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Traeger vs Big Green Egg: A Pitmaster’s Tough Decision

Traeger vs Big Green Egg: A Pitmaster’s Tough Decision

As barbecue enthusiasts, we’re always seeking out the newest and hottest grilling trends. That’s what prompted us to put together a Traeger vs Big Green Egg review (Traeger Ironwood 650 vs 2XL Big Green Egg). Both of these brands have a great deal to offer, but their products differ in several important respects. Let’s take a look at two of their premium models.

Traeger

If you’ve ever owned or used a pellet grill, you already owe a debt to the Traeger brand. Why is that? Because the company patented the very first pellet-fueled grill, way back in 1986. Though the patent has since expired, the Traeger name continues to be synonymous with the convenience of pellet grilling.

There are many excellent grills in Traeger’s lineup–so many, in fact, that it was difficult to choose just one for our roundup. In the end, we decided on the Ironwood 650. This is a decent-sized grill that demonstrates what Traeger does best.

Traeger Ironwood 650

Traeger Grills Ironwood 650 Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker with Alexa and WiFIRE Smart Home Technology, Black

Specifications

  • Size: 47″ H x 46″ W x 27″ D
  • Weight: 149 pounds
  • Grilling Space: 650 square inches
  • Warranty: 3 years

Pros

  • Digital control panel is user-friendly
  • Pellet sensor allows you to check fuel levels while grilling
  • Built-in meat probe for checking the temperature of your ingredients
  • WiFIRE technology

Cons

  • Expensive for a pellet grill
  • Paint quality is out of line with the cost
Traeger Grills Ironwood 650 Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker with Alexa and WiFIRE Smart Home Technology, Black
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Big Green Egg

These distinctive kamado-style grills have gained quite the reputation over the past 25 years. In addition to being instantly recognizable thanks to their egg shape and emerald finish, Big Green Egg products are renowned for their superior heat retention and durable build.

The company offers many accessories along with its charcoal-burning units, but the grill lineup itself is relatively small. Because the 2XL has a cooking surface with a similar capacity, that’s the one we’ve chosen to pit against the Ironwood 650.

2XL Big Green Egg

Specifications

  • Size: 29″ Grid Diameter
  • Weight: 375 pounds
  • Grilling Space: 672 square inches
  • Warranty: Limited Lifetime

Pros

  • Eye-catching grill that’s destined to become a conversation piece
  • Cooking surface is generous enough to hold a whole suckling pig
  • Ceramic construction helps the grill hold its heat
  • Comes with a limited lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Very heavy
  • Grill doesn’t come with a base; all tables and stands are sold at an additional cost

Traeger vs Big Green Egg: Features & Benefits

If you want to know which one of these grills will suit your needs, you should perform a side-by-side comparison of their most prominent features. In this section, we’ve done the work for you.

Affordability

We’ll give you the bad news first: Neither one of these grills is cheap. As such, you should consider purchasing one only if you’re serious about grilling on a regular basis. To put it in perspective, though, these are solidly built units that are meant to last for more than just a season or two.

So, which brand offers a better deal? In this case, the Ironwood 650 is easier on the wallet. If cost is a concern and you’re happy with the rest of the features it offers, then we would recommend taking a closer look at this model.

Winner: Traeger

Design

The Traeger Ironwood 650 is a pellet grill (see Fuel Source, below) and has the traditional barrel-shaped firebox and lid to prove it. It’s set on a sawhorse chassis with two large wheels on the right-hand side and a set of locking caster wheels on the left. The combination allows you to move the grill around easily and stabilize it once it’s in place.

To the left of the firebox, you’ll find a small shelf, while the hopper is situated on the right. The hinged lid features a narrow bar handle. The drip bucket is set in a discreet location beneath the shelf, at a distance that allows for swift removal.

