I'm relatively new to the world of smoking meats (and other things). I have a charcoal and wood chip smoker in my backyard that I've used only a few times for actual smoking. It's a time consuming and arduous process that can be relaxing, even spiritual, for some, but not for me. I love the end result of a pork shoulder that slowly cooks over eight hours or a brisket that takes longer to cook than it did to buy from the store, prep, and later eat. I don't love the work it takes to get there; the constant babysitting of the wood chips, the unnerving questioning of whether the grill is hot enough or too hot. Every 15 minutes of checking, prodding, scanning. Smoking meat takes up an entire day that could otherwise be spent going swimming, playing catch, or even watching a movie in the comfortable indoors.
This is where Traeger comes in. Traeger makes electric wood fire pellet grills that let you set a temperature, set a timer, and walk away from your grill until it's done. It's like an oven for your outdoors, only with real wood smoke, so it tastes like it's been charbroiled over open flames. Traeger says its grills have "6-in-1 versatility" (grill, smoke, bake, roast, braise, and BBQ) and it's true. I've never had so much fun with a grill and had the food taste so perfect when it was done.
Bottom line: Unless you're a "smoker purist" this is the best backyard grill you could ever want.
- Easy at-home setup
- Roomy grill space
- Easy pellet loading
- Must-have accessories
- Wi-fi connected with companion app
- So darn easy to smoke meats
- Requires electricity
- App connection requires Wi-Fi
- Not for people who prefer the "old-fashioned" way
Everything you need
Traeger Pro 780 Pellet Grill: The features
Where do I start? This grill is so much more than just a grill. Even without the connected app support, it's a feature-rich outdoor cooker. I'll start with the hardware, follow with the electronic controller, and finish with the app support.
First, this particular model, the Pro 780, has a 780 square-inch cook space. There is also a 575 square-inch model for $800, but if you want to fit 34 burgers, six rib racks, and six chickens at once, this is the size you want. The pellet hopper has an 18 pound capacity and the grill temperature ranges up to 500 degrees.
The grill sits on wheels so you can roll it from one location to another, which is good because this is not a lightweight grill. It weighs in at about 150 pounds.
The pellet hopper I mentioned above is a box that holds specially-made wood pellets that are moved from the box and into the grill thanks to an auger. The wood pellets cover the grill's heating element, which ignites, producing the natural wood smoke that makes this more than just an electric grill.
This is the best backyard grill you could ever want.
Oh, by the way, this is an electric grill. The auger runs on electricity, as does the heating element. It's not just an outdoor stove, though. That's where the pellet system comes in. It creates natural wood smoke. That's the stuff we love to taste in our food.
The pellet hopper has a clean-out door, so you can easily release the current pellet "flavor" and replace it with a different flavor (or if you're just emptying the hopper for the season).
Under the wire racks of the grill, you'll find a grease drip tray (you can also buy drip tray liners for even easier cleaning) that leans at a slight angle. There is a valve at the bottom of the angled drip tray that allows grease to empty into an included grease bucket (which also can be lined with a grease bucket liner) to catch the grease.
The grilling space has two-tiered removable wire racks. This pellet grill uses indirect heat, so you can put your burgers on the second tier and your veggies on the base and they'll cook the same.
The Electronic Controller
Think of the electronic controller as the controller on your oven in the kitchen. You start the heating up process by pressing the "Ignite" button. You can use the menu knob to scroll through the various options, including priming the auger (when using for the first time after completely emptying the pellet hopper), temperature settings, timer, and more. When setting your grill's temperature, you can cook with a single, consistent temperature for a specific amount of time, insert the probe and set an alarm to let you know when the food has reached your desired temperature, or set the grill to keep the food warming at 165 degrees until you're ready to take it off.
This is everything that can be done right on the grill using the electronic controller, but you can also perform some of the same cooking tasks using the connected app for iPhone or Android.
The Traeger app
Here's where things really start to get fun, and where Traeger stands out. The companion app, available on iPhone and Android phones allows you to connect to your Traeger grill using Wi-Fi (or in the case of their specific technology, "WiFIRE") to preheat and adjust the temperature of the grill, check your food's internal temperature if you use the probe, set timers, alerts, and more. If you purchase the pellet sensor, you can also keep an eye on the hopper to know when to refill the pellets.
I should point out that the Traeger app connects via Wi-Fi, not Bluetooth. This is both good and bad. It's good because that means it doesn't matter how far away you are from the grill, you can still read and access the controls. You can even be out at the grocery store (I did this). It's connected to your home Wi-Fi network, so as long as your Wi-Fi is working, your grill is connected.
The bad part is that, if your Wi-Fi doesn't extend far enough from its router to reach the grill outside, it won't connect, no matter how close to your phone it is. Before you buy, I recommend making sure your Wi-Fi reaches into the backyard (or wherever you're setting up the grill) if you hope to connect it to your phone.
