Traeger Tips for Beginners to Maximize Smoker Usage

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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If you are a new pellet grill owner and want to get the maximum enjoyment out of your pellet grill, then you must be looking for all grill-changing Traeger tips for beginners. With the pellet grill gaining popularity, learning plenty of tips for using your Traeger grill safely is necessary. Many people new to Traeger grills or Pellet grills experience issues with the grill, and most issues are due to inexperience.

Whether a newbie or fanatic, no matter how experienced you are, there is always more to learn to become a master smoker and griller. In this guide, we have researched and compiled some of the best Traeger tips for beginners from ourselves and also from others. Read on!

What is a Traeger Grill?

Traeger grill is a brand of wood pellet grill that allows a user to grill, smoke, and bake on it simply like simplified smoking. A pellet grill works by cooking food at either high or lower temperatures using a radiant and convection heat mixture by burning wood pellets. This generates both heat and smoke for flavor and adds a gentle, subtle smokiness to your food compared to charcoal grills, charcoal smokers or wood-burning.

The Traeger grill is a piece of BBQ equipment that has become a must-have for all barbecue enthusiasts and grillers. The Traeger brand is the best choice since it is easy to use even for beginners and has excellent customer service.

1. Season your New Pellet Grill

You should start by seasoning your new grill as per the manufacturer's directions which will take about 45 minutes to an hour. Seasoning helps to burn off any residual oils from the manufacturing process.

2. Give yourself Time to Familiarize yourself with your New Grill

With every new equipment, it's always necessary to give yourself some time to get acquainted with your new smoker and as much as you might be anxious to give it a try, don't be too ambitious. You can start with Traeger recipes that take less than 15 hours, such as prime rib or chicken parts like wings or breasts, then grill a whole brisket with time.

3. Identify any hot spots since most grills have them

Most pellet grills have hot spots, and it's important to identify them early. Preheat your pellet grill to medium-high as per the manual and lay some slices of cheap white bread shoulder to shoulder across the grill grates.

Watch it carefully, flip after a few minutes, and then photograph your results. The darkest bread will indicate where the temperatures might be higher. You can print the photo and add it as part of your owner's manual for future reference.

4. Don’t Allow Your Meat come to Room Temperature before cooking

As many recipes may suggest you allow your meat to come to room temperature before cooking it, it is not advisable. No matter the meat you choose, you should place it on the preheated pellet smoker straight after you take it from your refrigerator.

Smoke loves cold meat as it condenses onto the surface easier than warm surfaces, so the colder your meat is, the better the chance of smoke adhering to it. As usual, set it at a low smoking temperature and allow the extra time with the smoke to achieve more smoke from your pellet smoker.

Most high-end steak houses don't leave their meats at room temperature, where the danger area is between 40 and 140 degrees. This is because the heat coming from the pellet grill is enough to raise the internal temperature of any meat by a few degrees.

5. Maximize your Pellet grill’s Searing Capabilities

Many pellet grills have searing capabilities meaning they can get to over 500 degrees. Notably, before assuming, ensure you check the manual for information about your specific model.

6. Use the Reverse Sear Method

You should know that pellet grills are great at reverse searing your meat, and not enough barbecue enthusiasts do it. You should not be afraid of initially smoking your meat at a lower temperature then finishing off with a high temperature. This approach is particularly useful for smoking chicken with crisp skin and not rubbery skin.

To get a medium-rare finish edge to edge, you will need to learn how to reverse sear, and you can think of the process as sous vide cooking. You can achieve the perfect finish on your entire steak while cooking with low and gentle heat without overcooking it,

In addition, the reverse sear method is often used to smoke thicker steaks or prime rib. Depending on your Traeger grill model and what you are cooking, you should set your grill temperature at 225F and then place your meat in.

7. Use the Upper Rack of your Grill to Cook Something Prone to Drying Out

Not only do the upper racks give you extra space inside your Traeger grill, but also it means that the meat you place on them is far from the heat source. A pellet grill gives both convection and radiant heat.

Therefore, if you are cooking something likely to dry out like thin fish fillets or chicken breasts, you should place them on the upper rack. Positioning the meats there protects them from the heat radiating from the bottom.

However, if your pellet grill lacks an upper rack, you can place and balance a wire rack on your fire bricks or buy after-market racks. Alternatively, you can put a water pan or another liquid to generate moisture to avoid drying out your meat.

8. Invest in a Reliable Meat Thermometer

Using a thermometer to gauge the temperature inside will give you a better cook than only using time. This is essential because as much as you might be cooking for the required time, you could severely overcook or undercook your meal if your food is not at the desired temperature. Also, using a thermometer saves you from having to open the cooking chamber to keep on checking the progress of your food.

To get an accurate temperature reading at grill level, you should opt for a laser-type thermometer as it will be more reliable than a built-in dome thermometer. But, first, determine the temperature range of your grill model number from the lowest to the highest, for instance, from 180 degrees to 500+.

