My Encounter With the Traeger Pellet Grill

Are you considering a Traeger pellet grill?  If you are, get in line.  Many others are as well.

I’ve been looking at these a little bit.

I’ve always been a charcoal griller, but I went in with an open mind when a family member of mine bought one recently.

It’s not a cheap grill, so it has to be of good quality, I thought.

Time to cook

We had four 2″-thick bacon-wrapped filet mignons, some baked potatoes, and some hot dogs.

At home, I’ve always had good success with steaks with the ambient temperature of the grill in the 350-400 range, over an open flame

Keeping the Traeger grill in that 350-400 range, I cooked the steaks for 7 minutes on each side to achieve medium-rare doneness.

At the end of 14 minutes, I took the temperature of the steaks.  They registered 135 degrees in the middle.

Something wasn’t right.  Maybe I wasn’t measuring the temperature right or was too close to the grill.  But something wasn’t right.

There wasn’t enough char for my liking on the outsides.  The bacon wasn’t done nearly to my liking.  Also, the steaks were still really really soft.

Too soft for medium or medium-rare, certainly.

I cut them open, sure enough, they were still raw, raw, raw in the middle.

I chalked it up to there not being an open flame and no real direct heat, only ambient heat basically.

In other words, the Traeger acts more like an outdoor oven than a grill.

The hot dogs even were just……OK.

The baked potatoes, which were on the grill for an hour, came out fantastic.

traeger pellet grill

We ended up finishing the steaks in a broiler, which ended up coming out great.

What went wrong?

In short, I didn’t follow the directions.  I applied my charcoal grilling knowledge and experience to the use of a Traeger, which I only had a very basic knowledge of.

The Traeger app said to set the temperature to 500 degrees, but both my stepmom and I agreed that 500 seemed too high.

Conclusion: We should have set it to 500 degrees.

Had we followed the app to the letter, we likely would have had a better result with the steaks.

The taste of the food

Honestly, I wasn’t wowed with the flavor.

traeger pellet grill

I personally use hickory wood chips in addition to my charcoal when I’m cooking, and this has a profound effect on the flavor of the food.  I can clearly tell the difference.  Not to mention the smell is out of this world.

We used hickory wood pellets and I really couldn’t taste it in the steak.

Again, this is probably my fault.

How the Traeger works

Traeger sells wood pellets that are designed to work with the grill.  On the right side of the grill is a hopper that holds the pellets.  The Traeger site goes over the process nicely:

“All-natural hardwood pellets are moved from the hopper to the fire pot by an auger, where they’re ignited by the HotRod to feed the flames and add delicious wood-fired flavor to your food. A fan circulates heat and smoke for even, consistent cooking, and a drip tray keeps flames off your food and prevents flare-ups. It’s all operated by a controller that maintains precise temperature so you can spend more time with the people who matter most and less time watching the grill.”

Once you dump the wood pellets on, you basically set it and forget it.  You can set and adjust the temperature either at the grill or on your smartphone.  When it comes to technological advancement, this is very much top-of-the-line.

traeger pellet grill

Need cooking ideas and temperatures?  You’ll need ideas that are specific to your grill, as conventional cooking times and temperatures may not translate.

The Traeger app comes with a variety of recipes for any kind of meat or vegetables.

Who would benefit from the Traeger?

Anyone wanting to cook outside for themselves or for a number of guests would benefit.  Anyone not wanting to take the time to prepare charcoal or wants to avoid the mess.  Anyone wanting to avoid the hassle of dealing with propane tanks.

Anyone looking for convenience.

Would I get the Traeger?

Personally, the jury is still out on whether I’d get one.  I’m a charcoal grill fan, and it’s probably going to take a lot for me to convert to an electric grill.  But I’m not saying “never.”

For a quick cook, I don’t know that the grill taste is really achieved with a Traeger.  Maybe with a higher temperature?

For an hours-long slow cook, there may be more of a smoky, BBQ taste.  My gripe with smoking on a grill such as mine, the temperature is hard to maintain over a period of several hours.  The Traeger offers an advantage here, as long as you simply keep the separate hopper adequately filled with pellets.

I will do a future article on a low-and-slow cook.

In summation

If you want a user-friendly electric grill and not afraid to break the bank, you should absolutely seriously consider the Traeger.  It’s a good, well-made, well-thought-out product.  It can be a valuable asset to a variety of grillers.

With good care, the Traeger can give you years of maintenance-free service.

Just remember, this is not your charcoal grill.

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