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Pit Boss vs Traeger – Comparing Brands and Top Grills From Each

Considering buying a pellet grill? Which should you choose if looking at Pit Boss vs Traeger? In this article, this is the question we hope to answer for you.

Last Updated: May 29, 2020 | 13 min read

A pit boss and Traeger pellet grill, isolated on beige background
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Shopping for a pellet grill? You must be at least thinking about it, or you wouldn’t be here right now.

Good for you for doing your homework before going out and plunking down your money!

In this article, I’ll discuss two of the brands you’re probably hearing a lot about – Pit Boss vs Traeger.

You’ll learn a bit about the history of each brand and what makes them stand out from the field. I’ll compare features and quality between the brands overall, then go further in-depth with some of their top models.

By the end of this guide, you should have a better idea of which brand is the right one for you, so you can confidently shop for the best pellet grill to suit your particular wants and needs.

Let the learning begin!

Traeger Brand History and Overview

Begun in Oregon, Traeger’s first products were heating stoves that burned manufactured wood pellets. From there, someone saw the potential to adapt the concept of slowly burning pellets for use in backyard smoking and grilling.

The first Traeger grill hit the market in 1988. In fact, it was the first pellet grill, period.

For a long time, they held the patent on the concept and a monopoly on the market. Even when other pellet grills arrived on the scene, Traeger was still the undisputed king of the castle. Today, that title is in dispute thanks to much-improved competition.

Conceptually, not much has changed in more than 30 years. But, today’s Traeger grills are much more sophisticated, incorporating the latest electronics, Wi-Fi, and more, for an automated, user-friendly experience.

Now based in Salt Lake City, Traeger offers more than 25 grills on their website, everything from a 45-pound portable to a beast you can tow with a trailer hitch. And we can’t forget to mention the Lil’ Pig, a bright pink, sow-shaped pellet grill complete with curly ears, long eyelashes, and a pair of teats. I kid you not.

New for 2019, and the focus of this article, are Traeger’s Pro Series, Ironwood Series, and Timberline Series grills. There are six total grills between the three series, with two in each category. We’ll come back to these later.

Pit Boss Brand History and Overview

Founded in 1999, Pit Boss subsidiary of Dansons, Inc., the brainchild of a guy named Dan and his two sons. Dan – sons.

The company began life in Alberta, Canada. You may not think of Canada right away when you think of barbecue, but they do raise some exceptional beef up there on the prairies.

Now based in Phoenix, it’s a family-oriented business focussed on quality craftsmanship and grills that last.

Their impressive stable of gear boasts more than 20 pellet grills, including combo pellet & gas grills and vertical pellet smokers. They also build gas grills, griddles, and smokers; charcoal grills; electric smokers; kamado-style ceramic grills; and an insane 3-in-1 monster with a gas grill, a charcoal grill, and an electric smoker on a single cart.

Pit Boss has always strived to be an innovator and to offer something for everyone. That, and to make pellet grilling more affordable for the average consumer, without sacrificing much in terms of quality. They claim their grills are “Bigger. Hotter. Heavier.”

Pit Boss Vs Traeger – Main Differences Between Them

Now that you know something about each company let’s see how they stand up against one another.

Build Quality and Construction

I put this category first because it’s so important; how well your grill is built directly connects to how much you’ll enjoy it and for how long.

Trying to figure out information about Pit Boss grills can be a struggle.

While researching one unit on their website, between the main product page and the owner’s manual, I got three different numbers for the cooking area and two for the hopper capacity. It’s not easy to tell what they’re made of, either, but it seems to be 14-gauge steel, sometimes stainless, sometimes not.

That’s good-quality, heavy steel, and fits with the “Heavier” part of their “Bigger. Hotter. Heavier.” motto.

The six Traeger grills covered in this article use a mix of powder-coated steel and stainless steel construction.

The mid-tier grills have double side-walls, and the top-level units have full double-walls for better heat retention.

