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Q-talk *ON TOPIC ONLY* QUALITY ON TOPIC discussion of Backyard BBQ, grilling, Equipment and just outdoor cookin' in general, hints, tips, tricks & techniques, success, failures... but stay on topic. And watch for that hijacking.


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Old 03-01-2010, 04:25 PM   #1
Smoke & Beers
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Default Pellet Pooper assistance...Please?

So I won this little Traeger JR last week in a contest...got her home Friday and started assembling. Got the thermostat to go with it...just for chits and giggles... Seasoned it Friday night after getting it all put together...seemed like a dream...set a temp and Boom...There it is...
Fired it up Saturday using a mix of apple and cherry pellets (that's all I had) to make a meat loaf (my recipe) following a recipe's recommended time and temp in the cookbook that came with it. It said 30 - 40 minutes on 300°...after 50 minutes it was barely 110° internal temp, so I jacked the thermostat to 400° cause the wife was starting to wonder what I screwed up...since her smashed potatoes were getting cold.
Finally after another hour, she was done...temp wise anyway. Didn't really look much like any meatloaf I've ever made before...it was a pinkish color (not a smoke ring), no real darkening or carmelizing either...and the texture seemed kinda mushy. It was edible...but not what I expected. No real smoke flavor...just kinda bland.
So Sunday, I set out to do some practice chicken thighs using apple pellets. I figured it was the newbie in me and I'd get it worked out...
Again, it seems to not really smoke for me...it's more of an oven.
There is smoke when I put it on the "smoke" setting for the first 5 minutes, then it clears up and just heats. I did some on JR and some on my Weber Performer all prepped the same. The thighs on the Weber we done indirect and perfect bite thru skin...the Traeger was a bit rubbery...
If anyone can help me figure this dang new fangled smoker out...It would be greatly appreciated...

If you need more info as to what I'm doing...let me know and I'll try to be more specific...I'm just kinda disappointed right now...I've read alot of good things about these things...and I know people win contests with them...It's just I'm not feeling it yet...

TIA
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Old 03-01-2010, 05:25 PM   #2
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Like all cookers, you just have to learn the in's and out's of what you have.

For "smoke" it has to be at a lower temp because on the pellet grills like Traeger, at 400 it's burning so hot, there's little if any smoke coming out.

What's the weather like there? The traeger's have zero insulation so they tend to have a problem in cold weather. Lose more heat than they put on the meat.

After you set it, did you ever get to that temp? What kind of controller (H/M/L or numbers?)

You need to verify the temp inside the smoker and as far as whatever recipe came with it, I can't help you there. I for one don't cook Q by a recipe (at least the x amount for x time method) :D

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Old 03-01-2010, 07:28 PM   #3
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I have a green mountain, similar to the Traeger. What I have found, in the short time I have had it, is to start it as normal and turn the temp down, for a longer period of time for more a more "robust" smoke flavor. After the time at the lower temp, turn it up, probably max on a traeger, and let it cook until it gets the color you want. THis is for meatloaf.

I will ussually finish the meatloaf off on the gas passer because I like the color and the bottom texture I get from it (chewy on the bottom).

Pellet grills are easy to use, but there is a learning curve, just like Okie said. Keep using it and you will figure it out.
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Old 03-01-2010, 08:25 PM   #4
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Traeger temps are diff for the settings on the pooper.

Check your manual. In my experience with them, the "smoke" setting is way too low, like 200 or lower, unless it's an all night butt or brisket cook, this won't do.
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Old 03-01-2010, 10:00 PM   #5
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Thanks for the input...I have the "numbers" thermostat and the digital readout was pretty accurate with my Maverick I put in there +/- 10 degrees from what I'd set it at. It was about 30 degrees outside and a little breezy, so I know I was losing some heat there.
I was just disappointed on how things turned out. I'll just have to practice some more... I guess I was expecting more from it...but I'm not giving up hope just yet.
BTW...of you comp guys out there...what do you do on your pellet smokers? Ribs? Chicken? Butts? Just curious...

Thanks again...and whenever I get my home computer back up and running I promise to post some Pron.
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Old 03-02-2010, 03:17 AM   #6
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Got real interested in a Traeger last year: set and forget, go to work it'll be done when you get home, etc. SO,visited two butcher shops in our county, unaffiliated, that were pimping them. One formerly smoked outside in a regular offset and sold great stuff until the dreaded health department shut that down. The other ran an "onion" festival in the spring where they pimped Traegers, for 5-10% off during that weekend. Both I have witnessed took the Traeger partially cooked meats inside to "make them look more like BBQ" (???) The beef and the ribs were horribly pale. The ribs at the second butcher shop were actually boiled in sealed disposible aluminum trays, then thrown on the grill, and by the way, "you can buy XYZ BBQ sauce from us for flavor." In the first case, I think the owner couldn't duplicate his meats for catering with the Traeger, and ran the stuff inside to his commercial smoker to finish.
In the second case, those guys aren't anywhere close to what we call BBQ.
Neither of these shops could demonstrate BBQ like it should be on a Traeger. Both were "authorized Traeger" dealers.
Be glad it was free. (BTW I spent my $$ on a Klose, couldn't be happier.)
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Old 03-02-2010, 03:50 AM   #7
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I have had an 075 for over a year and love the thing even if it was made in China. It kicks ass on brisket and butts done low and slow or hot and fast. Tri tip and pork loin are very good too. The thing really shines on chicken though, skin on, skin off, beer can, half, whole whatever it is pretty tough to do chicken poorly on it.

