Six Month Review of My Traeger

MidwestSmoker

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 6, 2021
Messages
312
Reaction score
378
Points
63
Location
Toledo, Ohio
Grill
Traeger Pro 575
I purchased my Pro 575 in the beginning of May of this year, so it has now been almost 6 months. I wrote up my observations soon after my first cook, so its time for an update.

Overall, the Traeger has been phenomenal for what I wanted: low and slow cooking. It does everything I stick inside almost perfectly, pork butts, briskets, different ribs, even chicken. The ability to do these without the constant attention needed by offset smokers and other pits is a huge advantage for me. Traegers are not perfect, but they are ideal for many like me who have limited time and backyard space for smoking meats. My Traeger does have some drawbacks, but fortunately there are ways to work around them as I will mention below.

High & Low Temperature Cooking
Many on this forum view the Traegers poor performance at high temperature cooking, compared to other types of grills, as a drawback. I don’t consider it a drawback as it is not meant for primarily doing high temperature cooking. It is alright for an occasional sear, but there are better tools for this, including a cast iron pan on your stovetop. I almost never heat my Traeger above 300 degrees for this reason and do not use it for burgers and steaks.

At the other extreme, for low and slow cooking an often overlooked issue is the outside conditions. When the temperature is 90 degrees outside and the Traeger is in direct sunlight, it can add the equivalent of about 35 degrees to the grill (Timmy actually measured this!). This becomes a problem as the auger must maintain a minimum feed rate to prevent the fire from dying out which is equivalent to the 165 degree minimum. If the grill is in direct sunlight this means it will not be able to go below 200 degrees. This is exactly what happened on my first Traeger cook and I thought something was wrong with it. On the advice of those on the forum, the next time I made sure it was in the shade and the problem went away.

Wood Smoke Flavor
A more meaningful drawback is that it does not give strong wood smoke flavor to the meats. I think this problem comes from using pellets and all pellet grills have this issue. Adding smoke tubes helps a lot here. You can use wood chips in the tubes to get real wood smoke, rather than pellet smoke. I was skeptical initially about smoke tubes, but now I consider them essential. Slim has posted links many times to smoke tubes that you can purchase and has also created a YouTube video on how to get it started. The only thing I will add is that in cooler weather it is a challenge to get the smoke tubes going, so I let them get preheated in the grill for about 30 minutes before lighting them.

Temperature Probes
Probably the most significant drawback to Traegers is their poor temperature probes. I was lucky I found this forum soon after purchasing the Traeger and was alerted to this problem. I purchased the FireBoard 2 system and it has been amazing. FireBoard is so good that I will recommend everyone to get it even if their Traeger probes worked well. Any time I cook something completely new I usually make notes on what worked and what didn’t, but I often lose them! FireBoard records each cook session and you can make your notes right there and review them before your next cook. Yes, it is expensive, but I think it is worth it if you are serious about smoking meats. Thanks to FireBoard, the inaccuracy of the Traeger pit probe has been reduced to a minor annoyance for me.

Temperature Gradients
Another drawback is the temperature gradient inside the pit. This is not unique to Traegers and it is there in almost all grills, unless you are operating a 500 gallon or larger offset smoker. I do think it is worse in my Pro 575 than the other Traegers though. The Ironwoods and the Timberlines are better insulated, and their insulation can often be further improved as RemE has done. One advantage of the Fireboard system is that you can share your cooking sessions with others and I love to look at the other forum members Fireboard sessions. When I looked at Timmy’s sessions, I saw that his Pro 780 had the same temperature difference across the pit as my Pro 575 of around 15-20 degrees, but it was over a much larger pit. This meant that the temperature will be more even in larger grills. This is one more reason to buy the larger version of each Traeger line that you can afford.

One solution to the temperature gradient problem was suggested by Slim who constructed and placed a baffle next to the grease drain in his Pro 575. He was kind enough to make one for me and mail it and I couldn’t wait to test it. I think it did help as the temperature difference dropped by about 5 degrees but not as much as I hoped. However, it significantly reduced temperature swings in the grill. I am not sure why it worked so well for temperature swings but not the temperature difference, but I can highly recommend it to everyone concerned about temperature swings in their Pro 575. I can create a drawing for those who have metal working tools and want to take stab at it.

The Firepot
The Traegers are so solidly constructed that it comes as a surprise that the part with the most extreme conditions, namely the firepot, is made of steel that will rust quickly. It took only about 3 months for signs of rust to show up in my firepot. If left unattended it will probably have to be replaced in a year or 2. Slim alerted everyone on the forum about this and gave the solution: oiling the firepot during regular grill cleanup. This involves removing the wingnuts holding the firepot and then rotating it slightly clockwise to free the hotrod. (Also, note that the wire to the hotrod is very tight as the excess wire is wound in a clamp behind the controller. If the wire pops out of a connector as mine did, you will have to unscrew the controller, free the wire from the clamp, rethread it and reconnect it.) Once the firepot is free, oil it very well and screw it back in place and this will ensure it lasts a long time.

