It's barbecue … but not as we know it. The innovative Traeger Pro 575 pellet grill is quite unlike any other model in our guide to the best barbecues. It could also sit in our list of the best smokers.
Why? Because instead of charcoal or gas, the excellent, tech-laden Pro 575 uses compressed wood pellets. Many barbecue aficionados swear by pellet grilling because it infuses food with a truly authentic wood smoke flavour that is difficult to attain using charcoal, let alone gas.
I was knocked out by this grill, to be honest. You can see why pellet grills are gaining popularity fast – UK market leader Weber has the Weber SmokeFire system coming in 2020. Here's why…
Traeger Pro 575 pellet grill: design
The Pro 575 comes from Salt Lake City-based Traeger, and is named for it 575 square inches of meal estate. Available in a choice of two lid colours – classic black or rustic brown.
The fuel pellets that it uses are transported from a large storage hopper to the Pro 575's electric-powered furnace by a motorised auger (basically a large corkscrew).
Really, when you buy a Traeger, you’re also buying into its whole ethos of classic US-style barbecuing. The asking price of the Pro 575 is £719 at Riverside Garden Centres , and that is more than justified by its combination of battleship-like build quality – it actually looks more like a mini steam engine –and high-tech app control.
There are 14 different types of wood pellet available for the Pro 75, from hickory, cherry and oak to apple, pecan and maple. Each one infuses food with a subtlety different aroma. Traeger also produces a range of outstanding rubs and spices that are worth hunting down no matter what barbecue you’re using.
To fire it up does require having an electricity source and a 9kg bag of pellets to hand, admittedly. The latter costs around £18 a shot, although one bag should last a few sessions. Wood pellet BBQs are more expensive to run than their charcoal or gas counterparts and, while pellets are readily available online, they’re not the kind of thing you’ll easily find on a Sunday.
You will also need a cover for it – more so than other barbecues, due to the electrical components. B&Q sells one that fits perfectly for £11.
Traeger Pro 575 pellet grill: cooking performance
Mamma! The Traeger Pro 575 absolutely excels at smoking and slow cooking. I can vouchsafe that, at low temperature, the Traeger smokes meat phenomenally well, right down to the obligatory pink smoke ring on the outer 5-8mm of the meat.
However, the Traeger isn’t just brilliant for smoking, it’s also one of the best barbecues for slow cooking over eight hours and more, with occasional pellet popups. It's equally brilliant at conventional indirect grilling with the lid on. Oh, and it also bakes, roasts and braises.
Although the Pro 575 is capable of searing steaks if the temperature is whacked up to its highest 230ºC temperature setting, it’s not as efficient as an ultra-hot charcoal or gas grill, so bear that in mind if you are an al fresco steak fiend.
Where charcoal and, to some degree, gas barbecues are notorious for burning food very quickly if you take your eye off the ball, with this one there is little chance of scorching anything, and that’s because it works just like an electric oven, keeping the heat at a constant temperature with hardly any fluctuations.
It does this with the aid of an electronic controller that ensures that the temperature you set on its push-button LCD interface remains consistent throughout the grilling process. In a nutshell, the higher or lower you set the temperature, the faster or slower the auger delivers the pellets. Traeger’s nailed its algorithm so well that a temperature of, say, 200ºC stays like that for as long as required, or until the meat probe it comes with signals the end of the cooking process.
Personally, I haven’t burned anything to date – I just tap the ‘ignite’ button, slap on the meat, leave the lid shut and chat to the guests, returning once or twice to turn the food over. It really is that foolproof and the subtle, wood smoke-suffused food it produces is as succulent and tender as you could wish for. Granted, the built-in fan and burning wood pellets make it sound like a quieter version of an industrial blow heater, but it’s not too loud to disturb conversation and hey – that could be a conversation topic.
Another cool feature with this BBQ is that it also incorporates Traeger’s WiFIRE Wi-Fi connectivity and app. To use it, download the company’s comprehensive and very well designed iOS and Android Traeger app, and connect it to the Pro 575’s Wi-Fi enabled controller.
This could be a little challenging since you need to connect to your router. Of course, practically all smart home gadgets need to be connected to your router, but most of them don't live at the bottom of your garden. Chances are you will need to move it closer to the house, or invest in an outdoor Wi-Fi extender.
Once you're connected, aside from allowing you to start and adjust cooking from anywhere in the world, the app also offers a multitude of hints, tips and recipes. In fact there are hundreds of exotic barbecue recipes for beef, poultry, pork, fish, lamb, vegetables and wild game. Simply select a recipe in the app, prepare the food according to the instructions and tap ‘cook now’ – the Pro 575 will automatically start heating up and send a notification to your smartphone as soon as it has reached the correct temperature.
Now, slap on your pre-prepared ingredients and retreat in the knowledge that you’ll be kept in the loop every step of the way. This is an especially handy feature to have to hand since it keeps you informed throughout the cooking process while you get on with other tasks like tending to your guests, reading a book or simply chilling in the sunshine – or sheltering from the rain.
Traeger Pro 575: verdict
The Traeger Pro 575 pellet grill might be in the upper price bracket for barbecues in the UK. However, it is worth that and more if you're serious about your outdoor cooking, and optimistic about the weather.
Not only is it an incredibly competent smoker and slow cooker, it's also a reliable way to grill conventionally without ever scorching meat, fish and vegetables to a cinder.
For incompetent barbecuists and those who’d like to spend more time with the guests rather than being chained to a grill, the Traeger Pro 575 is a veritable bonanza. It's also a fantastic tool for skilled chefs who want to get the most out of their ingredients.
The Pro 575 may have quietly started a revolution in the UK barbecue scene because we now know there's a rival pellet grill coming from Weber – by far the biggest name in UK BBQ. It'll have a hard job beating this Traeger, though…