Can A Traeger Replace A Gas Grill? (Yes, With Some Mods)


Hi, I’m Chris I started PelHeat.com back in 2007.

Previously I’ve written an article on the general pros and cons of pellet grills vs gas grills. Can certain pellet grills replace the functionality of a gas grill? Sure, can a Traeger pellet grill, in particular, replace a gas grill? Well, that’s a trickier question. As standard, I would have to say a Traeger is going to struggle to match the grilling/searing performance of your existing gas grill, and I’ll explain why. We’ll also discuss how the grilling performance of a Traeger can be improved and also which other pellet grills to consider for grilling.

Can A Traeger Replace A Gas Grill
Smoking and ‘low and slow’ cooking is where a Traegers strengths lie. However, when it comes to grilling/searing a Traeger (as standard) will struggle against a gas grill: Images – Traegergrills.com and BBQGuys.com

Disclaimer: Hey! By the way… any links on this page that lead to products on Amazon or other sites are affiliate links and I earn a commission if you make a purchase.

In a rush? Jump to my conclusion on how a Traeger can be made to sear and grill like a gas grill.

Which Traeger Pellet Grills Are We Discussing Here!?

Traeger has been selling pellet grills/smokers since the 1980s and there are obviously lots of models they have made and continue to produce. I’m going to keep this discussion on Traegers vs gas grills to models they currently sell and their full-sized/backyard grills.

The three most popular/well-known Traeger ranges are the Pro Series, the Ironwood range and their top of the range Timberline series. I’ve linked to my articles on each specific Traeger range and recently I’ve also done a comparison of the differences between ranges, namely:

In this discussion on whether a Traeger can replace a gas grill what we are really talking about is grilling/searing and maximum temperatures at the grate. A gas grill will get the grate up to around 650 degrees, potentially more.

Whether you’re considering a Traeger Pro Series (left), Ironwood (centre) or Timberline they all have a maximum temperature setting of 500 degrees: Images – Traeger.com

What temperature will a Traeger get its grates up to? Well, on the earlier Traeger models and the first generation Pro Series it was around 450 degrees. Second generation Pro Series, Ironwood and Timberline models do better at around 500 degrees.

However, as you can see, there is obviously a disparity between the 650 degrees at the grate on a gas grill and the 450 to 500-degree temperatures at the grate on a Traeger.

How To Improve A Traegers Grilling/Searing Performance

As discussed above, as standard, any Traeger model is going to struggle to compete against a gas grill when it comes to grilling/searing. So are there methods to improve the grilling/searing performance of a Traeger? Yes

Method 1: Use 100% Charcoal Pellets For Grilling On A Traeger

As they have only recently come onto the market you may not be aware that charcoal pellets are now available for pellet grills/smokers. While one advantage of charcoal pellets is a stronger more distinctive smokey flavour for those looking for it, the other benefit is increased heat output.

Charcoal is a more concentrated form of wood fuel, therefore, you get an increased heat output from burning the same volume of charcoal compared to unprocessed wood or normal wood pellets.

However, as I discuss in my article on charcoal pellets you need to understand that some bags branded as ‘charcoal pellets’ are actually a blend of normal oak pellets and charcoal pellets. If you want to get the highest heat output possible, you want to use 100% charcoal pellets.

Currently, the only brand of 100% charcoal pellets is Royal Oak

As shown in the video above, a Weber SmokeFire running on 100% charcoal pellets got its grate temperature up to around 700 degrees compared to its 600 degree maximum on standard hardwood pellets.

Now, you shouldn’t expect a Traeger to get up to 700 degrees as the Weber SmokeFire has a different design (more about that below). However, on 100% charcoal pellets, I would expect a Traeger to get up to 550 maybe 600 degrees at the grate.

Method 2: Install Some GrillGrates In A Traeger

One of the reasons a Traeger doesn’t get particularly high temperatures at the grate is the choice of grate material. Pro and Ironwood models feature porcelain-coated wire racks whereas Timberline models feature stainless steel wire racks.

Either way, with any Traeger model there just isn’t that much thermal mass at the grate level to hold onto the heat that well and to build up the temperature at the cooking surface.

The solution, therefore, is to add a set of GrillGrates which are hard-anodized aluminium panels that sit on top of the existing wire racks in the Traeger. The benefit being the increased thermal mass of the GrillGrates will hold on to more of the heat raising the cooking surface temperature by 100 degrees, potentially more.

