The Pros, the Cons, and the Facts About the Top Traeger Wood Pellet Grill and Smokers.
The Original Wood Pellet Grill
John Traeger patented the original wood pellet grill in 1986. His innovation led to the creation of a line of hardwood pellet burning smokers and grills that are known for quality and durability. Since the expiration of the original patent in 2006, more than 25 companies have begun producing similar products. However, Traeger remains one of the top manufacturers in the industry, and we are going to look at the top 5 best Traeger grills available in 2018.
Before we get started if you want to familiarize yourself on how a Pellet grill works and what to expect to achieve from using them, take a few moments to read this article first: What is a Pellet Grill? – An Introduction to Pellet Grilling. It’s worth a moment to two to see what you are getting into.
Lastly, I put together this top 5 Traeger Grills for 2018 ratings and buyers guide to help you choose the best Traeger electric pellet grill to fit your budget and needs. I hope it proves helpful to you.
*Note: “I included a list of my Top 5 Best Traeger Grills for a quick view option below. Continue reading on for my reviews including pictures for each, along with my ranking system, a buying guide, and user and maintenance tips.”
The Top 5 Best Traeger Grills of 2018
- “Editor’s Choice – Best All Around Premium Traeger Wood Pellet Grill”
- 1. Traeger Grills Timberline 850
- “Editor’s Choice – Best Traeger Entry Level Wood Pellet Grill”
- 2. Traeger Grills Lil Tex Elite
- “Editor’s Choice – Best Mid Level Traeger Wood Pellet Grill”
- 3. Traeger Grills Texas Elite 34
- “Editor’s Choice – Best High End Traeger Wood Pellet Grill”
- 4. Traeger Grills Pro Series 34
- “Editor’s Choice – Best Portable Traeger Wood Pellet Grill”
- 5. Traeger Grills Tailgater 20 Portable
Why This Guide Will Be Helpful For You
With so many pellet grills on the market, it can be a daunting task sifting through manufacturer sites and customer reviews in an attempt to select the right grill for you.
That’s where I come in.
I’ve already reviewed all of the latest machines from the top manufacturers, and can confidently say the following line up represents the best Traeger grills on the market today.
“As always, my goal is to save you time and money by doing all the research and testing for you, so you don’t have to.”
Let this product overview act as your buyer’s guide to the top performing grills Traeger offers. I will explain how each of five smokers rate according to my 5 most important criteria, including Value, Construction, Even Heat, Innovation and Features, and Design and Style. You can then use this information to choose the grill that fits your lifestyle and budget.
”Make sure to keep reading after the final review for a buyer’s guide to help you with your decision when it’s time to make your purchase.”
What Is The Benefits Of A Traeger Pellet Grill?
The Trager line of grills set the industry standard for wood pellet burning smokers and grills. While in the beginning, they focused mostly on smoking, the best Traeger grills now feature direct grilling options as well. Traeger continues to produce industry leading products for outdoor cooking enthusiasts of all skill levels.
The Rating Criteria – Best Traeger Wood Pellet Grills Ratings
Our ratings are based on several factors. First, we research the manufacturer’s statistics on the product. We then compare our experience with the product to multiple independent customer reviews available on the internet. The information is then provided to you in the most unbiased and useful way possible, to help you purchase the grill that fits you best.
Below are the main things we consider when rating these pellet grills.
What are you actually getting for your money? You might be tempted to spend as little money as possible and get the least expensive grill at the local shop. Be warned, however, as this usually results in a grill that is made with inferior components and will need to be replaced in just a few short seasons. Value, in this guide, refers to money well spent on a grill that will perform well, and outlast its warranty date.
If a grill feels flimsy or wobbles when you push it, chances are it is constructed of cheap materials. A grill that has a stand made of 14 gauge or higher steel, with a cooking chamber clad in 304 stainless steel is a well made machine. You want a grill that feels solid.
#3 Even Heat (Or Controller Type)
The most important task a grill has is producing and maintaining an even amount of heat over the grilling or smoking period. The heat controller is very important. We will look at three different controllers across the 5 units.
