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 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.
I don’t know how many meals I cooked on that thing, but it’s been enough to make me a hero and de facto camp chef among my friends. I seared up a tri tip large enough to feed four hungry kayaking buddies at the Salmon River Festival one year, then covered it with foil and cooked it on indirect heat for one of the best steaks of my life, which we happily consumed in the middle of nowhere. The grill also perfectly charred onions and peppers to deliver a mountain of chicken and beef fajitas to a crowd of ten. I still get compliments on that one.
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****Update 12/2014: So I finally found something negative to report. Today I was cooking 2 pork butts and a brisket and discovered that this grill does not do well with wind on a brisk day (It was 45 degrees here today). When set at 250 degree, the smoker could barely make it up to 190 degrees. I was able to bypass the problem by throwing a cheap moving blanket over the grill (an $8 fix) but I think it's worth noting.
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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.