Who doesn’t love the amazing taste you get from a wood-fired grill or oven? The smoky flavor, even and consistent grilling and the efficiency of wood cooking cannot be beat, but keeping chunks of wood on hand can be very laborious, time consuming and inconvenient, especially when you want to take a portable grill on the road. Fortunately, there are now many products that allow you to bring that same smoky wood flavor to your own backyard without the inconvenience of chopping and transporting actual chunks of timber.
These products, known as wood pellet grills, or just “pellet grills” for short, make wood cooking much easier and very rapid. They are made by many companies, including the Camp Chef and Traeger Corporations we will review in this piece. Wood pellet grills have become all the rage in recent years for the efficiency and the great taste they offer, and both of these aforementioned companies have developed several innovative products to bring that great flavor and efficacy to their loyal customers.
To help introduce you to this amazing style of cooking, below we will briefly describe what a pellet grill is, how it works, and some of the prime benefits it offers. We will also provide information on, and compare, both the Camp Chef and Traeger Companies to give you a better idea regarding the many products they each produce. In the end, after reading our comparison, you, the consumer, can decide for yourself which grill and company best fits your specific needs and preferences.
What Is a Pellet Grill?
Unlike some of the other grills to which you may be accustomed, a wood pellet grill is essentially a convection oven that relies on wood for fuel. But they don’t use the standard chunks of wood as you may have seen with certain wood burning ovens, grills and smokers. No, instead they use wood pellets as the fuel. These small pellets are made from true virgin hardwoods, which is why they are able to bring about that real smoky flavor without all the inconvenience. These wood pellet grills do much more than grill your food; they also smoke it while it is grilling to produce a flavor that has to be tasted to truly believe.
If you are currently in the market for a backyard grill—and you have really researched the many options out there—you have no doubt found that the market is saturated with different types of grills. From gas grills that rely on propane as the fuel source to charcoal grills and even electric griddles, the amount of choices a backyard chef has nowadays is virtually boundless. However, as you will see more in the “Benefits” section of this piece, each of those above-named grill types has some major downfalls, including tasteless flavor, endless cleanup and often enormous costs. Not so with the wood pellet grill. With just a handful of these little wood pellets you can create a one-of-a-kind flavor with hardly any mess and the cost is no more than you would pay for propane.
Whether you are cooking at low heat or high heat, the wood pellet grill will always cook your food evenly and inject into it a great smoky wood flavor that the entire family will love.
How Does a Wood Pellet Grill Work?
Although the mechanics of a wood pellet grill are not very difficult to understand, there are many parts to a wood pellet grill that you need to comprehend before you can get a good grasp on how the grill actually works. Below we have listed some of the parts on the wood pellet grill and gave a brief description of their function:
- Hopper. The built-in or integrated hopper on a wood pellet grill is like a box or temporary container. This is where the wood pellets, made of real hardwood and sawdust, will be poured into in the beginning of the grilling process.
- Auger. The auger is an electrical device on the wood pellet grill that feeds the pellets down into the burn pot, also known as the fire pot.
- Auger shaft. As the wood pellets are making their way to the burn pot, they are fed down the auger shaft. The speed at which the wood pellets are fed down this shaft will depend on the temperature you manually set.
- Temperature control panel. The temperature control panel is an electrical panel that allows you to set the grill to any temperature you want, usually in 5 degree increments, although that varies from grill to grill.
- Burn Pot. The burn pot or fire pot is where the pellets eventually end up after being funneled by the auger down the auger shaft.
- Hot rod. Once in the burn pot, the pellets are then ignited by another electrical device called the hot rod. This rod creates a flame in the burn pot, which then produces the required smoke.
- Combustion fan. Located at the bottom of the wood pellet grill, the combustion fan has a couple of purposes. First, the fan is designed to send oxygen to the burn pot—oxygen that then stokes the fire while also controlling the heat. Second, the fan also sends heat and smoke upwards and spreads it throughout the wood pellet grill. This is why the wood pellet grill is deemed a convection-style grill or oven.
So, as you read what each of the parts on the wood pellet grill do, you already have an idea of how it works. Nonetheless, let’s do a brief review:
Once the wood pellet grill is plugged into a standard socket (it needs electricity to operate all the electrical parts we mentioned), and the wood pellets are added to the hopper, an electrical auger then slowly and methodically sends the pellets down the auger shaft to the burn pot. The number of pellets that are actually transferred to the burn pot will depend exclusively on the temperature you set with the temperature controller.
