Last year was busy for both Traeger and Camp Chef. Prior to the new year, both grill manufacturers’ lineups were fairly steady with no major changes.
That all changed in the first half of 2022. In April, Traeger launched the redesigned Timberline series with an emphasis on it being the focal point of an outdoor kitchen. In June, Camp Chef announced the all-new Apex series with models that aimed to completely change the searing game on pellet grills forever. In September, Camp Chef announced the Woodwind Pro in two models to redefine wood flavor on a pellet grill
These changes are on top of the already-solid lineups for both manufacturers. Our comparison review covers each grill manufacturer’s portable, introductory, mid-range, and luxury lines of pellet grills. We cover what makes each unique, and even though you haven’t heard of Camp Chef as much as Traeger, you need to check out their innovative pellet grill attachments.
Table of Contents
|Traeger Tailgater||CHECK PRICE|
|Camp Chef Pursuit 20||CHECK PRICE|
|Traeger Ironwood 650||CHECK PRICE|
|Traeger Ironwood 885||CHECK PRICE|
|Camp Chef Woodwind 24"||CHECK PRICE|
|Camp Chef Woodwind 36"||CHECK PRICE|
|New Traeger Timberline||CHECK PRICE|
|New Traeger Timberline XL||CHECK PRICE|
|Camp Chef Apex 24 with Gas||CHECK PRICE|
|Camp Chef Apex 36 with Gas||CHECK PRICE|
|Camp Chef Woodwind Pro 24||CHECK PRICE|
|Camp Chef Woodwind Pro 36||CHECK PRICE|
Camp Chef vs Traeger – The Pellet Grill Showdown
If you love the wafting, inviting aroma of grilled food and the deep, rich flavors that smoking and grilling can impart as we do, both brands can bring excellent features and great value to the table. If you consider the varied culinary directions you can explore with a pellet grill, the possibilities are endless!
Traeger has always been something of a pioneer in the world of BBQ with plenty of name recognition. However, with the expiry of their patent in 2006, a race was set in motion for other companies to try and make a dent in the market. Camp Chef belongs to that ilk, with products that have relied on new, innovative features and solid performance to win BBQ enthusiasts over.
Both brands have models replete with features across different price points. Let us take a close look at the basic functionality of pellet grills and what these brands have to offer.
What are Pellet Grills?
Instead of using gas, wood sticks, or charcoal, a pellet grill uses hardwood pellets as fuel. You load a hopper with small, cylindrical wood pellets that feed into a firepot situated beneath the cooking chamber. A ceramic rod then ignites these pellets. Electrical controls dictate the rate of burning to maintain a certain temperature, which you can just set and forget.
Traeger Pellet Grill Lineup
An icon in the world of pellet grills, Traeger enjoyed a monopoly in the product segment since patenting the pellet grill in 1986. Competition after the patent expiry led to Traeger expanding its product line and outsourcing its production to China. This led to quality issues and soured their brand perception a little.
However, they have recently clawed their way back to their old glory with a range of modern products with great quality, innovative features, and cutting-edge technology. Currently, they have three pellet grill product lines that target the entry-level, mid-range, and premium segments.
This beginner-friendly line of pellet grills come with basic features, solid reliability and quite a bang for the buck. For BBQ enthusiasts just starting with pellet grills, this introductory line can be a great place to start on a budget.
The mid-range product line integrates advanced features and a patented Wi-Fi control technology that can be a major boost for usability and convenience. Pitmasters who love wood-fired food can choose between different size options.
Timberline Gen 1.0 Series
The top-of-the-line range is meant for professional use and hardcore BBQ enthusiasts. These are meant to cook large amounts of food and feature a solid, fully insulated construction for maximum heat and flavor retention possibilities. Using the mobile app, pitmasters can not only monitor temperature but also pellet levels leading to easy, convenient cooking.
All New Timberline XL Series
The brand new for 2022 Timberline XL took the previous Timberline to the next level. They substantially upgraded the digital controller with touchscreen display, side mounted induction cook top, extra storage and many optional accessories that the other Traeger models do not receive.
Camp Chef Pellet Grill Lineup
The Camp Chef brand followed a different trajectory since its inception, making its name by producing simple, hardy, and value-for-money outdoor cooking equipment. They have been a favorite in the world of top flat top grills and are a relatively new entrant to the pellet grill scene.
While Camp Chef is not as well known in the pellet grill world, their offering in this space is very impressive. Although this company does all its manufacturing in China (most do these days) it has managed to keep quality levels high while competitively pricing their products. The Woodwind and SG product lines, especially, have seen high levels of adoption due to great value.
