Traeger is one of the best-selling wood pellet grill brands in the US. The grills use wood pellets to deliver the smoky, rich flavor grilled foods are known for. However, many prospective users often wonder if these grills are open flame or not.
Traeger grills are considered open flame. These grills consume wood pellets via an out-of-sight flame, which generates heat. Still, Traeger grill users won’t experience fiery flare-ups like they would with standard charcoal or gas grills. A solid metal tray separates the flame and the grill chamber.
Let’s discuss why Traeger grills are legally classified as open flame and examine other crucial details you’ll need to know before loading up your wood pellets and firing up your grill.
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How Does a Traeger Grill Work?
Traeger grills feature a computerized control board and an electric igniter and use wood pellets to generate cooking heat. Once ignited, the pellets will start to burn (hence the open flame). The control board then regulates the temperature by varying the speed of the pellet delivery auger and the fan to deliver forced air to the fire. The overall design makes the product closer to a convection oven than traditional grills.
Traeger grills are sophisticated appliances that can connect to your home internet. You can remotely control one from a mobile app. The design also includes a temperature probe that allows you to monitor the status of your food and the state of the appliance in general.
Can a Traeger Be Used as a Grill?
Traegers can function as standard grills. Apart from searing, the manufacturer also boasts that you can use the product to smoke, braise, roast, bake, or barbeque food. However, since the machine works with indirect heat, you can expect it to grill a bit slower compared to a traditional grill.
Again, the electric and computerized approach means you can’t expect it to get as hot as a propane or charcoal grill. You can expect the highest-end models to get as hot as 500°F (260°C). Charcoal and gas options can better that value by up to an extra 20%, and they will allow two-zone cooking.
If you only intend to use the Traeger for regular grilling, it may be best to explore getting a charcoal or gas grill—especially if you want to stay in control of whether you’re cooking with direct to indirect heat. For casual grillers that also do a lot of smoking, roasting, or baking, a Traeger is a good idea.
You can also grill vegetables easily on the machine without worrying about burning them. The indirect heat will only overcook the vegetable in a worst-case scenario.
Why Are Traeger Grills Considered Open Flame?
Traeger grills are considered open flame because they burn wood pellets with flame hidden beneath the grill chamber. The flame isn’t visible like on other conventional grills, but it’s there, and it is responsible for the heat generated during the grilling process. The presence of the flame is why Traegers are included in tenancy agreements that don’t allow grilling on balconies or in a compound.
How To Grill on a Traeger Grill Without Smoke
You can grill on a Traeger without smoke if you’re cooking at the “High” temperature setting on the machine or anything upwards of 350°F (177°C). At such high temperatures, pellet grills act like a wood fire oven. This is because the pellets are made from wood dust. The high temperature will not just work without producing smoke; it will also cook the food faster.
Low temperatures are best for smoking, so they’ll invariably produce more smoke. When you want to cook food without a lot of smoke (like with burgers), crank up the heat.
Dealing With Too Much Smoke on the Traeger
Even when you fully intend to smoke your food, the Traeger may generate too much smoke. This typically happens when you go straight to “smoke” after using the grill on the “cook” setting. You need to allow some cooldown time when you lower to “smoke” setting from anything above 300°F.
Otherwise, the leftover pellets in the burn pot will lead to air blow through the auger instead of the burn pot. This will create lots of black smoke. You should allow the grill to cool down for half an hour before moving from the “cook” to the “smoke” setting.
How To Achieve a Smokier Flavor on a Traeger
If you can’t seem to get enough smoke for your ideal barbecue, there are two things you can do. First, you can attach a cold smoke generator to the grill. You’ll need to drill a hole on the side of the Traeger to pass the cold smoker tube. Turn on the Traeger, set it to the right temperature, and close the lid. The grill will generate the perfect level of heat, while the cold smoker will add smoke only.
A pellet tray or a pellet tube may be the easiest option to add smoky flavor to your food. Pack your tray or tube with the same pellets you use for your Traeger grill, then light it with a small torch. Place the tray or tube to the side of the grill and cook on your Traeger as usual.
In some cases, all you need to do to get that smokier flavor is to just leave the Traeger to smoke for a long longer. However, the exact length of time will come down to what you’re cooking. While a large brisket can need a few more hours, a fillet salmon may only need just a few extra minutes.
Can a Traeger Grill Catch on Fire?
A Traeger can indeed catch fire like other grills. As long as there’s some fire involved in the process, there’s always a risk of fire. There are a few reasons why a Traeger can catch fire:
- Improper shutdown procedure. When you are done grilling with your Traeger you need to place the controller switch to the OFF(shutdown) position and allow the grill to consume all the pellets in the burn pot.
- Improper startup procedure. Always start your grill on “smoke” setting to allow the unit time to ignite the pellets and come up to a safe temperature with the lid fully open. After about five minutes, the smoke initial startup smoke will clear, and you can finish preheating your grill with the lid closed.
- Having too many pellets in the box. Pellets can get stuck in the Traeger’s hopper, leading to too many pellets. When this happens, over-firing is possible.
- Excessive grease on the drip tray. The drip tray will get greased up as you cook. If you don’t clean it out after a while, you’ll get flares when you fire up the grill.
- Moisture. Keep pellets dry because moisture can make them clump, leading to improper feeding into the firepot and the auger.
- Missing or dirty drip tray liner. You need to use a liner on your drip tray, changing it every three cooks at the very least—even better if you can change it with every cook.
- Ignoring instructions. It’s important tofollow the manufacturer’s recommendations when using your grill. Most of the procedures we have covered here will be in the manual and possibly a few more.
How To Handle a Traeger Grill Fire
If after your best efforts, the Traeger still catches fire, here are a few things you should do:
- Stay calm. If you panic at this time, you’ll find it difficult to think clearly. This will lead to making more bad decisions that can worsen things overall.
- Close the grill lid. This will help you deprive the fire of oxygen, making it die out faster.
- Ensure the grill is not close to flammable objects. This includes your walls. You can either move the grill or move objects, whichever is most practical. Be sure to take precautions to avoid injuries.
- Disconnect the grill. This way, you can reduce the possibility of the grill fire turning electrical. Turn off the switch and unplug the grill. There’s no need to worry about the shutdown cycle at this point.
- Don’t fight the fire with water. Pouring water on an appliance on fire seems logical, but this is not a good idea when dealing with Traeger grill fire for a couple of reasons. First, this is still an electrical appliance, so pouring water over it can cause permanent damage. Secondly, water on grease fires can lead to a hot oil splash, giving the fire more coverage instead of extinguishing it.
Traeger grills are considered open flame because of the heating mechanism they employ. These grills consume wood pellets by introducing them to an open flame in the lower cavity of the grill.
If you dread babysitting a charcoal smoker for hours but still want to enjoy smoky slow-cooked meats regularly, a Traeger grill might be the perfect solution for you. You just need to know how to manage the controls and take basic precautions to prevent a fire, and you can grill away as often as you want!