Camp Chef vs Traeger: Which to Buy in 2021?
When it comes to grills, there are two names in particular that stand out: Camp Chef and Traeger.
Despite being a younger brand with less of a history compared to Traeger, Camp Chef has managed to build a stellar reputation for itself. Cooks have come to love the company’s products for their straightforward, no-frill designs.
Meanwhile, Traeger has the advantage of being the older, more experienced company. All of that experience means the company understands what should go into a pellet grill to make it excellent.
In this Camp Chef vs Traeger article, we will look at the pros and cons of each brand as well as review the best grills that either brand has to offer.
Camp Chef vs Traeger: Overview
Founded in 1990, Camp Chef came around in an age where there was little attention given by big grill companies to outdoorsmen and women. Most grills at the time were heavy, bulky, and as far from being portable. Thus, it was difficult for picnickers, hikers, and campers to properly set up an outdoors party.
It was based upon this observation that the company was set up and subsequently thrived. For the last 30 years, the company has been releasing camping grills designed to be as portable as possible for outdoorsy folks.
To do that, the design team at Camp Chef often has to remove unnecessary features and details from their grills. These designs are how the company’s reputation of having simple and easy to use grills grew in the span of three decades.
Aside from camping grills, Camp Chef has also expanded their portfolio to include products such as outdoor stoves, dutch ovens, and others. In short, you may find everything that you need to set up a proper wilderness party inside their catalogue.
When Traeger’s patent for the pellet grill expired, Camp Chef took the opportunity to build pellet grills of their own. They were huge successes and still remain popular today.
Traeger, on the other hand, has a far less entrepreneurial history in comparison. However, what Traeger lacks in successful history, they make up for through inventiveness.
In addition to being the older company (founded in 1985), its founder —Joe Traeger — has been widely accredited to be the original inventor of the pellet grill.
A lot of pundits have gone as far as declaring Joe Traeger’s pellet grill to be a “revolutionizing” force in outdoor cooking. The pellet grill became popular the instant it hit the market, elevating Traeger’s company to the top.
Since then, the original patent for the pellet grill expired in 2006. Many brands have emulated the design and created their own versions of Traeger’s pellet grill, and among those brands is Camp Chef.
Though Traeger’s reputation and popularity are no longer what they once were, the company still has a very high standing among its loyal customer base. Plus, Traeger continued to occasionally come out with new innovations , keeping them relevant in the increasingly crowded and competitive outdoors grill market.
Related post: Pit Boss vs. Traeger – Examining & Picking the Right Brand
Camp Chef Pellet Grill vs Traeger
Logically, Traeger should have the advantage here as the first brand that invented the pellet grill. However, as you will soon learn, newer grills from Camp Chef are much closer in terms of overall quality than you may expect.
As with any kind of grill, temperature control is crucial. It is not uncommon for a recipe to require the user to adjust the temperature throughout the cooking process. Therefore, a good grill should allow its user to easily and quickly control the temperature when needed.
Both Camp Chef and Traeger pellet grills do this well. Many models include an LCD screen that displays all of the information you need to know: from the current cooking temperature, to the meat’s temperature itself via temperature probes.
Changing temperature is usually as simple as turning a knob and watching the temperature read-out on the screen.
Some high-end pellet grills from both brands also come with the ability to connect the grill to your phone. Using a mobile app, you can remotely change the temperature without physically touching the knob.
Grills should also be able to retain most of the heat that it produces. A leaky grill can cause your food to be unevenly cooked, ruining the quality. Leakage is an especially serious issue for recipes that require cooking for long periods, such as steak.
Fortunately, the results are tied between the two brands in this department. Traeger and Camp Chef pellet grills all have a reputation for being solidly-built. Reports of heat leakage are very rare, so you can trust the grill from either brand to consistently cook your steaks.
One of the biggest selling points of the pellet grill is versatility. It is marketed to be the one-size-fit-all grill that is able to produce high-temperature for flash searing as well as gentle heat for low-and-slow cooking and smoking.
Therefore, a wide temperature range is important. The wider the range, the better the grill would be at handling jobs from either end of the spectrum.
Traeger grills have a temperature range between 180°F and 400°F. Meanwhile, the pellet grills from Camp Chef can go from 160°F to as high as 500°F.
In this instance, Camp Chef takes the win. You will find it easier to cook many recipes that require very low or very high temperature on a Camp Chef grill than on a Traeger.
If you regularly cook for multiple people at the same time, selecting a grill with a large cooking area is a no-brainer. But unlike any of the technical characteristics examined above, this is a question that is more difficult to answer. Traeger and Camp Chef both provide a decent selection of small grills and family-size grills.
That being said, when closely examined, Camp Chef has the advantage here.
