Traeger Ranger Review: A Good Pick Up and Go Option?

Traeger Ranger Review

If you’ve looked at other portable pellet smokers, you would have seen they’re rather large. And, if you’re looking for something that’s actually compact enough to store in your RV, take car camping, or simply whip out for a beach trip, they’re not going to cut it.

Not this one. The Traeger Ranger can actually be classified as a micro grill. It’s compact tabletop style is easy to set up anywhere. And, although it is pretty heavy, it’s easier to lug around than a huge thing with folding legs.

But, how does micro actually perform? How much food can you cook on this thing? What type of power connection does it need? And, all importantly, are the results actually any good?

We answer these questions plus more in this Traeger Ranger review. Here, you’ll find the specs, pros and cons, and, FAQs along with all the details on how the Ranger runs and performs.

Note – The Traeger Ranger is the upgraded version of Traeger’s earlier Scout. If you want to save a few dollars, check out our full review of the Traeger Scout here. Or, if you’re keen on an upgraded controller and larger hopper, read on.

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The Skinny on the Traeger Ranger

The portability of the Traeger Ranger is a game-changer for anyone who needs compact but doesn’t want to sacrifice on quality or flavor.

With the same excellent build you expect from entire the Traeger range, the Ranger performs simply and easily to create exceptionally good smoked, baked, roasted, or even grilled meals on the go with real wood fired flavor.

The only real negative we’ve found with the Traeger Ranger is that it is quite heavy. Weighing 60 pounds, it’s not light enough that you’d want to be hauling it too far. But, for cooking anywhere your car can go, it’s superb.

Offering 184 square inches of cooking space with a sizeable 8 pound hopper, it’s easily enough to cook for 1-4 people on the road. And, Traegers updated Digital Arc Controller reliably looks after the temperature regulation so that you don’t have to.

So, while the Ranger isn’t the cheapest micro pellet smoker on the market, it’s definitely one of the best performance-wise. And, with the included meat probe and griddle plate, it’s pretty decent value too.

Features of the Traeger Ranger Portable Pellet Smoker

Construction:

  • Quality powder-coated exterior
  • Easy to clean porcelain-coated grates
  • Sizeable 8 pound pellet hopper
  • Built-in, sturdy tabletop legs

Ease of use:

  • Digital Arc Controller reliably regulates the temperature for you
  • Latches secure lid for safe transportation
  • Keep warm mode
  • Wide temperature range lets you smoke, bake, roast and grill

Included extras:

  • Single meat probe
  • Porcelain-coated cast iron griddle for better grilling

In-Depth Review of the Traeger Ranger Portable Pellet Smoker

Being the very first manufacturer of pellet smokers, of course Traeger needed to get themselves in the market for a micro option. And, the Traeger Ranger is their premium model of what’s an easy to setup tabletop smoker.

Coming in a little more expensive than the first generation, Traeger Scout, the Ranger features a larger hopper and newer controller in what’s the same sized box.

So, if you’re in the market for a high-quality, top performing compact pellet smoker, read one to find out everything you need to know about how this smoker performs.

Construction

One of the biggest problems with portable smokers is that they’re just not built that tough. But, that’s simply not true with the Traeger Ranger.

It’s powder-coated exterior give you the strength and durability needed to withstand the rougher life of a portable smoker. It’s heavy and durable, and, with everything contained inside the briefcase design, it’s easy to move and doesn’t take up a huge amount of storage space.

There’s two simple latches to keep the Ranger secure during transportation. Because of the hoppers neat design, the pellets won’t spill out when you pick it up either. Simply make sure the latch is done up and you’re good to go.

The porcelain-enameled grates are rust-resistant and relatively easy to clean. And, the included cast iron griddle is also porcelain-enameled so, while it’s obviously best to clean straight away, the whole thing won’t rust if you decide to take it home before scrubbing it up.

In terms of portability, the Traeger Ranger weighs 60 pounds. So, although it’s a relatively compact 21 inches wide x 13 inches high x 20 inches deep, it’s not something you’re going to be hauling with you on hikes. But, for RV life, car camping, tailgating, or, setting up beside the car to grill up some fresh fish, it’s ideal.

