While Traeger developed the first pellet grills/smokers in the 1980’s, Cookshack (along with Fast Eddy) were not far behind in the 1990’s exploring the benefits of wood pellet BBQs. Fast Eddy, a genuine ‘Pit Master’ with many awards to his name helped Cookshack to engineer their range of horizontal pellet grills/smokers and vertical pellet smoker. For this comparison, we are going to compare the current best from Traeger (Timberline 850) against the entry-level Cookshack PG500. To see how these two pellet BBQs for a similar price point compare, and what are their specific strengths/weaknesses.
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With this comparison, we are comparing two pellet grills which come in at just under $2K. The Traeger Timberline 850 typically retails for $1,800, while the Cookshack PG500 is also typically priced around $1,800. This comparison will not go into precise detail on each range, my previous Traeger Timberline and Cookshack pellet grill articles have done that. Now, Traeger does produce cheaper models such as their Pro Series and Ironwood range. However, for this to be a fair comparison, I’ve chosen one pellet grill from each brand which are the closest match on price, hence the Timberline 850 and Cookshack PG500.
Traeger Timberline 850 vs Cookshack PG500
From the image above, the first notable difference is the Cookshack PB500 is a full-stainless steel pellet grill, which is not the case with the Traeger Timberline 850. I’ll discuss that more under the materials & construction section below. First, we’ll look at the cooking area and functionality provided by both pellet grills and then discuss the control panel technology and connectivity options.
Cooking Area & Functionality
As you probably guessed, the Traeger Timberline 850 provides a total cooking area of 850 square inches. However, that’s not the size of the main cooking grate, that’s actually 363 sq.in. The Timberline 850 provides an additional 308 sq.in and 198 sq.in from two upper smoking/warming racks. The Cookshack PB500 may provide a smaller total cooking area of 784 sq.in, however it actually features a larger main cooking grate of 504 sq.in, and the rest is provided by a 208 sq.in upper smoking/warming rack. The Cookshack PG500 also features a warming draw which can also be used as a cold smoker for cheese/fish etc.
In terms of cooking functionality, the Cookshack PB500 also has an advantage over the Traeger offering direct-flame access. Now, this function is not available over the entire 504 sq.in cooking grate on the PB500, just a 180 sq.in section on the far left of the cooking grate. However, direct-flame access is not currently a feature Traeger offers with their pellet grills. Now, with direct-flame access its important to clean up excessive grease (see here) to avoid grease flare-ups/fires. However, on a clean pellet grill direct-flame access can offer higher grilling temps around 650 degrees. Whereas the Traeger as standard will provide a maximum grilling surface of 500 degrees without a set of GrillGrates.
Materials & Construction
While the Traeger Timberline 850 is not a full-stainless steel pellet grill like the Cookshack PB500, it does feature an internal stainless steel cooking chamber with stainless steel wire racks. The benefit of a stainless steel cooking chamber is a longer service life as its better suited to stand up to the hot/humid environment inside a pellet grill/smoker. It’s also important to note the Traeger Timberline pellet grills are twin-wall insulated. Hence, without an insulated jacket the Timberline 850 will provide above-average winter cooking performance and below-average pellet consumption.
As discussed above, the Cookshack PB500 is a full stainless steel pellet grill. Now, as I discuss in my Cookshack pellet grills article, the exterior of the PB500 is made from 201-grade stainless steel which is not the best grade you will find, and below the standard of higher-priced full stainless steel pellet grills from Memphis, Coyote and Twin Eagles. However, the Cookshack PB500 is the cheapest full stainless steel pellet grill currently on the market.
Where the Cookshack PB500 falls short of the Traeger Timberline 850 though is that its only single-wall construction. Now, grilling/smoking during the warm summer months you probably wouldn’t notice the difference in cooking performance/pellet usage between these two pellet grills. However, it would likely be noticeable at other cooler times of the year. Cookshack do produce a twin-wall insulated pellet grill, the PB1000. However, that pellet grill is almost $1,000 more than the Traeger Timberline 850, hence not a fair comparison.
Control Panels & Connectivity
While the Cookshack PB500 is fitted with a very high-quality control panel that does enable the user to control the cooking process, it is based on previous generation time-based technology. The PB500 also does not feature any form of Bluetooth or WiFi connectivity. Now, I know have some readers who have no interest in a Smartphone app for their pellet grill and want to keep things as simple as possible, and from that perspective, the Cookshack could be appealing. However, I also know that many people are interested in a pellet grill/smoker as a more convenient means to cook with wood over say a charcoal grill. Therefore, I think that’s part of the reason why WiFi connectivity has become so popular.
Traeger is focused on marketing pellet grills as the most convenient solution to cook with wood. Therefore their range of WiFi (Traeger brands the feature as WiFire) pellet grills which include the Timberline 850 makes full use of the functionality. Through the Traeger app users can adjust and monitor the internal temperature within the pellet grill to a 5 degree accuracy as the D2 control panel uses PID technology. Furthermore, users can download recipes to the pellet grill, and it will follow the temperature/cooking time instructions for a particular cut of meat/fish/vegetables. Also as standard, the Timberline 850 comes fitted with the Traeger pellet sensor, so the user can remotely monitor when the hopper is low and will need to be refilled with BBQ wood pellets.
Conclusions On Traeger vs Cookshack
So what are my final thoughts on these two similarly priced pellet grills from Traeger and Cookshack? Well, in terms of total life span, the full stainless steel construction of the Cookshack PB500 will pay dividends. If the Traeger Timberline 850 can be stored inside, it would help to maintain the exterior paint finish for longer. As both pellet grills feature an interior stainless steel cooking chamber they will be both easier to clean than many other pellet grills which just feature painted steel cooking chambers. As stated above, due to the twin-wall insulated construction, the Traeger will likely use fewer pellets and hold its temperature better in colder weather. Though, the direct-flame access of the Cookshack PB500 is an advantage when it comes to grilling/searing performance.
One of the most significant differences as discussed above is their control panels. While the Cookshack PB500 could be described as going with the traditional approach of fitting a tried and tested time-based control panel, it will not hold temperature as accurately as the PID control panel fitted to the Traeger. How much weight you give to the WiFi functionality of the Traeger will depend on how you feel about using Apps etc. For grilling/searing, WiFi functionality is not going to come into play. However, on a long ‘low and slow’ smoking session, being able to monitor the process from your phone can be very handy indeed.
The other thing I should note, as I know it really matters to some people is the Cookshack PB500 is still made in the USA, whereas Traeger moved their manufacturing operations overseas, while the company its self is still based in the US.
That’s it! Thanks for reading, I hope you found this Traeger vs Cookshack comparison useful/interesting. If you are specifically looking for a made in the USA pellet grill, you may also want to check out my Traeger vs MAK GRILLS comparison. Otherwise, please visit my Wood Pellet Grill/Smoker Guide to learn all about your other options. 🙂
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 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.