In my previous article on Traeger vs Pit Boss, I discussed how the two brands are drifting further apart. With Traeger trying to differentiate its self as purely a premium brand and Pit Boss going for the value segment, trying to provide the largest cooking areas for their price point. With Traeger vs Camp Chef as you will see below, I feel these two brands and their current pellet grill offerings more closely align. Hence, they are trying to produce pellet grills for a similar target in mind with mid-range/premium pellet grills. Below, I’ll discuss which pellet grills/smokers from Traeger and Camp Chef directly compete against each other in the three price categories, under $500, under $1,000 and under $2,000.
In the article below you will probably notice a reference to the term ‘pellet grill class’. For instance, I would categorise the full range of Traeger and Camp Chef pellet grills within either the Economy, Practical or Premium Class, depending on the specific model. I also put some other brands in a Luxury Class, which to fall into that class I believe a pellet grill/smoker should be almost exclusively made from stainless steel. Currently, neither Traeger nor Camp Chef produces a Luxury Class pellet grill, but that may change in the future. You can read about the different pellet grill classes and how they are separated in this post.
Introduction To Traeger vs Camp Chef Pellet Grills
Traeger was the first company/brand to bring a pellet grill to market in the 1980s. While Traeger has been successfully producing pellet grills since that point, its only really within the last decade where the concept of a pellet grill has really been able to compete with well-established charcoal and gas grill manufacturers. Apparently, over the next 5 years, pellet grill sales are set to surpass propane gas grill sales. Now, whether that happens or not is obviously yet to be seen. However, when you look at a company like Camp Chef, founded in 1990 and who built their name on propane gas grills as they are now making a serious push with their pellet grill product lines it makes the possibility of pellet grills overtaking gas grills all the more believable.
Traeger Pellet Grills Under $500
At this price point, there are really just three Traeger pellet grill models currently available, presuming you’re not looking for a grill on the second-hand market. There is the Traeger Tailgator which has folding legs and can be transported in the back of a car/pick-up which you can read more about on my portable pellet grill page. While the Traeger Tailgator is technically the largest Traeger pellet grill under $500, I think either the Scout or Ranger is a more interesting/flexible option. I describe both the Scout and Range as tabletop pellet grills/smokers. I have a detailed article on the Traeger Scout vs Ranger, below I’ll just provide a few key details.
Both the Traeger Scout and the Ranger share the same physical dimensions. However, the Ranger is typically found priced a hundred dollars more than the Scout, so why’s that? Well, the Ranger does have a larger pellet hopper at 8lbs apposed to 4lbs on the Scout. Though, with both hoppers being that small and the size of these units you will never be that far away from them while in use. Therefore, with both grills, you will need to top up the pellet hopper after each use.
The exterior materials of the Ranger appear to be a bit higher in quality. However, the main difference is their control panels. The Scout uses the older Traeger Pro Series control panel whereas the Ranger uses the more advanced Digital Arc Controller. Therefore while the Scout can hold temperatures within a 25-degree range, the Ranger can hold temperature within a 5-degree range.
Camp Chef Pellet Grills Under $500
All three pellet grills above from Traeger at this price point are intended to be used as portable pellet grills. While they obviously can be used at home, that’s not their intended purpose. Camp Chef does also produce a portable pellet grill at this price point which you can review on my portable pellet grills page, the Pursuit 20. However, at this price point in their SmokePro range Camp Chef is also offering some ‘proper’ back yard grills with sufficient cooking area to grill food for the whole family at the same time. These grills are the SmokePro SE 24 and XT 24.
In my article on the Camp Chef SmokePro range linked above, I go into more detail on both the SE 24 and XT 24 models. While the SE is slightly cheaper than the XT, as the XT is available for under $500 (just) I do think its the better option. While both models provide the same 429 square inches of cooking area, the XT unit features a PID controller where the SE does not. The PID controller on the XT has the same appearance and general functionality of the Camp Chef Gen 2 controller, but it doesnt feature WiFi. I’ll get into the whole PID ‘thing’ below. But put simply, the XT will hold a more accurate temperature within a 5-degree range, whereas the SE will only be able to hold temperature within a 25-degree range. Similar to the situation above with the Traeger Scout vs Ranger pellet grills.
