The Pit Boss Austin XL is a pellet grill made especially for Walmart stores. With a retail price of just under $500, is it a worthy competitor to the Traeger and Rec Tec pellet grills? We’re going to dive deep into our experience with this grill and uncover if you can get a good pellet grill for under $500.
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Pit Boss Austin XL Size and Dimensions
The Austin XL is 53.5 inches wide and 49.25 inches tall. The depth of the unit is 27.75 inches, which means that you can lay a rack of ribs from front to back and have plenty of space.
An Austin XL weighs right at 179 pounds, and feels solid when you’re working with it. I don’t like flimsy when it comes to grills, and there’s a weight and heft to the grill that makes me happy.
The first thing that I noticed about the Austin XL is that there is 1,000 sq. inches of cooking surface. This is immediately what caused me to consider this unit as soon as I heard about it. 1,000 sq. in. of cooking space is enough room for a lot of food, and since we like to entertain friends and family, we needed enough space to cook for parties in addition to our family.
About 930 sq. in. of cooking space are available on the main grate. There’s a secondary shelf that’s much smaller adding some extra room, and we left it off the unit for much of our use.
To explain the sheer amount of meat that you can cook on this grill, in one cook, we easily fit 8 boston butts. We’ve been able to cook 3 full packer briskets at a time as well as enough burgers and dogs to feed a party of 25 without having to cook multiple batches. Simply said, there’s a load of cooking surface on the Austin XL.
Construction & Durability
The Austin XL is made of heavier steel than what you’ll find in most of the competition. There’s not a lot of documentation about the thickness of the steel, but if you have a chance to see one in person and lift the lid, you’ll experience the difference.
We have our hands on a bunch of grills here at The Barbecue Lab, and when you lift the lid on most pellet grills you can tell they’re constructed of thin metal. On the GMG grills that we’ve used, the lid feels like its half the weight of the Austin XL. I don’t know about you, but I want my grill to have a heavy construction so that it lasts longer and keeps the smoke inside.
The cart is made of angular steel and connects to rollerblade type wheels in the back and 360 degree casters in the front. There’s a stainless steel side shelf that connects to the side of the unit, and the interior of the shelf is removable. This comes in handy when you’re out at the grill and need something to move things back and forth.
Longevity – How Long will the Austin XL Last?
While this grill is made of pretty heavy steel, it’s still made of steel which is prone to rust. The longevity of this grill will depend on how you take care of it. There’s an optional cover for the grill that we absolutely recommend if you’re going to store the Pit Boss outdoors.
We store our Austin XL in the garage when it’s not in use, which will extend the life of the unit for many years. If proper maintenance is performed on the grill, we can easily see this being a 7-10 year grill with average use.
There is a 5 year warranty from Pit Boss on this unit, which means that if you have problems they’ll be right there to help.
How Well Does the Door Seal on the Austin XL?
In the world of smoker grills, there’s always the question of how well the door seals to keep smoke from leaking out. We have tested many grills where smoke leaks out all over the cooking chamber, and the Austin XL holds up pretty well in this area.
During startup mode, there’s an excess of smoke as the pellets ignite, and it wasn’t uncommon to see smoke leak out through the door during this time. Once the pellet grill came up to temperature though, we rarely saw smoke leaking out where it wasn’t supposed to.
Some bbq cooks will encourage the use of gasket seal and high temperature Permatex to lock all of the smoke inside the cooking chamber. We don’t feel the need to recommend this for the Austin XL. As mentioned, after the startup process, we only see smoke coming out of the exhaust stack. It’s an expense we recommend in many other units, but the Pit Boss is fine in this area.
Features on the Pit Boss Austin XL
The lowest temperature setting on this unit is the smoke setting, which is believed to be set to about 180 degrees. The lowest actual numbered temperature setting is 200 degrees, and the highest is 450 degrees.
There is a “high” setting that is believed to be targeted in the 500 degree range, and we have seen temperatures as high as 550 in our unit at that setting.
Direct searing is something that not all pellet grills excel at, but this unit was made with direct grilling in mind. The diverter plate that sits over the fire pot has a flame broiler option that can be activated by moving the broiler plate out of the way.
You can expose the fire pot for direct grilling directly over the flame with the Austin XL. The vented flame broiler panel allows the flame from the pellets to reach the porcelain coated grill racks. We love using the flame broiler for reverse searing everything from steaks to burgers.
The Austin XL comes with two temperature probes that connect directly to the control board. Simply place these probes in any food that you would like to track the internal temperature of, and the probe will report your temperature on the front of the unit.
Portability – How Easy Is It To Move?
The Austin XL has two 6” rollerblade style wheels on the back of the grill that make it incredibly easy to move. There are two 360 degree swivel casters on the front of the grill that make it easy to turn while moving.