Of the Pit Boss units we looked at, only one, a vertical smoker, had double walls.

Fit and finish seem to favor Traeger, overall, with generally more robust design and better features. Some Pit Boss models are significantly better than others, and they lack the consistency of Traeger.

Cooking Space

You aren’t lacking for choice when it comes to size with Pit Boss. Even in our small cross-section of their line-up, we’ve got a vertical smoker with over 1600 sq. in. of cooking space, a mid-size family grill, and a tiny portable.

The six Traegers offer six different sizes, from the low end of mid-sized up to a 1300 sq. in. backyard beast.

All of the grills here feature multiple levels of racks: your options are 2, 3, or 5. That ramps up the versatility as well as the capacity.

The upper rack on one of the Pit Boss grills reviewed has minimal clearance over the main rack and made reaching the back of the lower grate a pain.

While both manufacturers offer a ton of variety, Pit Boss gets a very slight edge over Traeger, thanks mainly to the vertical smoker and also the pint-sized portable.

Temperature Range

The practical temperature range on all the grills in this article from both companies are so similar, it makes little difference. Expect low-end numbers around 180F and an upper end near 500F no matter what you pick.

Here’s the thing with pellet grills, though. They get hot enough for searing, but because they use indirect heat, you can’t actually sear, no matter what anyone says. If you get the grates hot enough, you can brand dark lines into the meat. But, that’s not the same as true searing, and there’s little Maillard reaction.

Pit Boss has overcome this problem with a simple solution.

There’s a sliding panel in the center of the heat deflector on most of their models. Opening it reveals a series of slits directly over the firepot. With the temperature cranked up, flames will shoot up through the slits just like on a charcoal or gas barbecue. Now you can sear and flame broil to your heart’s content!

Both Pit Boss and Traeger offer an ultra-low “Smoke” setting. It’s not low enough for cold smoking, but it is a great way to add a ton of smoke to cooked food, fish, or for keeping food warm.

In terms of controls, Pit Boss has a serious disadvantage. The easy-to-use temperature knob goes up in 25-degree increments but skips a few places. It goes as follows: 200, 225, 250, 300, 350, 400, 450, 475. Want to cook at 275? Too bad. It may not be a huge issue, but control freaks beware.

By contrast, Traeger controllers step up in 5-degree increments, allowing precise control over your target temperature.

No clear winner here, though both have pros and cons. It’s up to you to decide which means more to you – precision temperature control, or true searing without buying a searing kit or using a skillet.

Hopper Size

A typical bag of wood pellets is 20 pounds. Therefore, a 20-pound hopper or larger is optimal.

Of the six Traegers featured here, two have 18-pound hoppers, two have 20-pounders, and two have 24s. Filling the 18 or 24 to capacity will leave you with weirdly sized partial bags of pellets. Not ideal.

Looking at our Pit Boss line-up, we’ve got 20, 31, 5, and 55. The 20 is spot-on, and the 31 is basically a bag and a half. Not too bad.

The fiver sucks, but it’s on a portable pellet grill, so we’ll excuse it. (I recommend portioning out some pellets into an air-tight container for travel.)

The 55-pounder is verging on excessive, but you could always dump in two full bags and not worry about the extra 15.

Other than the 5 pound hopper, all of these should last a full smoking session, assuming an average flow rate of about 1 pound per hour at smoking temperatures.

That number fluctuates from model to model and also depending on the outside temperature. Anything from 30 pounds and up is more than enough for a full day of smoking.

Advantage: Pit Boss.

Added Features, Bells and Whistles

The perks you get with your Pit Boss grill really depend on which model you buy.

Some feature a truly basic thermostat and digital controller, while others offer extra features like the meat probe ports.

With Traeger, a single port is standard across all six models, and a probe is included. In fact, the entire control unit is exactly the same on each Traeger.

Most Pit Boss grills come standard with a lower storage shelf. Not only is it good for keeping gear and pellets off the ground, but it also increases the stability of the cart.

