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Pellet Smokers item created by bmudd14474, Apr 26, 2013
Pros - ease of use, in theory
Cons - wild temperature swings, shuts itself off
First off, this is our first smoker. Wanted something that was "set it and forget it" like the Costco road show guy said. We bought our first one last August....my Birthday present! The next day we did the chicken challenge, or whatever the guy said. They came out fine, but nothing superior to what my 18 year old gas Weber did....so whatever. Then we moved on to a brisket. Oh boy, what a headache. As memory serves, the wild temperature swings caused me to call Traeger. "we'll send you a new controller, and a bag of pellets for the trouble" Cool, seems like good customer service. Put in the controller....no change. Same problem next time. We're talking swings from 310 down to 140, then it started smoking like hell, smoke was coming out of the pellet bin, and then the temp climbed to 346 while the temp setting is at 180. So I called Traeger back. This time it was the temp probe inside the grill, and "make sure you clean it every time, but we will send you a new one" No free pellets this time though. At some point a guy had me monkey with the P settings, and then had me put it back to stock. I'm in San Diego, the weather doesn't change that much here. We did some things that were successful, 3-2-1 ribs came out nice, but still not killing it like the tried and true rib method I have used for years. So we kind of put it away for the winter. So a couple weeks ago I hosted a retirement party for a co worker. I thought it would be cool to smoke a pork shoulder and do pulled pork sandwiches. What a disaster! I initially put it on at 9pm the night before, figuring this would give me plenty of time to finish. went out the next morning.....it was turned off with an error message that I was familiar with. What happens is the auger feeds too many pellets into the pot and the heating element gets smothered. I had seen this many times before. You have to pull of the meat, pull out the grate, the drip pan and the pot cover thing, and clear the pot of the pellets, which are now over flowing. Then you have to re start the thing. If you're lucky, you're back to cooking in about a 1/2 hour. So I did this. I sat and watched the temp for awhile and all seemed ok. I mopped the meat about once an hour. Then about 11am, after an hour or so of the lid being closed, It happened again. So I re started again. It seemed to be ok, the meat temp was rising, and then around 2:30 I had to leave it unseen for about 20 minutes. Guess what, It did it again, error message! So at that point I threw in the towel and put the meat in the oven. It never cooked right in the oven, and my wife went to her back up plan. A platter of Carnitas meat from our favorite Mexican restaurant in the hood for $95! We mixed in some BBQ sauce, and never told anyone. Got more compliments on that meat than you can believe! Fast forward a couple weeks, yesterday we took it back to the Costco roadshow. We just figured we had a lemon, and wanted to get another. My wife was all in on the nice stainless one for a grand, but i figured they needed to prove themselves to me still, and so we walked out with another JR. The rep was very apologetic, and even gave me his cell number. I wanted to do 3-2-1 ribs again, so we got a slab, and I put the JR together. After a hiccup (the temp wire was not connecting properly, my bad) I did the initial start up from the sheet. I put it on smoke and it seemed to be fine. Holding temps within 30 degrees or so. Traeger says in the manual it should not stray farther than 20, but I figured close enough. So the 2 hour part of the ribs is to pull them, set the temp at 225, and cover them with foil. I put them back on, and for awhile all seemed ok, although the temp swings were back to 80-100 degrees or so like the last one. All of the sudden my wife's friend says "hey, why has it stopped smoking?" It was at 179. I knew what was coming. The lid had been closed for an hour at this point at least, and we watched the temp drop to 140ish. It started smoking like hell. all of the sudden, POP! the door blew open a couple inches. I knew what was going to happen now, the temp started climbing....past 400, to at least 420. By now I am on the phone with customer service. Guess what, they are closing in 5 minutes, "can we have a supervisor call you back within 24 hours?" Sure, whatever. We calmed the thing down enough to finish the ribs....which were nothing special. Gee I wonder why? The problem with the temp swings seems to be in the mid range temps, basically anything above smoke until 400 or so. This was the same with the first one as well. Its going back today regardless of what the supe says. I think we will get a REC.
Notice the Dial setting
Pros - Cost. simplicity, cooking guide.
Cons - Size, temp control, no clean outs.
Bought my T. JR 5 years ago at a Costco roadshow.
It made for an affordable start in the smoking and pellet cooker space.
Easy setup, but on burn-in the controller and fan burned out. Taking the box to 500 to clear the machine oil, I could small burning electronics. 3 hours on the phone with Traeger and I had a new controller, digital temp probe and fan, on the way to fix it. I had to rebuild the head unit myself with the new parts.