Once the wood pellets make their way down the shaft and into the burn pot, they are ignited by the electrical hot rod, which produces a flame and then smoke as the wood pellets burn. As it does this, a combustion fan sends that smoke and heat upwards, spreading throughout the grill, which gives it its convection-style name and function.
The wood pellets will burn at a rate that is dependent on the temperature you set with the temperature controller. But to give you an idea regarding how frequently you will need to purchase these pellets, the best estimate is that a 20 pound bag of wood pellets will last about 20 hours when you cook at 275 to 300 degrees—it will last for less time when cooking at temperatures hotter than this, and more time for those who like to cook at low heats.
The Benefits of a Pellet Grill
So, after reading about what a pellet grill is and how it works, you might be wondering, “just what are the benefits of a pellet grill?” “And why choose a pellet grill over a gas, electric or charcoal grill?” We are glad you asked. The benefits/advantages of a wood pellet grill are many, which probably explains why they have become so popular in recent years. Here are just a few of the benefits associated with a wood pellet grill:
- Easy to use. As you can see from our “How it Works” section, a wood pellet grill is super easy to use. With most models, all you need to do is simply fill the hopper with high quality wood pellets, set your desired temperature on the temperature controller and hit the electronic ignition switch. Then, in no time you will be enjoying a great tasting meal.
- No tanks. If you are accustomed to cooking with gas—and if you are being honest with yourself—you know that lugging around those heavy propane tanks gets really laborious. You also have to drive somewhere to get them refilled, which can also be a pain in the neck. And with most gas grills, you have no way of knowing when that propane is about to run out—and all of us have experienced running out of fuel either while we were cooking or just before: a frustrating occurrence to say the least.
- Amazing flavor. The rich, smoky flavor that you reap from a wood pellet grill is nothing short of amazing. With its revolutionary style of cooking, every piece of meat you cook on your new wood pellet grill will taste like it has been wood smoked for hours. This is not something you can get with a gas or electric grill. And with the wide variety of wood pellet types on the market, you can always change flavors by selecting different types of pellets, infusing your meals with some of the newest types of flavoring.
- Easy Cleanup. If you are accustomed to cooking with charcoal, you know what a mess it can be to clean up your grill. Not so with a wood pellet grill. As long as you use high quality wood pellets, the kind made from virgin hardwoods, you will experience very minimal ash and the burn pot can be cleaned with just a swipe of a rag. It really is that easy to clean. Moreover, there are certain models that are equipped with a special “ash cleaning system,” which allows you to clean the unit without ever touching the ash.
- No burning food. With charcoal, gas and electric grills, there is always a chance of burning your food. This is not something you have to fret about with a high quality wood pellet grill. Because these grills work similar to a convection oven, everything cooks evenly with no burning. Once you set the temperature controller, the auger take only the number of pellets needed to reach that temperature. This means you can simply “set it and forget it,” and come back to a gloriously cooked meal.
All of these great benefits should be enough to steer you toward wood pellet grills, but if you need one more to convince you, consider this: With a wood pellet grill there are no limitations to what you can cook. All the meats and such that you can cook on a charcoal, gas, or electric grill can also be cooked using a wood pellet grill. Plus, there are tons of other foods that those grills simply cannot handle. Because of the manner in which it cooks your food, you can cook at any temperature you want without ever having to worry about overcooking or drying out your food, and the taste is always out of this world.
Camp Chef vs Traeger
In this Camp Chef vs Traeger section, we will begin by giving a brief description of both the Camp Chef and Traeger wood pellet grills. We will then look at different aspects of the wood pellet grill, and describe some of the differences between those made from Camp Chef and the ones produced by Traeger.
The Camp Chef Wood Pellet Grill: What Is It All About?
The Camp Chef Wood Pellet Grill is a very popular grill among some of the great pit masters that really know their stuff. These grills are loaded with popular features that backyard cookers covet, and they are priced fairly in relation to the grills sold by other companies. Let’s take a look at just a few of the prime characteristics the Camp Chef Wood Pellet Grill offers:
- Automatic settings. The automatic settings on the Camp Chef Wood Pellet Grill allow you to dial in the perfect temperature to within 10 degrees or less of what you set.
- Easy to clean. The minimal ash produced and the wide hopper and burn pot, coupled with its special ash cleaning system, make cleanup a breeze.
- Wide temperature range. With the ability to cook at temperatures ranging from 150 to 900 degrees (with a sear pot), the wood pellet grill by Camp Chef has a wide range of heat.