Traeger vs Camp Chef Pellet Grills Under $500
So what are my thoughts on the offerings from both brands at this price point? Well, for ultra-portability I think the Traeger Ranger with the superior Digital Arc controller is the best option between the two brands. It can easily be loaded up into the back of your car/truck and taken on a camping, hunting/fishing trip. With any portable pellet grill though you do need to remember it still needs a source of power. Therefore, as I discuss in my Traeger accessories post, you will need to take a 12V DC to 120V AC inverter to run the grill from the battery in your car/truck.
In terms of a grill for your back yard at home though, I think the Camp Chef SmokePro XT is the best option. Providing 429 square inches of cooking space, that’s far more than the Traeger Ranger will provide at 176 square inches. Its also quite a bit more than the 300 square inches found on the Traeger Tailgater. I would opt for the Camp Chef SmokePro XT over the SE due to the PID controller as mentioned above. From this point forward all of the Camp Chef/Traeger grills mentioned below feature PID controllers, and I’ll explain why that’s important.
Traeger vs Camp Chef Under $1,000
At this price point, we are comparing the second generation of Traeger Pro Series grills and the Camp Chef Woodwind range. Both the Traeger Pro 575 and Pro 780 are available for under $1,000, only just in the case of the Pro 780. With Camp Chef you can get their largest grill the Woodwind 36 within this budget, but not within the optional Sear Box/Sidekick discussed below. Therefore, as I’ll discuss below, at this price point if you want to opt for a Camp Chef you would have the option to choose between a bigger grill or a smaller grill with more capabilities. First, let’s discuss the Traeger Pro 575 and 780.
With their second generation of Pro Series pellet grills, Traeger introduced a new drive system called D2 Direct Drive. This is a DC (Direct Current) motor setup apposed to the AC (Alternating Current) setup found in previous-generation Traeger pellet grills. With the improved D2 control panel the new DC motors are variable speed. With PID algorithms within the D2 Control panel these second-generation Traeger Pro Series grills can now maintain their temperature within a 5-degree range which wasn’t possible before. The D2 control panel also features WiFi integration, or as Traeger has branded their particular app ‘WiFire’.
On the Camp Chef side of things at this price point, you could opt for their largest unit the WiFi 36 above. In terms of the control panel when compared to the Traeger they are very similar. They can both achieve a maximum temperature setting of 500 degrees, feature PID algorithms and WiFi integration. In fact, I have a separate post comparing Traeger WiFire to Camp Chef Connect. In terms of cooking area, on the largest Traeger in this price bracket the Pro 780 you get, no surprise, 780 square inches of cooking area. On the Camp Chef WiFi 36 you get a much larger cooking area of 1,236 square inches. However, you should never pick pellet grills purely on the size of their cooking area, especially if you don’t actually need a pellet grill that large. Therefore, while slightly smaller the Camp Chef Wifi 24 with a propane Sear Box/Sidekick might be with considering.
Why might you want to consider a pellet grill with a propane attachment? Well, the Sear Box/Sidekick will be able to get to a much higher temperature, hence can offer improved searing performance over the pellet grill. So you would do the main cooking/smoking on the pellet grill to get the flavour from the BBQ wood pellets and use the propane Sear Box/Sidekick for the final searing. However, another option is to go for a set of GrillGrates, they can really improve the seating performance on any pellet grill.
