Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Thoughts on my Traeger after Cooking 3 plus years

I have a Traeger 07E and after using for over three years I love this smoker grill. During the second summer I built a small covered deck and cook year around. For safety if you use your smoker or any grill on a wood deck it should be on a fireproof mat or pad. You should also have a class III fire extinguisher close by.

Using the Traeger is like using any other smoker or grill the most important thing is to know your pit. Know how it cooks on all the temperature settings; have knowledge of any hot spots or one side being hotter than the other. I have found my right side is hotter than the left. I have the Traeger 180 deg. controller and I have learned to maintain temps I want.

My RTD, (real temperature device) is located on the center left side and my grill level temps at the center are about 25 deg. hotter than my LED readout. If temperature is important in my cooks I am aware of this. In the smoke mode setting the temperature is determined by the P# settings, P0 thru P9.
P0 is the hottest and P9 is the coolest, I very seldom go above P5; and only use P6 on extreme hot days.
Each P# should vary the temp about 10 deg. A more detailed use of the P#’s should be in your manual or I have an article under INFO here. Ambient temps and wind will have the most effect on maintaining a temperature in the smoke mode. I never let mine get below 160 deg.

At first I had a lot of trouble with large temp swings above and below the set temp and after reading, a lot of people were adding firebricks in the bottom of the pit. They act as a heat sink and do help temp swings some. The Traeger 070 and 07E will hold 5 bricks. After learning more about my pit I only use the firebricks in the winter and remove them in the summer.

In the second year my heat shield warped and would not set flat. To remedy this I bolted ¼ inch plate to the underside and that straightened it out.  This also acts as a heat sink.

I have a hard time maintaining temp settings 180 thru 250 deg. and find I can usually get less temp swings by using the smoke mode and the P# settings. For temp settings of 275 deg. and above I can usually hold within plus or minus 5 deg. I found if you go directly from smoke mode to say 300 deg. you will get a large overshoot; sometimes as high as 50 deg. and then it takes some time to settle down. I found if you ease it up to temp in the 25 deg. increments and let it settle out before going higher, when you reach your desired temp it will only overshoot 5 or 10 deg. I can go from smoke mode and ease up to 300 deg. in about 20 minutes. I usually want my smoker to preheat about a half hour anyway so this does not take any more time or use more pellets.

I have used my Traeger from smoking meats to baking desserts. Anything you can bake in your inside oven you can do on a pellet smoker; they are a convection oven. I have found that with the addition of grill grates I can do some good steaks and burgers. The right side gives good grill marks to steaks and I like to use the back side for burgers that is like using a flat iron grill that browns the burgers all over.

A pellet smoker does not give you an overpowering smoke taste; it’s more like a kiss of smoke and that’s what the wife and I like. For some meats especially pork butts and beef briskets I do like a little more smoke and A-Maze-N Products makes a tube smoker that provides extra smoke. The tube smoker is perforated stainless steel that you fill with pellets, place it in your smoker and light. I have their 12 inch tube and it will provide about 4 hours of smoke.

There are a lot of good pellet smokers out there now to choose from. Traeger started it all and after a few others got into it the Traeger was still the most reasonably priced one. Their quality did suffer after moving their manufacturing process to China. Considering that I think it still is a good smoker for the money.

There are a couple of aftermarket controllers that offer better control for Traeger smokers. One is the Ortech Controls unit, they manufactured the original controllers for Traeger and now offer one that is an upgrade and does a better job of controlling the Traeger. The other one is a Savannah Stoker PID digital controller. Many who have bought the Savannah Stoker rave about it. As long as my controller works I can’t see replacing it but if it ever goes out I will probably get the Savannah Stoker.

After using gas fired water smokers over 25 years, I went through two Master Built, round bullet type and had a Smokey Mountain chest type when I got my Traeger. I love the pellet smoker; it’s so easy to use and clean. I usually clean mine every cook or two. That consists of removing the grate, drip pan, and heat shield and vacuuming out the bottom and burn pot.  I change the foil on the drip pan. All this only takes 10 to 15 minutes. Spring cleanup is just a simple scraping the barrel with a putty knife and vacuuming out. I clean the outside and wipe down with a coat of mineral oil.

Over the 3 plus years of using my Traeger I probably average cooking on it 3 times a week. It is suited to my way I like to cook, almost just set the temp you want and let it cook. I have a Maverick ET 732 remote temp probe. I cook almost all of my meats to internal temperature and can remotely keep track of the meat temp and the pit temp.

This turned out longer than I thought. Just hope there is some good info someone will use. 

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