Most people know that you can use lump charcoal, briquettes, LP gas, or natural gas to create a fantastic backyard grilling experience. Everyone has a preferred fuel they like to use when making a holiday dinner or to prepare for a weekend social experience.
Another option is available on the market right now, and it may be the best grilling choice around.
Wood pellet grills provide your backyard with the same benefits this technology offers a home when incorporated into a stove. You can choose low-temperature cooking to make the meat fall off of the bone or use high temperatures for an incredible sear.
Two of the best brand names that produce pellet grills right now are Camp Chef and Traeger.
When you take a look at the Camp Chef vs. Traeger debate, you’ll discover a variety of models and features that make each grill stand out by itself.
You can compare each model with its features to what your backyard grilling needs are today. When you find the product that checks off all of your boxes, snag it immediately to start enjoying all of the benefits this technology offers.
Introducing Camp Chef to the Backyard Griller
Camp Chef was initially founded in 1990 to provide portable grilling solutions to people who craved outdoor activities. You could find camp stoves, small grills, and other products that this under-served demographic wanted during this period.
Some of Camp Chef’s first best-selling products were portable grills, flat-tops, and pizza ovens. The company continued to expand through the 1990s to include Dutch ovens, outdoor stoves, and similar designs.
When grilling manufacturers received legal permission to start creating pellet grills, Camp Chef was one of the first brands taking on this challenge. Their signature craftsmanship ensures every feature gets the attention it deserves.
Although they didn’t invent the pellet grill, some of Camp Chef’s products outperform the brands in ratings and reviews that got a head start on this technology. It is a worthy contender if you want to explore the benefits of grilling with this fuel.
An Introduction to the Traeger Brand
Traeger is responsible for the original patents that brought pellet grilling to backyards globally. The company started producing the first grills in this category in the 1980s.
The first products from Traeger were easily mistaken for smokers. The only difference was a wood pellet hopper instead of a smoke box that provided an internal system to feed the flame with pellets automatically.
Traeger dominated the industry for 20 years because of its patent on pellet grilling. After their exclusive rights expired in 2006, several competitors entered the sector with new innovations and features that initially challenged this original brand.
When you compare the structure, engineering, and overall design of a Traeger grill to others, you find the same technology in almost every product. That means you have a decision to make.
Are you going to go with the original inventor of the pellet grill for your backyard needs, or are you willing to risk what a newcomer to the field can offer?
Camp Chef vs. Traeger: Side-by-Side Comparison
Since both manufacturers produce world-class pellet grills, you’ll discover more similarities when comparing the two brands than differences.
Several different features and functions are available on units from both brands that are worth reviewing in closer detail. You can decide on your own which model or company provides the best solution for your backyard needs with this information.
Camp Chef and Traeger produce a similar design for their pellet grills. Each model has a different cooking surface area to consider, with the size often in each unit’s title. That means you can get a total rack surface area of 800 square inches or higher, depending on your plan to invest.
That means the cooking surface’s value becomes an essential consideration in the Camp Chef vs. Traeger debate. If you purchase the Ironwood Series 885 pellet grill from Traeger, you’d have a retail MSRP of $1,499.99. Camp Chef makes a similar model with almost equal capacity for less than $1,000.
Camp Chef lets you get one of their grills up to a temperature of 500°F. Although that can sear some meats, it may not perform as well compared to a charcoal product. You also have the option to do some backyard grilling at only 160°F.
Traeger pellet grills have a temperature range that peaks at 400°F, although newer models can also reach the 500°F threshold. Although that is plenty hot enough for most foods, it can be challenging to get a sear on some items. You can also take the temperature down to 180°F for your favorite slow-cooked things.
Camp Chef uses an LED display you can see in direct sunlight to monitor the grill’s temperature. It features a knob to control the cooking process, while included probes let you see the internal temperature of what you’re making. All of the controls are manual, which means you must be in the vicinity of the grill to know how your food is doing.
Traeger grills invented the convection-like grilling process that creates even cooking temperatures throughout the unit. You receive the correct temperature at all times to know when and how your food is coming out. An LED interface is built into most models, giving you 15-degree increments to manage – with a link to a companion app that works on your mobile device.
You can add smoke, change the grill temperature, and monitor your food remotely through this technology.
Camp Chef offers a 3-year warranty when you purchase one of the pellet grills from this brand. This benefit enables you to protect your investment, especially since some of the electronic components can jam or break as time passes.
Traeger provides a similar 3-year warranty on all of its grills. This approach is an industry standard, even outside of the pellet stove design.
Pellet Hopper Capacity
The original hopper that holds wood pellets for this grilling option provides 18 pounds of fuel to use while outside. You’ll get several hours of support with this traditional design that you can still find with entry-level Traeger grills.
Camp Chef changed the marketplace in this category by introducing a 22-pound hopper for some of their models. Although adding a handful of capacity to the design may not seem like much, it can extend your cooking time significantly.
Traeger responded with a change from their traditional design to be competitive. The Ironwood 885 offers a 20-pound hopper capacity, while the Timberline 850 hits the 24-pound capacity mark.
