★★★☆☆ - There are a lot better wood pellet grills than the Traeger Bronson 20 but the incredible £399 price tag make this little grill impossible to ignore.
I found the Traeger Bronson 20 to be a perfectly competent wood fired pellet grill for basic grilling and smoking however I found it's features to be lacking once I asked it to stretch its legs.
Value for money however you'll have to search far and wide to find a better introduction to wood pellet grilling.
Like most Traegers it's effectively an outdoor oven rather than a grill. Results are succulent but lack that overall char-grilled flavour that makes barbecue unique and with the low power output of this unit, don't even think about searing a steak or baking a pizza.
Clearly this product has been targeted to open up the entry level to wood pellet grilling and if it's your first pellet grill then it'll no doubt be on your short list. It'll deliver great results time in, time out but be prepared to grow out of it as your menu repertoire expands and your enthusiasm for BBQ develops.
The Traeger Bronson 20 is quite a small wood pellet grill so a single person can put it together.
The trick is to roll the grill onto its side and secure the legs in position. Next you just need to slide the Auger into the food chamber and secure the control box / pellet hopper into position. Finally insert the sloping baffle plate and porcelain enamelled grill grate and you're ready to cook.
It took me 20 minutes to fix the stand so 30 minutes start to finish is about the time you'll need. After that all you need do is run it for 45 minutes to season and you're ready to cook.
What I really found alarming was the first page of the instruction manual...
Every paragraph starts that emboldened "WARNING", "DANGER" or "CAUTION" to the extent that I started to wonder whether it was a good idea to plug this into the outside mains socket.
Well it's OK... but that's it. The wheels are just hard plastic so they don't look great and the wide diameter tubes of the undercarriage legs give structural stability from thin metal. Functionally speaking the food chamber is single skin so heat retention is going to be lacking at lower ambient temperatures.
The Traeger Bronson 20 follows the same mechanical process as pretty much every other pellet grill on the market (the exceptions being the Grillson and Memphis Grills) and this is best described in the image below:
It's tried and tested, so it works but still suffers from 2 main issues:
Close inspection under the baffle plate revealed a short arm to the auger meaning that the fire pot is located to the left of centre as you look at the grill.
The shorter the auger arm, the lower the production cost so I can understand why it has been done but I was a little concerned that it could result in a cold area of the oven over on the right side.
For sure there is a hot spot around the fire pot and the peripheral areas were cooler but there didn't appear to be any major difference between the temperature to the extreme left of right.
I've already mentioned that the price of this pellet grill is extremely attractive but the flip side to this is that the control unit and fire pot is underpowered. Couple this with the single skin shell and this is very much a "Summer only" cooker in my view.
You can crank it up to 210°C (410°F) which is fine for "oven cooking" most meat and roasting veggies. Temperature regulation was stable so the set and forget benefit electrical control makes the Traeger Bronson 20 thoroughly capable of low and slow cooking.
Fuel economy for low and slow was seriously impressive with a consumption of just over ½kg (1lb) of pellets per cook but as soon as you crank up the temperature this baby eats pellets.
After the cookout, cool down is regulated by a 10 minute "fan only" program that ensures complete combustion of any already ignited wood pellets.
The basic features are what you'd expect of a wood pellet grill and are therefore not really remarkable:
To the expert eye the Traeger Bronson 20 is an unremarkable wood fired pellet grill. If however it's your first foray into wood pellet grilling and you're looking for a low cost entry then the £399 price tag (down from £549) is going to be really hard to beat.
The price makes it an easy decision to include this Traeger in my top 3 best BBQ grills and smokers 2018... just plan to get hooked on wood pellet fired grills and budget to trade up to a Leif Grillson within a couple of years.
The unit we reviewed was kindly made available to us by BBQ Barn in London.
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