Grilling is probably my favorite way to cook food: and I cook a lot. While there are unique flavors inherent to any kind of cooking (boiling, baking, sautéing, frying, etc.), there’s something about that special charred taste that can make even the simplest food delicious.
But to get that taste, you need good equipment. You can’t properly bake in a subpar oven, and likewise, you can’t properly grill in a subpar grill, so today we’re going to talk about what makes a good grill, and some of the best options available from Traeger that fit those criteria.
By the end of this, we’ll have a great suite of options that should serve your purpose and fall within your budget. Without any further delay, let’s begin:
|1||Traeger Grills Select Elite Wood Pellet Grill||10||Check Price on Amazon.com|
|2||Traeger TFB29LZA Grills Junior Elite Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker||9.9||Check Price on Amazon.com|
|3||Traeger Grills Tailgater 20 Portable Wood Pellet Grill||9.8||Check Price on Amazon.com|
|4||Traeger Grills Bronson 20 Wood Pellet Grill||9.5||Check Price on Amazon.com|
|5||Traeger Grills Renegade Elite Wood Pellet Grill||9.3||Check Price on Amazon.com|
|6||Traeger Grills Lil Tex Elite 22 Wood Pellet Grill||8.8||Check Price on Amazon.com|
What Should I Look For?
Generally speaking, you want to look for stainless steel. While there are other good materials you can make a grill out of (like cast aluminum), stainless steel is one of the most common (and most preferred by professionals) materials you can find. It has the best mix of quality of surface and durability, and in my opinion that justifies the increase in price.
Watch out for cut corners when buying your grill: sometimes even if the grill itself is made of stainless steel, the frame will be made of cheaper (and less sturdy materials) that can rust and deteriorate.
Grills come in all shapes and sizes. While the shape is largely cosmetic (though I prefer surfaces that aren’t perfectly round myself), the size is an important feature to consider.
Think about how many people you usually cook for or are likely to need to cook for. Do you often host barbecues, or do you just cook for your family? Or maybe even just cook for yourself?
There’s no reason to buy anything bigger than your needs: it’s just a waste of money because a larger surface area is not going to help you do anything but cook larger batches of food.
Raw heat output of a grill for our purposes will be measured in degrees Fahrenheit; some measure in BTUs but BTU information is spotty for these grills (only one clearly lists its BTU output). It’s also worth noting that all of the grills we’re talking about today will be using an electrical igniter and burn wood pellets.
Be careful of high heat as a selling point: higher heat output is not necessarily better. When you’re cooking, one of the most important things is an even dispersal of the heat: a high heat with an uneven distribution of heat can leave your food charred on the outside and raw on the inside, or partially cooked in other ways.
Disgusting – and potentially dangerous, if we’re talking about cooking pork or chicken.
The size, shape, and layout of your grill are always going to be more important than a high heat by itself, in other words. Even a relatively low heat output can result in easy, even grilling on a small grill.
There are a bunch of nifty features to look for in a grill, though it’s important to note that features are where a lot of the cost comes from, so stay away from any grill that has added features you don’t need or aren’t likely to use.
The most common extra features you’re likely to see are:
- A smoker attachment (something I quite like, but may not be for everyone)
- Side burners or multiple level cooking surfaces (both good for cooking different kinds of food at the same time at different heats)
- A rotisserie attachment (something which sounds nice, but in my experience seldom gets used)
- Or built-in lights (the one thing here I wholeheartedly recommend everyone see as a universal bonus; better, more even lighting makes cooking easier and is hard to find outdoors).
This leads us neatly to our final main criteria:
Everything we’ve talked about up to now is going to add to this last factor. Larger surfaces, higher heat, better construction and durability, and more features are all going to add to your price. Determine your price range up front and try to stick to it, because things can add up quickly.
I’d say the order of priority for determining your price (in order of most to least important) comes something like this:
- Size – A grill too small for your use is simply not going to be useful to you, making this a factor it’s hard to skimp on.
- Construction – Higher durability and better materials mean your grill is going to cook better and last longer if well taken care of. This is just about tied with size; buying cheap materials may save you in the short term but is likely to bite you over the long haul.
- Heat – While somewhat important, as mentioned before heat isn’t the be all, end all of whether a grill is going to properly and evenly cook your food. A low BTU value isn’t necessarily a bad thing (especially on smaller grills), so this can be easily sacrificed to an extent.
- Features – Everything here is just extras; many are very nice extras that increase your cooking options, but you can sacrifice here without mentally kicking yourself down the road like on size/shape, construction, or to a lesser extent heat.
All the grills on our list today fall between $400 and $1400, with $400 being about the minimum I’d suggest paying for a good grill. While you can get incredibly cheap grills for a little over $100, I don’t really recommend it: they tend to be cumbersome to use, distribute heat poorly, and less likely to stand the test of time.
