Traeger Grill – From Traditional BBQ Snob to Pellet Smoker Convert

As a card-carrying Texas barbecue addict, adding a pellet grill to the backyard arsenal was a difficult task for the author. After using the Traeger Pro Series 34, however, he discovered how easy it is to turn meat into a delectable meal fit for a king.

Traeger Grill – From Traditional BBQ Snob to Pellet Smoker Convert
With the Traeger Pro Series 34 Pellet Grill, you can cook great barbecue, whether you are new to smoking or a BBQ pitmaster. (Photo courtesy of Traeger)

Right off the bat, I’ll admit that truth be told, I’m a bit of a barbecue snob.

And living in Texas, a state loaded with great barbecue tradition from one end of the vast Lone Star State to the other, I regularly indulge in my taste for the best brisket and sausage money—and a tank full of gasoline—can buy.

To be completely accurate, however, I should say what I really am is a barbecue connoisseur, familiar with the smoky locations, hallowed menus, and hours of operation at many of the legendary joints scattered around the state. Because while I’d like to think I can find good barbecue, I’d have to admit that being able to make the smoky magic happen in my backyard is sometimes an art that eludes me.


The reason, of course, is that barbecue—good barbecue, at least—is as much a craft as it is a skill. The mantra of backyard pitmasters is a fire that burns low and slow, but there’s a good learning curve—and a lot of trial-and-error at times—to learn how to turn a fire, some smoke, and a trimmed brisket into a meal that delights the taste buds, boggles the mind, and leaves guests clamoring for more.

Over the years, my office shelves have filled with books on good Texas barbecue, volumes that have fueled my definition of what does and doesn’t constitute real barbecue.


Meaning that if the method of cooking doesn’t involve the time-honored tradition of my state that centers around a metal barrel, an offset pit filled with glowing wood coals, and a hefty brisket absorbing the low-and-slow smoke wafting out of the smokestack, I simply wasn’t interested.

But a few months ago, my understanding of Texas barbecue came under deepening scrutiny when I discovered that one of my heroes, Matt Pittman of Meat Church fame, was committing what I might have previously considered as barbecue blasphemy.

Why? Because he was smoking meat on a Traeger pellet grill as a—gasp!—full-fledged member of the Team Traeger pro staff!

Having watched Pittman’s YouTube instructional videos—and knowing his rise to fame from a local barbecue expert from Waxahachie, Texas to BBQ Pitmasters TV stardom—I began to consider that my understanding of what real barbecue is might not be completely accurate.

Also fueling my change in attitude was a Sitka Gear deer camp I shared last winter with renowned bowhunter John Dudley, a popular writer, Nock On Archery podcaster, and Team Traeger pro staff member who almost always has a pellet grill in the back of his truck to turn out epic meals of deer, elk, and other game.


With all of that swirling in my head and my previous definitions starting to crumble a bit, I soon found myself assembling a Traeger Pro Series 34 Pellet Grill that was destined for some meat-smoking sessions on my backyard deck.

Over time, here’s what I’ve found as I’ve gradually entered the world of smoked meat produced on a Traeger pellet grill.

First, assembly is easy—if I can do it, anyone can. With a few simple tools, a little extra help from my oldest son Zach, and a few minutes of time, a big box transformed easily into a fully functioning pellet grill.

Traeger Pro Series 34 Pellet Grill
Assembling the Traeger Pro Series 34 Pellet Grill is easy. (Photo courtesy of Traeger)

I also found that once again, I’m not the best at following directions—just ask my wife—although easy-to-understand directions are included with every Traeger Grill.

Because I didn’t do a great job of following the directions, I needed to call the Traeger Customer Service number (1-800-TRAEGER) to get me back on track. A few minutes later, my Pro Series 34 Pellet Grill was belching out delicious smoke that was ready to turn meat into a meal.

The first thing I wanted to try, of course, was a whole packer brisket that spent hours being bathed in the low-and-slow heat produced by a supply of Traeger hickory wood pellets. As I prepared for my first cook, I kept things a bit on the secret side since my father-in-law Pat and Uncle Dudley might have frowned a bit as I deviated from the methods revered for many years in our family circle.

