Our reviewers spent 12 hours testing a top-selling, budget-friendly pellet grill. To get the most comprehensive feedback possible, we had our testers take this grill for a spin and had them consider its most important features — from how much it can cook at a time to how easy it is to travel with. We've outlined the key pointers here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.
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.
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.
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.
Minor problems (Product): 1. Main grill rack does not fit snugly, leaving the rack to half almost a half an inch in all directions to move. (not so much a problem when cooking but it does move) 2. Wind is a major factor making it difficult for this to get up to heat and stay there. 3. It rarely comes to the temperature I set it for, and usually is about 10-15 degrees below, with trying all of the different possible adjustment settings.
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.
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.
Built from substantial stainless steel, the SmokePro looks bombproof and weighs a hefty 140 lbs – so it’s not portable like the Z Grills or Traeger Junior Elite. It has a stainless-steel probe to directly monitor meat, and a sensor for the grill’s internal temperature. Both read out on the LED display next to the digital controller, which goes from 160F to 500F in 25-degree increments.
Portability Even if you never take your pellet grill on a road trip, you might want to move it from one side of the yard to the other when you’re having a party, or move it out of the way when you’re not using it. While some pellet grills are light enough to pick up and carry, wheels make the job easier. Of course, if you have a permanent spot for your grill, portability is less of a consideration.