None of the Traeger grills in this article have a lower shelf. You can buy one for the Timberline 1300 as an accessory if you desire.

Overall, though, the new-for-2019 Traeger grills are much better built than older models, and more fully-featured.

As mentioned above, all new Traeger models feature the D2 direct drive controller with variable speed fan and auger and built-in Wi-FiRE technology. With Wi-FIRE, your grill connects to your home Wi-Fi. Using a free app on your phone, you’ll have complete control of your smoker from anywhere you can connect to a wireless network.

Both companies offer an array of add-ons, gear, and accessories you can pick up to enhance your grilling experience. Or, just your grilling image, in the case of hats and apparel.

A useful add-on from Traeger is a pellet sensor for the Pro or Ironwood series. It tells you via the app, and it has a built-in light for checking the hopper after dark.

A fitted cover is always a recommended purchase to protect your grill, and there’s one for each model. And they have the requisite assortment of grilling implements, flavor enhancers, and clothing.

Pit Boss also sells covers for its grills, plus insulated blankets for winter grilling. The magnetic hooks, wing rack, and flexible LED light are all great ideas, and there’s a massive selection of BBQ tools, clothing and doodads.

Price

The actual dollar figure you pay for your grill isn’t the crucial factor here. It’s what you get for your money that counts.

The prices vary from model to model, but, overall, Pit Boss has a more budget-friendly line-up than Traeger, with many grills costing much less than $1000.

Having said that, your extra dollars spent on a Traeger get you better construction and electronics.

The Verdict?

Pit Boss delivers great bang for your buck without breaking the bank. If budget is a concern, Pit Boss is a good choice.

But, you’ll get everything you’ve paid for if you invest the extra cash in a Traeger.

This one is close, and really is up to you.

Top Pit Boss Grills

Here’s a brief look at the facts and a few thoughts on some of Pit Boss’s most popular grills.

700FB Wood Pellet Grill

PIT BOSS 700FB Pellet Grill, 700 sq. in.

This is a very basic pellet grill, what you might even call an “entry-level” grill.

It’s light on features, lacking any meat probe ports, and comes with a stripped-down thermostat. Setting the temperature is easy – you just dial in the preset you want.

There’s also a “Smoke” setting that’s timer-based rather than temperature-based. Eight timer settings produce a range of low-temperature, high-smoke environments.

Anecdotal evidence suggests you need to play around with this setting a few times to get the hang of it, but that it can be very useful.

The best feature on the 700FB is the sliding panel in the center of the heat deflector. Open it up to allow direct access to the flames below. Now you can sear and flame broil just like on a charcoal or gas grill.

Specs

  • Primary cooking area: 442 sq. in.
  • Secondary cooking area: 225 sq. in.
  • Hopper capacity: 20 lbs.
  • Temperature range: 180F to 500F
  • 14-gauge steel construction
  • Porcelain-coated cast iron grids
  • LCD display
  • 5-year warranty

Pros

  • Option to flame broil and sear
  • Bottom storage shelf
  • Cast iron grates

Cons

  • Uneven degree increments on thermostat prevent precise control over 250F
  • Low clearance under the upper grate
  • No option to connect meat probe thermometers
  • Fixed steel wheels will be noisy on pavers

Click here to view and purchase:

 

Check Price on Amazon

 

Austin XL Pellet Grill with Flame Broiler

austin XL pellet grill isolated on white

Looks aren’t everything – but they do matter!

The Austin XL is a snappy-looking grill featuring matching copper-coloured hopper lid, cooking chamber lid, and chimney cap. It also boasts a rugged and sturdy cart with four wheels for easy positioning, including two large roller blade-style wheels for smooth moves.

Attached to the large hopper is a more robust digital controller than Pit Boss offers on the lower-end models.

There are two ports for meat probes built-in, and you get one probe in the box.

It maintains the simple dial for selecting preset temperatures, including the adjustable “Smoke” setting for intense low-temperature smoking.