We move a lot of grills here at The Barbecue Lab, and this grill is one of the easiest to move around and lock in place. Similar Traeger grills only have two wheels and two legs on the other side. This makes it hard to move around because you have to hold one end of the grill in the air.
In case we haven’t pointed it out, these grills are all heavy, and having to carry one side in the air to move it around pretty much sucks. I love that the Austin XL has wheels on all 4 legs and is easy to move and position.
That being said, we haven’t discussed how portable the Austin XL would be on grass or uneven surfaces. I wouldn’t plan on taking this grill offroad as the smaller swivel casters aren’t made for grass or uneven dirt surfaces. The casters are just too small to navigate grass, but on a deck, patio or driveway they’re the cat’s meow.
Picking Up My Austin XL (ie: Just ship it…)
I had been reading forums and social posts for awhile that the Austin XL was the value leader in pellet grill technology. I heard that the metal was heavier than the competition and it was a great pellet grill to start with. I knew it was time to put it to the test. I drove across the city to Walmart and picked up my Austin XL.
Picking up the Austin XL pellet smoker wasn’t easy. I managed to get to the garden section of my local Walmart, and didn’t see anyone around to help me get it loaded onto a cart. After a few minutes of looking for a blue vest, a radio call eventually found someone who could help load this behemoth into a cart.
When I say the box for this grill is heavy, I mean you can’t pick it up without two people. The team lift stickers on the outside of the box aren’t just for show.
By the time I got the grill through checkout, I needed another staff member to help me get it loaded into the SUV. Hindsight being 20/20, I would much rather have bought this grill online and had Fedex deliver it to my doorstep. The grill ended up stuck in the back of the car for a few days because I didn’t have help to unload it, so Fedex started sounding really smart after wrestling the grill for a few days.
Assembling the Austin XL Pellet Grill
Once the grill was in the garage, it was time for assembly. It took right around 45 minutes to an hour to get the grill assembled. I found that assembling the legs and cart portion on my workbench made things much easier. There’s nothing like rolling around on the ground with a screwdriver to remind you that you’re not 30 anymore.
With the grill fully assembled, it was time to take the stickers off and set the grill for the initial burn in. Getting the stickers off was a pain in the butt to be honest. The sticker came off pretty easily, but the residue that it left behind was a massive pain to get off the grill.
Initial Burn-In with the Austin XL
For the burn in period, I recommend coating the inside of the grill with some spray cooking oil. Simply spray down any of the interior surfaces with vegetable oil and set the grill to 450 for 45 minutes. The vegetable oil spray isn’t mentioned in the manual, but it’s what we do with all of our smokers here at The Barbecue Lab.
Our goal with the vegetable oil spray is to coat the interior surfaces with oil so that the smoke has something to stick to as we continue to cook with it. The high heat will burn off any of the elements left from manufacturing that we don’t want in the grill.
The surface should turn a nice black color where smoke has adhered to the surface after the initial burn in. This makes sure that any condensation that collects inside the cooking chamber rolls off the metal and into the drip pan instead of sticking around and causing rust.
We’re really looking to create a barrier between the metal of the smoker and water to ensure that our smoker will last longer. Just a little bit of vegetable oil, heat and smoke does the trick.
Priming the Austin XL Grill
Before your first cook, you’ll need to prime the auger with pellets. The grill is designed to have pellets already in the auger during the startup phase, and if you haven’t primed the auger to fill it with pellets, the igniter will time-out before any pellets reach the igniter while its hot.
To prime the grill for the first time, simply fill the reservoir with pellets and startup the Austin XL in smoke mode and hold down the prime button. This will turn the auger and begin feeding pellets from the pelet reservoir to the firepot.
Once you hear the first pellets fall into the firepot, you can power the grill off and the grill is primed.
Starting the Austin XL
Pellet grills aren’t that complex to cook with, and the Austin XL is no exception. Simply set the temperature dial to the temp that you want, and the grill will roar to life.
It takes about 10 minutes for the grill to come up to temperature, and here’s what you’ll hear and see during the startup phase.
You’ll start by setting the temperature dial to your desired temp, and simply press the power button. You’ll hear the fan come to life as soon as you press power, and this is simply the fan pushing air through the auger to provide oxygen for the fire. This fan runs a consistent speed as long as your grill is powered on and won’t vary from the time you turn it on to the time you turn it off.
Next you might start hearing pellets drop into the firepot from the auger, but you won’t see smoke for a few minutes. The auger will drop pellets into the firepot for a minute or two before the igniter lights up to start the pellets.
Once the igniter starts to heat up, you’ll start seeing smoke coming out of the smokestack. As all of the pellets start to burn, the smoke will be much thicker than what you’ll see for the rest of the cook. This is normal. During the startup phase, it’s common to see 5x the amount of smoke that you’ll see during a cook.