#4 Innovation And Features
Since the expiration of the Traeger patent, the industry has exploded with new ideas and accessories. Traeger has continued their legacy of innovation by introducing a host of features on the top 5 best Traeger grills covered in this guide.
#5 DESIGN AND STYLE
All of the grills below carry the quality you would expect from the Traeger name. That opens the door to the last rating criteria: Design and Style. This is a personal matter for most people, and slightly harder to judge. However, the rating the grills receive here is based on overall form versus function.
We Take Into Account Real User Feedback And Reviews
Finally but we feel just as importantly, we take into account verified purchaser reviews and feedback. We scour every manufacturer site and Amazon seller pages for feedback and comments on every grill to narrow down the list to find the best of the best. We don’t believe any review is complete without taking into serious consideration actual long-term users and their experiences with using the product.
The Top 5 Best Traeger Grills
Using the criteria above, we’ve compiled a list of the 5 best Traeger wood pellet grills to act as your guide.
*“The list includes a variety of grills, prices, sizes, and features. You should always do your own due diligence, however. Don’t be swayed by salespeople and never buy a grill on sight.”
“Editor’s Choice – Best All Around Premium Traeger Wood Pellet Grill”
The Traeger Grills Timberline comes in an 850 model, as well as a 1300 model, reflecting the surface area of the grill. For this guide, let’s focus on the 850. This is the latest product release from Traeger, and with that comes a host of extra features. The Timberline is a real smoking monster, with a huge pill shaped barrel containing 3 tiers of adjustable grill space.
The Timberline 850 has a price tag of $1699.99, which may seem pretty steep. However, You get a lot for your money. The Timberline 850 comes equipped with the WiFIRE® controller that connects you to the grill via your smartphone and allows you to monitor and make adjustments remotely. That isn’t the only reason to love it, though.
When it comes to quality craftsmanship, the Traeger Timberline 850 is top of its class. Heavy duty 16 gauge steel meets 340 stainless steel, giving you a sturdy, albeit heavy, grill. The airtight lid gasket keeps the heat where it matters most.
Even heating is not a problem in these units. The Timberline has double walled construction, WiFIRE® heat controller, and the TRU Convection® system. Between these features, you can be sure the temperature will not vary more than +/- 5°F under normal conditions, after reaching the initially set temperature. It can smoke at as low as 165 degrees Fahrenheit, and grill at 500 degrees. This gives it more heat than the other grills on the list, with it’s 36,000BTU’s of power.
Innovation was the name of the game with this model. New features include the WiFIRE® controller, TRU Convection® system, and Downdraft Exhaust® System. It connects to your smartphone so you can control your grill from anywhere.
The Timberline 850 is not just a high performance grill. It also looks the part. Standing at 48 inches tall, with an impressive 27-inch deep pill shaped barrel, and sawhorse style chassis, the Traeger Timberline 850 looks like it means business.
- Latest WiFIRE® Wireless Connect Technology
- Extra Large Cooking Chamber and Hopper
- Airtight Lid Gasket
- TRU Convection® + Downdraft Exhaust® Systems
- Heavy Duty Construction
- Very Heavy
- Slow To Heat
- Relatively Expensive
The Traeger Timberline 850 is a heavy duty piece of outdoor grilling equipment. It wasn’t made to be portable, but it was made to last. This is the most technologically advanced grill on our list, with the least temperature variation, and the highest price tag.
“Editor’s Choice – Best Traeger Entry Level Wood Pellet Grill”
The Traeger Lil Tex Elite is a customer favorite, and for good reason. Offering features such as 418 square inches of cooking space, a large capacity hopper and easy grease management drain have earned the Lil Tex Elite a reputation of easy use and reliability. While this unit does not have the TRU Convection system fans offered by the Timberline Series, it does have a very effective natural convection airflow created by the side mount chimney style vent.
This little unit gives you quite a bit of value for the money. The price tag of $699.99 is not too bad considering this is a Traeger original, made with quality parts, and carrying the Traeger 3 year warranty. It isn’t as heavy duty as other Traeger models, but it still produces great results, consistently, for years.
