Traeger. Does Size Matter?
I regularly get asked “What size Traeger should I get?” This is a valid question and just over a year ago I found myself pondering the same thing.
Prior to purchasing my Treager I had a basic understanding of how it worked, what the fuel source was, but I did not have a complete understanding of its operation. I purchased the Traeger Pro Series 34 grill (one of the larger Traegers), because bigger is always better right? Well not in the case of BBQ’s and specifically the Traeger brand of grills. I justified the purchased of the larger size grill because we regularly host gatherings and cook in large quantity for weekly meal prep. Not to mention it was the mother of all grills and my one and only opportunity to get my dream grill (so I thought). I use my Traeger at least five days a week and regularly make breakfasts, lunch, dinners and desserts. Yes, I said desserts.
So why is bigger NOT always better when it comes to Traeger Grills? It’s important to understand how the Traeger works. Traeger grills are equipped with a hopper that funnels small real wood pellets into a fire pot. These pellets are automatically fed into the firepot by an auger and they are ignited with a “hot rod.” When cooking on low temperatures fewer pellets are fed into the firepot causing them to smolder, producing a small fire. The fire is tamed by a heat baffle and drip tray. More pellets are fed into the firepot when cooking on high temperature causing a larger fire and more heat. Traeger grills are equipped two small fans and thermometer which helps regulate the temperature and fuel the fire.
Traeger grills are constructed of cold rolled powder coated steel. These grills are single walled constructed (except the Timberline series). Outside air temperature, wind and weather effects the cooking times and pellet consumption. I live in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and get below freezing temperatures in the winter season. I use my Traeger year around and can regularly be found cooking during snowy conditions.
When asked what Traeger should I purchase my answer is always “It depends.” It depends on how many people you will be cooking for on a regular basis and what you will be cooking. If you are planning for cooking for a single family and hosting the occasional barbecue I would recommend purchasing a small grill and here’s why.
For the most part I only cook for a family of four on my Pro Series 34 grill. This grill takes time to reach maximum temperature especially during inclement weather. The larger the Traeger the more pellets it take to heat and maintain it’s temperature. It’s also harder to maintain cooking temps once opening the grill lid for misting, flipping and saucing meats. The pellet consumption can be a little much to cook a single Tri-Tip or a few burgers. The larger grill is great for cooking in large quantities, parties, XL pizzas and large dishes. Be honest with yourself, how often is that?
I recently purchased a Traeger Tailgater which is one of Traeger’s smallest grills. I love my Traeger Tailgater and it has become my daily cooking machine. The grill is big enough to cook three Tri-Tips, two whole Spatchcock Chickens, or two racks of ribs with minimal pellet consumption. You can regularly find me grilling my main course and a side dish on my Tailgater. The hopper is small but can manage long cooks at low temperatures.
For everyday cooking for a single family I would recommend getting a small Traeger, specifically their Pro Series 22 model. The grill is equipped with the digital pro controller, which comes with two temperature probes to monitor the internal temperature of meats, the sawhorse chassis for better stability and upper rack for additional cooking space. The pellet consumption is more efficient in the Pro Series 22 grill and easier to maintain temperature.
In addition to the Traeger Grill there are a few accessories I would suggest getting. The most important accessory is a grill cover. It’s a must to keep your grill looking pristine and operating properly for years to come. Traeger’s folding front shelf is an excellent compliment to any of their grills. The extra space is convenient when the grill is in use and compact when folded down. Lastly, a quality digital Thermometer is a necessity for anyone getting into barbecue. I would recommend a thermometer that can monitor the temperature of the grill and internal temperature of the food with a wireless base for monitoring. See my previous review on the Thermoworks Smoke for some additional information.
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