Pellet grills can be a noteworthy way to get your foot in the BBQ door. These are simple to use, deliver unique flavors and can be an excellent purchase for beginners and enthusiasts alike. If you have been thinking of purchasing a pellet grill, it is likely you already know about the Pit Boss vs Traeger debate.
Among the many companies that create pellet grills, Pit Boss and Traeger are two notable names with popular products and genuine followings. Here, we take a closer look at three pellet grills from each manufacturer and discuss their pros and cons to settle the Traeger vs Pit Boss debate once and for all.
Traeger vs Pit Boss – An Overview
Pellet grills use engineered wood pellets to deliver heat and smoke to the cooking area, resulting in incredibly flavorful meat with a hard smoke ring. The ease of use and the absence of a learning curve can make this an ideal choice for beginners. At the same time, the flexibility of choosing different wood pellets and the resultant flavors can satiate the refined tastes of seasoned BBQ veterans.
Trager and Pit Boss are both well-known for creating excellent pellet grills. In order to take a deeper dive into their products and strengths, let us first take a look at the two companies.
If you know about pellet grills, you know about Traeger, the company that started it all. This is the brand that had the brilliant idea of using engineered wood pellets as fuel and created a system to automatically feed the pellets into the burning area for controllable, consistent heat.
In fact, Traeger had a monopoly on pellet grills for 20 years, owing to an active patent.
However, since the expiry of that patent in 2006, many new companies have come vying for the top position in this competitive market segment. To their credit, Traeger still remains the leading manufacturers of pellet grills in the market, even in the face of tough competition.
The product portfolio of Traeger contains many different pellet grill models, ranging different sizes and price points. Their Pro series of pellet grills represent excellent value for beginners with essential features and reliable operation. The Ironwood series is their mid-range offering with more features and functionalities, targeted squarely at BBQ enthusiasts. Their Timberline series is their flagship offering and finds wide adoption from hardcore BBQ enthusiasts, professional cooks, and restaurant chefs.
Progress has not always been smooth for Traeger. Dealing with the competition since 2006 prompted them to move manufacturing and assembly of their pellet grills to China. While this resulted in customer concerns and quality issues at first, they have pulled things back significantly with excellent products, reliable results, and stellar features at attractive price points. Since 2019, they have released updated versions of their pellet grills with top-of-the-line features like WiFi control. If you go home with a Traeger grill, you are likely to have a rewarding experience.
Founded in 1999, Pit Boss has been one of the first companies to start competing with Traeger in pellet grills after the expiry of Traeger’s patent in 2006. While they offer an extensive range of grills of many different kinds, they are arguably best known for their pellet grill offerings, which focus on simplicity, reliable performance, stable quality, and impeccable customer service.
Their parent company is already an established figure in the manufacturing of grills, also having created the immensely popular Louisiana line of pellet smokers. In order to keep prices low and remain competitive, the manufacturing and assembly of Pit Boss grills are handled entirely in China. However, they have been able to hold on to high standards of quality and reliability despite outsourcing this integral part of their operation.
One of the most interesting facts about the parent company Dansons Inc is the fact that Joe Traeger of the Traeger family is a part of it, providing valuable expertise to the development of grills both in the Pit Boss and Louisiana line. The Sportsman line of pellet grills from Pit Boss represents excellent value and outstanding quality of materials and construction while being priced extremely attractively, making them a salient choice for beginners and people on a budget. Their more premium offering, the Navigator range, is replete with exciting features and can easily satiate the discerning tastes of BBQ lovers and enthusiasts.
While Pit Boss grills, for a long time, favored simplicity, ease of use, and affordability over tech features, Pit Boss has understood the need to stay relevant in a market that is increasingly embracing technology. As a result, its 2020 premium offerings have started incorporating more tech features like remote monitoring and control using Bluetooth technology. Any look at Pit Boss Pellet Grill reviews shows thousands of satisfied customers, further proving that they are doing certain things right.
You would end up with an excellent deal if you go home with any of the six pellet grills we are discussing today. However, we want you to have as much information and insight as possible before you come to a decision. We will now discuss about three pellet grills from both Pit Boss and Traeger, covering three different price points and discuss their pros and cons. Let us proceed to the head-to-head comparison.
Portable Pellet Grills
Pit Boss Sportsman Portable Wood Pellet Grill vs Traeger Tailgater
This segment is home to minimalistic, simple, and budget-friendly products while also being portable for maximum mileage. If you are looking to cook for small cookouts and parties and would like to take your pellet grill outdoors, these are grills you might want to look at.
