Oklahoma Joe’s might be best known for producing offset smokers which they’ve been doing since Joe Davidson sold twelve smokers at the 1987 Oklahoma State Fair.
I owned one of the first-generation Rider grills, and besides a few minor issues, I thought it was a great pit.
I’ve spent the last couple of weeks cooking on the second generation Rider DLX 1200. In this review I’ll run through what’s new, plus my overall experience cooking on this pit.
Oklahoma Joe’s supplied this grill for free in return for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Oklahoma Joe’s Rider DLX 1200 overview and first impressions
The Rider DLX 1200 looks like an Oklahoma Joe’s pit. It’s all black, and the traditional wagon-style wheels have been upgraded. They are rubber-coated and are paired with casters.
It smokes well as a pellet grill should, but what really sets it apart is its ability to do a fantastic sear. Very unusual for a pellet grill!
Oklahoma Joe’s made searing a priority for this pit. Pellet grill manufacturers have tried to make their grills sear in different ways, but Oklahoma Joe’s is one of the best sear zones I’ve seen.
It comes with plenty of cooking space to handle whatever you need. It features a primary cooking area of 578 square inches and a secondary cooking space of 656 square inches for a total of 1,234 square inches.
There’s the smaller Rider 900 which is a bit cheaper if you don’t need as much space.
The Rider DLX also has a side table for you to put dishes and food on as well.
Here’s a full rundown of the specs of the Rider DLX 1200:
|1,234 sq in (578 primary and 656 top racks)
|Pellet hopper capacity
|200°F to 650°F
|Shelves and storage
|One side shelf and solid bottom shelf on cart
|Two meat probes
|Check Latest Price
One of the notable upgrades is that the Rider DLX 1200 comes with a PID controller that is adjustable in increments of 25 degrees. You can see on the display the system read and react both with the fan and the auger.
What really sets this PID controller apart is the Pit Control 2.0 system that uses two temperature sensors in the cooking chamber. The display will show two different temperatures corresponding to each sensor.
Why does it use two sensors? The fire focus allows you to view the whole cooking chamber for smoking or right by the sear zone when you want to sear burgers or steaks. This sear zone is one of the best sear zones on the market today, but more on that later.
The controller has the option to connect up to four probes. Oklahoma Joe’s gives you two probes that can be stored right under the controller in the tool tray area.
If you had one of the original DLX pits or read about it, you know they had a reputation for auger jams.
Oklahoma Joe’s made a panel on the side of the hopper that allows you to enter into that auger area. The heat baffles are also removable to help deal with auger issues near the fire pot.
What I liked:
- Grill and smoke – The sear plate is one of the best I’ve seen on a pellet grill and doesn’t cost anything extra to add
- Great smoke flavor – Unlike some pellet grills, the Rider does not struggle to impart any smoke flavor
- Improves on the first generation – Several small improvements over the Gen 1 Rider.
What I didn’t like:
- No WiFi – I wouldn’t use it often, but there are times that it would be nice to be able to check internal temps from the couch
- Need to dump pellets after every cook – Easy to do, but makes the startup take a bit longer
- Lid leaks smoke – Common at this price point, but it would be good to see a better seal
While no WiFi is a bit unusual on a grill at this price point, the addition of the searing zone make this a compelling grill if you want one grill that can do it all.
The Rider DLX 1200 is a beast of a pit, weighing in around 256 pounds. You wouldn’t know it by how easy it is to move it, though. If you’re on a little bit of an incline, you’re going to want to make sure that you’re locking the front casters because of how easy this pit moves.
Assembly is pretty simple, too. Just beware that you’re going to want at least one other person because of the sheer weight of this pit.
The cooking grates are all porcelain-coated cast iron, giving you superior heat retention and making them easy to clean.
Easy to clean and maintain
Oklahoma Joe’s designed the Rider DLX 1200 to be easy to clean with dual grease buckets under the main body and an ash cup that you can remove to help get rid of the ash.
You’re still going to want to clean out the inside of the chamber every two to three cooks, depending on what you’re doing.
It comes with a 20lb pellet hopper, which is plenty big enough for an overnight cook. It’s also easy to empty out. It makes the required cleanout during the shutdown stage easier as well as switching to a different flavor of pellets.
Oklahoma Joe’s has a pellet bucket kit that you can purchase separately. It’s a convenient tool to store your pellets and makes it super easy to drain them as they slide perfectly under the hopper.
The one drawback I’ve seen with the build is that the lid likes to leak a lot of smoke. I could see them adding a gasket to the lid in the future.
Cooking on the Rider DLX Gen 2
I’ve smoked chicken and ribs and did a reverse-sear on a tri-tip, and this pit handles it all like a champ. Some pellet grills might not deliver a very smoky flavor, but this pit isn’t lacking in smoke flavor.
What really sets the Rider DLX 1200 apart from other pellet grills is the sear zone I mentioned earlier.
In the middle of the primary cooking space is the sear zone where you can remove the heat baffles to expose the fire pot. There you can get temperatures of 650°F to get a beautiful crust on steak or that tri-tip.
When you want to sear, just switch the controller’s fire focus to the temp probe right at the back of the sear zone. That will give you the best reading for your searing temperatures.
Just like I did with the St Louis ribs I smoked, make sure you rotate your protein if you’re cooking more than one thing at a time.
When I tested the temperatures, this pit does run a little hotter than what you set it at. It’s not an astronomical difference, but it does run a bit hotter than what I’ve set the controller at.
As I’ve always said, learn your pit and cook the way it performs.
Alternative grills to consider
The pricing is a bit odd on the Rider DLX 1200.
It lacks high-end technology like Wi-Fi connectivity of similar-priced pellet grills. The Traeger Pro 780 is quite a bit cheaper and includes a great App and Wifi.
However, it stands above a number of lower-priced grills due to the sear zone, the ash cleanout system, and the dual-probe temperature monitoring.
If you’re a price-conscious pitmaster and aren’t concerned about the high-end features, the Z Grills 700D4E could be a good alternative. It doesn’t have Wi-Fi, but it’s our pick for the best budget pellet smoker.
For a grill that gives you a lot of the same features plus WiFi at a similar price point, you should consider the Camp Chef Woodwind. You get an OK slide and sear type system, plus the option to add upgrade your searing with the SideKick attachment.
I think the Rider DLX 1200 pit is a great pellet grill. It smokes well, and the sear zone is one of the best I’ve seen on a pellet grill.
I do wish this pit was Wi-Fi-capable even if I wouldn’t use it that much. Living in Minnesota, there are times I wish I could just check and see the internal temperatures without being right there.
The biggest negative is that you’ve got to dump the pellets from the hopper after every single cook. No, it’s not because the shutdown process takes half an hour. It’s that it makes the startup process take longer because the auger doesn’t have any pellets in it.
All in all, I’ve enjoyed cooking on this pit and would recommend it.