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Traeger Tailgater Pellet Grill and Smoker Review

Tailgaters take notice: the game-changing Traeger Tailgater pellet grill is here to revolutionize your pre-game cookouts. If you’re a BBQ connoisseur, you’re likely familiar with Traeger Grills. If not, prepare yourself.  Make sure your taste buds and your stomach are fully prepared.

Tailgating, the tradition of hosting a pre-game party in a stadium parking lot, is a well-established ritual. You’ve probably seen raucous groups of people grilling hamburgers, hot dogs, and steaks. Heck, you’ve likely done it yourself.

What have you typically used for these occasions? Some folks are out there with full-sized grills, carried to the venue in the back of a pickup. Others use the portable grills that are available to them, but all too often, that means a dinky, tiny charcoal or propane grill that often sacrifices cooking space and quality.

Enter the Traeger Tailgater. This grill is designed with both convenience and portability in mind. It’s proof that great grilling doesn’t require a massive grill or ample space. Instead, the Tailgater offers the full experience of grilling, smoking, baking, and braising, all while being wood-fueled and eco-friendly. It’s a grill that’s all about fun and flavor.

Spoiler Alert: The Traeger Tailgater is a compact, portable pellet grill that delivers impressive performance in a small package.

The Traeger Tailgater 20

Traeger Tailgater Quick Facts

Product Name: Traeger Grills Tailgater 20 Portable Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker

Made By: Traeger Grills

Top 3 Features:

  • Portable
  • Good temperature control
  • Constructed with durable powder-coated, cold-rolled steel

Standout Benefits of the Traeger Tailgater Pellet Grill

The true beauty of the Traeger Tailgater lies in its ability to offer the convenience and smoky flavor of a full-sized wood fire pellet grill, yet in a more compact form. This innovative design makes it an ideal choice for those who love the authentic taste of wood-fired cooking but have limited space or need portability for activities like tailgating or camping.

  • Versatility: Despite its smaller size, this grill doesn’t compromise on functionality. It offers a range of cooking options, including grilling, smoking, baking, roasting, and braising, making it a versatile choice for various culinary experiments.
  • Ease of Use: With user-friendly controls and a simple setup process, the Tailgater is accessible even to beginners, ensuring a hassle-free grilling experience.
  • Consistent Temperature Control: The grill’s advanced technology ensures consistent temperatures, which is crucial for perfectly cooked meals. This makes it easier to achieve desired cooking results without the constant need to monitor and adjust the heat.
  • Energy Efficiency: As a pellet grill, it’s more energy-efficient compared to traditional charcoal or propane grills, making it an eco-friendly option.
  • Flavor Enhancement: The use of real wood pellets means that food cooked on the Tailgater is infused with a natural, smoky flavor that’s hard to replicate with other types of grills.

The Traeger Tailgater pellet grill offers a unique combination of portability, versatility, and efficiency, making it an excellent choice for grill enthusiasts who value quality and convenience in a compact package.

Other benefits of the Traeger Tailgater include:

All the Great Features You’ve Come To Expect From a Traeger

One of the primary benefits of the Traeger Tailgater pellet grill is that it has all the features you expect from a Traeger, even despite its smaller size. Granted, the cooking surface is smaller to complement the portability of the Tailgater, but 300 square inches provide plenty of space

How much food does that actually equal? Fortunately, we grill gurus have done the legwork. Three hundred square inches is enough to cook 18 hot dogs at once.  You can BBQ as many as 12 hamburger patties, you can throw on three whole racks of ribs, or it can handle two entire chickens.

Given that, you shouldn’t have a problem with proteins such as pork loins, rump roasts, or smaller Thanksgiving turkeys.

Lightweight & Compact Size for Max Portability

That takes care of the size of your grilling space. Now, let’s talk about the size of the grill itself. You want a portable grill to be, well, portable. It’s possible to tailgate with a bulky, heavy, full-sized smoker, but who wants to do it? It’s not always fun to be the guy with the huge BBQ strapped down in your truck bed.

The Tailgater only weighs 62 pounds. You don’t have to be a weightlifter or develop superhuman strength to cart it around with you. In total, the grill is 36 inches by 37 inches by 18 inches. Between the size and the weight, transportation is made a lot simpler.

