Traeger Junior Elite Review: Should You Buy It in 2020?

If you are in a hurry and just want to find out if we still recommend the Traeger Junior Elite in 2020, then the short answer is YES. But, if the unit is out of stock, you can check the excellent 3 alternatives below:

Are you ready to find out what all the hype is about concerning pellet grills? When you’ve finished reading this Traeger Junior Elite review, you should have some working knowledge of what these units have to offer. Depending on your individual needs, you might even decide that this particular grill would make the perfect addition to your home.

Shopping for a Pellet Grill: What You Need To Know

So, what exactly is a pellet grill, and how can you be sure if it’s the right tool for you?

Let’s start with the basics. Pellets are small, cylindrical units made of compressed hardwood sawdust. The pellet grill uses these as fuel, in place of the more traditional gas or charcoal. A rotating auger system, taking its cue from a digital control station, feeds the pellets into the body of the grill as needed, using more or less depending on the pre-selected temperature. Since these units require less hands-on cooking time than charcoal or hardwood smokers, they’ve gained popularity in many grilling circles.

What are some of the features to be on the lookout for when shopping for a pellet grill? Here are the questions you should be asking yourself in advance.

Size

How many people do you usually cook for? Does your menu generally consist of more than one grilled component?

Value

Are you likely to get your money’s worth out of this unit? How often will you use it, and how much are you willing and able to spend?

Design

Are you looking for a grill that can be taken on camping or tailgating expeditions, or will it be staying in one place? How complex is the overall design?

Quality

Are the materials durable? When the unit is put together properly, do all the parts fit together, or are there noticeable gaps in the construction?

Heat Reliability

Is the unit versatile across a number of different cooking styles? Does it heat quickly and efficiently? How accurate are the temperature readouts?

Ease of Use

How reliable is the auger component when it comes to feeding the pellets into the main chamber? Is the digital panel difficult to read?

Hopper Capacity

How many pounds of pellets can the hopper hold at once? How quickly does it burn through them?

Technology

Is the unit equipped with an easy-to-read digital interface? Is it compatible with your home’s Wi-Fi system? What other special features does it include, if any?

Warranty

Does the company back up its product with a warranty on the major parts? If so, how long will your purchase be covered?

Now that you have a general idea of what to look for in a pellet grill, you can better determine whether or not the Traeger Junior Elite will live up to your requirements.

Traeger Junior Elite Review: The Basics

When you purchase the Traeger Junior Elite, you receive the main cooking chamber with a built-in auger and pellet burner, a digital thermostat, a drip bucket, and a pellet hopper with an eight-pound capacity. Instructions for setup and use are also included. The grill sits atop four legs, with two wheels attached to make the unit more portable.

Pros:

  • Good for smoked meats, especially jerky
  • convenient for camping trips
  • Reliable, even heating

Cons:

  • Overall construct is a bit on the chintzy side
  • No Wi-Fi capability
  • May be too small for some buyers
  • Not as portable as many of its closest competitors
  • Low pellet capacity

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Features & Benefits of the Traeger Junior Elite

The Traeger Junior Elite comes from a long line of sturdy, reliable grills. In fact, by all accounts, Traeger was the earliest entrant in the pellet grill race, with a reputation that dates back to the 1980s. The question is, does this particular model stand up to the rest? And how well does it hold up to your predetermined criteria for pellet grills?

Size

This unit measures 36 inches high by 37 inches wide, with a grill depth (the measure of the cooking surface from front to back) of 18 inches. As for usable cooking space, you’ll have a total of 300 square inches. This puts the Traeger Junior Elite on the smaller end of the size spectrum—but to be fair, consumers are likely to know this going in, given that the product does have the word “Junior” in the title.

As portable models go, this one provides a decent amount of space. Traeger claims that it can hold as many as 32 hamburger patties at one time. Personally, I think that’s rather a generous claim, unless the burgers in question are sliders. Still, it’s large enough to accommodate parties of three to four people. Since it weighs only 60 pounds, it may be a good choice if you plan to take it along on camping trips or picnics.

Value

Considering its small size, this unit is relatively costly. Comparable units cost a hundred or so dollars less, which could make a huge difference to shoppers on a budget. On the plus side, the quality and durable construction of Traeger products is well-documented. If you have a moderate to generous budget and you’re going for longevity rather than immediate savings, this model could still be worth a look.

Design

As I mentioned earlier, the Junior Elite is a portable grill, equipped with wheels on two of its legs to make it more maneuverable. Unlike some similar models, though, its legs don’t fold for easy transport, and it is slightly bulkier in design than its nearest competitors. Since the layout of the pellet hopper and the main chamber are so straightforward, it doesn’t take very long to set up—you should be able to have the unit up and running in less than an hour.

Quality

This is where the Traeger Junior Elite drops a few notches on the chart. Though it’s constructed of heavy-duty steel, some of the secondary parts are on the chintzy side. I observed more than a few rough edges during setup, and there were a few noticeable gaps in the frame when I fired it up for the first time. It’s also a very basic model, lacking any additional storage in the way of shelving or tool hooks.

