Review: Six months in on my Traeger Renegade Pro

Previous Reviews of this Grill:

It has been about three months since my previous review of the grill and it is hard to believe I have had the grill for six months. In short, it is doing great. I am continuing to make amazing food on it, and have not been experiencing any difficulties with it, even coming into the colder weather we have had to this point in the season.

After my initial time with the grill and seeing how easy to use it was and how it performed in optimal conditions, this was the point I was really looking forward to seeing the performance of the grill. Being in Maryland I am not yet to the cold winter season, but it is starting to cool down and I knew I would be able to get a dose of what was to come. Unlike the higher-end Traeger Timberline series, the Pro and Elite series Traeger Grills do not have the double walled construction – meaning that the grill will need to be insulated in order for it to not require a ton of pellets to put out the same amount of heat, and there is a higher likelihood of the grill having the flame go out at lower temperatures. (LEr Code)

Traeger Renegade Pro
Traeger Renegade Pro, November 2018

The only times that I have experienced the dreaded LEr code is when I am not paying enough attention either at startup, or once when the hopper ran out of pellets, again – my fault, rookie mistakes. With the weather cooling down, I do find myself starting with the smoke setting for a shorter time with the lid open, but then closing it to let it come up to temperature easier, then increasing my cooking temperature from there. I have not used the dedicated “Smoke Setting” since early fall, instead opting to set the grill at 180 degrees F and this still gives a solid smoke ring and flavor on the food.

Traeger Insulation Blanket Woes

I am a lucky guy. From the beginning of this journey my wife was on-board. Even more so now. My birthday recently passed and knowing that I wanted something to insulate the grill, my wife set out to buy me the insulation blanket as a surprise. While many are more than happy with using a welding blanket instead of a dedicated blanket, I wanted something more tailor fit to the grill and was thrilled to get the blanket.

The issue came after I received the blanket and went to install it. The build looks great for the blanket, however, even though the grill is technically dimensionally the same as the Renegade 20″, the blanket needed to be the Model for the 22″ grill. When contacting Customer Support about the issue, this appears to be a common issue tied to shared parts for this specific model and the 22. They said they ordered a replacement for me immediately, no questions asked.

The first interaction with Traeger Customer Service regarding this issue was fantastic. The call was immediately answered and when I introduced myself they were able to find me with nothing more than my name. I was actually shocked at their ability to find me while I explained the issue with no order numbers/etc. 

Note: I have yet to receive the blanket, more on that later.

Traeger Customer Service

My initial experience with Traeger Customer Service was a good one, as I mentioned in the Conclusion of my last post about the grill, one of the wheels on the legs actually came broken. It was obvious to me that UPS handled the grill roughly and it broke during shipping, but Traeger made it right. While looking back they likely could have done a better job with the packing materials, but in the moment, I was fine with support giving me a warranty replacement and how quick they were to take care of the issue.

This leads to my current issue with the support experience. As mentioned above, the call to their support team was a fantastic experience. I was not transferred a ton, and the person found me right away and that portion of the support experience was great. The only issue I have with the Customer Support at Traeger is post call support. When I called them about the broken wheel I was impressed, the support representative was great, they helped me through the issue, but the problems I had came when I got off the phone and began waiting. That wait took an eternity. It was over a month before I received the replacement part! I rigged a solution with a couple pieces of scrap wood and set the grill on top and it was functional. It looked crappy, and removed the functionality of the wheels, but it worked.

“The only issue I have with Customer Support at Traeger is the post call support. “

Flash forward to today with the Grill Blanket, the Traeger Support team handled the issue on the call and it was a fantastic experience,
even when I was not the purchaser of the blanket, my wife was. However, I have heard nothing since outside of a phone call I made to follow up. The call was made on December 9, and on the 16th I called and followed up. According to the representative on the call on the 16th, the item should have shipped shortly after the first call, during the business week, but it didn’t, and they assured me that it would be shipped this week. I have seen no shipment notifications.

While this is not a critical item, and the weather has been fine to use the grill, I would prefer to be apprised on the status of the shipment and the resolution of the issue, and find it hard to believe it should take 2+ weeks to get the product.

Note: I will update this in a subsequent post once I know more.

Pellets and Rubs

In my last update I shared my experiences with the items that came with the grill. I still feel the same way about them, but I have since tried some more!

