MY YODER STORY: Yoder Smokers pellet grills motivate a father
and his two sons to perfect the art of BBQ, win first competition

A pair of Yoder Smokers pellet grills stoked an already-burning fire for a father and his two sons; the pursuit for the perfect BBQ soon followed and brought an entire family together.

It all started when Aaron Daniels brought home his Yoder Smokers YS640 pellet grill in late 2017. His father, Dan, a long-time barbecue enthusiast accustomed to an offset stick burner, had been researching pellet grills and was immediately impressed.

“Right out of the gate, the quality of the build is excellent,” Dan said. “With how heavy that thing is, it’s going to hold its heat. Just online reading about it and looking at photos and YouTube videos, the quality is impressive. It’s a freakin’ big ol’ bombshell. I knew it was something that was going to last forever.”

It wasn’t long before Dan decided on a YS640 for himself.


Now with two Yoder Smokers pellet grills in the family, Aaron and Dan were inspired to up their BBQ game to competition level.

Aaron’s brother, Evan, joined in and the father and sons got to work on their craft, spending a good part of their evenings and weekends perfecting techniques.

Most Sundays, Dan and his wife, Lisa, would host a barbecue in the backyard of their Tenino, WA, home. Friends and family became impromptu BBQ judges as the three men worked the two pits.


And then it got serious.

Evan’s longtime girlfriend, Tiffany, heard about an upcoming local competition and thought it might be time to turn things up a notch.

“They have done so well with mastering timing and everything on the Yoder,” Tiffany said. “It’s insane how good the food is.”

The father and sons registered in March as “The Three Pellets” for July’s Nisqually Valley BBQ Rally in Yelm, Washington, leaving four months to prepare. They decided to hold a practice competition not unlike so many of those Sunday afternoons, but this time pitting Dan, Aaron and Evan against each other.

“Next thing you know, 50 people are in my backyard and there’s a big bonfire and three smokers going,” Dan said. “But it was a total blast.”

The contest was structured just like the real thing, with Dan, Aaron and Evan turning in competition-style boxes conforming to standard entry guidelines. Retired and with decades of experience grilling and smoking, Dan might have had the advantage and took the gold.


The day of the competition finally came, and Three Pellets didn’t know what to expect. Dan, Aaron and Evan were so focused on prep work, they hardly slept the night before.

“When you’ve never done it, you have nothing to go off,” Aaron said. “Me personally I was like, ‘Man as long as we don’t get last, then we did pretty dang good.’ ”

Aaron’s son, Logan, enjoys a rib during the competition in May.

Evan was skeptical their turn-ins would even compare to those more-experienced competitors and their boxes. Dan felt the same, but would ultimately be happy with any outcome.

“No matter what, I’m the winner,” Dan said. “I don’t care if I get last place. I’m here with my two boys just having a blast. It’s fun, and it’s a family thing.”

But intimidation set in as Three Pellets arrived at the contest pulling a motorcycle trailer carrying Aaron’s and Dan’s YS640’s. The contest was stacked with 10 other experienced competitors, and some teams were cooking on smokers that cost upwards of $12,000.

Even with more expensive smokers on the grounds, the Yoder Smokers pits stood out.

“Throughout the event, we had a lot of people come over to check them out,” said Dan. “They said they always see them online, but hadn’t seen one in person. One guy wanted to look over the entire rig.”


A host of family, including Tiffany’s parents and grandparents, attended the competition to support the Three Pellets and their dual Yoder Smokers pellet grills throughout the day.

Once the turn-ins were complete, the time had come. As the results were announced, family and friends erupted in cheers and excitement. The competition trophies were awarded and Three Pellets learned they’d earned 1st place for their chicken and ribs, as well as 3rd place for brisket.

Dan said he already knew the Yoder Smokers pits produced the best BBQ, but he was surprised they were able to beat competitors who spend every weekend participating in competitions.

“Words could not describe how proud the family was of them,” Tiffany said. “They worked so hard and did not sleep the whole night before. All the boys kept saying was how much fun they had and how they got to do it with their dad.”

