Pros: ease of use, in theory
Cons: wild temperature swings, shuts itself off
First off, this is our first smoker. Wanted something that was "set it and forget it" like the Costco road show guy said. We bought our first one last August....my Birthday present! The next day we did the chicken challenge, or whatever the guy said. They came out fine, but nothing superior to what my 18 year old gas Weber did....so whatever. Then we moved on to a brisket. Oh boy, what a headache. As memory serves, the wild temperature swings caused me to call Traeger. "we'll send you a new controller, and a bag of pellets for the trouble" Cool, seems like good customer service. Put in the controller....no change. Same problem next time. We're talking swings from 310 down to 140, then it started smoking like hell, smoke was coming out of the pellet bin, and then the temp climbed to 346 while the temp setting is at 180. So I called Traeger back. This time it was the temp probe inside the grill, and "make sure you clean it every time, but we will send you a new one" No free pellets this time though. At some point a guy had me monkey with the P settings, and then had me put it back to stock. I'm in San Diego, the weather doesn't change that much here. We did some things that were successful, 3-2-1 ribs came out nice, but still not killing it like the tried and true rib method I have used for years. So we kind of put it away for the winter. So a couple weeks ago I hosted a retirement party for a co worker. I thought it would be cool to smoke a pork shoulder and do pulled pork sandwiches. What a disaster! I initially put it on at 9pm the night before, figuring this would give me plenty of time to finish. went out the next morning.....it was turned off with an error message that I was familiar with. What happens is the auger feeds too many pellets into the pot and the heating element gets smothered. I had seen this many times before. You have to pull of the meat, pull out the grate, the drip pan and the pot cover thing, and clear the pot of the pellets, which are now over flowing. Then you have to re start the thing. If you're lucky, you're back to cooking in about a 1/2 hour. So I did this. I sat and watched the temp for awhile and all seemed ok. I mopped the meat about once an hour. Then about 11am, after an hour or so of the lid being closed, It happened again. So I re started again. It seemed to be ok, the meat temp was rising, and then around 2:30 I had to leave it unseen for about 20 minutes. Guess what, It did it again, error message! So at that point I threw in the towel and put the meat in the oven. It never cooked right in the oven, and my wife went to her back up plan. A platter of Carnitas meat from our favorite Mexican restaurant in the hood for $95! We mixed in some BBQ sauce, and never told anyone. Got more compliments on that meat than you can believe! Fast forward a couple weeks, yesterday we took it back to the Costco roadshow. We just figured we had a lemon, and wanted to get another. My wife was all in on the nice stainless one for a grand, but i figured they needed to prove themselves to me still, and so we walked out with another JR. The rep was very apologetic, and even gave me his cell number. I wanted to do 3-2-1 ribs again, so we got a slab, and I put the JR together. After a hiccup (the temp wire was not connecting properly, my bad) I did the initial start up from the sheet. I put it on smoke and it seemed to be fine. Holding temps within 30 degrees or so. Traeger says in the manual it should not stray farther than 20, but I figured close enough. So the 2 hour part of the ribs is to pull them, set the temp at 225, and cover them with foil. I put them back on, and for awhile all seemed ok, although the temp swings were back to 80-100 degrees or so like the last one. All of the sudden my wife's friend says "hey, why has it stopped smoking?" It was at 179. I knew what was coming. The lid had been closed for an hour at this point at least, and we watched the temp drop to 140ish. It started smoking like hell. all of the sudden, POP! the door blew open a couple inches. I knew what was going to happen now, the temp started climbing....past 400, to at least 420. By now I am on the phone with customer service. Guess what, they are closing in 5 minutes, "can we have a supervisor call you back within 24 hours?" Sure, whatever. We calmed the thing down enough to finish the ribs....which were nothing special. Gee I wonder why? The problem with the temp swings seems to be in the mid range temps, basically anything above smoke until 400 or so. This was the same with the first one as well. Its going back today regardless of what the supe says. I think we will get a REC.
Notice the Dial setting