The Traeger grill operates as a very different grille than a typical BBQ. It burns far cleaner than a traditional charcoal BBQ and it’s far more flavorful in cooking than a gas BBQ. However, pulling off a smokeless Traeger meal takes a bit of work and know-how.
Otherwise, you end up with a lot of ashing on the meat, which can spoil it or it doesn’t cook hot enough, which can be dangerous to eat. Here’s the trick to cooking with a Traeger grille minus the smoke and all the benefits that can give you with more than just meats on the hot iron.
Can You Cook on a Traeger Without Smoke?
The short answer is, yes. The trick is to work at higher temperatures, which causes a quick heating versus a slow one that allows things to dry out to a crisp, creating smoke and off-gassing.
Instead of burning with lots of fumes, the high heat forces the wood pellets to insulate the heat like a wood oven. The pellets themselves won’t charcoal as much, and the food cooks at a higher temperature.
Should you use Smoke in a Traeger?
There are few cooking reasons why not to. Smoke adds flavor, but it also puts a lot of carbon into cooked food. That’s not necessarily the healthiest way to eat as carbon off-gassing has been known to be carcinogenic in large amounts.
So cooking without the smoke is, for health reasons, going to be a far cleaner way to prepare food on a grille6 if nothing else.
How to use Traeger without Smoke
The first step to cooking smokeless involves cleaning the grille first. Residue and old grit will contribute to a lot of smoke until it is completely burned off.
That will usually take longer than it takes to cook the food, so just clean it out to begin with and avoid the problem altogether. Next, start the heat on high with a setting of at least 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Higher heat cooks with less burning, which means less smoke.
However, if you have old grease at the grille bottom, it will catch fire, so clean that out first as well. A Traeger set to 350 degrees can easily get up to 450 with combined heat capture, which in turn will light old grease and rapidly increase the heat well above 600 degrees, serious fire range.
What Does not Using Smoke in a Traeger Allow You to Do?
There are a number of foods that cook well with higher heat that don’t benefit at all from smoke.
Pizza, for example, cooks very well at high heat and only needs about 10 minutes or so in an oven for a thorough cooking. Vegetables also cook very well at higher heats, with their internal moisture boiling them from the inside out.
Can you Grill Steaks on a Traeger?
Yes, it is possible to grill steaks in a Traeger, but the lid needs to stay shut to build up the heat correctly. Otherwise, the meat won’t cook well.
The pellet-heat system works with insulation versus flame, so leaving the lid off or constantly opening it lets the heat escape, wiping out the effect of the wood and insulation similar to a wood oven.
The best way to cook meat with a Traeger means getting the heat up to at least 400 degrees, putting the meat in quickly on the grille and closing the lid, and then letting it cook. Check and flip maybe once.
Why Cook on a Traeger Without Using Smoke?
Well, why not? Cooking is about learning new ways to make food not just edible but enjoyable. Grilling with a Traeger opens up an entirely new way of grille cooking that is very different from charcoal or gas.
It’s a nice adventure to work with once you get used to the style and how the equipment and wood pellets work. After all, learning is what makes us human.
Remember, smokeless cooking is entirely possible on a Traeger, but it needs to be done at high heat, no low grilling typical of normal BBQing.
The approach opens up the ability to cook all kinds of food. Always keep in mind the cooking works like an oven, not flame exposure. So, keeping the heat at a high level is a must for a smokeless Traeger experience to work successfully.