Traeger Tailgater Product Specs

A Smaller Footprint Perfect for Smaller Spaces

The size has other benefits, as well. The name makes it obvious that the Tailgater is perfect for tailgating. However, its compact measurements, lightweight, and portability set it apart as the go-to pick for grill masters who live on small properties or who want to grill on an apartment balcony, as well.

Forget about landlord complaints or taking up valuable space in your postage-stamp yard. You don’t have to find space for a massive unit. Take it camping and you will be the talk of the campground, I guarantee you.

Using the Traeger Grills Tailgater

This wouldn’t be a worthwhile Traeger Tailgater grill review if I didn’t talk about the grill’s ease of use. That is a Traeger trademark.

Thanks to an electronic automatic starter, using it is an exercise in simplicity.  Fill up the hopper, which holds 8 pounds of pellets—an impressive amount for such a small BBQ—then turn on the grill and set the temperature.

At that point, the auger rotates to fill the firepot with pellets, and the draft induction fan engages. An igniter rod activates and heats up until it glows red, which starts the pellets to smoldering, and you are cooking.  I told you it was easy.

Traeger Portable Pellet Grill Description & Features

Traeger Tailgater at a Glance | Impressive Temperature Range | On-Point Temperature Control | EZ-Fold Legs | Grease Drain Management | Keep Warm Mode

Traeger Grills’ Tailgater packs a lot of punch into a small package. Don’t let its size or its weight convince you that it can’t bring the power. I’ve explained why it’s convenient.

Now it’s time to figure out why users give the Tailgater such high marks across the board.

Traeger Tailgater at a Glance

  • Cold rolled powder coated steel construction for durability
  • Digital Elite controller
  • Electronic auto-start ignition
  • Temp Range: 180º - 450º + Fahrenheit
  • 8 lb hopper capacity
  • 300 square inches of total cooking space
  • Porcelain coated grilling surface
  • EZ-fold legs for portability

Impressive Temperature Range

Smoke your meat at 180 degrees Fahrenheit to enjoy a low, steady cook. Roast it at around 200 or 250 degrees for a succulent delicacy. Alternately, crack this powerful little wonder all the way up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit for a sear that crunches between your teeth.

With 19,500 BTUs working for you, I’m confident in saying that you won’t sacrifice cook quality just because the Tailgater isn’t as big as its brothers.

On-Point Temperature Control

Like other models in the line, the Traeger Tailgater pellet grill uses the brand’s Digital Arc Controller. It maintains a plus/minus 15-degree F temperature control to guarantee precision grilling and a temperature range of 180-450 Fahrenheit.

It works in conjunction with the resistance temperature detector probe. It’s the responsibility of the probe to ensure that, whatever temperature you set, the grill remains within plus or minus 15 degrees which is pretty standard for pellet grills in this price range.

How The Traeger Tailgater Works

EZ-Fold Legs

What makes the Tailgater so portable? Its EZ-Fold legs, of course. With just a few pushes and pulls, the grill practically becomes half its size.

At that point, you can store it in your shed, the back of your truck or SUV, or even the trunk of your car. You don’t have to fight with it to fold up the legs—but it might take some practice. I was able to do it in no time.

Grease Drain Management

The Tailgater is equipped with a straightforward grease drain management system that efficiently channels excess liquids and grease into a bucket positioned underneath. This system offers several key advantages:

  • Ease of Cleaning: By directing grease and liquids away from the cooking surface and into a separate container, this system simplifies the cleaning process. It minimizes the need for extensive scrubbing and maintenance of the grill’s interior.
  • Improved Safety: Accumulated grease can be a fire hazard. This system reduces the risk of flare-ups and potential accidents by safely redirecting grease away from the heat source.
  • Convenience: The bucket underneath is easy to access and remove. This makes disposing of the collected grease straightforward and hassle-free.

The simple grease drain management system is a practical and efficient feature. By making maintenance easier, and improving safety, it contributes to better cooking results.

Keep Warm Mode

One of the standout features of the grill is its Keep Warm Mode, a thoughtful addition that ensures your food remains hot and ready to serve straight off the grill.

