I’ve been watching the pellet grill market grow year on year in popularity for over more than a decade. Traeger was the first to market with a wood pellet grill in the 1980s and is still the market leader to this day. While their top of the range Traeger Timberline pellet grills show whats possible at the ‘cutting edge’ of pellet smokers, what about their most popular grills? Well for many years their most popular grill has been the Pro Series. A good middle range grill suitable for most backyard cooking needs. However, the original Pro Series (Gen 1) now sits alongside its upgraded the sibling the Pro Series Gen 2. As both grills are still available I wanted to write a post highlighting the differences between the two Pro Series generations.
For many years the Traeger Pro Series 34 has been their most popular pellet grill. But how does it compare to the Gen 2 Pro Series of the 575 and 780?: Image – Amazon
I must admit, Traeger’s product names are a bit confusing. As on first impressions before you review the specs most people would think a product with ‘Pro’ in the title is a manufacturers top of the range (professional) offering. However, with Traeger, that’s not the case. The Pro Series now sits in the middle of Traeger’s range. You have their more basic offerings such as their portable pellet grill the Tailgater and then their more premium smokers the Ironwood and Timberline grills. I believe Traeger has chosen to put the Pro Series as their mid-range offering because it is their most popular grill.
Introduction To The Traeger Pro Series Pellet Grills
The design, construction and components on all Traeger pellet grills have been very similar across the entire product range up until 2017 when the second generation of Traeger Pro Series grills was launched. The original Pro Series had strong BBQ community support behind it. You could even upgrade older Traeger grills and basic models with the more advanced Traeger Pro Series Controller. On some control panels, you could also adjust the P-Setting.
How does the original Gen 1 Pro Series Controller seen above compare to the Gen 2 Pro Series Controller?: Image – Amazon
A notable feature of the Pro Series controller on both Gen 1 and 2 models is the ability to connect up an external meat probe to the control panel to monitor internal cooking temperatures. This obviously provides a lot more convenience and enables you to produce even better BBQ. However, as you will see below the Gen 2 takes this level of convenience/control to a new level with WiFire integration. You can also fit the Traeger pellet sensor to Gen 2 Pro Series pellet grills. First, let’s look at the features of the original Gen 1 Pro Series which is still available today, and for a lower price than the newer Gen 2.
Traeger Pro Series Gen 1 Overview
The reason I particularly like the video below from the BBQGuys on the first generation Traeger Pro Series is it accurately while concisely demonstrates the core principles of how a pellet grill operates. As I’ve been working in the wood pellet industry for so long I often forget to cover the basics. The video shows how the BBQ wood pellets flow via gravity to the bottom of the hopper where a horizontal auger then feeds the pellets into the firepot where a hot rod igniter and induction fan starts the fire. The temperature inside the grill is monitored by an RTD probe sending that data back to the control panel to turn the auger/fan on and off. Importantly though the video discusses how on the first generation Pro Series both the auger and induction fan are fixed speed.
The Gen 1 Pro Series features an 18lbs capacity pellet hopper. Now it should be noted that Traeger wood pellets and many other brands come in a 20lb bag. Hence, you cannot quite empty a full bag of pellets into the hopper. At this point, I do want to note that its not best practice to empty a bag of grill pellets straight from the bag and into the hopper. There may be excessive dust/fines in the bag from the pellets being mishandled. Therefore, as I discussed in my Traeger accessories post. You want to use a sieve of some kind to separate the pellets and dust before loading them into the hopper. The temperature range on the Traeger Pro Series Gen 1 is 150 degrees (smoke mode) up to 450 degrees. The controller then turns the auger and induction fan on an off to regulate the temperature and distribute heat and smoke around the food in the grill evenly.
Traeger Pro Series Gen 2 Overview
The first difference between Gen 1 and Gen 2 is how Traeger defines the grills. With Gen 1 there were 22″ and 34″ versions, with the number of inches defining the internal width of the grill racks. With the Pro Series Gen 2, Traeger has decided to define them by the size of cooking area in square inches. What is important to note about the 575 and 780 is their more vertical pill-shaped barrel. The increase in height makes it easier to use these grills to cook certain foods such as beer can chicken. Both the Gen 1 and Gen 2 grills have an 18lb hopper. Therefore, the Gen 2 grills still cannot take a full 20lb bag of pellets. There are however some notable and important differences/upgrades between the Gen 1 and Gen 2 as discussed in the video below:
There are other small differences between the Gen 1 and Gen 2 such as the style of the handles. However, the important differences come down to the control panel. The Gen 1 Pro Series control panel, while it had a digital display, was actually very analogue in how it controlled the auger/induction fan though the adjustment on the temperature dial. The new D2 control panel on the Pro Series Gen 2 is all digital. Hence, it has much more precise control over the auger motor and induction fan.
