Traeger Pro 575 Pellet Grill
This new innovative barbecue from US-based Traeger is an absolute cracker and quite unlike any other model on this page. Instead of charcoal or gas, the tech-laden Pro 575 uses pure, compressed wood pellets that are transported from a large hopper to an electric-powered furnace by a motorised auger (basically a large corkscrew). Many barbecue aficionados swear by pellet grilling because it infuses food with a truly authentic wood smoke that is difficult to attain using charcoal, let alone gas.
This writer can vouch that, at low temperature, it smokes meat phenomenally well, right down to the obligatory pink smoke ring on the outer 5-8mm of the meat. Some users have also made their own smoked salmon on it – this writer’s next challenge. However, the Traeger isn’t just brilliant for smoking, it’s also one of the best barbecues for slow cooking – eight hours and more with possible occasional pellet popups – and is truly excellent at conventional indirect grilling with the lid on. Although it is perfectly capable of searing steaks if the temperature is whacked up to its highest 230˚C temperature setting, it’s not as efficient as a belting-hot charcoal or top-of-the-range gas grill, so bear that in mind if you mostly grill steaks for your alfresco nosh ups.
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 almost zero 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 a wifi-enabled controller that ensures that the temperature you set on its easy-to-use 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, 200˚C stays like that for as long as required, or until the meat probe it comes with signals the end of the cooking process. This writer hasn’t burned anything to date – I just leave the lid shut and chat to the guests, returning once to turn the food over. It really is that foolproof and the subtle, wood smoke-suffused food it cooks 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.
Another cool feature with this BBQ is that it also works with Traeger’s astoundingly comprehensive and very well designed iOS and Android app. Aside from a multitude of hints and tips, the app also features literally hundreds of exotic barbecue recipes for beef, poultry, pork, fish, lamb, vegetables and wild game. Simply select a recipe, prepare the food accordingly and tap ‘cook now’ – the Pro 575 will automatically heat up to the correct temperature ready for grilling.
When you buy a Traeger, you’re also buying into its whole ethos of classic US-style barbecuing. Consequently, there are 14 different types of wood pellet available, from hickory, cherry and oak to apple, pecan and maple, each one infusing food with a subtlety different aroma. Traeger also produces a range of truly outstanding rubs and spices – including an intriguing coffee and black pepper one – that are worth hunting down no matter what barbecue you’re using.
The Pro 575 requires an electricity source and a 9kg bag of pellets to hand at around £18 a shot (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 find on a Sunday unless you happen to have a garden centre nearby that stocks them. You will also need a cover for it – more so than other barbecues because of the electrical components (B&Q sells one that fits perfectly for £11).
On the positive side, the Traeger Pro 575 excels at smoking and slow cooking, and is 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.