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Over the past year, I’ve become a big Traeger fan. My husband and I have the Traeger Timberline, and we use it at least twice a week, if not more. Whole chickens, pork tenderloin, brisket—no matter what we’re making, there’s something about that smoky flavor that makes it feel less like another boring Monday night dinner and more like a meal you’d get at a five-star barbecue joint. So when I had the chance to try out the Traeger Ranger, I had expectations as big as my appetite.
Fortunately, the portable wood pellet grill and smoker lived up to those expectations. After testing it and using it, I understand why the Traeger Ranger has received such high marks—and why it’s worth the $450 price tag. Here’s my honest review of Traeger’s smallest smoker.
What I Like About the Traeger Ranger
At the risk of sounding like a crazy Traeger brand evangelist—which I guess I kind of am, at this point—there’s hardly anything I don’t like about the Ranger. After all, it’s basically just a regular Traeger pellet grill in a smaller package. You get the same quality and durability, with porcelain-coated grates, an included cast iron griddle, and a rugged stainless steel exterior. (Side note: The griddle is amazing for searing and/or cooking up a big weekend breakfast!)
But unlike our massive Timberline, the Ranger is small enough and lightweight enough at just 60 pounds that I can carry it myself. I can even stick it in the back of my Jeep Wrangler. I like the ability to take it wherever we want, whether that’s packing it up for our annual roadtrip to the Outer Banks, taking it up to our mountain house in West Virginia, or just driving it a few minutes down the street for a family cookout. It’s nice to be able to get Traeger-level food anywhere and everywhere without having to hook up a trailer and deal with the hassle of transporting the full-size smoker.
As for performance, it cooks just as well as a regular Traeger pellet grill and smoker. It heats up quickly, and can get up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. It has the same Digital Arc Controller as the brand’s other pellet grills, which allows you to precisely and accurate monitor the temperature. In my experience, the temperature fluctuates around +/- 10 degrees from the set temperature.
My favorite feature, however, is the Keep Warm mode. This came in handy when our food was finished cooking but we weren’t yet ready to eat. It would stay nice and hot until it was dinner time.
What I Don’t Like
To be honest, the Traeger Timberline has spoiled me. I’m used to the size and all the deluxe features. So it took some getting used to the smaller size of the Ranger, which has just 184 square inches of cooking space. While it’s big enough to smoke a rack of ribs or whip up six burgers—and even a small whole chicken—you’ll have to cook larger quantities in batches. But for up to four people, it’s an adequate amount of room.
That’s not a deal-breaker, however. After all, it’s what you’d expect with a portable grill. Just be aware that it does have somewhat of a learning curve if you’re accustomed to cooking on a full-size pellet grill.
Traeger Ranger: Final Thoughts
Do you need the Traeger Ranger? No. Is it worth buying? Absolutely yes. Even if you already own a full-size pellet grill, you’ll get a lot of use out of the Ranger if you’re someone who spends a lot of time outdoors, traveling, camping, hunting, or tailgating. It’s very portable and easy to tote around even if you don’t have a truck. With the Ranger, you’ll be able to smoke meat or prep breakfast for a crowd at the campsite, beach, or stadium parking lot without loading up a massive grill on a trailer. It’s a game-changer.
At $450, it’s also a great way to get into the pellet grill and smoker game at a more affordable price point, especially if you want a Traeger but don’t want to spend $1,000+. It’s even cheaper than the Traeger Tailgater. So I’d recommend it for anyone dabbling in smoking.
All in all, it’s worthwhile investment, and a lot of fun to boot.
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