Traeger has been producing pellet grills since the 1980s. Oklahoma Joe’s was also actually founded in the 1980s, producing charcoal grills/smokers. However, its only very recently that Oklahoma Joe’s have decided to enter the world of pellet grills. Now when Oklahoma Joe’s was first started their founder Joe Davidson focused on making custom/premium products. However, Oklahoma Joe’s was sold to Char-Broil in 1998 and are now positioned as a value/economy brand. Traeger is now trying to position itself as purely a premium brand. Therefore, how do Traeger vs Oklahoma Joe’s pellet grills compare?
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Well, its actually pretty tricky to compare them, as Oklahoma Joe’s currently produces just three pellet grills all under $1,000, two are actually under $500. Whereas Traeger on the hand does have some pellet grills under $500 and under $1,000, however many of their latest models are in the under $2,000 category.
Therefore, Oklahoma Joe’s complete pellet grill range current sits in the Economy class. On the other hand, most of Traegers pellet grills sit in the Practical/Premium classes. You can read this post to learn about the main differences between the various pellet grill classes.
Introduction To Traeger vs Oklahoma Joe’s
This comparison article is going to be very similar to my previous Traeger vs Pit Boss and Traeger vs Cuisinart articles. Traeger and Oklahoma Joe’s are not really directly competing against each other with their current pellet grill line ups. Traeger is in more direct competition against Camp Chef, REC TEC and Weber.
However, below I’ll discuss a couple of pellet grill models from each brand which are priced similarly or as close to each as possible. Namely, I’m going to compare the Traeger Tailgater vs the Oklahoma Joe’s Rider 900 (sub $500 pellet grills). I’ll then also discuss the differences between the Traeger Pro 575 and Oklahoma Joe’s Rider DLX.
Traeger Tailgater vs Oklahoma Joe’s Rider 900
Below I’m just going to discuss the highlights of each pellet grill and how they compare on the main features. You can learn more about the Traeger Tailgater in my portable pellet grill article and I have a detailed article on the Oklahoma Joe’s pellet grill range. Now really, these two pellet grills are designed for different purposes/uses.
However, they are both available for under $500, therefore let’s discuss what you get from each pellet grill. First off, the Traeger Tailgater, as its name implies, is for transporting around to tailgating events and also camping/fishing/hunting trips. Though as I discuss in my Traeger accessories post, you will need an inverter to run the Tailgater from your vehicles 12 DC supply.
In terms of cooking area, the Traeger Tailgater provides 300 square inches. Which according to Traeger means you should be able to fit 2 chickens, 3 racks of ribs or 12 burgers on the grill. Now, all grill manufacturers make statements like this. And while technically you might be able to fit that amount of food on the grill you wouldn’t want to as you wouldn’t have enough room to move the food around properly during the cook.
Anyway, let’s get back to the stats, as a portable grill its reasonably lightweight as you would expect at 62lbs. Furthermore, as a small/portable pellet grill the BBQ wood pellet hopper is also small at 8lbs. The current version of the Tailgater does feature Traeger’s Digital Arc controller. While the maximum temperature setting of 450 degrees is nothing to shout about, it can hold its temperature settings to within 10 degrees.
The Rider 900 is Oklahoma Joe’s mid-range pellet grill that just sneaks in under $500. As you can tell from the image above, this is not a portable pellet grill, its intended to be used a proper back yard grill. In terms of cooking area, as you have probably guessed, its significantly larger than the Traeger Tailgater. The Rider 900 provides a total cooking area of 900 square inches, but that’s comprised of 578 square inches on the main grate and 328 square inches on a second upper rack.
In terms of the pellet hopper, the Rider 900 is also significantly larger with a capacity of 20lbs. Therefore, it can take a whole bag of wood pellets in one go. The Rider 900 also features cast-iron grill grates and the option to direct flame sear/broil. Hence, the Rider 900 has the potential to grill at over 600 degrees.
Final Thoughts On The Traeger Tailgater vs Oklahoma Joe’s Rider 900
While these two pellet grills are sold at a very similar price (the Traeger is slightly cheaper) they are actually designed for two different purposes. Therefore, if you need a portable pellet grill the Rider 900 is not suitable. However, if we presume for a second you are looking for a pellet grill for your backyard for below $500 you are simply getting a lot more grill for your money with the Rider 900.
I will note the Traeger Tailgaters Digital Arc controller will provide more accurate temperature control. However, I don’t really think that benefit outweighs the other superior features on the Oklahoma Joe’s Rider 900.
