Traeger Tailgater Review: Do We Still Recommend It in 2020?

If you are in a hurry and just want to find out if we still recommend the Traeger Tailgater in 2020, then the short answer is YES. For more details, jump directly to our verdict section by clicking here.

Are you looking for a pellet grill that can be easily loaded into the truck for tailgating events? When I embarked on this search myself, I decided to begin with the Traeger brand. Since the company’s founder was a pioneer in the world of pellet grilling, it stands to reason that they would know a thing or two about taking the units on the road. To help organize my findings, I compiled this Traeger Tailgater review.

What You Need To Know About Pellet Grills For Tailgating

First and foremost, a tailgating grill should be small and maneuverable. As a result, they typically don’t feature a lot of grilling space. Numbers in the range of 200 to 300 square inches are typical for this type of unit. Because you won’t be able to fit a lot of ingredients on the grill at one time, it’s a good idea to look for a unit with good heat retention and temperature control.

Here’s a breakdown of the specifications that you should bear in mind while shopping for a pellet grill for tailgating:

Temperature Control

A high-end pellet grill will heat quickly and efficiently, and maintain an even temperature throughout. Moreover, the heat should remain accurate within at least 20 degrees of your designated temperature during the cooking process.

Construction

Choose a grill that’s made of heavy-gauge steel, preferably restaurant- or food-grade. While this might make the unit slightly heavier to carry, it will help to ensure that you get many years of enjoyment out of your purchase. The cooking grates should be constructed of either stainless steel or porcelain-coated cast iron (note that steel will add less weight and bulk to the unit). Finally, foldable legs are a definite perk when it comes to tailgating grills.

Grilling Space

As I mentioned earlier, these grills are usually on the smaller side. Expect a maximum of 300 square inches of cooking space. If you think you’ll need more than this on a regular basis, you might want to reconsider investing in a tailgating grill.

Efficiency

Grills that are travel-sized for convenience will have a diminished hopper capacity in comparison with their full-sized counterparts. Most will hold eight to 10 pounds of pellets at once. As a rule of thumb, expect the unit to burn through about one pound of pellets per hour, depending on the conditions.

Value

A pellet grill can range in price from a few hundred dollars to the four-figure column. Tailgating grills usually fall on the lower end of the pricing scale on account of their smaller size. If they carry a relatively high price tag, make sure their construct is durable enough to make the investment worth the cost.

Ease of Use

Setting up a pellet grill should take no longer than an hour on average, especially when they’re on the smaller side. Instructions for setup and use should be clear, concise, and accurate. When it comes to cleanup, a drip bucket and ash collector are invaluable, saving you time as well as energy.

Technology and Special Features

As the world changes to keep pace with the times, so do basic household units like pellet grills. The newest models will feature extras such as digital temperature readouts, interior lighting, and Wi-Fi technology. Determine in advance whether any of these features are likely to be useful to you.

Warranty

Many reputable pellet grill sellers will back up their products with a warranty. One to three years is standard, although with so much competition in the field, it’s not unusual to find a longer warranty.

Traeger Tailgater Review: What’s In The Box?

The main cooking chamber of the Traeger Tailgater is accompanied by a hopper with an eight-pound pellet capacity, as well as a digital elite controller and automatic start function. The “E-Z Fold” legs make the grill easier to transport, and the included drain bucket is efficiently sized.

Pros:

  • Ultra-portable unit with foldable legs
  • Efficient power-saving system
  • Lockable wheels
  • Easy to clean

Cons:

  • Relatively high price point
  • Low pellet capacity
  • Limited temperature range
  • No Wi-Fi capability

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

Traeger Tailgater: Features and Benefits

How well does the Traeger Tailgater stack up against the criteria we introduced earlier? When you’ve finished reading this section, you should have all the answers you need.

Temperature Control

The Traeger Tailgater advertises a temperature range of 180 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. In practice, however, the unit seems to have some difficulty heating to over 375 degrees, even in temperate weather. This is somewhat limiting, as it makes the unit effective at low-heat applications such as smoking and braising, but less suitable for getting a high sear on steaks and chops.

In my experience, this grill does a decent enough job on burgers, but in the interest of full disclosure, I prefer mine on the rarer side of medium anyway. Consumers who are in the market for a grill with high heat zones would probably do better to keep their options open.

Construction

This is a strong, durable grill, constructed of heavy-gauge steel that can withstand punishment from the elements, in addition to the heat from inside. It also comes with two sturdy built-in wheels, featuring a locking mechanism to keep them in place when the grill is in use.

Grilling Space

This model offers a total of 300 square inches of cooking space. While the company claims that this is sufficient for either two chickens, three full racks of ribs, or up to 12 burgers, the dimensions become somewhat cramped if you attempt to load that many ingredients on the grill at once. I would recommend cooking no more than eight burgers at one time if you want the grill to maintain its temperature.

As far as dimensions go, the Tailgater measures 36 inches high by 37 inches wide, giving it a broad, robust appearance. The grilling depth (the cooking surface measured front to back) is 18 inches. The grill weighs in at just 62 pounds, making it easy to load into the truck or camper van.

Efficiency

The hopper capacity on the Tailgater is just eight pounds, which is on the lower end for pellet grills in general. However, as this is a portable unit, the capacity can be considered acceptable. When everything is working properly, the unit will burn through about one to one-and-a-half pounds of pellets per hour.

