Traeger is considered to be one of the pioneers in the pellet smoking and grilling industry since they opened their doors in the 90s and they’re still the best known brand around. About 85% of pellet smokers in the US are Traeger, which means 8 out of 10 pellet smoker owners are using one.
This is a bit of a double edged sword for them because it means far more people have one, which means you’ll hear a lot more about them, with good and bad reviews. The bottom line is Traeger has become synonymous with quality, dependability and durability at affordable prices.
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Use the contents below to skip a question – otherwise, read on for the full review.
- Key Features of the Traeger Junior Elite
- How long does it take to clean?
- How many items can you cook at one time?
- How even is the temperature kept during cooking?
- How good is the thermometer?
- Is the grill suitable for a novice?
- How does the auger work?
- Is the grill worth the money?
- Why is it manufactured in China?
- What do other chefs think about it?
- What’s the difference between the junior elite and the lil’ tex range?
- Does the junior elite work in low temperatures?
- Do I need lighter fuel or gas for my smoker?
- How do I change the pellet flavors in my hopper? And can I mix the flavors?
Let’s take a look at the Junior Elite and see whether its worth the money…
The guys at Traeger took their Junior Pellet Smoker, which, if you remember has the old fashioned 3-position controller, pimped it up with some new features, most notably a digital temperature control module.
The three position controller has no thermostat to monitor actual temperature and can only execute pellet run times for low (1), medium (2) and high (3) heat. This ‘out of date’ control feeds the same amount of fuel to the fire pot regardless of the conditions you’re cooking in, leaving you with very little control.
On the other hand, the modification on the Elite maintains the temperature inside of the cooking chamber, ensuring a steady and accurate temperature throughout the cooking process. Known as the ‘lazy man’s smoker’, you can load it up at night, set it at 225 F and wake up the next morning to meat that’s been slow cooking for hours, and you’ve literally been asleep on the job.
When it comes to the Traeger Junior Elite it really is a case of ‘dynamite comes in small packages’. It offers a huge amount of versatility in a compact size, perfect for smaller families, small spaces or for traveling. But don’t be put off by its size. The grilling area is approximately 300 sq. in. (20″ x 15″) and it easily holds up to 12 burgers, 4 chickens, 18 hot dogs or 3 rib racks. Not bad for a little guy!
The compact Elite delivers a big smoky taste for professional and amateur home chefs, and priced slightly more than its predecessor, it is excellent value for money.
Key Features of the Traeger Junior Elite
- Ample 15” x 20” cooking area; 292 square inches of cooking space
- The digital thermostat
- Convection blower to make sure all food is cooked evenly
- Easy drain clean-up system
- Auger to feed pellets into the firebox
- Steel construction for durability
- Porcelain coated grill grate
- Versatility; the unit can be used for smoking, grilling, baking, and roasting
- Plugs into a standard 110v outlet
- 2 durable wheels make it easy to move around
In order for us to bring you the most honest, unbiased reviews we speak to a lot of people, we ask around and we read a lot of articles, comparing and rating. We also use the unit a couple of times. It’s the only way we can give you all the facts.
So, let’s have a look at what people like about the Taeger Elite…
The best feature about the Junior Elite is the digital thermostat.
This little gadget is the reason it’s called the ‘lazy man’s smoker’ because all you need to do is fill it with pellets, turn it on and let it be. Once you set it to the desired temperature, the auger feeds the pellets into the firebox and the convection blower distributes the smoke and heat, guaranteeing everything is evenly cooked and smoked.
We’ve mentioned the convection blower already, and it’s another reason professional and amateur home chefs enjoy this pellet smoker.
When it comes to backyard BBQs there’s nothing worse than hot and cold spots on the grill. You end up ‘babysitting’ the food, moving it from one place to the next to make sure it’s cooking and getting smoked, which kind of defeats the purpose of having a pellet smoker.
With the Traeger Junior Elite the convection blower circulates the heat in the cooking chamber. This allows you to place your food anywhere on the grate, knowing the temperature is consistent and the smoke constant.
If you like fiddling with knobs and dials to get your smoker working you’re not going to like this unit. It’s one of the easiest smokers to get started and it doesn’t need you poking and prodding the food, checking and double checking whether it’s cooking.
Nope, if this describes you then stay away. All you need is a standard 110v outlet, no running around looking for lighter fluid or gas or a light, and the electric ignition kicks in. The pellet smoker is also easy to clean, thanks to the drain clean-up system.
Something we’ve noticed people mention when talking about a smoker is whether it’s easy to assemble. Obviously this isn’t something that’s going to affect the quality of your cook or the smoky taste, but it is a talking point and when something is a little challenging to put together it can be seen as a con.
The Traeger Elite is very easy to put together. It’s a matter of putting the three legs on the main unit and attaching the feeder. At the absolute most, it’s going to take an hour. Some people have done it in a couple of minutes.
The durability of the pellet smoker is important. It’s not a small purchase and you’re laying out your hard earned cash so you want to know your smoker is going to be around for a while.
