If you’re looking for an all-round versatile device for outdoor cooking, there are few options better than a pellet grill.
Whether you’re smoking a piece of meat low and slow, or searing a steak at a super high temperature, an efficient pellet grill will handle just about all of your outdoor cooking needs.
This guide will take an in-depth look at two of the leading brands on the market: Camp Chef and Traeger.
We’ll look to explain some of the main similarities and differences between the two, providing all the information you need to know about construction, temperature control, cooking range, and much more.
What’s more, we’ll also look to answer some of the frequently asked questions related to pellet grills and the two industry-leading brands.
Before we take a closer look at some of the key similarities and differences between Camp Chef and Traeger, it’s worth providing some background information on the two popular brands.
Camp Chef was founded in 1990, and began by making straightforward and durable outdoor cooking equipment such as stoves, smokers, and fire pits. As their durable, high quality designs became increasingly more popular, Camp Chef then expanded their product line to include pellet grills.
This has proved to be an excellent decision, with the company establishing themselves as one of the best and well-respected players in the pellet grill market. All products from the brand are created in the US, but manufactured in China.
Traeger is the first brand that comes to mind for many when it comes to pellet grills, and with good reason. They designed the first ever pellet grill back in the 1980’s, and then patented the idea in 1985.
This patent expired in 2006, allowing competition from several other grill manufacturers (including Camp Chef). Despite the increased competition, Traeger still remains one of the most popular brands on the market, with a longstanding reputation of creating high quality and innovative products.
The first area of comparison that we’ll look to explore is the construction of Camp Chef and Traeger grills. Both companies have earned a reputation for creating well-built pellet grills, so there’s little to separate them in terms of construction quality.
Most Camp Chef models have a powder-coated steel body and come equipped with enamel-coated grates. While they’re not insulated, you can buy insulation blankets for some smokers which is particularly important if you live somewhere cold and need the improved efficiency.
Traeger grills also have a power-coated steel body, and usually come equipped with porcelain-coated grates. The only exception to take note of is their Timberline series which provides durable stainless steel grates instead.
All of Traeger’s cheaper models are single-layered steel, however, their mid-range grills provide double-side-wall insulation for enhanced heat retention, and their top-of-the-range products offer full insulation.
All things considered, Traeger grills offer slightly more in terms of higher quality materials and better insulation, so it’s only fair to give them the slight edge when it comes to construction.
Camp Chef pellet grills are generally cheaper than those produced by Traeger. Not only do the cheapest models from Camp Chef start at a much lower price, the vast majority of their range is only priced around the $700 to $1,000 USD mark, with their most expensive models just a little bit higher than this.
In contrast, Traeger’s pellet smoker range starts at roughly $700 USD, and then quickly rises to over the $1,000 USD mark, reaching up to $2,000 USD for some of the top-range models.
While the considerable difference in price is reflective of some of Traeger’s advanced features, Camp Chef grills still provide some excellent qualities.
So, if you’re working to a tight budget, but still want a high-performing model to fulfill all your outdoor cooking needs, Camp Chef is the best option in terms of reliability and affordability.
Temperature control and consistency is essential for all pellet grills. In order to provide effective temperature control, a grill needs to retain its heat effectively and allow you to cook on a wide range of specific temperatures.
This precise temperature control is an area where both Traeger and Camp Chef smoker grills excel in terms of their consistent performance.
All of Traeger’s grills do an excellent job of heat retention, making them the perfect choice for long term cooking. The upgraded D2 drivetrain enables not only faster heating, but also a better smoke quality.
What’s more, the top-range Ironwood and Timberline models come equipped with extra Turbo Temp functionality. This quickly elevates the temperature as soon as you open the lid of the grill, reducing the chance of temperature fluctuations if you want to add extra food on.
If you’re looking for a smoker grill with steady temperature control, the vast majority of Traeger models stick within 10 to 15℉ of the set temperature. These models also allow you to change the temperature in 15℉ increments.
Moreover, the temperature of modern Traeger grills can often be controlled through a mobile app. So, if you’ve got other things to do while your food’s cooking, you can monitor and change the grill temperature with a simple touch on your phone or tablet.
Camp Chef grills are equally as effective as Traeger models at retaining heat. They also use PID-style temperature controllers which can hold the heat within 5℉ of your desired temperature.
