So you’ve decided to invest in a wood pellet grill but still haven’t decided which brand to buy.
Traeger and Pit Boss make some of the most popular pellet grills on the market today.
If you ask around you’ll get plenty of opinions about which is better.
The problem is, people always end up defending the grill they bought and slamming the competition so it’s hard to get an objective opinion.
In this guide, we break down the differences between Traeger and Pit Boss and look at some of the top grills from each company to help you decide which pellet grill is right for you.
Click to jump straight to each topic
Pit Boss vs Traeger Wood Pellet Grill – Head to head
I always try and avoid coming out and saying one grill is definitely “better” than another.
It’s very hard to compare grills fairly. For example, if one gill costs $500 and another costs $1000, is it fair to say that the $1000 grill is better?
You’ve also got a situation where each brand is constantly updating its line-up and grill construction.
So a review you read might be talking about the 2016 Pit Boss which is no-longer sold.
So with that caveat in mind, here are some general differences between Traeger and Pit Boss that most people agree on.
- Pit Boss, in general, offers better value for money.
- Most people agree that older models of Traeger were better quality although the new 2019 Traeger Grills are much better
- Traeger grills used to be made in the USA but they have since moved to manufacture to China.
- Traeger could charge a premium when they were the only company selling pellet grills. Now that they have competition, but thanks to the large name recognition and market share they haven’t had to cut price as much as you might expect.
- In 2018 Pit Boss increased their warranty period to 5 years (2 years more than Traeger). Note that this isn’t retroactive so if you bought the grill before then you still only have a 1-year warranty.
- Most Pit Boss grills utilize a “slide and sear” system to give you a small searing zone directly above the fire pot.
Now that you know a little more about both brands, you’re best option is to narrow down which Traeger or Pit Boss model you would buy, and then you can compare the features of each specific grill.
I suggest comparing grills in these 6 categories:
- Temperature Range
- Cooking space
- Hopper Size
- Features (e.g. WiFi connectivity)
To help you compare we’ve selected two of the most popular grills that Traeger and Pit Boss sell, and compared them across a range of categories.
|Pit Boss Sportsman 820||Traeger Pro 575|
|Dimensions||58 x 32 x 52 in||53x41x27 in|
|Hopper capacity||21 lb||18 lb|
|Cooking surface area (sq in)||849 (592 main grate + 256 secondary)||575 (425 main grate + 150 secondary)|
|Direct flame||Slide plate flame broiler||No|
|Temperature range||180°F – 500°F||165°F-500°F|
|Control||Dial-in digital control with LED read-out||D2® drivetrain|
|Storage||Removable side shelf||Folding front shelf sold seperately|
|Pellet purge system||Yes||Yes|
|Warranty||5 years||3 years|
|Price||Check latest price||Check latest price|
With the Traeger Pro 575 you will be paying more for a smaller grill, but you get the WiFIRE system to control the grill via an App, plus a more advanced control system.
With the Pit Boss Sportsman 820 you save a bit of money, get a larger grill which has some nice usability features like the slide plate for grilling and removable side shelf to help with prep work.
In the next section, we go into a bit more detail about the two brands, or you can skip ahead to see our break down of all the most popular grills from each company.
Overview of Traeger
Out of the two brands, Traeger has the most interesting background.
Traeger grills was formed after Joe Traeger developed the original concept after experimenting with wood burning stoves.
His first pellet grill was created in 1985 and he patented the design in 1986.
This gave Traeger a total monopoly on the pellet grill market over the next 20 years.
Throughout this period Traeger stayed a small family company based out of Oregon.
The patent expiring in 2006 brought a rush of new competitors entering the market.
Traeger have really exploded in popularity since Jeremy Andrus joined the company back in 2014 and moved the business to Salt Lake City.
Today Traeger is easily the largest manufacturer of pellet grills, selling more than $300 million worth of grills every year.
Overview of Pit Boss
Pit Boss were one of the first companies to start competing with Traeger.
