood pellets is Lumber Jack. Most other brands advise against it in their FAQ pages. I am assuming this is because most other brands are made from cheaper residuals and they don’t use the same quality woods as Lumber Jack. The whole log approach sounds much more time consuming than receiving sawdust on an eighteen wheeler at the receiving dock.
I went through lots of pellets doing these tests. When the MAK pellet grill is set on “Grill”, the auger is running continuously. I’m assuming this is the same for all other brands of pellet grills as well. It’s the only way to maintain the higher temperature.
Stock Stainless-Steel Grates on MAK 2 Star Pellet Grill
Let’s start with the stock stainless-steel grates that come standard on the MAK 2 Star pellet grill. This is the configuration most people will be using who purchase this grill. You’re going to find this surprising, but the MAK 2 Star stainless-steel grates that come with the grill were running at 875F-900F while the grill was reading 500F on the Pellet Boss controller. I found this shocking. The reason to purchase searing grates in the first place was to gain temperature at the grate level for maximum sear.
I am not sure why the MAK 2 Star pellet grill stock stainless grates run so hot, but it could be due to the quality of the 304 stainless steel they use. The grill screams quality everywhere you look, and it’s over-engineered in many aspects. I was so surprised to see the stock stainless grates running at that temperature that I had to check it three different times.
I know the laser on the infrared thermometer was not reading the FlameZone below the grates because when I shot the FlameZone with the thermometer it was actually running 30-40 degrees cooler than the grates. I can only assume that is because the grates are thicker metal. Truly amazing results from the stock stainless grates that come with the grill.
Searing Grate Temperatures on MAK 2 Star Pellet Grill
Below are the actual temperature readings of the MAK Searing Grates vs. the GrillGrate Brand searing grates. We logged temperatures while the MAK 2 Star pellet grill controller was reading 250F, 350F, 450F, and 590F. Here are the results along with photos of the higher temperature readings.
MAK 2 Star Pellet Grill at 250F
- MAK Searing Grates 335F
- GrillGrate Searing Grates 320F
MAK 2 Star Pellet Grill at 350F
- MAK Searing Grates 475F
- GrillGrate Searing Grates 445F
MAK 2 Star Pellet Grill at 450F
- MAK Searing Grates 715F
- GrillGrate Searing Grates 660F
MAK 2 Star Pellet Grill at 590F
The MAK Searing Grates clocked in at a maximum temperature of 882.6F when shooting the laser around the area where the meat lies on top of the grates. I was getting consistent readings around this number every time I checked the grill. We were burning through some pellets!
GrillGrate Brand searing grates measured a maximum temperature of 825F. I shot the laser in all different areas on the GrillGrates to see if I could get a higher reading, but this was the maximum. I closed the lid and tried again several minutes later, but I did not clock a higher temperature. For the most part, it doesn’t really matter. Searing steaks on grates that are reading over 800F is awesome. Doing it on a pellet grill is even more awesome.
The highest temperature we registered on the MAK Searing Grates was 908F. This reading was logged when I shot the laser at the side of the searing grate. I don’t know why the GrillGrates were running a little cooler as they were in the back of the grill. It could be because that is where the vents are located on the MAK 2 Star grill. Either way, both searing grates performed exceptionally well.
Cast Iron Skillet Temperature on MAK 2 Star Pellet Grill
If you prefer to sear your meats on a cast iron skillet, you can do that on the MAK 2 Star pellet grill as well. We have a large skillet and it fit great. It was running on average around 100-260 degrees hotter than what the grill controller was actually reading. Here are the results at a couple higher temperatures.
MAK 2 Star Pellet Grill at 350F
- Large Cast Iron Skillet 455F
MAK 2 Star Pellet Grill at 450F
- Large Cast Iron Skillet 630F
MAK 2 Star Pellet Grill at 500F
- Large Cast Iron Skillet 760F
MAK 2 Star Pellet Grill at 530F
- Large Cast Iron Skillet 760F
As the grill temperature was going up, the cast iron skillet seemed to max out around 760F. I don’t know why this is, but that is plenty hot to do any searing needed. The beauty of a skillet is you can bathe your meat in butter or juices as your cooking. They really come in handy when cooking on grills or open fires. A must-have accessory for anyone who loves to cook.