In addition to this extremely precise temperature control, Camp Chef offers Smart Stroke Technology which allows you to set the smoke level between one and 10, irrespective of how warm the smoker is. This extra level of control is ideal if you’re grilling something that requires specific cooking conditions.
All things considered, we’re going to give the slight edge to Camp Chef for temperature control. This is because their PID controller offers a little more precision than Traeger’s D2 Drivetrain.
One of the biggest advantages of buying a pellet grill is the fact that they’re advertised as an all-in-one grilling solution.
Therefore, temperature range is an essential quality to keep in mind when looking for a suitable product, as all top-range pellet grills should be able to maintain temperatures at both ends of the spectrum.
Most Traeger grills have a temperature range of 180℉ to 400℉. On the other hand, Camp Chef models typically provide a more expansive temperature range of 160℉ to 500℉.
What’s more, Camp Chef grills also come with a slide and grill mode that allows you to switch effortlessly between indirect heat and direct heat by simply sliding a knob.
So, while you can still cook just about anything using the temperature range of a Traeger grill, the added slide and grill mode gives Camp Chef the edge in this department.
Considering Camp Chef and Traeger are two of the leading players on the market, it’s hardly surprising that both provide grills in a wide range of sizes.
There’s very little to separate the two in terms of cooking surface area, but it’s worth noting that Traeger’s larger grills are only available in the more expensive ranges. While this is fine if you’ve got a good budget to work with, it isn’t ideal for those looking for a more affordable option.
Nevertheless, paying the extra money for a large Traeger grill will give you a few additional features, so there’s definitely some advantages.
With this in mind, we’ve concluded that it’s ultimately a tie between the two brands when it comes to their cooking area. Both provide a number of different sizes that’ll suit most people, so you can’t really go wrong with either.
Pellet Hopper Capacity
In terms of hopper capacity, it may not seem like a big deal, but it can make a considerable difference to your grilling experience.
For example, if you choose a pellet grill with too small of a hopper, you’ll have to deal with the hassle of constantly refilling it. Fortunately, both Camp Chef and Traeger grills feature good hopper capacity.
Camp Chef’s smaller units have 18-pound capacity hoppers, while many of their larger models have a 22-pound capacity. On the other hand, Traeger grills have 18, 20, or 24-pound hoppers (except their smaller portable models).
Furthermore, both brands also come equipped with pellet purge systems, making it easy to empty the hopper, clean it out, and keep the pellets dry.
One of the first things you should look for when shopping for grills is a manufacturer’s warranty. You never know when something could go wrong, so it’s always good to have some peace of mind.
Not only does a good warranty protect your investment, more often than not the most generous warranties are also given to the products with the lowest chance of picking up a problem.
Both Camp Chef and Traeger provide impressive three year warranties. While this warranty length is pretty standard in the grilling industry, both brands are also known for their excellent customer service, so if you encounter any problems, it shouldn’t be too difficult to get it sorted.
Therefore, in this brand comparison, there isn’t a warranty advantage for either Camp Chef or Traeger – they’re both very similar.
When it comes to evaluating some of the best additional features, the main things to look out for are add-ons that enhance the overall grilling experience.
For example, most Camp Chef pellet grills come equipped with at least a couple of meat probes to provide you with precise feedback on how cooked your meat is. Furthermore, a taller cooking chamber enables you to easily cook large cuts of meat.
Perhaps the most important thing to note here for Camp Chef models are the add-ons of a sear box and sidekick. The sear box is a propane burner that can reach incredibly high temperatures of around 900℉, providing a high quality sear and all the flavor.
The sidekick offers excellent versatility, allowing you to use any of the cooking systems, including a grill, a stock pot, an artisan oven for pizzas, and much more.
While neither are essential for standard grilling, they’re a useful, fairly inexpensive addition that can give you extra capacity and provide you with a more purpose-built component.
On the other hand, Traeger grills come with a wide variety of additional features, including multiple meat probes, Turbo Temp for instant heating up, Super Smoke mode, a downdraft exhaust system for effective smoke distribution, and an integrated grease management system.
Just be mindful that these additional features vary from model to model. So, it’s always a good idea to take a closer look at what extra features are included on the pellet grill you’re specifically looking at.
