Have you been curious about the new pellet grills and smokers that seem to be taking the backyard barbecue world by storm? Is it time to turn in your old grill for a more unique, more versatile model?
Traeger Grill and Camp Chef are the two biggest names when it comes to pellet grills and smokers. Both brands will help you earn pitmaster bragging rights in the neighborhood. Best of all, Traeger and Camp Chef are designed for ease of use and don’t have a steep learning curve.
You can cook on both Traeger and Camp Chef at a wide range of temperatures from 150 to 500° F. Pellet smoking, fueled by food-grade hardwood pellets, allows you to set the temperature low to smoke salmon, racks of ribs, turkey, brisket and much more. The nice thing about Traeger and Camp Chef is precise temperature control so you can char-sear right before you take the BBQ off the grill. This crispy exterior adds another dimension to your natural wood-smoked, fall-off-the-bone result.
Choosing a new grill can be overwhelming if you are not sure where to begin. In this article, we will explore how Traeger Grill and Camp Chef match up. Afterward, it will be up to you to decide to ditch the old Weber grill or complement it with a wood-burning pellet grill and smoker.
Why Choose a Pellet Grill?
Pellet grills and smokers are versatile. You can barbecue, smoke, braise, bake, roast, or grill. They are easy to use and provide consistent heat and temperature control. In short, smoking adds flavor and tenderizes and using a pellet grill guarantees great results.
With the touch of a button, you can experience a true wood-burning flame. Just plug in the grill, fill the hopper with pellets, use your phone or the control panel to set the desired temperature and smoke level. No stress whatsoever…
Electric and gas grills fail to add the flavor and smoke we love most when barbecuing over wood. Charcoal, especially grilling on a Big Green Egg, is one of our favorites because of the unique flavor profile. But, charcoal can be tough to light. It is finicky to keep at a consistent temperature without patience and practice. And when you are done grilling, you need to deal with heaps of ash.
We love pellet grills because they are easy to light, impart a hardwood smokey flavor of your choice, and hold consistent temperature for either smoking, grilling, or both. Best of all, clean up is easy. A 20-lb bag of natural wood pellets produces merely 1% of ash.
Grilling and smoking on a pellet grill is convenient and really enjoyable for anyone from the novice all the way to the expert pitmaster.
How Does a Pellet Grill Work?
A pellet grill works with electricity to create a true wood-burning flame. The flame burns sawdust pellets that are stored in a container called a hopper. An auger feeds the pellets into the cooking chamber to heat them up. Air is needed to circulate the heat and smoke to cook consistently and add a unique smokey flavor.
Traeger patented the pellet technology in 1986. Fast forward to the 21st century, modern engineers were able to electronically control the auger’s movement to feed the fire chamber. Wood pellets proved to be an extremely reliable fuel source due to their known energy output by weight. Adding a digital thermometer, we can now precisely control the cooking temperature from 150 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit using our phones.
Behind the Brands: Traeger vs CampChef
Traeger and Camp Chef have two very different journeys. Traeger is credited with trailblazing the pellet grill scene back in the ’80s. But, Camp Chef is new on our radar and seems to be taking over. Both brands have evolved and innovated over the years. They have reinvented their brands and product suites over time to become an indispensable part of your outdoor kitchen.
Traeger Pellet Grill
The Traeger brand has been around for a long time. But the brand we know and love truly began in 1986 when they patented the very first pellet grill. The company stayed under the radar until Trilantic Capital Partners acquired it in 2013. Its popularity skyrocketed, and the brand became iconic after its final round of acquisition by AEA in 2017.
Traeger currently offers three pellet grill product suites. The lineup appeals to a wide range of grilling needs with entry-level, mid-level, and premium level products.
Traeger Grill Comparison: Pro Series vs Ironwood vs Timberline
All Traeger grills are pellet grills and smokers. The company markets them as 6-in-1 appliances to draw attention to grilling, smoking, baking, roasting, braising, and barbecuing with pure, hardwood flavor.
|Grill Area (sq.in)||575 / 780||650 / 885||850 / 1,300|
|Grates||Porcelain Coated||Porcelain Coated||Stainless Steel|
|Max Temp (F)||450||500||500|
|Color||Black / Bronze||Black||Black|
Legacy versions of the Pro series i.e., Pro Series 22 and 34, do not have wifi.
Pro Series is Traeger’s entry level series. It is the most affordable line Traeger offers and is great for first time barbecuers. High quality, wood-fired BBQ is made simple with this grill series. It also includes bonuses like WiFire technology connecting to a smart phone app and a powerful D2 controller that will maintain consistent temperatures.
