Traeger Junior Elite Pellet Grill with Digital Thermostat Controller
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- Upgraded with Traeger Digital Thermostat Controller
- 292 square inches of cooking space
- 19,500 BTU's
- 15"x 20" Cooking Surface
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Upgraded with Traeger Digital Thermostat Controller. Traeger Junior Elite Pellet Grill Ideal for small households, tailgating, or college living, the Traeger Junior Grill is a great introduction to pellet cooking. This grill offers a 292 square inch primary cooking area that offers up to 19,500 BTUs. It's 15" x 20" cooking surface includes a porcelain coated grilling grate, and features convection technology that circulates hot smoky air around your food for even cooking. It's Traeger Digital thermostat allows for precise temperature control. The grill features a steel construction and uses hardwood pellets to get the fire going. The system has a convection blower and auger that automatically feeds pellets into the firepot for consistent heating. Simply set your desired temperature and let the Traeger do the cooking for you. The indirect heat, along with the eco-friendly wood pellets, allows for versatile and healthy grilling, smoking, baking, and roasting. This Junior Grill also includes an electronic auto-start ignition, an EZ drain grease system, and a smoke exhaust that lets you cook like a pro. Features: 292 sq. in. primary cooking area 15" x 20" cooking surface Up to 19,500 BTUs 20-gauge steel construction Wood pellet grill Internal pellet hopper Electronic auto-start ignition EZ drain grease system Porcelain coated grilling grate Smoke exhaust. Requires standard 110 volt electric outlet Model: BBQ155.
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I don't completely regret my purchase (update: now I kind of do), but there are some MAJOR flaws and room for adjustment in this product. I'm disappointed given the other reviews and the price. I'll summarize with a pros and cons list, and then explain how the smoker feeds pellets below (i.e., why it runs hot and what you need to know about the p-setting).
-Wheels make it very easy to move in and out of the garage
-Wasn't bad to put together and the hardware was thoughtfully located to make it easier. They even included alan wrenches and a screw driver so you had all the necessary tools
-Pellet hopper is easy to use and a cleaner fuel to mess with than charcoal
-Burns pretty clean with minimal ash. Reasonably easy to clean.
-Pretty extreme temperature fluctuations, which were especially problematic during long, slow smokes (see below).
-I am not comfortable leaving the grill alone due to extreme temp fluctuations, which meant I was tied to the house/backyard to micro-manage the situation and adjust p-settings (see below)
-Manual doesn't explain the way the grill feeds pellets, that p-settings even exist, or how to change the p-setting. Very disappointing.
-Company leaves threatening "you have to use our pellets or warranty is void" all over the grill. I find this an obnoxious attempt to bully customers into spending more money with their company. If it's a good product (your pellets), I'll buy it, but as a user I should be free to use the product without these kinds of threats. Instead, you should simply explain to customers not to use 'for heating' pellets which contain soft woods, and that they need to ONLY use hardwood pellets. In general, I don't like the attitude of the company, which seems to be pushy "buy all the accessories to maximize my profits" and "hide all the information about how the grill works."
-There should be a bottom shelf on the grill. It's wasted space and a real missed opportunity. Would be perfect spot to store things. Instead, there's just an (expensive) accessory of a shelf you can add to the front of the grill. I'd rather have it under the grill to minimize the footprint.
-Instead of sending me a booklet with a bunch of overpriced, branded gear like t-shirts and tailgate tents (who in the heck pays YOU to advertise YOUR product for them!?), why don't you make a foil lining that fits your grease trays and spout (like weber has for the grease pans)? That I would buy and that would make this grill much easier to maintain.
-Speaking of maintaining, do yourself a favor and put a rinsed tin can (any standard empty food product can) in the "grease bucket" as a liner. Position it so the grease falls into the can instead of just the metal bucket. This way, you can toss the can when it's full and not have a nightmare of a cleaning job.
Now, my big beef is about why it did a horrible job maintaining low temperatures for me. I'm a little annoyed at the mechanics, but I'm a LOT annoyed I had to spend hours reading all about it on the internet instead of the company packaging this expensive grill with this explanation (and an easier way to change the settings). Thank you to the unsung weekend warriors who spent time explaining all of this on various grill forums....
I've used my new traeger several times, and one of them was to do an 8.5 lb Boston Butt (BB). During the BB smoke, I had some serious temperature fluctuation problems (it spiked all the way to 500 once, before I knew anything about p-settings, peeling the paint off the bottom of my new grill), I did a lot of research.
*******And here is why it's hardly "set and forget"...
The dial has settings: Smoke, 180, 225, 275, etc.
Let's say you want to cook your BB all day at 225. You pick 225. What happens is if the temp probe detects that the temp has fallen below 225, the grill feeds more pellets until it reaches temp. If the probe detects the temp is above 225, it defaults to "smoke" mode (even though your dial is still at 225). What is smoke mode? Smoke mode isn't affected by the temperature reading at all. It feeds pellets automatically on a timer to try to keep things status quo, and it's default is something like 15 seconds of pellet feeding + 65 seconds of rest.
