Traeger has been supplying the world with BBQ grills since the 1990s, and in that time they’ve built up their brand as one of the best at building robust but affordable pellet grills. The Traeger Renegade Elite Grill is one of the pinnacles of their achievements, and it’s not difficult to see why.
The Renegade Elite is a pellet grill that, although relatively small in size, is incredibly versatile in what it allows you to do. Not only can you do grilling, but you can do smoking, roasting and even baking. So in real terms, this means that you are not just limited to burgers and meat, but also you can experiment with food like pizza, bread, and muffins. Yes, even muffins.
In today’s review, I’m going to show you what makes the grill so special, along with its best features, pain points and how it compares to other similar smokers.
In the mean time, check out prices on Amazon here.
What is a pellet grill?
As the name might suggest, pellet grills and smokers burn wood pellets as their fuel source. What makes this approach to grilling unique is that the wood pellets can cook at higher temperatures while also infusing the meat with its aroma. This can even be taken a step further with particular types of wood, such as oak, hickory or maple.
- LED digital controller for easy reading of the internal grill temperature
- Hopper clean-out drawer for simple emptying and reloading of wood pellets
- EZ-Drain system for grease draining, keeping both your grill and patio clean
- 380-square inches of grilling area
- Compatible with the Savannah Stoker controller
A great sign of a good quality grill is how sturdy and robust it is. While it might be tempting to think that this is more for peace of mind, there is actually a practical reason for this assumption: Strong and sturdy grills are often well-insulated, which means that grilling temperatures can stay consistent and warm without the risk of over-ventilation.
Proper insulation is at the heart of this grill’s design, with its 16 gauge powder-coated cold rolled steel. It retains heat perfectly and provides a stable cooking environment for your food.
Pellet grills are particularly strong at indirect cooking, which is what makes it an excellent choice for methods other than just grilling, such as baking, roasting, and smoking. Its sturdy build helps retain heat wonderfully, making it perfect for indirect grilling.
Easy fuelling and ventilation
One of the aspects of cooking with wood pellets is that, unlike with charcoal or gas grilling, you need to supply the grill with fuel regularly. This is particularly true if roasting or cooking something for an extended period of time.
With some models this can be a significant point of pain for users, however, with this grill’s hopper clean-out drawer, refueling is made really easy. You can remove pellets while cooking and replace them with fresh ones to keep the barbecue going.
A significant drawback of a lot of grills, particularly charcoal and wood-fuelled varieties, is that heat distribution can sometimes be poor, leading to the uneven cooking of food. Not so with the Renegade Elite.
The grill’s autostart ignition gets things going quickly and efficiently, while it’s convection blower circulates hot air thoroughly and evenly inside the drum while grilling. This means that there aren’t any hot or cold spots across the grill – just consistent, even heat. Furthermore, due to the heat circulation within the drum, you don’t need to turn your meat.
It also comes armed with a digital temperature controller so that you can both monitor and control the internal temperature of the grill. Controlling temperature is a really tough skill to master with grilling, so for relative newbies this is a really welcome feature.
As an added measure it has porcelain coated grates to help distribute heat evenly across the grill surface. An added benefit of having porcelain grates is that they don’t rust, and are really easy to clean.
For those of you who aren’t completely familiar with grilling, I’m going to let you in on a dirty secret: Grilling is messy.
Ash can blow everywhere, burned on food gets stuck on your grates, and grease works its way into every crack, crevice and split inside your grill drum. A lot of BBQ grills, particularly charcoal models, don’t have an automatic means of clearing this up which leads to a tedious cleanup after each and every use.
Thankfully, this isn’t the case with the Traeger Renegade Elite. It comes with its ‘EZ-Drain’ grease system, which helps drain excess fat and grease from the grill during cooking. It does this into a small bucket attached to the side of the drum, so not only is it clearing the inside of the drum clean but also preventing it from spilling onto your patio.
Wood-fired grilling is perhaps less revered than both charcoal and gas cooking, but I would argue that that’s unfair. Cooking with wood pellets actually offers a lot of versatility, and arguably more so than any other form of grilling.
Not only do wood pellet grills like this one offer you the option of experimenting with cooking methods like roasting and smoking, but the fuel itself gives you the opportunity to play with different types of wood to help give you different flavor profiles.
Different wood pellet options include (but are definitely not limited to) oak, maple, mesquite, and pecan. The aromas of whichever wood you choose then infuse the meat with flavor as you cook. For the best results, different woods match well with different types of food. For example:
- Oak’s mellow and subtle taste matches perfectly with fish or beef.
- Maple gives sweet notes (no surprise that it goes in syrup!) that go well with pork beef or turkey.
- Pecan pairs well with pork and beef.
- Mesquite provides sharpness and spiciness that goes with fish, chicken or beef.
- Alder gives a beautiful and slightly earthy taste that goes with almost any type of meat, especially chicken, lamb, and pork.
While grills are primarily cooking vessels, it’s always nice to be given a few extra features to help enhance the grilling experience. This Traeger grill comes armed with a few added bonuses to ease your time grilling.
It comes with a magnetic tool rack, so if you’re as clumsy and forgetful as me and are constantly misplacing tools, then this should help make your life easier. Its inbuilt caddy rack keeps tools and sauces nearby, while its magnetic hooks ensure that your utensils are always close by.
It also comes with heavy duty wheels that help keep the grill sturdy and still while cooking, without making it difficult to budge when it’s time to move it away.
It’s time to be nit-picky. While overall this is a great grill, there are a few things that feel lacking.
One is the lack of a bottom placed shelf. While this might seem like only a very minor inconvenience, a lot of rival grills do come with one, so it feels like something that is fairly industry practice. It feels like a missed opportunity.
A real limiting factor is also the grill’s lack of a searing option. While this grill does offer an incredible amount of versatility with the different cooking methods it provides you, the fact that you can’t perform searing on it is a shame. So if you plan on grilling foods like steak where a good sear is vital, then I’d recommend taking a look at gas or charcoal models instead. I wrote a full guide to different types of grills that you can find here.
Pros vs. Cons
Ultimately your decision will come down to how you weigh up the pros and cons, so I’ve tried my best to put them in bullet points below to make your decision easier.
- Considering the incredible versatility this grill gives you, it is of great value
- EZ-Clean grease system makes clean-up afterward far less tedious than other grills
- Tool and prep rack helps keep everything neat and close by
- Performance capabilities of the grill help ensure that meat is cooked beautifully
- Cooking versatility means you can grill, braise, smoke, roast and even bake
- Doesn’t require babysitting: You can effectively set and forget during its cooking time
- Wood pellets offer the opportunity to experiment with flavor profiles, and are far more ecologically friendly than charcoal options
- Interior of the grill is easy to clean as wood pellet ash is far less cumbersome to clear than charcoal
- Lack of a searing option is unfortunate
- Despite temperature control, there can sometimes be fluctuations in heat levels during cooking
- Wood pellets have to be bought fairly regularly
- The user manual is a little unclear on exactly how to use pellets, so will require some research on the part of the user
Over to you
Have you had experience with this grill from Traeger before? How good are you at wood pellet grilling? Let us know in the comments below!