The Camp Chef vs. Traeger debate must also look at the extra features each brand offers to consumers with their different grill series solutions.
You can find side shelves, grill covers, and the usual accessories that make backyard grilling a lot of fun.
Camp Chef gives you the option to use a side burner, although it requires propane to be usable. Griddle attachments work with this design to add some extra versatility to the space.
Traeger grills are noticeably heavy, with some models clocking in at more than 200 pounds. You also get the companion app that can tie into the internal temperature of your foods.
It all depends on what you believe is important for your home grilling experience when deciding on the best pellet grill to use.
Benefits of Using Pellet Grills
Roasting and grilling are the two best methods of imparting incredible flavors into your favorite meats. The latter option is the healthier choice because it helps your food retain more of its nutrients while reducing fat content.
Choosing how to start grilling when you have Camp Chef or Traeger producing world-class wood-fired pellet grills can be challenging. You might not be sold on this method compared to propane, natural gas, or charcoal.
Having an idea of the benefits that pellet grills offer can let you know if this investment makes sense for your grilling or smoking needs.
1. You get less smoke with a pellet grill.
A wood-fire pellet grill is one of the easiest ways to create backyard bliss in every bite. It works a lot like a convection oven to help your favorite cuts of meat cook evenly and quickly. You also get less of that acrid smoke that can make the flavors become bitter, especially if the grill gets too hot.
2. Pellet grills provide you with tons of versatility.
You can prepare almost anything with this technology. Wings, short ribs, hot dogs, burgers, and even pizza are all possible when choosing Camp Chef or Traeger products. You can marinate your favorite foods, add a dry rub, or baste to your heart’s content without worrying about the results. It’s the perfect solution for anyone who considers themselves to be a rookie griller.
3. It offers fast results without compromising food quality.
Wood pellets produce a profound level of heat almost immediately. It takes virtually no time to go through the pre-heating process so that the grill is ready to start making some magic. You can go from start to finish with this option before a traditional charcoal grill is even through its pre-heat cycle. Since you also get the natural benefits of using wood, the flavor profile is naturally better compared to propane and natural gas.
4. You have more control over the temperature.
Woodfire pellet grills provide numerous ways to monitor the temperature levels inside of the cooking chamber. When you have more consistency in this area, you get an even cook on all sides that won’t create unnecessary char or interior rawness. Heat diffuser plates come with many models in this category to use hardwood chunks or soaked wood chips to have even more flavor.
5. A variety of models is available in this industry segment.
The Camp Chef vs. Traeger debate gives you several different sizes, shapes, and features from which to choose if you want a pellet grill. Some options provide smokers that let you create some amazing salmon, jerky, and similar products. You can use different pellets like maple, pecan, apple, or hickory to expand your palette. No matter how big your family or social gatherings are, you’ll find many paths of experimentation worth exploring.
6. Some pellet grills let you do cold smoking.
Cold smoking is an added benefit on some models that let you cook seafood or cheese dishes without creating a massive mess. If you have never tried this approach to backyard grilling, are you missing out on an incredible culinary opportunity?
You can mix-and-match features on Camp Chef or Traeger pellet grills to find the perfect solution to use in your backyard. These benefits are only the beginning of what to expect on your journey. When you start grilling with this technology, you’ll find many more tempting paths to wander!
How to Smoke Foods Successfully With a Pellet Grill
Whether you choose Camp Chef or Traeger, the pellet grill does more than cook and sizzle. It gives you the option to smoke foods that you don’t have with gas or charcoal.
Pellet grills are an excellent choice for anyone who loves poultry, seafood, ribs, and brisket. That mouthwatering flavor develops quickly to avoid sacrificing the juiciness of each bite.
Why choose a pellet grill for smoking over something more traditional? Most backyard grillers find that this approach is much more comfortable for them to use. All you need to do is lift the lid to flip your favorite cuts or rotate items in the grilling area.
You can even smoke meat with a braise without worrying about the integrity of your recipe.
A pellet grill creates smoke by heating the cooking chamber. As the air circulates inside to cook the foods by convection, the pellets burn within the fire pot. Some models have a smoke box that becomes part of this hot flow of air to create flavorful smoke as the fuel smolders.
When you take these steps to manage your backyard grilling needs, you’ll be smoking like a professional in no time at all.
Keep Your Smoker Clean
People prefer cooking with wood pellets because of how they burn clean. You can alter that experience by letting the charred bits and drippings from your food start building up inside the fire pot. Although you don’t need to clean after every session, you should scrape the grill grates and remove unused pellets from the hopper each time.
Use a Temperature Probe You Trust
Camp Chef and Traeger provide thermometer probes that let you see the internal temperature of the meat. It’s a nifty feature that adds some value to your purchase, especially if you’re spending $1,500 or more for a top model. This tool can also be the lowest-quality item on the entire device. If you wish to take your smoking seriously on a pellet grill, you’ll want precision you can trust.
Use Hardwoods with Your Grill
Smoking with a pellet grill works best when you use hardwoods. You can choose to create a custom blend to create signature flavors or take more of a purist approach. It helps to find a wet brine or a custom dry run that works with the smoke to create the flavor combination you’ll enjoy. Try using some mesquite, alder, or hickory with some fruitwood pellets to see what happens.