The unit is manufactured in China, which has some people saying there’s a noticeable difference with regards to the quality.
We have to disagree here; a lot of the ‘damage’ to the smoker is a lack of care from the owner. In our opinion the Junior Elite is 68 pounds of power, all packed into a compact sized heavy-duty smoker, that can withstand a lot. And the fact that they come with a three-year warranty means the folk at Traeger believe in their product.
To sum it up the Traeger Junior Elite is like having an outside kitchen. The incredibly accurate digital temperature control lets you cook, smoke, grill and bake, everything from authentic wood fired pizzas to brownies and grilled vegetables. A recipe book is included with your smoker.
As with all things, there’s the good and the bad, and the Traeger Junior Elite is no different. A smoker is as personal as you how like your meat done, which means something that is a definite pro for one person is a con for another. We’ve gone through a lot of the reviews where people haven’t been 100% happy with their pellet smoker and to be honest, the rave reviews outweigh the complaints.
The biggest ‘complaint’ we’ve heard is that the pellet smoker is no longer made in the States, but manufactured in China, and because China has a reputation for producing cheaply made products, the assumption is the Elite is of a bad quality. We can’t say we’ve noticed this but it has been raised a couple of times, and so it’s worth mentioning. Of course if you think about it, the fact that it’s made in China means it can be sold at a more affordable price. If you’re a little wary of this the three year guarantee should put your mind at ease.
There are also complaints about the instruction manual, that it doesn’t have enough information about the p-settings; what they are or how they work. Also you have to use the Traeger pellets otherwise your guarantee is ‘null and void’, which leaves some consumers feeling a little bullied.
One or two people have said they don’t find it a case of ‘set and forget’ because of the temperature fluctuations and the probe which automatically adjusts the heat and smoke, but this could be because they’re new to pellet smokers and just need some time getting familiar with it.
It’s recommended by some customers that you purchase a cover for your Traeger Elite, especially if it’s staying outside.
There you have it. Those are the negatives. But if you consider the price, the quality and the warranty, we’re sure you’ll agree that they’re not deal-breakers.
Our final word on the Traeger Junior Elite? It’s a great pellet smoker, that’s small in size and big on taste. The price point makes it a popular choice for those just starting out and for families within a budget. The fact that it has a three year warranty gives means the guys at Traeger believe in their product, which gives us peace of mind. It ticks all the boxes for us from durability through to the digital thermostat and convection blower which makes it easy to use. And of course as far as value for money goes, it’s a no-brainer.
Watch the Traeger’s official video below which shows just how easy it is to use your grill…
How long does it take to clean?
Cleaning up is quick because of the easy-grease drain system. We do suggest cleaning the grate after every cook, and a deep clean maybe 2-3 times a year. We also recommend changing the foil on your drip tray and emptying the bucket when needed
How many items can you cook at one time?
The grilling area is approximately 300 sq. in. (20″ x 15″) and can hold up to 12 burgers, 4 chickens, 18 hot dogs or 3 rib racks. It’s definitely suited to families
How even is the temperature kept during cooking?
The convection blower and digital thermostat maintains the temperature throughout the cooking process. The only time this will be affected is if you run out of pellets or open and close the lid too often
How good is the thermometer?
The thermometer on the Traeger Junior Elite is very good. It’s this upgrade that makes it a highly recommended smoker.
Is the grill suitable for a novice?
It is definitely suitable for a novice. There’s a recipe book included, as well as a manual and loads of forums and YouTube videos to assist any ‘newbies’. Chances are a friend has one or has used one so they’d be able to help too
How does the auger work?
The auger feeds the pellets into the firebox, maintaining the temperature throughout the cooking process
Is the grill worth the money?
The Traeger Elite is definitely worth the money. It’s a great entry level smoker and perfect for families on a budget
Why is it manufactured in China?
Because of the increasing demand Traeger decided to manufacture the product in China, however they keep a close eye on production with regular quality checks. Manufacturing in China is also one of the reasons they’re able to keep the retail cost down
What do other chefs think about it?
There are some chefs who swear by it and others who have a complaint or two. Overall it’s one of the top selling smokers so that might help you. However a smoker, like a lot of things, is about personal taste (oh no, we went there!)
What’s the difference between the junior elite and the lil’ tex range?
The Lil’ Tex is designed for much bigger cooking and grilling needs with a cooking area of 418 square inches. The Junior is smaller, better suited to families and comes in at a lower price
Does the junior elite work in low temperatures?
The auger and convection blower makes sure the temperature stays the same regardless of the weather conditions, so rain or shine, you can fire it up
Do I need lighter fuel or gas for my smoker?
No. The smoker plugs into a standard 110v outlet.
How do I change the pellet flavors in my hopper? And can I mix the flavors?
Scoop out the pellets that are in your hopper with a small container and add your new flavour pellets. You can definitely mix the flavors. As you get more used to your pellet smoker and experiment with the different flavors you’ll be able to create the most delicious smoky tastes