Powering the Traeger
The Traegers are meant for low and slow cooking and this means that they need uninterrupted power. All it takes is a momentary power glitch to shut them down, not to mention longer power outages. This is particularly bad if you are doing overnight cooks for briskets and pork butts like I do. Some kind of battery backup power is essential. If you have a covered porch or garage next to the Traeger, a UPS is an inexpensive solution. If you are like me without a covered area you should invest in a ruggedized power station, such as a Jackery. I have a 500W Jackery which can power my Traeger through two overnights cooks from a single charge, but a 200W one is perfectly adequate for an overnight cook. Another benefit is that I don’t have to run a long power cord across my patio.

Summary
I left the South 25 years ago and missed the excellent barbecue meats for years. Fortunately, soon after I left the City Barbecue restaurant opened in Columbus, Ohio and eventually they opened a location in Toledo. I was there immediately and they are quite good for a chain restaurant and the prices are high but not outrageous (brisket is $20/lb). They even gave me a tour of their smoking rooms, but it lacks the personal touch of a good local restaurant.

I thought the only way for me to make smoked meats was to have either an offset smoker or a bullet smoker. I just didn’t have the time for that. I heard about pellet grills only about two years ago when I saw a Traeger at a Home Depot. For the first time I could think about doing my own smoking. I am still amazed that a novice like me can cook excellent smoked meats on my Traeger. With the D2 controller Traegers are a mature, but complex product. This means that you need to put in the effort get to know it and master cooking with it. This also means I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone not serious about mastering low and slow cooking. For those who have always wanted to make Texas style briskets, Carolina style pulled pork or Kansas City style ribs, but lacked the time and space, I can wholeheartedly recommend a Traeger, but a larger one than what I got. My next goal is to learn to cure and smoke meats on my Traeger like Rusty!
 
Last edited:

Slimpicker

Ol' Timer BBQer
Staff member
Joined
Aug 3, 2020
Messages
2,568
Reaction score
2,296
Points
113
Location
stl mo
Grill
Pro 575 Bronze► OKJoe's Longhorn Combo► WeberQ Gasser ►Weber kettle► UDS ► Inkbird Sous Vide
Excellent job on the write up (y) (y) (y)
 

dflaher

Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2020
Messages
56
Reaction score
18
Points
8
Location
Chandler, AZ
Grill
Ironwood 885
OP - nice summary about the pros amd cons of the Traeger D2 grills. I use mine much in the same manner as you. Any feedback on the Traeger pellets? Have you used them or gone with another brand?
 
OP
OP
MidwestSmoker

MidwestSmoker

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 6, 2021
Messages
312
Reaction score
378
Points
63
Location
Toledo, Ohio
Grill
Traeger Pro 575
OP - nice summary about the pros amd cons of the Traeger D2 grills. I use mine much in the same manner as you. Any feedback on the Traeger pellets? Have you used them or gone with another brand?
I think pellet brands are a personal choice as everyone has their favorite. When I first got my Traeger, I bought a large 30 lb bag of Traeger pellets from Costco. That was not a good experience as it had a lot of dust.

It is easy to conclude the Traeger pellets are bad, but it is also possible that I got a bad batch. What is not in dispute is that Traeger pellets are very expensive. I now mostly go with Pit Boss pellets as I can get the for $9 for a 20 lb bag at Walmart, about half the price of Traeger pellets. I occasionally go to Tractor Supply to get Bear Mountain pellets for $10 for a 20 lb bag.

What I really want are the Furtado Farms pellets which Rusty uses! Unfortunately, you can only get them in Canada. I live close enough to the border for a pellet run, but the pandemic has prevented that.
 

dw3679

New member
Joined
Oct 6, 2021
Messages
2
Reaction score
3
Points
3
Location
Anaheim, CA
Grill
Traeger Ironwood 650
Thanks for the excellent write up. I've been using Kingsford pellets and I'm very happy with them. I also use wood chips in a smoke tube for extra flavor.
 

JPSBBQ

Member
Joined
Oct 24, 2021
Messages
83
Reaction score
91
Points
18
Location
Illinois
Grill
Ranger,Ironwood 885, Timberine 850 &1300
I will say you are missing out on the burgers. They are a different approach but they come out with almost a mahogany lacquer finish on them. Juicy and delicious with the Traeger kiss of wood smoke flavor. It’s a hidden gem. I do agree that the searing is the obvious Achilles heel. Cheers!
 

ExUnifliter

Member
Joined
Feb 15, 2020
Messages
67
Reaction score
51
Points
18
Location
Pacific NorthWet
Grill
Pro Series 22
Or get the best of both worlds…I reverse sear my burgers. TR on Smoke/180* to within couple-three degrees of preferred doneness, then quick sear on a super hot grill or cast iron skillet
 
Last edited:

GrillMeister

Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Jun 17, 2019
Messages
1,364
Reaction score
1,851
Points
113
Location
Austin, TX
Grill
Ironwood 885, Century 22, BGEx2, GMG Davey Crockett
I will say you are missing out on the burgers. They are a different approach but they come out with almost a mahogany lacquer finish on them. Juicy and delicious with the Traeger kiss of wood smoke flavor. It’s a hidden gem. I do agree that the searing is the obvious Achilles heel. Cheers!

Burgers are easy peasy on the Traeger with no flare ups from the grease. Get a Thermapen and cook to temp.
 

Latest Discussions

Top