For smoking and grilling enthusiasts, the market has a lot of excellent brands and products that can take the pleasure of BBQ to the next level. What can be the perfect choice for your needs? The established industry behemoth Traeger or the relative newcomer and market disruptor Camp Chef?
We hope to provide some concrete answers with a careful comparison of the two brands and their top models across different price points. This can give you a clear picture of what your choices are and help you decide one way or the other.
|Traeger Tailgater||CHECK PRICE|
|Camp Chef Pursuit 20||CHECK PRICE|
|Traeger Pro 575||CHECK PRICE|
|Traeger Pro 780||CHECK PRICE|
|Camp Chef Woodwind Wifi 24"||CHECK PRICE|
|Camp Chef Woodwind Wifi 36"||CHECK PRICE|
|Traeger Ironwood 650||CHECK PRICE|
|Traeger Ironwood 885||CHECK PRICE|
|Traeger Timberline 850||CHECK PRICE|
|Traeger Timberline 1300||CHECK PRICE|
|Camp Chef Woodwind Wifi 36" with sear box||CHECK PRICE|
|Camp Chef Woodwind Wifi 36" with sidekick||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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Traeger Pro 575 & 780 vs Camp Chef Woodwind Wi-Fi 24 & 36
Traeger Pro Series
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 Woodwind WiFi 24 & 36
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 Ironwood & Timberline vs Camp Chef Woodwind Wi-Fi 36 with attachments
Traeger Ironwood & Timberline
The premium segment is where Traeger really comes into its own with multiple offerings in its Ironwood and Timberline rangers that have installed into them top-of-the-line features and excellent construction. On the Camp Chef side, the only premium model is the Woodwind Wi-Fi 36 with its sear box or sidekick attachments.
The Traeger Ironwood models contain an excellent value for money and can be perfect for home BBQ enthusiasts while the Timberline models are commercial grade with high cooking capacities and modern features. The main feature across both product lines is the Traeger Tru Convection cooking system that incorporates a downdraught exhaust design in the rear. This can promote better and more even distribution of heat and smoke throughout the cooking chamber. Check out our long term test Ironwood 650 review.
Along with the Wi-Fi monitoring feature, these models also include an additional feature, the Traeger pellet sensor. This can tell users about the amount of pellets left in the hopper in real-time and sends this data directly to the WiFire app. This can be a make-or-break feature if you plan to use your pellet smoker for long and slow cooks.
The Traeger models also feature stainless steel construction with both the cooking racks and the interior walls designed from stainless steel. The construction also features twin-wall insulation. This can be an excellent feature to have if you cook in cold weather frequently and do not want the outdoor temperatures to affect the cooking area of the grill.
Camp Chef Woodwind WiFi 36
The Camp Chef item at this price point is the same Woodwind WiFi 36 model with either a sear box or a sidekick attachment. While the grill is solid in features and performance and the attachments bring practical features to the table, there is a lack of a truly premium selection in the Camp Chef brand that makes this comparison somewhat lackluster.
The single chimney stack design can definitely produce some stunning results and the large cooking area can be comparable to the top Traeger model. However, things lean heavily towards Traeger at this price point.
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, Traeger automatically emerges the winner with better all-round products, more features, and more options. In the budget segment, Traeger can also be a salient option if you are looking for something truly portable.
Overall I have to give it to Camp Chef. Camp Chef is innovating with their side kick and sear station, making their Pellet Grill line the extremely universal grill. Most people do not have the room or extra coin to own both a gas and pellet grill. The Camp Chef SG and Woodwind with the side kick and sear station give you the high heat sear capabilities which Traeger does not.