While each brand offers something a little different in terms of their extra features, it’s difficult to say which one is conclusively the best. After all, it mainly comes down to personal preference, so it depends on the qualities you’re looking for from a pellet grill.
If we had to choose one, we’d just give the edge to Camp Chef due to the fact they include the option to add many of their extra features onto their cheaper models. So, whatever budget you’re working to, you can still enjoy add-ons such as a sear box and sidekick.
Our Overall Winner
When it comes to deciding on an overall winner between Camp Chef and Traeger, it’s an extremely close call. But, based on all the attributes and areas outlined above, we’d just tip it in favor of Camp Chef.
That’s not to say that Traeger isn’t still right up there in terms of performance and quality, Camp Chef grills just come with a few more extra features and are much more affordable for those on a tight budget.
At the end of the day, it’s up to you to do your own research and decide which brand is best suited for your individual needs. One thing’s for sure, both Camp Chef and Traeger are seriously strong competitors, so you won’t be disappointed whichever you opt for.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Camp Chef grills use Traeger pellets?
Hardwood grilling pellets can be used in pretty much any type of pellet grill. This includes all of the major brands such as Traeger, Camp Chef, Weber, Pit Boss, Masterbuilt, and Yoder Smokers.
How long does it take a Camp Chef grill to start up?
The initial part of the start up process for most Camp Chef pellet grills is usually around eight minutes. This is the time it takes for the grill to ignite the pellets, while it’ll take a further 10 to 20 minutes for the grill to get up to your desired temperature.
Needless to say, the hotter the temperature you want, the longer it’ll take. What’s more, it’s worth keeping in mind that colder temperatures outdoors can also affect the start up time.
What is Smart Smoke Technology?
As mentioned earlier, all Camp Chef pellet grills come with Smart Smoke technology. This means that on low and high smoke settings, the controller is programmed to feed pellets into the burn cup less often. This leads to shorter burns and lots of smoke.
How long do pellet smokers last for?
On average, most high quality pellet smokers that are used on a regular basis can last for anywhere between six to 10 years. While less sturdy and lower quality models may only last for a couple of years, if you invest in a top-range model and give it proper care and maintenance, there’s every chance that it’ll last you for even longer than 10 years.
Why is my Camp Chef grill fluctuating in temperature?
A little bit of temperature variation is normal, so you don’t need to worry too much if your pellet grill is fluctuating slightly during the cooking process.
In both low and high smoke, Camp Chef grills are programmed to let the flame go out which creates more smoke. If they didn’t do this, there would be very little smoke produced by the grill. This smoke can lead to a minor temperature swing, which may sound far from ideal, but the cooking results are still excellent.
Why doesn’t my Camp Chef pellet grill reach 500 degrees?
Firstly, it’s a good idea to check how far open the chimney is. Lots of wind can also affect the temperature of the grill. It’s recommended to only use Camp Chef pellets as this can vary the temperature. Furthermore, double check that the thermocouple inside the grill is upright, and not leaning to the left.
Are pellet grills bad for your health?
Operated properly and on their own, wood pellet grills don’t directly lead to serious health issues such as cancer. In other words, they’re no riskier than any other type of grill you’ll find on the market. The general consensus among grilling experts is that moderate consumption of grilled fish, meats, and vegetables all cooked on a pellet grill won’t cause any harm to your health.
What is the lowest temperature on a Traeger grill?
The lowest temperature you can operate a Traeger grill is the 180°F setting. Using this setting enables you to maintain a super low temperature for you to cook your food.
What is the best way to store wood pellets?
If you want to see the best results when you’re cooking on your chosen pellet grill, the best method of storing wood pellets is to keep them in a cool, dry place. It’s equally important to avoid leaving unused pellets inside the grill hopper for more than a few days.
So, if you’re going to take a break from grilling for whatever reason, it’s a good idea to empty both the hopper and the feeder system.
Can I use the same pellets in my grill as the ones I use for a heater?
The simple answer to this question is no, mainly because the wood pellets designed for a pellet grill are made from food grade materials. Whereas, on the other hand, the wood pellets used for a heater can often contain softer wood and other impurities.
Not only can using these wood pellets limit the efficiency of your grill, it may also affect the taste of your grilled food.