Traeger Ranger Smoke Coming from Hopper

newman

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Greetings:

Today I took delivery of my new Traeger Ranger. Knowing it would be showing up today I bought a fresh bag of Traeger pellets at my local hardware store. Assembled the grill and ran the break-in procedure without incident. Tonight I decided to make pork chops using one of the recipes on the Traeger website. This involved slow "smoking" the chops at 275 until they were mostly done and then raising the temperature to 500 (450 on the ranger) and grilling for a few minutes per side. When I did that, after a few minutes a lot of smoke was coming from the pellet hopper. It was the end of the cook so I just engaged the shutdown cycle and the smoke continued to pour out of the hopper for several minutes while the shutdown procedure continued. I'm waiting now for the stove to cool down enough to disassemble.

What is going on? These are fresh pellets right out the bag in a brand new grill that has been operated twice (in one day)? If I did something wrong, I would like pointers but otherwise, I'm inclined to send this product back as a dangerously unsafe device. I feel lucky the pellets in the hopper didn't catch fire!!!
 

RemE

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No issues with my current grill but I had a Junior Elite for years. Smoke in the hopper means fire going up the auger. This was usually due to wind blowing the wrong way. It seemed to happen at a worst times, like half way thru my Thanksgiving turkey cook!

I'd tear it down and vacuum out all pellet dust. Sometimes I thought that hot air up the auger caused the pellets to get wet and crumble, making things worse.
 
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newman

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So, looking at this situation with fresh eyes, I think I know what happened. The burn pot on the Ranger is quite shallow. The auger runs perpendicular to the pot with virtually no pellet "drop". When I ran the break-in at 450 I noticed the grill overshot and then came back down to 450 after a few minutes.

My theory is that when I took the chops off and ran the temperature up, I didn't let it stabilize before putting them back on. Opening the lid resulted in the RTD being exposed to ambient air (it just sort of sticks right up into the air with the lid open) and exacerbated the "overshoot". I'll try to be more careful in the future.

On an unrelated topic, the instructions associated with the cooldown cycle and my grill's behavior are inconsistent. The instructions suggest the display should read "COOL Dn" followed by the temperature. Mine just counts down from 5 minutes. Did I get old firmware?
 
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newman

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Ok, I'm replying (again) to my OP for the benefit of other Ranger owners out there. Since my last post I discovered a number of things:
  1. The controller works differently than the manual states. The shutdown sequence is fixed at 5 minutes and the probe display is different than the manual states. I originally thought I had old firmware but the manufacture date of my unit is March of 2020 so I doubt that's the case.
  2. The unit overshoots and takes a long long time to settle if the lid is in direct sunlight. Shading it makes a difference.
  3. Adjusting the temperature in mid-cook works but appears to reset the algorithm that tries to stabilize the temperature. I likely won't be doing recipes that require a change to the temperature.
  4. For high(er) temperature cooks (anything above 300 degrees), it's best to move pretty quickly adding or flipping food.
  5. For high(er) temperature cooks, it's best to press the "keep warm" button when you are done and let the unit come down to the mid-250 before starting the shutdown sequence.
If you respect the limitations of this device I believe it is a credible pellet grill. The controller handles all the basics but doesn't try to be particularly "smart". For instance, the timer and meat probe displays are entirely unrelated to the main cook time functionality.
 

RemE

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Regarding shutdown, I think all the grills just stop the pellet feed and run the fan for a set time to burn off remaining fuel in the firepot. My insulated Timberline has a 20 min shutdown cycle. Usually, and especially after high temp use like reverse sear, I press shutdown and open the lid to dump the heat fastest. I clean the grates with a water dipped "Grill Grubber" and after the 20 min cycle, the grill is immediately ready to be covered.
 

fairyson

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Roundabout grilling with a gas grill is somewhat easier than charcoal, so we will examine that first. In the event that you have a 2 burner gas grill, turn one side off and leave the other one on. On the off chance that you are working with a 3-4 burner unit, turn the outside burners on, leaving the middle as your cooking region.
 
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newman

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Well, folks, that's all for me. My "Traeger Experience" lasted all of 5 days. 4 meals, two hopper fires, and an unreliable controller. Back to Amazon, the product goes! UPS will be picking it up tomorrow. I hate to give up so quickly but at 400 dollars, my money can be spent elsewhere and the idea of coaxing this disastrously ill-designed product through a few more cooks is unacceptable. Shame on you Traeger for producing such a sub-par product.
 

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