If you’re 10 minutes into the startup phase and you’re still seeing really heavy smoke, check the hood thermometer to see if the grill is coming up to temperature. If there’s heavy smoke and the temperature isn’t rising, it could be that you have too much pellet residue from previous cooks blocking the igniter from lighting the new pellets.
If the pellets aren’t igniting, it’s time to let the grill cool down and sweep out the pellet residue from prior cooks.
Competitors to the Austin XL Pellet Grill
Many people looking for a pellet grill have heard of the Rec Tec Bull, Traeger Pro 780, and the Green Mountain Grill Jim Bowie. They’re all competitors in the mid range pellet market, and the Rec Tec Bull is the most expensive of the group. At more than double the price of the Pit Boss Austin XL Pellet Grill, the Rec Tec isn’t messing around.
Is the Rec Tec Bull worth two and a half Austin XL’s? There are many bells and whistles on the Bull that the Austin XL doesn’t have, but is it worth over $700 more?
Charcoal vs. Gas vs. Pellet Grills
If you’ve done any grilling or smoking on charcoal grills, you know they’re much less expensive than pellet grills. The same goes for gas grills, and while each grill type has its purpose, the pellet grill is a really good combination of both grill and smoker in a single unit.
I don’t know many gas grills that are great smokers. You need to set them up for two-zone cooking as well as add some type of wood chip box for smoke. Charcoal grills also need to utilize two zone cooking in order to be used as a smoker. While charcoal can give a bit of a smokey flavor to food, it’s still nothing like good old wood.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What pellets should I use with the Austin XL?
The Austin XL is fueled by wood pellets. You can use any pellets from any manufacturer in this grill. I’ve used Traeger, Pit Boss, Camp Chef, and more, and they all work just fine. We love using apple, hickory, classic blend, fruit blend and the competition blend when we fire up the pellet grill.
How do you assemble a pit boss Austin XL?
The Austin XL comes mostly pre-assembled except for the cart and a few handles. You’ll need another person to help you raise the pre-assembled grill onto the cart once assembled, but with just a screwdriver and the supplied parts, you’ll have it together in no time.
Does the Pit Boss Austin XL have WIFI?
The Pit Boss Austin XL does not have WIFI built into the grill. There are multiple options to monitor your grill wirelessly using third party wireless thermometers, but no way to control the temperature from a wireless device at this time.
What is the biggest Pit Boss Grill?
The Pit Boss Austin XL is the largest Pit Boss grill. There are also 2 other grills of similar size called the Pit Boss Pro Series at Lowes and the PB1000T2 at Tractor Supply which offer cooking surfaces in excess of 1,000 sq. in.
Can you grill on a pit boss smoker?
Yes, using the flame broiling slide plate grilling is possible on Pit Boss grills. Since pellet smokers are designed to cook indirectly, the diverter plate has a slide plate that can be moved to expose the flames directly to the cooking surface.
Are Louisiana Grills and Pit Boss the same?
Louisiana grills and Pit Boss are both owned by the parent company Dansons, but their grills are quite different. Louisiana Grills has much more elaborate grills and smokers when compared to Pit Boss, but there are definite similarities between the construction and materials between the two brands.
How do you smoke ribs on a Pit Boss?
To smoke ribs on a Pit Boss pellet grill, give the 3-2-1 method a try. Set the Pit Boss to 225 degrees and place the ribs directly on the cooking grate for 3 hours. After 3 hours of direct cooking, remove the ribs and wrap them in butcher paper or aluminum foil and place back on the grill for 2 additional hours. Once the ribs have reached an internal temperature of 200 degrees, remove from the grill and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
How does the Pit Boss perform in cold weather?
We live in Indiana where it can get nice and cold in the winter and we did use the Pit Boss Austin XL throughout the season last year. I found that my cooks took a bit longer than expected because the grill did struggle to maintain heat, particularly if it was windy. For future winter grilling on this smoker, I plan to take advantage of the insulated blanket to achieve more consistent cooks year round.
Some of the great accessories for this grill include:
The Verdict on the Pit Boss Austin XL
Pit Boss has done a great job managing value and features in the Austin XL pellet grill. For under $500, there’s 180lbs of grill here with a computer controlled pellet system that maintains temperature for you. It’s amazing to us that there’s a pellet grill this large at this price point when the competition costs almost double for the same size cooking chamber.
We like the Austin XL for its versatility and price point where many features are delivered when competitors seem to strip down their units at the same price. You could do much worse than an Austin XL as your primary pellet grill. There are pellet grills costing 3 times more with just about the same amount of features and cooking surface, so don’t overlook this low priced beauty when looking for your next pellet smoker.