Ironwood Series is their mid-level series. Ironwood grills include Traeger’s patented wifi control, which makes it barbequing both convenient and consistent. Love that wood fired flavor? You can boost it with the touch of a button thanks to the Ironwood grill’s “Super-Smoke” mode. They offer two different size options and double-sidewall insulation to help you achieve consistent results every time you grill.
Timberline Series is Traeger’s premium model series. These grills are professional grade and created with BBQ pitmasters in mind. Timberline grills have a lot of capacity and can cook a lot of food. With a maximum temperature of 500 F, you can easily sear at high temperatures and cook “slow and low.”
Traeger Timberline pellet grill is known for its amazing insulation. This not only ensures that your barbecue is consistent, but it also means you can grill with your Timberline even in freezing temperatures. A little cold and snow will never again come between you and your barbecue again.
Traeger’s mobile app allows you to control more than just the temperature. You can also control pellet levels, monitor your food, and browse over 1,600 inspiring recipes. Barbecuing with a Timberline pellet grill is easy, fun, and relaxing.
Camp Chef Grills
Camp Chef was inspired by a love for the outdoors and a desire to have portable grilling more streamlined and convenient for campers. Vista Outdoor acquired Camp Chef in 2016. The company invested heavily in pellet grill technology. With the help of a viral video, the “Grill God” Camp Chef cemented its place in the outdoor BBQ space.
Camp Chef has a confusing upgrade chain when it comes to merchandising. In general, there are three series; Pursuit, Smoke Pro, and Woodwind. However, the XT, DLX, SG, and SGX models within the Smoke Pro family blur the lines when it comes to a clear value chain. Also, Camp Chef has plenty of legacy products still circulating in popular retailers. This makes choosing a Camp Chef grill an arduous task.
|Grill Area (sq.in)||506||570||570||811||1,236||506 – 1,236|
|Grates||Porcelain Coated||Porcelain Coated||Stainless Steel||Stainless Steel||Stainless Steel||Stainless Steel|
|Hopper (lb)||10||18||22||22||22||10 – 22|
|Max Temp (F)||500||500||500||500||500||500|
|Color||Stainless||Black / Bronze||Black / Bronze||Black / Bronze||Black / Bronze||Stainless|
Camp Chef Grill Comparison: Pursuit vs Smoke Pro XT DLX SG SGX vs Woodwind
Camp Chef offers a wide variety of grilling options. It is useful to know that Camp Chef also offers cooking options such as propane grills and smokers, flat-top grills, compact ovens, full cooking systems, and more. Also, the sidekick attachments of propane burner or searing station add to the regular pellet smokers’ capabilities.
Camp Chef’s pellet grill product line includes:
Pursuit is their entry level pellet grill. This is the most basic model with a unique flair. This pellet smoker is meant for grilling high quality BBQ with hardwood. Not only is it a great grill, but it is specifically designed to be portable. Whether you plan a camping trip to the backcountry or fit a pellet grill on your balcony, this option fulfills a unique niche in the pellet grill industry.
Smoke Pro is Camp Chef’s mid-level pellet grill (includes XT, DLX, SG, and SGX series). This model allows you to flow seamlessly from direct flame, high heat searing to slow and low cooking.
Like Traeger’s wireless option, Camp Chef has its own Camp Chef Connect app that lets you monitor your BBQ from anywhere. You can even set a specific Smoke Number to get the perfect BBQ smoke – no need to be intimidated by building the perfect smoke ring. The Smoke Pro makes it simple whether you are new to the world of BBQ or a seasoned pro.
- Woodwind is the premium model pellet grill that Camp Chef offers. Our favorite Woodwind grill is the Woodwind WIFI 24 and 36 with sidekick. This pellet grill has many heads turning and is one reason many people even ask the question, “Traeger or Camp Chef?”
The Woodwind Wifi with Sidekick has shaken up the industry. It is available in a 24 or 36-inch model. Yes, this grill will allow you to smoke, grill, char-broil, sear… the list goes on and on.
The most important feature of the Woodwind is the propane-powered sidekick. As is, the propane-fuel sidekick can be used as a stovetop. The sidekick includes a mountable griddle, but there are lots of great accessories to choose from.
Camp Chef makes a pizza oven attachment and a grill box. Instead of purchasing several separate BBQ appliances, you can have all of your cooking needs streamlined into one.
In addition, Woodwind includes PID technology. This stands for Proportional, Integral, Derivative; yes, math is involved, but you do not have to do it! An algorithm adapts to meet the needs of your desired temperature. It will even adjust to external factors like wind or temperature. Plus, this grill model includes all of Camp Chef’s awesome bells and whistles like Slide and Grill Technology, Pellet Cleanout, Smart Smoke Technology, and Ash Kickin’ Cleanout.
