Buying a Traeger Grill: Is it worth paying for the name brand?


When it comes to pellet grills, Traeger has been the big name for many years. But in recent times, we’ve seen the rise of some newcomers to the pellet grill game and they’re making some big waves.

And that begs the question, are Traeger pellet grills any better than the other brands on the market today? Are Traegers really worth their high price?

When compared to brands like Green Mountain Grills, Z Grills, Pit Boss, and Camp Chef, it’s hard to justify the high price of a Traeger pellet grill. Comparing features, temperature control, and even the cooking area, these brands all perform at least as well as a comparable Traeger, and usually at a substantial discount.

So now let’s take each of these criteria for how Traeger pellet smokers compare to these other brands to help you decide which grill is the right choice for you.

Size

When it comes to how much meat you can smoke on a pellet grill for the price, the Traeger doesn’t even come close.

I took 5 of the most popular brands of pellet grills, all of which I have owned and used a lot, and just ran some numbers. Based on most of the available models for each brand, the table below shows the average price you’re paying per square inch of cooking space.

BrandAverage Price per Square Inch
Traeger$1.48
Pit Boss$0.53
Green Mountain Grills$1.27
Z Grills$0.79
Camp Chef$0.82
This includes total smoking area on all cooking grates.

Are these numbers as shocking to you as they are to me?

If we assume that all else is equal (not actually true, I know) then you’d be paying almost 3x as much for the same cooking space on a Traeger as you’d pay for a Pit Boss.

But there’s no way that it can be that bad for all Traeger grills, right? Let’s look at each of these grills individually.

Traeger Grill Lineup

Grill NameTotal Cooking SpacePricePrice per
sq in
Tailgater300 sq in$449.99$1.50
Pro 22572 sq in$599.99$1.05
Pro 34884 sq in$699.99$0.79
Pro 575572 sq in$799.99$1.40
Pro 780780 sq in$999.99$1.28
Ironwood 650650 sq in$1199.99$1.85
Ironwood 885885 sq in$1499.99$1.69
Timberline 850850 sq in$1799.99$2.12
Timberline 13001300 sq in$1999.99$1.54
For a detailed list of features and comparison of the Traeger Grill lineup, check out their 2020 Grill Comparison cheat sheet available here.

Wow, so it’s not the same for all Traeger grills! Some are much worse. And that’s not even accounting for the caveats in this data.

For the Timberline grills, that cooking surface is based on 3 tiers of racks. For comparison, the Austin XL has a total cooking surface area of about 1,000 square inches. But the main grill is 663 square inches as measured by me, whereas the main grilling surface of the Timberline 1300 is only about 433 square inches.

So when you’re smoking something tall, like a turkey or a pork roast and have to take out the upper grills, even the largest Traeger grill can’t smoke as much meat as the $497 Pit Boss Austin XL or the $599 Green Mountain Grills Jim Bowie. That said, it can smoke more ribs so there is that.

Let’s look at how the other grills compare.

Grill Brand and NameTotal Cooking SpacePricePrice per sq in
Pit Boss Classic700 sq in$396$0.57
Pit Boss Austin XL1000 sq in$497$0.50
Green Mountain Daniel Boone458 sq in$499$1.09
Green Mountain Jim Bowie658 sq in$599$0.91
Green Mountain Prime Davy Crockett219 sq in$329$1.50
Green Mountain Prime Daniel Boone458 sq in$749$1.64
Green Mountain Prime Jim Bowie658 sq in$949$1.44
Z Grills 10002E1060 sq in$759$0.72
Z Grills 700D700 sq in$599$0.86
Z Grills 450A450 sq in$369$0.82
Z Grills L6002E600 sq in$479$0.80
Camp Chef SmokePro DLX 24570 sq in$550$0.96
Camp Chef SmokePro SGX 24 Wifi811 sq in$700$0.86
Camp Chef SmokePro SGX 36 Wifi1236 sq in$900$0.73
Camp Chef Woodwind Wifi 361236 sq in$1000$0.81
Like the Traeger Timberline, many of these smokers achieve their large cooking surface area by adding multiple racks. The Pit Boss Austin XL, Camp Chef SmokePro SGX 36, and Woodwind Wifi 36 have the largest actual cooking footprint of these grills.

The data is pretty clear. If what you want is to be able to smoke a lot of meat, Pit Boss comes out way on top.

For more on the size comparison between grills, make sure you watch the embedded video below.

Temperature Control

So if it’s not how much you can smoke that causes price of a Traeger to be so high, maybe it’s just that it controls temperature better.

Not so.

I ran some tests on various grills and checked for how well each grill maintained its temperature, how long it took to get to the set temperature, and how closely the temperature on the grill readout matched the actual temperature inside the grill.

What I found is that all the grills I tested with the exception of the Camp Chef were able to reach 350°F within 15 minutes. Now, the Pro, Ironwood, and Timberline series of Traegers do have their Turbo Temp feature, which could speed that up. But really, at 15 minutes or less for all the others, how much value do we really get for that feature?

I just start up my smoker and leave it while I get the meat ready. This is never an issue for me.