9. Use Lower Temperatures to Generate More Smoke

You will generate more smoke at low cooking temperatures, especially in the low and slow range between 225 and 275.

10. Use Heavy-Duty Foil for an Easy Clean Up and Clean Frequently

You can use heavy-duty foil to cover the drip tray or line the grease bucket. If you lack a grease pan, you can use empty cans such as coffee or tomato cans as a grease tray.

In addition, it is important to keep your pellet grill clean to help avoid ash or grease build-up. A build-up of grime and food waste can affect your grill's ability to smoke and cook properly but also will look disgusting. It is advisable to clean every three to five uses depending on your pellet smoker condition but ensures you warm it up a little to make your cleaning process easier.

Also, it's necessary to have a shop-type vacuum and a sharp bladed spatula or a putty knife. When cleaning your grill, always remember to clean the exhaust and chimney. You will have to remove the grill gates, heat baffle and drip pan and use the shop-type vacuum to vacuum up any ash and wood pellets.

11. Use your Pellet Grill like your Oven

Using pellet smokers or grills like an oven is one of the simplest tricks in the book because not every food is great with smoke added, but most things are. Any recipe that needs baking or roasting in your gas grill or kitchen oven can be easily transferred to your pellet smoker by cooking for the same amount of time and at the same temperature.

Even the smallest pellet smokers can match the capacity of most ovens, so whatever you can cook in your oven, you can also cook in your clean grill.

12. Never allow the Pellets to run out in the Pellet Hopper

If the pellets run out of the pellet hopper, you should consult your manual before relighting the pellet grill. If you are forgetful, set a timer to remind yourself to add the pellets.

Notably, if you are around a humid climate, it's important to empty the pellet hopper every time you finish cooking especially if you know you won't use it for a while. This is crucial in cold temperatures because if temperatures fall below freezing, the wood pellets left in the box can swell, freeze or break down into sawdust and clog up your auger.

13. Use a Smoking Tube to Supplement Smoke Generated by your Traeger Grill

If you want to supplement the cold smoke or smoke getting generated by your pellet grill, you should invest in a maze or a smoking tube.

14. Store the Pellets in a Dry Place

It is crucial always to store your wood pellets in a dry place, or they may turn to sawdust if they can't be smoked or cooked with.

15. Place your Grill About 6 feet away from your Home

Place your pellet grill at least 6 feet away from overhangs, walls or trees, and this is a tip that applies to all grills and smokers.

What Pellets Should You Use In Your Traeger Grill?

This could be among the first questions a customer may have. The obvious answer is to start with Traeger branded pellets that come in a range of wood types from Pecan, Hickory, Cherry, Apple to their Signature Blend.

Once you have tried the Traeger pellets, you can try other brands in the market. In addition, we have a guide on the best wood for smoking brisket, which you can check out.

How to Start your Traeger for the First Time?

As a beginner, the first time you use your Traeger, you will need to go through the burn-in phase and season, where you should ensure any oil is burnt off, and your auger is primed and ready. These instructions are for the Traeger grill Pro model but can be used for other grill models.

To start, you should ensure you remove your heat shield and grill grates so that you can see your wood pellets enter the burn pot.

1. Pour some Traeger pellets into the pellet hopper, but you won't need to fill it up in this stage

2. Plug in your grill

3. Turn on your grill by pressing the temperature dial

4. Select "Auger" from the other menu and choose "Prime Auger."

5. Once you start seeing the pellets falling into the fire pot, you should select "Done" to turn off the Auger.

6. Turn the temperature dial to 350°F and press the dial to set the temperature. Don't get worried if your pellet grill smokes a lot when rising to the temperature as it is normal.

7. Once your pellet grill reaches 350°F, leave it for some 20 minutes before you increase the temperatures to 450°F and then leave it for an extra 30 minutes.

8. Shut down your pellet grill by pressing the temperature dial for three seconds.

9. When the shutdown cycle is finished, your grill should be seasoned and ready for use. However, if you plan on cooking immediately, you will not need to go through the shutdown cycle. Instead, add your food after the 30 minute period ends.

Frequently Asked Questions on Traeger Tips for Beginners

1. How do Traeger Grills Work?

Traeger grills are pellet grills meaning they work by burning wood pellets lit up by a HotRod. The wood pellets are put in the hopper and then moved to the fire pot by an auger. The Traeger grill will only work when connected to an electrical outlet.

2. How do I get Pellet Grills to Produce More Smoke?

To produce extra smoke, you will have to use plenty of dry wood pellets and grill at a relatively low temperature, which will build up extra smoke for your Traeger smoker.

3. How long Does it Take to Warm Up a Traeger Grill?

After you turn on the grill and set the temperature as preferred, it should only take your Traeger grill about ten to fifteen minutes to warm up completely with the lid closed.

Image Source:

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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