Camp Chef SG Series
The SG series is Camp Chef’s most introductory pellet grill model that includes WIFI connectivity. They also have a DLX line that is similar to the SG but does not include WIFI. We decided to start at the SG as it directly competes against Traegers Pro series pellet grills. See our long term test and review of the SG 24 here.
Camp Chef Woodwind Series
The Woodwind series was Camp Chef’s flagship model line until the recently launched Apex pellet grill line was introduced in 2022. The woodwind is very similar to the SG model line except you receive upgraded stainless steel trim and a more advanced digital WIFI controller.
Camp Chef Apex Series
The Apex is now the Flagship Pellet Grill model for Camp Chef. Camp Chef is the first to integrate propane gas burners within the pellet grill cooking zone. Others offer gas but never in the same cooking chamber as the pellet grill zone. There are many other upgraded features on the Apex that we will cover. See our quick take review on the Apex here.
While both companies can have a lot to offer for BBQ enthusiasts, we want to compare products that are in similar price brackets to create an apples to apples comparison that can give you information about all the important pros and cons about the models and a clear direction regarding which way you might sway at specific price points.
Let us go directly to the head-to-head and compare popular, representative models from both companies in the introductory, mid-range, and premium price points.
Traeger Tailgater vs Camp Chef Pursuit 20 Portable
Traeger Tailgater Review
The Tailgater is one of our favorite portable pellet grills on the market today, though it is not the best overall. It is heavy and has a small hopper capacity but it does the job and is built with the expected Traeger quality.
Typically Camp Chef offers pellet grills at a more affordable price then most Traeger models except here. Traeger actually has a lower price point but the Pursuit 20 offers a lot more than the Tailgater.
The Tailgater offers 300 square inches of grilling area which is substantial in a portable format grill. Moving this unit will not be easy however as it weighs over 60 lbs. The pellet hopper capacity is only 8 lbs which is much lower than most competitive portable pellet grills. At 36″ tall you are also bending over constantly tending to your cook. Not great for tall people.
Heat output is sufficient with a max temp of 450F. This doesn’t get you the searing heat that you want for steaks but it will do your burgers, ribs, and brisket no problem.
From a cooking/grilling perspective the Tailgater does all that you want but I wish they made it a bit more portable for its grilling size. The wheels are a bit small to make for easy mobility. I give this grill a 6 out of 10 overall. For the price point you should get a bit more bang for you buck.
Camp Chef Pursuit 20 Portable Grill Review
Camp Chef really boasts a large pellet grill offering. At the time of this writing, I count 20 different pellet grill models. Ranging from very basic and simple pellet grills to the high end Wood Wind series and even a vertical pellet smoker.
The Pursuit 20 is one of the largest portable pellet grills on the market today and was also one of our top picks. The grill is heavy at 82lbs but it folds up to a fraction of it’s original size and has two large wheels which aid in easy pull away mobility.
The Pursuit 20 boasts a large temperature range of 180F-500F but it can even go higher. The Pursuit includes the Slide and Grill feature which allows you to pull the baffle away from the flame box, which provides direct flame cooking and can increase the searing temps to 650F. Perfect for steaks. The 501 square inch grilling space is also a best in class.
Camp Chef also includes their patented ash clean out system which makes a breeze of keeping the grill clean. Other pellet grills without the ash cleanout will need to be vacuumed out on a more regular basis. As long as you empty your ash cleanout before every cook, you will reduce interior vacuum cleanings dramatically.
You’ll be able to smoke for a long time with the 10-lbs pellet hopper capacity and while you wait, the bolted on bottle opener will make it easy to have another cold one.
The portable nature of the Traeger grills can make them perfect candidates if you are looking for something you can load up in your car and take out on fishing and camping trips. For the perfect backyard performance, however, the Camp Chef models seem to have a lot reasons for any owner to smile about. The larger cooking area and the significantly more hopper capacity can allow for a lot more food to be cooked without hassle.
Camp Chef and Traeger Introductory Lineup
Traeger Pro 575 & 780 vs Camp Chef SG 24 WIFI, SG 30 WIFI & SG 36 WIFI
Traeger Pro Series Review
This is the price point where things become a lot more interesting with full-size models from both brands. With popular second-generation models from the Traeger Pro Series and Camp Chef Woodwind ranges, a lot of quality and features are on the ticket.
The main USP of the second generation Pro Series grills is the D2 Direct Drive technology used by Traeger. In place of the alternating current motor setup that previous generation grills used, this new generation uses a direct current motor setup that opens many doors in terms of features and functionality. The motors now support variable speed and the new D2 control panel can be used to configure and monitor the speed of the motor.
