Mastering the art of BBQ is no easy feat. Pitmasters spend their entire lives cooking pork and beef over woodfire flames while perfecting their craft. It’s been about 18 months since I discovered that you can skip the proverbial waiting line and go straight from ‘novice’ to ‘expert’ overnight. Or at least you can pick up a woodfire smoker that does all the work for you and that will trick your friends and family into thinking you’re a BBQ expert.
I first started cooking with the Traeger Tailgater a year and a half ago. I started slowly by smoking some trout for a Smoked Fish Dip. I quickly progressed to smoked sausages, chicken wings (my specialty), ribs, brisket, corned beef, and this year I smoked a turkey on Thanksgiving to go with the traditional turkey in the oven. (1) I’ve never felt more talented as a cook than I have with the Traeger Tailgater and (2) it’s all a completely false sense of self because cooking with a pellet smoker requires barely any effort at all.
Pellet smoker, what’s that? Let me explain…
The Traeger Tailgater is an electric smoker. It burns woodfire pellets which are automatically fed into the fire by a hopper which sits on the side of the smoker. In order to keep the fire blazing all you need to do is make sure the hopper is filled with pellets. The pellets come in every type of wood you’d ever want to cook with (a 40-pound bag). I’ve experimented with all of the ‘fruit’ woods (Applewood, Cherrywood, etc) but I’ve found that the best results come from buying a blend of different woods. You can purchase these pellets on Amazon for cheap, and there are competitive pitmasters all throughout The South who sell their ‘championship’ wood blends.
But how do you set the temperature of the smoker? I’ll explain…
The Traeger Tailgater has an electric thermostat. It ranges from ‘Smoke’ on up to about 400-degrees (the ‘High’ setting). You can set it in increments of 25-degrees (175F, 200F, 225F, etc). To choose your desired temperature all you do us turn the electric knob to the degrees of your choosing and you’re good to go, the smoker does the rest.
If this all sounds incredibly easy it’s because it is. Cooking with an electric woodfire pellet smoker is a genuine ‘set it and forget it’ experience.
You can fit a full-size turkey on Traeger Tailgater. Multiple chickens. Several racks of ribs. More wings than you’re capable of eating. Massive slabs of brisket. I’ve never gone to smoke any meats and found that the Traeger Tailgater wasn’t large enough, so don’t worry about that.
Why’s it called a ‘Tailgater’? I’m glad you asked…
You can see above there are four legs on the smoker and two of those legs have wheels. Well, that’s so you can roll it around. But what you might not be able to tell is all four legs can be folded up so the Traeger Tailgater can go everywhere with you. This portable smoker can fit in the trunk of your car or SUV or in the back of the truck. All you need to turn it on is an electrical outlet (you can get a converter for your car or use a portable battery like I do) and you can smoke wings, sausage, and more at the tailgate!
Smoking meat is a slow process. You want to let the meat cook at low temperatures to inject as much of that smokey flavor as possible. The smoker does all the work but you end up looking like a BBQ master just because your friends are all too lazy to buy a smoker themselves.
Ever since I got my Traeger Tailgater, I shit you not, I’ve had friends texting me weeks ahead of time asking me to make my BBQ smoked wings. They’re like drug addicts. They need their fix. I never saw any response like this after cooking with my charcoal or gas grill, nor have I seen anyone go this crazy for my sous vide recipes (I highly recommend cooking sous vide during the week though!). Does it feel great to have your friends and family throwing effusive praise at you over the things you’ve cooked? You’re damn right it does. And what’s great about a wood-fire pellet smoker is you *truly* don’t have to put in much effort at all.
So, if you’re ready to start cooking like a pro then I highly suggest picking up a Traeger Tailgater because it’s been the best addition to my life in years!
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