Pit Boss Sportsman Portable Wood Pellet Grill
If you are looking for something portable yet practical, this can be a great choice that ticks a lot of boxes and has very little in terms of compromise. The ability to take your pellet grill outdoors and enjoy a nice BBQ session in fresh air makes this an attractive proposition. The premium stainless steel construction inspires confidence and the portable nature of the grill comes into sharp focus due to the presence of sturdy, foldable legs with rolling wheels, a latching hood, and the light weight.
The generous 387 square inches of cooking area can be enough for a meal for two. Versatile cooking options are available, with the grill being able to reach temperatures of 500F. If you want to cook low and slow, you can do that easily with low temperatures and the help of the generous 19 lbs of hopper capacity.
Usage is easy with an LED-equipped digital control board, automatic start and cooldown, convection cooking, and the option of both direct and indirect heat. The porcelain-enameled cast-iron grates do a great job of heat transfer and the dedicated grease management system prevents flares. Also of note is the inclusion of one meat probe in the package, which you can use to monitor the internal temperature of your chosen cut of meat.
- Generous cooking area
- Truly portable solution
- Versatile cooking options
- Included meat probe
- Can take time to come up to temp
- Some customers report overheating problems
The Traeger Tailgater employs excellent built quality and reliability while not really bothering with frills and features. It is a simple, no-nonsense product that does as advertised.
The Tailgater is another truly portable pellet grill option that provides 300 square inches of cooking area while tipping the scales at only 62 lbs. The maximum temperature goes up to 450F. The heavy-gauge steel construction promises reliability far into the future.
The updated controller on the Traeger Tailgater brings several significant improvements to the user experience, featuring an LCD display and a host of buttons for granular control. While this is different from the knob-style controls found in most grills, it does not take long to get used to. The programmable controller also has ingrained support for a Traeger meat probe, which can be added to it directly. This, however, is an accessory you need to purchase separately.
The hopper can hold 8 pounds of pellets at one time. The porcelain-coated cooking grates do an excellent job of transferring heat and are easy to clean. The ash collection system is also robust and you only need to clean it out every once in a while. Setting it up using the provided instruction is also relatively easy. Overall, this is a stellar product that is truly portable.
- Truly portable solution
- Intuitive digital controller
- Robust foldable legs
- Keep Warm mode
- Competing products have more features
- Experiences temperature spikes sometimes
- Relatively low maximum temperature
Mid-size Pellet Grills
Pit Boss Sportsman 500 vs Traeger Pro 575
This is the category where we enter some serious home enthusiast grilling capabilities with added features and larger capacities. These can be excellent choices if your cooking needs are more intense.
Pit Boss Sportsman 500
If you are looking for a true workhorse that can accomplish different cooking styles easily and features solid construction and features, the Pit Boss Sportsman 500 can be a solid choice. This can be a great option for larger backyard parties and tailgates where you need to cook for more people and present a variety of food.
The versatile Sportsman 500 offers a total of 542 square inches of cooking area, enough for a large amount of cooking at one time. The temperature range goes all the way from 180F to 500F, giving you the option to go low and slow for smoking or get the heat up to get some quick grilling or searing done.
The Sportsman 500 has a range of extra features that make it an excellent choice for versatile cooking if you are looking to make more than one protein and sides. There is a side plate flame broiler that can be put to good use for leaner meats and sides. There are plenty of convenience options as well with a built-in steel side shelf, a removable tray, and an integrated spice rack that makes storing all your spices and rubs quick and easy.
The large 15 pound hopper capacity means that you would not run out of pellets anytime soon after you start cooking. Pit Boss includes one meat probe which can be directly hooked up with the PID controller.
- Robust and flavorful results for smoking, grilling, and searing
- Convenience features for easy usage
- Gets up to temp fast
- Large hopper capacity
- Handle position makes it get hot and uncomfortable to handle
- Front shelf not thermally isolated
Traeger Pro 575
With the Traeger Pro 575, you can get a taste of all the special features and design elements that Traeger pellet grills are well-known for. Although the Pro line is Traeger’s entry-level line of products, there is very little compromise in terms of features and functionality. The grill offers 575 square inches of cooking area that is spread between the 418 square inches main grate and the 157 square inches upper rack.
The unique D2 Direct Drive system ensures smooth auger operation with no blockage by employing a brushless DC motor. A variable-speed fan is used to circulate the hot smoke inside the cooking area. Depending on the settings you choose, the fan speed is automatically tweaked to achieve the best results.