The Lil Tex Elite has sturdy 2 inch thick legs and is constructed with cold rolled, powder coated steel and a bronze hood. It is not as heavily reinforced as some of Traeger’s other models, however, it is a great entry level pellet grill.
This 22-inch grill packs a pretty impressive 20,000 BTU of power. The Digital Elite heat controller keeps the temperature within 20 degrees of the setting on the dial. This allows you to smoke at temperatures as low as 180 degrees Fahrenheit and grill at as high as 450 degrees Fahrenheit with confidence.
Traeger has improved it’s already popular Lil Tex Grill in this Elite version. New features include sturdier legs, two heavy duty wheels instead of four smaller ones, and the upgraded Traeger Digital Elite controller. This controller allows you to set the temperature in 25° increments from approximately 180-400°F. It also features a digital display that provides the grill’s current cooking temperature.
When it comes to overall style, the Lil Tex is hard to beat. The contrasting bronze and black powder coat metal, along with the large side mount hopper and chimney style vent just look classy. It’s a unique looking machine that does its job really well. It’s easy to see why so many owners are happy with this grill.
- Steady Low Heat Smoking
- Digital Elite Temperature Control
- EZ drain grease management system
- Low Fuel Consumption
- Only reaches 450 degrees Fahrenheit
- Relatively Small Grill Surface
Overall, the Traeger Lil Tex Elite is a perfect grill for someone who is just starting their pellet grill journey. It is reliable, easy to use, well made, and not too expensive. As an added bonus, it uses less fuel than other similar sized grills. Just 1 lb per hour on medium heat and only 1/2 lb per hour when smoking.
“Editor’s Choice – Best Mid Level Traeger Wood Pellet Grill”
The Traeger Grills Texas Elite 34 is like the Lil Tex’s big brother. The two units are very similar. They have the same bronze hood, the same side mounted chimney style vent and the same quality construction. The difference, here, is cooking capacity. While the Lil’ Tex can cook 16 hamburgers at once, the Texas Elite 34 can easily accommodate 30 of them. With 646 square inches of grill space, this unit is for larger families or those who entertain often.
For those who love the value of the Lil Tex, but need more room, the Traeger Grills Texas Elite 34 is for you. For an additional $200 dollars, you get 228 more inches of cooking space. With the increased cooking capacity, this unit isn’t quite as cheap to run as the smaller model but still uses less fuel on average than other pellet grills the same size.
The Texas Elite 34 is made with the same high quality materials as the Lil Tex. We are talking about cold rolled steel, upgraded sturdy legs, locking wheel casters and a bronze hood. Of course, both units come with easy to clean porcelain coated steel grates as well.
Traeger gills have a simple auto start ignition. With the flip of a switch, the rod in the fire pot heats up and the pellets are lit. The heat output of this model is controlled by the Digital Elite Controller, ensuring a steady temperature within +/- 20 degrees of the set temperature.
The roomy interior of the barrel shaped cooking chamber uses natural convection provided by the side mounted chimney vent to cook more quickly and evenly than a standard grill. Other innovations include the Digital Elite Controller and a grease drip tray that empties into a bucket on the side of the grill for easy cleaning.
The Traeger Texas Elite 34 has the same rustic profile as the Lil Tex, but larger. The unique bronze and black metal finish, side chimney vent and sturdy straight leg design make this grill top of its class in style.
- Easy Clean Grates
- Steady Low Heat Smoking
- Digital Elite Temperature Control
- EZ drain grease management system
- Only reaches 450 degrees Fahrenheit
- Same 18 lb hopper as the smaller model
The Traeger Texas Elite 34 is a stylish, relatively inexpensive way to enjoy Traeger’s 6-in-1 versatility. This unit can grill, smoke, bake, roast, braise, or BBQ enough food for a large family. It’s no wonder this unit is a customer favorite.
“Editor’s Choice – Best High End Traeger Wood Pellet Grill”
The Traeger Grills Pro Series was modeled after traditional offset wood smokers. These pellet grills feature a barrel design, side hopper, and smokestack that gives this grill a timeless appearance. While Pro Series grills are available in 34-inch and 22-inch sizes, we are going to focus on the 34.
