Bought Junior Elite 20 pellet grill at Costco special sales event. Took it home and it simply wouldn't get up to temperature to ignite the pellets. Auger made extremely loud noises and then simply refused to operate. Packed it back up and returned to Costco with no problem. They had no inventory so I called Traeger. Woman on phone was very pleasant and helpful. Asked if I could get Traeger to simply replace the grill at the same price I purchased it for. Her supervisor said no and if I wanted it for that price I would have to drive to another state and purchase it at one of their event presentations. Made no sense to me why they would sell it to someone else for the "event" price but not to me who had already done. Poor customer support and silly supervisor. I will look elsewhere.
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Despite often being called “pellet grills,” they still cook via indirect heat, as opposed to flame, and are better seen as a smoker. They’re excellent for smoking briskets, chicken and turkey, salmon and other fish, but maybe not for steaks, as you won’t be able to get the same crispy, browned sear they call for, and that you can get with an open-flame grill.
Bought the Costco trade show model after about 4 years of debating the purchase... OK, first one broke on day one as "auger" stopped spinning. Returned and received a new unit. 2nd one smoked a turkey for 4.5 hours. After 4 hours temp. dropped to 100 degrees and it was set to 350. When I opened the smoker to check on why this happened, it exploded into a ball of flames! There was fire shooting out from all sides of the grill and smoke and heat coming from the feeder side of the grill... This was SCARY and could have absolutely caused a major fire, and/or injury!!!
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.
I purchased a Traeger 34 inch smoker a month ago and it has never worked correctly. I called customer service several times and the bottom line is that if I want to have it serviced, I have to load it into my car and drive it to Long Beach. There isn't a service dealer in the entire City of Los Angeles! Going to return it to Home Depot. Buy any smoker other than a Traeger.
Each of the alternatives to the Traeger Pro we’ve reviewed above is an excellent choice for an affordable pellet smoker. We think the Z Grills Master 700D is worth every penny and competes with the Traeger for even less money. We highly recommend you check it out. It has an even larger grill area, a larger hopper, burns just as consistently, and produces some perfectly smoked and grilled meats.
****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.
Pellet grills preheat quickly, so you can start cooking almost immediately, and the pellets are available in a number of woods, for different smoke flavors. The smoke has a subtle wood-fired flavor with less of the acrid flavor that comes from standard wood or charcoal. For the maximum smoke flavor, it’s best to cook at a temperature lower than 250 degrees, while higher temperatures cook faster with less smoke.