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The Traeger Grill VS The Big Green Egg

Traeger Grill VS Big Green Egg

If you watch our Youtube channel, you probably notice that when we're not smoking something amazing on our Traeger, we are grilling something on our Big Green Egg. Both types of cooking give amazing results, but there are important differences. Choosing between one or the other can be a real challenge. If you are looking to upgrade your grilling experience and you are trying to choose between the two, we will discuss the features and options of each.

Lets jump right in and talk about two of the very best products on the market, the Traeger Ironwood 885 and The Big Green Egg XL.

Traeger Ironwood 885

Traeger is famous for their hi-tech smokers. The Ironwood 885 is one of the newest and most advanced smokers ever made. It is built of heavy gauge steel with a double wall bottom for efficiency. This model features 885 square inches of cooking space, enough to smoke an entire pig. The auger and fans are electric and will require being plugged in to work. It burns pellets from a feed hopper.

The Big Green Egg XL

The Big Green Egg has been around since 1974, and is the finest ceramic kamado-style grill you can buy. The sidewalls and lid are made of a special ceramic that is excellent at holding heat. The XL model has a cooking surface of 452 square inches. Since it is a charcoal burner, you can set it up anywhere you want. It does require a stand, nest, or designated table –– available at an optional cost. 

Pellets vs Lump

The very first thing that we need to talk about is the difference between how these two make heat, because the difference also has to do with the flavor you will get. The difference may be the primary thing that sways your decision to choose one over the other.

The Traeger Ironwood is a wood-fired pellet smoker. Pellets are made by first passing wood through a hammer mill, then pressing them into the pellet shape. There are no glues used. The quality of the wood varies by manufacturing company. One nice thing about using wood pellets is you can choose types of wood pellets to enhance flavors.

The Big Green Egg uses charcoal, but not those nasty, fluid-soaked briquets. No, The Big Green Egg uses lump charcoal. This stuff is basically chunks of hardwood that are charred in a smoldering fire to remove wood gases, then snuffed out in an airtight box. Lump charcoal has been made and used for cooking and heating since the dawn of fire. It’s just about the most “original” way to cook anything.

It’s All About the Flavor

Both lump charcoal and pellets are made from hardwoods, like oak, maple, and hickory. Fruit woods are commonly used as well to enhance flavors even more. But which one gives you the best flavor?

Wood pellets are going to provide a smoother, smoke flavor. When you buy pellets for a smoker, you can select from different combinations of hardwoods and fruitwoods to get a blend that can really kick up your flavor.

Lump charcoal burns much like those nasty briquets, but totally clean. You will get a great smoke flavor that is likely to be somewhat heavier. You will also get a nice charred finish on your meat, giving that perfect crunchy texture. Lump charcoal can be made of any hardwood, and can influence flavors.

Independent testing of cooking fuels to attain 225 degrees for one hour found that pellets are cheaper overall. Pellet fuel costs were $0.76 per hour, while charcoal came in at $1.50 per hour.

Controlling the Heat

The most challenging part of any barbecue experience is making sure that you get the right temperature and maintain it. Too hot and your meat is burned or dry. Not hot enough, and you’re stuck waiting forever for a meal to cook, or stuck serving raw in the middle meat.

The Big Green Egg has a very unique system of controlling temperatures. By using the upper and lower vents, you can quite accurately regulate the temperature. This takes some time to master, and can be a problem when you accidentally let it get too hot. The ceramic does a great job of holding in heat, so it can take a long time to get the temperature back down to where you need it, even with the lid off.

The Traeger is fully automatic. You set a temperature, and the motor regulates how much pellets are added to keep the temperature you select. Of course, higher temps will mean more pellets, so make sure to keep your hopper full. A digital thermometer keeps the temperature steady.

The Traeger is easier to manage when dealing with a long smoke, like a brisket. The Big Green Egg simply requires more attention.

Cooking Times

A typical smoker requires time. The Traeger Ironwood is more than just a smoker, though. It grills, bakes, and barbecues with the best of them. Sure, you can smoke a tri-tip for hours, but a few settings changes and you are ready to grill up some burgers in minutes.

It's hard to beat a burger flamed up on lump charcoal in The Big Green Egg. All the classic juicy, charred deliciousness, and the advantages of using lump charcoal make it easy to grill up the neighborhood’s best burgers. A big advantage of The Big Green Egg over a conventional charcoal grill, you can actually smoke meat on this thing. No, really –– you can, and it comes out great. The downside is that you must be on hand to keep the temperature in place, unlike the Traeger.

Technology vs. History

The first kamado-style grills originated more than 3,000 years ago in China. The name Kamado is an Americanized Japanese word that refers to a portable charcoal or wood-fired clay pot with a removable lid. In the centuries that have come, little has changed with the traditional kamado-style grill. Today, The Big Green Egg would be easily recognized by the ancients.

Smoking meat originated sometime in the Stone Age as a means of preparing and preserving meat. The Traeger Ironwood has almost nothing to do with the smokers cavemen used. This thing is digital, automatic, and virtually foolproof. In fact, it is so advanced, you don’t even have to be home to adjust it.

Traeger’s WiFire technology allows you to connect your smartphone or tablet via WiFi to monitor and control your meal on the fly. This is probably one of the most revolutionary things to happen to smokers and grills in a thousand years. WiFire gives you unparalleled control without having to babysit your smoker.


Both of these cookers are simply outstanding. Almost every other product on the market is trying to be as good as these smokers and grills. They are both well-built, and the manufacturers back them up. The more-complex Traeger carries a three-year warranty covering materials and craftsmanship. The Big Green Egg carries a limited lifetime warranty for materials and craftsmanship. It doesn’t cover accidental breakage, though.

The biggest decision really comes down to how you want to prepare your meals most often. The smoky char from The Big Green Egg is wonderful, but you may find yourself looking for excuses to fire up the Traeger. The Traeger Ironwood series features new D2 Drive Technology that precisely measures fuel for efficient, even temperatures. The WiFire tech might seem silly, but trust us, once you use it you won’t know how you ever grilled, smoked, roasted, or barbecued before.

Quick Comparison

 

Traeger Ironwood 885

The Big Green Egg XL

Fuel Type

Pellet

Lump Charcoal

Fuel Cost

$$

$$$

Min. Temp

165

200

Max. Temp

500

700

Grill Area

885 sq.in.

452 sq.in.

Material

Steel

Ceramic

Weight

172 lbs.

219 lbs.

Warranty

3 yrs.

Limited Lifetime

 

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The Bearded Butchers are dedicated to providing as much information as we possibly can to help you understand how to best process and prepare meats of all kinds. To help you, we maintain a blog and Youtube channel with lots of free, high-quality information. The Bearded Butchers and Beardedbutchers.com are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This means that The Bearded Butchers may receive a commission if you click on a link above and make a purchase on Amazon.com.