Just because it’s starting to cool off outside, that doesn’t mean it’s time to stop grilling! Perhaps I’m in the minority, but I keep shoveling a path to mine so I can keep going all year round. If you’re not feeling that committed, perhaps you want something you can move around, say from a covered porch to the garage easily, or even take along out to the cabin for the weekend? Then you want something portable, and that’s where the Traeger Ranger Pellet Grill has you covered.
What is it?
If you’ve been around grilling at all, you’re undoubtedly familiar with the Traeger name. They’ve been producing grills for quite a while now, and their pellet grills tend to be the first ones people think of. So, yeah, they know what they’re doing. Most folks are probably thinking something more in the 700-850 square inch capacity, and those are great for doing large quantities of meat or even the Thanksgiving turkey (which I did last year, and it was amazing!). Not everyone needs a grill that size, however. And though they have wheels on them, that’s for rolling around in your yard – not for moving around in your trunk.
For portable grills, Traeger has two options – the Tailgater (which looks like a smaller version of a “regular” pellet grill) and this one, the Ranger. While 176 square inches might seem small, you can see that I easily fit some big pieces of steak on there, as well as (at another time) hamburgers, hotdogs, and some peppers. What’s great about the portability here is that the pellet hopper is under the main cover, so you’ve got a squared-off look to things when the lid is closed, and you’re not worried about banging the hopper up if you’re traveling with it.
Why wood pellets?
If you have a local BBQ joint that you like to get brisket or turkey from, you have to realize – they’re not cooking on propane (or at least, I hope they’re not). To get that smoky flavor, it used to be that you would be cooking over a literal wood fire, or perhaps burning hardwood lump charcoal in your grill. Sure, it didn’t get up to heat as fast as propane, but man, the flavor coming off of it would be incredible.
Well, with a pellet grill like the Traeger Ranger Pellet Grill, you can get the best of both worlds. Frankly, when I cook with a pellet grill, it almost feels like cheating. You load up your pellets (which can be in a wide variety of blends, so you can get the flavor smoke you want), set a temperature on the controls, and let it rip. Tuck in the included meat probe, and you can even see the internal temperature of what you’re cooking without even lifting the lid.
If you’re doing a longer cook, you do need to keep an eye on your hopper and refill it when necessary. Aside from that, you just let the grill maintain its temperature as it needs to, and wait until your meats hit the necessary temperature. Depending on what the outdoor temps are (and how often you’re opening the lid), you’re probably going to run about a pound per hour, which is fairly economical. Just ensure you’re buying food-grade wood pellets, and not ones intended for heating. Traeger, of course sells them (and you can find those at your local hardware store), and I’ve found some decent bulk-buy options at Costco as well.
What’s cooking on it like?
On one hand, if you’ve ever cooked on a pellet grill, the Traeger Ranger Pellet Grill is going to feel very familiar. Fill the hopper, set the temp, and away you go. On the other hand, you do have less room you’re working with as compared to your normal backyard grill. While the steel is decently heavy-duty, I’m not sure it’s as thick as what I’ve got on my main grill. That means you’ll have a little more heat loss, but it does also keep the weight down a few pounds, making it easier to move around.
Choose your grilling items wisely, though, and this will handily get the job done. For a few people, or cooking things in batches, this little guy is perfect. One thing you do need to be aware of is that the Traeger Ranger Pellet Grill – like any pellet grill – requires electricity. That’s to spark the igniter, and to keep that hopper turning, as well as powering the control panel and it’s brain. Plugging into the wall is easy enough, but what about if you are really heading out into the backwoods, or tailgating?
Good thing here is that the power requirements of the Traeger Ranger Pellet Grill are light enough that you can run it on one of those lunchbox cooler size battery packs, like the one we reviewed from Runhood (you can see that here). As it turned out, this worked perfectly. I had a rainy day coming in when I was doing those burgers, so I moved the Traeger onto my front porch (which is covered). Set it up on my camping cook table, plugged it into the Runhood, and I grilled out while staying nice and dry.
This means that it could also easily be used as cooking device even in the event of a power outage, particularly with the cast skillet that the Ranger comes with as well. So, it’s not just grilling, you’re free to fry up as well. Or, you know, take it along when you go car camping if you don’t already have a camp stove.
Is there anything you’d change?
If you can’t tell, there was a lot that I liked about the Traeger Ranger Pellet Grill (and, frankly, pellet grills in general). Given the versatility you get with the portability, this is a great grill to get started with pellets, or if you’re in an apartment with a small balcony that can’t handle a larger grill. There is one thing I’d call out though, and it has to do with the portability.
At 60 pounds, the Traeger Ranger Pellet Grill is definitely lighter than any grill you already have in your backyard. To lift it, however, you’re just putting your hands underneath and lifting – you don’t have any handles built in. Sure, the lid has one, but you’ve just got a few latches holding that on (along with the rear hinge) so it’s not what I’d suggest lifting it by. So, that’s something to be aware of. It’s not a deal breaker, but that might give you something you need to consider.
Would we recommend it?
As with most things in life – it depends. If you’re only ever grilling in your backyard, perhaps this isn’t the setup for you, and a larger (and more traditional setup) pellet grill would make more sense. If you find yourself moving around the property a lot, heading out to the woods, or even just wanting to up the grill game at the picnic, then yes, something like the Traeger Ranger Pellet Grill is a solid route to go. Just be ready to have some of the best tasting food you’ve ever have come off your own grill. If you want to get one for tailgating season, they’re going for $449.99 over at traeger.com
- Total cooking space: 184 sq. in.
- Total weight: 60 lbs
- Pellet hopper capacity: 8 lbs
- Max temperature: 450° F
- Portable solution
- Keep Warm mode
- Meat Probe
- Digital Arc Controller
- Porcelain-Coated Grill Grates
- Included griddle
- Latched lid