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A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling, passed on from his father and grandfather to him.
A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling,
passed on from his father and grandfather to him.
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:
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.
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 grill that can stand up to that abuse. Getting a grill cover is recommended too.
Now, let’s get some grills!
Traeger Grills Reviews & Comparisons 2021
1. Traeger Pro 575 Wood Pellet Grill
- Wifi Enabled And Alexa Compatible.
- Good Performance.
- Electronic temperature controls.
- Great size.
- Sturdy and well constructed of stainless steel.
- Slightly more expensive than grills of similar size and quality; price increase is entirely based on the wifi and Alexa control compatibility.
Here’s an interesting model. Slightly larger than the Century 22, but also a bit more expensive.
Most of the features are fairly standard. It has a good sized 575 square inches of cooking area to work with, along with the solid construction you expect from Traeger, and the electronic temperature control that keeps things within a good 15 degrees range of your target temperature.
The main draw here is the wifi control addition, and moreover the ability to pair it with your Alexa, so you can use voice controls to set and adjust the temperature.
It’s a nice feature, and helps spruce up this otherwise very standard Traeger grill. It’s not bad, by any means, but lacks any of the other additional nice features that the other grills bring to the table in terms of raw grill quality; this one lives or dies on whether you value the wifi control feature.
More on Traeger Pro 575
2. Traeger Grills Pro Series 22 Pellet Grill
- Well Made And Sturdy.
- Electronic Temperature Control.
- Good sized grilling space.
- Good steady sawhorse design.
- Great price for the size.
- Nothing particularly unique about it compared to other Traeger grills.
Here’s a smaller Pro Series. It’s as good as all of the other Pro Series options, just a bit smaller. You get about 3 square inches less space than the one with the Echo Dot functionality, which isn’t a bad trade given it costs about 2/3 what that one costs overall.
If you like this size, but don’t need the wifi capability, this is an excellent deal. It comes with all the other great features that Traeger grills are known for; electronic temperature control capability that makes smoking easy and efficient.
The construction is good, and it has that nice sawhorse design that makes it much steadier than the straighter legged design several of these grills share.
The only real issue with this grill is that there’s not much to write home about here. It’s just well made and great for what it is, but so are all of these other grills.
3. Traeger Grills Pro Series 34 Pellet Grill and Smoker
- Enormous Cooking Area.
- Digital Temperature Controls.
- Well built and sturdy.
- Great design on the legs, combining mobility with steadiness.
- Awkwardly sized; too small for many professionals, too big for most home cooks.
If you want size over anything else, this grill has you covered.
Similar to the Pro Series models above, this one comes with most of the Traeger Grills trimmings. While it lacks the shelving of the Select Elite, it has a nice sawhorse design that makes it very sturdy, while maintaining 4 wheels instead of the usual design that sports a pair of large wheels and a couple of posts. This makes this huge grill a bit more mobile than it otherwise might be.
It still has digital temperature control built in, as well as a spacious and easy to load hopper, and a great chimney for smoking.
My issue largely lies in the price. 884 square inches of grilling space is an immense amount of space, and it commands an equally immense price. It’s also, quite frankly, overkill for most people.
Unless you’re cooking meals for a crowd of people every day (and even then, you’d probably want a LARGER model than this) the size of this is likely to be well beyond your means, where something in the roughly 500 to 600 square inches range will probably do you better.
Basically, it’s in both an awkward sizing and awkward price bracket; a little too large for most people while not large enough for others. You’d need a very specific usage requirement for this to be worth it, in my opinion.
Another large model is the Traeger Timberline 1300
4. Traeger Ranger Portable Grill and Smoker
- Good Size.
- Solid hopper capacity.
- Sturdy stainless steel construction.
- Top notch performance.
- Fairly pricey.
- On the bulky size for a portable grill or smoker.
Traeger doesn’t make a ton of portable grills, and it may just be because they got this one so right to begin with.
This is an excellently made portable smoker, with all the features I look for in something like that.