Capacity

As one of the most compact, tabletop styles of pellet smokers available, the Traeger Ranger doesn’t hold a huge lot of food.

Inside it’s box, you’ve got a pretty reasonably sized 8 pound pellet hopper that sits beside a single 184 square inch cooking grate.

What can you actually fit on 184 square inches of space? You’re looking at about 6 burgers, 4-6 steaks, 1 rack of ribs (cut in half to fit), or, about 10 sausages. In terms of larger cuts, you can squeeze 1-2 smaller chickens on there, or even a smaller pork butt. So, you’re looking at being able to feed a maximum of about 4-6 people depending on what you’re cooking and how hungry everyone is.

Don’t forget, you can always grill up batches of burgers, fish or other fast-cooking things if you do need more food.

The 8 pound pellet hopper should get you around 8 hours of low and slow smoking time. Cooking over high heat will burn through the pellets faster. But, the Ranger’s hopper should be enough that you don’t need to worry about refills (because, yes, you do need to open the lid to add more pellets).

Smoking Performance

The results you can get on the Traeger Ranger are simply outstanding. Nothing compares to that wood-fired flavor and the pellet smoker design means you retain all the moisture for deliciously moist, fall apart results.

The Digital Arc Controller does a great job at regulating the temperature. No, it’s not a PID-based system. So, it won’t keep the temperature super tight to your target. But, we’ve found it stays within 15-20°F of where we’ve set it while we’re smoking low and slow and there results ain’t anything to complain about!

Because it’s such a small grill, the temperature distribution is fairly even. You don’t need to worry about hot spots or meat placement so much. Nevertheless, lining the outside with any vegetables or sides just makes sense.

We find the keep warm mode super helpful because we never seem ready to eat when the food’s done. So, if you’re like us, it’s a handy feature that’s usually more valued once you’ve actually got the grill rather than when you’re shopping for one.

Grilling Performance

At a maximum temperature of 450°F, you can grill on the Traeger Ranger. And, although the results are pretty impressive, we kind of liken it to grilling in a really hot oven.

Once the grates have heated up properly, you will get a good sizzle when putting a steak down. You can even get a decent sear mark along with a bit of that woody-smoky flavor. But, it’s not quite the same as cooking over an open flame.

The included griddle plate does do wonders when it comes to grilling though. Not only does it retain a bit more heat than the regular grates to transfer into your food, it’s just easier if you’re trying to grill seafood, vegetables, fry up some eggs or cook other more delicate foods.

Overall, we do rate the Traeger Ranger as a grill as well as just a smoker. If the open flame is a must for you, check out the ASMOKE AS300. But, otherwise, the Ranger does do a good job in this department as well.

Included Extras

Every Traeger Ranger comes with one meat probe included. This plugs straight into the control panel so you can see exactly how cooked your meat is without having to open the lid or buy a separate temperature probe.

It works well and reads fairly accurately so no complaints in that department.

Because it’s a smaller type of smoker, you probably won’t even need any additional probes. Even if you’re cooking a couple of chickens, measuring the internal temperature of one should be accurate enough.

And, like we mentioned earlier, the Ranger also comes with a porcelain-coated cast iron griddle plate. They’re a decently expensive extra so it’s nice you don’t have to buy one separately. Ours has definitely had it’s fair share of use.

Warranty

Traeger are well-known for their awesome customer service. They’re rockstars at making sure you’re happy with your purchase.

And, although some pellet smokers have reduced warranties for their portable models, the Ranger is covered by their standard 3 year warranty period.

After seeing the ruggedness of the Traeger Ranger, we’d expect this smoker to well outlast the warranty. But, it gives you confidence any problems you have during that time should be covered by the excellent service Traeger provides.

Optional Extras

In terms of extras you might like to grab with your Traeger Ranger, they sell a grill cover to keep it protected from the weather and a heavy-duty carry bag that protects the grill as well as giving you an easy way to carry it.

To make clean-up easier, they also sell mini grease buckets liners to fit the Ranger and drip tray liners that you can simply throw away after the cook.

Cleaning the Traeger Ranger

Because of it’s small size, it’s arguably even more important to keep on top of cleaning your Traeger Ranger than your full-sized, at-home one. But, luckily it’s easy to do so.

