Traeger Junior Pellet Smoker Review

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Black horizontal barrel smoker mounted on four legs with two wheels. A box is attached to the left side and a small bucket to the right side.
Junior Pellet Smoker

This model was discontinued and replaced by Traeger's Junior Elite Smoker.

As the name indicates, this is a smaller version of Traeger's popular, full size, entry level Lil' Tex smoker. With 292 square inches of cook surface, Junior is about 3/4 the size of Lil' Tex. With the small size comes a small price: MSRP $399. Pellet Smoker manufacturers know if they can get enough consumers to try their cookers, word of mouth will take off and propel sales. Problem is pellet smokers have electric motors, fans, hot rod ignition and other mechanical parts that make entry level pellet smoker prices much higher than gas or charcoal grills.

To reduce cost and price on entry level models, Traeger, Brinkmann and Louisiana Grills all use out of date, 3 position controllers that are less effective at managing temperature settings than a gas grill used in conjunction with a digital thermometer. This throws a wet blanket over the word of mouth idea and keeps public awareness of pellet smokers on the sidelines.

Digital, thermostatically controlled pellet smokers are a dream come true. They are often more accurate than your kitchen range and allow you to load up your smoker at 11 pm, set it to 225 F, then go to bed and sleep soundly, knowing you'll wake up to a feast of delicious meat that's been slow cooking for hours at a steady and accurate temperature.

Traeger's least expensive smoker with digital control is twice the cost of their Junior. But you can purchase a Traeger digital controller for about a hundred bucks and install it yourself. If you've decided to try pellet smoking, do yourself a favor and get a digital controller. Inferior three position controllers have no thermostat to monitor actual temperature and can only execute pellet run times for low, medium and high heat. It feeds the same amount of fuel to the firepot whether you're cooking on a scorching summer day or frozen winter night.

Traeger pioneered and popularized the pellet smoker and remains the best known brand since it is in wide distribution. In fact about 85% of pellet smokers in the USA are Traeger. The consensus is they are reasonably well built, but some buyers complain that since manufacturing moved to China quality has dropped, especially on entry level models. Of course we hear more complaints as well as praise about Traeger since 8 out 10 BBQ pellet smoker owners have one.

All Traegers are black powder coated steel with porcelain enamel steel grates.

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price: 
$399
Primary Function: 
Smoker
Fuel: 
Wood Pellets
Primary Capacity: 
292 square inches
Main Burners: 
1
Made in the USA: 
No
Review Method:

Looked Closely At It

We have seen this product up close and we have also gathered info from the manufacturer,  owners, and other reliable sources.

Traeger Pellet Grills, LLC.

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Traeger pioneered and popularized the pellet smoker and remains the best known brand since it is in wide distribution. And they aim to keep it that way even though competition is growing. New owners took over in 2014 and they appear to be on the move, investing heavily in product development and marketing. Traeger has an interesting variety of pellet smokers from a small portable, to large commercial models, to one that looks like a pink pig.

They offer a full line of branded extras from Traeger Pellets and rubs to Traeger insulation blankets and cold smoker add-ons.

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Max Good

As AmazingRibs.com's Vice President of Product Reviews & Keeper of the Flame, Max Good is the man in charge of finding the best products for the AmazingRibs.com Equipment Reviews section. Max loves barbecue so much that he took his barbecue sauce recipes, had them bottled, and now sells them around the country.

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1) Please try the table of contents or the search box at the top of every page before you ask for help.

2) Try to post your question to the appropriate page.

3) Tell us everything we need to know to help such as the type of cooker and thermometer. Dial thermometers are often off by as much as 50°F so if you are not using a good digital thermometer we probably can't help you with time and temp questions. Please read this article about thermometers.

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