Ask any experienced grilling or barbecue chef about using good old regular wood as a fuel source and most will say it’s less than ideal. Chief among the reasons to avoid wood that you’d normally use in campfires or fireplaces is that it creates a lot of ash that messes up flavor.
However, Traeger Wood Pellet Grills, based in Wilsonville, Oregon, figured out a way to use wood to fuel grills and enhance flavor, not overtake it.
Unique Operational System
The Traeger Wood Pellet is unique in design and operation. First, it exclusively uses wood pellets for fuel.
These are made from 100% sawdust that is certified food grade and has been compressed into pellets that generate a lot of heat—8,500 BTUs per pound. The company offers pellets in a variety of flavors, including apple, mesquite, pecan, hickory and cherry.
Second, a multi-step process that feeds the fuel into it, lights it and maintains temperature. Basically, when you turn on the electric starter, you activate an igniter rod, which begins glowing red.
At the same time, an auger feeds the pellets into a firepot and a draft induction fan pumps air into the firepot. After about 4 minutes, the igniter rod is hot enough to light the pellets.
Things are Heating Up
After the wood pellets are lit, the heat shield, which is located immediately above the firepot, which sits in the center of the grill, starts warming up.
From there, the heat spreads outward. Because the heat is distributed throughout it, your food is surrounded by the heat, and therefore, cooks evenly from all sides.
In fact, the manufacturer claims there’s no need to flip items to have all sides cook; however, if you want to achieve those beautiful marks, you still have to flip.
Additionally, because the heat shield acts as a barrier between grates and the burning wood pellets, there are no flare-ups, which could mean a healthier cooking method.
When fat and juices cause charcoal coals or gas grills to flame, the reaction releases polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which have raised some health concerns.
Temperature control with a Traeger Wood Pellet is easily achieved. A digital thermostat continually monitors the internal temperature, and when it registers a dip in degrees, a message is sent to an electronic control board and microprocessor circuitry.
That element then engages the auger to add pellets as well as the fans to add air to stoke the fire and maintain the designated heat.
When the set temp is regained, the element shuts down both the auger and fans to prevent this device from getting too hot. The same system is employed to control the amount of smoke within it.
This temperature control actually gives grillers more flexibility. Of course, users can cook and smoke, but it also bakes (think pizzas), roasts (think turkey), and braises (think pot roast).
Ready for Big Jobs
Traeger Wood Pellet Grills debuted on the West Coast in the 1990s and immediately became a top seller in the region. However, word about how the functions and the flavor it produces spread, and demand grew exponentially. Now, it is a national phenomenon.
Although the company sells nine different grill models, including one called the “Lil’ Pig,” complete with ears and pink paint, it is the Traeger BBQ075 Texas BBQ Pellet, 36000 BTU, that’s the big daddy in Traeger grills reviews.
This grill is modeled after the Texas barbecue wood cookers that you’ll see not only in the Lone Star State, but also at grilling competitions. It measures 49 inches high, 59 inches wide with a depth of 22 inches, all of which weighs in at 165 pounds.
The barrel shape accommodates more than 640 square inches of grilling area, large enough to cook multiple dishes at once as well as very large cuts of meat.
Like other Traeger Wood Pellet Grills, this one features the EZ-drain grease system. Basically a steel drip tray catches melting fat and dripping juices, which in turn are channeled into a grease bucket.
The company recommends users line the tray with aluminum foil for easier clean up. After grilling a couple of times, simply pull out the old foil and replace it with fresh foil. Also, empty the grease bucket as needed.
This system is called EZ-drain because keeping the Texas clean doesn’t require much more effort. It’s suggested that once a month, especially if the grill gets heavy use, you get rid of any ash that accumulated around the firepot.
While the BBQ075 Texas BBQ Pellet, 36000 BTU, is a whole lot of them and comes with an impressive price tag of $1018.99, it offers many of the features serious barbecue cooks want in their grills.