Heat Reliability

This model boasts “6-in-1” versatility, a claim that’s shared by many pellet grills. The numbers refer to the number of cooking applications that the unit is capable of performing. In the case of the Traeger Junior Elite, those applications consist of the following: grilling, roasting, smoking, baking, braising, and barbecuing. That gives it an impressive range, although some comparable units with higher temperature ranges also offer the options of searing and char-grilling.

The Junior Elite heats quickly, but the thermometer can be finicky. It’s only accurate within a range of twenty degrees on either side, which can be problematic if you’re attempting to roast a chicken or another large cut of meat. Fortunately, it does seem to work more accurately at lower temperatures, so it turns out satisfying beef jerky and smoked meats.

Ease of Use

Beginners should find plenty to like about the Junior Elite. In addition to setting up quickly, its user-friendly interface makes operation fairly simple, even if you’re new to the world of pellet grilling. In this instance, its lack of bells and whistles can be considered a plus.

Hopper Capacity

Given that this is a smaller unit anyway, its hopper capacity of eight pounds doesn’t come as a surprise. It does, however, mean that you’ll have to keep a close eye on the hopper if you’re going to be cooking for more than four hours or so. It should only burn through about one pound of pellets per hour for most cooking applications, but if you’re baking or grilling at high heat, it could easily consume twice as many.

Note that Traeger manufactures and sells its own pellets, and that their offerings are available in a variety of flavors. You’re bound to get the best results from your Traeger grill if you invest in their pellets, rather than using a generic brand.

Technology

Unfortunately, the Junior Elite doesn’t have a great deal to offer in the tech department. There are no included meat probes, for one thing, and the unit has no Wi-Fi capability, so you can’t control the temperature remotely. This drawback is not likely to bother hands-on grillers, but it’s definitely worthy of mention, since plenty of the competition will feature technology that’s considerably more advanced. On the plus side, the digital interface is user-friendly and easy to read.

Warranty

Traeger offers consumers a three-year warranty on the Junior Elite, as well as on its other models. The warranty covers defective parts, but not labor. The company also won’t be held responsible for damages that occur on account of negligence.

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Social Proof: Firing Up the Traeger Junior Elite

How does my assessment of the Traeger Junior Elite stack up against the word of the general public? I did a quick internet scan to find out the answer.

As I predicted, newcomers were particularly enamored of this pellet grill. One user raved about its user-friendly interface and the delicious smoked ribs that resulted, claiming that they couldn’t wait to test its capabilities on brisket. Its portability was roundly praised, as was its overall value. At least one consumer shared my concerns about the temperature accuracy, but it wasn’t listed as a major drawback, only a point to be aware of.

Possible Alternatives

Looking for something a little bigger? Or would you prefer to stick with a portable grill, only one that falls lower on the pricing spectrum? Maybe you like everything that you’re hearing, but would prefer to check out other options before making a final decision. That’s what this section is all about.

#1 Green Mountain Davy Crockett Pellet Grill

This is another portable option, but one that’s significantly cheaper than Traeger’s offering. It features roughly the same amount of cooking space, is lighter and more maneuverable, and can be operated remotely with the aid of Wi-Fi technology.

Traeger vs. Green Mountain

  • Size—Green Mountain
  • Value—Traeger
  • Design—Green Mountain
  • Quality—Traeger
  • Heat Reliability—Green Mountain
  • Ease of Use—Traeger
  • Hopper Capacity—Green Mountain
  • Technology—Green Mountain
  • Warranty—Traeger

If built-in Wi-Fi is a feature you simply can’t live without, you should take a closer look at the Green Mountain Davy Crockett Pellet Grill.

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

#2 Z Grills ZPG-550B

Z Grills offers a less expensive model that also boasts 6-in-1 versatility. It’s also sturdier and slightly larger, but as a trade-off, it’s also not as portable as the Junior Elite.

Traeger vs. Z Grills

  • Size—Z Grills
  • Value—Z Grills
  • Design—Traeger
  • Quality—Z Grills
  • Heat Reliability—Z Grills
  • Ease of Use—Traeger
  • Hopper Capacity—Z Grills
  • Technology—Z Grills
  • Warranty—Traeger

This unit has plenty to offer in just about every department, and could be considered a worthy opponent to Traeger’s portable pellet grill. Check it out if you’re looking for something with a little more grilling space.

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

#3 Camp Chef SmokePro DLX

This unit is in the same price range as the Traeger Junior Elite, but its quality is excellent. The auger function is impeccable, and the temperature readout is accurate within five degrees.

Traeger vs. Camp Chef

  • Size—Camp Chef
  • Value—Camp Chef
  • Design—Camp Chef
  • Quality—Tie
  • Heat Reliability—Camp Chef
  • Ease of Use—Traeger
  • Hopper Capacity—Camp Chef
  • Technology—Tie
  • Warranty—Traeger

The SmokePro DLX isn’t a portable unit, but it’s definitely worth a look if you’re in the market for a durable unit with optimal temperature control.

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

The Bottom Line

Would I recommend the Traeger Junior Elite to my family and friends? The short answer is yes. This is a handy, maneuverable grill with enough space to entertain smaller parties, and it makes for an impressive conversation piece at tailgating parties. Though some of its components lack the attention to detail that distinguishes the Traeger brand, it has enough good points to make the overall investment worth it.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this Traeger Junior Elite review, and that the next step on your grilling journey is a tasty and fulfilling one. Best of luck and bon appetit!

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