Traeger Tailgater Portable Pellet Grill Review

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Traeger is by far the most well-known brand of pellet grills. The majority of their grills are enormous, heavy, and ground-based machines.

Traeger has attempted to preserve all of the qualities we love about pellet cooking in a more small, portable design with the Tailgater.

I’ve been grilling and smoking on the Tailgater for a few months now. I’m going to describe my whole experience in this review.

Continue reading to learn how the Tailgater performed and how it compares to the other portable pellet grills in its class. So let’s get started.

Overview and first impressions

Traeger’s most popular portable pellet grill is the Tailgater. It is designed to be easily portable for, you guessed it, tailgating.

Traeger also offers the Ranger, which is more of a camping barbecue with much less cooking area.

The Traeger has a 10-minute shutdown cycle to prevent fires caused by residual pellets. This enables you to concentrate on your friends and family while watching the game.

The unit’s wheels make it moveable on practically any surface, and installation is straightforward and safe.

Here are the full specs of Traeger Tailgater:

Temperature Range 185°F – 450°F
Total Cooking Space 300 sq in (37 x 18 x 36 in)
Total Weight 62 lbs
Power Source Type: Electric and wood burning
Warmer Setting 165°F
Pellet Hopper Capacity 8 lbs
Additional Features Built-in timer & meat probe
Price Check Latest Price

What I like:

  • Temperature swings are unavoidable with these portable pallet grills, but the Tailgater has considerably less than the others I’ll describe later.
  • Portability: When folded, the item is fairly tiny and may fit into most trunks and doors.
  • Interior components are readily replaceable, and it does not emit a lot of ash.

What I don’t like:

  • Grill Legs: While sturdy once assembled, the folding legs are difficult to deploy and disassemble, particularly with one person.
  • Controls are hazy! Some buttons and arrows with little explanation unless the instructions are close.
  • The 8lb pellet hopper has one of the lowest capacities in its class.

Despite these flaws, the Traeger Tailgater has proven to be the finest performing portable pellet grill I’ve used.

Assembly and set up

The grill construction was quick and straightforward, thanks to the instructions given. There is no need to dig out your old toolbox since all of the supplies and equipment are given.

Installing the internal components (heat baffle, grease drop tray, and grill grate) took around 30 minutes in total.

The majority of the assembly items were at the approved installation location. The pieces that were missing are designated with numbers and letters that match. Before installing the electric pellet hopper (with auger) and fire pit accessories, I suggest cleaning out the hood.

One issue I observed was that the grease pan was difficult to position and remove for cleaning because of its large surface area for smoke to disseminate throughout the hood. When removing, wear mittens or gloves since the oil drop tray is easier to clean when it is warm, not hot.

First use

Without the instructions, the controls are perplexing. They’re straightforward once you know which arrows to press, but there’s no text on the panel, so have the instructions close at hand.

I then primed the grill with pellets using the LED unit’s priming option to ensure that pellets enter the firepot before installing the interior components of the grill grate, grease drop tray, and heat baffle.

After checking the pellet feeder’s functionality, I heated the grill to 450F (250C) for 30 minutes to finish the seasoning process. The grill was then ready for use.

There is a 10-minute cool down mode after each usage before shutting down.

Cooking on the Traeger Tailgate

Grilled classic burgers

My first Traeger Tailgater grilling experience was a traditional burger with Montreal Steak seasoning. I took careful to preheat the grill to 450 degrees Fahrenheit for at least five minutes before tossing the burgers on.

The burgers fit well on the grill, and it was nice not to have to worry about them burning due to direct heat. I was able to time the duration of the grilling by using the Traeger’s built-in timer.

For almost every setting of the LED panel, the electrical unit needed the usage of two of the five buttons. This made the timer, attachable meat probe, temperature, and power off cycle difficult to operate. With all of these functions, the Traeger LED unit proved relatively difficult to operate.

Mix of 20 lean to fat ratios). The burgers were juicier and held their form better than on a standard gas or charcoal grill.The grill has a total capacity of twelve pound burgers. The temperature ranged from 420F to 450F. They took around 6 minutes on each side (I used an 80-degree oven).

They didn’t have the char that you’d expect from a regular grill, but they were imbued with a mild, smokey taste that went well with the sliced gouda I served with them. Because it was not boiling from the high temperature of a regular grill, the melted sliced gouda was the ideal complement to this burger.

Smoked chicken thighs

The second item I made with the Traeger was a pound of brined chicken thighs that I smoked to test the grilling and smoking capabilities. A pound of chicken thighs fit well on the barbecue grate, but any more would have been excessive.

I discovered the brine recipe on the Traeger website, which contained the following ingredients in addition to water and salt:

  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 6 or 7 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 3 tablespoons Italian seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons white pepper

I smoked the chicken thighs for 60 minutes at 185F (which took 3 minutes to reach) and then upped the temperature to 350F (which took 3.5 minutes to reach) for another 60 minutes. When set to 185F, the temperature varied between 210F and 225F the whole time.

The temperature on the electrical unit was easily changed and adjusted from 185F to 350F mid-smoke.

The Tailgater struggled to maintain a low temperature of 185 degrees Fahrenheit. As the temperature ran high and varied, I ended up setting it lower than usual to assure good smoke.

Regardless of the temperature difference, the chicken thighs were succulent with crispy fall-off skin. Each thigh had a terrific taste with a pink smoke ring on the outside section just beneath the skin.

