For those that own a Traeger, I’m sure you will attest that it’s truly a beast of a machine.
Although a Traeger does what it does best, smoke wood pellets into a beautiful thin ‘blue’ smoke, it’s not your all-in-one cooking solution.
That’s because Traeger Grills, along with all other pellet grills for that matter, do require wood pellets to operate. This isn’t just for smoking, but they solely rely on wood pellets for the heat too.
But, you may be wondering, what happens if you run out of pellets mid-cook, will it continue to operate?
Well. Here’s everything you need to know. Covering whether you can use a Traeger without wood pellets, and what to do if you’ve run out of pellets mid-cook.
Can You Use A Traeger Without Pellets?
Whether you own one of the top of the range Traegers or one of the many other beloved models from the Traeger Timberline to the Traeger Pro, they all require two things to run.
This being, Traeger Grills require electricity to power the auger, digital display, and fan, and wood pellets to provide the necessary heat for cooking and the smoke for, well, smoking.
Unlike an oven which uses electricity to provide heat, the sole source of heat in a Traeger grill comes from the burning of wood pellets.
So, unfortunately, you cannot use a Traeger grill without wood pellets, as it simply won’t heat up at all and will refuse to operate!
This also means that you can’t grill on your Traeger without smoke either, since it requires wood pellets to operate.
What To Do When Your Traeger Runs Out Of Pellets
Could it really have happened? The thing we backyard barbecuer’s fear the most. Running out of fuel.
When it comes to cooking with a Traeger Grill, the wood pellets are its life. Without wood pellets the Traeger simply begins its shutdown cycle. During this time only residual smoke from the firepot will be produced and the temperature will steadily begin to fall.
Luckily, most Traegers give you a warning when the hopper is getting low, whether it appears on your app with the newer models, flashes up on the digital display, or sounds a low pellet alarm.
So, if you’ve just found out your Traeger has just run out of pellets or is running low, here’s all your options so that you can save your barbecue!
Add More Pellets
The first solution is normally the simplest. If you have more wood pellets and your Traeger is running low or has JUST run out, then you can simply add more wood pellets.
You should have at least one-two hours of smoking time left when you receive the low pellet hopper warning, depending on your exact model. This means you have time to source yourself some more wood pellets, whether it’s from your own supply or at your local Walmart or barbecue store.
Just don’t be tempted to use any kind of heating pellets, as they are simply unsuitable for use in a pellet grill or smoker!
It’s safe to leave your Traeger unattended for short times so you can zip down to the local and restock and re-fill your Traeger if you’re quick, or you can ask someone to watch it while you’re gone.
However, if you’ve found your pellet grill has completely turned off, or you’ve been hit with the low temperature warning due to insufficient wood pellets, then it’s actually recommended to do a complete restart.
In this case you may have to look at alternative options, as the restart involves waiting for everything to cool down, taking the internal pieces out, vacuuming the fire pot, and allowing the auger to re-fill and pull the new wood pellets through.
Turn On The Oven
As annoying as it can be, one safe option to continue the cook is to immediately start your oven (assuming it’s large enough to hold whatever you are barbecuing).
Remember, during the smoking process the actual “smoke” flavor is absorbed prior to the formation of the bark, usually within the first 50% of the cook.
This means, so long as your meat was at least 50% done in the Traeger, you can move it to the oven at your desired slow cooking temperature, without sacrificing that beautiful smoky flavor we all love.
Fire Up The Gas Grill
Lots of folks have a gas grill in their backyards alongside the wood smoker. If you’re one of these BBQing gurus, then you can just move the goodies to the gas grill.
Of course, if you want to continue the smoke you can use a trusty smoker box in your gas grill.
Otherwise, at least you can keep things going for the remainder of the cook. If your gas grill allows it, you can set up just one of the burners, placing the meat on the other side, thus creating an indirect heating zone for slow cooking.
Start The Charcoal
Fire up your charcoal chimney. Once your Traeger has run out of pellets you have roughly 30-60 mins before the temperature drops significantly low, and starts impacting the cooking of the meat.
If you’re well equipped, this should be sufficient time to set up your charcoal snake with a few wood chips for smoking and prepare to transfer your food from the Traeger to the charcoal grill!
Obviously not ideal, but it can be done to save the day.
How Long Do Wood Pellets Last In A Traeger?
So, how do you stop running out of pellets mid-cook? Well, you’ve got to know how long a full hopper is going to last you, and remember to fill it up during the cook.
On average, about 225°F, your Traeger will burn roughly 2 pounds of wood pellets per hour. So, a full 18lb hopper would last roughly 9 hours of consistent smoking time.
At higher temperatures of 350°F or more you would expect your Trager to burn roughly pounds of wood pellets per hour. So, the same 18lb hopper would only last 6 hours.
This means if you are looking at doing any long smoking sessions, you need to set yourself a timer to remember to top up! If you are using the Traeger Timberline models, you will even be alerted via the app!
Don’t worry about putting too many wood pellets, even if you don’t use them all pellets can last months in the hopper so long as it’s stored in a dry and covered place.
That’s right, even the mightiest of machines have their weaknesses.
When it comes to Traeger Grills, it’s the fact that you need wood pellets to make it function.
Although, this isn’t really a weakness, given all grills have their own fuel source, so perhaps some of the blame is on you for not keeping an adequate supply.
But look, it happens to all of us from time to time. So, if your Traeger has run out of wood pellets, it’s either time to make an urgent trip to get some, or turn on your next best appliance to finish the job!