This mode is particularly beneficial for several reasons:

  • Consistent Serving Temperature: The Keep Warm Mode maintains a consistent temperature, ensuring that every dish is served at its ideal heat. This is especially useful when cooking multiple items that need to be served together.
  • Convenience for Entertaining: When hosting medium to large groups, this feature allows you to focus on your guests without worrying about the food getting cold. It provides the flexibility to grill in advance and serve when everyone is ready.
  • Reduced Overcooking Risk: By maintaining a lower, stable temperature, the Keep Warm Mode reduces the risk of overcooking, preserving the quality and flavor of your food.
  • Flexibility in Meal Timing: This feature offers flexibility in meal planning and timing. If someone is running late, you can keep the food warm without having to reheat it, ensuring it remains fresh and delicious.

Overall, the Keep Warm Mode is a practical and valuable feature, providing a convenient solution to keeping food at the perfect temperature until everyone is ready to eat.

Who Was the Traeger Tailgater Grill Made For?

Tailgaters, travelers, and people who live in small spaces finally have a smaller wood smoker that’s reliable, durable, and powerful.

Given the price, it’s also the perfect pick for pit masters who want to save a few bucks.

You never have to use it in a stadium lot to enjoy it—but it definitely boosts the fun factor at any tailgate.

Why You Should Think Twice

The grilling space is the only real reason you might want to skip the Traeger portable pellet grill. If you know for a fact that room for 18 hot dogs or 12 burgers just isn’t enough, then there’s no real reason to spend money on the Tailgater.

Of course, you should also avoid it if you despise good food and tailgating.

One other downside to this grill is that Traeger requires you to use only their brand of pellets or you will void the 3-year warranty. This has been a turn-off for a lot of grillers.  On the bright side, Traeger does offer a big selection of quality all-natural hardwood pellets in a variety of flavors.

Traeger Tailgater PROs & CONs


  • Easy to assemble
  • Good temperature control
  • LED displays
  • Automatic start
  • Small footprint
  • Portability
  • Energy efficient
  • Good value for your money


  • Convection sometimes bakes food before it’s fully smoked
  • Limited cooking area
  • Small hopper

Traeger Tailgater Prices & Warranties

From most outlets, the Traeger Tailgater pellet is less than $529.99 at the time of this write-up.  Catch it on Amazon at the right time and it’s likely to go for a little cheaper.

With that, you get the Traeger Grills 3-year warranty. It offers protection against issues with workmanship, defective materials, and worn-out parts—provided that you maintain the grill properly.

You also get Traeger’s highly spoken-of and responsive customer support when you purchase one of their grills. They really stand behind their products because they are confident in them.

A Portable Pellet Grill and Smoker

Final Thoughts on Our Traeger Tailgater Pellet Grill and Smoker Review

The final verdict of this Traeger Tailgater 20 review is that it’s a champ for what it does. Don’t be dissuaded by the name. That’s just a moniker. The Traeger Tailgater pellet grill is ideal for tailgates, obviously, but apartment dwellers, tiny homeowners, and frequent travelers can finally enjoy smoky flavors and juicy, tender meats.

It’s affordable, practical, portable, and it comes with the Traeger Grills guarantee. We had fun grilling on this smaller grill, and so will you. What’s not to love?

I hope this Traeger Grills Tailgater Portable Pellet Grill Review proves helpful for you. As always, if you or someone you know is interested in venturing into the world of pellet grilling; please consider sharing with your friends or on social media. I appreciate your support!

Have you used this grill?  Do you have something to add? Leave your review in the comments! We always welcome your input and I would love to hear about your experiences with it.


Pat G.

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DisclosureAt The Grilling Life, I am committed to researching and writing thoughtful, informative and editorially independent reviews of the best products for your outdoor cooking needs.  If you like what I do, you can support me through my chosen links, which earn me a commission.  This allows me to continue sharing with you my love for all things barbecue.  Your support is truly appreciated.

Patrick Ginise

A backyard warrior, certified carnivore, lover of good whiskey, grill master and I’m Living The Grilling Life!

I have a passion for cooking with live fire and smoke, no matter the weather. I’m a real person just like you, who loves outdoor cooking and BBQ. Food, fun, and time spent with family and friends are what it’s all about! It is my mission to take my passion and knowledge for outdoor cooking and all things BBQ and share this expertise in techniques and grilling equipment with you. In other words, Living The Grilling Life!

I have personally tested over 150+ Grills and Smokers and hundreds of grilling thermometers, temperature controllers, grill brushes, grilling tools, fire starters, and other BBQ products.