Smoked pork ribs with dry rub

My most recent Traeger test included smoking three racks of pork ribs with a basic dry rub. Dark brown sugar, salt, and pepper were used in the dry rub. I first set the temperature to 225F (which took 3.5 minutes to reach) with the intention of smoking the ribs for 3 hours.

As the temperature fluctuated between 190F and 210F, I ended up lowering the temperature to 185F to assure sufficient smoke for 1.5 hours. Following that, I reduced the temperature to 225°F while it ranged between 230°F and 250°F to guarantee a complete cook for the remainder of the smoke.

After 3.5 hours, the ribs were tender and flavorful with smoked pork.


I measured the heat around the inside of the machine using three probes placed on the right, left, and center. I utilized both the Traeger probe, which connects directly to the electrical unit, and my own Inkbird IBT 4XS wireless temperature thermometer. The probe on the right showed the maximum temperature.

The blasted hot air goes under the grease drop tray and projects against the right wall of the hood to create an all-around, convection-style smoke.

Set UT Probe A (R) Probe B (L) Probe C (M)
225°F 250°F 338°F 270°F 284°F
350°F 353°F 419°F 354°F 372°F

It took 3.5 min to get to 350F from 225F.

The grill struggled to maintain temperatures below 250°F. The right side of the hood, as well as the borders of the grease drop tray, were clearly the hottest parts of the grill. To avoid direct heating from the edges, I placed the biggest, juiciest chunks of beef in the middle.


Cleaning the device entails removing the grill grate, grease drop tray, and heat baffle. Prior to using the grill, I covered the grease drip tray in aluminum foil so that I could clean the grill grate with a brush, remove the grate, and then easily peel off the foil once the grill was cold.

While the aluminum foil may slightly modify the temperature, it is safe to do so and makes cleaning much simpler. After that, I removed the heat baffle in order to suction the ash and leftover pellets from the fire pit accessory for safety.

With the removal of foil, scrubbing the grill grate, and vacuuming the fire pit, the complete cleaning operation took me around 10 minutes. Cleaning is advised after each use, although I found that it was only required after few usage.

Traeger VS the competition

If you spend hours watching grill temperatures, like I did with the GMG Davy Crockett, Pit Boss Sportsman, and Camp Chef Pursuit, the uneven grill temps and temperature changes may be aggravating.

Traeger deserves kudos for its Digital Arc Controller, which gives a more equal (but not accurate) temperature throughout the grill and smoother peaks and valleys.

Most of the other grills have additional functionality (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, searing louvers, bigger hoppers, simpler control features, better wheels, etc.) that this Traeger does not have.

This is a no-frills pellet smoker that cooks better than the competitors. This is coming from a former skeptic of all those who can’t start a conversation about BBQ without mentioning their Traeger, dubbed the Traeger Nation.

Should you buy the Traeger Tailgater

While folding the legs is a procedure, it is still possible to put the complete unit in the bed of a truck or the trunk of a vehicle.

The LED controls were not user-friendly, as it took me many attempts to perform each action, such as priming and turning on the shutdown cycle.

This device performed best while grilling and smoking at higher temperatures (over 200 degrees F).Tailgater is portable enough to live up to its name.

This might be your next barbecue if you want a no-frills grill and smoker that does the job without continual supervision.

I grilled and smoked basic barbecue meats, but Traeger and Traeger users have created a limitless number of recipes. Jerky, bread, and even cakes are among the other options.

Aside from a few minor design issues, I believe the Tailgater cooks better than any other model in its class.


Is the Traeger Tailgater big enough?

Capacity for Cooking

The cooking surface is fairly tiny, but given that this is a travel-size machine, this may be a reasonable trade-off. They claim that you can cook up to 12 burgers at once. We discovered that although this is feasible during the outdoor cooking procedure, it tends to overcrowd the cooking surface while tailgating.

Can you smoke on a Traeger Tailgater?

Yes, you can still use this Traeger to smoke. They’ve incorporated a computerized control panel with 5-degree temperature increments from 180 to 450 degrees.

How long does Traeger Tailgater hopper last?

How long will a Traeger hopper of pellets last? Depending on the temperature and cooking manner, a Traeger hopper may contain up to 18 pounds of pellets, which can last for up to 15 hours of cooking time.

How long can the Traeger Tailgater smoke?

The Auger will cycle on for 15 seconds and off for 65 seconds while in “Smoke” mode. The “Smoke” option has no temperature control. This timed cycle setting for “Smoke” is a Traeger Pellet Grills manufacturer pre-set that produces a “Smoking” temperature of 150 to 180 degrees F.

How big of a turkey will fit in a Traeger Tailgater?

Tailgater This little yet powerful grill can handle a chicken weighing up to 15 pounds, or a bigger bird if spatchcocked.

Can you fit a turkey in a Traeger Tailgater?

The Traeger Tailgater can accommodate a full-size turkey. There are several chickens. There are many racks of ribs.

Does Traeger Tailgater need power?

The Traeger Tailgater does not come with any power choices other than the conventional 110v socket, so if you want to take it on the road, you’ll need a power source such as a generator or an inverter that connects to your vehicle’s battery or accessory connection.

How long will 20lbs of pellets last at 225?

That implies a 20-pound bag of pellets will last you somewhere between six and twenty hours, give or take. The most important component, though, is the temperature at which you are cooking. At 225°F, for example, you’ll burn between 0.5 and 1 pound per hour, whereas at higher temperatures, you’ll burn up to 3 pounds per hour.

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