It’s compact, lightweight, and travels well. The latching lid makes it safe to store all your tools inside and then travel however you need to.
You get about the average amount of grilling space for a portable grill, which is a good 184 square inches; enough for a good sized meal for a decent group of people.
Despite the portable nature, it keeps all the nice features Traeger grills are known for, including the advanced grilling logic and other accuracy increasing tools, like the internal meat probe and keep warm function. This means that even on the go, you don’t have to sacrifice quality and ease of use.
While a bit (truthfully, a LOT) pricier than other portable grilling and smoking options, the quality speaks for itself. It’s the full Traeger grills experience, just in a smaller package. The only real gripe I have is the size and weight. This is definitely more of a tailgating or campground grill; it’s too bulky and heavy to take on a hike or deep camping trip.
See our full review of Traeger Ranger.
5. Traeger PTG+ 15” Portable Electric Grill
- Compact and easy to store or travel with.
- Relatively lightweight for something of this size.
- Good performance.
- Electronic temperature controller built in.
- Sturdy and well made.
- Not recommended for use as a smoker.
While the Ranger is more geared toward portable smoking, with some grilling ability, this one flips it; it’s a great grill, with very limited smoking capability.
The size is compact and it latches for even easier storage and travel. It’s electric (plugs into any standard 110 v outlet), so it’s perfect for RVing and campground camping. The interior give you enough grilling space to work with (173 square inches) so you don’t need to worry about needing to cook multiple batches just to feed your group.
Besides its smaller size, it has most of the other big Traeger features, including the digital temperature controls that keep everything within about 20 degrees of your set temperature, making for a very consistent grilling experience even on the go.
The only real issue is the smoking ability; while it says it’s capable, I wouldn’t recommend it. Many users report issues trying to slow smoke with this thing, up to and including burning out the machine. If you want a portable smoker, stick to the Ranger; they’re about the same price anyway.
6. 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. 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.
Read our Traeger Grills Bronson 20 Wood Pellet Grill individual product review for more details.
7. Traeger Grills TFB38TOD Renegade Pro Pellet Grill
- Relatively compact.
- Great price.
- Excellent construction.
- Automatic temperature controller makes cooking easier.
- Attached tool rack for a little more ease of use.Easy to load pellets.
- A bit smaller than other grills.
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.
We have another similar model reviewed here: Traeger Grills Renegade Elite
8. Traeger Grills Century 22 Pellet Grill and Smoker
- Well built and sturdy.
- Perfect for smoking meat
- Good temperature control.
- Easy to load and fire wood pellets.
- A bit on the heavy side.
- Complete lack of prep shelves or storage space.
Here’s another quite large grill, only 17 square inches smaller than our winner. It has a darker, black design with much more of a bent towards smoking than grilling this time around. It certainly functions (and quite well) as a grill, but the telltale factors here are the lack of any trays and the side mounted grease bucket; all signs that this grill expects you to spend more time sitting back while it goes low and slow than messing around with the meat.
As a smoker this thing is excellent, with the same temperature control technology and smart auger system most Traeger grills has, with a very adjustable chimney and a squat, firm design.
It’s sturdily made with good wheels and perfect for setting in place, while being easy to load and use.
Plus, it’s a lot cheaper than our winner, so if you don’t value the storage space and shelving very much, this is a great money saving purchase.
9. Traeger Grills Lil Tex Elite 22 Wood Pellet Grill
- Great performance.Excellent cooking size.
- Good overall design and construction.
- Excellent quality of life additions (shelf and storage space).
- Fairly high price.
- Wheels can be finicky.
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 less a thousand, 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 grillmaster 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.
10. Traeger Grills Select Elite Wood Pellet Grill
- Great performance.Excellent cooking size.
- Good overall design and construction.
- Excellent quality of life additions (shelf and storage space).
- Fairly high price.
- Wheels can be finicky.
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 a thousand bucks 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’d highly suggest the Pro 575 over the Elite Series if you simply don’t need the 575 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!
Read more: Troubleshooting Traeger grills.