As a subsidiary of Dansons, Inc the company was founded in 1999 by Dan Thiessen. The company is based our of Alberta.
Pit Boss Grills positioned themselves as a more affordable pellet grill option to compete with Traeger.
In an interesting twist of fate, Joe Traeger joined Dansons in 2018 to work on both the Pit Boss and Louisiana grill brands.
Top Pit Boss Grills
Pit Boss’ lineup of grills can be a bit confusing.
If you look on their website, you can see they sell a lot of different models, some of which can only be bought from Walmart or Lowes.
A lot of their grills are almost identical but come in slightly different configurations.
For this guide, we’ll look at the most popular models of Pit Boss including both horizontal and vertical pellet smokers that you can actually buy from their website.
The Sportsman 820 is one of the newest releases from Pit Boss and packs plenty of features at a budget-friendly price.
In our review, we pointed out the generous size for the price, with 829 square inches of cooking space split between a primary and a secondary grate.
There’s also the 21 lb hopper with a window to keep an eye on your pellet level, and an easy way to drain unused pellets at the end of a cook.
You can check out all the features and what we thought in more detail in our video review below.
The only real negatives with the Sportsman was the small searing zone, which is common with most ‘slide and sear’ systems, and the rounded diverter plate, which we found affected our ability to collect drippings.
If you don’t want the option to control your grill via an app, then the Sportsman is cheaper, holds more food and comes with better storage and prep areas than the Traeger.
The 700FB was one of Pit Boss’ top selling grills but it’s become a little outdated now with the release of the Sportsman and Navigator range.
While you do give up a bit in features like WiFi connectivity, the price difference alone makes the 700FB a very tempting buy in the mid to large sized pellet smoker range.
This grill does have plenty of options for cooking hot though. It’s able to hit 600°F and you’ve also got the flame broiler system where you use a slide-plate to get direct flame grilling.
You get a standard digital controller (Not a PID controller) so the temperature will fluctuate a little more. The control unit isn’t as nice as the Sportsman and there are no side or front shelves.
Otherwise, the features of this grill are all fairly similar to those we discussed in our Pit Boss 440 review above.
You don’t see many companies selling vertical pellet smokers.
Maybe it’s because people like the “old school cool” look of the drum shaped design.
We think that’s a shame because the vertical design lets you fit a lot more cooking real estate into a smaller foot print.
There isn’t really a Traeger alternative to the Pit Boss Vertical smokers.
Each smoke shares a similar design, with a prominent window door and stylish copper color.
You might also see these referred to as “Copperhead Pellet Smokers”
With 1,659 square inches of cooking space and a huge 40lb hopper the Pit Boss 5 series provides more than enough size for most people.
That cooking space is spread over 5 racks which you can adjust depending on what you’re cooking.
Obviously if you are cooking something large like a turkey or brisket you’ll need to remove a rack so you won’t have the full 1659 square inches to play with.
The huge hopper allows you to cook for up to 24 hours without refilling your pellets.
We have heard of some people running into problems with this smoker.
From doing some digging it seems like some people have just received faulty grills.
Plenty of people haven’t had any problem though, and it’s always the people who have issues that leave reviews, but we would still say to proceed with caution.
For what it’s worth Pit Boss customer service seems to be very responsive.
You have a huge choice when it comes to portable pellet grills.
We picked the 440 Deluxe, although you could just as easily go with the Sportsman Portable which comes with folding legs.
The cooking space is divided between a 340 square inch main grill, and a 100 square inches on the upper rack. Both grills are made out of porcelain coated steel.
The rack is removable which comes in handy when it’s time to take your meat off, just take the whole grill off.
This model includes a handy side shelf, and includes tool hooks for easy storage.
The 5lb hopper is definitely on the small side, so this isn’t a good grill if you want to set up a cook and then leave for the day.
5. Pit Boss Lockhart Platinum Series
Traeger doesn’t have any grills like the Lockhart, but it’s a fun grill so we thought we would include it anyway.
