“Taste the meat, not the heat.” I can’t help but think of Hank Hill’s trademark sales pitch anytime someone brings up propane grilling. And as much as I adored King of the Hill, I always wondered what kind of weirdo didn’t like the taste (and smell) of burning coal with their summer BBQ.
Everything about firing up the grill — from the sound of lifting that crinkly paper charcoal bag, to making the briquette pyramid and inwardly wondering just how much lighter fluid is too much — is an explosion of sensory nostalgia. And the flavor, well that’s just the cherry tomato on the kabob.
So, when Traeger pitched me on testing its first-ever propane grill — the Flatrock — my initial thought was, “Well that’s lame.” But I dutifully agreed. Spring has sprung and I’m eager to break in the backyard. And while I still love the ritual of old-fashioned charcoal grilling, I couldn’t have been more wrong in my initial Flatrock naysaying.
Trager’s first propane grill is a monster that vastly expands the meals, options, and fun you can have cooking in your backyard.
In short: The Flatrock is like one giant cast iron skillet, ready to take on damn near anything you can throw at it. It’s more “griddle” than “grill,” and serious cooks may see it as a second outdoor cooking tool in addition to a grill. Look elsewhere if you’re committed to the traditional day-long smoker cookouts; this is an altogether different animal. But if you can cook it in a kitchen, now you can cook it outside. Just be sure to keep up with the maintenance.
- Cooking area 18" x 33" (594 sq. in.)
- Fuel Propane
- Burners 3 U-shaped
- Temperature range 350-600 deg. F
- Price $899
- Cooks virtually anything
- Three individual heat zones
- Propane level indicator
- Some cheap plastic hardware
- Steel griddle requires upkeep
- Grill cover not included
Traeger Flatrock Grill Review
Unless you buy the demo unit at a retailer like Home Depot, you’ll have some assembling to do when you get the Flatrock home. But don’t slouch those shoulders just yet, Traeger actually made building this thing easy and — dare I say — fun.
Not only will Traeger’s app walk you through the hour-long setup — 45 minutes if you’re as handy as you think you are — it offers video demos and shows you how many beers deep you’ll be at each step of the way. (Yes, I’m serious.)
One note on my experience with the setup: My initial unit suffered some noticeable damage, though it did not affect performance. One of the side trays was bent and needed some finesse to fit into place. I notified Traeger and it immediately sent a replacement.
After the hardware is all squared away, you’re still a step away from grilling. Similar to a traditional cast iron pan, you’ll need to season the “cold-rolled steel” cooking surface. And yes, this is important; this is your one and only cook surface. And as you’ll see, there’s almost nothing it can’t do, but you need to take good care of it.
Seasoning the grill isn’t difficult, but you will need to aside a half-hour to manage it. Traeger sells its own “seasoning cream,” but you can find other brands at most hardware stores. The process involves coating the cook surface, burning it off, and repeating the process two more times.
Cook Almost Anything
It’s best to decouple your idea of “grilling” from the Traeger Flatrock. You’re cooking with fire from propane. And you’re doing it in the friendly outdoor confines. But that’s where the similarities end.
For starters, you’ll want a power source to achieve ignition. You can hack this if you need to; the Flatrock has ports to ignite manually if need be. But grid/portable power also enables the Flatrock’s nifty fuel level indicator — a series of five lights that display how much propane is left.
Once you’re set up, seasoned, and plugged in, the sky is the limit. Anything you could cook in the kitchen, you can cook on the Flatrock. My maiden test was a basic hangover brunch: eggs, bacon, hash, and flapjacks — and some hair-of-the-dog mimosas for good measure (not grilled).
This may not sound like a big deal, but boy was it fun! All that cooking, outside, with the sun shining and no pots or pans to switch between or clean!
That held me over for most of the day, but come dinnertime I was right back at it. This time, fried rice. In case you missed that, I grilled fried rice! I did have to parboil the rice, but once done, I sautéed veggies, scrambled eggs, and fried it all together with the rice.
And just to be sure, I also cooked some backyard BBQ staples — brats and burgers. Everything turned out fantastic!
Traeger Flatrock: What to Like
If you would just assume cook outside in the summer, then the Flatrock has a lot to offer. Its versatility allows you to go well beyond the world of simple grilling.
Unlike other Traeger options, this is not for smoking a big cut of meat. But it is effectively a blank canvas for most outdoor cooking. And its size means you can manage a meal to feed at least four people.
The heat is even and the controls allowed me to go low and slow (for bacon) or higher heat for fried eggs or searing meat. The ignition has worked flawlessly so far and I appreciate the flame indicator light, which lets you know the burner is lit (since you cannot see flame under the steel cook surface).
And of course, I really appreciate the propane fuel indicator lights. It’s a vast improvement over the lift-and-jiggle method I would otherwise apply to the tank.
Two foldable side trays offer plenty of space for utensils and food that’s coming off or waiting to go onto the grill. Traeger also boasts a Pop-And-Lock (P.A.L.) system on these trays — a proprietary rail system to hang the brand’s cooking accessories. However, I did not use this feature — instead, I just used the tongs, brush, scraper, and spatula I already own.
Finally, the price. At under $900, the Flatrock actually looks like a comparably great value. Most high-tech, premium grill options — wood pellet, propane, and others — go well north of $1,000.
What Could Be Better
I suspect some folks will knock the Flatrock for one of the reasons I actually loved it: no connectivity. Grilling, once a celebration of old methods and tradition, has quickly become one of the leaders in high-tech functionality. Most modern grills connect to your phone through an app, which you can use to control temperature, monitor cook times, and more.
Not so with the Flatrock. To enjoy this grill, you’ll have to belly up and use it the old-fashioned way. And I appreciate that. But for those who want added convenience for the healthy investment of a new cooker, you may want to shop around.
Also, I noted that a side tray arrived bent. But it wasn’t the only casualty of drop-shipping. I also noticed the plastic facing around the grease catch had cracked. Functionally, this didn’t negatively do anything — the tray still slides in and stays put. But the plastic part is cheap and incongruent with the build quality overall.
Finally, my biggest gripe with the Traeger Flatrock is that it ships without a grill cover. This probably keeps the sticker price down, but that’s something of an illusion. You should treat the cooking surface like a cast iron pan, and as such you need to protect it from the elements.
Unless you’re wheeling the grill inside or under a canopy after every use, you will need to cover it. And that’s not just for rain; the great Arkansas pollen plumes blanketed my grill overnight. It didn’t affect performance, but it certainly cost me some style points.
I resorted to throwing an old tarp over it and anchoring it with some paver blocks. Hey, it works. But for the money you’ll spend here, a tailormade cover adds the touch of class (and care) this grill deserves.
Final Thoughts on the Traeger Flatrock
If you love backyard BBQing — or just cooking in general — and if you don’t need cutting-edge, connected-at-all-times, hands-off convenience (i.e., you like to get dirty and do it yourself), the Traeger Flatrock is an exceptional backyard grill.
It’s tremendously versatile, capable of cooking far more than your grandpa’s Weber, and has just enough tech to be helpful (and not a transistor more). Great as the Flatrock is for all that it does, true grill aficionados will appreciate it as an addition to (not a replacement for) their backyard barbecues and grills.
Compared to other Traeger options and competing, premium cookers, the Flatrock offers solid value. The biggest knock is that it requires TLC and some extra accessories to keep it in good working order. If you can manage that, I can’t imagine you’ll have any buyer’s remorse.