Now, let's say you're cooking somewhere with an ambient temperature of about 85 degrees. 15 seconds of pellet feeding every minute or so produces a lot of extra heat. In my BB example, the "status quo" smoke behavior after reaching 225 made the temperature continue to RISE. So while the grill was set to 225, it hovered at about 280-300 degrees if left alone. Even setting it down to 180 degrees, still caused the grill to heat too much, because it was still feeding the grill pellets automatically regardless of temperature.
That "15 seconds of pellet feeding every 65 seconds of rest" setting is adjustable and it's called a p-setting. It's just not IN THE MANUAL anywhere. Which is seriously infuriating for an expensive grill. There was a black sticker over a hidden hole near the temperature gauge and you can use an unbent paperclip to access the setting. Here's where you can read all about it: [Amazon stripped my link - search p-setting and pellethead forums, and read through discussions]
So, I still have a lot of practice in front of me to figure out how to get my grill to maintain 225 degrees in the summer months, but I think the trick is going to be a p-setting that feeds the hopper more sparingly. There are problems with too sparingly, too (I'll let you read on the forum linked above). That said, I did mess with the p-setting for the last 6 hours of my BB smoke, and it was still very difficult to maintain a good temp. ******UPDATE: Right now my best solution for a low heat smoke in warm weather (about 80-85) is to leave the traeger on smoke and adjust the p-setting to p-0 or p-1. I maintained a pretty constant temp doing this yesterday with the traeger temp hovering about 190, but my digital thermometer BBQ probe (hovers above food grates so it's closer to what meat is experiencing) around 215. Note the traeger temp probe is on the side and a bit elevated, and tends to read about 20-30 degrees cooler than what my BBQ temp probe reads that is over the food grates.****
In conclusion, I am hopeful that this technology pans out and improves. There's still a LOT of room for improvement. I bought it for smoking food, and to compliment my beast of a propane grill. (Note: I think there are much better solutions for a grill, when you want to reach a high temperature and sear meat. That's why I have the propane grill and the Traeger.) Right now the product and the company behavior makes this very much feel like a product in "beta stage," and I hope they address some of their problems. There are a lot of very expensive pellet smokers, so I hope Traeger irons out the kinks and continues to provide a good entry-level pellet smoker.
Have smoked a few more times in it, and have all the same concerns. Except now, I really am disappointed I purchased it. If there was an easy way to return it, I would. A few more observations/confirmations....
-I think the grill is probably best at short smokes (~1 hr) at around 300 degrees. I've had several successful dinners like this...chicken quarters, pork chops, etc. However, the food is not very smokey (smokers don't produce much smoke over 250) and pellets are a more expensive fuel than propane. So, while the meals were great, they weren't noticeably different than what I could do in my propane grill, which is much easier to use.
-Tried another long slow smoke today with similar problems as the BB smoke I described above. This time, via p-setting manipulations, I had the grill at about 225 for the first hour or so and thought I was pretty clever. Was checking on it about every 20 minutes while I did chores outside. Looked over...and the temperature had plummeted to 120 degrees. I'd run out of pellets. Not because the hopper wasn't full, but because they'd tunneled and the second 1/2 of the load had stopped "falling" into the chute. I knock the pellets to re-fill the bottom and think I've solved the problem. Nope...5 minutes later it's down to 90 degrees. I turn it off and try to re-start it (food is still in the grill, exposed to this no-heat situation). No dice. Can't get any reaction/heat/smoke out of the Traeger. Long story short, I had to totally take all the food out, take apart the grill, and manually scoop pellets out of the heating cup because they'd choked themselves out when I'd fixed the pellet situation. Flies are all over my raw food while I do this...and I start the whole pre-heating process over again. My fault for letting the pellets tunnel? Sure, ok...but given the common tunneling problem I maintain that long, slow cooks are VERY high maintenance. Started it again...so far the grill hasn't gone out, but I've had temperature fluctuations between 175 and 290. So frustrating!
ADVICE TO TRAEGER: Consider some alarms or sensors on this grill to (1) alert the grill and the human when the pellets aren't being properly fed. Empty, churning pellet chute should always be a cause for alarm. And, (2) something that tells the grill to stop dumping pellets if the first ones aren't ignited...temperature/smoke detector, something. The "smoothered out" resulting in having to take your grill apart mid-smoke is infuriating. Alternatively, make it so you can access the heat can without taking EVERYTHING apart. The device needs a ton of TLC and troubleshooting, but the human is flying blind since you can't see what's going on down there.
Fired it up for initial burn in, as per instructions. The instructions are very good. The unit heats up quite fast (remember, it's burning wood, not Propane). Do not expect it to get to 450 degrees in 1-1/2 to 2 minutes like a propane grill, but within about 5 minutes or so, it can be there. Smoking temps are achieved very fast.
The digital thermostat is a must have. I can't see going to this level of grill, and using the three speed controller. Set it to desired temp, and the grill controls fuel and air to accommodate.
This grill is the small model, but don't expect a lightweight. It's 68 lbs. Nice heavy duty construction. Should last a very long time. 15" X 20" grilling area, is big enough to put a couple Briskets on. Lay out, two full racks of ribs, or use a rib rack, and do even more than that.
Comes with a recipe book to get you started. I did order the optional front shelf. (Traeger should make the shelves part of the package, not an add on.)
If you like pulled pork, Beef BBQ, and the great smell and flavor of cooking over wood....don't delay. Order one of these. I'm 100% satisfied with mine.