Let’s take the Traeger Grills Pro Series 22 and the Camp Chef SmokePro PG24MZG as an example. Both grills are priced the same ($599). However, while the Traeger Pro Series 22 only provides 572 square inches of cooking surface, the Camp Chef SmokePro provides up to 811 square inches.
The same thing also goes for high-end grills from the two brands. The Traeger Pro Series 575 has roughly 575 square inches of grilling space. Meanwhile, its Camp Chef equivalent —the Camp Chef SmokePro PG24SG —has around 811 square inches.
All in all, if the ability to cook a large amount of food at once is important for you, Camp Chef can satisfy.
Pellet Hopper Size
While it doesn’t directly affect the quality of the cooking, a small pellet hopper is annoying to deal with. Nobody enjoys having to constantly check and refill their hopper. Especially when you’re cooking for long periods, it can be irritating to have to constantly fill the hopper.
The hopper of small Camp Chef grills like the Camp Chef SmokePro PG24XT can hold about 18 pounds of wood pellets. Larger models like the Camp Chef SmokePro PG24SG can hold up to 22 pounds.
There’s no variation in hopper size in Traeger grills. All of them are equipped with an 18-pound hopper.
Traeger and Camp Chef both provide a three-year warranty for all of their products, which is the typical industry standard.
Camp Chef Woodwind vs Traeger Ironwood
Camp Chef Woodwind WiFi 24 (PG14)
If you want the best that Camp Chef has to offer, the Camp Chef Woodwind WiFi 24 (PG14) would make a decent investment. As the most premium product in the company’s catalogue, the Woodwind comes with many unique characteristics that set it apart from its more budget-friendly siblings.
Large cooking area
High-capacity pellet hopper
Wide temperature range
Automated smoke control
Expandable with accessories
Its outward appearance is quite appealing: solid black metal frame with silver aluminum top cover. Overall, Camp Chef has done a great job at designing a premium look and feel to the Woodwind 24.
The Woodwind 24 offers a sizable cooking chamber that is 24 inches wide. Two cooking racks are stacked over one another inside of the chamber. Combined, they can provide a cooking surface of 811 square inches. That is enough space for you to comfortably cook for a large gathering of at least five.
If you need more cooking area than the Woodwind 24 can offer, consider the Woodwind 36. It is the same pellet grill as the Woodwind 24, but has a significantly larger 1,236 square inches cooking area.
A 22-pound pellet hopper is integrated into the Woodwind. When fully loaded, you can cook on the grill for up to 20 hours if you use low heat and 10 hours on high heat.
Cooking performance has also been favorably reviewed. With a temperature range between 160°F and 500°F, the Woodwind can serve as a slow smoker at lower heat settings and a traditional high-heat grill when fully cranked.
In order to augment cooking performance further, this grill also comes with a Smoke Control System and “Slide and Grill” technology.
Smoke Control is a pre-loaded program in the grill’s PID controller (a small processor). When enabled, the PID is going to automatically regulate temperature and smoke output, so you can essentially smoke your food hands-free. Before the Smoke Control routine is activated, you would be prompted to choose a Smoke Number between one and ten. The higher the number, the more smoke there will be.
On the other hand, there’s the “Slide and Grill” technology, which is a bit more hands-on compared to the Smoke Control. This tech revolves around a push-pull knob (called a “Grill Knob” by Camp Chef). The knob controls a deflector plate that, depending on its position, can either keep the fire low for indirect heating or intensify the fire for direct heating.
Pull the knob out if you want to momentarily grill the food under direct flame. Push the knob back and the deflector plate will reset, reining in the fire.
The advantage to Slide and Grill is that, when the Grill Knob is pulled all the way back, temperature can exceed the ordinary range of the grill up to 650°F. Therefore, if you want to grill something intensely and quickly, this feature is going to be very helpful.
Earlier, we have mentioned how the Woodwind comes with a PID on-board. Besides controlling your temperature and smoke settings, it also has a WiFi module to connect to your home’s Internet. From there, you can pair up the grill with your smartphone through Camp Chef’s mobile app. Alternatively, if you don’t have a WiFi signal where you are, the grill can also connect to your phone via Bluetooth.
Once a connection has been established, you can monitor and take control of the cooking process from the comfort of your phone’s screen.
To help you with accurately measuring your food’s temperature, this pellet grill comes standard with four digital meat probes. When they are plugged in, you can either monitor the temperature through the on-board screen panel or through your phone.
Among the fan-favorite features of the Camp Chef Woodwind 24 is its expandability. The pellet grill can be saddled with either a Camp Chef Sidekick or Sear Box.
