Review: Why Traeger Grill is a Good Deal
Traeger grills have a long history in the pellet grill market, making Traeger one of the most well-known names in the industry. Traeger introduced the idea of using wood pellets in a grill in the 1980s, sparking a new way of grilling and smoking meat beyond the traditional charcoal or propane grill.
But just because Traeger was the first to introduce pellet grills for consumers doesn’t guarantee the brand still carries the best value and product quality today. Many manufacturers now offer the wood pellet method of grilling.
Traeger sells more than a dozen different grill designs, ranging in price from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. The more expensive grills are larger and a bit more versatile than the less costly grills from Traeger. Continue reading to learn whether Traeger grills are a good value for you!
HOW A TRAEGER PELLET GRILL WORKS
To start using the grill, pour wood pellets into a hopper (pellets are usually are made from compressed sawdust). Press the start button to ignite the pellets, which are fed into the fire box with an auger, where a controlled number of pellets are lit and burned (depending on the temperature setting selected). The auger adjusts the number of pellets entering the fire box to maintain the desired temperature.
The system circulates air through the fire box and into the grill area, allowing for evenly distributed heat. This precise control gives the wood pellet grill the ability to closely control temperature, performing like a wood-fired oven.
10 REASONS TO BUY A TRAEGER GRILL
- You want a set-it-and-forget-it option: Traeger grills work best when they’re allowed to cook and smoke the food over long periods of time. As long as the system has fresh wood pellets in the hopper to feed the fire box, it will be able to maintain a steady temperature. So you can set up the grill and then leave it for half an hour, a couple of hours, or even longer, something that’s difficult to do with other grilling systems.
- You are worried about flare-ups: When grilling fatty types of meat on a propane grill, you run the risk of having flare-ups, where the flame gets too high and too hot, burning the meat. You have to keep a close eye on the propane grill to guard against them. But with the Traeger grilling system, the even distribution of the heat and the indirect heating system prevent this problem.
- You want even grilling: One of the downsides of using a charcoal grill is ensuring that the entire grilling area is evenly heated. Spreading the charcoal evenly and avoiding hot spots is difficult. Traeger’s pellet grilling system overcomes this problem with a fan that evenly distributes the heat throughout the grilling area, much like a wood-fired oven would have.
- You like the idea of a smoky flavor without hassle: Because the wood pellets are made from sawdust from different types of wood, they provide the food with a different type of smoky flavor. Unlike other types of grilling systems, you don’t have to add wood chips to get a smoky flavor.
- You want to easily switch to different smoky flavors: Changing flavors in your Traeger grill is as easy as changing the pellets that you place in the hopper. Through its website, Traeger offers several different smoky flavors of hardwood pellet offerings, including hickory, mesquite, apple, maple, cherry, and oak. And Traeger’s website provides information on which types of hardwoods provide the best smoky flavor for certain types of foods, which can help you successfully use this grill immediately out of the box.
- You need some temperature control in your grilling system: Even though most propane and charcoal grills include a temperature gauge, they’re not precise. Because the pellet Traeger grill works more like an oven, cooking at a precise temperature setting is a lot easier to do. It’s not quite as precise as the oven in your kitchen, but the Traeger system’s temperature control is surprisingly accurate most of the time. Some manufacturers of low cost pellet grills only offer low, medium, or high temperature settings.
- You like the idea of cooking different types of foods on the grill: If you’re someone who wants to grill food other than meat, the Traeger grilling system gives you this option. With the precise temperature control of the Traeger, cooking things like fruit pies can be a successful endeavor, something you wouldn’t dare try with a propane-fired grill.
- You prefer the look of a gas grill to a smoker: Although the Traeger grill operates in a manner similar to a smoker, it has the look and feel of a gas grill. Some people prefer that type of design to a traditional smoker, which may have more of a barrel shape.
- You want longevity in a pellet grill: As the Traeger brand name has been around for a few decades, you can have some peace of mind that you’re purchasing a grill that should have replacement parts available for the foreseeable future. And Traeger grills tend to have good longevity ratings, working in top condition for several years, as long as you follow the manufacturer’s maintenance recommendations.