If you’ve seen a Big Green Egg grill before, you’ll recognize its shape and color at once. As the name suggests, the Egg 2XL is shaped like a giant flat-bottomed egg. The exterior is painted bright green, with the exception of the wooden handle. A thermometer with a dial-style readout is set into the top of the lid.

Be aware that all Big Green Eggs are sold as is, with no base or table upon which to rest them. These accessories are available through the BGE website, but they’ll cost extra. Considering the fact that the grill is expensive enough as it is, this is a tough pill to swallow.

The Big Green Egg gives Traeger a run for its money in several respects. In terms of sheer product design, however, we think the Ironwood 650 is more efficient.

Winner: Traeger

Construction

Traeger’s pellet grills are made out of high-quality steel. The lid handle is constructed of stainless steel as well, and the steel cooking grates offer a porcelain coating for quick cleanup.

The Ironwood 650 also features a black painted finish, which is one of the grill’s weak points. While the grill itself holds up well against the heat, the paint tends to peel off when the temperatures climb past a certain point. It doesn’t affect the results, but it looks lousy, particularly given the high price point.

The Big Green Egg is a kamado-style grill. For the uninitiated, the word kamado is Japanese, meaning place for the cauldron. These grills were traditionally made from clay, which is why the Egg 2XL features a ceramic construction.

The primary cooking grids for the Big Green Egg are made of stainless steel. However, there are cast iron alternatives available on the company website. If you don’t mind using a little extra elbow grease to get the grids clean, there’s no reason to drop the extra cash. Stainless steel offers good heat retention and delivers nice sear marks to grilled meats.

Winner: Big Green Egg

Weight

If your living situation requires you to move the grill around from time to time, take note: The 2XL version of the Big Green Egg weighs a whopping 375 pounds. Once it’s in place, you’ll want to leave it there.

By contrast, the Ironwood 650 is much easier to maneuver. Not only is it equipped with wheels that allow for swift transport, it weighs in at just 149 pounds. While there are certainly lighter options available, this is a decent weight for a grill that’s designed mainly for home use.

Though we’re awarding Traeger the prize in this category, there are two sides to the story. A lighter grill isn’t necessarily better unless you need to move it. If you’d be satisfied with a stationary grill, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t consider the Big Green Egg model.

Winner: Traeger

Grilling Capacity

One of the reasons we chose to pit these two grills against each other is that they’re very close in size. The Traeger Ironwood 650 has a cooking surface that measures 650 square inches across two separate grilling racks. The lower rack is the primary surface, measuring 418 square inches. The top rack rounds out the total with another 232 inches.

Traeger claims that this grill is sufficient for eight whole chickens, six pork butts, and five whole rib racks. While we should point out that pork butt can be cut in many different sizes, these numbers seem to be accurate.

On the other hand, you have the 2XL version of the Big Green Egg. This unit has a grid diameter of 29 inches, which translates into a generous 672 square inches of grilling space. Because of the way the grill is configured, it can hold many more ingredients than the Ironwood 650.

Here are a few of the capacity totals that Big Green Egg offers for the 2XL:

  • 35 hamburger patties
  • 18 regular steaks
  • 15 whole chickens
  • 20 full rib racks
  • 1 whole suckling pig

As you can see, there’s quite a difference between Traeger’s capacity claims and those of its competitor. We wouldn’t recommend cramming the Egg’s surface quite so full on the first attempt. It’s better to start with a smaller number of ingredients at first, at least until you’ve gotten a feel for the grill’s performance.

Keeping that in mind, there’s no question that the Big Green Egg has a larger cooking surface than the Ironwood 650. Grillers who enjoy whipping up large batches of ribs and pulled pork should be thrilled with the extra space that the Egg 2XL provides.

Winner: Big Green Egg

smoked turkey cooked over kamado grill

Fuel Source

Pellet grills work by feeding small bullet-shaped hardwood cylinders into the firebox using an auger system. The pellets are kept in a hopper alongside the cooking surface. When the grill is powered on, the fuel goes into the firepot, where it ignites. More pellets are added in accordance with the grill’s temperature, which you can set using the control box.

