We’ve had some funky weather here on Colorado’s Front Range this spring, but along with the many rainy (and snowy) spring days there have been a few sunny and warm days perfect for cooking outdoors—just enough to put the Traeger 780 Pro to the test. On a couple of not-so-sunny days, we had some bad luck with trying to cook out. Specifically, on Easter Sunday this year, we cranked up the Traeger to cook a ham. About two hours into the four hour cook session, it started to rain pretty hard and the uninsulated cover of the Pro series could not keep the fire burning hot enough and burned through the pellets very quickly. Instead of trying to figure out a way to keep the pellets dry to add more to the hopper, we just turned on the oven in the house and finished the job there. But the taste of smoke was already on the ham and the Trager had left its delicious mark.
Other cooking sessions went much better with fair and clear weather, and in the end we cranked out fall-off-the-bone tender ribs, brisket with a beautiful smoke ring, pizza, and a neighborhood BBQ gathering complete with burgers, brats, and grilled veggies.
All this is to say, we’ve logged a few hours of working with the Pro 780 and in short, we really like it and Traeger has made some great improvements on their products. It wasn’t long ago that Trager was harshly criticized for having inaccurate temperature readings, some mechanical issues, and concerns around how hot it can get. But our testing has clearly shown those concerns are a thing of the past.
If you’re not familiar with the brand, Traeger makes wood pellet grills—a much less common fuel source from the many gas grills and once popular (though still loved by many) charcoal grills. The cooking specific wood pellets—not to be confused with heating wood pellets to keep your house or cabin warm—are fed into a burn cup via an auger where an electric heating element ignites the pellets for the wood fire that cooks your food. That means you have to plug this grill into a 110 volt outlet. You’ll likely need an extension cord to not be forced to put the grill only where there is an outlet and to provide the designated 18 inches of buffer between the grill and anything else.
The electrical power does everything but cook the food itself. It runs the computer to determine how fast/often to run the auger (that motor needs power, too) to feed the wood pellets into the burn cup where the electric hot rod ignites and keeps the fire burning.
For 2019, Traeger updated their Pro Series (entry level) with their new D2 controller and direct drive—a brushless motor which is quieter and more precise to better maintain the set temperature. They also added their WiFire technology which is the ability to connect the Pro Series to your WiFi network and then be able to control a few aspects of the grill via the Traeger App.
Controlling your grill via an app may be a bit over the top for some of you, and that’s fine. You can do everything (and more) directly at the grill and never use the app. For those of you intrigued, you probably don’t need to be sold on this, but let me say my experience has made me very grateful for the app control. Let’s go back to that cold rainy day I was cooking our Easter Ham. It may come to no surprise that nobody wanted to be hanging out on my uncovered patio by the grill. Instead, I was able to be inside, socializing while (maybe rudely to some) checking my phone to see if the temperature was holding steady. I could see through the window that the rain was getting heavier and the internal temp of the grill was getting lower without having to go outside every few minutes. That’s when I knew we had reached the limits of the grill (the top of the line Timberline series may have fared better with it’s insulated top). I started preheating the oven in the house and transferred the ham with only a 15 minute delay from when we planned to sit down and eat.
Aside from controlling the grill temp, including setting it to “keep warm” and shutting it down, the app has two timers, a readout for the internal temperature meat probe and alarms when a temperature is reached for either in the grill or in the food. It also links to the many recipes found on the Traeger website, troubleshooting tips, support contact info, and a store to order more Traeger goodies.
As mentioned above, the Pro Series is a fair weather grill. I have successfully cooked with it while it was raining and as long as the rain isn’t too cold, it can keep up. If you plan on cooking in adverse conditions, you’ll need to bump up to at least their middle of the line Ironwood Series or the top of the line Timberline Series.