There are some “don’ts” that you’ll want to avoid when you start using your pellet grill for smoking.
- Pork doesn’t work well with oak or mesquite, but you can use any other hardwood to create fantastic results.
- Vegetables work best when using maple, pecan, or hickory.
- Beef is versatile, although using it with apple produces a poor outcome.
- Chicken is excellent with any smoky flavor except for maple and oak.
Give Yourself Lots of Space
Smoking foods with your pellet grill can quickly overwhelm your patio or deck. You also need a product with enough space to handle all of your meals. Although not everyone needs 800 square inches to use when grilling, the entry-level models for Camp Chef and Traeger provide a little over 200 square inches – and that might not be enough. It helps to think about your ambitions in this area and to select your preferred grill accordingly.
As a general rule to follow, it is usually better to have too much space on your grill than to find yourself falling short.
Take advantage of the sear box.
You’ll notice immediately that a pellet grill cannot compete with the temperatures that grillers achieve with briquettes or lump charcoal. When you compare Camp Chef vs. Traeger in this area, you might get up to 600°F on a good day.
Some lump charcoal products can fire at more than 1,200°F. What option is going to produce a better sear?
All is not lost for those who enjoy smoking and searing with a pellet grill. Take advantage of the sear box that you can add to most models. This feature works like a miniature grill that produces temperatures a lot higher than what you get in the fire pit when smoking.
Get to know how your fan patterns affect results.
The temperature settings on your pellet grill get controlled by the airflow coming through the unit. When you want to increase the temperature inside, fans along the bottom of the product suck the rising hot air down low as oxygen gets consumed. You can lower the heat immediately by lifting the lid, although that also means you’d lose your smoke.
Each grill has its own quirks to manage when you want to maximize your full grilling and smoking potential in the backyard. Getting to know how efficiently your fans work will save you a ton of time, energy, and frustration.
Best Camp Chef Pellet Grills to Use
Camp Chef makes a wide variety of pellet grills that are worth considering. All of them perform in substantially the same way, which is why “independent reviews” for individual items are useless. As long as you choose the right combination of size and features based on your budget, you’re going to end up with an excellent grill.
Camp Chef Models Priced at $1,000 or Less
- Pursuit 20 Portable Pellet Grill: $440
- SmokePro SE 24 Pellet Grill: $440
- SmokePro XT24 Pellet Grill: $500
- SmokePro DLX 24: $550
- Woodwind WIFI 20: $600
- SmokePro SG 24 WIFI Pellet Grill: $700
- Woodwind WIFI 24: $800
- SmokePro LUX 36: $880
- SmokePro SGX WIFI: $900
- Woodwind WIFI 24 with Sidekick: $1,000
- Woodwind WIFI 24 with Sear Box: $1,000
- Woodwind WIFI 36: $1,000
Some models in this category come with different color options. Bronze and black are the two standard differentiations to consider, although the DLX 24 pellet grill from Camp Chef does have a stainless steel selection.
Camp Chef Models Priced Above $1,000
- Woodwind WIFI 36 with Sidekick: $1,200
- Woodwind WIFI 36 with Sear Box: $1,200
Most Camp Chef pellet grills are priced competitively with charcoal and propane models of similar capability. Although you may need to pay more for the fuel to use when your goal is to smoke while grilling, the results are surprisingly budget-friendly.
You also have the option to accessorize your grill with jerky racks, shelving, and blankets. Camp Chef sells branded hardwood pellets to ensure you receive the exact level of performance you want in your backyard.
Best Traeger Grills to Use at Home
Traeger invented the pellet grill, so their pricing strategy is a little different. Although you can find several competitive options with this brand, some of the cost depends on where you purchase your preferred grill.
The brand breaks its production line into three models. You can select from the affordable Pro series, the mid-range Ironwood series, or the premium Timberline series.
Pricing for the Pro series starts at $799.99 when you buy direct from Traeger. Five different models are available in this line of grills, with prices peaking at $999.99. The range in the cooking surface goes from 575 square inches to 780 square inches.
Grills in the Ironwood series start at $1199.99. You currently have two choices in this category. The smaller one offers 650 square inches of cooking surface, while the larger provides 885. The bigger model currently retails for $1,499.99.
The Timberline series is the choice to make if you want to take your Traeger grilling to the next level. Entry-level models with this selection start at $1,799.99. The most prominent grill available from the brand is the Timberline Series 1300 pellet grill, which retails at $2,000. It can cook 12 pork butts, 15 rib racks, or 12 chickens at a time with its size.
Camp Chef vs. Traeger: Which Is Better?
The only person who can decide which brand is better is you. Pellet grilling is a fantastic experience, no matter what company you choose to support.
Your overall goal is to find the best grill that meets your specific needs. Camp Chef offers several strengths that some homes might find attractive, while Traeger does the same on the other side of the spectrum.
Some reviewers like to give the edge to one brand or another. The fact is that there are benefits that come when you work with the innovator of this technology, and certain advantages are also available if you work with the disruptor.
What pellet grill do you think smokes the competition today?