Many grilling enthusiasts are enthralled with the pellet technique. Not only does it allow you to play around with an assortment of wood flavors, it can save you a lot of work. After the grill has come to temperature, you can simply add the ingredients and walk away.

The company recommends using only Traeger-brand pellets for their grills. You might get more consistent results if you follow this advice, but as long as the pellets are high-quality, it doesn’t really matter which brand you use. Just make sure they’re stored in an airtight container, and don’t expose them to any dampness or humidity.

wooden pellets ecological heating

Kamado grills use charcoal as their primary fuel source, but it’s acceptable to add wood chips or pellets as long as there are no additives included. It’s not a good idea to use briquettes, as there are plenty of chemicals included in these as well. For the same reason, lighter fluid is definitely to be avoided.

We would recommend using only Big Green Egg lump hardwood charcoal when cooking with the 2XL–or any BGE model. This limits your options, but it should provide you with satisfying results. When you’ve spent this much money on a grill, you want to follow the manufacturer’s advice to keep it in good working order for as long as you can.

Winner: Traeger

Heat Retention

As far as pellet grills are concerned, Traeger’s models are a force to be reckoned with. They’re built out of high-end materials and constructed in a way that keeps the heat locked tightly inside the cooking chamber. The lid on the Ironwood 650 forms a tight seal, and the double side-wall insulation adds an extra degree of protection.

Though we have no complaints about the Ironwood 650, it’s difficult to top the Egg 2XL in terms of heat retention. The ceramic walls are so thick, you can stand right beside the working grill on a hot day without feeling any discomfort.

The gasket system on the Big Green Egg is another strong point. It seals the grill tightly enough to keep all that delicious smoke circulating through the firebox. Because the Egg 2XL essentially functions as a clay oven, you can add your ingredients in the morning and leave them to cook all day without worrying.

Winner: Big Green Egg

Temperature Control

Given the distinctive natures of these two grill types, this is an interesting category. Traeger’s system has a maximum temperature setting of 500 degrees Fahrenheit, which is about average for a pellet grill. There’s also a “Super Smoke Mode,” which infuses ingredients with an extra dose of smoky goodness.

The digital control panel is very easy to use, and the WiFIRE feature lets you adjust the temperature even from a distance. These qualities help to set the Ironwood 650 apart–at least from other pellet grills.

Since we’re comparing this grill to a kamado cooker, however, the story is more complex. Big Green Egg models can easily reach inferno-like temperatures, thanks to their optimal ceramic construction and the overall build quality. This gives the Egg 2XL higher marks as far as versatility is concerned.

That said, controlling the temperature on a charcoal grill–even a kamado-style unit–requires a measure of skill. You’ll need to learn how to adjust the vents that are situated in the base and lid of the grill in order to achieve the desired results. Opening the grates will make the fire burn hotter; sliding them shut will lower the temperature.

For those of you who’ve used both grill types before, this is a toss-up. You might prefer the hands-on approach of the kamado cooking technique. However, because the Traeger method is more carefree, we’re calling this race for the Ironwood 650.

Winner: Traeger

Storage

The Ironwood 650 includes a side shelf for prep or storage, but it’s pretty small. There’s no lower shelf on the sawhorse chassis, either. Fortunately, the hopper lid is configured so that you can rest extra supplies on top if you need to. The shelf also comes with built-in hooks for utensils.

The Big Green Egg 2XL doesn’t offer any storage space. If you want a table, you can invest in a customized one from the BGE website. Again, the additional cost might be prohibitive.

Winner: Traeger

Ease of Assembly

Traeger’s grills are notoriously simple to assemble, at least as pellet grills go. Their user manuals provide clear instructions, and the parts are easily identified. The Ironwood 650 is no exception, but it still might require two people to put it together.

