Traeger Grills
Photo courtesy Traeger Grills

Man + fire + food. It was the simplest cooking equation of all. Cooked food may have begun accidentally, with a prehistoric person dropping food into flames and discovering deliciousness, albeit probably on the well-done side. However it happened, cooked food was the key to human civilization. It gave us immediate access to nutrients which allowed early humans to do more than forage for food all day. We could grow our brains bigger, paint on the walls and invent things like the wheel, more efficient sharp, pointy sticks and computers and monster trucks. 

And, now, the big brains at Traeger Grills have come up with the new equation: man + fire + food + technology.

Traeger Grill

Above: Traeger Grills use wood pellets instead of logs, chunks or charcoal and WiFire tech.

The Traeger Grills are the first computerized grills, words that didn’t make sense to me, a lifelong traditional cook, until I toured Traeger HQ in SugarHouse. I could tell right away from the space that I was in a tech hive—the sleek design, open spaces, the obvious emphasis on company community, the people buzzing around on hoverboards. Definitely digital space. And as Michael Colston, veep of product development put it, “We are a technology company that produces hard goods.”

The brilliance of Traeger grilling, before we get to the computerized part, is the use of extruded wood pellets instead of chunks of wood as fuel. They look like dog food and lack the soul of a hand-hewn log, they are, Colston explained, way better. A better, sharp, pointy stick, basically.

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“We make these from sawdust of previously used-wood,” he explains. “We are using something that would otherwise be thrown away. The pellets are still pure wood—alder, oak, mesquite and fruitwood—sourced from places where those trees are native and naturally used—and they are much more energy-efficient and produce fewer particulate matter than conventional wood. Plus, they still impart the flavors from the original wood.” So you can use fuels appropriate to the food, like Northwest alder for fish, or Texas mesquite for beef.

But the jaw-dropping feature of Traeger grills is that they have an app. The Traeger app, cheekily called “WiFire” (Tinder was taken) lets you preset the desired temperature and cooking time. Meanwhile, the grill knows how many pellets to feed in and controls the fans to keep the cooking temperature precisely consistent.

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