In my opinion, cookware should be bought with the intent to use it for at least the next five years (and a decade or more if you can manage it). This applies to silverware, pots and pans, kitchen accessories like blenders or mixers, and of course grills.
Since you’re most likely storing a grill outdoors (or at best in an outdoor storage shed or garage), it’s especially important you buy quality that can stand up to that abuse.
But now, let’s get some grills!
Our Best Traeger Grills For Your Money
1.) Traeger TFB29LZA Grills Junior Elite Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker
First up on our list, this grill is a perfect entry-level option for the frequent casual griller.
It has a quite respectable size: 300 square inches (enough for 12 burgers, 2 whole chickens, or 3 racks of ribs, for reference), making it the perfect size for a casual outdoor barbecue or family get together.
Its digital temperature controller means eyeballing the heat of your grill is mostly a thing of the past: it’s accurate to within twenty degrees of where you set it, making it easier to relax without worrying as much about over- or under-cooking your food.
It does come with a smoker box (a big plus in my book) and uses porcelain for its grill grates, making it much easier to clean than steel.
The main issue here is hopper capacity: it only holds 8 lbs. worth of wood pellets in its hopper, making it likely you’re going to run out when slow cooking certain things (like briskets), so keep that in mind. You’ll likely need to add more wood at some point during the cooking process, which makes it harder to just “smoke and leave” certain foods.
Other than that though, I’m hard-pressed to find anything wrong with this grill. It is simply a good if simple, grill and will only run you around $400. Hard to complain about that.
2.) Traeger Grills Tailgater 20 Portable Wood Pellet Grill
Specs-wise, this is roughly identical to the Junior Elite. It has the same cooking surface area (300 square inches), same temperature control, 8lb hopper capacity, smoker box, and pretty much everything else.
The only differences are it’s slightly more expensive (a bit less than $50 more expensive than the Junior Elite), and it folds up.
Tailgaters can obviously find a lot to love about a grill that folds up into a small, relatively light (it only weighs 62 lbs: small enough for one person to muscle around with a bit of effort or two to easily lift) package, but I see it being a great option for many other kinds of people.
Campers, RVers, “designated grillmeister” at family barbecues, or just somebody who moves around a lot (I’d be tempted to get it just because I consistently pack up and move across the country once every two years or so and space is often at a premium) will all have reasons to want a grill like this.
While the folding legs are likely to make it just a little less steady than the Junior Elite, it honestly seems there’s little reason to buy that over this. The price difference is minuscule, and the added portability is a huge plus in my book.
3.) Traeger Grills Bronson 20 Wood Pellet Grill
Consider this sort of the final evolution of the Junior Elite: a little more expensive, but a little more effective. The Bronson 20 will run you near $500, but I feel that price increase is justified for two reasons: A higher hopper capacity, and its ultra stable legs.
The 25% higher hopper capacity (10 lbs) is worth the price increase alone I think. That’s 25% more cooking time on a single refill, giving you more leeway to have fun and mingle while the grill runs as a background distraction.
The more stable legs make it less portable than the Tailgater or even Junior Elite (along with the increased weight; it’s 10 lbs heavier) but also makes it better suited for chaotic environments (let’s be real: when you have rambunctious kids and somewhat sloshed adults running around a small backyard accidents are going to happen) and helps ensure more even cooking.
Other than these two features, it’s the same as the last two: 300 square inches of grilling space, digital temperature control, porcelain grates, the whole nine yards. This isn’t a bad thing, as those are all great features to have and I’d be quite disappointed if anything was dropped from the cheaper models in the process of making this one.
The upgrades, with that in mind, more than make this worth the cost increase, particularly when you factor in that it’s HOA approved to not set your deck on fire when you use it, so you can grill on your patio or back porch without having to worry.
4.) Traeger Grills Renegade Elite Wood Pellet Grill
This grill is a rebel: The Renegade starts our trend of more variety in specs.
Compared to the other entries on our list, it’s bigger (380 square inches vs 300), but still has the basic suite of a smoker, porcelain grates, and so on.
What it has over those (besides the extra size, enough to throw a few more burgers on the grill or an extra half a chicken) are features.
Unlike many extra features, I consider these more “quality of life” upgrades rather than luxuries. They’re certainly EXTRAS, but they’re things anybody would be glad to have rather than niche add-ons. The front grate makes it far easier to load the grill up (giving you somewhere to set your tray and tools), getting rid of the need for a separate side table.
Speaking of tools, the added tool basket makes everything easy to store in one place. Just slap your tongs, scraper, fork, and other grill accessories in there so you don’t need to rummage through a drawer every time like I inevitably have to.