Traeger Pro 575 vs Oklahoma Joe’s Rider DLX
So now we are going to look at the best pellet grill currently on offer from Oklahoma Joe’s the Rider DLX and the smallest ‘proper’ backyard pellet grill available from Traeger the Pro 575. Now, as of writing this post its still possible to pick up the previous generation Pro 22 and 34 Traeger pellet grills.
However, those previous generation Traeger grills are being phased out. I have an article about differences between the Gen 1 vs Gen 2 Traeger Pro Series pellet grills. Therefore, from this point forward the Pro 575 is Traeger’s entry-level ‘backyard’ pellet grill. So let’s look at the features of the Traeger Pro 575 pellet grill.
The Pro 575 does indeed provide 575 square inches of cooking area. However, that really needs to be clarified. Its broken down to 418 inches on the main cooking grate and 154 inches on the upper rack. The pellet hopper size of 18lb is functional, but really as Traeger wood pellets are sold in 20lb bags, they should have really made it a 20lb hopper.
Other than the size the most notable upgrade on the Traeger Pro 575 over the Tailgater is the D2 Direct Drive system and D2 control panel with WiFire functionality. You can monitor and control the Pro 575 with your phone to adjust the temperature for instance. If you opt for the optional extra Traeger pellet sensor you can also check how your pellet consumption is going.
The Oklahoma Joe’s Rider DLX, on the other hand, provides a total of 1,200 square inches of cooking area, broken up by 578 inches on the main cooking rack and 656 inches over two upper racks. Purely on the cooking area, the Rider DLX is offering significantly more than the Pro 575. What about the hopper size? Well, the Rider DLX has a 20lb hopper. Obviously the additional 2lb capacity is not significantly more than the Traeger.
However, it does mean the hopper can take a full bag of wood pellets in one go. The Rider DLX also benefits from ‘Sear Mode’ like the Rider 900. However, on the Rider DLX you can select ‘Smoke’ or ‘Sear’ from a handle on the outside of the grill instead of having to lift up the grates as is the case on the Rider 900. Therefore, the Rider DLX can sear at temps over 650 degrees, whereas the Traeger does not offer a sear function and is limited to 500 degrees.
Final Thoughts On The Traeger Pro 575 vs Oklahoma Joe’s Rider DLX
The Traeger with its D2 PID control panel can regulate its temperature to within a 5-degree range, whereas the Rider DLX can only hold its temperature within a 25-degree range. Therefore, the Traeger will provide more accurate temperature control over the Oklahoma Joe’s Rider DLX.
Furthermore, the Pro 575 benefits from WiFire, which I think for its current feature set is the best WiFi/App solution on the market today. Therefore, if you are looking for ultimate convenience to be able to leave the pellet grill to ‘do its thing’ the Pro 575 has a clear advantage over the Rider DLX which does not benefit from a PID control panel or WiFi.
However, as noted above the Rider DLX provides significantly more cooking area and can sear at much higher temperatures compared to the Traeger. Furthermore, I’m yet to discuss the price difference between these two pellet grills. Going off the prices on the manufacturer’s websites the Traeger Pro 575 retails for just under $800, whereas the Oklahoma Joe’s Rider DLX retails for just under $600.
Therefore, if you are on a tight budget that $200 is not insignificant. Besides the price difference, it comes down to choosing temperature control and WiFi functionality over a larger cooking area and better searing performance. Though I should note, a set of GrillGrates on the Traeger would greatly improve its searing performance.
Conclusions On Traeger vs Oklahoma Joe’s Pellet Grills
As I discussed at the beginning of this article, its hard to compare these two brands as they are trying to offer products with different strengths. Also, Traeger is now firmly focused on promoting the benefits of their Ironwood and Timberline pellet grills. Oklahoma Joe’s don’t currently produce pellets with matching/comparable features to those Traeger pellet grills. Oklahoma Joe’s pellet grills are more in competition with offerings from ZGrills and Pit Boss. I’ll be writing more comparison articles in the future on those brands.
For the here and now, for under a thousand dollars in terms of the ‘core features’ of a grill in terms of providing as much cooking area as possible you’re going to get that from the Oklahoma Joe’s pellet grills. The Traeger grills will provide more accurate temperature control, and in the case of the Pro 575 the benefits of WiFire to some people hold a lot a value. You really have to consider which features hold more value to you to make the best choice.
That’s it! Thanks for reading, I hope you found this analysis on the current offerings from Traeger vs Oklahoma Joe’s interesting/useful. You may also want to review my Pit Boss vs Oklahoma Joe’s article which shows they are very closely matched. Please check out my Wood Pellet Grill/Smoker Guide to learn more about all 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.