The D2 control panel also incorporates PID algorithms that allow for a higher degree of precision in temperature control. Therefore, you would be able to enjoy a 5-degree resolution in temperature control in both the 575 and 780 models. As their names suggest, total cooking areas of 575 sq. inches and 780 sq. inches are available.
One of the most important features in this iteration of products is the Wi-Fi control. Using the WiFire app developed by Traeger, you can use a smartphone or tablet to monitor the cooking process from afar.
Camp Chef SG 24 WiFi, SG 30 WiFi, & SG 36 WiFi Review
Camp Chef’s SG line gets its moniker from the “Slide and Grill” ability on these pellet grills. With a twist and pull of the “grill” knob near the hopper, users can expose the fire pot and sear over the open flame. Camp Chef states that the area over the exposed fire pot can reach 650°F to help create sear marks.
The SG series comes in three sizes, the 24-inch, 30-inch, and 36-inch models. The SG 24 has 811 sq. in. of total cooking space, the SG 30 has 1,050 sq. in. of total cooking space, and the SG 36 has 1,236 sq. in. of total cooking space. All three models have the same 22-pound pellet hopper, perfect for low-and-slow smoking sessions.
The cooking space is controlled by Camp Chef’s PID controller which gives you a great deal of control. The controller is WiFi enabled as the name says, so you can control these grills from the Camp Chef Connect app on your phone. The controller also has the Smoke Number feature to help increase the amount of smoke the grill is putting into the cooking chamber.
The drawback of the Smoke Number setting is that it increases temperature swings in the cooking chamber. One of the biggest keys to smoking is consistency, and the higher Smoke Number settings aren’t very consistent.
If you want a more detailed breakdown of the SG 24, check out our long-term review here. We also feel the SG 30 is probably the best size to own of the three. You will easily fit a full packer brisket and have more grilling room for those backyard parties.
The Camp Chef SG series provides great value as an introductory line, but the Traeger Pro series offers better features on their controller and app while producing more consistent temperature control.
Traeger and Camp Chef Mid Range Lineup
Traeger Ironwood 650 & 885 vs Camp Chef Woodwind 24, Woodwind 36
Traeger Ironwood Series Review
The Ironwood is a great grill from Traeger and I personally believe it is the best option of their entire model lineups. The Ironwood offers luxury features but at a more introductory price. I personally owned the Ironwood 650 for several years and I was a very happy owner. Read my long term test and review of the Ironwood 650.
The Ironwood comes in two sizes, the 650 and the 885 come with all the same technology and features as the Pro Series, but also a couple more items that I believe are worth the extra dollars. The upgrades include:
- Double Sidewall Interior: This feature helps insulate the cook box and keep temperatures more consistent especially on cold or windy days. It also aids in keeping pellet consumption down.
- Downdraft Exhaust: This system is supposed to keep more smoke rolling over your food. For me, I prefer this system as it eliminates the traditional smoke stack, which always gets in the way when installing or removing the outdoor cover.
- Super Smoke Mode: Great idea. I never really used it. It can only be used at very low temperatures.
- Side Shelf with Optional Front Shelf: Extra shelf space is always nice to have when around a grill or smoker.
A lot of these extra features come from the Timberline series and were gifted to the Ironwood lineup at a much lower price.
In terms of space I would recommend the 885 over the 650. The 650 could barely fit a larger packer brisket. I always had to angle the brisket so it would just so fit. The 885 would handle large cuts of meat easily. The 650 offers 649 sq/inches of grilling space and the 885 offers 885 sq/inches. That’s a big difference and worth the extra couple bucks.
Again, you receive all the great D2 direct drive tech, WiFire App, consistent cook temps as the Pro Series. The only downside to the Pro and Ironwood series is the lacking capability of searing temps. 500F isn’t high enough to sear a steak the way I like.
Camp Chef Woodwind WiFi 24 & 36 Review
On the Camp Chef side of things, you have the option of choosing a smaller grill with added features and attachment or a larger grill allowing with more cooking area. The Wi-Fi 24 is the smaller of the two, offering 811 sq. inches of cooking area. An interesting add-on with this model at this price point can be the propane sidekick or sear box delivered by Camp Chef. This can allow for quick and easy searing of the food using the attachment while the main cooking happens inside the smoker. This is a huge benefit because pellet grills are notorious for lacking searing heat. If you want the best of both worlds you have it with this sear box attachment. Low and slow smoky cooks for brisket and searing heat for steak. This is exactly how I would configure it for myself. If you have already bought a Camp Chef and it does not have the sear box, you can still purchase it separately and add it to your existing Camp Chef 24 or 36 size grill.
