Thanks Kevin. I am about to buy both a 5 burner gas grill and a smoker for a new bbq island. Rather than buy both, will one of these higher end pellet grills take the place of a traditional propane grill? I can apply the funds for the gas grill to a higher end pellet if it can really do double duty. It has to be able to cook burgers and dogs and steaks etc. Just like a gas grill though. Thoughts?
Kevin- super helpful article. Thanks! I just moved from a big city small apartment with no grill to a house in the country. Most essential purchase is the grill. I’m really on the fence. I like the idea of a pellet grill, but in reality- I’m mostly cooking burgers, fish, steaks, scallops, and veggies. The brisket and ribs will be more of a special occasion. From an economical perspective, am I better buying a gas grill and just getting one of those smoke tubes to add some flavor? From many of the online comments, it seems like the pellet grills benefit from additional smoke anyway, and though you can get additional grates for searing, seems like a square peg in a round hole. The gas grill is sort of the tried and true, and way more economical. Those $500 entry level pellet grills seem a little scrawny, and the next level up is a cool $grand. I’m really on the fence, and getting pressure to “just buy the darn thing” to consummate the move to the country! However the pellet grills seem like the new shiny object and have my curiosity. Any advice? PS- love the website! Thanks, Cary
The cooking process is made a lot more convenient with this smoker. To start cooking, all you need to do is flip the Traeger on/off switch, and you’re good to go. Then, you can simply set your desired temperature through the digital controls. Enjoy your time and relax while you leave the unit to do everything else. With its efficient temperature control system and automated auger with an induction fan, heat remains constant throughout the cooking process. You’ll have evenly-cooked foods that have that mouth-watering smoky flavor in no time.

It’s built pretty solidly, which is what you want with a portable system as it’s obviously being moved around a lot more. I’d say it’s similar in build quality to the Traeger Junior Elite, which as a top of the line smoker says all that needs to be said. If something does go wrong, there’s a two year warranty. I’d have liked more, but it’s there, and that’s good enough.


It’s also worth double checking the precision of the controls. Less expensive smokers sometimes have cheap control panels that only allow you to set the temperature to a few discrete settings, for example just low and high. This is, generally speaking, awful, and leads to improperly cooked meat and a whole host of other issues. Avoid it if you can.
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It’s got built in manual controls, but there’s also the option to download an app to your phone so you can control your smoker through your wifi! Honestly, this really impressed me, and I don’t know why other manufacturers aren’t all over this. Apparently there’s a cloud based app coming out soon so you can control your grill anywhere you can get internet, so you could be sitting at your kids football game whilst checking the status of your post-victory feast! The controls are also fully programmable, so you could for example set it to smoke for 5 hours and then cook for 2, finishing just as you pull up onto your drive.
I bought this grill in May 2018. Had to return it to Ace 9 days later because it wouldn’t keep temp or would go out and fill up with pellets. I had to have the GM of Ace fight for me to get a new grill from Traeger. Once I did the new one seemed to work for about a month. Since then this one does the same thing as far as heat and pellets. I thought this thing was supposed to be a set and forget grill. If I don’t watch the heat it will be 200+ degrees over the set heat or sometimes be at ambient temperature and I have to pull me meat, grill and grease tray out so I can empty the heat pot of all the Unburned pellets. This thing is nothing but trouble. Does it cook great meat? Yes! When it works and you babysit it the whole time. On top of that customer service is about as useless as ** on a boar! They will try and tell you it’s something you’ve done wrong. I will be buying another brand smoker and giving this one to someone who like to deal with troubles.
To sear a steak you need direct radiant heat. I don't care if you can heat the air to 1000°F, it is still indirect heat and that does not deliver as much energy as direct radiant heat. It's physics, but not hard to understand. In short, heat is not the same as temperature. It feels hotter at 80°F if the sun is shining on you than if it is 80°F in the shade. I discuss the concept in more detail in my article on thermodynamics of cooking. 