The Camp Chef Sidekick is basically an extra burner that you can use to expand the cooking capacity of the Woodwind. It has a total surface area of 231 square inches, which effectively upsizes your grill’s total surface area to 1,042 square inches.
Unlike the primary grill which uses pellets, the Sidekick is propane-powered. Since propane burns hotter, the maximum temperature of the Sidekick is higher as well and can go as high as 750°F.
The Sidekick is designed to pair up with one of Camp Chef’s many 14-inch cooking accessories like cast iron griddle, grill, and oven. So it’s not just great for expanding usable cooking surface area, its versatility means you can also prepare other dishes like pizzas to the side.
Then there’s the Sear Box. It is less versatile than the Sidekick because it only has a single purpose: searing. It can do this very effectively with its high heat output. Cooking temperature can hit 900°F.
The Sear Box is a bit smaller than the Sidekick, offering only 184 square inches of extra cooking surface. As a result, when paired with the Woodwind, you will only get 944 square inches of usable cooking area. And similar to the Sidekick, the Sear Box is powered by propane.Check Latest Price On Amazon
Traeger Ironwood 650
Among Traeger pellet grills, the Ironwood 650 is the sole model that has what it takes to fully compete with the Camp Chef Woodwind. Both grills are priced about the same as one another. They also match in terms of construction quality and performance. Even the list of advanced features that you get for the extras that you paid (like WiFi connectivity) is much the same between the Traeger Ironwood and the Camp Chef Woodwind.
New brushless motor
“Pro D2 Direct Drive” tech
Automated temperature compensation
Can work with virtual assistants
Fairly small cooking area
Aesthetically, the Ironwood 650 looks refined with its all-black metal body. The construction has also been deemed by most users to be high quality and accurately priced.
The Traeger Ironwood 650 has a cooking area measuring 650 square inches. Just like the Woodwind 24, the total cooking area is spread out across two stacked cooking racks.
Observably, the Ironwood 650’s cooking area is smaller than the Camp Chef Woodwind’s standard 811 square inches cooking area.
However, similar to its competitor, Traeger also offers an expanded version of the Ironwood 650, which is the Ironwood 855. This larger variant’s cooking area is scaled up to 885 square inches. It will be the better choice if size is important to you.
Still, there’s no doubt that when it comes to the size of the cooking area, Camp Chef managed to comfortably surpass Traeger by a wide margin.
Like we mentioned earlier in the overview section, all Traeger pellet grills have a 20-pound fuel hopper. The same goes for the Ironwood. Compared to the Camp Chef Woodwind’s 22-pound hopper, the other pellet grill still holds the advantage. With 20 pounds of wood pellets, you would be able to cook for 7-8 hours on high heat and 17-18 hours on low heat.
When it comes to performance, the Traeger Ironwood 650 can go between 180°F and 500°F. While the high is comparable to the Camp Chef Woodwind, the lowest range is higher by 20°F.
Though 180°F is low enough for you to slow smoke, the ability to provide much gentler heat of the Woodwind has given it a decisive edge in this department.
Similar to how the Woodwind is loaded with useful extra features like Smoke Control and “Slide and Grill”, the Ironwood comes with innovations of its own.
The first is the Pro D2 Direct Drive tech.
A pellet grill is automatically fed wood pellets by an auger, which moves the pellets from the hopper and into the fire pot. The auger itself is driven by an electric motor (also called a drive train). The Pro D2 tech involves a brushless motor — an industry’s first. Compared to older brushed motors, brushless motors last longer and deliver more performance.
In addition to better reliability and durability, Pro D2 also offers an “unclog” feature. When pellets are jammed inside of the grill, you can set the auger drill to reverse and dislodge the clog. This is a very common problem with pellet grills, so the feature is hugely appreciated.
Besides Pro D2 Direct Drive, Traeger also has what’s called Turbotemp tech. When the lid is opened and heat is lost quickly, the grill can automatically compensate for the lost heat by adding more pellets into the fire.
With Pro D2 and Turbotemp, you get a more stable user experience and that’s the primary selling point for Traeger grills despite its many shortcomings.
The Ironwood comes with a PID and WiFi connectivity (called “WiFIRE Controller” by Traeger). Based on the temperature that you set, the PID can continuously monitor and adjust temperature for you. Via the WiFi module and Traeger’s app, you can control every phase of the cooking process from your phone.
The smartphone app of Traeger seems to be built better than Camp Chef. In addition to all the basic control and monitoring functions, the app is also compatible with Amazon Alexa. So if you use Amazon’s smart speaker, you can issue commands to the grill via voice commands.