The other significant difference/upgrade on the Gen 2 is the D2 Direct Drive auger and induction fan, these are now DC brushless motors with variable speed. What this means is not only quicker start-up times but more precise control of the cooking process and the ability to more quickly respond to temperature fluctuations. Say for instance a cold breeze kicks up and is blowing over the grill. Well, the Gen 2 is going to be able to keep a more stable internal temperature at the set range.
Another important feature that the D2 controller benefits from is WiFire. This means the grill can be controlled via an App on your smartphone. You can download recipes/setting and upload them to your pellet grill. You can also monitor the temperature of the grill and the internal temperature readings of the heat probe. Take the example of cooking something like brisket that takes many hours and requires adjusting the temperature of the grill over time. The ability to control the grill with WiFire remotely is simply far more convenient than using the Gen 1 Pro Series without WiFire.
Benefits Of The Gen 1 Pro Series Traeger Pellet Grills
Its not clear for how long Traeger is going to keep selling Gen 1 Pro Series pellet grills but I hope its for a while yet because I do think they have a position in the market. For instance, if someone has never owned a pellet grill before the Gen 1 series components and controller have a proven track record of providing good consistent performance. Furthermore, as I discuss in my post on how to fix a Traeger grill they are many retailers providing all the parts you need to in most cases to easily and cheaply repair these grills.
It is easier/cheaper to gets parts for the Gen 1 Pro Series and the grills which cost on average $200 less than the Gen 2 Traeger Pro Series: Image – Amazon
It should also be noted that the Gen 1 Pro Series controller actually has two ports for external meat probe monitoring where the Gen 2 D2 controller only has one external meat probe insert. Its probably seen as a small difference/benefit to most people, but it should be noted. Another significant difference between Gen 1 and Gen 2 is the price. On average, you will have to spend an additional $200 on a Gen 2 pellet grill over a Gen 1 relevant to the different sizes.
Benefits Of The Gen 2 Pro Series Traeger Pellet Grills
There is no discernable difference in the pellet hopper size when upgrading from the Gen 1 to the Gen 2. However, it should be noted all Gen 2 grills come with an emptying door on the bottom of the hopper to quickly change over pellet flavours. What your additional $200 (on average) is getting you is the improved D2 control panel and the improved direct drive/variable speed motors on the auger and induction fan. In the most basic terms, the Gen 2 grills are able to respond quickly and adjust the internal temperature of the grill better than the first generation Pro Series Traeger pellet grills.
The updated Gen 2 Pro Series Traeger pellet grills do cost more. However, the introduction of WiFire could be a ‘game-changer’ in how you can use your time while cooking on the grill: Image – Amazon
However, its the introduction of WiFire where the Gen 2 series really shines. With a Gen 1 to monitor the cooking process required you have to get up and go and check that digital readout frequently. Along with the fact that Gen 1 is not able to main temperatures as consistently. To put it bluntly, the Gen 1 Pro Series takes more work to produce that top-end BBQ tasting food, hence the reason for buying a pellet grill in the first place. Then again, it will cost you more money. So you have weigh up firstly how often do you intend to use the grill? Secondly, what type of food do you want to cook? Are you into long/slow cooks like brisket? Or are you looking for a grill to just quickly cook you steaks and burgers?
Traeger Pro Series Owner Reviews
After spending some time watching several different owner reviews on the Gen 1 and Gen 2 Traeger Pro Series pellet grills the video I chose to include in this post is from the YouTube Channel Triple 6 Grill. In this video, Josh does a side-by-side comparison of the old and new generation Pro Series. He shows how much quicker the Gen 2 575 can recover to the preset temperature after the lid has been opened compared to Gen 1.
Josh also emphasises the additional height between the racks on the 575 which as I have discussed above is due to the pill-shaped barrel design apposed to the round barrel design of the older Pro Series. As Josh states in this review, the original Pro Series 22 and 34 are still great pellet grills and for you first pellet grill they are still an excellent choice. However, the integrated WiFire features on the Gen 2 575 bring the ability to remotely control your grill, which is a very nice feature to have.
Conclusions On The Traeger Pro Series Gen 1 vs Gen 2
My personal thoughts are that if you can afford that additional $200 or so between the Gen 1 vs Gen 2 I think the improvements to the design/shape of the grill and components are worth it. As I believe the Traeger Pro Series is one of the best pellet grills on sale today. The D2 Drive with the DC variable speed motor not only gives more control it gives a faster response time. As Josh shows in the video above. If you live in a colder northern climate or you want to cook with your pellet grill during the colder months of the year there is a clear difference in performance between the Gen 1 and Gen 2. However, if you cannot afford a Gen 2 Pro Series a Gen 1 22 or 34 is still an excellent pellet grill to start you on your pellet smoking journey.
That’s it! I hope you found this post interesting/useful. You can purchase a Traeger Pro Series directly through Traegergrills.com. They also offer 0% financing starting at only $40 per month. I have lots of other related posts, please check out my wood pellet grill/smoker guide. 🙂