I believe you have a smaller model so I can not speak for yours but this is true of the 075...There is a learning curve and it is nothing like anything I had cooked BBQ on before. It took me a least a month to really like the thing. There are several forums dedicated to just pellet grills and I found those helpful. Pelletheads.com is one of the best I've found. There are plenty of comp guys over there weighing in.

In general for smoke flavor I start the thing on "smoke" until I see smoke then crank it up to "high" and wait until the cooker temp is around 400 then turn the temp back to smoke if its warm outside or 225 if its cold and windy and let whatever smoke for a couple of hours. Then I turn the temp back up to medium or 300 to finish whatever I am working on to a safe internal temp. All night smokes of Brisket and Butts with the dial set to smoke after the run up to 400 are great too. Just be sure to check the hopper first so you don't run out of pellets.

For Chicken thighs I start the Traeger the same as mentioned above and then turn it down to 300 or medium for 30 minutes flip the chicken over and then I turn it back up to high or 400 until the internal temp of the bird is right. It seems if you cook much above 300 for long the smoke flavor will not be there.

It is a lighter smoke for sure than other methods and I have not noticed much difference of smoke flavor based on the pellet type used. I am not nearly as happy with the Traeger on high heat items like steaks and pork chops becasue the highest internal temp I have seen is 440 or so. Searing is something it doesn't do well.

Enjoy your new toy!
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Old 03-02-2010, 05:33 AM   #8
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At the least it was free!!!
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Old 03-02-2010, 06:26 AM   #9
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I have three Traegers personally and I have used every single model that Traeger makes. I travel with all of them to competitions. Just like with every other BBQ out there - its a learning curve. I will say I have absolutely no problem whatsoever getting bite through skin on chicken. I usually take a JR on the road with me as well since I think it makes Incredible chicken for comps. I do multiples of meatloaves on my traegers as well. I have never had to bbq them longer than 45 minutes at all. I get a nice smoke ring on them as well and I get a nice crust on the outside. As for the flavor the Traegers burn very cleanly. IF you are looking for a heavy smoke flavor you are not going to get it. What you will get is a much more subtle smoke flavor. Apple and cherry pellets are decent but I always mix my fruit wood pellets with an OAK or a hickory for a more pronounced smoke flavor.
As for what I can do on a Traeger? There isn't anything I can't cook on a Traeger except a souffle. I do everything on them. I would recommend you keep playing with it.
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Old 03-02-2010, 07:45 AM   #10
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Great info, thanks for sharing your views.
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Old 03-02-2010, 08:21 AM   #11
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I would just reiterate what others have already said if you want more smoke flavor. Hickory pellets will help along with starting out on the smoke setting for the first 30 minutes to hour and then bumping up to your desired temp.
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Old 03-02-2010, 09:31 AM   #12
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Thanks to all for the info...I'm not anywhere near ready to give up yet!
One more question...when do you put your meat on the Traeger...before you turn it on so it is exposed to the initial heavy smoke...or do you wait until you reach your desired temps?
Being a drumhead, I've always waited for the "thin blue smoke"...didn't know if this applies with pellets or not...

And MillerTime...I'm still planning on looking you guys up at the Great American BBQ Festival.

Thanks!
Shawn
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Old 03-02-2010, 12:18 PM   #13
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I don't put anything in my CS-570 until the initial heavy smoke is gone.
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Old 03-02-2010, 12:24 PM   #14
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I haven't noticed much difference in pellet type used and I have tried several different manufactures. I believe most of Bear Mountain and Traeger pellets are cut heavily with Alder so that may explain why there is little difference to me no matter what flavor they put on the bag. I tried one mix from cookingpellets.com and they were good on brisket. The comp guys rave about BBQ Delight pellets so they are probably the way to go if can afford to buy in bulk.

I put the meat on the 075 after I run up to 400 and have turned the Traeger down to whatever temp I am going to work with "smoke", 225, or 300. Thin walled Chinese made steel or whatever they call it doesn't take long to drop to the desired temp. Oh how I wish I had bought one before they stopped making them in Oregon. I have a couple of friends that have the original 075 model and I can attest to the fact that they hold heat better than mine.

Still...Once you have it down the hardest part of using the Traeger is being sure you keep the hopper full. It is a joy working with the unit as compared to the many other methods for getting good BBQ that I have used over the years. I think I may go for a Mak grill next time though. MAK is hand made in Dallas Oregon and the reviews have been solid. Love my BGE, Webber Bullet, and UDS but this Pellet thing is just too easy.
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Old 03-02-2010, 12:38 PM   #15
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I agree on what people are saying, I have a FEC, and a Traeger. I use the FEC for everything in comps. I also believe that the Traeger does a better job on chicken .

I am not a fan of traeger pellets, I don't think they produce enough flavor, smoke, and has a high ash to me, I like using Fast Eddy's pellets, 70/30 oak/hickory, great flavor, and can not beat the price. my other favorite is BBQ'ers Delight.
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