Overall, while the Traeger Ironwood 650 is a decent pellet grill, the Camp Chef Woodwind offers more bang for your buck.Check Latest Price On Traeger
Camp Chef SmokePro vs Traeger Pro Series 22
On the lower end of the price spectrum, you have the Camp Chef SG 24 SmokePro and the Traeger Grills Pro Series 22. Compared to the top-of-the-line Woodwind and Ironwood series, these are substantially more affordable. They are going to be compelling choices if you either don’t use your pellet grill a lot or you’re shopping on a budget.
Camp Chef SG 24 SmokePro
Despite the lower cost, the Camp Chef SG 24 SmokePro has many characteristics that made its higher-priced sibling, the Camp Chef Woodwind, great.
Good overall design
Great smoking performance
Easy-to-use PID interface
Expandable with accessories
Lacks WiFi module
For example, the grill still has the same sturdy metal construction. The only visible difference between the SmokePro series and the Woodwind is the all-black painting instead of the more luxurious silver-black combination.
Across the two vertically-stacked cooking racks, you get about 811 square inches of usable cooking area. That is ample space for you to cook for a large party without having to overstuff your grill. It’s also worth mentioning that the SG 24 has the same amount of cooking space as the Woodwind. For being half the price, that is excellent value-wise.
The Camp Chef SG 24 SmokePro also has the same 22-pound pellet hopper as the Woodwind.
Temperature range is equal to that of the Woodwind. You can throttle down the grill to as low as 160°F. Or if you need to grill at higher temperatures, the grill can reach up to 500°F. All you need to do is to use the temperature adjustment knob on the control panel.
Speaking of the control panel, although this is meant to be a budget-friendly pellet grill, Camp Chef was still able to saddle it with some useful electronics. This includes a PID that can take care of certain tasks for you, like temperature control.
An LED screen sits at the front of the grill. You can use it to read important information like current temperature, adjust the smoking mode, and other useful features.
The two special features that we introduced earlier on the Woodwind (Smoke Control System and “Slide and Grill” tech) are also available on the SG 24. And when purchased, you will also find in the box a side shelf for accessories like the Camp Chef Sear Box or Sidekick, a warming rack, and a meat probe.
Overall, the Camp Chef SG 24 SmokePro is remarkably similar to the Woodwind. The only missing component (at least for the baseline version) is the WiFi module. However, if you’d like to have the ability to tie the grill to your phone, Camp Chef also sells a WiFi-enabled version (Camp Chef SG 24 SmokePro WiFi).Check Latest Price On Amazon
Traeger Grills Pro Series 22
The Grills Pro Series 22 is Traeger’s counterweight to the Camp Chef SG 24 SmokePro. It has the same price as the SG 24, but for the price, it doesn’t seem to offer as much value in comparison.
Decent overall smoking performance
Easy-to-use “set-and-forget” interface
Small cooking area > pellet hopper
Lacks many innovations
Of the small amount of pros that this grill has, the solid-looking construction and beautiful aesthetic design are part of the list. Together, they make the grill seem more premium than reality.
Unlike the SG 24 SmokePro that has just as large a cooking area as the more premium Woodwind, that unfortunately doesn’t happen with the Pro Series 22. With 572 square inches of cooking area across two vertical cooking racks, the Pro Series 22’s cooking chamber is fairly limited in size.
In addition to having a smaller cooking area, the hopper bin is smaller as well. Capable of holding only 18 pounds, the Pro Series 22 also loses out to the SG 24 SmokePro in this regard.
Temperature range is nearly equal to the pricier Ironwood, ranging between 180°F and 500°F. The Camp Chef SG 24 also won out with its lower minimum temperature.
The comprehensive control panel is great. It has an LED screen to let you monitor the grill’s temperature. Underneath the screen are several knobs and buttons that you can use to control the grill. Traeger has described its temperature control system to be a “Set-it & Forget-It” system: tune to the desired temperature with the knob and the PID takes over the rest.
Traeger Grills Pro Series 22 doesn’t come with the notable innovations like Pro D2 Drive or Turbotemp that the Ironwood has. While it’s understandable for the price, the fact that the SG 24 still manages to have nearly all of the premium Woodwind’s extra features makes the omissions here seem less acceptable.
The Pro Series 22 is a very nice grill, don’t get us wrong. If you like to use Traeger grills, this is going to be a great budget grill to buy. However, the Camp Chef SG 24 SmokePro offers much more for the money.Check Latest Price On Traeger
With summer quickly coming up, investing in a pellet grill now will pay dividends soon. We hope that this article has cleared out any questions you may have about the debate between Camp Chef vs Traeger.
Just to reiterate: both are excellent companies that offer great pellet grills. Taking your pick depends on what sounds more appealing for you. But rest assured that regardless of what you decide in the end, all of the aforementioned grills will meet your expectations.