You also get the sear zone that sets Pit Boss grills apart. Just slide the panel in the middle of the heat deflector for direct grilling right over the flames.

Specs

  • Primary cooking area: 649 sq. in.
  • Secondary cooking area: 288 sq. in.
  • Hopper capacity: 31 lbs.
  • Temperature range: 180F to 500F
  • 14-gauge steel construction
  • Porcelain-coated cast iron grids
  • LCD display
  • 4-wheeled cart
  • 5-year warranty

Pros

  • Option to flame broil and sear
  • Bottom storage shelf
  • Side shelf for workspace
  • Cast iron grates
  • 4 wheels, including 2 locking casters and 2 roller blade-style wheels

Cons

  • Uneven degree increments on thermostat prevent precise control over 250F
  • Two ports but only one probe included

Click here to view and purchase:

 

Check Price on Pitboss-grills.com

 

Tailgater Wood Pellet Grill

Pit boss tailgater grill isolated on white

Pellet grilling and smoking on the go? It’s possible! If wanting to smoke while tailgating, RVing, or camping are your thing, you’ll enjoy having the option to bring this portable grill with you.

The collapsing legs allow it to either stand at full height or nice and short for easy use on the back of a truck. Be warned, though – it’s built for portability, but it still weighs close to 90 pounds!

You get most of the features on this little grill that come standard on the big guys from Pit Boss, including the option to connect up to two meat probes to the digital thermostat.

Most importantly, you get the sear zone in the middle of the heat deflector.

You do, however, give up the cast iron grates in favor of steel.

Plus, the hopper is a tiny 5-pounder, so if you’re planning a long smoke, be ready with extra pellets.

This unit is best suited to flame broiling steaks and burgers, with the option to add some smoke to chicken wings, a small rack of ribs, or the catch of the day.

Specs

  • Primary cooking area: 341 sq. in.
  • Secondary cooking area: n/a
  • Hopper capacity: 5 lbs.
  • Temperature range: 180F to 500F
  • 14-gauge steel construction
  • Porcelain-coated steel grids
  • LCD display
  • 5-year warranty

Pros

  • Option to flame broil and sear
  • Cast iron grates
  • Collapsable legs for easier transport

Cons

  • Uneven degree increments on thermostat prevent precise control over 250F
  • Two ports but only one probe included
  • No bottom shelf
  • Tiny hopper
  • Heavy for a portable

Click here to view and purchase:

 

Check Price on Pitboss-grills.com

 

5 Series Vertical Smoker

pit boss 5 series vertical smoker isolated on white

If smoking is your number one priority, this may be your unit of choice. Pit Boss offers something here that Traeger does not – a vertical smoker.

The advantages of a vertical are many: they don’t take up much space, and they offer a lot of vertical space for big birds, hanging sausages, or using all the racks to smoke a you-know-what ton of meat at the same time.

Unlike some dedicated smokers, this one can hit the higher temperatures needed for baking and roasting, making it extremely versatile.

Of course, what they don’t do is allow for open-flame cooking or searing. If you already own a grill you like, though, you might prefer a dedicated smoker, anyway.

Specs

  • Primary cooking area: 1657 sq. in. split over 5 racks
  • Hopper capacity: 55 lbs.
  • Temperature range: 150F to 420F
  • Double-walled cabinet
  • Porcelain-coated steel grids
  • LCD display
  • 5-year warranty

Pros

  • Space-saving vertical design
  • Glass front for keeping an eye on your meat
  • Huge hopper for extended smoke sessions

Cons

  • Uneven degree increments on thermostat prevent precise control over 250F
  • Two ports but only one probe included

Click here to view and purchase:

 

Check Price on Pitboss-grills.com

 

Top Traeger Grills

In 2019, Traeger introduced six new grills split into three series of two grills: Pro, Ironwood, and Timberline.

Within each series, there’s one larger and one smaller grill, and the features add up (as does the price tag) as you shift from one series to the next.

Let’s break it down and see what you get at each level to help you narrow it down to your best bet.

