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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.
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Compared with charcoal and other wood-fired grills, pellet smokers are simpler and cleaner and easier, giving more control than traditional smokers. Wood pellets are dense, burn hot and smooth, and can be easily fed into the flame with an automatic auger, allowing for consistent temperature with minimal effort. Many modern smokers let you practically set it and forget it, thanks to their digital controllers. Pellet grills are also efficiently cheap, often using as little as 1lb of pellets an hour.
****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.
I purchased a Traeger Elite Grill from the website. I use the grill one time and it worked fine. A couple of weeks later we fired up the grill to cook some steaks. Approximately 10 minutes into cooking the auger stopped working. We had to finish our meal cooking it on the stove. I looked at the troubleshooting guide and the steps needed to be taken. To determine what was wrong you basically needed to dismantle the electric box and auger housing. I am not an electrician Nor a mechanic and feel this is excessive for a consumer to have to do.
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.
The “Smart Smoke” controller goes from 160-450F, with an internal sensor and electric auger maintaining that heat. The hopper holds a good 20lbs of pellet - enough for 10-20 hours of smoking. And it’s built from a sturdy stainless steel that feels solid and looks fantastic, with locking caster wheels keeping it secure while in use. It’s also backed up by a 3-year warranty.
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.
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.
The smoker does not hold temperature. I called the service dept and they sent a new controller card and it does not hold temp either. When I contacted the service dept they told me that the grills do not hold temp at the 225 degree setting. If you look at all the Traeger literature and cookbook and recipes all say to smoke at 225. As does every other smoking cookbook. So Traeger manufactures and sells a known defective product. DO NOT BUY TRAEGER.
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.
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.
"The Camp Chef transaction aligns with Vista Outdoor's strategy to deliver long-term value through acquiring complementary, market-leading brands that will benefit from Vista Outdoor's balance sheet, distribution network, and sales and marketing expertise," said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mark DeYoung. "Led by an entrepreneurial management team, Camp Chef has a nimble and responsive product development process. Camp Chef continues to grow its market share in the outdoor cooking category, and the brand serves many of our current consumers who are engaged in a wide variety of outdoor pursuits. Acquiring Camp Chef strengthens our leadership position in outdoor recreation, allows us to enter the growing camping and outdoor cooking market, and the brand's effective multi-product, multi-channel strategy increases our presence across both brick-and-mortar and ecommerce distribution platforms."
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.
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.
Versus other hardwood pellet grills, Traeger represents a good value whether for a gift or for general use, although if you’re looking for a fully Made in America grill, you’ll want to consider other options. If you decide to go with Traeger, be certain you’ve thought about how much grilling area for food you’ll need and pick an adequate model, as the various Traeger grill price points depend heavily on available grilling area.
I watched the Traeger infomercial on T.V. Seemed easy enough. Ha! QVC ran a similar infomercial on their channel, seemed really easy. Ha! Like a fool and his money are soon departed, I jumped in and bought one. When it came in the mail, I started to assemble it. What a joke! No instructions came with it to tell me where the nuts and screws went. Called the manufacturer. The lady said they had many complaints with the QVC orders, she would email me a copy of the instructions. Well I finally put it together. Performed the (curing and start up method). Bought a nice pork shoulder and started grilling. It is interesting that both infomercials say set the temp and WALK AWAY!!! What a joke, I sat and watched the grill like a hawk for 3 hours, everything was good. I figured I would go eat lunch, ha! What a mistake. When I came back (20 min.) the grill had turned itself off and had an error on the screen.
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Although these are marketed as grills, they do much more, including baking or roasting. Because they heat by convection, you might not get the grill marks that a gas or charcoal grill will give you, but you also won’t have the flame-up problems. While many pellet grills offer high cooking temperatures, the maximum depends on ambient temperature and wind. Many users wrap their grills in special insulating covers to help maintain heat, reduce fuel use, and reach the higher temperatures they desire.