Sunday, June 10, 2012

Traeger - Lil Tex Elite - Smoker Grill

I received my new Traeger Lil-Tex Elite Grill this week.

I paid $799.00 with cover and two 20 lb. bags of pellets (Hickory & Mesquite) (Memorial Day Sale) direct from Traeger's web site with no shipping or sales tax.

The Everyday Cookbook is included in the box, but not the analog temperature gage, that is optional. Some assembly is required, but very simple, really just putting on the legs. Once fully assembled there is a 45 min burn in process to burn off the "Newness" and eliminate any manufacturing left over oils etc. Overall this all went fine, there was a minor bend in one of the slots where the legs had to slide in, but easily straightened out with a pair of pliers. After it had cooled down, I applied a coat of automotive wax to the outside and buffed to a shine. I read this would help protect it to do this annually.

First cooking adventure with the Traeger: BBQ Baby Back Ribs using the Treager 3-2-1 method and Hickory Pellets, with the addition of some ideas I have read about on the web. I started preparing the ribs around 10:30AM. Made up the mustard, Apple Juice and Worcestershire Sauce, and spread it on three racks of ribs (3 racks - about 9 lbs.) I was not sure on the pork rub, how much to use, but sprinkled evenly and rubbed it in. So now I was ready to start smoking!

Following the directions to start the smoker/grill I set it to smoke with the cover open. After it started and there was visible smoke, I closed the lid but the temperature kept rising all the way up to 375, and it was set to smoke (160 - 180 expected). So I watched it rise all the way to 400 and after a few minutes of this I called Traeger Technical Support. A young man answered the call and when I told him what was going on he told me the unit had to complete a cycle, and to leave the lid open for 10-15 min, then close the lid and all should be OK. I followed his suggestion, and lo and behold it worked as he said it would. It was smoking well, with temps running between 160 to 170 as I expected.

Cooking the ribs: I sprayed the grille grate with PAM, just to prevent sticking. Put on the ribs, bone side down, and sat back with a beverage and watched the smoker do its thing. After 45 minutes I sprayed the ribs with apple juice I had put into a new clean spray bottle (I read this trick from a few people on the web). I will spray the ribs during the smoke process once every 45 minutes. So the process looks like this:

·         10:30 - Prepare Ribs

·         11:00 - Ribs on Smoker (180 deg good smoke)

·         11:45 - Spray lightly with apple juice

·         12:30 - Spray lightly with apple juice

·         1:15 - Spray lightly with apple juice

·         2:15 - Remove for Phase 2 (set smoker to 225 deg)

·                         - Wrap each rack of ribs in foil (with brown sugar, apple juice, and honey)

·         2:30 - Back on smoker at 225 deg

·         4:30 - Remove foil add BBQ sauce

·         5:30 - Remove ribs

·         5:45 - Enjoy

The final product was great! Well worth the effort. The meat was tender, not falling of the bone, but just a slight pull to separate it. I am now looking forward to my next smoking project, maybe a Turkey, or chicken.

My final thoughts on the Traeger Smoker:  I can see why many folks are upset with the switch in 2007 from being made in USA to having the units made in China. The product clearly felt like "Made In China" as I took it out of the box and assembled it. The metal work, how thin it is, and the feel, all scream "Made In China". We are becoming accustomed to this today, with so many things, it is a shame. As with most things it did function as it was designed. I do feel with the shift to China the cost should have come down, at $799. the unit feels overpriced by about $300.00. These are now being offered at many Costco stores, and I'll bet Lowes or Home Depot is next! The Traeger Smoker/Grill is not a specialty product any longer.