When you think of a pellet grill, you probably don’t think about fire-kissed steaks, but Oklahoma Joe’s has changed the pellet grill game with the Rider DLX.
Disclosure Oklahoma Joe’s compensated me for this review. Opinions are my own.
Pellet grills all work in the same traditional fashion. A box, called the hopper, is filled with wood pellets. Once the grill is on, the pellets are fed through an auger to a fire pot where an electric heat source burns the pellets, creating smoke.
With standard pellet grills, you can raise and lower the temperature of the grill, and your meat is protected by a metal diffuser plate that blocks the direct heat.
How the Rider DLX Pellet Grill Is Different
Instead of a solid metal diffuser plate that runs the length of the grill, the Rider DLX has a round heat baffle that surrounds the fire pot. Because of its design, pitmasters can finally use a pellet grill for both direct and indirect cooking.
The baffle has a vent-like feature with a handle controlling it on the front of the grill. Slide it to smoke mode, and the vent is closed. In this setting, the heat and smoke are evenly dispersed throughout the grill.
But slide that puppy to sear, and the vents open up turning your pellet grill into a direct heat source, so you can sear up burgers and steaks like a champ.
To Get Started
The Oklahoma Joe’s Rider DLX is a beast of a pellet grill constructed with heavy-gauge steel. If you don’t have it assembled at the store, you definitely need two people to put it together. Assembly is quite easy. It actually took more time to unwrap all the pieces than it did to put them all together.
You start by mounting the pit control station to the hopper. Then, you add the smaller wheels to the legs. You’ll only need a wrench and screwdriver.
Next, you turn the whole grill on its side to add the legs and bottom shelf.
With a retaining clip, you’ll add the signature Oklahoma Joe’s wagon-style wheels. Then, you can stand the grill back up.
From this point, you no longer need a helper. The rest is pretty easy to do on your own. You’ll add the pellet bucket mount, ash cup, side rack, tool hooks, smoke stacks and lid handle. Then, just slide in the grease tent, heat baffle, flex grates, flex rack and grease buckets.
Rider DLX Features
Before we start cooking, let me explain some of those cool features I just rattled off, because you won’t find them on other pellet grills.
The Pellet Bucket Mount
I like using different pellets for different meats. Cherry, hickory and oak are great with beef, and hickory, pecan and apple are awesome with pork.
Changing pellets isn’t always easy though. I’ve had other pellet grills that have a tiny hole in the back that you can open to empty the hopper, but the pellets always fly all over the place.
The Rider DLX comes with a pellet bucket (and I recommend buying a couple more). When you want to empty the hopper, you slide the bucket into the bucket mount under the hopper.
Then, you pull the side handle and a door opens on the bottom and empties all the pellets into the bucket. Pop the lid on the weatherproof bucket and you can store that blend for another cook.
The Ash Cup
My least favorite part about cooking with a pellet grill is the cleanup. You usually have to take out the grates, take out a heat diffuser plate and vacuum out the ash. It’s a pretty messy job.
With the Rider DLX, the engineers created an ash cup that screws onto the bottom of the grill. As the pellets burn off, the ashes drop into the cup. So when you’re done cooking, all you have to do is unscrew it and empty the ashes.
Then, screw it back on for your next cook.
The Ryder DLX Flex Grate & Flex Rack System
This pellet grill has one other feature worth pointing out. You’ll notice the bottom grate has a circular inset. This circular Flex Grate can be removed and interchanged with some of the Oklahoma Joes accessories like the griddle and deep dish pan.
Additionally, the grill comes with two upper racks that run the length of the grill and mount on four tracks along the back of the grill. Instead of the two long racks, you can use a smaller Multipurpose Flex Rack, a Rib Flex Rack or Drumstick & Pepper Flex Rack.
This is a great solution when you want to smoke a large piece of meat, like a turkey. You can cook that on one side and then use the smaller racks to layer your side dishes or other meats.
Before cooking on a new grill, you always want to burn off the initial manufacturing residue. The Rider DLX comes with a manual to walk you through your first start up. It will take more than an hour, so keep that in mind.
One technique I learned several years ago is to run the biscuit test before cooking on a new grill. Grilling is all about mastering heat and fire – even on a pellet grill. The chamber on the DLX is huge, so it’s only natural that every square inch of cooking space won’t be exactly the same.
I set the grill to 300F and placed raw biscuits across the grate. I found that the biscuits on the right side burned on the bottom before cooking fully. The biscuits in the middle were pretty evenly cooked, and the biscuits on the left took a little longer.
