Traeger has been amongst the first to use wood pellets for their grills, and it’s a concept that makes cooking with a pellet grill so much easier, compared to gas or charcoal grills.
The pellet grills are all based on the same principle. You add pellets to the hopper, then you set your temperature.
This tells the auger inside the smoker to feed the pellets into the firebox, and the grill starts producing heat.
In this article, we take a closer look at how a Traeger wood pellet grill works and how to operate your smoker.
The Ultimate Guide On How A Traeger Pellet Grill Works
Traeger started with their pellet grills in the 1980s, and these easy-to-use grills are increasingly popular.
While not every pellet grill works in the same way as the Traeger grills, they are very similar.
Here is an overview of the simple principles of how a Traeger grill works.
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Get Your Wood Pellets
Wood pellets are compressed wood pieces that have been chipped, dried, turned into sawdust and then compressed into small wood pellets.
They look similar to animal feed pellets, but the material inside the pellets is different.
There is a large range of Traeger wood pellets available. The most commonly used wood pellets include oak.
This gives your food a beautifully strong smoked flavor. Saying this, you can also get other wood pellets which create a different flavoring for your meat and other barbecue food.
It’s important to keep in mind that you should only use hardwood pellets for your pellet smoker.
Softwood pellets are only used in boilers or stoves which serve the purpose of heating your home.
Softwood would likely burn in a pellet smoker but it doesn’t produce any smoke flavor, so make sure to buy only hardwood Traeger pellets.
Add The Pellets Into The Hopper
Once you have your pellets ready, you need to put them into the hopper of your Traeger grill.
All Traeger grills have a hopper, although there may be different hopper types for combined horizontal pellet smokers or vertical pellet grills (see also our article on smoker grill combos).
However, the size of your hopper varies depending on the grill. Many portable grills (see also ‘Are Char Broil Grills Good?‘) only have a small hopper that hold a few pounds.
In comparison, the larger pellet smokers can hold up to 20 lbs and more.The more pellets you can put into the grill hopper, the longer your smoke can run without a pellet refill.
How long your Traeger smoker can run unattended depends on the temperature you set for your grill, the outside temperature and other factors.
As a rule of thumb, you should be able to run your Traeger grill on up to 2 lbs for each hour when the temperature is set on low.
If you turn up the temperature, then you can expect this to go up to 4 lbs.
Set The Control Panel
The control panel on your Traeger grill is where you set the temperature and other features to ensure that your grill produces the desired result.
The control panel controls the auger motor to electronically feed the wood pellets into the firebox.
It also controls the hot rod igniter as well as the fan.
The temperature settings of a Traeger grill depends on the type of grill. The cheaper pellet smokers usually produce a maximum temperature of 450 degrees (with some variations).
In comparison, the expensive Traeger models bring up the temperature to over 500 degrees and the temperature variations are very low.
Wood Pellets Flow Into The Firebox
Once you set your temperature and you plugged your Traeger grill in, the wood pellets will start to flow from the hopper into the firebox.
The temperature setting controls the auger motor of the grill which will feed a few pellets at a time into the burn pot to get the grill fire started.
An internal thermometer measures the internal temperature of the grill and once your set temperature has been reached, the auger motor will stop feeding pellets into the firebox.
This slow feed of the pellet grill is also responsible for the slight temperature fluctuations in pellet smokers.
Fan Starts To Add Air
While the auger allows the wood pellets to flow into the burn pot, you also need a good amount of air to get a fire combustion inside the grill started.
That’s where the grill fan comes in. It provides oxygen to the fire and it also helps to distribute the hot air around the grill.
This creates an even temperature throughout the cooking chamber, cooking your meat and barbecue food to perfection.
You cannot control the speed of the fan in all smokers as in some the fan starts automatically when you set your temperature in the control panel.
This means that the fan settings depend on your smoker’s control panel.
Hot Rod Igniter And Burn Pot To Cook Your Food
The igniter inside the Traeger ignites the fire to get the cooking started. The burn pot or firebox is the place where pellets flow into, and the fire is fueled.
There are a few things to consider when it comes to the burn pot. The optimum functioning of your Traeger grill depends on the material the burn pot is made from.
Some fireboxes are made of carbon steel, while others are made from stainless steel. Stainless steel burn pots last for much longer than carbon steel.
There are also differences in the igniter quality. Many high-end Traeger smokers use ceramic igniters which get your fire started much faster.
The materials of your burn pot and igniter in your Traeger grill have a big impact on the lifespan of your grill.
As Traeger has been one of the first to use pellet grills (see also ‘How Do Pellet Grills Work?‘), the majority of other wood pellet grills are based on the Traeger principles.
It’s important to get a good understanding of how your pellet smoker works to ensure that it produces some great quality food and it lasts as long as possible.