Another great accessory that pairs well with a cast iron pan is Fatworks premium cooking oils. They offer lard, duck fat, and several types of tallow from different animals. All of their cooking oils are organic and made from grass-fed animals.
GrillGrates Temperature Over Charcoal?
The MAK 2 Star General pellet grill produces the same grate temperatures as when cooking with GrillGrate Brand Searing Grates directly over lump charcoal. I fired up a large Weber charcoal chimney with some Fogo Charcoal I had sitting around to see how hot I could get the surface temperature of the grill grates. I dumped the full chimney of charcoal into my Weber Kettle and place the grill grates on top.
I let everything burn for a while so the grates had time to get scorching hot. The temperature readings I was getting were about the same as on the MAK 2 Star General. I was expecting some higher numbers, so I added some charcoal and waited. The max reading I could get was 850F. I could only get this reading once as most of the time it was showing between 780F-830F depending on where I placed the laser pointer on the grates. I was expecting my ThermoWorks thermometer to read “Hi”, which means it is reading a temperature higher than the 1022F limit.
The Big Poppa Smokers website features a YouTube video that walks you through the M36 Charcoal Grill and Wood Smoker capabilities. Closer to the end of the video the host measures the temperature of the stainless-steel grates. The charcoal grate was raised using the built-in handle, so it was sitting right under the stainless-steel grates for maximum heat.
His temperature gun was reading 875F which is around the same temps we were getting on the MAK 2 Star pellet grill. It’s pretty amazing to see this kind of performance from a pellet grill that is also excellent at smoking meats.
Enough With the Nerdy Stuff. Show Me a Steak!
What does a Pellet Grill Look Like After Running Close to 600F?
At close to 900F at the grate level, this is what your pellet grill will look like after it has incinerated everything in its path. You are left with flakes of crud from long cooks burnt to a crisp. Now, all you need to do is let it cool down, so you can pull the FlameZone out and dump the ash into your ash bucket. If your pellet grill can get hot enough, you can run it on high to burn off grease from long cooks.
MAK vs. Grill Grates Brand Construction
Both searing grates are sturdy and well constructed. The MAK Searing Grates are hand-welded T6 aircraft aluminum with a hard anodized finish. They claim they can get 7x hotter than stainless steel. Each grate for the MAK 2 Star measures 9 5/8” W x 21 7/8” L and covers half of the bottom grill area.
GrillGrate Brand Searing Grates are constructed of hard anodized aluminum as well and feature interlocking panels, so you can adjust the size as needed. They make several sizes that work great for pellet grills. For instance, the 12-Inch GrillGrate Pellet Grill Sear Station works great for the Green Mountain Davy Crockett and other small travel Grills. It measures 10.5” wide x 12” deep.
GrillGrate 16.25-Inch Sear Station grates measure 10.5” wide x 16.25” deep in the two panel design. They are made to fit the popular Green Mountain Daniel Boone, Green Mountain Jim Bowie, and all Traeger Ironwood pellet grills. The 17.375-Inch GrillGrate Sear Station two panel set measures 10.5” wide x 17.375” deep. They are designed to fit your high heat pellet grills like the MAK and Memphis.
The 18.5-Inch Grill Grate Sear Station is designed to fit the popular Traeger Pro Series, Camp Chef, and Pit Boss pellet grills. As you can see, GrillGrate Brand has it figured out when it comes to outfitting your pellet grill with high heat searing grates.
Remember to always measure your pellet grill before ordering searing grates.
Pellet Grills Love Searing Grates
I have a friend who won a local steak cookout using GrillGrate brand searing grates on his Green Mountain pellet grill. I do not know the surface temperature of the grates when he cooked, but normally first place in steak is won by someone cooking with charcoal. He is a big time barbecue guy and also owns Memphis and Blazing Works pellet grills. They are all very nice, but I would not trade my MAK 2 Star grill for any of them. I believe in the quality craftsmanship, and its diverse range of cooking abilities is unreal. Especially when you find interesting ways to use the side smoker.
I have to mention my buddy is an exceptional cook. Way above anything I can prepare, and he has a natural knack for cooking and preparing food. He has prepared all types of food for us that will blow your mind. Some people have it, and he is one of them.