Pro Series

Traeger Pro 575 isolated on white

The first two grills are the Pro 575 and Pro 780.

They offer identical controls and Wi-Fi capability as the Ironwood and Timberline, but you sacrifice the adjustable grate system and double-wall insulation.

Both are excellent “entry level” grills.

Specs (575 and 780)

  • Primary cooking area: 418 sq. in. & 570 sq. in.
  • Secondary cooking area: 154 sq. in. & 210 sq. in.
  • Hopper capacity: 18 lbs.
  • Temperature range: 160°F to 450°F+
  • PRO D2 Controller
  • Single meat probe
  • Wi-FiRE Wi-Fi-enabled
  • Proprietary Traeger app
  • 3-year warranty

Pros

  • Powder-coated steel construction
  • Has the cool-looking stovepipe chimney

Cons

  • Shorter warranty than Pit Boss
  • Lacks double-wall insulation offered in other two series
  • Hopper won’t hold a full bag of pellets
  • No lower storage shelf

For more info and current prices, click here:

 

Check Price on Traegergrills.com

 

Ironwood Series

Traeger Ironwood 650 isolated on white

Stepping up to Traeger’s mid-tier grills, you’ll benefit from a bigger hopper and double side-wall insulation.

The extra wall helps to stabilize the temperature by keeping the heat in and cold weather out. Plus, you’ll enjoy extra space and flexibility with the adjustable secondary cooking racks.

Specs (650 and 885)

  • Primary cooking area: 418 sq. in. & 570 sq. in.
  • Secondary cooking area: 231 sq. in. & 315 sq. in.
  • Hopper capacity: 20 lbs.
  • Temperature range: 160°F to 450°F+
  • Ironwood D2 Controller
  • Single meat probe
  • Wi-FiRE Wi-Fi-enabled
  • Proprietary Traeger app
  • 3-year warranty

Pros

  • Powder-coated steel construction
  • Adjustable secondary racks
  • Double side-walls for improved heat retention

Cons

  • Shorter warranty than Pit Boss
  • Primary cooking surface sizes are exactly the same as the Pro Series units
  • No bottom storage shelf

For more info and current prices, click here:

 

Check Price on Traegergrills.com

 

Timberline Series

Traeger Timberline 850 isolated on white

Want the top-of-the-line? Check out these big and beautiful grills and all the high-end features.

They come with full double-wall construction, magnetic cutting board, pellet sensor, stainless steel grates, and a stainless steel front shelf.

Specs (850 and 1300)

  • Primary cooking area: 352 sq. in. & 544 sq. in.
  • Secondary cooking area: 308 sq. in. & 476 sq. in.
  • Tertiary cooking area: 198 sq. in. & 198 sq. in.
  • Hopper capacity: 24 lbs.
  • Temperature range: 160°F to 450°F+
  • Timberline D2 Controller
  • Single meat probe
  • Wi-FiRE Wi-Fi-enabled
  • Proprietary Traeger app
  • 3-year warranty

Pros

  • Powder-coated steel construction
  • Two additional adjustable racks
  • All walls are stainless steel double-sided (not just the side walls) for better heat retention
  • Huge capacity in the 1300

Cons

  • Shorter warranty than Pit Boss
  • Primary cooking surfaces are actually smaller than in the Ironwood grills
  • No lower storage shelf

For more info and current prices, click here:

 

Check Price on Traegergrills.com

 

Pit Boss vs Traeger – Which Should You Choose?

Is there an overall winner of our Pit Boss vs Traeger showdown?

While the Traegers are generally better grills, Pit Boss has a lot going for them, too. I mean, you have to love the option to sear over real flames on a pellet grill.

So the winner is… up to you!

Based on what you’ve read here today, you should be able to decide what’s right for you and choose your own winner.

Thanks for visiting today for your grilling research. Stick around and use that search bar to discover more reviews, recipes, and helpful tips.

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Great barbecue is for everyone, my friends!

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