In 2010, I sprung for a discounted Rainer with $80 in tip money and a pro deal through the whitewater rafting company I worked for. It was an expensive purchase for me at a time when my monthly food budget was around $60. But hey, along with a Roll-a-Table, two chairs I “borrowed” from the rafting company, and my cooler, I had almost a full kitchen that I could deploy from the back of my truck. And the Rainier quickly proved a wise investment.
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.
Because most Traeger grills make use of an Ortech digital temperature controller that’s precise within about 15 degrees of your setting, they may not be precise enough for the type of cooking you want to perform. If so, some pellet grill manufacturers, such as MAK, Yader, and Memphis, can give you temperature control within about 5 degrees of the setting. These types of grills use multiple temperature probes inside the cooking area to guarantee the temperature remains consistent. And some of these high-end brands can reach a higher cooking temperature (such as 600 or 700 degrees Fahrenheit) versus the Traeger family of grills (usually around 450 or 500 degrees). Additionally, MAK, Memphis, and Yader grills are made in the United States, while some parts of Traeger grills are made in China.
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.
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There is a bit of a learning curve when cooking with pellet grills. This unit can smoke, grill or bake similar to an oven. The Traeger smokes at 180*, but can cook up to 450*. It is indirect heat, so you can grill a ribeye without flare ups. My unit holds temps within 5+/- of the setting. Yes, you do have to clean it like a fireplace, it doesn't run on gas. The build quality is amazing, especially for a PRC manufacture. If you are interested in a pellet grill, buy a pellet cookbook. Something that gives smoke and cook times for an easier introduction into pellet cooking. The only knock against the unit is that for $800 it should have came with the "optional" folding shelf...
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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.