The Pro Series 34 is an excellent value. The barrel design maximizes cooking space, giving you the ability to cook large amounts of food at once on the 884 square inch cooking surface. Priced at $999.99, the Traeger Pro Series 34 is the next step up from the Texas Elite. While the design is similar, it has several upgrades.
You’ll notice right away that the Pro Series 34 utilizes a very sturdy sawhorse style chassis. It has 4 wheels for easy movement but locking casters so it stays where you put it. It is constructed of cold rolled, powder coated steel for years of durability.
When it comes to even heat, the Traeger Pro Series 34 is hard to beat. These grills use an upgraded Digital Pro controller which keeps the preset temperature within +/- 15 degrees Fahrenheit of the designated setting for precision cooking. With 36,000 BTUs of cooking power, you can sear steaks at 450 degrees, or slow smoke at 180.
Topping the list of features on the Pro Series 34 are the dual probe meat thermometers. Having two separate integrated thermometers allows you to grill different cuts of meat to different temperatures during the same cook. The Pro series also has an easy clean out hopper so you can change pellet types quickly and easily.
The style of the Traeger Pro Series continues the iconic Barrel shape, with opposite side hopper and chimney vent. While the previous models were available only in Bronze and black, the Pro Series 34 comes in your choice of classic bronze and black, or blue and black color variations. The sawhorse type legs don’t just add stability, they give this unit a style boost as well.
The Pro Series 34 is for outdoor cooks who are ready to take their wood-fired cooking skills to the next level. Increased cooking capacity, more accurate temperature controls, and the ability to change pellet flavor on the fly are features that make this one of the 5 Best Traeger Grills of 2018.
- Sawhorse style chassis for stability
- Large side lift bar for even weight distribution
- Large grill area
- Double grill racks
- Dual meat probes
- Digital Pro controller
- Max Temp of 450 degrees Fahrenheit while some other brands can reach 700 degrees
If you are serious about your grill and want a machine that can do it all for years to come, the Traeger Pro Series 34 is the grill for you. Out of the box, it is easy to use, and reliable. If you want more, Traeger has made a variety of optional accessories for this grill, like a cold smoker, pizza kit, and much more.
“Editor’s Choice – Best Portable Traeger Wood Pellet Grill”
The Tailgater 20 Portable Pellet Grill from Traeger gives you the convenience and awesome flavor of a wood burning pellet grill in a take-anywhere size. As the name suggests, this unit is perfect for tailgate parties, apartment balconies, or just taking to the in-laws. It has all the great features you would expect from Traeger, but smaller.
Priced at $449.99, it is the least expensive grill on our list of the 5 Best Traeger Grills of 2018. Don’t let the price fool you, though. Every inch of this unit is packed with Traeger quality. From the pellet hopper and auger to the fire pot and Digital Elite controller. The Traeger Tailgater is one of the best values on the market.
It is constructed from the same cold rolled steel as the larger units. However, it’s smaller size means it weighs in at only 62 pounds. The EZ-Fold legs pop down with 2 wheels for easy movement. The side hopper holds 8 pounds of pellets to keep you in business all afternoon. With 300 square inches of grill space, you can cook up 12 burgers at a time.
The Digital Elite heat controller keeps the temperature within +/- 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The Tailgater brings the heat with 19,500 BTUs of cooking power. Natural airflow inside of the grill allows for convection cooking, so you can even bake a pizza, or desert right on your grill.
Because this is a Traeger grill, you can count on the 6-in-1 versatility you’ve come to expect. This smaller unit allows you to smoke, grill, bake, roast, braise or bbq just about anywhere. This unit is super economical, burning only 2 lbs of hardwood pellets per hour on high heat, 1 lb per hour on medium heat and a 1/2 lb per hour when smoking.
The Traeger Tailgater 20 Portable Pellet Grill is a functional little grill that also looks great. While it doesn’t have the side chimney vent featured on the larger units it still utilizes natural airflow for convection cooking. It is available in three color varieties, pairing your choice of bronze, blue or silver lids with powder coated black chamber and legs.