I have noticed a strange quirk in the system: The auger component continues to feed the maximum amount of pellets into the cooking chamber even when the temperature is reduced, which could be a fire hazard if you’re not careful. For this reason, I would recommend keeping a close watch on the grill whenever it’s in use.

As a matter of further interest, Traeger has outfitted the Tailgater unit with a clever energy-saving feature. When powered by a standard 120-volt household outlet, it uses 300 watts of energy for the first four minutes, after which time it drops to just 50 watts for the duration of the cooking process.

Value

Traeger’s products typically carry a medium-to-high price tag, and such is the case with the Tailgater. You can expect to spend 20 to 30 percent more on this unit than you would on comparable models. However, given the quality and durability of the product, the price could still be considered a bargain if you can afford to pay it.

Ease of Use

You can expect the initial setup process to take about an hour and a half, perhaps less if you have help. That’s slightly longer than average, but on the plus side, the grill is exceptionally user-friendly once all the pieces are in place. The drip bucket and ash collection system make cleanup a snap, as you won’t need to empty them until you’ve used the grill several times. The cooking grates and exterior surfaces clean up easily, usually with just a few runs of a damp cloth. If there’s excessive food debris on the cooking surface, be sure to wait until the grates have cooled sufficiently before removing them and scrubbing them gently with soap and water.

Technology and Special Features

Since this is a unit meant for traveling, it lacks many of the bonus features that distinguish some of Traeger’s higher-end models. For instance, there’s no Wi-Fi capability, so the temperature can’t be controlled remotely. Given what I’ve observed about the finicky auger component, however, that’s probably a good thing. The unit does feature folding legs that make it easier to wheel the grill onto the truck bed, a perk that’s lacking in some comparable travel grills.

Warranty

Traeger offers consumers a three-year warranty on defective parts. Note that if the unit becomes damaged through normal wear and tear, the company won’t cover the cost of replacement. Though this is the industry standard, it’s still something to be aware of.

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

Social Proof: On the Road With the Traeger Tailgater

Given my own experience with the Traeger Tailgater—which was largely positive, despite a few quirks—I decided to take to the internet in search of other consumer responses. On the whole, my findings were consistent: The quality and ease of assembly were praised, along with the consistency of the results. Several users also reported issues with temperature fluctuation and even fires, usually as a result of the over-active auger component. On the whole, though, the product was recommended by customers with first-hand experience.

Comparable Models

Though the Traeger Tailgater is one of the leading portable pellet grills on the market, it’s far from the only one. Here are a few of its most direct competitors.

#1 Green Mountain Davy Crockett Pellet Grill

Unlike the Tailgater, this model offers Wi-Fi capability, which could come in handy if you’re throwing a big outdoor bash. It also carries a significantly lower price tag and a smaller footprint. As a trade-off, though, the Davy Crockett only features 219 square inches of cooking space, and the construction isn’t as sturdy either.

Traeger vs. Green Mountain

  • Temperature Control—Green Mountain
  • Construction—Traeger
  • Grilling Space—Traeger
  • Efficiency—Green Mountain
  • Value—Green Mountain
  • Ease of Use—Traeger
  • Technology and Special Features—Green Mountain
  • Warranty—Traeger

Take a closer look at the Green Mountain Davy Crockett Pellet Grill if you’re shopping on a tight budget, or if Wi-Fi capability tops your list of must-have bonus features.

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

#2 Pit Boss Grills 340 Wood Pellet Grill

With 340 square inches of grilling space, this offering from Pit Boss is a generous size for a tailgate grill. The hopper capacity is only five pounds, which helps to offset the larger size, but also translates into more maintenance as you’ll have to perform frequent refills.

Traeger vs. Pit Boss

  • Temperature Control—Pit Boss
  • Construction—Tie
  • Grilling Space—Pit Boss
  • Efficiency—Pit Boss
  • Value—Pit Boss
  • Ease of Use—Traeger
  • Technology and Special Features—Tie
  • Warranty—Traeger

If you’re looking specifically for a grill with a larger cooking surface at a more affordable price, give the Pit Boss Portable Camp/Tailgate Pellet Grill a try.

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

#3 Country Smokers Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker

This ultra-portable unit has an impressive temperature range and an appealingly low price tag. The hopper can only accommodate 3.5 pounds of pellets at once, but the grill is excellent when it comes to searing steak and chops. Be aware that this isn’t a stand-alone unit—it will need to be set up in the bed of a truck or on a picnic table.

Traeger vs. Country Smokers

  • Temperature Control—Country Smokers
  • Construction—Traeger
  • Grilling Space—Traeger
  • Efficiency—Country Smokers
  • Value—Country Smokers
  • Ease of Use—Country Smokers
  • Technology and Special Features—Traeger
  • Warranty—Traeger

Check out the Country Smokers Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker if you’re short on space and funds, but don’t want to wait any longer to start your tailgating adventures.

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

Putting It Together

The bottom line: Would I recommend the Traeger Tailgater? Yes, as long as you’re willing to keep a close eye on the pellet consumption. The construction is sturdy enough to last for several years with the proper maintenance, and it offers sufficient cooking space for this type of unit. Click here to add the Traeger Tailgater pellet grill to your list of traveling kitchen equipment.

How the Traeger Tailgater compares to the Junior Elite? Read this article to find out.

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