My 5 Days with a new Traeger Ranger

newman

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Greetings:

This is a long post but the short version is that I owned a Ranger for 5 full days and executed 4 cooks on it during that time. I then returned it to the retailer for a refund as I regard the product to be unsafe. The details follow.

Before seasoning my new Traeger for the first time I:
  1. Assembled it according to the directions
  2. Placed it on a flat, level and stable surface protected on 3 sides from any breezes
  3. Acquired a brand new bag of Traeger brand pellets and verified that they were all hard and shiny
  4. Poured the pellets into a colander before transferring them to the hopper to remove any stray sawdust
The seasoning went without incident and after the grill cooled down I proceeded with my first cook. The recipe called for cooking pork chops at around 275 degrees until they were almost done and then removing them and turning the grill up to 450 for a 2 minute per side sear. Once the grill stabilized at 450, I put the pork chops on for 2 minutes. When I lifted the lid to flip them I noticed smoke coming out of the hopper lid. I reduced the temperature to 225 and figured the carryover heat would finish the chops. I then executed a shutdown. Smoke poured from hopper the whole time. When the grill was cool I disassembled and cleaned food residue from the grate and drip tray. I re-primed the stove to get rid of the pellets that had burned in the auger tube and removed as much of the creosote from the auger as I could without removing the auger. Vacuumed up the burnt pellets and ashes.

The second cook was a spatchcocked chicken at 375 degrees. This went without incident. I cleaned the stove, again, completely and vacuumed up any ashes in the bottom.

The third cook was smoked pork chops at 225 degrees. This went without incident. I cleaned the stove and vacuumed the ashes.

The fourth cook was a seared NY strip steak at 450 degrees. I first trimmed the fat to 1/8" on the steak and seasoned it lightly with salt and pepper. After the first side was seared I noticed food juices and melted fat had dripped on to the drip tray and caught fire. I put out the fire and flipped the steaks but, again, saw smoke pouring out of the hopper. Another auger fire. This time the control panel was unresponsive and the smoke was getting thicker. The only button that responded was the "start" button. I pressed it and then immediately the other buttons started to respond. This time I just started the shutdown sequence immediately. Thick smoke poured from the hopper lid for about 10 minutes after the shutdown cycle finished and eventually subsided. When the grill was cool I removed all remaining pellets and noticed that the ones lowest in the hopper were swollen and distorted in shape from the heat. The entire auger was covered in creosote and it was clear the auger fire had made it to the hopper bin. I cleaned up the stove as best I could and re-packed it for return.

I do not believe this stove can be operated safely at or above 400 degrees. I believe that Traeger made some design decisions associated with portability that removed critical safety margins found on larger more traditionally designed grills.

Specifically:

  1. The horizontal feed tube has to be a certain size to accommodate pellets. It is so large that it's diameter is exactly the height of the very shallow burn cup. This makes it very easy for pellets at a high feed rate to back up and be physically in contact with burning pellets.
  2. The horizontal feed tube is a fraction of the length of larger stoves to accommodate the close colocation of the hopper tray to the burn cup.
  3. The heat diffuser is spot welded to the drip tray with a very narrow air gap. When the flames are burning hot, they extend around the sides of the heat diffuser and touch the drip tray itself creating some very hot spots.
  4. The drip tray has a very shallow pitch that makes grease removal more challenging.
The one time I called Traeger, the support staff were lovely to talk to and anxious to help but their assistance was limited to reading off of knowledge articles and they seemed to have very little personal experience with the grills. I know that Traeger doesn't admit to monitoring this forum but I hope someone in their engineering side reads and evaluates this. The product should probably be taken off the market or radically redesigned. If a consumer buys one they should know that it shouldn't be run at 400 degrees or above IMO.
 

RyRy

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Understand your concerns completely. The Scout is also problematic. Ordered a Country Smokers Traveler to see if performs better.
 

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