Seasoned whole packer’s cut brisket
Seasoned pork butt on the Traeger grill. (Lynn Burkhead photo)

So, with the Traeger app loaded onto my iPhone, I opened it up, went to the Traeger Top Recipes icon, clicked on the Traeger BBQ Brisket recipe, and began my entry into what was suddenly a changing world of barbecue for yours truly.

While I did have the Traeger Beef Rub the recipe advises, I decided to stick to the tried-and-true 50/50 mixture of coarse salt and pepper that many Texas barbecue nuts prefer to use. After coating the brisket with the rub mixture, getting the Traeger grill preheated and ready to cook at 225 degrees, and taking a deep breath, the brisket was fat side down on the grill, the lid was closed, and my new adventure was underway.

Seasoned whole packer’s cut brisket
The Traeger Pro Series 34 Pellet Grill features a Digital Pro Controller with AGL and Dual Meat Temperature Probes for precision grilling. (Lynn Burkhead photo)

I suppose the Texas barbecue snob part of me might have secretly hoped for a problem or two to happen along the way. But the simple truth is that didn’t happen. Following the directions and using the meat thermometer, the various steps of smoking a brisket followed as the low-and-slow process ensued.

A few hours later, the first magic number of 160 degrees was reached internally, and the brisket was wrapped in aluminum foil. While some Texas barbecue snobs’ frown on that step and call it a crutch, others readily use the foil wrapping trick. Besides, I was suddenly a rule-following kind of a guy and since the recipe said to do it, I did.

Seasoned whole packer’s cut brisket
Wrapping your brisket in foil will cut down cooking time and tenderize the meat. (Lynn Burkhead photo)

As the clock slowly ticked forward, the Traeger wood-fired revolution that began in Oregon back in 1987 began to slowly do its work, converting meat into a meal and a Texas barbecue snob into a convert.

Starting with a hopper filled with hickory pellets and my unit’s controller set to the desired temperature (Editor’s Note: this process is even simpler now with the company’s new WireFire technology that connects the grill to your smartphone), the internal auger pushed the right amount of pellets forward into the grill's firepot where a hot rod ignited them and produced a consistent bath of heat and smoke.

Traeger hopper filled with hickory pellets
Traeger hopper filled with hickory pellets. (Lynn Burkhead photo)

While the noise of the grill's electric fan took a little bit of getting used to, along with no need to keep adding wood and poking the fire, the result was a process that slowly smothered the brisket in what's necessary to produce great barbecue – no matter where you live.

As the evening turned into late night, I kept careful check of the smoking process, looking for that magical combination of time, smoke, and internal temperature that turns a piece of meat into a meal to die for. When the finished internal temperature of 204 degrees was reached, the brisket was pulled to sit and rest in a cooler for a few hours.

Finally, it was time to see what the result was. With a little fear and trepidation, I started slicing the brisket up and grabbed a piece to take my first bite. Instantly, I realized that all this time, I had been wrong to believe that only the traditional methods I was so familiar with in my home state were able to produce great barbecue.


The bark was there, the smoke ring was there, and more importantly, a melt-in-your-mouth taste was there. Put simply, I was amazed at what I was experiencing as years of barbecue snobbery melted like so much fat on a brisket.

About that time, my son-in-law Tim wandered through the kitchen and made his way to the cutting board. A Baylor law school student who got his undergraduate degree from the University of Texas in Austin—the state’s new capital for the meat smoking craft—Tim is also a barbecue connoisseur who recognizes a great piece of smoked meat.

He sampled a few bites … and then a few more. Finally, I could stand it no longer and asked the expected question: “Well, what do you think?”

His response both confirmed my suspicions along with providing a little shock when he said: “I attended a barbecue festival a few months ago in Austin and sampled 50 of the best barbecue makers in the state. This brisket is pretty good, and I’d have to say it can hang with much of what I tasted there.”

Delicious brisket smoked on the Traeger Pro Series 34 Pellet Grill
Delicious brisket smoked on the Traeger Pro Series 34 Pellet Grill. (Lynn Burkhead photo)

With that, my final defense crumbled and my appreciation for the nuances of the art of making good barbecue had been completely transformed. In the months that have ensued, my experimentation has continued as I’ve gotten used to the Traeger way and turned out delectable meals of ribs, pulled pork, chicken, and vegetables.