Conclusions On Traeger vs Camp Chef Pellet Grills Under $1,000
While I do believe Traeger has done a lot of work improving the internal components of their pellet grills with the D2 Direct Drive system and I think WiFire is superior to Camp Chef Connect, at this price point I would still probably go for either of the Camp Chef Woodwind models above. The Woodwind WiFi 36 offers substantially more cooking area than the Traeger Pro 780. Alternatively, the Woodwind WiFi 24 with either a Sear Box/Sidekick offers more functionality than the Traeger Pro Series.
Traeger vs Camp Chef Pellet Grills Under $2,000
In the $1,000 to $2,000 price bracket in the Traeger vs Camp Chef debate, this is where the two brands offerings are not really comparable. Camp Chef does offer the Woodwind WiFi 36 with either the Sear Box/SideKick, but that’s it. As of this moment, the Woodwind WiFi 36 is Camp Chefs highest specification pellet grill. Traeger actually offers four pellet grill models within this price bracket, two Ironwood models (650 and 885) and two Timberline models (850 and 1300). You can read more about the Traeger Ironwood and Timberline models through the links above.
In terms of cooking area, the Camp Chef Woodwind WiFi 36 at 1,236 square inches is competitive to even the largest Traeger Timberline 1300 with 1,300 square inches of cooking area. However, as I stated above, you should never compare pellet grills/smokers purely on the size of their cooking area. So what additional features do the Traeger Ironwood/Timberline ranges have that the Pro Series or Camp Chef Woodwind doesn’t?
Well, both the Ironwood/Timberline models benefit from a rear Downdraught exhaust design that helps to more evenly distribute heat/smoke through the cooking chamber. Traeger refers to it as their Tru Convection cooking system. I do think it can provide better cooking/smoking performance over the single chimeny stack design on the Camp Chef Woodwind. Furthermore, all the Ironwood/Timberline models benefit from the Traeger pellet sensor which will feed data to the WiFire app on the percentage of wood pellets remaining in the hopper. Very useful information to have if you are away from the grill on a long/slow cook.
The other main difference between the Traeger Ironwood/Timberline models compare to the Camp Chef Woodwind is twin-wall insulated body construction. The means Ironwood/Timberline grills are less impacted by external temperature changes when it gets cold for instance. The other main difference is the increased use of internal stainless steel. With the Traeger Timberline range, in particular, the entire cooking chamber has a stainless steel interior lining along with stainless steel cooking racks.
Conclusions On Traeger vs Camp Chef Pellet Grills
So what are my final thoughts when comparing the full Traeger and Camp Chef pellet grill ranges as they currently stand? Well, for under $500 I think the Traeger Scout and Ranger are some of the most portable pellet grills on the market today. So if you are looking for a pellet grill for its portability, they are worth considering. However, if you are looking for a pellet grill for backyard cooking under $500 I think the Camp Chef SmokePro 24 XT with its PID control panel is the best option. To learn more about why you want a PID pellet grill controller in your life, please read this post.
In the $1,000 category it definitely gets more interesting in the Traeger vs Camp Chef debate, and its a budget most people are looking to spend on a pellet grill. While I think the 2nd generation Traeger Pro Series has made some solid improvements with the D2 Direct Drive system and D2 control panel with WiFire, I think the offerings from Camp Chef at this price point offer better value for money. Whether its the huge Woodwind WiFi 36 or the smaller Woodwind WiFi 24 with either the Sear Box/SideKick, they are both excellent options for under $1,000.
If you have up to $2,000 and we are purely comparing Traeger vs Camp Chef, then a top of the line Traeger Timberline 1300 with its twin-wall insulated stainless steel cooking chamber is the option I would choose. If you live in a cold climate or you want to use your pellet grill during the winter months choosing a pellet grill with insulated construction is a wise choice. However, the Timberline is not the only pellet grill with insulated twin-wall construction, and I do intend to write a separate post about that at some point.
That’s it! Thanks for reading, I hope you found this analysis/discussion on Traeger vs Camp Chef pellet grills useful/interesting. There are so many pellet grill brands available now, even I struggle to keep track. To review more of your options please check out my wood pellet grill/smoker guide. 🙂