While there's not a lot to dislike about pellet smokers, it really comes down to your cooking/grilling style. Some Smoking Geeks prefer pellet smokers to traditional smokers (or even the Green Egg style smokers) testifying that flavor is superior to that of other styles of smokers within the price range – and it's hard to argue with them. While Traeger is the pioneer, there are other brands that give it a run for its money.
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Editor-in-Chief Sean McCoy is a life-long outdoorsman who grew up hunting and fishing central Wisconsin forests and lakes. He joined GearJunkie after a 10-year stint as a newspaperman in the Caribbean, where he learned sailing and wooden-boat repair. Based in GearJunkie's Denver office, McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.
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.
Traeger Pro Series 34 - Nowhere in the advertisements nor the website nor the owner's manual does it let the customer know that in order to prevent stall out's while cooking at low temperatures (250) that the hopper must be stirred every hour and a half or so to prevent gaps in the feed of the pellets. We lost a very nice cut of meat to this after having to get up in the middle of the night to check on the cooking at a temperature of 250 degrees (which had stalled again, leaving the grill and the meat cold). This is the second time using the grill.
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.
I think a lot of reviewers here don't have enough experience in pellet grilling to recognize how many features are packed into this unit for the money. I'm not going to talk about the usual advantages of pellet grilling in general in this review (i.e., clean flavor, "set and forget", less ash,). Instead, I'm going to focus on what makes this one uniquely better than the other grills in it's class.
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 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.
160ºF up to 500ºF temperature range for slow smoking to grill (25,000 BTU). Stainless Steel meat probe measures internal food temperature. Simple Ash Cleanout System (patented).Smart Smoke Technology. Stainless Steel fire box. Digital controller automatically maintains cooking temperature. Grease Management System. Blue LED digital temperature display..Bottom utility rack. Large, heavy wire grilling area dimensions: 19.5" x 22". Included warming rack provides (570 sq. in. total cooking surface).
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.
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.
Although our testers thought this grill was a bit heavy, they loved its small footprint and still found it to be very portable: “It’s a great size and convenient to bring in an RV or SUV for tailgating and grilling on the go,” reported one reviewer. Our testers were also pleased with how easily you could control the grill’s heat from its corresponding smartphone app. The only real downside? The instructions were a little unclear, according to one of our reviewers.