How Do We Compare Traeger vs Camp Chef?
Even with a bit of background, it can feel impossible to distinguish which brand offers more value and quality. Here we break down the essential questions to ask when choosing between two brands.
Quality and Durability
When investing in a grill, you want to make sure every brand’s reputation is backed up by high quality manufacturing. Both Traeger and Camp Chef take pride in the quality of their grills. Both utilize caster iron and stainless steel materials that will hold up to use and the elements for many years.
What sets Traeger apart in this department is the construction of the grills in the Timberline and Ironwood Series. Both are made with double walls. This helps to ensure that cool air will not get in, and it keeps the hot air inside from escaping. This makes it significantly easier to regulate the internal temperature for consistent results every time you barbecue.
Winner: For this category, we have to give Traeger the win.
The size will relate to the entire body of the grill as well as the cooking space. Both are important to consider so that you can feel confident that the grill is the right overall size for your space. Make sure that the appliance will fit in the space you have in mind on your patio, balcony or in your backyard.
You will also want to consider the surface area of the cooking space so that you can be sure you will have enough room to cook for friends and family. We always suggest, when in doubt, to go bigger. You do not want to regret choosing a grill that does not have enough space. You want to invest in a pellet grill that will stand the test of time and that you will never outgrow.
When choosing the right grill, you will want to have many options to fit your space needs and, most importantly, your cooking needs. If you need a lot of surface cook space on your barbecue, be sure to listen up.
Traeger Size Options
Traeger has three main grill series: Pro, Ironwood, and Timberline. Each series offers two size options, totaling 6 varieties, so you can find the capacity that is just right for you.
The pro series offers grills with up to 780 sq. in. of cooking space. The Ironwood line ranges from 650-885 sq. in. of cook space. Lastly, the Timberline 1300 grills have three racks, offering 1300 sq. In. of cook space.
Fun Fact, the model number of a Traeger tells you the cooking space in square inches. For example, the Timberline 850 has 850 sq. in. of cook space.
Camp Chef Size Options
Camp Chef also offers three series options, but not as many choices within all three. The smallest option is their portable pellet grill, the Pursuit, which offers a small but mighty 501 sq. in. of cook space. The SmokePro has a total cooking surface of 811 sq. in. and their premium model, Woodwind comes in a 20-inch, 24-inch or 36-inch model. The top of the line Woodwind has two racks with ample space for grilling: 1236 sq. in. of it to be exact.
Fun Fact: Instead of the cook space size, Camp Chef model numbers signify the overall width of the grill. For example, the Woodwind Wifi 36 is 36 inches wide.
Winner: While Camp Chef offers a wide variety of ways to grill, we prioritize the fact that Traeger has two different models in each of their three grill series. They have six high-quality pellet grills with ample space. Plus, their top-of-the-line product has more space to cook on, and three racks instead of just two. Traeger takes the cake here.
Temperature Capabilities and Control
Traeger Temperature Control
The top of the line Traeger Timberline can hit max temperatures of 500° F. All Traeger grills include The Digital Elite Controller. This model also includes a D2 controller to keep a consistent, precise internal temperature. More current models will have better temperature control than older versions.
Camp Chef Temperature Control
The Camp Chef temperature controls are a bit more consistent according to people who use the product.
The Camp Chef Woodwind Wifi with Sidekick has excellent temperature capabilities and control. It can hold temperatures between 160° F to 500° F. We especially like that it includes a full-color screen PID controller for consistent temperatures (+/- 5ºF ) that will intuitively adapt to internal and external changes.
Winner: We are impressed by PID technology and hand the win over to Camp Chef.
How Much Can the Pellet Hopper Hold?
For this, we will put each brand’s top of the line product head to head. The Timberline can contain 24 pounds of pellets, while the Woodwind holds only 22 pounds of pellets. Across all mid-level and entry level grills, Traeger consistently offers a bit more hopper space.
Winner: It is close, but the more pellets a grill can hold, the less work, time, and energy for you. So, Traeger wins this round.
Bonus Features and Accessories
Sometimes it is all about the details. Each brand offers unique features, accessories, and surprises that can elevate your experience. Plus, no grill is genuinely complete without ultimate bragging rights!
Camp Chef Bonus Features
- Camp Chef grills include unique ash and hopper cleanout systems to help make maintenance a breeze. The ash cleanout system allows you to empty the ash from the firebox by simply pulling a lever.
- With the SmokePro you can choose to add-on a BBQ sear box. This attaches to the side of your pellet grill. The cast iron searing grate has a 16,000 BTU burner. The burner can reach temperatures around 900º F so you can get the perfect sear on your meat.