- Plentiful cook space. The Camp Chef Wood Pellet Grill has ample cook space that allows you to cook several items at once for the entire family.
- Work space. This wood pellet grill has workspace on the side of the grill for preparing your food for cooking.
- Great display. The display panel on the Camp Chef Wood Pellet Grill is easy to read and manipulate.
- Different smoke options. This grill has both a High and a Low smoke option. This enables you to choose between a rapid fire and a low and slow burn.
The Traeger Wood Pellet Grill: What Is It All About?
The Traeger Corporation was one of the pioneers in the world of wood pellet grilling and is now one of the most recognized names in backyard cooking. Their grills have stood the test of time and many people swear by the quality and taste they offer. To get you more acquainted with the many features offered on the Traeger Wood Pellet Grill, below we have listed some of the ones their customers are so proud of:
- Recognized. The Traeger name is big in the world of pellet grills and the company has won many awards and accolades for their products.
- Spacious. The Traeger Wood Pellet Grill is very spacious in terms of cooking area, allowing you to fire up a good array of different food choices.
- Easy to operate. The control panel on this grill is easy to use and navigate.
- Durable. The Traeger company prides itself on producing wood pellet grills and other products that truly stand the test of time.
- Simple to assemble. When purchasers buy a Traeger Wood Pellet Grill there will be some assembly, but with all the hardware needed for the job marked very clearly, along with the easy to follow instruction manual, assembly is very easy to say to the least.
- Huge Following. Although the Traeger Wood Pellet Grill is typically more expensive than those produced by other companies (including that of Camp Chef), they have a massive following of loyal customers who keep returning time and again.
Camp Chef Wood Pellet Grill vs. Traeger Wood Pellet Grill: A Quick Look at the Differences Between Each Brand
Ease of Operation
In this category, ease of operation, the wood pellet grills from each company are essentially tied—and tied on the “high” side. Both of these have temperature controls that are very easy to read and use. They each have an electronic ignition switch to ignite the hot rod, and they both offer users the ability to just set the cooker and walk away, as the temperature controller will do the rest.
In the category of “assembly,” we can say with confidence that the Camp Chef Wood Pellet Grill is very easy to assemble. However, the Traeger Wood Pellet Grill has a slight edge in terms of ease of assembly. That’s because the company offers an instruction manual that is very easy to read and follow, and it organizes its components very neatly and marks each one very clearly.
The Camp Chef Wood Pellet Grill takes the prize for ease of clean up. Although the Traeger Wood Pellet Grill can be cleaned fairly easily, the special ash cleanout system on the Camp Chef unit makes the hands-free cleanup a snap.
When it comes to the heat that the two wood pellet grills can put out there is a clear winner: Camp Chef. All of Camp Chef’s wood pellet grills can reach at least a whopping 500 degrees, and when you add the sear box to some of their models the grill can achieve temperatures of up to 900 degrees. On the other hand, most Traeger wood pellet grills can achieve temperatures up to 450 degrees.
Controlling and Maintaining Temperatures
Both the Camp Chef and Traeger wood pellet grills are easy to control, but with an updated display panel the Traeger slightly edges out the Camp Chef in that department. However, in terms of controlling the temperatures, Camp Chef is the clear winner. Most Traeger grills can only guarantee temperatures within about 20-22 degrees of what you originally set, while the Camp Chef models have been proven to control temperatures within less than 10 degrees of the original setting.
Last but not least, if you want your meal cooked fast and thorough, the Camp Chef slightly edges out the Traeger model. Both of these brands offer the “High” and “Low” smoking options, but when it comes right down to it, the Camp Chef cooks much more thoroughly for the same amount of time. As for slow cooking, both offer smoldering goodness when set at the low smoke setting.
Who Wins the Camp Chef vs Traeger Cook-Off?
Traeger, being the market leader has a wider variety of wood pellet grills, because that is their core business. Trager has a cheaper budget option, but generally cost more than Camp Chef, which is also competitively priced. If you’re dipping your burger into pellet grilling and you are on a budget then a Traeger budget option maybe the way to go. That being said, if you purchase the Camp Chef Wood Pellet Grill, you will definitely be getting one heck of a bargain. Although both of these grills have truly wonderful features that make cooking easy and much more flavorful, the Camp Chef, as you read above, wins out in terms of fast cooking time, temperature control, heat output, and clean up, making it a true bargain at any price. Whichever brand you choose, you will be grilling with a premium a product.