- Same Quality Build As Bigger Models
- EZ-Fold legs
- Digital Elite controller
- Only 300 square inches of cooking area
- Still needs electricity to operate
Portable and packed with features, this is a great little smoker. The price is right and the quality is high, which makes this one of the 5 Best Traeger Grills of 2018. If you are looking for a versatile, go-anywhere grill that gives you the flavor of wood and the ease of use of propane, the Traeger Tailgater 20 is the perfect entry level grill.
Buyers Guide – What To Look For In A Traeger Wood Pellet Grill
Part of what makes Traeger grills so popular is their reliable heat. All of these models are able to smoke long and slow or crank up the heat to grill and sear. The Timberline 850 gives you the most range and the least fluctuation with settings from 165-500 degrees F regulated by the WiFIRE controller to within +/- 5 degrees.
The other units use either Digital Elite or Digital Pro controllers that keep the grill within +/-20 or +/-15 degrees of their set temperature respectively, with ranges of 180-450 degrees F. They boast Treager 6-in-1 versatility, which means you can smoke, grill, bake, roast, braise or BBQ.
From the 19,500BTU’s of the Tailgater to the 36,000BTU’s in the Pro Series 34, and Timberline 850, you can count on any of the 5 best Traeger grills of 2018 to bring the heat. These units might not get up to 700 degrees F like some premium models can. However, each one will provide years of reliable smoking and grilling.
Traeger backs all of these grills with a 3-year warranty. That means if there is a defect with your unit, Traeger will fix or replace it right away. They also have some of the best customer support in the industry.
What Else Should You Know About Trager Grills Pellet Smokers
Pellet grills rely on electric ignition systems, rotating augers and internal fans to function. That means they need a reliable source of electricity. All of these units use a standard 110v outlet, so no special wiring is needed. That being said, GFI outlets are always recommended for this type of outdoor appliance. If portability is your concern, using a generator or inverter can provide all the power you need.
These units come to you partially disassembled. While no special tools or training is required for putting them together, you will need the ability to read and follow directions precisely. The heavier units should have 2 people available for assembly and lifting. Again, Traeger customer support is always there if you get stuck.
Traeger Wood Pellet Grills FAQ (User Pro Tips And Product Care Guide)
These are “Easy Clean” grills. Simply wipe the outsides down with a wet cloth to keep them shining. The racks are porcelain coated steel, for quick and easy clean up. Each of these units has an external grease trap that is easy to empty. Even though wood pellets leave much less ash than charcoal, they still aren’t as clean as gas. Simply keep a small Shop Vac handy to clean out accumulated ash in the fire pot occasionally, and you’re all set.
Pro Tip: Line The Drip Pan And Grease Catcher with aluminum foil for easier cleanup. Just replace the foil after every few cooks and you are set.
Wood pellet grills burn small hardwood pellets. These are available from various outlets. For best results, you should always use the pellets recommended by the manufacturer.
Pro Tip: Pellets should be stored indoors or in a sealed container to avoid moisture which could cause mildew and swelling. Likewise, you should empty any unused pellets from the hopper before storing the unit, or leaving it unused for long periods. The pellets will become “stale” if you will if left out for too long.
After the expiration of the Traeger patent on pellet grills, the market was flooded by copycats. That doesn’t change the fact that Traeger is still the first name in pellet grills. Because of their dedication to innovation and customer care, they remain one of the top brands in an ever growing industry.
These five grills made the list because they offer everything you need at prices that won’t break the bank. The most expensive grill we looked at above was the Timberline 850 for $1699.99. The Tailgater 20 drops all the way down to the modest price tag of $449.99. While they might not be the cheapest smokers on the market, you won’t have to sell a kidney to afford them.
Each of the grills listed above carries the same Traeger three year warranty and excellent attention to detail. Deciding which grill is best for you depends on many factors though. Traeger has grills in every size category and price range. No matter your budget, you can trust any one of the 5 best Traeger grills of 2018 to be an investment that will keep you smoking for years to come.
I hope this Best Traeger Pellet Smokers Reviews And Buyers Guide 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 any of these grills? Do you have something to add? Leave your review in the comments below! We always welcome your input and I would love to hear about your experiences with them.
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