I also found that most of the smokers maintained the temperature pretty well. Ironically, it was my Traeger that had the widest temperature swings. My friend has the same issue on his Traeger Pro. In fact, is was actually the Green Mountain Grills brand that did the best on that test, maintaining its temperature almost exactly the whole time. I had temperature swings up to 100°F over my set temperature on my Traeger. Not good.

One thing I will point out, Wifi control does give you tighter temperature control than manual control. On the Green Mountain Grills Prime Grills they boast 5°F increments whereas manual controls tend to have 25°F increments.

To learn more about the testing I did and how the grills compared to each other, make sure you watch the video here.

Convenience

Having smoked a lot of meat on numerous smokers, I find that when I just want to quickly get out a smoker and get going, I usually grab for the Camp Chef SmokePro.

Camp Chef has done some really smart things with their pellet grills that just make it more convenient to use.

The first is the cool cleanout cup on the bottom. On most grills, you have to remove everything, the grates, the heat diffuser, everything and then vacuum out the fire pot. On the Camp Chef, you can just open a little door by pulling on a rod and the ash empties out into a cup underneath.

This feature comes in handy way more often than you’d think.

For example, if the fire goes out, it’s usually because there’s too much ash or because the auger stopped feeding pellets for a bit and now you may have way too many pellets in the fire pot. In either case, you need to be able to empty it and that feature alone will save you 10 minutes.

The other feature I love is the chute for emptying pellets from the hopper. I usually like to add more pellets than I need so that the auger definitely won’t stop feeding pellets to the fire pot. But that means that when I’m done, there are extra pellets in the hopper. I like to empty those out.

Several other grills have a little door for emptying pellets. The Pit Boss grills do, even many of the Traegers. But the Z Grills don’t and the one on the Camp Chef just works the best by far. It’s shaped more like a chute which makes it easier to empty the pellets into a bag or bucket, but it also just seems to drain the pellets better than the others.

To see this feature in action, make sure you check out the embedded video above.

Features

With so many other grills available at lower prices, Traeger is really stepping up their features game. This table shows some of the main features that Traeger advertises for their smokers.

SeriesMeat ProbesWifi ControlMax Temp.Other FeaturesPrice per
sq in
Tailgater2450° FFolding Legs$1.50
Pro1Yes500° FTurbo Temp$1.10
Ironwood1Yes500° FPellet Level Sensor$1.76
Timberline1Yes500° FConcealed Grease Management
3 Tiers of Cooking Grates
$1.77
Each series of Traeger grill has the features of the lower series plus the additional features shown in this table.

On their Ironwood and Timberline grills, they have a neat pellet sensor that lets you monitor how many pellets you have left in the grill from your phone.

The other brands don’t have that. Green Mountain Grills does have an annoying alarm that beeps when your pellets get too low.

That said, running out of pellets in the auger has derailed more than a few meals for me. When pellets run out it can often an hour just to get the meat back to the internal temperature it was at before the pellets ran out.

But, there’s a little catch for both the Traeger pellet sensor and the Green Mountain Grills alarm. When I’ve run out of pellets getting through the auger, it’s never because I ran out of pellets. It’s because the pellets drop into the auger in a nice funnel shape. I have had a hopper that’s still at least 20% full but that let the auger run empty.

No gadget alone is going to prevent your auger from running empty of pellets.

The moral of that story is that no matter what little gadget you have, you do need to either fill your hopper with a lot more pellets then you’ll need for what you’re smoking, or just check on the pellets with your actual eyeballs every few hours.

When I smoke something overnight, I just fill the hopper with way more pellets than I’ll need and then I can sleep easy knowing my pork roast will be ready to rest when I wake up in the morning.

As for the other features, sure, Green Mountain Grills and Camp Chef have Wifi controls on their prime grills, but do they have pellet sensors? What about a hidden grease management system? You know, for those who really hate that hanging grease bucket that all the other pellet grills have.

Really though, Wifi control is pretty nice. We’re not just talking about remote temperature monitoring. That’s really nice too, but is easy to add to any grill by buying this ThermPro wireless Meat Thermometer (which I highly recommend). No, Wifi control lets you set and adjust the temperature of your smoker from your phone.

On the Green Mountain Grills prime series smokers, you can control the temperature in 5°F increments. The control knobs on these smokers are usually set to more like 25°F increments.

The real question here is if these features are worth the cost. Would I pay an additional $1,500 for wireless temperature control and a hidden grease bucket? I’ll give that a hard pass. So really, if all else is basically equal on these smokers, I’ll definitively say that Traegers are absolutely not worth their high price.

Key Takeaways

Depending what you want from your pellet grill, this is the brand you should consider first for your money

  1. Size/Cooking Surface Area: Pit Boss
  2. Temperature Control: Green Mountain Grills (really any but the Traeger)
  3. Convenience: Camp Chef
  4. Features: Green Mountain Grills
  5. Brand Recognition: Traeger

I really think that’s where the Traeger goes. Not to offend anyone who has bought a Traeger. For years they really were the best. But today, if you know what’s out there and how the Traeger really stacks up and you decide to buy a Traeger anyway, it’s because you wanted that brand.

Ricky Kesler

Been a man all my life, since the moment of my birth. I'm an avid outdoorsman which includes shooting, camping, hiking, hunting, outdoor cooking, and such. I'm also a DIY guy. I fix my own house and usually my own car.

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