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Traeger Hits the Road

I love to barbecue.  

I don't mean grill.  I like that too, but here I'm talking about barbecue.  For grilling, you need a grill, some direct heat source (most anything will do – charcoal, gas, electric, whatever) and some food that you want to cook quickly with stylish grill marks.

Barbecuing is a whole 'nuther thing.  Barbecuing is about long and slow cooking over a wood fire.  Barbecuing is about taking a less-than-awesome cut of meat, and bringing it up to awesome.  If your cooking time is measured in minutes, you're grilling.  If it's measured in hours, you are barbecuing.  Also, technically, barbecuing is about convection heat and grilling is about radiant heat.  

You can grill on a barbecue pit, but you can't barbecue on a "grill."  A proper barbecue pit is wood-fired and can be operated for long periods of time at a low temperature – around 225 degrees F.  This pretty much eliminates anything powered by propane or charcoal.  

At home, I barbecue on a Traeger.  Traeger is the "big cheat" for people who like to cook brisket for 11 hours at 225 on hickory, or pork shoulder for 15 hours on mesquite, or babyback ribs for 4 hours…  With a "manual" barbecue pit, maintaining that constant-temperature wood fire for all those hours with the correct hardwood is an art.  Traegers use hardwood pellets.  You can buy them in 20 pound bags in a variety of woods – apple, mesquite, hickory, etc.  The Traeger has an automatic auger that slowly dispenses the pellets into a fire box, and a small fan that blows air on the fire.  There is a thermostatic control that adjusts the speed of the auger to maintain whatever temperature you've set.  There is an auto-ignition system that lights the fire when you turn it on.  It is all the convenience of a gas grill, but with a hardwood fire.  Instead of having to finesse a mesquite fire to a constant temperature, you dump in some mesquite pellets, set the temperature to 225, and check back every few hours to make sure the hopper isn't empty.

Recently, we found a "baby Traeger" that we can easily transport in the back of the pickup – so we can barbecue on the road in the Airstream.  For me, that was a game changer.  Yesterday, I cooked some babyback ribs for about 4 hours.  The little guy holds 3 racks.  I've also cooked pork loins, poultry, salmon, and steaks (Yes, I know you don't barbecue steak,  you grill it, but the Traeger also has a "high" setting for just that purpose.)  Four hours of babyback aroma drifting around the campground can make you some enemies, though.

(Posted by Kevin)