Last fall, Traeger Grills offered me a test model Pro Series 34 to review. I hunt, fish, and cook. So I gave an enthusiastic ‘yes’ and have been grilling regularly ever since. This is what I’ve learned.
Traeger Grills’ products are major investments for any home chef. They are big, well made, and carry the price tag of a major home appliance. So if you’re shopping for a new grill, should you consider this major player in the wood-pellet market?
I’m not going to pretend I know everything about every grill. If you want to tell me how awesome your Model X from Brand Y is, just hop down to the comments.
This is my experience with one grill, the Traeger Pro Series 34.
In short: The Traeger Pro Series 34 is a versatile wood pellet-fired grill that excels for low-and-slow cooking. It is durable, maintains temperatures well, and cooks mouth-watering foods. Its only disadvantages are minor to me – slower heating and lower high-end temps than propane grills.
Traeger Grill Review
The Traeger Pro Series 34 ($1,000) comes on a pallet. You assemble it at home, and, fortunately, the instructions are great. It was a nice experience to assemble an obviously well-made product. Fit and finish were great, and parts slipped into place easily.
The grill popped together in a short afternoon that included a buddy and a six-pack.
Once assembled, we both marveled at the build quality. The grill felt robust and solid. We turned it on, reveled in the cloud of smoke, and clinked bottles to a job well done. Time to get cooking.
Traeger Pro Series 34: Great, Good, and Only OK
Over the past six months, I’ve developed an appreciation for this grill. It works really well for most everything and cooked some really spectacular meals. I even think my cooking has gotten better.
But that’s not without some caveats. Below are my main thoughts.
Plan to Cook Differently
Traeger grills create a very uniform heat around your food. Unlike gas and charcoal grills I’ve used in the past, this results in much less direct heat and more even cooking.
Overall, this is a great thing. I have never overcooked or burned a meal on this grill. I can’t say the same for my other grills.
But you do need to plan to cook differently. It’s more like cooking in an oven than on a grill in some ways. Just keep two words in mind: “indirect heat.”
Low and Slow Is Amazing
This is where the Traeger Pro Series 34 excels. Put it on a low temp, drop in your ribs or brisket, and walk away. The grill will maintain a steady low temp as long as you keep it loaded with pellets.
I’ve cooked brisket and pork shoulders for eight hours with very little fussing, and the meat melted in everyone’s mouths.
If you want to cook meat on low-temp settings (and you probably should), this grill crushes it.
- Cooking capacity: 884 sq. in. (40 hamburgers or 8 chickens)
- Pellet hopper capacity: 18 lbs.
- Height: 49 in.
- Width: 53 in.
- Depth: 27 in.
- Weight: 136 lbs.
Smoke ‘Em if You Caught ‘Em
My initial interest in the Traeger was for its smoking ability. Last fall I had a heap of salmon from a month-long trip to Alaska and plenty of wild game ready to smoke.
So my buddy and I got to work smoking salmon for upcoming trips into the woods. We also made smoked venison and beef jerky, packaged into freezer bags for our upcoming hunting trips.
The results were awesome. We cranked out several pounds of smoked salmon, venison, and beef in a couple cooking sessions. The food was great, with a robust smoke flavor. It stored well, too, and made for great snacking in the field.
It’s Not That Hot
To me, this is Traeger’s biggest weakness: It’s not extremely hot.
In real-world use, I have a hard time getting it over about 425 degrees. It’s a little annoying when you want to get a good sear on a steak or cook a hamburger quickly, as it takes some time (about 20 minutes) to get up to that heat.
This fact slightly modified the way I approach cooking steaks and hamburgers on this specific grill. And ultimately, I’ve found that cooking a good ribeye on the Traeger results in one of the most mouth-watering dishes I’ve produced. But it’s a little different process than how I’d cook it if I had more heat at my disposal.
It’s worth noting that, with some patience, it does get hot enough to sear meat. But opening the lid cools temps quickly, so learn to cook by timing, not by sight.
I go through quite a few pellets cooking in this grill, and I think the price is higher than using propane. Cooking regularly, I go through one or two 20-pound bags a month.
I think fuel cost is lower than charcoal, especially when coupled with the cost of lighter fluid.
Bags cost about $20 a pop, so about the same as a tank of propane that would last for most of a summer. Fuel use varies a lot depending on the temp setting. Lower temps (like smoking) seem to barely dent the hopper of pellets, while the high setting will burn through them pretty quickly.
Overall, the price of pellets seems reasonable, although if you’re on a tight budget it will be higher than propane.
The Traeger takes a little more maintenance than a propane grill. You’ll need to vacuum it out every few cooking sessions to clean out ash.
It takes me about five minutes to prep the grill for cooking if I leave it dirty. This is a small issue for me and, really, you should keep any grill somewhat clean. But this is a step beyond what most grills require. Expect a little more maintenance.
Probe for Perfection
One element that really rocks is the integrated meat thermometers. Just stick the probe into a thick part of your meat and get an accurate internal temp. For cooking thick meat slabs, it works great to know when your cooking is done and the meat is safe to eat.
Food Tastes Amazing
For me, this is the key. Whatever it is, the food I cook on the Traeger is freaking awesome.
Time and again, I made meals that simply blew my mind on this grill. From salmon to brisket to pork shoulder, the grill has nailed every one. I don’t think it’s produced a bad meal yet.
It’s hard to directly compare it to other grills I’ve used. But ultimately, I think it has produced the best food most consistently out of any I’ve tried.
Add in the versatility of a smoker and slow cooker, and I love this grill as a backyard tool.
Traeger Pro Series 34 Review: Get Grilling
Yes, there are a ton of grills on the market, and many will probably do similar things.
I used this $1,000 grill for six months, and it’s been great overall. It slow cooks wonderfully, maintaining low temps for hours on end. The integrated meat probes provide accurate temps to tell you when food is cooked without even opening the lid.
Smoking meat is easy. The results are delicious.
This grill’s biggest weakness is its inability to reach high temperatures. It takes time to get it above 400 degrees. I’ve compensated in my cooking style, with fabulous results.
If you’re looking for a high-end grill to cook meals for a family or more, this model is a solid choice that should last for a long time. And thanks to its low temp and smoking ability, it’s a versatile choice for those who cook lots of wild game and fish or more common store-bought fare.