Cooking over open flames is a great joy. However, all flames are not created equal. To achieve peak flavor, you want a wood flame.
Pellets are a perfect solution. Since their invention, they have morphed from cost-saving house warmers to gourmet cooking items used for smoking and grilling. Produced from hickory, cherry, and even pecan woods, they are truly expanding the options of home chefs.
However, to use pellets effectively, you need a dedicated pellet grill.
So, let’s go through our in-depth Traeger Ranger pellet grill review to find out why it may or may not be the best portable pellet grill for you…
Pellet Grills and Traeger
First off, what is a pellet grill? Pellets were introduced in the ’70s as an alternative fuel source. The oil crisis of the time led to them being used to heat homes.
Not long after pellets became available, Jeff Traeger invented a grill that could use them as fuel. Made from compacted wood, they provided the benefits and flavor of wood at a lower cost. That became the first Traeger grill and, after filing a patent, the only pellet grill on the market for 20 years.
However, since the patent ran out, many other pellet grills have appeared.
But what’s unique about the Traeger Ranger?
We’re going to get into that but first, let us take you through the basics of pellet grill technology today.
How Do Pellet Grills Work?
Because of their fuel source, pellet grills are much harder to control than gas grills. Traeger has had almost 40 years of experience in adjusting its system to achieve and maintain a selected temperature.
How do they do this?
Fuel and air are the two variables that determine a grill’s temperature. By controlling the release of pellets from the hopper and adjusting the airflow through the grill, accurate and even heat can be achieved.
The pellets are released through an auger, which turns on and off at preprogrammed intervals. There’s an on phase and an off phase. By controlling the timings of both of these, any temperature required can be achieved.
In the beginning, airflow was constant. Now with developments in technology, the fans can be turned on or off in response to the conditions. This allows a stable temperature to be maintained.
The Ranger also features Traeger’s patented Advanced Grilling Logic system. This will keep the grill’s temperature within 15 +/- °F. So, you can be sure that whatever you’re cooking won’t be over or underdone.
The Traeger pellet grill features 176 square inches of total cooking space. That might not sound like much but remember, this is a portable grill. And it’s enough space to grill one rack of ribs, six burgers, or ten hotdogs.
The Ranger comes with several accouterments too. One of them is a cast iron griddle.
Why do I need one of them?
Well, griddles are an incredibly versatile cooking surface, so having one included is a significant bonus. You can get a full sear on your steak, cook some eggs, or you could even make pancakes. All of which just might help make it the best pellet grill for a camping breakfast.
8lbs of hopper capacity…
Pellet grills use hoppers to feed the flames with pellets. The Ranger has a hopper capacity of 8 lbs.
Hopper size determines how long a pellet grill can cook for. Depending on the temperature and what’s grilling, the pellets will burn at one to three lbs per hour. So, at high heat, you’re looking at two to three hours of burn time per full hopper.
That should be ample time for most grilling applications. Remember, this is the portable version, so it’s designed to be moved about. If you want to use it as a smoker rather than a grill, you should probably wait till you can easily refill the hopper.
There’s a lot of stuff out there about BTUs. The Ranger has a rating of 16 000 BTUs. If you do the math, that puts it right in the recommended sweet spot of 75-100 BTUs per square inch of cooking space.
However, the truth is, BTUs don’t always equal heat. The Ranger reaches a maximum temperature of 450°C regardless of exactly how many BTUs the pellets produced. That’s plenty hot enough to get a nice sear on your steak.
The Ranger is meant to be a portable grill; it says so in the name. However, the grill weighs 60 lbs, which is quite heavy. Because its pellet fueled, the control mechanisms required to adjust the heat make it on the heavy side.
The Ranger may not shine in the weight department, but that’s not the only criteria for portability. Size-wise the Ranger fares well. At 21 x 13 x 20 inches it’s comparable to a standard suitcase.
The lid has latches to ensure it won’t flap open when you’re carrying it from place to place. As a portable grill, we expect it to be moved around. With the suitcase-style design, you can carry the grill without anything falling out.
High-tech meat probe…
Unlike many grills, the Ranger comes with its own meat probe that actually connects to the control panel. It gives direct feedback to the grilling system so it can adjust accordingly.
It does this by registering the temperature of the meat. This allows you to set the grill to turn off after your meat reaches the desired temperature.
It also has a ‘keep warm’ setting. In combination with the probe, this means the grill can cook meat at a chosen temperature and then bring the heat down all by itself. The result being, you get perfectly cooked meat that will always be ready to eat.
Traeger has a wealth of supporting materials to enhance your grilling experience. They sell 13 different kinds of hardwood pellets. Ranging from pure woods like 100% hickory or maple to blends like Texas Beef, which is a mix of oak, mesquite, and pecan.
They also produce a number of meat rubs and sauces. There’s even an app full of recipes to try. These contain all you need to know to program the right cooking cycles for the recipe. A nifty timer will alert you when you should check or baste your meat.
One thing to remember, not just about the Ranger, but all pellet grills is that they require power. That is to say, you have to plug them in. The auger system for controlling pellet release has to be powered somehow.
This is a significant drawback, especially for something which is supposed to be portable. However, anyone with a camper or RV should take note. The Ranger might well be the best tailgate pellet grill on the market.
Then there’s cleaning…
The Ranger contains a grease tray to collect drippings, and the grill grates are coated with porcelain to make them easy to clean, but there’s no way to avoid the smoke residue.
Traeger Ranger Pellet Grill Pros & Cons
Still wondering if this is the grill for you? Well, as with most purchases, it very much depends on what you’re looking for.
Yes, you should go for one if you want a great portable pellet grill for RV adventures. It’s got plenty of grill space, high stable temperatures, and a precision control system. And it’s all backed by Traeger’s industry pioneering knowledge.
However, if you don’t have a portable power source or you don’t want to take your grill motor camping and just want something to more easily move around your yard, we think there are a few better options out there for at-home applications.