Camp Chef Sear Box Attachment
The Wi-Fi 36 features a massive 1236 sq. inches of cooking area and, like the Wi-Fi 24, can hold 22lbs of pellets. Both of these models also feature a PID controller that allows for the same granular control of temperature along with Wi-Fi integration using the Camp Chef Connect app.
In this price point as well, the Camp Chef options can provide a significant increase in pellet capacity and cooking area while the addition of a sear box can further enhance the appeal of their products. We recently awarded the Camp Chef Woodwind as our top pick for pellet grills under $1000.
Traeger and Camp Chef Luxury Lineup
Traeger Timberline vs Camp Chef Apex and Woodwind Pro
Traeger Timberline and Timberline XL Review
When April rolled around and Traeger announced the newly-reimagined Timberline pellet grills, it took the pellet grill world by storm. These new Timberlines look nothing like the previous run (you can still purchase the originals under the Gen 1 moniker) and stake a claim to being the only outdoor cooking appliance you need in your backyard.
One of the biggest innovations that Traeger brought to the Timberline was an outdoor-rated induction cooktop. While it requires compatible cookware, induction cooktops heat up much faster than any other type of heating and provide precision temperature control. The induction cooktop is Traeger’s way of addressing searing problems with pellet grills.
The new Timberline series comes in two models, the Timberline and the Timberline XL. The Timberline offers 880 sq. in. of cooking space while the XL has 1,320 sq. in. of cooking space. Both models are controlled by a touchscreen controller with WiFIRE capability. They also come with two MEATER wireless probes to help track the temperature of whatever you’re smoking.
These pellet grills are also meant to be the cornerstone of your outdoor kitchen. You can purchase kits to make these permanent fixtures in your outdoor kitchen, switching out the casters for leveling legs. The induction cooktop can also be installed into a countertop apart from the main body of the grill as well.
If you want a full breakdown of all the new features, check out our overview here. While all the advancements Traeger put into the Timberline series are fantastic, the price tag is equally eye-catching. This is a luxury pellet grill, so be prepared to pay luxury prices.
Camp Chef Apex Review
Camp Chef wanted to make a pellet grill that was the fantasy of every backyard grillmaster and pitmaster. So they launched the Apex series in June. There are four models, but it’s the hybrid pellet and gas grill combination that caught the attention of everyone.
For every pellet grill user who has bemoaned the inability to produce a high-quality sear on their pellet grill, the 24” and 36” gas kit Apex grills are Camp Chef’s answer. These grills have the ability to smoke using wood pellets and switch to gas burners to sear and provide grill marks.
The 24” has four 9,000 BTUs-per-hour burners for the 811 sq. in. cooking space, while the 36” model has six of the same burners for 1,236 sq. in. of cooking space.
The gas kit Apex models also include Camp Chef’s Sidekick gas burner that puts out 28,000 BTUs per hour. It’s also compatible with all the traditional Sidekick accessories.
The Apex grill comes with a WiFi-enabled controller that allows you to monitor your cooking with the Camp Chef Connect app. It also comes with four temperature probes whose ports are right next to the controller. The probes even have dedicated storage in a compartment below the controller screen.
Camp Chef also beefed up the lid of the Apex grills by making it double-walled and insulated. The lid is nested on the side and they added a gasket to the front to help seal the cooking chamber as best as possible. They also switched from a smoke stack to rear ventilation to help with smoke circulation for superior smoking results. Check out our full review here.
The Timberline and Apex grills are comparable in size, but Camp Chef’s grills have a 30-pound pellet hopper vs. Traeger’s 22-pound hopper. The Apex’s gas kit also gives the pellet grill a true searing capability. Camp Chef gave the Apex a lot of features at a significantly lower price, but since Camp Chef just launched the Woodwind Pro (below), we can’t claim this to be our top pick in this class.
Camp Chef Woodwind Pro
Camp Chef likes to innovate, and while the Woodwind 24” model was our pick for the best pellet grill under $1000, the company thought they could make it even better. The biggest area Camp Chef wanted to address? The wood flavor of smoking on a pellet grill. It is extremely tough if not impossible to get the same level of wood smoke flavor on meat prepared on a pellet grill versus an offset smoker.
So Camp Chef decided to change the game by including a smokebox that you can put wood chunks into for extra wood flavor while smoking. This became the Woodwind Pro, available in a 24-inch and 36-inch model. The 24-inch model packs in 811 total square inches of cooking space while the 36-inch has 1,236 square inches, same as the original Woodwind grills. Both Woodwind Pro models sit on four casters so you can more easily move them around your cooking area.
