The original Traeger Grill was invented 30 years ago and was every bit as impressive then as it is now. Although it developed a cult following, the early Traeger never grew beyond a niche product. In the past two years, however, Traeger has stepped up its game, redesigning and upgrading its grills while doing everything it can to build a buzz around its amazing do-everything cookers.
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Purchased my grill last fall at Costco, overall it works OK, some meats like Lamb Chops are just delicious. However, customer service seems to be deteriorating as the company is having success. My kids recently purchased me an add on to my Pro 34, a cold smoker. Traeger sells this but does not support it. The installation instructions are incomplete, I was sent parts that do not go with the unit, then customer service couldn't figure it out, this went on for weeks. After getting it installed, I asked for some instructions or recipes on how to use it, there are none. The old cover does not fit now, and Traeger does not sell one to go with a unit with a cold smoker, or plan on doing so. After a web search, I found one at Charbroil that kinda fits. Also, I just saw the same model at Orchard Supply, it now comes with more shelves and upgrades which I now have to buy as extras.
Access to electricity has its downfalls. First, if the cord isn’t long enough you will need to make sure you have a proper extension cord. Using the wrong cord is a fire hazard. Do the math (watts / volts = amps) and make sure you have the right extension cord. The smoker is also less mobile, and if it's stored outside it absolutely must have a cover. Electrical components and weather don’t mix.
We purchased our wood pellet grill (Model TFB57CLB) from Costco in August 2017. It came with one bag of the gourmet blend pellets. We used the Traeger cookbook to try a few different recipes in the fall. Most of these involve a period of smoking followed by a period of grilling. The grill seemed to work fine at first. We used it a couple of times on warmer days in the winter and it had some trouble getting up to the desired heat level. We started using it regularly again in April 2018. I was careful to clean it and check the pellets etc. The smoking feature seemed to work alright, but when I would turn the heat up for grilling, the grill would usually struggle to get much over 225. I would resort to turning it up to 375 or more just to get it to 225 and then often it would sink back down to 180 or 160. I went to the troubleshooting guide on the manufacturer's website and checked all the components, which seemed to be working fine.
The SG and ZG are not exactly the same though. Just from the pictures I can see that the bases are different. The SG has L-shaped legs and a bottom shelf while the ZG has square legs that are larger than the DLX legs but no bottom shelf. There were also different specs for many features. I took a picture of the ZG spec sheet at the store and compared it to the SG specs on the website and there are slight differences in capacities. For example ZG 3778 cubic inch - SG 4859, grilling area ZG 776- SG 811, hopper volume ZG 18 lbs - SG 22, ...
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Depending on your budget and grilling needs, there are a variety of Traeger options ,including the Renegade. With the Traeger Pro Series 22 you get a bigger Traeger with more advanced features at about the same price, while the Junior Elite, Tailgater, and Bronson also offer an incredible value. Or, if you prefer a pre-set package deal, the Outlaw Package comes with upgraded accessories and and costs less than the Renegade.
In 2010, I sprung for a discounted Rainer with $80 in tip money and a pro deal through the whitewater rafting company I worked for. It was an expensive purchase for me at a time when my monthly food budget was around $60. But hey, along with a Roll-a-Table, two chairs I “borrowed” from the rafting company, and my cooler, I had almost a full kitchen that I could deploy from the back of my truck. And the Rainier quickly proved a wise investment.
But even with their indirect heat, wood pellets do something gas can’t; they give your meat that natural, smoky flavor you expect from wood. They don’t create as much smoke as wood or charcoal, so the flavor is not as intense, you swap that intensity for convenient cooking. The smoke they do create is clean and easy to control. And the hotter you burn pellets, the cleaner they burn, letting you crank up the heat when you don’t need smoke.
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.
The Rainier is also hearty as hell. It survived banging around in the bed of my truck for four years. And I didn’t exactly baby it, cramming it into the limited storage space in my truck with paddles, helmets, and all manner of gear. But I never worried that it wouldn’t fire up to cook another meal. Once, one of the stubby rubber legs popped off as I was pulling the Rainier out of my truck. The stove sat crooked for a weekend, but I eventually found the leg and simply screwed it back on.
The wood pellet grill features a dual rack design with a 513 square inch main cooking surface and 187 square inch warming rack. With a 20-pound hopper capacity, the grill has plenty of space for wood pellets to keep grilling during long event and parties when you have many mouths to feed. An automatic pellet feeder makes it easy to maintain the desired temperature, so you can focus on just the grilling itself.