- You don’t want to spend a lot of time in clean up: The design of Traeger grills makes them easier to clean than some other pellet grill options, thanks to a grease collector and easy to clean parts. The hardwood pellets create a very small amount of ash, especially compared to a charcoal grill, further minimizing clean up time.
3 REASONS TO CONSIDER OTHER GRILL OPTIONS
- You prefer a direct heat method of grilling: The Traeger grill uses an indirect heating source, much like an oven, so you won’t be able to sear meat, as many people like to do when grilling a steak. The Traeger system is better for those people seeking more of a smoker type of cooking system, although you can sear your meat by using a frying pan with a little oil initially before you finish cooking it with the Traeger grill. You can use the frying pan on a stove top burner or on the surface of the Traeger grill.
- You don’t have electrical power near the grilling area: Traeger pellet grills require electrical power to operate, unlike a propane grill that runs from a propane tank and uses a small battery to generate the spark to light the propane. The electrical power runs the temperature control mechanism, the auger, and the circulating fan.
- You’re concerned with ongoing costs for fuel and power: The wood pellets used with Traeger grills are more expensive than propane or charcoal. You can expect to spend $1 to $3 per grilling session using wood pellets. Propane is far less expensive to operate in a grill, while charcoal fits somewhere in the middle of the cost range. And beware of cheap pellets from third-party manufacturers that contain softwoods like pine. They burn much faster than hardwoods, so the end cost won’t be that much different because you’ll use more of them. And they can introduce unwanted chemicals and contaminants to your food. You will also have some electrical power costs with these Traeger pellet grills.
WHO IS THIS GRILL GOOD FOR?
Consumer-level Traeger grills are considered a mid-range type of pellet grill, so they’re good for those wanting to try pellet grills for the first time. Traeger models like the Lil’ Tex Elite 22 or the Tailgater cost several hundred dollars and can grill about 12 to 16 burgers at a time. Larger Traeger grills will generally carry low four-figure prices, such as the Pro Series 34 or the Select Pro, which can hold 32 to 40 burgers between the upper and lower grilling racks.
All of these Traeger grills have a temperature control that’s precise to within about 15 degrees of the setting. They aren’t quite as precise as the more expensive Traeger models, such as the Traeger XL, which has a $2,000 price tag but provides exact temperature control, which may appeal to more demanding and experienced cooks.
OTHER BRANDS TO CONSIDER
Because most Traeger grills make use of an Ortech digital temperature controller that’s precise within about 15 degrees of your setting, they may not be precise enough for the type of cooking you want to perform. If so, some pellet grill manufacturers, such as MAK, Yader, and Memphis, can give you temperature control within about 5 degrees of the setting. These types of grills use multiple temperature probes inside the cooking area to guarantee the temperature remains consistent. And some of these high-end brands can reach a higher cooking temperature (such as 600 or 700 degrees Fahrenheit) versus the Traeger family of grills (usually around 450 or 500 degrees). Additionally, MAK, Memphis, and Yader grills are made in the United States, while some parts of Traeger grills are made in China.
Another option to consider is the Big Green Egg, which is a charcoal smoker that also provides some grilling capabilities and precise temperature control up to 750 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you’re in the market to buy a grill, yet you’ve only grilled with propane or charcoal in the past, wood pellet grills may have piqued your curiosity. These grills use a very different cooking method than the direct flame of propane, resulting in more even heating and more precise temperature control. A wood pellet grill is more like a smoker than an open flame grill, as it’s difficult to sear meat with a wood pellet grill. Purchasing and using a wood pellet grill is going to be more expensive than propane and charcoal grills.
But if you like the idea of a wood pellet grill, one of the oldest names in wood pellet grilling is Traeger, which developed some of the first units to use this technique three decades ago. Having that name recognition gives Traeger a leg up versus some of its competitors. And for the most part, Traeger’s grills live up to what consumers expect from this established brand, providing good design and longevity. They don’t typically match up with the higher end models currently on the market in terms of precise cooking temperatures, but Traeger is a nice mid-range product with several price points available.
Versus other hardwood pellet grills, Traeger represents a good value whether for a gift or for general use, although if you’re looking for a fully Made in America grill, you’ll want to consider other options. If you decide to go with Traeger, be certain you’ve thought about how much grilling area for food you’ll need and pick an adequate model, as the various Traeger grill price points depend heavily on available grilling area.