Unlike the previous three entries here, it has an easy to exchange and clean hopper. You just open a back hatch, the wood pellets will come tumbling out, and you can replace them with new ones. Saves you a lot of time and effort if you need to clean or like to change to different woods for smoking (I personally suggest cherry wood for most things, but variety is always nice).
My favorite feature though is probably the side grease drain. Perhaps not the sexiest addition, but grease is a fact of life when you’re grilling, and cleaning grease traps and splatter for grills that just let it drain out of the bottom is time-consuming and dirty work. This takes enough of the hassle out of it to almost make it worth buying just for that, in my opinion.
The increase in price is reasonable (it’s about $700, give or take depending on sales), and makes it well worth my recommendation.
5.) Traeger Grills Lil Tex Elite 22 Wood Pellet Grill
For those of you who find the extra features of the Renegade pointless, and just want a big ol’ honking huge grill: The Lil Tex has you covered.
Don’t let the “Lil” moniker fool you: This is a large grill. Coming in at 418 square inches, it gives you enough capacity to grill four entire chickens, 16 hamburgers, or five racks of ribs. It also has an 18 lb hopper capacity (about double any of the others we’ve looked at yet) to match, letting you grill or smoke for hours on end before having to worry about refilling it.
That makes this bad boy the go-to for people that need to feed a lot of hungry mouths. Do you host the neighborhood barbecue? Or maybe your annual family reunion event? What about the big Superbowl party? Whatever big event you need it for, this grill has you covered.
Plus it still retains my favorite feature (the side grease drain), even if it loses out on the tool storage and front rack.
The Lil Tex will also run you about $700, so it’s hard to recommend either this or the Renegade over the other; it basically comes down to what you need it for. Unless you are the host or grillmeister for a huge event like I mentioned, the extra size is kind of overkill: but if you need it, you definitely need it.
Basically, I’d recommend this over any other grill on this list if you just need a huge grilling surface, but for about the same price you could get the Renegade and all its extra fancy features if you happen to not need that much space inside your grill.
6.) Traeger Grills Select Elite Wood Pellet Grill
This is the Big Kahuna of Traeger Grills. It combines everything that made any other grill on this list a good choice, save two: It’s not easily portable (far from it; we’ll talk about that in a sec), and it doesn’t have the side grease drain.
What it does have is an even better front (and both sides) shelf around the grill, giving you plenty of space to rest your utensils, tools, trays, plates, and whatever else you need, without even the annoyance of it is a grate (like the Renegade), and even MORE storage space underneath, giving you a whole cabinet to work with.
I’m a real sucker for this kind of thing because I NEVER have enough shelf or storage space anywhere I live, so being able to combine multiple things into one space makes me excited every time. In this case, storage space is storage space. While you can store your grill related stuff here, it also gives you extra space for, say, a toolbox or something to get it out from under your feet whenever you walk on your back porch…but I digress.
The smoker box remains and is slightly larger than the others. In fact, everything is a bit larger than others on this list. It boasts an enormous 589 square inches of grilling space (close to double the Junior Elite, and still about 40% larger than the Lil Tex) with an 18 lb hopper capacity. This is basically your nuclear option for grill space: if everybody’s not fed with this bad boy you must be trying to feed an army or something.
Now, the downsides: it’s an enormous grill, and that means it’s big. And heavy. 170 lbs, to be exact. Thankfully it comes with multidirectional wheels that can lock in place so it’s easy to move around once you have it put together, but the weight makes that fairly difficult and this is not going to be your tailgating grill of choice.
And as you might expect, big size comes with a big price tag: It will run you near to $1300 on average.
That aside, this is an excellent grill if it’s in your price range, and my pick for the best grill on this list in terms of overall quality.
I like all the grills on this list for one reason or another and would consider buying any of them. The Junior Elite is the least good option on this list, in my opinion, but it’s FAR from bad, and they just get better and better as the price goes up.
Normally I find that quality doesn’t necessarily rise with the cost, with many things I review having only incremental increases in quality at the higher price end, making the mid-range options often the best.
In this case, though, I really do feel the Select Elite is the best option, despite it being double the price of the second most expensive option. That said, a strong runner-up is the Renegade, which is essentially half the size, half the features, for half the price which is very fair to me.
I’d highly suggest the Renegade over the Select Elite if you simply don’t need the 589 square inches of space (which you very well might not), but for many people grilling is a large group event, so it makes sense to weigh the higher capacity up on that list.
Overall though, these are ALL high-quality options and I don’t feel there’d be any buyer’s remorse for picking up any of these. I’d say just pick whichever one comes in at your comfortable price range and enjoy the grilling!