In addition to the instruction manual, Big Green Egg provides detailed videos on how to assemble each one of their models. The process is even simpler than Traeger’s, thanks to the lack of electrical components. The heavy ceramic body is the only deterrent–you’ll have to be very careful not to drop it, or it may crack.

Winner: Big Green Egg

Cleaning and Maintenance

Traeger’s Ironwood 650 comes with a grease management system, consisting of a removable drip pail located beneath the side shelf. Fortunately, it’s configured so that it can be removed and cleaned easily. Because the stainless steel cooking grates are porcelain-enameled, they also clean up well.

If you stick with the stainless steel grates on the Big Green Egg, you’ll have to make sure to clean them right after each use. The firebox will need to be cleaned out by hand. Just wait until the ashes have cooled completely before performing this step.

Winner: Traeger

Warranty

Traeger’s warranty on the Ironwood 650 falls in line with the company standard: 3 years on all working components. Because the paint job doesn’t affect the quality of the cooking experience, the company won’t replace a grill with peeling or defective paint.

Big Green Egg offers a limited lifetime warranty on the 2XL, as well as every other kamado-style cooker in its lineup. Note that this doesn’t apply when the grill is used for commercial purposes–in these cases, the warranty would expire after just one year of use.

Winner: Big Green Egg

Traeger vs Big Green Egg: Standout Features

We mentioned the fact that these grills had many differences. Let’s take a look at just how different they are.

Traeger Ironwood 650

  • Super Smoke Mode-Delivers an extra punch of smoke flavor
  • WiFIRE Technology-Gives you control over the grilling temperature via your smartphone
  • Side Shelf with Tool Hooks-For food prep and utensil storage
  • All-Terrain Wheels-For maneuvering the grill over unstable surfaces
  • D2 Ironwood Controller-Carefully calibrates the cooking temperature
  • Built-in Meat Probe-So you can cook the meat to perfection

Big Green Egg 2XL

  • Wooden Handle-Stays cool to the touch during cooking
  • Air Vent System-Allows you to personally control the grill’s temperature
  • Built-In Lid Thermometer-So you can keep an eye on your progress

The Verdict

Use the Traeger Ironwood 650 if:

  • You’re shopping with a limited budget
  • You would prefer a pellet grill to a kamado-style cooker
  • You’re planning to move the grill around once in awhile
  • You need plenty of space for storing tools

Check out the Ironwood 650 for a grilling experience that’s largely hands-free.

Use the 2XL Big Green Egg if:

  • You’re looking specifically for a kamado grill
  • You want a grill that will serve as a conversation starter
  • You prefer the hands-on approach of charcoal grilling
  • You don’t mind spending a little bit of extra cash for a lifetime guarantee

Bring home the 2XL Big Green Egg and start impressing your family and friends with succulent slow-cooked meats.

Westley

Friday 1st of October 2021

Odd how you state you picked the XL for its similar size to the 650 then game BGE the win for capacity, Traeger makes the 885 which is still $500 cheaper than the XL

Carol Kalmer

Thursday 22nd of April 2021

I have had a Big Green Egg 11 years and have used it extensively. Usually two to three times a week as I live in Florida. I have replaced the gasket 3 times and that's about it. It still looks brand new on the outside. It still cooks just as well. I have not had to replace anything else. I cook steaks high heat up to 700 degrees and slow smoke pork butts (as I am right now) at 225 degrees. Each come out beautifully. I have a temperature stabilizer/digi IQ so that helps me sleep as my pork butts smokes. I don't think it uses a lot of charcoal and always shut the egg down to conserve on charcoal. Love my EGG! I am not so sure a Traeger would last as long as my Egg has for 11 years and show no sign of deteriorating. And that is a definite plus.

AJ

Wednesday 28th of April 2021

I think the main enemy of the Traeger as is with any metal type smoker/grill is rust. Especially in a humid climate like FL. I too live in FL BTW.