A quick explanation of the benefits of putting a set of GrillGrates on a pellet grill such as a Traeger

There are other benefits to installing a set of GrillGrates on a pellet grill as I discuss in my linked article above. However, the key benefit in this instance is they can help a Traeger to get closer to the grilling/searing performance of a gas grill.

Not to point out the obvious, but if you combine using 100% charcoal pellets with a set of GrillGrates on a Traeger that will give the most significant grilling/searing performance increase. But as standard, are there other pellet grills better suited to grilling/searing than a Traeger, yes.

Alternative Pellet Grills With Improved Grilling/Searing

As I’ve discussed above, part of the reason a Traeger struggles with grilling/searing is due to their use of wire racks as opposed to say porcelain-coated cast-iron cooking grates which hold onto the heat better.

However, another reason is Traegers are all indirect heat pellet grills. In other words, no Traeger to date has been offered with direct-flame access, as all Traegers are fitted with a solid grease tray that blocks the flames.

The reason Traeger doesn’t offer direct-flame access is likely due to safety, as with a pellet grill with direct-flame access, there is a higher potential risk of a grease fire if its not kept clean enough.

Direct-Flame
Three examples of direct-flame access pellet grills include the Camp Chef Woodwind (left), Pit Boss Pro Series (centre) and Weber SmokeFire (right): Images – CampChef.com, PitBoss-Grills.com & Weber.com

Therefore, while you do have to be more careful and diligent cleaning a pellet grill with direct-flame access, it should be pretty obvious that the feature enables you to get higher grate temperatures on a pellet grill similar to that of a gas grill.

As such, if you are concerned about replacing your gas grill with a Traeger you may want to consider replacing it with a pellet grill that offers direct-flame access, therefore I’ve provided links below to my articles on some examples:

Conclusions On Can A Traeger Replace A Gas Grill

In conclusion then, yes, a Traeger can achieve grate surface temperatures around 600 degrees potentially more to offers similar grilling performance to a gas grill, but not out of the box. To get comparable grilling/searing performance on a Traeger it will require the help of some charcoal pellets and a set of GrillGrates.

As I’ve discussed above, if grilling/searing performance is a key concern of yours you may want to consider an alternative pellet grill from the likes of Camp Chef, Pit Boss or Weber that will provide higher grate surface temperatures as they come with direct-flame access functionality.

Furthermore, before you get rid of your gas grill you may want to try pellet smoking on a gas grill. With the aid of either a foil smoke bomb, pellet smoking tube or pellet tray/maze you can improve the flavour of food on your existing gas grill.

That’s it! I hope you found the above information interesting/useful. If you would like to learn more about your pellet grill/smoker options please check out my Wood Pellet Grill/Smoker Guide. 🙂

A to Z List of Pellet Grill/Smoker Brands

A to Z List of Pellet Grill/Smoker Brands

Back in 2007 when I first become aware of pellet grills and smokers the only brand I was really aware of was Traeger. Traeger is really where this whole concept of cooking with pellets started in the 1980s. It was a ‘slow burner’ (pardon the pun) but since the 2010s is really when pellet grills and smokers started to get mainstream awareness, discussed alongside gas and charcoal grills. There are now over 30 pellet grill/smoker brands that I’m aware of, and the link above goes to my A to Z list of brands article.

Now, you may already be aware of a few of the other brands such as Pit Boss, Camp Chef, Z Grills and I’m sure you are aware of Weber, though you may not have known they have entered the pellet grill game. However, they are now many, many more brands to look into. Some may be what are commonly referred to as ‘Traeger clones’, but many others are offering their own unique designs and features.

A to Z List of The Best BBQ Wood Pellets

A pellet grill/smoker is only as good as the BBQ pellets you put into it. The type/quality of the BBQ wood pellets you use will impact temperature performance and smoke flavour. There are many pellet flavours including Apple, Hickory, Mapel, Oak and Walnut to name but a few. However, some brands are hardwood blended pellets whereas others are 100% single wood species.

In this article, I provide details on over 20 brands of BBQ wood pellets, their range of flavours, whether they are 100% single wood species or hardwood blended pellets, their typical price and where they are available. I also provide tips on how to get the best deal when buying BBQ wood pellets and how to test pellet quality. Finally, I discuss the new kid on the block, charcoal pellets and their special attributes compared to all other hardwood BBQ pellets.

Chris - PelHeat

Hi, I’m Chris. I started PelHeat.com back in 2007. This website is intended to be an educational resource on BBQ pellets, pellet grills & smokers. I hope you find the information useful.

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