With this grill, you can take advantage of the excellent new generation PID controller that offers great flexibility and helps keep the grill at a constant temperature reliably. The large hopper capacity of 18 pounds can ensure that those overnight low and slow smoking sessions go ahead without interruption. The functionality can be extended in many ways by purchasing from a wide range of optional accessories.
One of the most important features of this grill is WiFi compatibility using Traeger’s acclaimed WiFire system. You can use a mobile app to set and monitor temperatures. The grill comes with all-weather wheels.
- D2 Direct Drive system for seamless operation
- WiFi control for convenient remote monitoring
- Stovepipe chimney design
- No additional heat insulation
- More expensive than Pit Boss
Large Size Pellet Grills
Pit Boss Sportsman 820 vs Traeger Pro 780
These are large, feature-rich pellet grills for hardcore BBQ enthusiasts. These enable you to cater to large parties and cook a lot of food at one time.
Pit Boss Sportsman 820
If you are looking for a large, reliable pellet grill that perfectly hits the sweet spot between reliable performance and great value, the Sportsman 820 certainly ticks all the right boxes. The grill offers a whopping 829 square inches of cooking area, making sure that you can feed large parties without breaking a sweat. If you are looking to cook multiple pork butts or briskets at the same time, this can well be the grill for you.
The large cooking area is well complemented by the huge 21 lbs hopper capacity. The grates are made from porcelain-enameled cast iron, ensuring proper heat transfer and making cleanup a breeze. A clean-out plate situated at the bottom means that pellet cleanup is also easily accomplished.
The convenience accessories that you get with the grill are also impressive. There is a removable side shelf for storage and prepping and a spice rack is attached to the unit. There is even a built-in bottle opener for cold ones. The heavy-gauge steel construction promises reliability for years. The side plate flame broiler makes short work of quick searing.
- Large cooking area
- Excellent construction
- Convenience accessories
- Easy to clean
- Great performance on a budget
- Temperature can fluctuate
- Direct heat searing area is relatively small
Traeger Pro 780
This behemoth from Traeger can be an ideal solution if you are looking to cook for large parties. With a total of 780 square inches of cooking area on offer, you would never be short on space.
At the heart of the Traeger Pro 780 is Traeger’s popular D2 Direct Drive system that makes use of a brushless DC motor to operate the auger. This variable speed motor makes sure that temperatures are maintained precisely and there is no auger blockage.
The PID controller in this new generation of Traeger pellet grills also brings new functionality to the table. With finer granular control of your cooking temperatures, you can maintain a five-degree tolerance of temperature whether you are opting to go for a low smoke or a burning sear or grill.
The Pro 780 also comes with WiFi support. You can use the Traeger mobile app to monitor the cooking from a remote location, precluding any need to remain tethered to your grill during the cooking process. One meat probe is included with the package and the app comes with a large collection of recipes you can consult.
- Precision temperature control
- WiFi enabled
- Cleaning is easy
- Expensive for its feature set
- Can be difficult to move around
Both brands can offer a lot of utility and value if you are looking for a pellet grill. Apart from the discussion above, there can be certain other factors that you need to look at before coming to a decision.
Warranty can be extremely important when purchasing a pellet grill. Since these are meant to withstand the elements and high temperatures on a regular basis, proper peace of mind can only come when a brand offers a great warranty. Traeger usually offers a three-year warranty with its entry-level series of pellet grills. The warranty covers defects in material and workmanship and Traeger promises to provide replacements for defective parts.
Pit Boss, on the other hand, offers a comprehensive five-years warranty for its grills. For its price range, this can be considered best-in-class.
Both brands bring additional features to the table which can be meaningful to your particular use case. If you are looking for something with a sear burner or broiler, Pit Boss can be a great option. However, if you are looking to operate the grill remotely, the WiFire capabilities of Traeger grills can make them an automatic choice. Remote connectivity is missing from Pit Boss grills in this price range.
As far as affordability is concerned, Pit Boss grills, in most cases, offer more bang for the buck in terms of performance and quality. Traeger grills, although slightly more expensive than the competition in most cases, do bring excellent features and the weight of the Trager name.
You can choose any of the grills listed above and go home with a terrific deal. Excellent BBQ performance can be extracted from any of these pellet grills. However, we feel that the solid foundational backbone and extra tech features give the Traeger Grills a narrow win in every segment. Apart from the name recognition of the brand of Traeger, their grills are conceived with thought and deliver excellent performance in different cooking workloads.
With that said, if you are looking to get started with pellet grills and need something within your budget that offers sterling performance without much in terms of grills, the Pit Boss line of pellet grills can also be a perspicacious choice. These products can really be your doorway to achieving BBQ bliss.