You get a fairly standard pellet grill on the bottom, with a double-door smoke cabinet stuck on top.
This gives you an insane 2136 square inches of cooking space, all within a fairly moderate footprint (assembled dimensions are 55.12L x 31.50W x 66.93H).
You get a large 40 lb hopper to keep you cooking, and two probes are included although you can add up to four total.
It’s a fun, unique smoker that doesn’t fit into the same mold as 99% of the other pellet grills you see out there.
It’s a good choice for anyone that wants to feed a crowd, without spending too much money.
Top Traeger Grills
We’ve got a full guide to the best Traeger grill reviews which goes into a lot more detail or read on to get the overview to help you decide between a Pit Boss or a Traeger
One thing to note is that Traeger updated their grill lineup for 2019 with some new features and they also changed how they name each model.
For the new 2019 models, the number in the product name refers to the cooking surface.
For example, the Pro 780 has 780 square inches of cooking surface.
This is different to older Traeger models where the number refers to the size of the main grilling rack. E.g. the Pro Series 34 has a 34″ x 19″ grilling rack.
At the time of writing this some of the main retailers like Amazon seem to be stocking the older Traeger Grills, so we’ve added links to the new models sold directly from Traeger.com
These days Traeger produces three main lines of pellet grill, plus a handful of other popular models.
The Traeger Pellet Grill lineup:
- Traeger Pro series – The most popular Traeger grills come in two sizes and now include WiFi connectivity
- Traeger Ironwood Series – An upgrade over the Pro series, the Ironwood series gives you larger sizes plus a bunch of new features known ad DownDraft Exhaust and TRU convection. You also get Super Smoke mode, the option to push a button and ramp up the smoke produced.
- Traeger Timberline series – The largest and most expensive option comes with all the features of the Ironwood plus futuristic pellet sensing technology that lets you monitor your pellet levels on the app.
- Traeger Tailgater – The portable model, with 300 sq inches and a lot less tech. The Tailgater is still a good small option for home use.
Other brands to consider
If you still haven’t decided between a Traeger or Pit Boss, you might find one of the many other pellet grill manufactures sells the grill you’ve been lusting after.
We’ll quickly run through some of the alternatives you might want to consider.
Another budget alternative – Z Grills
If your primary reason for considering a Pit Boss is price, then you might want to give Z Grills a look.
These guys are very new to selling to consumers but they’ve actually been building pellet grills for other companies (like Traeger!) for many years.
You can definitely see the resemblance when you look at the design. Everything is similar except for the high price tag.
The most popular model is the Z Grills 700E which was recently updated in 2019 to fix a few issues with the temperature controller.
We’ve cooked a lot of food on the 700E and think it’s a fantastic pellet grill. It doesn’t have quite as many features as a grill likes the Sportsman 820, but it does have a proper cabinet which is great for storage.
A solid mid-range alternative – Camp Chef
We’re huge fans of Camp Chef’s Pellet Grills. We named their popular Woodwind our all around best pellet grill.
While not the largest grill for the price, you get excellent build quality, easy cleanup, and very efficient pellet consumption.
We also really like Camp Chef’s approach to searing. Rather than using a gimmick, they just give you the option to add on an optional sear box.
While that seems simple, it’s actually the best approach to searing we’ve seen from a pellet grill.
Thankfully the Camp Chef lineup is a lot simpler than brands like Traeger and Pit Boss.
We also did an in-depth Camp Chef vs Traeger comparison, where you can learn what distinguishes these grills from each other.
Wrapping it up
Hopefully, you now know a lot more about the differences between Traeger and Pit Boss.
I hope we haven’t angered any hard-core Traeger fans with our analysis. We definitely aren’t saying they make bad grills, just that for the price Pit Boss gives you more bang for your buck.
Having said that, the latest grills from Traeger offer WiFi connectivity and the ability to control your grill from your phone which is too tempting for some people to pass up.