The JR is sort and simple, so I built a new stand for it out of scrap TREX decking. I added wheels, a bottom shelf, cover tie-down hooks, and a folding front shelf .
Also had to buy the cover separately. (poor)
NOTE If this is your first smoker make sure to do a couple of practice cooks before the big party. Don't expect to unbox it and eat great BBQ in 1 weekend.
Even though I upgraded, I kept the Jr for steaks and salmon. I really like the Traeger rubs and the free Smoking Guide.
Reasons I upgraded from the JR:
Size is a problem. I often have to rotate the cooks. (like in the pic below) For a graduation party I did 4 8lb pork buts, had to smoke them in shifts of 2 each. Rotating them to the oven every few hours.
Temp balance is a problem. The cooking surface is too close to the fire pot. The deflectors help but there is still a big hotspot spot over the fire.
Back slots vs chimney allows it to cool too fast. I closed 90% of the opening with foil tape.
Cleaning is a pain in the butt. You have to take out the grate, drip pan and deflector shield, then vacuum out the firepot with a shop vac. Pellet clean out is 1 scoop at a time but your are stuck with what's in the auger for your next startup. ( newer/larger models have the hopper dump, ash dump, and auger load / purge feature)
Upgraded to a Magnum/LUX but I kept the Jr for steaks and salmon, other things that like a smaller/hotter cooker.
Rotating cooks; 15 lbs Pork butt and Cupcake Chicken = 2 stages.
Taller stand out of scrap TREX decking w. bottom shelf, & folding table.
Best Part: The cookbook as a beginners guide to times and temps.
Use this until you build your own book of best practices.
I log all of my big cooks in Excel.
Pros - Taste of food
Cons - Poor temperature stability, unreliable,cannot leave it alone, Traeger service is awful...they are not nice people.
I struggled with this unit for over a year. After eight months I upgraded to a digital controller, but still had issues. I tried to do everything that customer support told me to do...of course, any failure was my fault. Finally I had enough as I just couldn't trust cooking without checking the temp every ten minutes. Thankfully, Costco agreed to give me a refund and I could cut some of my losses. However, Traeger refused to give me a refund on the controller they sold me because it had been over 45 days and it had been installed! Now, how in the **** am I supposed to use the controller without installing it?? And, supposedly the grills have a 3 year warranty, but the electronic parts only 45 days?! None of this makes any sense and the support guy said there was nothing he could do. BULL! I get the distinct impression that the management at Traeger has told their customer support people to issue no refunds under any circumstances...do whatever they have to do to put the customer off. I know some people love their Traeger, and I loved mine for a short time, but I would never buy anything from them on principle, that they don't care a ratsass for the customer. And, if possible, I would try to dissuade anyone else from patronizing them.
Pros - Simple to use.
Cons - Small pellet box.
I am a rookie to the world of smokers but this Traeger Junior Pellet Grill makes me look and taste like a Pro. Super easy to use and the outcome is amazing! Only thing is the pellet box is small but if you stay on top of your cooking it is not an issue. (Smaller smoker smaller pellet box) I still will it five stars all day long.
Pros - Ease of use, versatility, size,quality of construction, amazing results
Cons - None
Let me start by stating that I have the Junior Elite, which is mostly the same but has the upgraded thermostat the rest of the Traeger line has. This little smoker works great, just set the temperature and forget it, unless of course you want to baste or change anything else you want to. I do wish they we made in the US, but I have been very, very happy with the results that have come out of this little smoker. Everything I have tried has been great, pork butt, salmon, ribs, even chocolate chip cookies were excellent.
Pros - Affordable, portable
Cons - S-M-H controller limits it to the most forgiving meats.
I jokingly refer to this as a baby traeger, and a gateway drug to larger smokers. I chose this smoker as it fit my budget at the time but wish I had saved for a lil' tex at least.
The smoker was well packed in its box, and was undamaged while the box looked like it had been used for a game of warehouse football. The instructions were easy to follow, and assembly was very easy taking only about 30 minutes to complete. I was smoking within an hour of bringing the unit home.
The 3 setting controller doesn't manage heat at all so the temperature inside the grill isn't controllable at all. That isn't to say it didn't work amazingly. The first brisket and ribs I cooked on this have hooked me for life; but there was a lot of room for improvement. After replacing the controller with a digital controller and probe, the temperature became much more controllable and I my cooking results have improved.
Buy it if you're cheap and can manage swapping the controller, this is a very usable smoker. If you don't feel safe opening it up to replace the controller save up and buy a higher end smoker.