Charbroil Flare Up on Searing Grates
One of the main design points and advantages of the MAK Grills Searing Grates is the open design. The design allows heat to blast up through the FlameZone and doesn’t restrict airflow which can cause flame outs on pellet grills. The open design of the searing grates can flare up when cooking fatty cuts of meat which is not necessarily a bad thing. For the most part, the FlameZone keeps flare-ups to a minimum. Especially when you take proper care of your grill and keep it clean.
If you’re one of those who enjoys a little flareup when cooking you’re fatty cuts of meat, this might be perfect for you. The Wagyu meat produced flare-ups due to the high fat content. It didn’t bother me one bit. If I wanted a less involved cook, I would have set the grill to around 400 and cooked at a lower temperature. It would have produced amazing results with less stress.
GrillGrate brand searing grates are most likely going to produce less flare up because they use a flat bottom surface with holes in it. The upside is less flare up, but the downside is less direct contact with heat. They are both excellent searing grates, so you will need to choose the one that works better for your style of cooking.
The MAK 2 Star Pellet Grill Gets Hot
If anyone ever said you can’t grill on a pellet grill, then they have never owned the MAK 2 Star General. With the right pellets, this thing gets so hot it’s uncomfortable to be close to it. When you open the lid, the heat blast coming off the pit can singe the hair on your fingers.
Reaching into a pit to cook your food when the surface temperature of grates and/or skillets is running 750F-900F makes for an unpleasant experience. If you plan on doing this, it’s best to wear good barbecue gloves to protect your hands and arms. Crazy hot!
MAK Searing Grates are Easier to Clean
Because the design is so simple with the MAK Searing Grates, they are much easier to clean. There are no holes or channels for grease and food to get caught in. The FlameZone system in the MAK Grill acts like the channels on the Grill Grates which allows the juices to singe and steam back up into the meat. The MAK Searing Grates sit very close to the FlameZone, and I’m assuming this was by design.
But, with a surface temperature running close to 900 degrees, there probably won’t be much cleaning needed. The heat coming off the grill is so hot it can be uncomfortable to use. Anything and everything attached to the grates will most likely get singed off from the extreme heat.
GrillGrates Can be Flipped Over
GrillGrates are more versatile for someone who owns multiple grills. And, that understandable. The MAK Searing Grate was designed specifically for a MAK grill. Grill Grates on the other hand were designed to be used on a range of grills. They have become so popular that many manufacturers now offer an OEM fit for their grills.
Grill Grates searing grates can be turned over which allows you to grill on a flat surface with holes. Many people enjoy cooking fish and veggies this way. It’s also a popular way to cook smash burgers as the flat surface allows you to press down without the meat being pushed through the grates.
Would You Buy the MAK Searing Grates or GrillGrate’s?
Yes and yes. I would own both if you have multiple grills. Both searing grates produce amazing sear marks on steaks, chicken, and chops. They have different designs for various reasons, so it comes down to how your pellet grill is configured.
MAK pellet grills have a FlameZone system that sits right underneath their grates made from 304 stainless steel. This allows extreme heat to come through the holes while acting like a vaporizer as the juices fall. I also like the fact that the MAK Searing Grate is made for my grill, and it doesn’t move around.
The build construction on the MAK Searing Grate is second to none. It is made from T6 Aircraft Aluminum with a hard anodized finish, and it is hand-welded right here in the United States. GrillGrate’s also produces an awesome product with a great build quality.
Airflow Issue on Pellet Grills
Pellet grills and smokers rely heavily on good airflow to keep the small fire successfully burning. Because the fire is small, they can be subject to flameout which is essentially when your fire goes out due to lack of airflow. This happens more often when cooking at very low temperatures. GrillGrate Brand searing grates have a more closed design with holes vs. the open design on the MAK Searing Grates.
The Big Poppa Smokers website has a warning on their website that says:
Manufacturer note: Do NOT use GrillGrates brand with MAK Grill models. They restrict airflow and can lead to issues with your MAK grill.