- The SmokePRO DLX model showcases an auto-start ignition that takes the guesswork out of starting up the grill.
- Camp Chef doesn’t stop with grills. They also have an entire line of cast iron accessories for the best cooking experience. Their cast iron wares include skillets, griddles, and dutch ovens.
- SmokePro models are available in several colors, including bronze, black and classic stainless steel. Variety is the spice of life, and it is always nice to have options to fit your unique style and aesthetic.
- The Woodwind series includes a sear box, making your investment even more versatile without an additional expense.
- The PID temperature management technology that the Woodwind Wifi 36 with Sidekick offers is impressive. The more control, the better in our opinion.
- Camp Chef’s Sidekick attachment and accessories set Camp Chef apart from the competition. The Woodwind with Sidekick grills come with this feature standard. The Sidekick can also be purchased separately to fit on most Camp Chef pellet grill models. This sidekick feature is unlike anything else on the market. The Sidekick works great as a stovetop. You’ll have additional space to cook with more versatility. In addition, you can choose accessories to optimize your Sidekick. They offer a pizza oven option that lets you bake a 14-inch pizza on a built-in pizza stone. A griddle expands your horizons so you can bake, sear, boil, sauté, braise, grill. Plus, you can add more grill space with a propane-fueled BBQ Grill Box with one burner.
Traeger Bonus Features
- Traeger branded their grill wifi capabilities. They call it: WiFIRE. WiFIRE provides you with connectivity so control your grill effortlessly from the Traeger Grillguide app on your smart device.
- The Timberline includes a Magnetic Bamboo Cutting Board saving you unnecessary trips back and forth from the kitchen.
- Traeger includes a grill cover to protect your investment. They also help to get you started with two bags of signature blend pellets, so you are ready to get to grilling right away.
- The pellet sensor feature is always impressive. It will replenish as needed while you grill without any effort or thought on your part.
Winner: While Traeger offers several bells and whistles, we appreciate Camp Chef’s balance of gadgets and practical tools. More options are always helpful, and we love that these grills come in some unique colors. In addition, convenient features like a sear box, sidekick, and a pellet clean out system ensure you have all the tools and reinforcements you need to thoroughly enjoy a day full of barbequing without the stress or mess. Camp Chef for the win here.
Pro Series with WiFire includes models at the $799.99 and $999.99 price points.
Pro Series without WiFire capabilities are a bit more affordable at $599.99 or $699.99.
Ironwood 650 costs $1,199, and the Ironwood 885 costs $1,499.99.
Timberline 850 is priced at $1,799.99, and the Timberline 1300 is $1,999.99.
Camp Chef Pricing
Pursuit (entry level) starts at $440
Smoke Pro (mid-level) ranges from about $440-$700
Woodwind (premium model) costs between $600-$1,200
Winner: Camp Chef is undoubtedly the more affordable brand and takes the prize if you are entirely focused on price points.
When making an investment like this, you want to know you are buying from a company that backs every product they produce. This is what good customer service and quality assurance are all about.
Winner: Both Camp Chef and Traeger offer a standard 3-year warranty. So they tie this round.
Camp Chef has a 30-day return policy, while Traeger offers an additional 15 days with a 45-Day return policy and 365-day customer support. Traeger stands by their product in all aspects of service. Both brands offer very similar customer service in this area. But, the additional time Traeger offers provides you with a bit of additional security of peace of mind.
Winner: Traeger is our winner here simply because of the additional 15 days they build into their return policy. In every other way, these two brands perform neck and neck when it comes to warranties and customer service.
It is near impossible to compare two excellent, high-quality pellet grill brands. Both companies offer robust product suites that cater to the needs of barbecuers on all ends of the spectrum from newbie to expert. While Traeger offers history and reputation, Camp Chef offers accessibility and innovation.
For now, Traeger sets the standard for quality and features in the pellet grill category, but we look forward to the continued innovation and potential that will stem from this healthy brand competition.
What is the difference between BBQ and grilling?
Most of us use the terms barbecuing and grilling interchangeably. However, for pitmasters, the difference between the two terms is vast. BBQ refers to cooking with a closed lid to circulate the hot air in the chamber. BBQ uses both direct heat from the bottom as well as indirect heat through hot air.
Grilling simply uses the heat source below to cook the food while the lid is open.
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SIDENOTE. This post was last modified on April 22, 2021. However, we regularly update our content as we test more products and new models are released. We also listen to the feedback of our customers and make changes to our product recommendations based on their experiences. So don’t be surprised if you see some old comments below! Since reader comments contribute to the topic, we have decided not to delete them.