The app does more than just tell you how hot your grill is or how much longer you have to cook. It's packed full with hundreds of recipes (apparently, more than 1,500 recipes) that range from main meat dishes to smoking cheese. Most recipes include how-to videos, and many of them come from beloved smoker and grill chefs in the industry. You can find recipes by meat option, popularity, and even follow specific chefs.
There are also guides for setting up and using your grill, which I definitely recommend if you've never used a Traeger grill before. These steps walk you through how to season your grill and prime your auger. You'll also find articles for how to properly clean the grill, how to store your pellets, and more.
Other than the Traeger grill controls, all of these videos, recipes, and articles are available for anyone. Even if you don't have a Traeger, you can take advantage of the expertise gathered here.
Note: It was brought to my attention that iOS Voice Controls don't work very well with the Traeger app, so folks that have site accessibility needs may find the app difficult to use.
Traeger Pro 780 Pellet Grill: What I like
I just can't get over how easy it is to smoke meats with this grill. When they say, "set it and forget it," they're not kidding around. We've smoked meats on Saturday and Sunday for three weekends in a row and everything comes out juicy and flavorful. With the companion app, I didn't even have to check on it at all if I didn't want to, though Traeger recommends checking on everything once per hour (probably for safety reasons). I went shopping while my ribs were smoking for six hours and I was able to monitor the progress on my iPhone.
Weeknight grilling is also just as simple. We just preheat the grill while prepping hamburgers, hot dogs, or chicken. Then, throw the meats and sides on the grill at a higher temperature (350 - 500, depending on what we cook), and then go back inside to prep the rest of the meal while the grill does its job. When it comes to high heat grilling, you pretty much just have to flip your meat at the appropriate time. There is no flame, so you don't have to worry about watching the grill.
Cooking isn't the only thing that's easy. Setting it up is so simple the instructions barely have words (it's all about the pictures). I received a huge shipment that literally came on a pallet and thought, "Oh my. This is going to take all day." It took longer to unpack everything from its well-packaged box than it did to set it up (that's a bit of an exaggeration). My partner and I (you really need two people to set it up because it's heavy and awkward until you get the legs on) had the whole thing set up and ready to use in about 45 minutes, and that was after mistakenly attaching two of the legs backward.
Traeger also offers a wide variety of accessories, including must-have additions for your grill, like the above-mentioned drip trays and pellet sensor, plus grill covers for every type of Traeger grill, aprons, grilling tools, extra racks, magnetic hooks, and a whole lot more. Traeger even sells its own brand of sauces and rubs. I had a sampling of the Pork & Poultry Rub, the Prime Rib Rub, and the Coffee Rub. They're definitely good, but I have to admit that nothing beats creating your own style of rub using the distinct flavoring you prefer. If you're new to seasoning meats, they're definitely tasty additions.
Traeger Pro 780 Pellet Grill: What you should know
This isn't a complaint, but it's something to consider before investing in a Traeger. The grill is electric, so you must be able to connect to power. The cord is very short, so you'll need a good outdoor extension cord unless you have a convenient outdoor plug right where you want to plug in the grill.
As I mentioned above, the Traeger grill also connects to your phone using Wi-Fi, not Bluetooth. This is absolutely a better option because it'll stay connected, no matter how far away from the grill you go. But, if your Wi-Fi doesn't make it all the way out into the backyard, you won't be able to connect. Frankly, I think it's worth investing in a Wi-Fi range extender like eero, anyway. You can connect HomeKit devices, stream music from your iPhone without using up your data plan, and connect your Traeger grill. It's worth it.
I have to mention this for the "old-school" smokers. I realize that chip and charcoal smoking is somewhat of an experience that can't be replicated with an electronic grill and some wood pellets. Chase your bliss. This isn't for you. The Traeger Pro 780 is for people that love smoked meats, but definitely don't love babysitting a smoker all day.
One of the best grills you could buy
Traeger Pro 780 Pellet Grill: Conclusion
This really is a five-star grill. It's top-quality materials, considers all necessary conveniences, and works great for both smoking and searing or grilling. It is easy to set up, easy to start using and makes grilling and smoking as easy as cooking in your kitchen.
Before you buy, think about where you'd plan to keep this grill. Do you have a power source nearby? Does your Wi-Fi extend into the backyard? If not, you may want to consider a less expensive grill. Traeger makes a line of portable grills for half the price (or less) and the Pro Series 22 and Pro Series 34 are significantly cheaper but offer many of the same features as the WiFire-enabled grills (just without the WiFire support).
The Pro 780 costs $1,000, but if you don't think you'll need all of that extra grilling space, the Pro 575 utilizes 575 square-inches of space and costs $800. Traeger also sells the Ironwood and Timberline, which both come with some additional features if you really want to up your smoker game.
Bottom line: Unless you're a "smoker purist," this is the best backyard grill you could ever want.
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