I have personally used GrillGrate Brand searing grates on my MAK 2 Star pellet grill with no issues, but I was only using two interlocked sections, so they were not impeding airflow. I have not tried using them as full replacement grates across the entire grill surface which I assume that is what they are referring to.
There are many brands and configurations of pellet grills on the market today. This is something to keep in mind if you start to have flameout issues on your grill when cooking with grates or anything else for that matter that blocks airflow inside your cooking chamber.
Comments Online About MAK 2 Star Searing Capabilities
You will read online that the MAK 2 Star or any other pellet grill for that matter “just does not get hot enough to properly sear a steak”. Now, after performing all of my tests, I can only conclude that maybe the reviewer was not using the correct pellets. I can tell you for a fact the MAK 2 Star can get hot. So hot, it is hard to get close to the grill. It can be very uncomfortable and cooking steaks is best done with a long pair of tongs.
You will also read about the Weber SmokeFire being the only pellet grill that can “properly sear steaks right out of the box”. I have to disagree here as well. While the Weber Stevens company is legendary, the Weber SmokeFire pellet grill was a complete flop out of the box. They had issues with grease fires and pellets not feeding from the hopper which is pretty surprising considering Weber makes some amazing products. There is not a pellet grill on the market I would trade my MAK 2 Star for. You have to own one to understand. It’s that good.
You could always argue there is nothing better than a steak cooked over charcoal. But, that’s not what we are talking about here. We are confronting the issue head on whether a pellet grill can actually reach temperatures high enough to sear a steak. Temperatures so high they are in the charcoal stratosphere. And, the answer is yes.
The MAK 2 Star General pellet grill can smoke, grill, or sear any food you throw at it. I wouldn’t say MAK Grill owners are snobby or turning their nose up at other products. I would say MAK Grill owners are passionate. It’s awesome to see American Made products lead the way in a very crowded pellet grill market.
Other Premium Pellet Grill Brands to Consider
Memphis Grills Elite Wi-Fi 39” Pellet Grill claims a maximum temperature of 700F on their controller. They also have a direct flame option where you can remove a solid baffle and install a secondary baffle that is similar to the MAK Grills FlameZone with holes in it. I have not personally tried one, but I do plan on testing this as I have a good friend who owns one of their built-in models. The only problem is the grill is about one hundred miles away, so I haven’t had a chance to run any tests.
Twin Eagles Wi-Fi 36” Stainless-Steel Pellet Grill offers a hybrid pellet grill that claims even higher temperatures. They utilize a direct heat insert tray that can hold lump charcoal or briquettes for more direct radiant heat. They are claiming controller temperatures from 140F to 725F. I will probably never get my hands on one of these, but it is available on the market today.
One last high-end pellet grill that should be mentioned is the Coyote 36-Inch Pellet Grill. They are claiming a range of 175F-700F depending on which burn pot grate is in use. This unit uses a dual fan convection system for precise temperature control. I have not personally used any of these other high-end pellet grill. I will have access in the near future to a built-in Memphis pellet grill and will be doing some tests on that unit. I will most likely update this article with those findings.
Reviews online for these brands are hard to come by. But, I also found that to be the case when researching MAK grills. Hopefully, this article will help you with your buying decision if you are on the fence about purchasing a MAK pellet grill. I sure wish it was around when I was researching grills.
Less Expensive Pellet Grills to Consider
Like I mentioned at the beginning of this article, you can purchase the MAK 1 Star General pellet grill for around $1,000 less than the 2 Star. This would be my first choice if your looking to spend less money as it has many of the same searing capabilities as the MAK 2 Star General.
If you’re looking for something around $1,000 all in, the Camp Chef Woodwind 24” Wi-Fi with Sear Box seams to be very popular and garners good reviews. The sear box uses gas instead of wood pellets, but you can bring your steak up to temperature in the main chamber for smoke flavor and put the final sear on the steak using the sear box on the side.
Pellet Grill Searing Conclusion
This is a long article with lots of data that was recorded over several weeks while testing popular wood pellets and searing grates for pellet grills. While this article had an emphasis on the MAK 2 Star General pellet grill, we also went over other options available in pellet grills and various surface temperatures when searing on stainless steel, aluminum, and cast iron. As we have demonstrated, you can have one grill that can both sear steak and cook low and slow with amazing results.