Not only can you add more wood smoke to your barbecue, you can actually cold smoke on the Woodwind Pro. You can set the grill to fan only mode so no pellets are fed and burn some of the wood to cold smoke fish and cheese. Want to learn more about cold smoking? Check out our article about how to cold smoke cheese.
With the extra wood-burning ability, Camp Chef took a look at the Woodwind’s smoke exhaust system and overhauled it for the Pro models. Gone is the smoke stack. In its place are two adjustable vents on the rear of the grill to help promote better circulation and adjustable airflow which is especially handy when cold smoking. Camp Chef also added gasket around the entire lid assembly to help seal in that heat and smoke for better performance and better-tasting food.
The ability to add actual wood chunks to a pellet grill is a gamechanger. The extra wood flavor will give your briskets and pork butts more of that smoke flavor we all love. You also don’t have to worry about the burning wood throwing off your temperatures because the Woodwind Pro still has that great PID controller to help keep your heat where you want it.
The controller also boasts four probe ports so you can monitor your food’s temperature through the grill itself. Then you can hook the grill up to WiFi so you can use the Camp Chef Connect app to monitor and control everything about your cooking session. The controller also still has the Smoke Number functionality so you can boost the amount of smoke that the pellets put out themselves as well.
As for cleanup, the Woodwind Pro still has that easy ash cleanout system for dumping ash into the cup mounted on the bottom of the grill. All it takes is a pull of the knob and a twist of the cup and you can dispose of ash easily.
There is one feature that is missing from the original Woodwinds, and that is the Slide and Sear function. You were able to reveal the fire pot for direct-flame grilling on the original grills. However, the inclusion of the smoke box meant that Camp Chef could not replicate that as the smoke box sits directly above the firepot on the Woodwind Pros.
However, these grills are compatible with Camp Chef’s Sidekick gas burner and accessories. That means you could sear steaks using the Sidekick so you won’t lose out on that ability completely.
The Timberlines and the Woodwind Pros are similar in both cooking size and pellet hopper size. The Timberlines have that incredible outdoor-rated induction cooktop while the Woodwind Pro has the optional Sidekick burner for added functionality. However, if you’re looking for the best flavor when it comes to smoking, the Woodwind Pro’s smoke box puts it way ahead of the Timberline. Then factor in the large difference in price (even with the Sidekick add-ons!) and the Woodwind Pro makes it easy for us to pick it for the luxury lineup.
Traeger WiFire vs Camp Chef Connect
Both Traeger and Camp Chef maintain Wi-Fi integration in their mid-range and premium models through the WiFire and Camp Chef connect mobile apps. The sole aim of this feature is for users to be able to monitor and adjust the cooking process without having to walk over to the grills every single time.
The Traeger WiFire app is rich with features and easy functionality as it comes with a number of guides and recipes that come with images and video instructions. You can just select a recipe and press a button to start cooking it. The cooking instructions are then downloaded to the grill and the process starts immediately.
However, there is no need to remain confined to the recipes alone. You can also manually adjust every parameter. Temperature and timers can be manually set and monitored using the app. The internal temperature of the food can also be seen from the app if you have an external probe fitted to the grill.
On the higher end of Traeger grills, the D2 Direct Drive opens up further possibilities in the WiFire app. These models feature helpful “Keep Warm” and “Super Smoke” modes that can be triggered and monitored from the app. Another salient feature is the pellet sensor that displays the amount of pellets left in the hopper in the app so that you know exactly when to top things off.
The Camp Chef connect app features a much simpler interface where you can change and monitor the grill temperature. The temperature can be changed in 5-degree increments. If you have multiple probes attached, you can assign a friendly name to each probe and also set a temperature goal unique to each probe. The app can then provide you with notifications as each temperature goal is fulfilled.
Along with setting a cooking temperature, you can also independently set a smoke level.
With both Traeger and Camp Chef providing excellent products across multiple price points, the Camp Chef products do seem to be better options for most use cases in the introductory and mid-range price points. The use cases can also be more varied with the added pellet capacity and cooking areas that these purchases come with.
In the premium segment, Camp Chef wins with their new Woodwind Pro series of grill. The new smoke box that gives even more natural wood flavor and then the sidekick attachments, make this the most versatile grill that actually offers a good wood smoke flavor.
Overall I have to give it to Camp Chef. Camp Chef is innovating with their side kick sear station, and smoke box. Traeger keeps coming out with upgrades but they are usually much more expensive and do not offer the smoke flavor that Camp Chef is offering in the new Woodwind Pro. Here’s to Camp Chef for taking on the juggernaut Traeger.