The old camp chef is heading to a new home. We have been thru thick and thin, rain, or snow, on two ocations high wind blew it off the patio. A few dents bad scratches but it still works like a top. My son is driving in form North Carolina to take it off my hands this weekend it has been replaced by a yoder ys-640. The yoder is bigger and heavier with more btu output if needed. But the camp chef still is easier to clean out and cooks a fine brisket.
Hey Shannon – they all have their merits. Budget dictates a lot. If you’re in the $1000 or under range, Green Mountain and Rec Tec are great choices. Both have developed near cult followings, with GMG a little ahead of the curve on that front having been around a bit longer. I love the Yoders as far as moving up on the price range is concerned. Will last you forever and they offer a solid product with great support. MAK grills are just beautifully made. There’s no other way to put it. The “General” models are superbly crafted. Love that MAK offers built in cold smoking as a capability. Am I helping here or just making things worse? Hahaha.

The old camp chef is heading to a new home. We have been thru thick and thin, rain, or snow, on two ocations high wind blew it off the patio. A few dents bad scratches but it still works like a top. My son is driving in form North Carolina to take it off my hands this weekend it has been replaced by a yoder ys-640. The yoder is bigger and heavier with more btu output if needed. But the camp chef still is easier to clean out and cooks a fine brisket.

Hey Eric! Man, thank you for the kind words. While I don’t post every day, I do try to make what I share with you guys as informative as possible. To that end, your words mean a lot. Now, the pellet release option is a great feature to have on any pellet smoker. In cases where you don’t have one, I suggest using a small shop vac you use just for pellet removal. Works great. But the quick release chute option saves a ton of time and effort for sure. Not what I’d call a deal breaker if a pellet smoker you like doesn’t have one. However, I’d like to see it become standard on pellet smokers for sure!
To your question regarding Traeger, I’ve not reviewed their grills of yet. I do know that Traeger as a company is taking steps to up their game some, as quality/reliability of their pellet grills has diminished over the last few years. The new CEO – Jeremy Andrus – they hired comes from the Skull Candy company and brought that headphone company from annual sales from less than $1 million to nearly $300 million. I know also that a few big hitters in the BBQ world are being contacted by Traeger to bring the brand back to its former prominence. You can read more about that here from the site of one of the company’s that now has an ownership interest in Traeger: http://www.trilantic.com/News_Story.aspx?StoryType=1&ID=56.
The Tailgater 20 Series Freestanding Grill is one of the best wood pellet grills from Traeger for those who like to cook away from home. It’s small and lightweight enough that you can load it in your car for tailgating before the big game, cooking while camping or grilling at the park. The ash bucket collects all ash created, which makes cleaning up before heading home easier.
This piece of junk did not work when I received it fresh out of the box & now it's broke again!!! What a waste of money! First issue was a temp control module board, which the manufacturer actually sent me directly & I had to install it. Now after about 6 months of using it approximately 12-14 times, it won't even power up. I don't even want to attempt to fix it again!! I am going to spend the extra money & buy a Traeger!!
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Number two when cooking with charcoal (yes plain Kingsford is good stuff if you do it right, a lot of the cheaper brick and cheaper lump can put some weird twangs in your food) brick or lump can produce quality high temp steaks or slow & low bbq! To add some nice flavor add some wood, but do your homework! I think Clark ‘Smokey’ Hale has one of the best books ever for the grill and Q master, “The Great American Manual on Grilling and BBQ or something like that. Last I saw you can grab a used one on Amazon for a few cents and some shipping. The most prolific thing I read in there that so many miss, is burn your wood and your charcoal to where it is literally a coal of gray ash covered glowing ember. Do that and you will find a new flavor in your cooking! Problem is so many places think heavy smoke is great, as they are trying to imitate cold smoke flavors! They are not the same! All this talk I see here about, “I want heavy smoke flavor.” I can tell you if you burn your wood and your charcoal (and I feel even lump needs to be well on it’s way to gray ash covered or you get bitter smoke even though many say not necessary) to a red ember with gray ash covering 80 to 90% minimum preferably completely covered your flavor profile will change. Many supposedly good bbq restaurants I have been in serve something with a bitter or ash flavor, which I find much less enjoyable.
Temperature: Most of all, you have to pay attention to whether your pellet grill maintains a chosen temperature. People buy a pellet smoker because it makes it possible to smoke meat for long at fixed low temperatures. Very convenient and simple, and a grill that always maintains a selected temperature guarantees that the meat will be perfectly cooked.
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