Rubs

Since buying the grill and receiving the rubs and spices I think one of the best ways to tell how I feel about them is by what I have re-bought.

Traeger Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy Rub AND Sauce – We love this combo. It has serious citrus flavor and we have used it on many chickens and are really fans.

Traeger Grills Apricot BBQ Sauce – Initially I was only “ehhh” about this one, but since using it, and finding combinations that we like, this has actually been re-bought multiple times. It is still only used as a binder for rubs, but it works well and adds a sweetness.

The original three:

  • Traeger Grills Chicken Seasoning and BBQ Rub
  • Traeger Grills Pork and Poultry Rub
  • Traeger Grills Traeger Que Rub

Each one earned a spot in my cabinet after different uses and experimenting.

Pellets

The pellet category is interesting. In following the Traeger Grill Owners Facebook group** I was concerned about the quality of the pellets and the amount of flavor they could infuse as many members complained and claim to only buy third-party pellets. Initially, I agreed, however I then realized that the lack of flavor is as much an issue about cooking time versus pellets themselves. I subsequently lowered cooking temps and allowed them to do their work for longer, which alleviated the issue for me. While I am not going to pretend to be an aficionado on the subtle differences in flavors, I do have my favorite pellets.

** Facebook Group is not affiliated with Traeger, and I personally advise against joininh it, however YMMV. While it CAN be helpful, there is a lot of infighting and rude ‘conversation’

My personal rankings for Traeger pellets:

  1. Traeger Grills – Signature Blend (Hickory, Maple, Cherry)
  2. Traeger Grills – Pecan
  3. Traeger Grills – Hickory
  4. Traeger Grills – Apple
  5. Traeger Grills – Mesquitte

The number one choice in my book is my goto for just about everything I make. The Traeger Signature blend works perfectly for everything I make and I have literally bought hundreds of pounds of these pellets. It is a blend of Hickory, Maple, and Cherry wood and it definitely gives a fantastic taste and deep color to the meat when cooked.

Ribs and Roasts Cooking on the Traeger Renegade Pro
Ribs and Roasts Cooking on the Traeger Renegade Pro – November 2018

The second pick, Pecan, is a great flavor and I use it for many things as well, and have mixed it to add a fourth flavor to the signature and you can definitely taste the pecan flavoring when using it on its own.

Hickory is the next one that I have used a good amount of, but the gap is significant between “Signature” and Pecan, let alone “Signature” and “Hickory”. Hickory is a great General Purpose pellet and I would say go for it for anything.

While I have only bought Traeger Branded pellets, I am only doing so because they have worked for me, and leave much less ash than I have seen demonstrated among cheaper alternatives.

Conclusion

After six months, I have made countless food on this grill. The list includes Chickens, Roasts, Pork Shoulders, Pork Chops, Ribs, Steaks, Burgers, Kabobs, Tenderloins, a Turkey, etc, and each time I have been thrilled. To answer the question that prompted my initial review of this grill again, No, I am not paid by Traeger, I just love my grill. I have used this grill in almost every meal I have made since I received it in June.

Maple Brined Turkey Cooking on the Traeger Renegade Pro
Maple Brined Turkey Cooking on the Traeger Renegade Pro – November 2018

This year my wife and I hosted our first family Thanksgiving at our house and I made the Turkey on there. I won’t lie, the centerpiece for the dinner had no backup, but I spatchcocked and brined the bird, threw it on the grill and it was amazing. There was no backup. I had confidence in myself and the grill and it turned out perfectly (In retrospect, maybe I should have setup a backup plan – Yay self confidence). I had that confidence because the grill has not let me down, and has performed admirably. The only mistakes have been human error, and I like that.

Turkey Cooked on Traeger Renegade Pro
Finished Turkey that was made on the Traeger Renegade Pro – Thanksgiving 2018

While I have had issues with the timeliness of receiving parts through Customer Service, I am impressed by their ability to help, and their availability. As mentioned in that section, I will follow up with the results if/when I receive the insulation blanket.

In terms of making the purchase again, 100% yes. The only difference I would make is opting for a larger model, but if the financial situation was the same, I would still buy the Renegade Pro 20 again. A 34 would work just fine, but I definitely have my eyes on a Timberline and look forward to the day I get to try one out for myself.

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