This test set me up for success for my first cook. It also gave me a better understanding of the Pit Control Panel.
Understanding the Pit Control Panel
The heat controls on the Oklahoma Joe’s are a little different than other pellet grills. Instead pushing buttons to change the degrees, it comes with a dial. And to be honest, the dial was a little confusing to me at first.
It goes to 300F degrees, but then after that, it has a setting that shows low, medium and high in orange letters. Sometimes, I like to set the smoker above 300F degrees. I wasn’t sure how to pull that off with this dial, so I called the team over at Oklahoma Joe’s.
To understand the Pit Control Panel, you have to understand the temperature indicators on the digital display screen.
When you turn the control knob and set the temperature, the digital temperature will appear on the screen. Next to that number, you’ll see three possible icons. If the smoke icon (three wavy lines) is showing, the display is showing the temperature of the air in the cook chamber.
So for instance, if you set the knob above 300F, when the indicator light shows the smoke icon, you’ll know what your cooking chamber temp is.
If the small flame icon is showing, this is the temperature of the actual porcelain coated cast iron grill grate when your heat baffle selector handle is set to smoke. You’ll find that the grill grate is likely hotter than the grill chamber, especially since cast iron holds heat so well.
If the large flame icon is showing, this is the temperature of the grill grate with the selector handle set to sear.
You can toggle through the different settings by pushing the plus or minus signs below the display.
So Why Is This Temperature Control So Different
This goes back to the first part of this blog post. The Rider DLX isn’t just a pellet grill. Now, if you want to come home from work and grill up a quick steak or some burgers, you can set the pellet grill to grill. What a concept.
Just turn the dial to the orange section on low, medium or high, just like you would a gas grill. Once the grill is pre-heated, throw on the meat.
If you want to get some flame-kissed steaks, change the selector to sear.
Or if you want the best of both worlds, start the grill on smoke, setting the dial to the gray numbers at about 250F. Cook your steak to an internal temperature of 110F. Then, change the dial to medium on the grill setting, open up the sear plate and bam! You’ve got yourself a killer steak.
Oh and the grill comes with a meat probe and port, so you can probe the steak during the smoke stage, and the digital display will tell you when you’re getting close to hitting that mark. You can add a second probe, as well, but the grill only comes with one.
My First Cook on the Rider DLX
So it’s pretty obvious that my first cook was the ribeye steak, because I wanted to fully test out the “grilling” features of the Rider DLX. While the steak was cooking, I added a pan of hasselback potatoes on the middle rack.
For my next cook, I wanted to test out how well the Rider DLX could bake, so I whipped up a batch of homemade sticky buns.
I wanted to bake these at 350F degrees, so I set the dial to the orange low setting, and I made sure the indicator icon showed the smoke symbol. The chamber stayed steady at about 350F.
This is where the biscuit test came in handy. I knew if I set the pan straight on the bottom heat at this temp, they would burn on the bottom, so I placed the pan on the middle rack, and they came out perfectly tender.
Smoking Meat on the Oklahoma Joe’s Pellet Grill
For the final test, I had to slow smoke a big hunk of meat. After all, that’s what most people cook on a pellet grill. There’s nothing sexier than a rack of beef plate ribs.
The grill performed wonderfully. I set the dial to 250F on the smoke setting. Again, I used the middle rack, so the heat wasn’t too aggressive on the bottom.
After five hours, the meat reached an internal temperature of 203F degrees, and they were perfect – smoke ring and all.
What This Grill Doesn’t Have
With the Rider DLX, you aren’t going to find any fancy wi-fi controls. At first I thought I would be disappointed, but I applaud Oklahoma Joe’s for being so bold.
Oklahoma Joe’s has been a foundation in the barbecue world for decades. They understand that barbecue is about the thrill of understanding how to manage heat and fire to create great food.
With the Rider DLX, they give you some crutches that make smoking easier, but you are still required to learn the ropes as a pitmaster. Which in my opinion makes the food taste even better.
Rider DLX Specifications
Height: The Rider DLX is 54.2 inches tall with the lid closed. When the lid is open, the primary grate is 37 inches from the ground.
Width: 45 inches without the side rack. 55.5 inches fully assembled.
Weight: 245.6 pounds (without pellets)
Hopper Capacity: 20 pounds of pellets
Primary Cooking Area: 19.5 inches deep by 29.6 inches long (578 square inches)
Secondary Cooking Area: two racks 12 inches deep by 27 inches long (656 square inches)