With an almost endless supply of recipes available on the Traeger app, I can’t see any end in sight as I continue on with low heat, plenty of smoke, and the ongoing quest for great food. And after a freezer mishap a few months ago, the supply of venison is now back to normal in my household after the fall hunting seasons, so there is plenty more smoky goodness ahead if you ask me.

Put simply, what I’ve discovered in all of this is that the sky is the smoky limit in my own backyard. All I had to do was be willing to give the Traeger wood-fired revolution a try.

And wow, am I glad I did.

Amazing Wild Game and Fish Recipes by Traeger:

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Rapala OG Slim 6

Rapala OG Slim 6

The 2019 Bassmaster Classic champ Ott Defoe sits down with In-Fisherman Associate Publisher Todd Ceisner, to talk about Rapala's new OG Slim 6 crankbait. The OG Slim 6 will feature a flat-sided, balsa body, and will dive around 6 feet. Featuring a circuit board lip, the OG Slim 6 deflects off of cover better than traditional plastic lips. Offered in 14 colors and available in tackle stores Fall 2020. MSRP $10.99.

P-Line Copolymer Topwater Fishing Line

P-Line Copolymer Topwater Fishing Line

Get the inside info on the new topwater-specific fishing line; ICAST Fishing Gear Guide.

Daiwa J-Fluoro Samurai Fluorocarbon Fishing Line

Daiwa J-Fluoro Samurai Fluorocarbon Fishing Line

Pro angler Cody Meyer calls Daiwa's J-Fluoro Samurai the best fluorocarbon he's ever fished. Meyer spoke with In-Fisherman associate publisher Todd Ceisner as part of the 2020 ICAST New Fishing Gear Guide.

Yakgear Basic Kayak Angler & Deluxe Anchor Trolley Kits

Yakgear Basic Kayak Angler & Deluxe Anchor Trolley Kits

New products from ICAST 2020 included the Yakgear Basic Kayak Angler and Deluxe Anchor Trolley kits. Bill Bragman highlights the features of each kit.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

If you haven't looked at the smaller urban lakes in your area, you are missing out on some great bass pond fishing. Bass

Bass Pond Fishing: Catch Lunkers at Small Lakes Near You

Dan Anderson

If you haven't looked at the smaller urban lakes in your area, you are missing out on some...

In need of a rugged container to sip from in the backcountry? We've got you covered. From tumblers to bottles to flasks (and even clever bottle openers), we've rounded up some of the best bar gear for the outdoors. The Deck

Ultimate Outdoor Bar Gear Roundup

Chelsie Walters and Jessyca Sortillon - August 31, 2020

In need of a rugged container to sip from in the backcountry? We've got you covered. From...

When it comes to fishing baits, you won't find a more unusual variety than the strange brews of smelly ingredients often used to catch catfish. Catfish

How To Make Your Own Catfish Dough Bait

Keith Sutton - August 04, 2015

When it comes to fishing baits, you won't find a more unusual variety than the strange brews...

Want to test the outer limits of your shooting skill? There's more to successful long-range Ammo

10 Best Long-Range Cartridges Ever Made

David Hart - January 14, 2015

Want to test the outer limits of your shooting skill? There's more to successful long-range

See More Trending Articles

More The Grill

As the summer season arrives, so does the usual routine of grilling out cuts of beef, burgers, hot dogs and brats, but if you're hankering for some fish, give these grilled options a try. The Grill

Backyard Grilling: Tasty Fish Recipe Ideas for Summertime's Smoky Menu

Lynn Burkhead

As the summer season arrives, so does the usual routine of grilling out cuts of beef, burgers,...

Simple to make and grill, these BBQ Venison Burgers are the ultimate food to serve at your next backyard bash. The Grill

BBQ Venison Burger Recipe

Nikki Boxler

Simple to make and grill, these BBQ Venison Burgers are the ultimate food to serve at your...

Follow this fish recipe to make a sweet smoked salmon that's perfect for snacking on the go or at home. The Grill

Smoked Candied Salmon Recipe

Field 2 Grill

Follow this fish recipe to make a sweet smoked salmon that's perfect for snacking on the go or...

There are a few guidelines you should follow when grilling lean game meats such as elk, deer, antelope, and turkey. The Grill

Tips for Grilling Wild Game

Tiffany Haugen

There are a few guidelines you should follow when grilling lean game meats such as elk, deer,...

See More The Grill

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now