Just like you would with any barbecue, scrape the grates down after each use. Then, wipe away the grease from the drip tray and empty the drip bucket to prevent future grease fires (grabbing the disposable drip tray liners and bucket liners will make even lighter work of this).

And lastly, you’ll need to empty the ash from the firepot to stop it from getting clogged. A vacuum is the easiest way to do this and a cordless handheld one is the way to go on the road. But, you can clear it out manually as well. Or, use the vacuum for cleaning your car or RV as well. Just make sure the ash is cool before cleaning!

What We Like About the Traeger Ranger

  • Strong and durable design that can withstand the rougher life of being a portable grill
  • Does an excellent job of smoking, baking, roasting and grilling all types of food
  • Pellet hopper is a good size for cooking on the go
  • Very easy to set up and use
  • Comes with a meat probe that plugs into the controller so you can tell exactly when your meat is perfectly cooked
  • Keep warm feature means your food doesn’t get cold or overcooked if you’re not quite ready to eat
  • Includes a griddle plate for more flexibility and better grilling
  • Covered by the good Traeger warranty

What We Don’t Like About the Traeger Ranger

  • It’s very heavy for a portable smoker
  • Limited cooking capacity, but, it’s got to be to keep it compact
  • No WiFi – doesn’t actually both us because we’re always nearby. But, worth mentioning because a lot of people do like having a wireless connection

Specs for the Traeger Ranger Portable Tabletop Pellet Smoker

Barbecue type: Portable wood pellet grill and smoker

Barbecue material: Powder-coated steel

Grate material:  Porcelain-coated cast steel

Cooking capacity: 184 sq. in.

Pellet hopper capacity: 8 lbs

Heat Range: 180-450°F

WiFi: No

Fuel type: Wood pellets

Price guide: $$

Model: TFT18KLD

Assembled size (in): 21″W x 13″H x 20″D

Weight: 60 lbs

Warranty: 3 years

FAQs About the Traeger Ranger

Q. What type of power does the Traeger Ranger need to run?

The Traeger Ranger comes with a 110-120V power cord. So, it’ll plug directly into any normal power outlet. If you want to hook it up to your car, you’ll need an inverter. Traeger sell one that’s really good too. Check it out here.

Q. How do you get the pellets out of the Ranger hopper?

You can scoop out pellets on top. But, you’ll need to burn through the pellets to fully empty it. The pellets won’t spill out while you’re moving it though so it’s not essential to empty it all the time.

Q. Do I need to use Traeger pellets in the Ranger?

No. You can use any brand of cooking pellets in the Traeger Ranger. We do recommend sticking to high quality ones that don’t produce much ash to minimize the chance of the firepot getting clogged early. Check out our favorites here.

Q. Is there a stand available for the Traeger Ranger?

Currently, no. But, if you’re looking for a compact folding table, this one’s great and would give you working space beside the Ranger.

Our Verdict on the Traeger Ranger Review

If you’re looking for a compact pellet smoker that’s got the quality and durability you need for reliable performance time and time again, the Traeger Ranger is a top choice.

This smoker is easy to use, performs beautifully, gives you huge flexibility in what and how you want to cook and is definitely tough enough to withstand life on the road.

With what’s a decent cooking capacity for a tabletop, briefcase design with one of the largest hoppers for it’s size, it’s ideal for family holidays, day trips to the wilderness, or as a permanent cooking solution in an RV or van. There’s also no reason why individuals or couples couldn’t use the Ranger at home as a fuel efficient option for cooking smaller portions.

While it’s not the cheapest option on the market, the Ranger is good value considering the quality, versatility and durability it delivers. We definitely rate it and the legit wood-smoked results you’ll pull off of this smoker.

Not Quite What You Were Looking For? Other Options...

Traeger Scout

Traeger Scout Side On
  • Cheaper than the Traeger Ranger
  • Lighter than the Ranger
  • Same cooking capacity
  • Smaller hopper
  • No griddle plate

ASMOKE AS300

ASMOKE AS300
  • Slightly larger cooking capacity over 2 grates
  • Lighter
  • Open flame grilling
  • Lower price