Summer has finally arrived in the UK which means that we might get the odd sunny day; it is time to start moving our lives outdoors. Part of the annual outdoor ritual is cooking over fire; it’s in our DNA, baked into our genes since the day that our Homo Sapien ancestors discovered fire and everything that this newly harnessed power gave us. I had been lucky enough to learn the various ways of making fire and the endless methods of cooking with fire from the likes of Bushcraft guru Ray Mears and his acquaintances around the world including the Kalahari Bushmen or the Sami of Lapland; a meal cooked, baked or roasted over flame and smoke is second to none. However it can take time, from building your cooking area, collecting seasoned firewood, getting your wood to the correct temperature and keeping it there; needless to say it takes years of learning, experience and practice to perfect these techniques. Busy lives leave very little time for what was once our ancestors’ daily work- collecting fuel, food and cooking it and then socialising around that fire; yet our primal instincts crave this experience more and more as we distance ourselves from our origins. The Barbeque goes a long way to satisfying this desire and at the Bespoke Black Book we have discovered a range of grills that can create food that might just satisfy those primal cravings; the Traeger Grill BBQ’s.
Born in 1987 in Mt. Angel in Oregon, Traeger invented the original wood-fired Grill and to this day still leads the industry as the world’s number one selling wood-fired grill. The Salt Lake City based company has for over 30 years worked with many grilling experts, chefs and authors to perfect the art of outdoor cooking using 100% natural hardwood fuels to grill, smoke, bake, roast and braise. The Traeger Grills use hardwood pellets, which are stored in an easy to access hopper, from the hopper the pellets are slowly delivered to the fire pot by an auger where they are ignited by a HotRod to feed the flames. A fan circulates the heat and smoke around the food to create consistent cooking whilst a drip tray prevents flare-ups and flames that would otherwise incinerate your food. The wood pellets, of which there are various types such as fruit woods like cherry and apple which impart a subtle sweet flavour suited to poultry, pork, seafood and baked goods, whilst other pellets like oak, hickory and mesquite work well with more savoury options like beef, wild game, and vegetables. The precision temperature controls on the Grill or via Traeger’s patented WiFIRE® and the smartphone app let you keep a close eye on the process whilst preparing other food, socialising or just enjoying the tipple of your choice.
The particular grill that we have been playing with is the Traeger Pro 575 Pellet Grill with temperatures ranging from 75-260ºC. This grill can smoke, cook low and slow or hot and fast, the digital meat probe gives precise temperature readings from the core of your meat and along with the WiFIRE® and the Traeger app one can finely tune the cooking of your meat, producing perfect results every time. The porcelain coated grill grates mean that you don’t lose half of your food stuck to the grates. The TurboTemp® means that the start up time is super quick, though the copious amount of white smoke looks like we are announcing a new pope to the neighbourhood. This feature also helps the temperature recover quickly after lifting the lid; I did not realise how much heat grills lose each time the lid is open, until I could see the actual temperature. The Pro 575 Pellet Grill is a decent size with 575 square inches of cooking space, however this is probably easier to visualise as 24 burgers, 5 rib racks, 4 chickens or 3 spachcock chickens. The Grill has many design details that show that Traeger have spent a lot time testing, researching and evolving their products; from the hopper clean out trap door with magnetic holder to make changing the flavour of the pellets simple to the simplistic D2 controlller on the grill or via the app. The fun really begins with access to over 1,600 Traeger recipes, ProTip Videos and online cooking classes via Traeger Kitchen Live through the Traeger App and website. It is so worth exploring the plethora of Traeger knowledge and taking your Grill skills to a whole new level.
I love the smell and flavour of smoke whether from a log fire, a smoked cheese, smoked fish or meat or a smoky cocktail. Smoking is the Traeger Grill’s forte, with many recipes starting the process with low temperatures to impart the smoky flavours from the various woods and then finish off the cooking process with higher temperatures. Smoking a whole chicken is a great place to start with various methods to flavour the chicken through rubs, brines and seasoning. This is some of the best chicken that I have eaten . . . if I do say so myself! Smoky yet still moist and tender. Other recipes that we have had huge success with so far are the Alder smoked scallops with citrus & garlic butter sauce, the Beginner smoked Beef Brisket and smoked traeger pulled pork which may take a long time to smoke and grill but they will be so worth it, once you taste them. One thing I must stress is to make sure that you familiarise yourself with the Grill care as the Traeger grills deserve the proper loving care and attention.
As well as the Traeger Pro Series of Grills, it is worth checking out the Ironwood Series which have all the features of the Pro series plus a few extras such as the double wall insulation for all weathers, Super Smoke mode, smoke/searing setting and Downdraft Exhaust to circulate the smoke for maximum flavour. The Timberline Series pushes the boundaries even further with such additions as concealed grease management system and three tiers of stainless steel grates. Traeger have also brought out a compact Travel Series with The Ranger being perfect for camping or smaller outdoor spaces like balconies. I must say I am a Traeger convert, outdoor cooking has never been so much fun or even this tasty for that matter; I am looking forward to digging down into more and more of their recipes and exploring their Accessories further; at the top of my birthday list is the Traeger Meat injector so I can apply my home made marinades and brines deep within the meat. Welcome to the world of outdoor cooking, the way our ancient ancestors would be proud of.
For more information or to buy visit www.traegergrills.com