Saturday, May 4, 2013

Good smoke! Review of the Traeger Junior

A few months ago, I bought a new smoker. Its a Traeger Junior, also know as Traeger BBQ055. I happen to find it on Amazon for $100 less than anywhere else! The shipping wasn't free, but it was only $50 for me. So it saved me $50. Here's a link to the cheap one.

This is whats known as a pellet smoker. The pellets are compressed wood dust. There are *no* fillers or binders. Originally when i was looking at these, I figured they had to have some sort of glue or something in there to hold it together. That turns out not to be the case, The pellets are fed into a 'fire box' where during the startup phase, there is an ignitor. After a period of time, the ignitor shuts off. 

It arrived in a fairly large box. Comes with all the tools to assemble it, and takes about an hour or so. The smoker comes with a simple controller for to controlling how fast the pellets are fed. Since I had saved some money, I decided to upgrade to a more advanced controller. Traeger Digital Thermostat Kit BAC236. The simpler one has three settings, smoke, med, and high. The more advanced one has several temperatures you can select from. It also has a digital read out of the current temperature of the grill. It has a temperature sensor in the grill, that it uses as feedback to determine how quickly to feed the pellets.

The advanced controller makes smoking food a no brainer. Especially if you use a remote temp sensor like this one: Maverick ET732 Long Range Wireless Meat Thermometer. You can set a temperature, and only need to check on it to make sure you don't run out of pellets. I've done several 14+ hour smokes without issue. Just monitor your sensor to know when you are done.

I love this smoker. It does have its flaws though. You need to clean it throughly after every smoke. Not just the grate and the drip pan, you need to vacuum the area below the drip pan. Not a big deal, but does take some time. If you don't, there is a reasonable chance that the smoker won't ignite properly the next time you use it. Also, the pellets in the hopper don't always fall into the auger that feeds the fire. This means that even if you have pellets, they don't make it, and the flame/smoke goes out. The easy solution is to keep the hopper full.

I have a few modifications I would like to do in the future. Such as adding firebricks to help it maintain a more consistent temperature. RIght now, it has a pretty wide swings and nearly 50 degree's. The firebricks should improve that. I will also think about increasing the size of the pellet hopper. This will help with the auger going dry issue I mentioned above. 

All in all, I'm very happy with my purchase, and will be smoking everything and anything I can think of.

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