When Yoder Smokers introduced the Wood-Fired Oven (WFO) attachment for the YS480 and YS640 pellet grills, our team at ATBBQ quickly realized that the WFO exceeded all expectations.
We’ve accumulated about 1,000 hours of cooking time on the WFO and our experiences led us to discover new ways to set up and extend the capabilities of our grill. One of those ways is to set it up for multi-zone cooking, which lets you do several different types of cooking simultaneously.
Let’s get into it.
What is Multi-Zone Cooking?
Multi-zone cooking is setting up a grill with more than one temperature zone at the same time. This allows you to use multiple cooking techniques or prepare foods requiring different temperatures at the same time. On Yoder Smokers pellet grills, this could be the combination of indirect heating of the upper shelf while at the same time cooking directly over the flame over the firebox. To learn more about indirect and direct setups, check out our article on Three Grill Setups for Quick & Delicious Weeknight Meals
Understanding the Temperature Zones Around the Yoder Smokers Wood-Fired Oven
As soon as the Wood-Fired Oven for Yoder pellet grills was released, we were excited to learn what this oven was capable of. We quickly realized that not only can the inside of the oven be used for more than just pizza, thanks to the temperature control afforded by the ACS system, you can also utilize multiple cooking zones outside of the oven.
If you’ve watched our recipe videos using the Yoder Smokers Wood-Fired Oven, you have seen Chef Tom use the inside of the oven to make better than restaurant quality pizzas, fajitas, lasagna, and desserts. In the videos you’ve also seen him use the top of the oven as a side burner to brown meat, roast potatoes, finish sauces and more.
In addition to the extra cooking zone on top of the oven, if you are using the YS640 you also get an additional indirect cooking area to the right. We often use this space to cook indirectly and warm other foods.
To learn more about how this works, we set up a Wood-Fired Oven inside of our YS640 and set our grill temperature to 450°.
We then monitored the stone inside the oven, the heat on top of the oven, and the heat on the grate to the right of the oven. We also set space to the right of the wood-fired oven in two different ways. We ran the grill at 450° for one hour with the standard bar grates that come with the grill and then one hour at 450° with a set of two GrillGrates searing grate panels. For this test, our Variable Displacement Damper was pushed all the way in.
What we found:
After a one-hour warmup, the center of our stone inside the oven was over 600°. The center of the top of the oven was over 500° and the area to the right was 460° with the standard bar grate. When we installed the GrillGrates brand grates, the temperature to the right went down to 410°. We speculate this was due to airflow, but you can rest assured we will test that further later.
What does this mean?
Any time we are cooking with the Wood-Fired Oven, we have the option to place a pan on top of the oven for heating sauces or other meal prep. We also have an area directly to the right side that is warm enough to cook or warm indirectly at the same time.
These zones are affected by the grill’s main setpoint. If you set your grill to 325°, all three temperature zones (inside the oven, on top of the oven and to the right of the oven) will be affected by that temperature. If you set the grill temperature higher, all three zones will be hotter. Use your best judgement to determine the right temperature for your needs.
When we use the right side of the grill as a warming zone, we use a lower setpoint and steam proteins or sides in a cast iron pan with a wet towel. This keeps them warm much like a warming table in a restaurant would. When we use the space for indirect grilling, we set the proteins or sides directly on the grate.
Recently, we prepared Chef Tom’s One Pan Chicken Fajitas recipe and added a twist. We placed a 15” Lodge Carbon Steel Seasoned Skillet on top of the grill and made homemade tortillas on top of the Wood-Fired Oven. We also used the side area of the grill to keep the tortillas warm as we cooked them. If you haven’t made homemade tortillas, we highly recommend trying them. They are easy to make, and they add a huge difference in the flavor quality of the entire meal. If you don’t want to make your own tortillas, you can always use the extra area on top of the oven to warm your pre-made tortillas as well.
ProTip: You can see in the photo that we placed the tortilla press on the left side of the oven to keep it hot. A hot press keeps your tortillas from sticking while pressing them out.
Using multi-zone cooking is a great way to cook entire meals on your Yoder pellet grill. Instead of heating up that sauce or side on the stove and running back and forth between kitchen and grill, place it on top of your WFO and do all your cooking on your Yoder. Making cooking fun … as it should be!