The Three Pellets plan to continue competing in contests and in their own backyards, and soon they’ll be adding another Yoder Smokers pit to their team as Evan prepares to purchase his own Yoder Smokers pit.

As for the rest of the family, they’re looking forward to more perfectly-cooked BBQ.

“I truly believe your smokers are by far the best out there,” said Tiffany, “and this family couldn’t be more pleased with how these amazing smokers make such delicious food.”

Firecracker Chicken Wings with a Bourbon Glaze


From Chef Tom Jackson / All Things Barbecue


Spark up your Yoder Smokers pit and add some heat and sweet to grilled chicken wings.


5 lb chicken wings For the Firecracker Seasoning:

  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp cayenne
For the Bourbon BBQ Sauce:
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp bourbon
  • 2 tbsp hot sauce
  • 1 tbsp yellow mustard
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne powder
  1. To make the Bourbon BBQ Sauce, combine all ingredients in a sauce pan. Bring to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool to room temperature.
  2. Setup your grill for direct high heat (450ºF) grilling.
  3. Combine all ingredients for the Firecracker Seasoning. Cover the wings in the seasoning.
  4. Grill the wings until nicely charred. Move to an indirect cooking zone, if necessary. Remove from the grill when the internal temperature reaches 170ºF.
  5. Transfer the wings to a mixing bowl. Add desired amount of Bourbon BBQ Sauce to the bowl. Toss to coat the wings. Serve hot.

Roasted Habanero and Pineapple Reduction

By Kevin Lavin / YS640s owner

It’s sweet, spicy and oh so good. Lather this on grilled fish or chicken to add a layer of sweet heat that your guests won’t forget.


4 Habanero peppers coarsely chopped
2 cups chopped pineapple
1 handful cilantro
Juice from 1 lime
1 cup orange juice
½ teaspoon salt


Toss peppers, pineapple and cilantro in a food processor with a light pulse to keep it chunky, then throw everything into a pot, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the mixture is reduced and thickened. Chill in a bottle overnight before using.

Santa Maria Dry Rub

By Jeremy Bishop

Grilled tri-tip seasoned with a simple rub of salt, pepper and garlic is the cornerstone of Santa Maria Style Barbecue, developed in the mid-19th century in Santa Barbara County. While the base of the traditional Santa Maria Rub is simply salt, pepper and garlic, many people experiment with other ingredients to create their own version of the rub. Jeremy Bishop, who lives in Riverside, CA., shares his favorite recipe for Santa Maria Rub, which he uses on trip-tip but can add another layer of flavor to any cut of beef.

Santa Maria Dry Rub- (1/2 cup)

2 tps chili powder

1/2 tps cayenne pepper

1 tbsp cumin, McCormick

1 tbsp dark brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp granulated sugar

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1 tbsp salt

2 tsps black pepper, ground


Jeremy applies the Santa Maria rub to tri-tip and refrigerates it overnight. He then reverse sears the trip-tip, smoking it on his Yoder Smokers YS640 at 250° for about an hour until the internal temperature is 120° and searing at 600° for a few minutes on either side.

Cajun Brine Solution for Turkey


By Will Turner

Brining infuses meat with flavor while tenderizing it so when cooked, it’s juicy, tender and delicious. Check out Will Turner’s recipe for a Cajun brine solution and his technique for brining a 20-pound turkey overnight.


6 quarts Water

2 cups Sugar

1 cup Salt

½ cup Cajun Seasoning (Any Brand Works)

6 cloves of Garlic

2 stalks Celery

1 Onion

4 Bay leaves

1 Tablespoon Whole Black Peppercorns

1 bundle of Fresh Poultry herbs (Rosemary, Thyme & Sage)

Juice of 2 lemons


Combine 2 quarts of water with the sugar, salt, and Cajun seasoning in a pot and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the remaining ingredients, including 4 quarts of water. Allow the brine to cool for about an hour before pouring over the turkey in a brining bag and refrigerate overnight.